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Title: Willow's Forge and other poems
Author: Kaye-Smith, Sheila (1887-1956)
Date of first publication: 1914
Edition used as base for this ebook: London: Erskine Macdonald, 1914 (first edition)
Date first posted: 23 June 2009
Date last updated: 23 June 2009
Project Gutenberg Canada ebook #338
This ebook was produced by: Andrew Templeton

This file was produced from images generously made available by the Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries




'We cannot too highly recommend this book. It is a remarkable first attempt. It is quite without crudeness. The atmophere of this novel is sweet—it smells of summer and shines of the stars.'— Daily Chronicle.


'It is difficult not to be unduly enthusiastic over Miss Kaye-Smith's book. . . . This fine, tragic, poetic book is a welcome sign that the spirits of Borrow and Stevenson are still in our midst.'— Standard.


'If I were to state exactly the position which I believe this author will take among the great masters of English fiction, you might accuse me of exaggeration."— Punch.

Published by G. BELL & SONS LIMITED York House, Portugal Street, London


'We have found ourselves over and over again simply lost in admiration. . . . No one should miss this book.'— Pall Mall Gazette.

Published by CONSTABLE & Co. LTD. 10 Orange Street. London, W.C.

















Willow's Forge

I've crossed the fields from Lattenden
  And haunted Honey Mill,
My feet and all my clothes are torn,
  Yet on I stumble still—
I must not stay to speak to you
  Or falter with my pain,
But hasten on to Willow's Forge,
  At the bottom of the lane.

Folk call me mad—perhaps 'tis true—
  My life is full of fears,
At whiles I bite my arms, and then
  I wash the blood with tears.
I scream, I talk to owls and crows,
  Hear voices from the sky,
I see the spooks that ride o' nights—
  Men shudder when I'm nigh.

My love was hanged for stealing sheep,
  'Twas that which sent me mad—
He was a liar and a thief,
  But O I loved my lad!
I've wandered wildly ever since,
  And last night, 'neath the Wain,
I saw my love at Willow's Forge,
  At the bottom of the lane.

His face was wan, his burning eye
  Was like a coal from hell
(He's with the damned souls, all folk say,
  But O I love him well!)
His hands were misty as the moon
  That bathed his awful brow,
His lips and breast were smeared with blood,
  His cheeks were white as snow.

'O tell me, love, where have you been
  This weary sleepless while?
I've screamed and wept to kiss your lips,
  I've hungered for your smile.
Have you been down among the damned,
  Where, like the sheep in fold,
The dead men lie, and bleat and cry
  And shiver in the cold?

'Have you been up to where the clouds
  Are sailing in the blue,
And have they thrown you down, and said
  'Twas no fit place for you?
Or have you roamed all Sussex through
  In weariness and pain,
To meet me here at Willow's Forge,
  At the bottom of the lane?'

He nothing said at all, but stared
  With glazed and dreadful eye,
His red lips shook, as if he strove
  To part them with a cry.
He could not speak, and O I thought
  He'd shiver from my sight,
And leave me lone at Willow's Forge,
  In the terror of the night.

'O kiss me lad, before you go!'
  I cried, and raised my head.
He stooped his scarlet lips to me,
  The living kissed the dead.
But O his mouth was all on fire,
  And burned my cheek and hair,
I screamed aloud, and he had gone,
  And left me waiting there.

I told my mother what had passed,
  She shuddered at my tale—
'You've seen the moonlight through the trees
  That shiver in the gale;
And as for your burnt cheek, my girl,
  Which makes you sob with pain,
You've kissed the fire at Willow's Forge,
  At the bottom of the lane.'

But though she speak, and though I hear,
  I will not aught believe
But that at last I've met and kissed
  The lad for whom I grieve.
And if I haunt the meeting spot,
  I'll see him there again—
That's why I haste to Willow's Forge,
  At the bottom of the lane.

The Ballad of a Motor 'Bus

You get in at Ludgate Circus,
  Where in regiments they stand,
All throbbing underneath the bridge,
  And pointing to the Strand—
All pageantry with colours,
  All poetry with words,
Wait those blazoned motor-'buses
  In their fiercely panting herds.

