Maurice Thompson

(1844-1901 / the United States)

In Exile - Poem by Maurice Thompson

I

The singing streams, and the deep, dark wood
Beloved of old by Robin Hood,


Lift me a voice, kiss me a hand,
To call me from this younger land.


What time by dull Floridian lakes,
What time by rivers fringed with brakes,


I blow the reed, and draw the bow,
And see my arrows hurtling go


Well sent to deer or wary hare,
Or, wildfowl whistling down the air;


What time I lie in shady spots
On beds of wild forget-me-nots,


That fringe the fen lands insincere
And boggy marges of the mere,


Whereon I see the heron stand,
Knee-deep in sable slush of sand,-


I think how sweet if friends should come
And tell me England calls me home.


II

I keep good heart, and bide my time,
And blow the bubbles of my rhyme;


I wait and watch, for soon I know
In Sherwood merry horns shall blow,


And blow and blow, and folk shall come
To tell me England calls me home.


Mother of archers, then I go
Wind-blown to you with bended bow,


To stand close up by you and ask
That it be my appointed task


To sing in leal and loyal lays
Your matchless bowmen's meed of praise;


And that unchallenged I may go
Through your green woods with bended bow,-


Your woods where bowered and hidden stood
Of old the home of Robin Hood.


Ah, this were sweet, and it will come
When merry England calls me home!


III

Perchance, long hence, it may befall,
Or soon, mayhap, or not at all,


That all my songs nowhither sent,
And all my shafts at random spent,


Will find their way to those who love
The simple force and truth thereof;


Wherefore my name shall then be rung
Across the land from tongue to tongue,


Till some who hear shall haste to come
With news that England calls me home.


I walk where spiced winds raff the blades
Of sedge-grass on the summer glades;


Through purfled blades that fringe the mere
I watch the timid tawny deer


Set its quick feet and quake and spring,
As if it heard some deadly thing,


When but a brown snipe flutters by
With rustling wing and piping cry;


I stand in some dim place at dawn,
And see across a forest lawn


The tall wild turkeys swiftly pass
Light-footed through the dewy grass;


I shout, and wind my horn, and go
The whole morn through with bended bow,


Then on my rest I feel at noon
Sown pulvil of the blooms of June;


I live and keep no count of time,
I blow the bubbles of my rhyme:


These are my joys till friends shall come
And tell me England calls me home.


IV

The self-yew bow was England's boast;
She leaned upon her archer host,-


It was her very life-support
At Crecy and at Agincourt,


At Flodden and at Halidon Hill,
And fields of glory redder still!


O bows that rang at Solway Moss!
O yeomanry of Neville's cross!


These were your victories, for by you
Breastplate and shield were cloven through;


And mailëd knights at every joint
Sore wounded by an arrow point,


Drew rein, turned pale, reeled in the sell,
And, bristled with arrows, gasped and fell!


O barbëd points that scratched the name
Of England on the walls of fame!


O music of the ringing cords
Set to grand song of deeds, not words!


O yeomen! for your memory's sake,
These bubbles of my rhyme I make,-


Not rhymes of conquest stern and sad,
Or hoarse-voiced like the Iliad,


But soft and dreamful as the sigh
Of this sweet wind that washes by,-


The while I wait for friends to come
And tell me England calls me home.


V

I wait and wait; it would be sweet
To feel the sea beneath my feet,


And hear the breeze sing in the shrouds
Betwixt me and the white-winged clouds,-


To feel and know my heart should soon
Have its desire, its one sweet boon,


To look out on the foam-sprent waste
Through which my vessel's keel would haste,


Till on the far horizon dim
A low white line would shine and swim;


The low white line, the gleaming strand,
The pale cliffs of the Mother-land!


O God! the very thought is bliss,
The burden of my song it is,


Till over sea song-blown shall come
The news that England calls me home!


VI

Ah, call me, England, some sweet day
When these brown locks are silver gray,


And these brown arms are shrunken small,
Unfit for deeds of strength at all;


When the swift deer shall pass me by,
Whilst all unstrung my bow shall lie,


And birds shall taunt me with the time
I wasted making foolish rhyme,


And wasted blowing in a reed
The runes of praise, the yeoman's meed,


And wasted dreaming foolish dreams
Of English woods and English streams,


Of grassy glade and queachy fen
Beloved of old by archer men,


And of the friends who would not come
To tell me England called me home.


VII

Such words are sad: blow them away
And lose them in the leaves of May,


O wind! and leave them there to rot,
Like random arrows lost when shot;


And here, these better thoughts, take these
And blow them far across the seas,


To that old land and that old wood
Which hold the dust of Robin Hood!


Say this, low-speaking in my place:
'The last of all the archer race


'Sends this his sheaf of rhymes to those
Whose fathers bent the self-yew bows,


'And made the cloth-yard arrows ring
For merry England and her king,


'Wherever Lion Richard set
His fortune's stormy banneret!'


Say this, and then, oh, haste to come
And tell me England calls me home!


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 17, 2010



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