Jean Ingelow

(17 March 1820 - 20 July 1897 / Boston, Lincolnshire)

Kismet - Poem by Jean Ingelow

Into the rock the road is cut full deep,
At its low ledges village children play,
From its high rifts fountains of leafage weep,
And silvery birches sway.

The boldest climbers have its face forsworn,
Sheer as a wall it doth all daring flout;
But benchlike at its base, and weather-worn,
A narrow ledge leans out.

There do they set forth feasts in dishes rude
Wrought of the rush—wild strawberries on the bed
Left into August, apples brown and crude,
Cress from the cold well-head.

Shy gamesome girls, small daring imps of boys,
But gentle, almost silent at their play—
Their fledgling daws, for food, make far more noise
Ranged on the ledge than they.

The children and the purple martins share
(Loveliest of birds) possession of the place;
They veer and dart cream-breasted round the fair
Faces with wild sweet grace.

Fresh haply from Palmyra desolate,
Palmyra pale in light and storyless—
From perching in old Tadmor mate by mate
In the waste wilderness.

These know the world; what do the children know?
They know the woods, their groaning noises weird,
They climb in trees that overhang the slow
Deep mill-stream, loved and feared.

Where shaken water-wheels go creak and clack,
List while a lorn thrush calls and almost speaks;
See willow-wrens with elderberries black
Staining their slender beaks.

They know full well how squirrels spend the day;
They peeped when field-mice stole and stored the seed,
And voles along their under-water way
Donned collars of bright beads.

Still from the deep-cut road they love to mark
Where set, as in a frame, the nearer shapes
Rise out of hill and wood; then long downs dark
As purple bloom on grapes.

But farms whereon the tall wheat musters gold,
High barley whitening, creases in bare hills,
Reed-feathered, castle-like brown churches old,
Nor churning water-mills,

Shall make ought seem so fair as that beyond—
Beyond the down, which draws their fealty;
Blow high, blow low, some hearts do aye respond
The wind is from the sea.

Above the steep-cut steps as they did grow,
The children's cottage homes embowered are seen;
Were this a world unfallen, they scarce could show
More beauteous red and green.

Milk-white and vestal-chaste the hollyhock
Grows tall, clove, sweetgale nightly shed forth spice,
Long woodbines leaning over scent the rock
With airs of Paradise.

Here comforted of pilot stars they lie
In charm?dreams, but not of wold nor lea.
Behold a ship! her wide yards score the sky;
She sails a steel-blue sea.

As turns the great amassment of the tide,
Drawn of the silver despot to her throne,
So turn the destined souls, so far and wide
The strong deep claims its own.

Still the old tale; these dreaming islanders,
Each with hot Sunderbunds a somewhat owns
That calls, the grandsire's blood within them stirs
Dutch Java guards his bones.

And these were orphan'd when a leak was sprung
Far out from land when all the air was balm;
The shipmen saw their faces as they hung,
And sank in the glassy calm.

These, in an orange-sloop their father plied,
Deck-laden deep she sailed from Cadiz town,
A black squall rose, she turned upon her side,
Drank water and went down.

They too shall sail. High names of alien lands
Are in the dream, great names their fathers knew;
Madras, the white surf rearing on her sands,
E'en they shall breast it too.

See threads of scarlet down fell Roa creep,
When moaning winds rend back her vapourous veil;
Wild Orinoco wedge-like split the deep,
Raging forth passion-pale;

Or a blue berg at sunrise glittering tall,
Great as a town adrift come shining on
With sharp spires, gemlike as the mystical
Clear city of Saint John.

Still the old tale; but they are children yet;
O let their mothers have them while they may!
Soon it shall work, the strange mysterious fret
That mars both toil and play.

The sea will claim its own; and some shall mourn;
They also, they, but yet will surely go;
So surely as the planet to its bourne,
The chamois to his snow.

'Father, dear father, bid us now God-speed;
We cannot choose but sail, it thus befell.'
'Mother, dear mother—' 'Nay, 't is all decreed.
Dear hearts, farewell, farewell!'


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2012



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