There are 'buses for the East,
  There are 'buses for the West,
For North and South and Central
  And where heaven pleases best—
For the Elephant and Castle,
  Gospel Oak and Parson's Green,
Some for Chelsea, some for Putney,
  Some for Barnes, and some for Sheen,

There are some that cross the river,
  And they see the steamers crawl
With dirty belching smoke-stacks
  To the Pool or London Wall—
They rumble down the dingy streets
  Where dingy houses grow
Like quickly sprouting toadstools
  In an evil yellow row.

And some go plunging northward
  Up the hills to Kensal Rise,
And some are bound for Hampstead
  And the smokeless windy skies,
And some go east to Hackney,
  And the long Commercial Road,
Past the buying and the selling,
  To poverty's abode.

But the 'bus I take goes westward—
  It leaves Charing Cross behind,
Then it bounds up Piccadilly,
  Through the smokey dusty wind—
The first lamps have been lighted,
  And across St James's Park
The early lights of Westminster
  Are splashing on the dark.

The dusk is falling gently,
  And from the streets below
The London glare climbs upward
  To make the sad skies glow—
Through the mingled dusk and dazzle
  We hum swiftly on our way,
While the wind brings to our faces
  The first damps of the day.

It is Summer, it is evening,
  Early stars are in the sky,
Shining dim above the smoke-wreaths,
  While the western bonfires die—
And the wind sings of the river
  That beyond the city flows,
Of the pleasant westward reaches
  That no cargo-tramper knows.

So we spin through holy Brompton,
  We leave Kensington behind,
We thunder down to Fulham,
  Past churches tall and blind—
Till we come at last to Putney,
  And the starlit river gleams
Through darkness up to Richmond,
  A thoroughfare of dreams.

And it's there that you are waiting,
  O my faithful love, for me!
Through the dark your eyes are straining
  My chariot to see—
For the working-day is over,
  All its dust and hurry past,
And we go to the river,
  With my hand in yours at last.

While the motor-'bus rolls onward—
  And we stop to watch it tear
All burning through the twilight,
  Mysterious and fair.
It was our love's bright chariot,
  The torch of our desires,
Kindling the London darkness
  With youth's eternal fires.

O youth!—O youth in London!
  Shall they ever be forgot.
Those young and eager footsteps
  On pavements hard and hot?
The dust is in the breezes,
  Stinks of petrol stain the air,
But youth has come to London,
  And has found a garden there.

The Song of Jacob Boehme

The wild fowl hath not seen it,
  No vulture flown so high,
The lion's whelp hath not trodden,
  Nor the fierce lion passed by,
The crags and the abysses
  Of that most lonely way,
Which windeth in the mountains,
  And leadeth to the May.

The chymist labours nightly,
  No travail will he shirk,
If he can hope to finish
  The Philosophic Work.
Mercury, salt, and sulphur,
  In Athanor are they,
But through their transmutation
  He cannot find the May.

And I am but a cobbler,
  At work from morn till night,
A poor and silly groundling
  Who scarce can read or write;
With cares of trade and household
  I struggle all the day,
But I have trod the mountains,
  And I have found the May.

—The May of glancing sunshine,
  The May of glowing flowers,
Of singing birds, and breezes,
  And swift leaf-scented showers.
No more I fear the Turba,
  For I have seen God play
Among the dews and lilies
  Of the Eternal May.

O I have found the spring-time
  Of green sun-spotted shade!
O I have found the garden
  Where roses never fade!
O I have learned the secrets
  And signs of all the sky,
And wrought the Magnum Opus
  Of holy Alchemy!

The salt Impress of Saturn
  Is mine, and Luna's Form,
And Mercury's sharp Flagrat,
  And Mars' most ruddy storm,
Mine is the young child Venus,
  Mine Jupiter's pure might,
I haunt the sacred Houses,
  I read the dooms of night.

The magical Triangles
  Have shown me what they hold
Of light and corporiety,
  Of bitterness and gold,
I saw God in the garden,
  I saw Him on the Tree,
Dying to bring back Adam
  Into the Liberty.

Men laugh, and call me crazy,
  The pastor saith I've sought
To overturn the doctrines
  That Martin Luther taught,
My books he burnt, with curses,
  And I have heard him tell
Good Christians to avoid me
  As they would flee from hell.

The astrologers all mock me,
  The learned chymists cry,
'What hath this child to tell us
  About our Alchemy?'
I have felt drought and hunger,
  Met lions in the way,
Been wounded in friends' houses,
  But I have found the May.

