Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HEREAFTER, by RONALD LEWIS CARTON



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HEREAFTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It's autumn-time on salisbury plain
Last Line: When fighting's over be there still!
Subject(s): Autumn; Seasons; Soldiers' Writings; World War I; Fall; First World War


IT'S Autumn-time on Salisbury Plain.

Let it be Autumn-time again
When life is cured of this black pain
And I go home, go home again,
By Highgate on the Hill.
For there's a little wood I know
Where all the trees of wonder grow,
And shadows like cool waters flow
'Twixt ivied banks on beds of moss,—
Mingle and merge and fade and cross.
And you may come and you may go
And never in that holy place
Look upon a German face.

The trees have all grown as they will
In the wood by Highgate on the Hill:
Great oaks with many a lichen sash
And elm and birch, and may and ash,
In twos and threes they stand together
In all the splendid autumn weather.
And in between and left and right
Are laurel bushes green and bright.
Acorns and chestnuts patter down
On leaves all gold and red and brown,
All gold and red and brown and grey
That dance the afternoon away.

October's quick and golden rains
Wander in rivers down the lanes,
Or make, in hollows, little ponds
Where pebbles shine like diamonds.
From breakfast-time till after tea
In ev'ry branch of ev'ry tree
The starlings, like a lot of boys,
For love of life make heaps of noise:
Such noise,—there is no gladder sound
In all the glad year's tuneful round;
Such placid anger, peaceful rage—
What actors on what airy stage,
What comedy for what a wage!
Children and birds and autumn trees,—
The world were well content with these.

When bloody William and his son
Are safely dead at last, and one
May go believing there's no dearth
Of glory yet upon the Earth,—
A glory, not of fire and smoke
And things that burst and blind and choke,
A wonder, not of eyes that turn
To some new thing to blast and burn,
A wisdom, not of thrusts and stabs
And stripes and stars and scarlet tabs,
A worship, not of poisoned breath
And little children done to death,—
These shall delight my soul at last
When then is now and now is past,
Where the many-scented dews distil
In the wood by Highgate on the Hill.
There I shall find forgotten themes,
And empty husks of faded dreams
Whose seed, far scattered, soon or late,
Shall find soft soil and germinate;
Remember I am still a boy
And haply rediscover joy,
Youth and all that follows after
Vanished vision and lost laughter.
All the wood will shout and sing
At my great remembering.
Ev'ry leaf will be a voice
Tuned to welcome and rejoice,
Sky and wind and blade and tree
Stretch forth hands to welcome me.

Deep in the wood lie hidden springs
Of half of life's delightful things.
A stirring leaf, a bird in flight
Will start soft flames of coloured light
That leap and dance and flash and burn
Through waving grass and feathery fern.
Music will tell an ancient tale
When moonrise wakes a nightingale.
Here is the rich, sweet smell of earth,
Movement and melody and mirth:
Such mirth as flashes from the eyes
Of Gabriel in Paradise,
Such melody as when he sings,
Such movement as his flaming wings,
For woods and Paradise are one
When seen beneath an autumn sun.
I shall be home again and hear
Sounds that subdue the soul's worst fear.
I shall be home again and find
All that is pitiful and kind,
Healing for nerves left torn and sore
By red monotony of War.

O Wood by Highgate on the Hill,
When fighting's over be there still!





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