Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TURN OF THE ROAD, by JANE BARLOW



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THE TURN OF THE ROAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Where this narrow lane slips by
Last Line: At the turn of the road.'
Subject(s): Footprints; Roads; Solitude; Time; Travel; Paths; Trails; Loneliness; Journeys; Trips


Decepiaque non capiatur.

WHERE this narrow lane slips by,
All the land's breadth, over-glowed
Under amplest arching sky,
Seems a secret meet to keep
For these hedged banks close and high,
Till the turn of the road.
Then a curve of sudden sweep—
Lone and green the countryside,
Like a cloak, with scarce a fold,
And the white track's dwindling thread,
Lies in basking beams dispread:
You may look out far and wide
From the turn of the road.
There's a gleam of rusted gold,
And a blink of eave-stained wall,
Up the lane a rood or so,
Where a thatched roof huddles low;
And a day will seldom fall
But its mistress, bent and old,
Rime-frost hair and little red shawl,
Through her black-gapped doorway fares,
Very frail and meagre and small,
And the years' unlifted load
With a faltering foot she bears
'Twixt the tall banks to and fro;
But her steps will ever stay
Ere the turn of the road—
Never reach it; you might guess
That they halt for feebleness,
Till you hear her story told.
For she says: 'The children all
Are a weary while away.
Years long since I watched them go—
'Twas when dawn came glimmering cold—
Round the turn of the road.
And I'm lonesome left behind;
Yet time passes, fast or slow,
And they're coming home some day;
They'll come back to me, they said:
Just this morn that's overhead
It might chance, for aught I know.
'And that's always in my mind,
For I dream it in my sleep,
And I think it when I wake,
And when out of doors I creep
Towards the turn of the road,
Then a step I hardly make
But I'm saying all the while,
Ere another minute's gone
I may see them there, all three,
Coming home, poor lads, to me,
Round the turn of the road.
'But a stone's throw further on,
If I'd creep to where it showed
Like a riband stretched a mile,
And the longest look I'd take
Saw naught stirring on its white,
Sure my heart were fit to break.
'So or ever I come in sight,
Home I set my face again,
Lest I'd lose the thought that's light
Through the darksome day. And then
If I find the house so still
That my heart begins to ache,
And a hundred harms forebode,
Ere my foot is o'er the sill,
I can think I needn't fret,
If they're maybe near me yet
At the turn of the road.'





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