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A Farmhouse Dirge

Alfred Austin 1835 (Leeds) – 1913 (Ashford)



Will you walk with me to the brow of the hill, to visit the farmer's wife,
Whose daughter lies in the churchyard now, eased of the ache of life?
Half a mile by the winding lane, another half to the top:
There you may lean o'er the gate and rest; she will want me awhile to stop,
Stop and talk of her girl that is gone and no more will wake or weep,
Or to listen rather, for sorrow loves to babble its pain to sleep.

How thick with acorns the ground is strewn, rent from their cups and brown!
How the golden leaves of the windless elms come singly fluttering down!
The briony hangs in the thinning hedge, as russet as harvest corn,
The straggling blackberries glisten jet, the haws are red on the thorn;
The clematis smells no more but lifts its gossamer weight on high;-
If you only gazed on the year, you would think how beautiful 'tis to die.

The stream scarce flows underneath the bridge; they have dropped the sluice of the mill;
The roach bask deep in the pool above, and the water-wheel is still.
The meal lies quiet on bin and floor; and here where the deep banks wind,
The water-mosses nor sway nor bend, so nothing seems left behind.
If the wheels of life would but sometimes stop, and the grinding awhile would cease,
'Twere so sweet to have, without dying quite, just a spell of autumn peace.

Cottages four, two new, two old, each with its clambering rose:
Lath and plaster and weather tiles these, brick faced with stone are those.
Two crouch low from the wind and the rain, and tell of the humbler days,
Whilst the other pair stand up and stare with a self-asserting gaze;
But I warrant you'd find the old as snug as the new did you lift the latch,
For the human heart keeps no whit more warm under slate than beneath the thatch.

Tenants of two of them work for me, punctual, sober, true;
I often wish that I did as well the work I have got to do.
Think not to pity their lowly lot, nor wish that their thoughts soared higher;
The canker comes on the garden rose, and not on the wilding brier.
Doubt and gloom are not theirs and so they but work and love, they live
Rich in the only valid boons that life can withhold or give.

Here is the railway bridge, and see how straight do the bright lines keep,
With pheasant copses on either side, or pastures of quiet sheep.
The big loud city lies far away, far too is the cliffbound shore,
But the trains that travel betwixt them seem as if burdened with their roar.
Yet, quickly they pass, and leave no trace, not the echo e'en of their noise:
Don't you think that silence and stillness are the sweetest of all our joys?

Lo! yonder the Farm, and these the ruts that the broad-wheeled wains have worn,
As they bore up the hill the faggots sere, or the mellow shocks of corn.
The hops are gathered, the twisted bines now brown on the brown clods lie,
And nothing of all man sowed to reap is seen betwixt earth and sky.
Year after year doth the harvest come, though at summer's and beauty's cost:
One can only hope, when our lives grow bare, some reap what our hearts have lost.

And this is the orchard, small and rude, and uncaredfor, but oh! in spring,
How white is the slope with cherry bloom, and the nightingales sit and sing!
You would think that the world had grown young once more, had forgotten death and fear,
That the nearest thing unto woe on earth was the smile of an April tear;
That goodness and gladness were twin, were one:- The robin is chorister now:
The russet fruit on the ground is piled, and the lichen cleaves to the bough.

Will you lean o'er the gate, whilst I go on? You can watch the farmyard life,
The beeves, the farmer's hope, and the poults, that gladden his thrifty wife;
Or, turning, look on the hazy weald,-you will not be seen from here,-
Till your thoughts, like it, grow blurred and vague, and mingle the far and near.
Grief is a flood, and not a spring, whatever in grief we say;
And perhaps her woe, should she see me alone, will run more quickly away.

`I thought you would come this morning, ma'am. Yes, Edith at last has gone;
To-morrow's a week, ay, just as the sun right into her window shone;
Went with the night, the vicar says, where endeth never the day;
But she's left a darkness behind her here I wish she had taken away.
She is no longer with us, but we seem to be always with her,
In the lonely bed where we laid her last, and can't get her to speak or stir.

``Yes, I'm at work; 'tis time I was. I should have begun before;
But this is the room where she lay so still, ere they carried her past the door.
I thought I never could let her go where it seems so lonely of nights;
But now I am scrubbing and dusting dow
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:30 min read
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Alfred Austin

Alfred Austin DL was an English poet who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1896 upon the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. more…

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