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CXXIX

BREAK, break, break,

On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter

The thoughts that arise in me.
O well for the fisherman's boy,

That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,

That he sings in his boat on the bay !
And the stately ships go on

To their haven under the hill ;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,

And the sound of a voice that is still !
Break, break, break,

At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead

Will never come back to me.

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(1853)

CXXX

THE POET'S SONG THE rain had fallen, the Poet arose,

He pass'd by the town and out of the street, A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,

And waves of shadow went over the wheat, And he sat him down in a lonely place,

And chanted a melody loud and sweet, That made the wild-swan pause in her cloud,

And the lark drop down at his feet.
The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee,

The snake slipt under a spray,
The wild hawk stood with the down on his beak,

And stared, with his foot on the prey,
And the nightingale thought, “I have sung many songs,

But never a one so gay,
For he sings of what the world will be

When the years have died away.” (1853)

CXXXI

THE BROOK

AN IDYLL "HERE, by this brook, we parted; I to the East And he for Italy—too late—too latc : One whom the strong sons of the world despise ; For lucky rhymes to him were scrip and share, And mellow metres more than cent for cent; Nor could he understand how money breeds, Thought it a dead thing; yet himself could make The thing that is not as the thing that is. O had he lived ! In our schoolbooks we say, Of those that held their heads above the crowd, They flourish'd then or then; but life in him Could scarce be said to flourish, only touch'd On such a time as goes before the leaf, When all the wood stands in a mist of green, And nothing perfect: yet the brook he loved, For which, in branding summers of Bengal, Or ev'n the sweet half-English Neilgherry air, I panted, seems, as I re-listen to it, Prattling the primrose fancies of the boy, To me that loved him ; for 'O brook,' he says, O babbling brook,' says Edmund in his rhyme, Whence come you ?' and the brook, why not ? replies.

I come from haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down a valley.
By thirty hills I hurry down,

Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorps, a little town,

And half a hundred bridges.
Till last by Philip's farm I flow

To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,

But I go on for ever.
"Poor lad, he died at Florence, quite worn out,
Travelling to Naples. There is Darnley bridge,
It has more ivy; there the river ; and there
Stands Philip's farm where brook and river meet.

I chatter over stony ways,

In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,

I babble on the pebbles.

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With many a curve my banks I fret

By many a field and sallow,
And many a fairy foreland set

With willow-weed and mallow.
I chatter, chatter, as I flow

To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,

But I go on for ever.
“But Philip chatter'd more than brook or bird ;
Old Philip; all about the fields you caught
His weary daylong chirping, like the dry
High-elbow'd grigs that leap in summer grass.

I wind about, and in and out,

With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,

And here and there a grayling,
And here and there a foamy flake

Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak

Above the golden gravel,
And draw them all along, and flow

To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,

But I go on for ever.
"O darling Katie Willows, his one child !
A maiden of our century, yet most meek;
A daughter of our meadows, yet not coarse ;
Straight, but as lissome as a hazel wand;
Her eyes a bashful azure, and her hair
In gloss and hue the chestnut, when the shell
Divides threefold to show the fruit within.

“Sweet Katie, once I did her a good turn,
Her and her far-off cousin and betrothed,
James Willows, of one name and heart with her.
For here I came, twenty years back—the week
Before I parted with poor Edmund; crost
By that old bridge which, half in ruins then,
Still makes a hoary eyebrow for the gleam
Beyond it, where the waters marry—crost,
Whistling a random bar of Bonny Doon,
And push'd at Philip's garden-gate. The gate,
Half-parted from a weak and scolding hinge,
Stuck; and he clamour'd from a casement, 'run'
To Katie somewhere in the walks below,

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'Run, Katie !' Katie never ran : she moved
To meet me, winding under woodbine bowers,
A little flutter'd, with her eyelids down,
Fresh apple-blossom, blushing for a boon.

“What was it? less of sentiment than sense
Had Katie; not illiterate; neither one
Who dabbling in the fount of fictive tears,
And nursed by mealy-mouth'd philanthropies,
Divorce the Feeling from her mate the Deed.
“She told me.

She and James had quarrell’d. Why?
What cause of quarrel? None, she said, no cause;
James had no cause: but when I prest the cause,
I learnt that James had flickering jealousies
Which anger'd her. Who anger'd James? I said.
But Katie snatch'd her eyes at once from mine,
And sketching with her slender pointed foot
Some figure like a wizard's pentagram
On garden gravel, let my query pass
Unclaim'd, in flushing silence, till I ask'd
If James were coming. "Coming every day,'
She answer'd, 'ever longing to explain,
But evermore her father came across
With some long-winded tale, and broke him short;
And James departed vext with him and her.'
How could I help her? Would I—was it wrong?'
(Claspt hands and that petitionary grace
Of sweet seventeen subdued me ere she spoke)
O would I take her father for one hour,
For one half-hour, and let him talk to me!'
And even while she spoke, I saw where James
Made toward us, like a wader in the surf,
Beyond the brook, waist-deep in meadow-sweet.

“O Katie, what I suffer'd for your sake!
For in I went, and call’d old Philip out
To show the farm : full willingly he rose :
He led me thro' the short sweet-smelling lanes
Of his wheat-suburb, babbling as he went,
He praised his land, his horses, his machines;
He praised his ploughs, his cows, his hogs, his dogs ;
He praised his hens, his geese, his guinea-hens;
His pigeons, who in session on their roofs
Approved him, bowing at their own deserts :
Then from the plaintive mother's teat he took

Her blind and shuddering puppies, naming each,
And naming those, his friends, for whom they were :
Then crost the common into Darnley chase
To show Sir Arthur's deer. In copse and fern
Twinkled the innumerable ear and tail.
Then, seated on a serpent-rooted beech,
He pointed out a pasturing colt, and said :
'That was the four-year-old I sold the Squire.'
And there he told a long long-winded tale
Of how the Squire had seen the colt at grass,
And how it was the thing his daughter wish'd,
And how he sent the bailiff to the farm
To learn the price, and what the price he ask'd,
And how the bailiff swore that he was mad,
But he stood firm; and so the matter hung;
He

gave them line: and five days after that
He met the bailiff at the Golden Fleece,
Who then and there had offer'd something more,
But he stood firm; and so the matter hung;
He knew the man; the colt would fetch its price;
He

gave them line: and how by chance at last (It might be May or April, he forgot, The last of April or the first of May) He found the bailiff riding by the farm, And, talking from the point, he drew him in, And there he mellow'd all his heart with ale, Until they closed a bargain, hand in hand.

“Then, while I breathed in sight of haven, he,
Poor fellow, could he help it? recommenced,
And ran thro' all the coltish chronicle,
Wild Will, Black Bess, Tantivy, Tallyho,
Reform, White Rose, Bellerophon, the Jilt,
Arbaces, and Phenomenon, and the rest,
Till, not to die a listener, I arose,
And with me Philip, talking still; and so
We turn'd our foreheads from the falling sun,
And following our own shadows thrice as long
As when they follow'd us from Philip's door,
Arrived, and found the sun of sweet content
Re-risen in Katie's eyes, and all things well.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,

I slide by hazel covers ;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots

That grow for happy lovers.

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