Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TALK, by JOHN FREEMAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TALK, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: So many were there talking that I heard
Last Line: Her nobleness the indignity of defence.
Subject(s): World War I - Great Britain

So many were there talking that I heard
Nothing at first quite plain, as I sat down;
Until from this man's gibe and that keen word,
Another's chilly smile or peevish frown,
I caught their talk—but added none of mine.
They said how she still fumbled with her fate,
How she had banished visitants divine,
How long her sleep had been, her sloth how great,
How others had drawn near and passed her by,
While she luxuriously had dreamed, dreamed on,
She, she her own eternal enemy,
And wanting brain, brain, brain would be undone.
The glasses tinkled as they talked and laughed,
And if the door a moment hung ajar
The noises of the street, remotely soft,
Crept in as from a world sunken afar.
And still they talked, and then well pleased were pleased
To talk of other things—another's wife,
Money that ministers to a mind diseased,
And queer extravagant whims of death and life. ...
But I rose up, flushed at the careless slander,
Heedless what other laughing things were said,
And my bruised thoughts began to lift and wander
Far off, as from that jargoning I fled.
I saw the sharp green hills, the silver clouds
At rest upon the hills, the silver streams
Creeping between prone shoulders of dark woods.
I saw wide marshlands laved with level beams
Of the last light; I saw ships on the sea
That foamed hard by, stinging the fretful shore;
I smelt old ships on the deserted quay
That English sailors sailed, and will no more;
I thought of men I loved, and of dead men
I had longed to know—and each heroic ghost
Rose and moved on, and left me alone again
Aching for love and splendour glimpsed and lost.
God knows what things I thought when anger broke
Her narrow dam and swept my spirit clean.
Yet I for very shame not a word spoke,
But to my heart's heart caught the things I had seen,
And England, England! murmuring, stood and stared,
Swept like a lover with sweet influence
In brain and bone—and happy that I had spared
Her nobleness the indignity of defence.

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