—The May of glancing sunshine,
  The May of glowing flowers,
Of singing-birds, and breezes,
  And swift leaf-scented showers.
No more I fear the Turba,
  For I have seen God play
Among the dews and lilies
  Of the Eternal May.

O hearken then, thou Magus,
  And let thy love be sure,
Give worship to the Artist,
  And keep his pattern pure,
O labour in the lubet!
  And I shall humbly pray
That thou become a Champion,
  And find at last the May.

The magical Triangles
  Shall both at last be one,
Adam return to Paradise,
  The Mighty Work be done;
Then the meek holy servants
  Shall see their God at play—
O haste the time, great Master,
  When all men find the May!

The Counsel of Gilgamesh

'Gilgamesh, why dost thou wander around?
Life, which thou seekest, thou canst not find.'
                       Epic of Gilgamesh.
Why wander round, Gilgamesh?
  The sun that set to-night
Shall climb the sky to-morrow,
  And bake the world with light.
Throughout undying ages
  The sun shall set and rise
As it hath set and risen
  From dim eternities.

Why wander round, Gilgamesh?
  Why vainly wander round?
What canst thou find, O seeker,
  Which hath not long been found?
What canst thou know, O scholar,
  Which hath not long been known?
What canst thou have, O spoiler,
  Which dead men did not own?

The camel of the desert,
  The wild ape of the wood,
Tread the white bones of heroes
  Who in thy place once stood;
Like thee, they felt the sunshine,
  Like thee, they loved the day,
Like thee, they sought and suffered—
  And thou shalt be as they.

And other men, Gilgamesh,
  Shall seek what thou dost seek,
And to their youth and ardour
  Thy rotting bones will speak.
They will not heed thy counsel,
  They too will wander round,
And waste their years in seeking
  That which hath long been found.

Why wander round, Gilgamesh?
  Why vainly wander round?
What canst thou find, O seeker,
  Which hath not long been found?
What canst thou know, O scholar,
  Which dead men did not know?

And this was asked in Nineveh
  Thousands of years ago.

The Ballad of the Quick and Dead

And every night I sit alone,
  And every night I see
A little cotton-aproned ghost
  Who takes no heed of me.

She sets the milk, she sets the bread,
One scarce would know that she was dead—
  But long ago death gave her greeting,
In the great bed whence one can see
The sunset in the cherry tree,
  And hear the fold-bound wethers bleating.

In a far country lives the man
  Who loved this little maid,
He knows not, cares not, that each night
  His supper here is laid.

She lays it as in twilights gone,
When, all the farmstead labour done,
  His passion in her arms would take
Its daylong waited recompense—
And her lost peace and innocence
  She gave ungrudging for his sake.

She lived for love, she died for love,
  Though love was agony,
And here, where joy was sold for love,
  She loves eternally.

He does not care—he wanders far,
Where light and wine and pleasure are;
  He strives and battles to forget
The little cottage dove he caught,
Who gave so much and asked for naught,
  And haunts the crumbling farmhouse yet.

O Lord, how happy I should be,
  If one my heart holds dear
Would come and spread the board for me,
  As she who rambles here!

I should not wander far away,
Or struggle to forget the day
  I loved, but to her straight would speed,
And pledge the cup and break the bread
With one who has been ten years dead—
  Ah, that were heaven indeed!

It may not be—no dreams of me
  Disturb her quiet sleep;
She little knows that dreams of her
  Wake me each night to weep.

I never mocked her confidence,
  Or robbed her of her innocence,
But with both hands I gave her all
  I had to give—she did not see
My love, she never thinks of me,
  She comes not when I call.

So every night I sit alone,
  And every night I see
A little cotton-aproned ghost
  Who takes no heed of me.

This is the tragedy of love,
  By all men be it read,
'Tis thus the dead dream of the quick,
  The quick dream of the dead.

This is the mockery of love,
  By all men be it read,
'Tis thus the dead forget the quick,
  The quick forget the dead.

The Ballad of Divine Compassion

The halls of heaven were full of joy,
  The quivering air was blue
With incense, and with candles gay
The mansions of eternal day
  Were gleaming through and through.

The Saints in Glory danced and sang
  In robes of glittering white—
Till heaven with their music rang,
The Saints in Glory danced and sang,
  And filled themselves with light.

Through groves of trees and lawns of flowers
  They trod the mystic maze
Of many a sacred rigadoon,
Danced to a fiddling angel's tune,
  With endless roundelays.

