Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HECTOR IN THE GARDEN, by ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

HECTOR IN THE GARDEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Nine years old! The first of any
Last Line: And though hector is twice dead.
Subject(s): Gardens & Gardening


NINE years old! The first of any
Seem the happiest years that come:
Yet when I was nine, I said
No such word! I thought instead
That the Greeks had used as many
In besieging Ilium.


Nine green years had scarcely brought me
To my childhood's haunted spring;
I had life, like flowers and bees.
In betwixt the country trees,
And the sun the pleasure taught me
Which he teacheth every thing.


If the rain fell, there was sorrow:
Little head leant on the pane,
Little finger drawing down it
The long trailing drops upon it,
And the 'Rain, rain, come to-morrow,'
Said for charm against the rain.


Such a charm was right Canidian,
Though you meet it with a jeer!
If I said it long enough,
Then the rain hummed dimly off,
And the thrush with his pure Lydian
Was left only to the ear;


And the sun and I together
Went a-rushing out of doors:
We our tender spirits drew
Over hill and dale in view,
Glimmering hither, glimmering thither
In the footsteps of the showers.


Underneath the chestnuts dripping,
Through the grasses wet and fair,
Straight I sought my garden-ground
With the laurel on the mound,
And the pear-tree oversweeping
A side-shadow of green air.


In the garden lay supinely
A huge giant wrought of spade!
Arms and legs were stretched at length
In a passive giant strength, --
The fine meadow turf, cut finely,
Round them laid and interlaid.


Call him Hector, son of Priam!
Such his title and degree.
With my rake I smoothed his brow,
Both his cheeks I weeded through,
But a rhymer such as I am,
Scarce can sing his dignity.


Eyes of gentianellas azure,
Staring, winking at the skies:
Nose of gillyflowers and box;
Scented grasses put for locks,
Which a little breeze at pleasure
Set a-waving round his eyes:


Brazen helm of daffodillies,
With a glitter toward the light;
Purple violets for the mouth,
Breathing perfumes west and south;
And a sword of flashing lilies,
Holden ready for the fight:


And a breastplate made of daisies,
Closely fitting, leaf on leaf;
Periwinkles interlaced
Drawn for belt about the waist;
While the brown bees, humming praises,
Shot their arrows round the chief.


And who knows (I sometimes wondered)
If the disembodied soul
Of old Hector, once of Troy,
Might not take a dreary joy
Here to enter -- if it thundered,
Rolling up the thunder-roll?


Rolling this way from Troy-ruin,
In this body rude and rife
Just to enter, and take rest
'Neath the daisies of the breast --
They, with tender roots, renewing
His heroic heart to life?


Who could know? I sometimes started
At a motion or a sound!
Did his mouth speak -- naming Troy
With an 'ororororoi'?
Did the pulse of the Strong-hearted
Make the daisies tremble round?


It was hard to answer, often:
But the birds sang in the tree,
But the little birds sang bold
In the pear-tree green and old,
And my terror seemed to soften
Through the courage of their glee.


Oh, the birds, the tree, the ruddy
And white blossoms sleek with rain!
Oh, my garden rich with pansies!
Oh, my childhood's bright romances!
All revive, like Hector's body,
And I see them stir again.


And despite life's changes, chances,
And despite the deathbell's toll,
They press on me in full seeming
Help, some angel! stay this dreaming!
As the birds sang in the branches,
Sing God's patience through my soul!


That no dreamer, no neglecter
Of the present's work unsped,
I may wake up and be doing,
Life's heroic ends pursuing,
Though my past is dead as Hector,
And though Hector is twice dead.

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