Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

December Matins - Poem by Alfred Austin

``Why, on this drear December morn,
Dost thou, lone Misselthrush, rehearse thy chanting?
The corals have been rifled from the thorn,
The pastures lie undenizened and lorn,
And everywhere around there seems a something wanting.''
Whereat, as tho' awondering at my wonder,
And brooded somewhere nigh a love-mate nesting,
He more loud and longer still
'Gan to tremble and to trill,
Height after height of sound robustly breasting;
As if o'erhead were Heaven of blue, and under,
Fresh green leafage, and he would
Cleave with shafts of hardihood
The mists asunder.

Only the singer it is foresees,
Only the Poet has the voice foretelling.
When the ways harden and the sedge-pools freeze,
He hears light-hearted Spring upon the breeze,
And feels the hawthorn buds mysteriously swelling.
Though to the eaves the icicles are clinging,
Or from the sunward gables dripping, dripping,
He with inward gaze beholds
Liberated flocks and folds,
The runnels leaping, and the young lambs skipping,
And dauntless daffodils anew upspringing,
So throughout the wintry days
Meditates prophetic lays,
And keeps on singing.

Not the full-volumed Springtime song,
Not April's note with rapture overflowing,
Melodious cadence, early, late, and long,
Now low and suing, now serenely strong,
But the heart's intimations musically showing
That Love and Verse are never out of season.
Though the winds bluster, and the branches splinter,
He, through cold and dire distress,
Companioned by cheerfulness,
Descries young Mayday through the mask of Winter.
Doubt and despair to him were veilëd treason,
Fashioned never to despond,
By Foreseeing far beyond
The range of Reason.

Therefore, brave bird, sing on, for some to hear
If faintly, fitfully, and though to-morrow
Will be the shortest day of all the year,
Though fields be flowerless and fallows drear,
And earth seems cherishing some secret sorrow,
The dawn will come when it anew will glisten
With tears of gladness, glen and dingle waken,
Winter's tents be furled and routed,
April notes be sung and shouted,
Over the fleeing host and camp forsaken;
The nightingale ne'er cease, the cuckoo christen
Hedgerow posies with its call,
And unto glee and madrigal
The whole world listen.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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