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

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

SHEPHERD, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Evening has brought the glow-worm to the green
Last Line: And gently leads the yoes that are with young.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): England; Landscape; Shepherds & Shepherdesses; English

EVENING has brought the glow-worm to the green,
And early stars to heaven, and joy to men;
The sun is gone, the shepherd leaves the pen
And hobbles home, while we for leisure lean
On garden pales. O shepherd old and kind,
Sweet may your musings and your slumbers prove! --
Where the rude chairs, of untanned osiers wove,
Creak to the dead of night, his rest he'll find:
And at his feet well pleased his dog will doze,
And not a traveller passes but he knows.

A country god to every childish eye --
Who sees the shepherd save when he comes home,
With untrimmed staff, smock stitched like honeycomb,
With great-tongued boots, and buskins to the thigh?
A seer, a country god -- so thought conceives
His oracles of seasons foul or fair,
His weather-bitten looks, the wild white hair
That on his shoulders thatches like an eaves:
And he himself, proud of his antique toil,
Gossips with none that might such honour soil.

Sleep comes upon the village, the rich bee
From honeyed bells of balsams high is gone;
The windows palely shine; the owls whoop on,
But bats have slunk into their hollow tree.
The shepherd hours before has closed his eyes,
But he unseen will take his staff in hand
And walk to wake the morning through the land
Before the cockerel counts it time to rise.
High on the hill he dares the mist and dew
And sings before a sunbeam ventures through.

Now when the morning ripens and unfolds
Like beds of flowers the glories of the plain,
His heart leaps up at every steeple vane
And barn and kiln and windmill on the wolds;
For boyhood knew them all, and not a brook
But he has bathed and played the miller there;
By every green he's hurried to the fair
And tended sheep in every whitethorn nook.
Thus dreaming does he hurdle up the pen
And thinks how soon comes clipping-time agen.

His sheep his children are, each one he knows,
And well might know, who lay through winter storm
In cramping hulks with bracken scarce kept warm
While each one came from the poor frightened yoes.
He never bids or wants for holiday,
His sheep his children are and his delight:
That shepherds'-harvest makes the May so bright
When round his feet the lambs so frisk and play
And nuzzle in his sleeve and twitch his hand --
The prettiest dears, he calls them, in the land.

But May when music grows on every tree
Too quickly passes, shepherd's-roses die --
New dipt and shorn, they still delight the eye:
How fast they gather to his "Cub-burree"!
Even crows and jackdaws scrambling for the beans
Among the troughs are of his rustic clan,
Confess him king of bird and sheep and man;
And where he breaks his bread the emmet gleans.
The sun gives him old wisdom, the wind sings
Clear to his sense, his heart many hard things.

The stubble browsing comes, and from the grave
Autumn in half-hue swathes the rolling weald,
The blue smoke curls with mocking stealth afield,
And far-off lights, like wild eyes in a cave,
Stare at the shepherd on the bleaching grounds.
Deeply he broods on the dark tide of change,
And starts when echo sharp and sly and strange
To his gap-stopping from the sear wood sounds.
His very sheep-bells seem to bode him ill
And starling-whirlwinds strike his bosom chill.

Then whispering all his eighty years draw nigh,
And mutter like an Advent wind, and grieve
At perished summer, bidding him take leave
Of labour, take some comfort ere he die.
The hounded leaf has found a tongue to warn
How fierce the fang of winter, the lead rain
Brings him old pictures of the drowning plain,
When even his dog sulks loath to face the morn.
The sun drops cold in a watery cloud, the briars
Like starved arms still snatch at his withered fires.

But shepherd goes to warm him in his chair,
While in the blaze his dog growls at his dreams,
And on the hearth the leaping firelight gleams
That makes him think of one with ruddy hair
Who kept the sheep in ancient Bethlehem.
With trusting tears he takes his Bible, reads
Once more of still green banks and glittering meads
Where storms grow not, nor ever floods to stem;
Where the kind shepherd never takes them wrong,
And gently leads the yoes that are with young.

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