by Cecil H Lay, FRIBA, published September 1930
Somehow day and night got mixed,
Stars to flowers' stems seemed fixed;
Were those comets, dropping there,
From the chaplet in her hair?
Chloe smiled at blue and gold,
Dawn for me her lips foretold.
'Where's the snake?' she laughing said.
'Eden's sheets for us are spread.'
Golden day and azure night:
These were one for our delight.
The Birth of a Poem
The thought beyond thought to the metre's beat,
Through the heart's two poles and its fiercest heat;
With spirit as hard as a frozen dawn,
Then soft as the rays from the gold of corn;
The force of man, and of earth, and of beast;
The drive of the west, and the pull to the east;
The power of the dead, and of those that wait
For the pass to life at an unknown gate:
Concorded are these to the primal beat,
And a poem stands on its baby feet.
How shall I envy any man, till pride
Stiffens his back, and easy makes his miles,
While I plod on with hesitating stride,
And stop for any beggar's suppliant smiles?
How can I envy any man his mind,
Till I see one complacent in his thought,
When I am seeking oft enough to find
A minimum of content, having nought?
How shall I envy prudence, till I hear
The jingle of a pension's golden worth,
When poverty and squalor hover near,
And I have only poesy and mirth?
How shall I envy any man, till eyes
Reflecting his purported self appear,
When in his arms his smiling baby lies,
And all my passion yielded was a tear?
How shall I envy any man his gain,
Though I be paid with leaden cash of blows,
When riches are the vampires of his brain
And batten on the ease that wealth bestows?
Nor will I envy any man disdain,
Propelling him through masses (how they quail!),
While I with pity limp along in pain
And deviate to spare a humble snail.
Nor shall I envy any man his wife,
Till urgent youth (he passes) puts me by,
And solitary on the ledge of life,
With dust on my affections, I shall lie.
How shall I envy any man, when this,
The mantle spun by loveliness, is thrown
Lightly upon my shoulders, and her kiss
By wings of singing solitude is blown?
Life is a bridge of golden hours
Across a stream of gleaming flowers;
A kiss it is from some gay lip;
A voyage in a fairy ship
From birth to death that glides along
On seas of dream with sails of song.
Crows: A Grotesque
Old crows from Scandinavia,
Grey on the breast, how wise they are!
Laugh for the crows, Ha! ha! ha! ha!
Laugh at the man, he walks with song.
But crows see far, and right or wrong
Is green for them. Ding-dong. Ding-dong.
How do they know the song will die?
And death alone will satisfy.
How do they know? Ho! ho! ho! ho!
Love in the spring, and what in snow?
Old crows from Scandinavia
Gobble and spittle: how wise they are!
In a Hay-Loft over a Byre
Come, Chloe, to a loft we'll climb,
And doze where darkling rafters rhyme;
We'll see the searching summer bore
With golden drills from roof to floor
Through crevices in roofing rude;
But dormer light shall not intrude,
And munching cattle underneath
Shall welcome us with fragrant breath,
And loving pigeons overhead
Will croon and envy us our bed.
To the Wrens
Common wrens with silver notes
Pouring from their urgent throats
Simple music, never purled:
Songs like those redeem the world.
Autumn and Amber
I would this verse of mine might be
Like polished amber set in gold,
So, seeing it, men might behold,
As in a seer's globe of old,
The glory that my eyes can see.
I would that I might dwell inside
In miniature, and there abide
Unruffled ever as to-day,
And so for untold ages stay
I would that I might gently float
On many and many a maiden's throat.
I would that I could be passed on
To beauty new by beauty gone.
If boons from gods a man could ask,
I'd pray that I might always bask
Beneath the sun of loveliness
That shines on love, and love's caress.
I would that autumn's amber light,
Transmuted by my vision, might
Encase my words. O autumn day,
Preserve my verses from decay.
'Translate that linnet's song for me?'
I asked some dun and wandering bird.
I think the creature never heard:
It didn't even turn its head,
And disregarded what I said.
The linnet sang, and droned the bee,
'Coo!' coo'd the dove in greenery.
Coo! Coo! Coo! Coo! translate that song,
Coo! Coo! Coo! Coo! the leaves among,
Coo! Coo! Coo! Coo! I wish I could,
Coo! Coo! Coo! Coo! replied the wood.
They toil not, neither do they sing,
The sparrows on my wall;
Instead, they fight and brawl.
They have no grace upon the wing,
No colours to apologize
For voices without enterprise.
They do not build a pretty nest:
Some straw in pipes is good enough
For them, for they are very rough.
Their vices are most manifest:
For seasons they have small respect,
Their actions are not circumspect.
Can I forgive them (still irate)
Concerning crocus-buds they ate?
The seeds they bagged? I recollect,
I do indeed with grief that's whole,
The martin's nest they chirping stole,
The birds they pushed to death outside:
A horrid case, infanticide.
Then they are lecherous, and rude,
And bawdy, so it seems, and lewd:
They do not search in nook and hole
For worm or grub; instead, the dole
They take from me in bread each day,
And grab it in a greedy way.
My sparrows you can see are vile,
Bereft of virtue, full of guile.
And yet I love them, each and all.
One said 'A sparrow shall not fall...'.
The frosted beech-leaves fell like pence;
The sun behind the trees, immense,
Gaped with an early indolence;
Off-hand a startled blackbird told
A soft bill's dread of dearth and cold.
A little wind just raised its head,
But couldn't leave its gilded bed.
I might have chased upon the air,
As hard as stone, what word? Despair!