Sheep and Lambs

Sheep and Lambs
Katharine Hinkson

All in the April morning,
April airs were abroad;
The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road.

The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road;
All in an April evening
I thought on the Lamb of God.

The lambs were weary, and crying
With a weak human cry;
I thought on the Lamb of God
Going meekly to die.

Up in the blue, blue mountains
Dewy pastures are sweet:
Rest for the little bodies,
Rest for the little feet.

Rest for the Lamb of God
Up on the hill-top green;
Only a cross of shame
Two stark crosses between.

All in the April evening,
April airs were abroad;
I saw the sheep with their lambs,
And thought on the Lamb of God.



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Is It Nothing to You?

Is It Nothing to You?
May Probyn

WE were playing on the green together,
My sweetheart and I—
Oh! so heedless in the gay June weather,
When the word went forth that we must die.
Oh! so merrily the balls of amber
And of ivory tossed we to the sky,
While the word went forth in the King’s chamber,
That we both must die.

Oh! so idly, straying through the pleasaunce,
Plucked we here and there
Fruit and bud, while in the royal presence
The King’s son was casting from his hair
Glory of the wreathen gold that crowned it,
And, ungirdling all his garments fair,
Flinging by the jewelled clasp that bound it,
With his feet made bare,

Down the myrtled stairway of the palace,
Ashes on his head,
Came he, through the rose and citron alleys,
In rough sark of sackcloth habited,
And in a hempen halter—oh! we jested,
Lightly, and we laughed as he was led
To the torture, while the bloom we breasted
Where the grapes grew red.

Oh! so sweet the birds, when he was dying,
Piped to her and me—
Is no room this glad June day for sighing—
He is dead, and she and I go free!
When the sun shall set on all our pleasure
We will mourn him— What, so you decree
We are heartless— Nay, but in what measure
Do you more than we?



The Burning Babe

The Burning Babe
Robert Southwell

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.




Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries
A.E. Housman

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth’s foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

On the Death of a particular Friend

On the Death of a particular Friend
James Thomson

AS those we love decay, we die in part,
String after string is sever’d from the heart;
Till loosen’d life, at last but breathing clay,
Without one pang is glad to fall away.

Unhappy he who latest feels the blow!
Whose eyes have wept o’er every friend laid low,
Dragg’d ling’ring on from partial death to death,
Till, dying, all he can resign is—breath.

In Earliest Spring

In Earliest Spring
William Dean Howells

Tossing his mane of snows in wildest eddies and tangles,
Lion-like March cometh in, hoarse, with tempestuous breath,
Through all the moaning chimneys, and ‘thwart all the hollows and
angles
Round the shuddering house, threatening of winter and death.

But in my heart I feel the life of the wood and the meadow
Thrilling the pulses that own kindred with fibres that lift
Bud and blade to the sunward, within the inscrutable shadow,
Deep in the oak’s chill core, under the gathering drift.

Nay, to earth’s life in mine some prescience, or dream, or desire
(How shall I name it aright?) comes for a moment and goes-
Rapture of life ineffable, perfect-as if in the brier,
Leafless there by my door, trembled a sense of the rose.

Chorus from ‘Atalanta’

Chorus from ‘Atalanta’
Algernon Charles Swinburne

When the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces,
The mother of months in meadow or plain
Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain;
And the brown bright nightingale amorous
Is half assuaged for Itylus,
For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces.
The tongueless vigil, and all the pain.

Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,
Maiden most perfect, lady of light,
With a noise of winds and many rivers,
With a clamour of waters, and with might;
Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,
Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;
For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,
Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.

Where shall we find her, how shall we sing to her,
Fold our hands round her knees, and cling?
O that man’s heart were as fire and could spring to her,
Fire, or the strength of the streams that spring!
For the stars and the winds are unto her
As raiment, as songs of the harp-player;
For the risen stars and the fallen cling to her,
And the southwest-wind and the west-wind sing.

For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remember’d is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

The full streams feed on flower of rushes,
Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot,
The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes
From leaf to flower and flower to fruit;
And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,
And the oat is heard above the lyre,
And the hoofèd heel of a satyr crushes
The chestnut-husk at the chestnut-root.

And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night,
Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid,
Follows with dancing and fills with delight
The Mænad and the Bassarid;
And soft as lips that laugh and hide
The laughing leaves of the trees divide,
And screen from seeing and leave in sight
The god pursuing, the maiden hid.

The ivy falls with the Bacchanal’s hair
Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes;
The wild vine slipping down leaves bare
Her bright breast shortening into sighs;
The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves,
But the berried ivy catches and cleaves
To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.

Song

Song
Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

I made another garden, yea,
For my new Love:
I left the dead rose where it lay
And set the new above.
Why did my Summer not begin?
Why did my heart not haste?
My old Love came and walk’d therein,
And laid the garden waste.
She enter’d with her weary smile,
Just as of old;
She look’d around a little while
And shiver’d with the cold:
Her passing touch was death to all,
Her passing look a blight;
She made the white rose-petals fall,
And turn’d the red rose white.
Her pale robe clinging to the grass
Seem’d like a snake
That bit the grass and grounds, alas!
And a sad trail did make.
She went up slowly to the gate,
And then, just as of yore,
She turn’d back at the last to wait
And say farewell once more.

Three Poems for Christmas

All by Christina Rossetti

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Throng’d the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped her Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,–
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

For Advent

Sweet sweet sound of distant waters, falling
On a parched and thirsty plain;
Sweet sweet song of soaring skylark, calling
On the sun to shine again;
Perfume of the rose, only the fresher
For past fertilizing rain;
Pearls amid the sea, a hidden treasure
For some daring hand to gain; –
Better, dearer than all these
Is the earth beneath the trees:
Of a much more priceless worth
Is the old, brown, common earth.

Little snow-white lamb, piteously bleating
For thy mother far away;
Saddest sweetest nightingale, retreating
With thy sorrow from the day;
Weary fawn whom night has overtaken,
From the herd gone quite astray;
Dove whose nest was rifled and forsaken
In the budding month of May; –
Roost upon the leafy trees;
Lie on earth and take your ease;
Death is better far than birth:
You shall turn again to earth.

Listen to the never-pausing murmur
Of the waves that fret the shore:
See the ancient pine that stands the firmer
For the storm-shock that it bore;
And the moon her silver chalice filling
With light from the great sun’s store;
And the stars which deck our temple’s ceiling
As the flowers deck its floor;
Look and hearken while you may,
For these things shall pass away:
All these things shall fail and cease;
Let us wait the end in peace.

Let us wait the end in peace, for truly
That shall cease which was before:
Let us see our lamps are lighted, duly
Fed with oil nor wanting more:
Let us pray while yet the Lord will hear us,
For the time is almost o’er;
Yea, the end of all is very near us;
Yea, the Judge is at the door.
Let us pray now, while we may;
It will be too late to pray
When the quick and dead shall all
Rise at the last trumpet-call.

Christmas Eve

Christmas has a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas has a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas has a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven has answering music
For all angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Jerusalem (from Milton)

Jerusalem
William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.