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Littleholme

(To J.S. and A.W.S.)
 

 
In entering the town, where the bright river
Shrinks in its white stone bed, old thoughts return
Of how a quiet queen was nurtured here
In the pale, shadowed ruin on the height;
Of how, when the hoar town was new and clean
And had not grown a part of the gaunt fells
That peered down into it, the burghers wove
On their small, fireside looms green, famous webs
To cling on lissome, tower-dwelling ladies
Who rode the hills swaying like green saplings,
Or mask tall, hardy outlaws from pursuit
Down beechen caverns and green under-lights,
(The rude, vain looms are gone, their beams are broken;
Their webs are now not seen, but memory
Still tangles in their mesh the dews they swept
Like ruby sparks, the lights they took, the scents
They held, the movement of their shapes and shades);
Of how the Border burners in cold dawns
Of Summer hurried North up the high vales
Past smoking farmsteads that had lit the night
And surf of crowding cattle; and of how
A laughing prince of cursed, impossible hopes
Rode through the little streets Northward to battle
And to defeat, to be a fading thought,
Belated in dead mountains of romance.
 
A carver at his bench in a high gable
Hears the sharp stream close under, far below
Tinkle and rustle, and no other sound
Arises there to him to change his thoughts
Of the changed, silent town and the dead hands
That made it and maintained it, and the need
For handiwork and happy work and work
To use and ease the mind if such sweet towns
Are to be built again or live again.
 
The long town ends at Littleholme, where the road
Creeps up to hills of ancient-looking stone.
Under the hanging eaves at Littleholme
A latticed casement peeps above still gardens
Into a crown of druid-solemn trees
Upon a knoll as high as a small house,
A shapely mound made so by nameless men
Whose smoothing touch yet shows through the green hide.
When the slow moonlight drips from leaf to leaf
Of that sharp, plumy gloom, and the hour comes
When something seems awaited, though unknown,
There should appear between those leaf-thatched piles
Fresh, long-limbed women striding easily,
And men whose hair-plaits swing with their shagged arms;
Returning in that equal, echoed light
Which does not measure time to the dear garths
That were their own when from white Norway coasts
They landed on a kind, not distant shore,
And to the place where they have left their clothing,
Their long-accustomed bones and hair and beds
That once were pleasant to them, in that barrow
Their vanished children heaped above them dead:
For in the soundless stillness of hot noon
The mind of man, noticeable in that knoll,
Enhances its dark presence with a life
More vivid and more actual than the life
Of self-sown trees and untouched earth. It is seen
What aspect this land had in those first eyes:
In that regard the works of later men
Fall in and sink like lime when it is slaked,
Staid, youthful queen and weavers are unborn,
And the new crags the Northmen saw are set
About an earth that has not been misused.
 
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

2:45 min read
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Gordon Bottomley

Gordon Bottomley was an English poet, known particularly for his verse dramas. He was partly disabled by tubercular illness. His main influences were the later Victorian Romantic poets, the Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris. more…

All Gordon Bottomley poems | Gordon Bottomley Books

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