William Michael Rossetti

(1829-1919 / England)

Fancies At Leisure - I


I. Noon Rest

Following the river's course,
We come to where the sedges plant
Their thickest twinings at its source;--
A spot that makes the heart to pant,
Feeling its rest and beauty. Pull
The reeds' tops thro' your fingers; dull
Your sense of the world's life; and toss
The thought away of hap or cross:
Then shall the river seem to call
Your name, and the slow quiet crawl
Between your eyelids like a swoon;
And all the sounds at heat of noon
And all the silence shall so sing
Your eyes asleep as that no wing
Of bird in rustling by, no prone
Willow-branch on your hair, no drone
Droning about and past you,--nought
May soon avail to rouse you, caught
With sleep thro' heat in the sun's light,--
So good, tho' losing sound and sight,
You scarce would waken, if you might.

II. A Quiet Place

My friend, are not the grasses here as tall
As you would wish to see? The runnell's fall
Over the rise of pebbles, and its blink
Of shining points which, upon this side, sink
In dark, yet still are there; this ragged crane
Spreading his wings at seeing us with vain
Terror, forsooth; the trees, a pulpy stock
Of toadstools huddled round them; and the flock--
Black wings after black wings--of ancient rook
By rook; has not the whole scene got a look
As though we were the first whose breath should fan
In two this spider's web, to give a span
Of life more to three flies? See, there's a stone
Seems made for us to sit on. Have men gone
By here, and passed? or rested on that bank
Or on this stone, yet seen no cause to thank
For the grass growing here so green and rank?

III. A Fall of Rain

It was at day-break my thought said:
'The moon makes chequered chestnut-shade
There by the south-side where the vine
Grapples the wall; and if it shine
This evening thro' the boughs and leaves,
And if the wind with silence weaves
More silence than itself, each stalk
Of flower just swayed by it, we'll walk,
Mary and I, when every fowl
Hides beak and eyes in breast, the owl
Only awake to hoot.'--But clover
Is beaten down now, and birds hover,
Peering for shelter round; no blade
Of grass stands sharp and tall; men wade
Thro' mire with frequent plashing sting
Of rain upon their faces. Sing,
Then, Mary, to me thro' the dark:
But kiss me first: my hand shall mark
Time, pressing yours the while I hark.

IV. Sheer Waste

Is it a little thing to lie down here
Beside the water, looking into it,
And see there grass and fallen leaves interknit,
And small fish sometimes passing thro' some bit
Of tangled grass where there's an outlet clear?

And then a drift of wind perhaps will come,
And blow the insects hovering all about
Into the water. Some of them get out;
Others swim with sharp twitches; and you doubt
Whether of life or death for other some.

Meanwhile the blueflies sway themselves along
Over the water's surface, or close by;
Not one in ten beyond the grass will fly
That closely skirts the stream; nor will your eye
Meet any where the sunshine is not strong.

After a time you find, you know not how,
That it is quite a stretch of energy
To do what you have done unconsciously,--
That is, pull up the grass; and then you see
You may as well rise and be going now.

So, having walked for a few steps, you fall
Bodily on the grass under the sun,
And listen to the rustle, one by one,
Of the trees' leaves; and soon the wind has done
For a short space, and it is quiet all;

Except because the rooks will make a caw
Just now and then together: and the breeze
Soon rises up again among the trees,
Making the grass, moreover, bend and tease
Your face, but pleasantly. Mayhap the paw

Of a dog touches you and makes you rise
Upon one arm to pat him; and he licks
Your hand for that. A child is throwing sticks,
Hard by, at some half-dozen cows, which fix
Upon him their unmoved contented eyes.

The sun's heat now is painful. Scarce can you
Move, and even less lie still. You shuffle then,
Poised on your arms, again to shade. Again
There comes a pleasant laxness on you. When
You have done enough of nothing, you will go.

Some hours perhaps have passed. Say not you fling
These hours or such-like recklessly away.
Seeing the grass and sun and children, say,
Is not this something more than idle play,
Than careless waste? Is it a little thing?

Submitted: Friday, October 08, 2010

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