Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ORCHARD FEAST, by GORDON BOTTOMLEY



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THE ORCHARD FEAST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Nay, leave the ladders hidden up the boughs
Last Line: And lift our loads between us and go home.
Subject(s): Country Life; Food & Eating


NAY, leave the ladders hidden up the boughs
And in the cool grass rest a little while,
Deep in green shadows that wash far over us
Like slow, slow water; and no longer pile
Apples down each still aisle:
And maidens mid the trees, shake from your hair
Thin moths the leaves drop there; slim maidens, loose
Your upcaught skirts and come, our noon-meal share.

Girls, when your fingers drained the shrinking curd
Had they just handled pomace heavy-fumed,
Or crushed dark-litten honey-comb, or stirred
Lavender wort? Pulped herbs might well have spumed
Our cider green-illumed:
The mellowness of warm brown soil has steeped
This dusky wheaten bread, this melon gourd
Of gold, the air that cools shed linen heaped.

When in the chilly moonlight of the morn
The last man loitered here down the pale lanes,
He hid a slender viol he had borne;
So let him now entwine among its strains
A song of golden wains;
But do not dance to-day -- the year grows old,
And if we dance we shall feel how forlorn
Our fruit-place is, whose revels are over and told.

Crowned with a valiant vaunt of wealth to come,
Our Spring-tide orchard gleamed down gloomy glades
And like a moving bosom the heaped bloom
Was shot by tender tremors with rose-grey shades:
There lyric-footed maids
Stepped snow-faced under that translucent cloud
Whence tired blooms, shaken by the bees' new hum,
Dropped petal-drifts, white birds in woods dark-bowed.

It is so sweet, it is so very sweet
In the bent silent seeding grass to lie,
'Neath the dense leaves that clot with Summer's heat,
Watching the green fruit yellow far on high;
Where one grasshopper nigh
Shakes the late clover; where the hushed birds stray;
As poised upon a pause drowsed Summer's feet
Linger and falter ere she trails away.

Then in the moth-light pass we arm and waist
Unto our dusky chamber rushen-strown,
Our glimmering beds, with never any haste:
From the low open windows we lean down
And watch the fruit-garth drown
In the warm restful night, and slowly hark
The winging of a doubtful owl bat-mazed,
While a late blackbird whistles in the dark.

Are all your songs, O languid choristers,
So heavy with the burden of the past?
Each monotone of slumber-dropping verse
Repeats "Of all our Summers lost so fast
Perchance this is the last:
We will not yet forget the green days gone:
How can we hide life's undertone of fears
With all the kindness of the year undone?"

The waning life, the year's decay are ours,
And thankfully we clasp delights grown old;
But Summer's ebbing wave leaves full fruit-stores,
Life burns us up one great gift to unfold;
That gift of love we hold.
So chant no unavailing litanies;
The yellow leaves are falling like the hours,
Dead hours that turn to earth about our knees.

There is a little time for singing yet
Ere the last garnering for eventide;
But your drowsed voices falter with regret,
You shiver as you whisper side by side
And silently abide
The nightfall's labour in the scarce-seen fruit,
Too numb to care, too weary to forget,
By voiceless feelings troubled and made mute.

Take hands and let us go beyond the wood;
For the spent seasons now no longer grieve;
Loveliness is still waiting while you brood.
Come, this sweet place of cobweb-shadows leave
Until the welcome eve
Brings us from where the ghosts of lost Springs roam
To glean the fruit that we at noontide strewed
And lift our loads between us and go home.





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