Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GLEANING, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

GLEANING, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Along the baulk the grasses drenched in dews
Last Line: With such small winnings more than satisfied.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): England; Landscape; English

ALONG the baulk the grasses drenched in dews
Soak through the morning gleaners' clumsy shoes,
And cloying cobwebs trammel their brown cheeks
While from the shouldering sun the dewfog reeks.
Now soon begun, on ground where yesterday
The rakers' warning-sheaf forbade their way,
Hard clacking dames in great white hoods make haste
To cram their lapbags with the barley waste,
Scrambling as if a thousand were but one,
Careless of stabbing thistles. Now the sun
Gulps up the dew and dries the stubs, and scores
Of tiny people trundle out of doors
Among the stiff stalks, where the scratched hands ply --
Red ants and blackamoors and such as fly;
Tunbellied, too, with legs a finger long,
The spider harvestman; the churlish strong
Black scorpion, prickled earwig, and that mite
Who shuts up like a leaden shot in fright
And lies for dead. And still before the rout
The young rats and the fieldmice whisk about
And from the trod whisp out the leveret darts,
Bawled at by boys that pass with blundering carts
Top-heavy to the red-tiled barns. -- And still
The children feed their corn-sacks with good will,
And farmwives ever faster stoop and flounce.
The hawk drops down a plummet's speed to pounce
The nibbling mouse or resting lark away,
The lost mole tries to pierce the mattocked clay
In agony and terror of the sun.

The dinner hour and its grudged leisure won,
All sit below the pollards on the dykes,
Rasped with the twinge of creeping barley spikes.
Sweet beyond telling now the small beer goes
From the hooped hardwood bottles, the wasp knows,
And even hornets whizz from the eaten ash;
Then crusts are dropt and switches snatched to slash,
While safe in shadow of the apron thrown
Aside the bush which years before was grown
To snap the poacher's nets, the baby sleeps.

Now toil returns, in red-hot fluttering light,
And far afield the weary rabble creeps,
Oft happening blind wheat, black among the white,
That smutches where it touches quick as soot; --
Oft gaping where the landrail seems afoot,
Who with such magic throws his baffling speech
Far off he sounds when scarce beyond arm's reach.
The dogs are left to mind the morning's gain,
But squinting knaves can slouch to steal the grain.
Close to the farm the fields are gleaned agen,
Where the boy droves the turkey and white hen
To pick the shelled sweet corn, their hue and cry
Answers the gleaners' gabble; and sows trudge by
With little pigs to play and rootle there,
And all the fields are full of din and blare.

So steals the time past, so they glean and gloat;
The hobby-horse whirs round, the moth's dust coat
Blends with the stubble, scarlet soldiers fly
In airy pleasure; but the gleaners' eye
Sees little but their spoils, or robin-flower
Ever on tenterhooks to shun the shower, --
Their weather-prophet never known astray;
When he folds up, then towards the hedge glean they.
But now the dragon of the skies droops, pales,
And wandering in the wet grey western vales
Stumbles, and passes, and the gleaning's done.
The farmer with fat hares slung on his gun
Gives folks goodnight, as down the ruts they pull
The creaking two-wheeled handcarts bursting full,
And whimpering children cease their teazing squawls
While left alone the supping partridge calls --
Till all at home is stacked from mischief's way,
To thrash and dress the first wild windy day;
And each good wife crowns weariness with pride,
With such small winnings more than satisfied.

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