One only walked apart and sighed,
  In all that blissful horde,
Shrank from the revel, and alone
Poured from an aching heart his moan,
  And He was Christ the Lord.

He leaned across the fiery gate
  Which stands above the stars,
And from the fields where angels dwell
Shuts the red cemeteries of hell
  With seven burning bars.

He leaned above the direful deep
  Where tortured spirits lie,
He saw their helpless agonies,
He saw their wild and weeping eyes
  Turned up towards the sky.

And all the sorrows of His heart
  Were grinding in His breast,
He longed to comfort those poor sheep,
To give them drink, and let them sleep
  On the green hills of rest.

Nought were to Him the heavenly fields,
  The flocks His blood had bought,
He thought alone of His lost sheep,
Of those who toss, and starve, and weep,
  Whom He had vainly sought.

And as the Saviour watched them there
  In all their sweat and fear,
His love and longing rose so high,
That from His tender, pitying eye
  There fell a holy Tear.

The tear rolled down, until it dropped
  Into the blackest hell,
And straight there were strange things to see
Within that pit of misery
  Where the pure token fell.

The Tear became a mighty sea,
  Which raged, and roared, and rolled,
And filled each black and gaping gorge,
And quenched each red and belching forge,
  And wrecked each towering hold.

And all the lost and sinning souls
  Were borne upon its waves—
By that one Tear the Saviour wept
The doomed of ages all were swept
  Out of their living graves.

And, carried on the heaving tide,
  The lost souls rose to heaven,
Tumbling and drowning, hand in hand,
They reached the coolness of that land
  Where all things are forgiven.

Women, and men, and children too,
  All blasted, scorched, and red.
Were washed up to the Saviour's feet,
By that one Tear of pity sweet
  His loving eye had shed.

The Saints in Glory danced and sang,
  They sang and danced so high
They saw not that their Lord was gone,
Or that His white and fiery throne
  Stood empty in the sky.

They saw Him not as He stooped down
  To lift each cowering slave,
They saw Him not, so great their bliss,
On each scarred forehead lay His kiss,
  As sign that He forgave.

He could not take those guilty ones
  To where the guiltless throng
Pealed forth their own salvation's praise,
And through the everlasting days
  Shouted their triumph song.

He led them to the wilderness,
  Where stood the Holy Cross,
And from the timber of that Tree
He built a house of welcome, free
  To those lame sons of loss.

The Saints in Glory feasted on
  The honey-dews of heaven,
So all those sinners had for food
Was their Lord's body and His blood,
  To their great hunger given.

The Saints in Glory danced and sang,
  Nor missed Him from their sport,
And so He made His dwelling-place
With the poor pensioners of grace
  His pardoning love had bought.

And never to the halls of bliss
  He lifts a longing eye,
The poor souls never hear Him groan,
Or sigh because His great white throne
  Stands empty in the sky.

He leads them through the wilderness,
  He makes their faces wet
With water from a desert steam,
The black past as an evil dream
  He helps them to forget.

He is the comforter of those
  Whom stormy seas have tossed,
He dries the eyes of those that weep,
He is the shepherd of lame sheep,
  The Saviour of the Lost.


1. Dedication

       When Mass is said,
       The music dead,
And the last lights upon the Altar-throne
Drop slowly one by one into the dark,
       To the east
       Turns the Priest,
And bows his knee before the sacred Ark
And whispers the Last Gospel through—alone.

       So do I
       When dreams die,
And love's last wretched candle-lights are seen
Darkening upon the Altar of your heart,
       Face the east,
       And like the Priest
Say my Last Gospel through ere I depart,
And before leaving bow to What Has Been.

2. Love Cast Out

A victim crowned am I,
  Crowned, pierced, and adored,
In my eyes a flame of fire,
  In my heart a sword.

Christ is my brother dear,
  Sister to Christ am I,
For He has felt the thirsty wound
  That I must perish by.

He came a king uncrowned,
  Unrobed, the Son of Loss,
And so they pierced His body through,
  And hung Him on the cross.

And my love wore no robe,
  And my love wore no crown,
My love a pilgrim was, and trod
  The roads in pilgrim's brown.

And since my love went thus,
  A stranger and a dove,
You built a cruel wooden cross,
  And crucified my love.

And now you bend the knee
  —As now we Christ adore—
And set your bleeding sacrifice
At God's right hand above the skies,
  To worship evermore.

