Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WHITE WATCH (OPUS 28: NO. 3), by GORDON BOTTOMLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WHITE WATCH (OPUS 28: NO. 3), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Apple boughs lie in the eaves
Last Line: And a bride girl peered at her from the floor.
Subject(s): Brides; Marriage; Weddings; Husbands; Wives

APPLE boughs lie in the eaves,
On windless nights the apple leaves
Chirp against the window panes
Slightly as a mist that rains.
Apple boughs lie on the roof;
Feet of more than one dove
(Doves asleep) stir at nights
Among the leaves as dark alights.
Summer nights, ah, Summer nights
When she set the casement wide
With fingers like the leaves outside --
Like a moonbeam her white arm
Reached to winy apples, warm
As her bed already cooling;
While all the time she heard the lulling
Of the river sinking by,
Saw London's light pulse up the sky
Like darkness filtered pale and thin,
Like London's sound that hummed therein:
Lonely footfalls sounded thin
In the street below the wall.
Will you make so lone a call,
Summer nights to come no more?

Roses that under the moon seemed hoar
Looked mirrored in the sleeping house
By the small face through the apple boughs.
Empty nights will have no fruit
Of faces like large apples mute,
Summer nights to come no more.

Moonlight spreading on the shore
Of Summer night and wedding eve
Waked her, wrought her to retrieve
All she wished she could forget,
Till her spent joys felt dearer yet.
Downstairs the tender evening through
No lamps were lit, no music drew
Her heart to meet the night, the dew.
Sweet comers in the high pale room
Fingered their orient scarves' perfume
And lost themselves down its dim length;
Often they stretched a rustling length
That was the morrow's wonder-robes
Carried in armfuls from wardrobes;
Often they praised each other's choice
With finger and cheek, but with hushed voice
Lest the heart-lulling melancholy
Of that calm room be made less holy.

When the gracious evening ended,
Muteness being with darkness blended,
They remembered, they remember
Guests are slumbering in each chamber;
So the wedding girls must dip
Down deep large cushions and shawls to sleep
Round the bride's bed on her floor.

Once in that disturbing store
Of charms and secrets and surprise,
They clasp their mistress, cover her eyes,
Bare her and garment her for dreams,
Lay her in bed where moonlight brims,
With teasing touches and kisses shed
And merry blind wisdom lay her abed.

Wedding maids, bridal girls
Shawled under dropt curls
Sink about her, whisper awhile,
Hear her pillow stir with her smile;
Then with plaintive longing think
Of her loss and gain, shrink
Till breathing lashes on small cheeks wink.

Why must she wake at moonlight's touch
And sleep no more, nor wake so much
As her night-life in the old days?
She watched the essenced moony rays
Stir the down on her maids' cheeks
(Down like their age counted in weeks),
Wedding maids, bridal girls
With nightgowns hid in falling curls,
With arms and necks uncovered by sleep
That will reveal hid thoughts acreep.

She thought of all to-morrow's birth,
Of her new joy and coming worth;
She slipped the coverlid from her,
Tip-toed like girls' tresses astir
Between her girls of virgin lore
Who floated under her on the floor
Like her thoughts of the next night;
She quietly lit the night-light
Which had burnt by her mother's death-bed;
She shrank as though fallen from darkness o'er-head.
A pearl seemed ever to be at her lips;
She seemed to hold in her fingers' tips
A palpitant pulp, soft fruit alive,
She felt her flesh a cushion between
Herself and all she touched, a screen
Life and mere real things to sever,
Like a mist upon a river
That will not let a mazarin
Dying butterfly fall in.

She opened then her cupboard-door
To stroke over over and o'er
Lawns and lace, ribands and veil
With which she would be scarcely pale
When morn her clinging webs should deck
In the gown with love-knots low on the neck,
And maids should bring spread down their arms
Trains and under-tints, jewels and charms.

She twitched for prayer the little heap
Of voile hemmed for her first sleep...
Forgot the silence she must keep,
And a bride girl peered at her from the floor.

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