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Burning Bush

John Drinkwater 1882 ( Leytonstone, London, ) – 1937 ( London)

From babyhood I have known the beauty of earth,
I learnt it, I think, in the strange months before birth,
I learnt it passing and passing by each moon
From the harvest month into my natal June.
My mother, the dear, the lovely I hardly knew,
Bearing me must have walked and wandered through
Stubble of silver or gold, as moon or sun
Lit earth in the days when my body was begun.
And then October with leaves splendid and blown
She watched with my little body a little grown,
And winter fell, and into our being passed
Firm frost and icy rivers and the blast
Of winds that on the iron clods of plough
Beat with an unseen charging. Then the bough
Of spring came green, and her glad body stirred
With a son's wombed leaping, and she heard
Songs of the air and woods and waterways,
And with them singing the coming of my days.
And nesting time drew on to summer flowers,
And me unborn she taught through patient hours.
Then on that first June day, with spices blown
Of roses over clover crops unmown,
And grey wind-lifted leaves and blossom of bean,
She gave her dear white beauty to the keen
Anguish of women, and brought my body to birth
Already skilled in the sculptures of the earth.

Then in the days when her breasts nourished me,
Daily she walked, that happy girl, to see
How summer prospered to bring the harvest on,
And how the gardens and how the orchards shone
With scarlet and blue and yellow flowers and fruit,
And hear with equal love the lonely flute
Of legendary satyrs in the wood,
Or the still voice of Christ in bachelorhood.
And she would come I know to me her son
With lovely secret gossip of journeys done
In fields where some day my own feet should go.
It was not gossip in words that I could not know,
Mere ease and pleasure for her mother wit,
But such as I could feel the joy of it
Beating about my baby blood and sense,
Maternal tending of intelligence
In the unwhispered rites of bosom and lip,
Divinings worded in bodily fellowship.
And every shape and colour and scent she knew,
Were intimations winding, folding, through
My infancies of flesh and thought, each one
To find its unblemished record and copy done
In little moods drawn from the suckling-breast...
That now, in manhood, when I find the nest
Of the chaffinch moulded in the elder tree,
And looking on that lichen cup can see
The images of eternity and space
Lavished upon a small bird's dwelling-place:
Or when from some blue passage of the sky
I know that also colour can prophesy:
Or, ghosted on the brushing tides of wheat,
The gossip of a Galilean street,
So many Sabbaths gone, I hear again,
And his hands plucking that immortal grain:
Or when by spectral ancestries I pass
Again to Eden, as the orchard grass
Gives out the scent of mellow apples blown
From windy boughs, all these, I know, were known
By that dear mother when the boy to come
Was the zeal and gospel of her martyrdom.

Then came the time when I could walk with her,
We pilgrims of the fields, with everywhere
Strange leaves, and spreading of earth, and hedgerow themes,
And mossy walls, and bubbling of the streams,
And the way of clouds, and the full moon to wane,
The bird-song in the lilacs after rain,
And month by month the coming of the flowers,
for me to learn in speech, as had been ours
Knowledge unspoken while she fashioned me...
And then she died; and I went on to be
Through lonely boyhood her disciple still,
A wanderer by many a Berkshire hill,
By water-meadows of the Oxford plain,
By the thick oaks of Avon, with the strain
Of an old yeoman wisdom dreaming on
New beauty ever following beauty gone,
Until I knew my earth and her raiment fair
In every difference of the seasons' wear,
Long years her scholar, with learning of her ways
To slip unleasht all singing into praise
Should learning yet by some enchantment be
Bidden to passion's better husbandry.

And the enchanted bidding fell. And you,
O Love, it was that spelt the earth anew.

O Love, you silent wayfarer,
How many years all unaware
By blackthorn hedge, and spinney green
With larch, I wandered, while unseen
You in my shadow walked, nor made
Even a whisper in the shade.

O Love, on many an evening hill
I watched the day go down, the still
Dark woods, the far great rivers wind,
Thin threads of light. And I was blind,
Or seeing knew not, for you were
Beside me still, yet hidden there.

O Love, as year by year went on,
And budding primroses were gone,
And berries fell, and still the bright
Crocuses came in the night,
You left me to my task alone,
O Love, so near me and unknown.

O Love, though she who bore me set
Earth's love for ever on me, yet
Some word withheld still troubled me,
Some presence that I could not see,
Till you, dear alien, should come,
And doctrine be no longer dumb.

O Love, one April night I heard
The doctrine's everlasting word,
And you beneath that starry sky,
Unknown, were with me suddenly,
Yet there was no new meeting then,
But some old marriage come again.

O Love, and now is earth my friend,
Telling me all, until the end
When I shall in the earth be laid
With all my maps and fancies made,
And you, Love, were the secret earth
Of my blind following from birth.

O Love, you happy wayfarer,
Be still my fond interpreter,
Of all the glory that can be
As once on starlit Winchelsea,
Finding upon my pilgrim way
A burning bush for every day.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

5:01 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 5,209
Words 998
Stanzas 11
Stanza Lengths 26, 40, 22, 2, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6

John Drinkwater

John Drinkwater (1 June 1882 – 25 March 1937) was an English poet and dramatist. more…

All John Drinkwater poems | John Drinkwater Books

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