The third day, from the dead
  The Saviour rose again,
He put on robes of royalty,
  And sat Him down to reign.

But my love shall not rise,
  My love shall rest and sleep,
My love is tired, why should it wake,
  That your eyes may not weep?

For Christ the Saviour has
  A gentler heart than mine,
He lets you crown what you did kill,
Of His torn body eat your fill,
  And make His blood your wine.

You shall not use me so—
  Go far, the world is wide;
Why should you wake from its poor rest
  The heart you crucified?

Beneath the tender ground
  My love shall sleep for aye,
No last trump for my love shall sound
  No resurrection day.

A victim crowned am I,
  Crowned, pierced, and adored,
In my eyes a flame of fire,
  In my heart a sword.

3. Holy Innocents

To-day I keep a feast, with red and white—
  The red blood and the snow-white innocence
  Of little souls who had their recompense
Before they learned the horrors of the fight.

I see them running in their gardens gay,
  They snatch the colours of the rainbow's flame,
  And throw the stars about in childish game,
And pull the clouds to pieces for their play.

But these are not the throng the king did slay,
  The babes for whom dark Rachael's head is bowed—
  'Tis not for them her wailing rings so loud;
Other and holier Innocents are they.

These are the little ones who never wrought
  Love's royalest wonder in a mother's eyes,
  Who never brought a tender warm surprise
With groping lips to breasts till then unsought.

These are the fruit of hundredfold desires,
  Ten thousand dreams begot this laughing band,
  They fill the cities of a promised land—
Long promised, but not given—lost in fires.

These are the children I had hoped to show
  The secret of this life, and all its love—
  But they are playing with my dreams above,
While I plunge on through my dead hopes below.

Saved—Oh perhaps from much that I must brave—
  I worship you, sweet saints!—oh pray for me!
  The little children that shall never be—
The little children I shall never have.

4. To My Body—A Thanksgiving

Though thou hast set me many a snare,
  And cost me many a groan,
And caused feet to slip that were
  Far dearer than my own—
Though thou hast been both sword and gin
  To others and to me,
Yet I recall what thou didst win
  Once for my soul, and I give thanks to thee.

For once, when all my heavens fell,
  And each hour that went by
Brought nearer to the pit of hell
  The Dayspring which is I—
When all unheard the highest cried,
  When lost were course and goal,
When hope had fled and faith had died—
  Thou, even thou, didst then redeem my soul.

Thou broughtest me unto the snow,
  And thou didst force through me
The pumping blood, that I might know
  How fierce my flesh could be;
My flesh—till then half love, half dread—
  Became an armoured tower,
To which my wounded spirit fled,
  And found a refuge in its bitter hour.

Thou didst deny the healing sleep
  Unless I strove all day
With thews and muscles, fierce to keep
  The wolves of thought at bay;
And thou didst crown thyself with strength,
  And lift thyself on high,
And free salvation win at length
  For the poor soul that thought it was to die.

Redemption thou didst work for me,
  And forth into the light
Crept my healed spirit, saved by thee
  From all the hells of night—
And this I never shall forget,
  And so I can forgive
Thy treacheries, and thank thee yet,
  For 'tis through thee I have found grace to live.

And more, for I know that some day
  A greater wonder thou
Shalt work for me, when thou shalt slay
  What thou hast quickened now.
As once thy life did make me whole,
  So once thy death shall reap
Both for thyself and for my soul
  The last redemption of a long, long sleep.

5. Funeral March of a Fallen Hero

Sound the trumpet, beat the drum,
  Lay the purple on his breast,
Let my shuddering memories come
  To salute him in his rest,
To bow down to his disgrace,
While I cover up his face.

Once he led my soul to war,
  And the thunder of his cry
Went before me, fierce and far,
  Calling me to triumph or die;
To his sword I owe my place,
  But I cover up his face.

Scornfully he mocked my fears,
  'Raise the banner!—up and fight!
Follow me through blood and tears!'
  From the darkness into light,
After him, I strove apace,
Now I cover up his face.

In his eyes I dare not gaze,
  Lest I should see mirrored there
All the white and hungry blaze
  Of my own eyes' hot despair,
All my shame for his disgrace—
So I cover up his face.

In my heart he lies in state,
  Purple sorrow is his pall,
Trumps of doom and drums of fate
  Sound the dead-march of his fall—
On his livid brows a crown
Of withered bays and laurels brown.

