The Keys of Morning

Walter de la Mare 1873 (Charlton, London) – 1956 (Twickenham)



While at her bedroom window once,
Learning her task for school,
Little Louisa lonely sat
In the morning clear and cool,
She slanted her small bead-brown eyes
Across the empty street,
And saw Death softly watching her
In the sunshine pale and sweet.

His was a long lean sallow face;
He sat with half-shut eyes,
Like a old sailor in a ship
Becalmed 'neath tropic skies.
Beside him in the dust he had set
His staff and shady hat;
These, peeping small, Louisa saw
Quite clearly where she sat -
The thinness of his coal-black locks,
His hands so long and lean
They scarcely seemed to grasp at all
The keys that hung between:
Both were of gold, but one was small,
And with this last did he
Wag in the air, as if to say,
"Come hither, child, to me!"

Louisa laid her lesson book
On the cold window-sill;
And in the sleepy sunshine house
Went softly down, until
She stood in the half-opened door,
And peeped. But strange to say
Where Death just now had sunning sat
Only a shadow lay:
Just the tall chimney's round-topped cowl,
And the small sun behind,
Had with its shadow in the dust
Called sleepy Death to mind.
But most she thought how strange it was
Two keys that he should bear,
And that, when beckoning, he should wag
The littlest in the air.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 30, 2023

1:10 min read
89

Quick analysis:

Scheme XABACDXD XCXCXBXBXEFEFGHG XIXIXHBHXJXJXKXK
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,210
Words 235
Stanzas 3
Stanza Lengths 8, 16, 16

Walter de la Mare

Walter John de la Mare was an English poet short story writer and novelist best remembered for his works for children and The Listeners He was born in Kent and was educated at St Pauls Cathedral School His first book Songs of Childhood was published under the name Walter Ramal His 1921 novel Memoirs of a Midget won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction more…

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