Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE STILL HOUR, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN



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THE STILL HOUR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: As in the silent darkening room I lay
Last Line: Whence one deep moaning, one deep moaning came.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): World War I; First World War


As in the silent darkening room I lay,
While winter's early evening, heavy-paced
As ploughmen from our swarthy soil, groped on
From the cold mill upon the horizon hill
And over paddocks to the neighbouring lodges
And lay as I, tired out with colourless toil,
Inert, the lubber fiend, whose puffing drowse
The moon's dawn scarce would fret, through the low cloud, --
When thus at ebb I lay, my silence flowered
Gently as later bloom into a warm
Harmonious chiming; like a listener I
Was hushed. The spirits of remembrance all
With one consent made music, a flood, a haze,
A vista all to one ripe blushing blended.

That summer veil of sweet sound then awhile
Gave me clear voices, as though from rosy distance
There had been drifting multitude of song,
And then the bells each in his round were heard;
The tower that throned them seen, and even the golden
Chanticleer that frolicked on its top.

From my broad murmuring ode there came fair forth
The cries of playing children on one day,
At one blue dewy hour, by one loved green;
And then the brook was tumbling lit like gems
Down its old sluice, and old boy-heroes stood
To catch its sparkling stonefish -- I heard even
The cry that hailed the chestnut tench's downfall
In the next swim, that strange historic victim.
From church and pasture, sweetheart and sworn friend,
From the hill's hopgrounds to the lowest leas
In the rook-routed vale, from the blind boy
Who lived by me to the dwellers in the heath,
From robins building in the gipsy's kettle
Thrown in our hedge, to waterfowl above
The mouldering mill, distinct and happy now
Ten thousand singings from my childhood rang.

And time seemed stealing forward as they sounded,
The syllables of first delights passed; years
That ended childhood with their secret sigh
Uttered their joys, still longed-for, still enshrined.
And then what voices? Straight, it seemed, from those,
While a long age was silent as the grave,
The utterance passed to that stern course of chances
That crowded far-off Flanders with ourselves.
I heard the signallers lead the strong battalion
With bold songs flying to the breeze like banners,
The quiet courage once again of Daniells
By some few words built up a fort around me,
And while the long guns clattered through the towns
I, rather, heard the clack of market-women,
The hostel's gramophone and gay girls fooling,
And chants in painted churches, and my friend's
Lively review of Flemish contraries.
Or, was not this the green Bethune canal
And these our shouts, our laughs, our awkward plunges,
While summer's day went cloudless to its close?
There shone the Ancre, red-leafed woods above it,
The blue speed of its waters swirled through causeways;
There from his hammock in the apple orchard
Up sprang old Swain and rallied intruding youngsters.
The company now fell in, to the very yard,
And once again marched eager towards the Somme,
And there, a score of voices leapt again
After a hare that left her seat in the corn.
I think I'd know that twinkling field to-day.

So in a swift succession my still hour
Heard Flanders voices, in the line direct
From those of childhood; but at last the host
In such confusion as nigh stopt my breath
With glory and anguish striving, drew far on
And all became a drone, that in decline
From summer's bravery changed to autumn chill,
And as the music vague and piteous grew,
I saw the mist die from its pleasant charm,
Now fierce with early frost its numb shroud lay
Along sad ridges, and as one aloof
I saw the praying rockets mile on mile
Climb all too weak from those entangled there,
Climb for the help that could not help them there;
And even these purple vapours died away
And left the surly evening brown as clay
Upon those ridges battered into chaos
Whence one deep moaning, one deep moaning came.





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