At his head tall candles burn,
  They are hopes that slowly die,
At his feet the brazen urn
  Where my love's best ashes lie,
At his side the broken sword
Of his own most solemn word.

Fallen hero, I would bring
  Dreams to deck thine obsequies,
Lay them as an offering
  On thy heart, where sorrow lies,
But 'twould spoil thy stately bed,
For, like thee, my dreams are dead.

Sound the trumpet, beat the drum,
  Lay the purple on his breast,
Bow before his shame, and come
  To perform each last behest,
Give him royal resting-place—
But, O cover up his face!

6. 'I Am Alpha and Omega . . .'

And dost Thou bless the end? O Lord of Life
  And the Beginning, Lord of the New Birth,
  Lord of the dancing April days of earth!
When the sour chills of Autumn winds are rife,
And Summer faints and withers in the strife
  Of tempests and the strangling grips of dearth,
              Dost Thou still bless the End?

O Lord of the world's morning!—Thou canst bless,
  Birth-pangs and travail—Thou hast hallowed all—
  But canst Thou bless the turning to the wall
Of dying eyes? the panting slow distress
Of those who fear the clutch of Nothingness?
  When into death's cold deeps Thy servants fall,
              Dost Thou still bless the End?

And canst Thou bless the hour when love is dead?
  Thou seek'st the harmonies of new-strung lyres,
  Thou art the guardian of new-kindled fires,
But when the last of love's poor life is fled,
His ashes to the four winds scattered,
  And my charred soul crept bleeding from the pyres,
              Dost Thou still bless the End?

Yea, Thou dost bless the End—For Thou hast sworn
  That Thou, Eternal, art the First and Last,
  Lord of the Future, Thine too is the past,
Thine is the night, O high priest of the dawn!
Alpha and Omega! both love new-born
  And love long dead are in Thy hands kept fast,
              Yea, Thou dost bless the End.

Thine are the shadows of the dropping night,
  Thine are the wastes of lonely moonless seas,
  The wilted leaves of tossing Autumn trees,
Thine the faint cries, the slowly drowning sight
Of those who in the gulfs of darkness fight—
  And dead love sleeps upon Thy mighty knees
              Ever world without end.


The Scampsman's Night

Mists on the marsh are gathering thick,
  The shuddering woods are dim,
  My barker's muzzle looks grim,
Of boozing and delling and such I'm sick.

Saddle my mare—my Marjorie—
  For Oliver's glim is bright,
  And this is a snaffling night—
Ho, my girl, for the nuttiest spree!

We'll make his Lordship tip us the bit,
  We'll knuckle his mort's fawnie,
  And a kiss, for we're gay dogs, we,
And love to fool with a comely chit.

At morning's dawn we will ride to our ken,
  And tipple, and count our swag,
  And of our flash spices brag,
And rest the bodies of mares and men.

A Deuced Moral Lay

Oh lads that are quier on the rum-padding lay,
That saddle your prancers at waning of day,
  That ride to the tavern at dawning,
  Take warning,
For a dell with a scampsman the dickens 'ull play.

In gaol a full dozen of rum-pads are lying,
And for Dolly and Molly and Polly are sighing,
  But those very same troublesome fair
  Sent 'em there,
And they'll all curse their morts when it comes to the dying.

Let the gemman who wants to bing wide of the crap
Beware of his dell, for she's certain to rap—
  There I've tipped you a deuced moral lay,
  So good day,
I'm off to lie soft in my Barbara's lap.

Cast for Lag

On the Pamunkey's pine-fringed shore—
Lord! how drear is the torrent's roar!
Sits the gentleman rum-pad, slave,
Watching the leap of the restless wave,
           And sighing for his Jenny.

Cast for lag was this scampsman bold,
Flung in a slaver's stinking hold,
Kicked and flogged like a vagrant cur—
That was hard on a gentleman, Sir,
           Who sighed for pretty Jenny.

Bought by a planter and driven away
Many a mile on a sweltering day,
Lashed to a negro, foul and black,
Each time I stumbled the whip on my back,
           Lord! how I sighed for Jenny.

Set to work in the sugar canes,
Hunger, thirst, and the sun's hot pains,
Bed at night with a filthy crew,
Tumble and toss and sweat and stew,
           And wretched dreams of Jenny.

