Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AS IN THE BEGINNING, by PATRICK REGINALD CHALMERS



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

AS IN THE BEGINNING, by            
First Line: In the very far beginning, when our fathers lived in caves
Last Line: Yet 'twas only just the night-jar, just the plopping water-rat!
Subject(s): Nature; Past


IN the very far beginning, when our fathers lived in caves,
And the glacier rolled and shuddered where today you roll the lawn,
Then the forests and the rivers, and the mountains and the waves
Were the haunts of troll and kelpie, gnome, pishogue and leprechaun;
Long ago—oh, long ago,
Little feet went to and fro
In the hushed and solemn moonrise, or the silence of the dawn:
Weren't they just the prowling otter or the fox-cub or the fawn?

If the panting hunters plodded on the hairy mammoth's trail,
Till the flint-tipped lances laid him in the twilight stiff and stark,
If the yelling tribesmen lingered at the stranding of the whale
Till the sledges were benighted in the demonhaunted dark,
Each untutored scalp would rise
At mysterious woodland cries,
And they'd glance across their shoulders with a shudder and a "Hark!"
Though 'twas probably the screech owl or some startled roebuck's bark!

If the neolithic lover in a neolithic June
Met at nightfall, 'neath the hawthorn bough, a neolithic maid,
Then, despite the ministrations of a full and friendly moon,
As it caught the clumps of blossom in a net of light and shade,
They would hear with knocking knees,
Come a kind of grunting wheeze,
For they'd think some spook had spied them, and their cheeks would match their
jade;
But they never saw the badger rooting truffles in the glade!

Go you out along the chalk downs, and you'll see our fathers yet
(Cairn upon the thymy hill-top, tumulus of tribal kings!)
Yes, and in the sun-warmed quarry find perhaps an amulet,
Such as kept them from the kobold, or the beat of goblin wings;
Then your sympathy shall stray
To our sires of feebler clay,
With their little local godlings and their foolish fairy rings,
Though you know—for Science says so—that there never were such things!

For yourself—you've sometimes hurried when the mayfly cease to rise,
With your rod inside its cover and your cast around your hat,
When the beetles boom like bullets, and the bats are hawking flies,
And the night is in the meadows, and the mists are on the flat,
Past some darkling belt of pine,
While you've felt all up your spine
Run a sort of icy shiver, and your heart's gone pit-a-pat—
Yet 'twas only just the night-jar, just the plopping water-rat!





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