The Great War

from Poems, an electronic edition

The Bride

The book was dull, its pictures

As leaden as its lore,

But one glad, happy picture

Made up for all and more;

'Twas that of you, sweet peasant,

Beside your grannie's door--

I never stopped so startled

Inside a book before.

Just so had I sat spell-bound,

Quite still with staring eyes,

If some great shiny hoopoe

Or moth of song-bird size

Had drifted to my window

And trailed its fineries --

Just so had I been startled,

Spelled with the same surprise.

It pictured you when springtime

In part had given place

But not surrendered wholly

To summer in your face;

When still your slender body

Was all a childish grace,

Though woman's richest glories

Were building there apace.

'Twas blissful so to see you,

Yet not without a sigh

I dwelt upon the people

Who saw you not as I,

But in your living sweetness,

Beneath your native sky;

Ah, bliss to be the people

When you went tripping by!

I sat there, thinking, wondering,

About your life and home,

The happy days behind you,

The happy days to come,

Your grannie in her corner,

Upstairs the little room

Where you wake up each morning

To dream all day -- of Whom ?

That ring upon your finger,

Who gave you that to wear ?

What blushing smith or farm lad

Came stammering at your ear

A million-time-told story

No maid but burns to hear,

And went about his labours

Delighting in his dear!

I thought of you sweet lovers,

The things you say and do,

The pouts and tears and partings

And swearings to be true,

The kissings in the barley --

You brazens, both of you!

I nearly burst out crying

With thinking of you two.

It put me in a frenzy

Of pleasure nearly pain,

A host of blurry faces

'Gan shaping in my brain,

I shut my eyes to see them

Come forward clear and plain,

I saw them come full flower,

And blur and fade again.

One moment so I saw them,

One sovereign moment so,

A host of girlish faces

All happy and aglow

With Life and Love it dealt them

Before it laid them low,

A hundred years, a thousand,

Ten thousand years ago.

One moment so I saw them

Come back with time full tide,

The host of girls, your grannies,

Who lived and loved and died

To give your mouth its beauty,

Your soul its gentle pride,

Who wrestled with the ages

To give the world a bride.