Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OLD HOMES, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN



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OLD HOMES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O happiest village! How I turned to you
Last Line: And in your pastoral still my life has rest.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): England; Home; Landscape; English


O HAPPIEST village! how I turned to you
Beyond estranging years that cloaked my view
With all their wintriness of fear and strain;
I turned to you, I never turned in vain.
Through fields yet ringing sad with fancy's dirge,
Landscapes that hunt poor sleep to bedlam's verge,
Green grow your leas, and sweet resound your woods,
And laughing children paddle in your floods.

There the old houses where we lived abide,
And I shall see them, though hot tears should hide
The gaze of "home" from that which now I hold.
What though pulled down? -- to me they're as of old.
The garrets creak as I tiptoe the boards
To find the last lone tenant's fabled hoards,
And silver on the dun November sky
Through jarring panes I see the flood race by
Brown hop-hills where the black bines moulder out.
To these same panes, when full moon comes about,
I hastening home lift daring eyes to learn
If ghost eyes through their sullen crystal burn,
And feel what sight cannot report, and fall
A-shuddering even to face the unlit hall.

Passages crooked and slanted, ceilings stooped,
And yews with drowsy arras overdrooped
The windows of that home; the broad hearths wept
With every shower; adry the great vats slept,
Where one time kercher'd maids had toiled with a will:
Such nooks were here, a hundred scarce would fill.
And in the farm beside, the barn's sunk tiles
Enclosed a space like to the church's aisles.

Then all about these vasty walls our play
Would hold the evening's lanterned gloom at bay,
And senses young received each new-found thing
As meadows feel and glow with inbreathed spring:
Thence we have journeyed out to blue hills round,
The pilgrims of a day's enchanted ground,
And where we'd seen the crow or heron fly
Have made our chartless way, passed far inns by,
On edge of lily ponds have heard the jack
From unknown holes leap, and shrunk trembling back,
Have seen strange chimneys smoke, new runnels foam,
Until quite surfeited we turned for home,
Whose white walls rosy with the westering light
Still of our journey seemed the noblest sight.

Thence too when high wind through the black clouds' pouring,
Bowing the strong trees' creaking joints, went roaring,
Adventure was to splash through the sightless lane
When church-bells filled a pause of wind and rain,
And once within the venerable walls
To hear the elms without like waterfalls,
While the cold arches murmured every prayer,
And Advent hymns bade the round world prepare,
Prepare! The next day with pale seas amazed
We scarce had marvelled as we gaped and gazed
If this had been the tempest harbinger
Of the world's end and final Arbiter:
The pollards in the yellow torrent drowning,
The weir's huge jaw a-gnashing, all heaven frowning.

But there at length, beside that thunderous weir,
Our lot was cast, and no less generous here
Came each long day; not even the hours we spent
Under old Grammar's eye unkindly went.
We found his learning dry, in faith, and hit
Disaster in our sleights for leavening it;
But the big desks cut with heroic names,
The gilded panel trumpeting past fames,
Shields, pictures, solemn books of stars and sages,
Kindled our pride in sense of mightier ages,
That school had seen, and cannot see again.
Fair, fair befall her, though no urchin pen
Crawl through the summer hours beneath her beams,
Nor playground haunters' shout bestir her dreams;
Honoured among her aspens may she rise,
And her red walls long soothe the traveller's eyes.

Thence issued we among the scampering crew,
And crossed the green, and from the bridge down threw
Our dinner crumbs to waiting roach; or soft
Marauding climbed the cobwebbed apple-loft,
And the sweet smell of Blenheims lapped in straw
Made stolen pleasure seem a natural law;
Escape and plunder hurried us at last
To the weir-cottage where our lot was cast,
Poor as church mice, yet rich at every turn,
Who never guessed that man was made to mourn.

In this same country as the time fulfilled
When hops like ribbons on the maypole frilled
Their colonnaded props mile after mile,
And tattered armies gathered to the spoil,
We too invaded the green arbours ere
The day had glistened on earth's dewy hair,
And through the heat have picked and picked apace,
To fill our half-bin and not lose the race,
While our bin partner, fierce of eye and tongue,
Disliked our style and gave "when I was young."
And all about the clearing setts revealed
The curious colours of the folk afield,
The raven hair, the flamy silk, the blue
Washed purple with all weathers; crime's dark crew;
Babes at the breast; old sailors chewing quids;
And hyacinth eyes beneath soon-dropt eyelids.
The conquest sped, the bramlings, goldings small,
The heavy fuggles to the bins came all,
Garden past garden heard the measurer's horn
Blow truce -- advance! until a chillier morn
Saw the last wain load up with pokes and go,
And an empty saddened field looked out below
On trees where smouldered the quick fever-tinge
Of Autumn, on the river's glaucous fringe,
And our own cottage, its far lattice twinkling
Across tired stubble sown with sheep-bells' tinkling.
On airy wings the warning spirit sighed,
But we, we heard not, thinking of Christmastide.

A love I had, as childhood ever will,
And our first meeting I'll remember still;
When to the farmhouse first we went, the may
With white and red lit hedgegrows all the way,
And there I saw her, in a red-may cloak
To church going by; so delicately she spoke,
So gracefully stept, so innocent-gay was her look,
I got a flower; she put it in her book.
And after, many eves, we walked for hours
Like loving flowers among the other flowers,
And blushed for pride when other girls and boys
Laughed at us sweethearts in the playhour's noise --
No more, this was a silly simple thing;
Those two can never now walk so in spring;
But to look back to child with child primrosing
Is all the sweetness of each spring's unclosing.

Vision on vision blooms; long may they bloom,
Through years that bring the philosophic gloom,
Sweetening sleep with its strange agonies racked,
And shedding dew on every parching tract,
In every pleasant place a virtue adding,
A herb of grace to keep the will from madding:
And, happiest village, still I turn to you,
The alabaster box of spikenard, you;
To your knoll trees, your slow canal return
In your kind farms or cottages sojourn;
Enjoy the whim that on your church tower set
The lead cowl like a Turkish minaret;
Beat all your bounds, record each kiln and shed,
And watch the blue mists on each calm close spread.
My day still breaks beyond your poplared East
And in your pastoral still my life has rest.





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