Thus the miserable days go by,
Grinding toil 'neath a torrid sky,
Pain and hate, thirst and hunger wild,
Tears at night like a beaten child—
           Pray for me, pretty Jenny!

To a Comrade Sped

Oh you fool, you! Who'd have thought it!
  Dangling like a dog on string.
That poor spice, you've dearly bought it—
  Lad, how does it feel to swing?

Did you kick when the hemp choked you,
  And your heels danced in the air,
And the sweat of dying soaked you,
  Struggling on the three-legged mare?

Swear you did! Your grin, my Billy,
  Is not what it ought to be,
Thus to show your teeth is silly,
  And not over good to see.

Dolly wouldn't kiss that cheek, Sir,
  With the veins swelled out so black,
Pretty Bab would squirm and shriek, Sir,
  At the scars upon your back—

Which you had in gaol, my beauty,
  Ere you gambolled on the crap,
Lud! the Sheriff did his duty,
  Ordered you both rope and strap.

For you held the roads a-trembling,
  Billy with the face so black;
Ah, I hear you—'No dissembling!
  Tip the Steven—don't be slack!'

Blowens screamed, and gemmen cursed you,
  But you caved 'em with your pop,
Now, alas! the hemp has burst you,
  Ere you reaped your nutty crop.

Oh you fool, you! Who'd have thought it!
  Bowled out, trussed up, stark, and dead.
Ruffler crack, Egad! you've caught it,
  Caught it fairly on the head.


Bride's Song

It was not always thus I loved,
  Once, long ago, another love was mine,
A love that through the constellations moved
  On fiery way divine—
It was not always thus I loved.
             But can a bird for ever fly?
             Too rare, too lofty, is the sky,
             The poor bird folds his tired wings,
             And in the tree-top sings,
             And tries
             To forget the skies.

It was not always thus I dreamed,
  Once, long ago, I walked in Paradise,
And through the coolness of the garden gleamed
  An angel's beckoning eyes—
It was not always thus I dreamed.
             But can the sun be ever bright?
             He faints before the sword of night,
             And back into the house we hie,
             And with a candle try,
             When day's done,
             To forget the sun.

I went into the sunset, and I heard
Among the trees the faint note of a bird.


One star upon the desert of the sky,
  One song upon the silences of night.
  Upon the tossing of the stream, one light,
One moment in a blank eternity.

For, O my love, eternity is drear,
  And soon we both shall weary of it so,
That we shall turn and hide ourselves for fear
  In that sweet hour God gave us long ago.

We cannot wander from it very far,
  For down the long wild ways, it calls us home,
Red through the evening like a fallen star,
  A dim undying hearth for loves that roam.

I feel were I to meet you I might not
  Even know you in the street, nor you know me—
  You might look back and whisper, 'Who is she?'
And I might sigh at something half forgot.

But in our Moment I can kiss your face,
  Smiling and strong unchanged by all the years;
And I can hold you there a little space,
  And you hold me—unchanged by all my tears.

And I can whisper to you of that night
 When our dark boat made moon-swept waters hiss.
  Your face was wet with spray, spray-wet your kiss,
Your eyes were stars that I had set alight.

Dim planets hung above the trembling trees,
  The suck of water shook the misty air,
  The darkness showed you magic in my hair,
The darkness showed you rest upon my knees.

We saw two wandering stars fall through the sky—
  'Twas you and I, lost in the chilly haze,
  Apart, adrift, forsaken, but ablaze
With one short hour's eternal ecstacy.

And into our poor love of rags and tears
  The fire of life and deathless love rushed down,
Rushed the great love of this world's million years,
  Gave us the kingdom, set on us the crown—

Gave us all love of lovers since the morn
  Of love in the dim daybreak of the earth,
  Gave us all harmonies since music's birth,
Gave us all colours since the first red dawn—

Gave us the Springtime with its changing tunes,
Gave us the mysteries of many Junes,
Gave us the stars, gave us the trackless sea,
Gave us each other to eternity.

Love may be gone, as you are gone, my dear,
  But our almighty moment cannot die—
It shall stand fast when the last crumbling sphere
  Shall crash out of the ruin of the sky.

When the last constellations faint and fall,
  When the last planets burst in fiery foam,
When all the winds have sunk asleep, when all
  The worn way-weary comets have come home—

When past and present and the future flee,
  My moment lives! and I shall hold you there.
It lives to be my immortality,
  An immortality which you shall share.

