Coming Home

Five minutes here, and they must steal two more!
shameful! Here have I been five mortal years
and not seen home nor one dear kindred face,
and these abominable slugs, this guard,
this driver, porters--what are they about?--
keep us here motionless, two minutes, three.--
Aha! at last!

Good! We shall check our minutes;
we're flying after them, like a mad wind
chasing the leaves it has tossed on in front.
Oh glorious wild speed, what giants' play!
and there are men who tell us poetry
is dead where railways come! Maybe 'tis true,
I'm a bad judge, I've had scant reading time
and little will to read ...... and certainly
I've not found railways in what verse I know:
but there's a whizz and whirr as trains go by,
a bullet-like indomitable rush
and then all's done, which makes me often think
one of those men who found out poetry,
and had to write the things just that they saw,
would have made some of their fine crashing lines
that stir one like the marches one knows best,
and the enemy knows best, with trains in them
as easily as chariots.

I've poetry and music too to-day
in the very clatter: it goes "Home, home, home."

And they'll think that sharp shriek a kinder sound
than sweetest singing, when it presently
pierces the quiet of the night and sends
its eager shrillness on for miles before
to say I'm no time distant. I can see
my mother's soft pink cheeks (like roses, pale
after a June week's blooming,) flush and wan,
and her lip quiver; I can see the girls,
restless between the hall door and the clock,
hear it and hush and lean expectant heads
to catch the rattle of the coming train;
my father, sitting pshawing by the fire
at all the fuss and waiting, half start up,
dropping his Times, forgetful just so long
that he is not impatient like the rest,
the tender foolish women, and, alert
to hide how he was tempted to fuss too,
reseat himself intent on politics;
and Hugh--I think Hugh must be there with them,
on leave out of his parish for a day,
a truant from the old women and the schools
to be at home with me for long enough
to say "God bless you" in--I can see Hugh,
narrow and straight in his skimp priestly coat,
pacing the room with slow and even steps,
and a most patient face, and in his eyes
that over patience we all know in them
when he is being extra good and calm.

So little change, they write me: all of them
with the same faces, scarce a day's mark there--
except our little Maude who was a child
and is a woman: little Maude grown tall:
the little Maude I left half prude half romp,
who, eager for her grown-up dignities,
tried to forego her mischiefs and would turn,
just in their midst, portentously demure
like a tired sleepy kitten, and to-day
wears all her womanhood inside her heart
and has none for her manners--some of it
for her sweet winsome face though; and a look
that's in her portrait brings my mother back,
though she's not like they tell me. I shall see;
yes I shall see! soon; almost now.

Dear home,
to think I am so near!

Ah, when I lay
in the hot thirst and fever of my wound,
and saw their faces pressing into mine,
changing and changing, never a one would stay
so long that I could see it like itself,
I scarcely hoped for this. And when I felt
that tiring weakness of my growing strong,
and was so helpless, and the babyish tears
would come without a thought to make them come,
I almost knew this day would never be:
but, oh my happy fortune, not to die,
not even to come home among them then,
with nothing done, a spoiled and worthless wreck
for them to weep at softly out of sight,
but to go stoutly to my post again,
and do my stroke of work as a man should,
and win them this.

You little dingy cross,
less precious than my sleeve-links, what a worth
lies in your worthlessness: there's not a man
but gladder lays you in his mother's hand,
or wife's, than he would bring her for his gift
the whole great jewels of an eastern king,
and not a woman but--

My mother, though--
sometimes she was not strong--have I been rash,
too thoughtless of her calm, not telling of it?
No, I'll not wear it on me, as I meant,
to take her first dear kisses in: we'll talk
before I show it--in a day or two--
perhaps to-night.

I know she'll prize it more
that a life saved went to the winning it.
And tenderhearted Ellen will forgive
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on May 01, 2023

4:10 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,290
Words 817
Stanzas 10
Stanza Lengths 7, 18, 3, 28, 15, 2, 17, 7, 7, 3

Augusta Davies Webster

Augusta Webster born in Poole, Dorset as Julia Augusta Davies, was an English poet, dramatist, essayist, and translator. The daughter of Vice-admiral George Davies and Julia Hume, she spent her younger years on board the ship he was stationed, the Griper. She studied Greek at home, taking a particular interest in Greek drama, and went on to study at the Cambridge School of Art. She published her first volume of poetry in 1860 under the pen name Cecil Homes. In 1863, she married Thomas Webster, a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. They had a daughter, Augusta Georgiana, who married Reverend George Theobald Bourke, a younger son of the Joseph Bourke, 3rd Earl of Mayo. Much of Webster's writing explored the condition of women, and she was a strong advocate of women's right to vote, working for the London branch of the National Committee for Women's Suffrage. She was the first female writer to hold elective office, having been elected to the London School Board in 1879 and 1885. In 1885 she travelled to Italy in an attempt to improve her failing health. She died on 5 September 1894, aged 57. During her lifetime her writing was acclaimed and she was considered by some the successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. After her death, however, her reputation quickly declined. Since the mid-1990s she has gained increasing critical attention from scholars such as Isobel Armstrong, Angela Leighton, and Christine Sutphin. Her best-known poems include three long dramatic monologues spoken by women: A Castaway, Circe, and The Happiest Girl In The World, as well as a posthumously published sonnet-sequence, "Mother and Daughter". more…

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    "Coming Home" STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 14 Jun 2024. <>.

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