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Poem by Eleanor Farjeon

The Maid's Idyll


Night was warm and still,
  Moon a dusky red,
Crickets chirped all up the hill,
  And I wished me dead.

"For what use alive to be
  And never live?" I said,
Lifting arms to let free
  The plaits about my head.

"Have parents kind enow,
  Lack nor roof nor bread,
Day goes I scarce know how
  Till day be sped,

"Each drags by so like to each
  Weighted with lead,
Always something needing speech
  In my soul unsaid,

"Something in my soul unsung,
  Something unfed--
Must be eased while still I'm young
  And unwitherèd."

Crickets chirruped strangely shrill,
  Smooth lay my bed,
Moon was hot upon the hill,
  And I wished me dead.


Over garden and garth and meadow
Lo! I see a slipping shadow
  Swift as any swallow--
Hist, strange shadow! I'll up and follow.

Neither meadow nor garth nor garden
Has in the sweet close nights its warden:
  Oh, yet now I doubt me!
Eyes and whispers do seem about me.

Yet though the stars high-strewn, a litter
Of lights that shake for fear as they glitter,
  All be lamps of danger--
I will speak with you, shadow-stranger!


Brown boy, brown boy,
  What do you here
In the orchard all in rags
  At midnight very near?
Brown boy, I never saw
  Eyes so clear.

Brown boy, brown boy,
  Bare are your feet--
Say I fetched the watch-dog out
  Could they run fleet?
Brown boy, I never heard
  Voice so sweet.

Brown boy, brown boy,
  Where's your alarm?
Say I fetched my mother out
  Sure you'd come to harm!
Brown boy, I never felt
  Hands so warm.

Brown boy, brown boy,
  Stealing's very wrong!
If I fetched my father out
  Your skin weren't worth a song.
Brown boy, I never knew
  Hearts beat so strong.


He said, three apples I came to steal,
Red and russet and golden peel,
For I've walked the day and never a meal.

Give me, he said, your russet hair
Once for my lips, and it's little I care
Though your apples rot as they ripen there.

Twice to save me, he said, from sin,
Give me your beautiful golden skin
That I may kiss it from forehead to chin.

Nay, and lest hunger still gnaw, he said,
Give me, belovèd, your mouth's dear red:
Though I starve in the dawn I will still be fed.


What's the road you travel
"Sand, chalk, and gravel,
Green grass and paving-stone,
Always alone.

"Hard and easy faring,
Freedom unsparing,
Where ant has crept or bird flown
To me is known.

"The sun's way, the rain's way,
Joy's way and pain's way,
As many ways as wind has blown
All are my own."

Love, the future why weigh?
Your way is my way,
Neither grass nor city stone
Walk more alone.

Will not bitter faring
Better by sharing?
Every pain you've ever known
I'll make my own,

Beside you free of care foot,
Hungry and barefoot,
Glad, gay, great-hearted grown,
And never alone!


I know not whether I would laugh or weep,
Whether great sorrow or great gladness fill me,
Only that life has suddenly grown deep,
And from their dim and dreamful caverns springing
The golden-eyed imaginings of sleep
Like glorious birds given full freedom sweep
The world about our heads with strange wild singing ...
Though it do kill me,
Boy, I will love you, only so you will me....


Suppose no other night is like to this?
Suppose the coming light
Rives lance-like from the heart even of this night
Its mysteries?

You have put sudden bloom upon my soul,
And you have made to lift
My wingless spirit that did faintly drift
And saw no goal:

Have made me know the dazzle of a star
Crowns all this common earth
Which is a planet shooting light from birth
As yonder are.

These things, this bright new wisdom, could be given
Only of you to me:
The virtue's God's alone, who bade it be,
To unmake heaven:

So if you, sole destroyer, being sole giver,
Go ere you try your pow'rs,
All this may still be infinitely ours
To guard for ever.


Is morning in the sky?
Is not the moon still high?

A little wing of light
Flutters against the night.

You scarce have seen my face,
Your own's a shadowed place,

But your voice I still will know
In a million years or so,

Say Welcome to your breath
In some abyss of death,

Meet in the black eclipse
Of unborn worlds your lips,

Or know by its thrilling pain
This pulse of your heart again.

The moon is very low,
Soon all this grey will glow--

Go now, before the red,
And do not turn your head.

Eleanor Farjeon

Eleanor Farjeon's other poems:
  1. Sonnets. 1. Man Cannot Be a Sophist to His Heart
  2. Sonnets. 9. Love Needs not Two the Render It Complete
  3. Sonnets. 10. What is this anguish then that always stands
  4. Two Choruses from Merlin in Broceliande
  5. Wild Hyacinth

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