One star upon the desert of the sky,
  One song upon the silences of night,
Upon the tossing of the stream, one light,
  One moment in a blank eternity.

The Optimist

The earth is green, the earth is wide,
  And when its widest bound is past,
There are the stars on every side,
  For soaring souls to win at last—
There is no bound for those that fly,
Floorless and roofless is the sky,
  Hope knows no hindrance but clipped wings,
So, throughout all life's little while,
My heart is happy, and I smile,
              In spite of many things,
In spite of pain,
  In spite of fears,
    In spite of want,
      In spite of tears
        —In spite of you.

Mine is the future, and the past,
  The growing and the dying gleam,
Mine is ambition till the last,
  And there are dreams for me to dream.
Mine is the sagging Winter day,
Mine too the softness of the May,
  The lusty strength of bread and wine,
The valiant dawn, the pondering night,
  The flowering change from dark to light,
              All holy things are mine,
In spite of pain,
  In spite of fears,
    In spite of want,
      In spite of tears
        —In spite of you.

Adventure weaves the shining dress
  Experience at last shall wear,
Grief, rapture, triumph, bitterness
  Combine to trace the pattern there.
All sorrow that my soul assails
Helps to embroider golden veils
  To deck me in the glorious day
When I shall reign in endless rest,
So strength and laughter fill my breast,
              And on my heartstrings play,
In spite of pain,
  In spite of fears,
    In spite of want,
      In spite of tears
        —In spite of you.


By the grave I watch and weep,
  Watch and weep in anxious pain,
Watch my Love's exhausted sleep,
  Weep lest he should wake again—
With heart and mind and soul I dread
The resurrection of the dead.

Is it a hard law of Thine
  That no third day's dawn shall break
Without bringing life divine
  To the dead? O for the sake
Of all Thy thorns and lilies won,
Let my weary one sleep on!

Rough was life for my poor love,
  Fierce the whirlwind, wild the wave,
It was mercy from above
  That he found this quiet grave,
And there laid him down to rest,
In the earth's consoling breast.

He is desperate for sleep.
  He would never choose to wake,
And I watch by him and weep,
  Trembling lest the light should break
In the merciful dark skies,
And torment his heavy eyes.

Though I know that Christ the Lord
 On the third day rose again,
And I fear it is His word
  That the crucified should reign,
Yet to Him I humbly pray
That my love shall sleep for aye.

For he never was a king,
  Never sat upon a throne,
He was just a trodden thing,
  Stumbling in the dark alone.
Let him rest Eternal bliss?—
He is far too tired for this.

Life is for the gods and great,
  Resurrection for the strong,
Joy for those of high estate,
  Slaves would rather slumber long.
Let no angel from above
Wake the sleeping slave—my love.

By the grave I watch and weep,
  Watch and weep in anxious pain,
Watch my love's exhausted sleep,
  Weep lest he should wake again—
With heart and mind and soul I dread
The resurrection of the dead.

A Prayer

Lord, let me die on my feet—upright and boldly facing
  My last sad great adventure and experience's crown,
Let my eyes be all undimmed as they look into the darkness,
  Let me hail death as a conqueror before he strikes me down.

Let me die with my head up, sword drawn, my shield flung from me,
  Stout to the end, yet proud to win my discharge at last,
With worshipping clear gaze let me run to meet the future,
  And with forgiving laughter make my fare-wells to the past.

Let me not die in my bed, in weariness and weakness,
  While outside, undesired, unheard, all valiant nature calls,
Save me from tumbled sheets, drawn blinds, and muffled footsteps,
  From staring eyes to pity me when the last anguish falls.

Lord let me die in my boots, I care not where death meets me,
  But let me die upright and armed, with free unclouded mind,
Let me relish in their fullness the last moments life shall give me,
  Then plunge on without vain regrets for vain things left behind.

Let me meet death on the waters, in the din of the waves' roaring,
  In the shattering of the thunder, when the splitting timbers break,
Let me meet him on the mountains, on the shrieking snow-storm riding,
  I care not where he finds me, if he find me but awake.

I care not how I meet him, if I meet him as a warrior,
  Not as a slave the master he has given cause to frown.
I will challenge him to combat, and when he sees me fearless,
  He will hail me as a conqueror before he strikes me down.

[End of Willow's Forge and other poems by Sheila Kaye-Smith]