Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

The Children's Grass - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

Where the twinkling river pushes
'Thwart the dipping swan,
All his ruffling down
Very softly blown,
Lustrous blue reflects the rushes
Where the coot is gone;
Thames, an innocent heart of childhood,
Buoying lovers from the wild wood,
Hearing boyish laughter chime
Where the flashing oars keep time,
Where they quiver,
In the river:

In a sunshine sown with song
Of many a merry bird,
Three sunny children bound along,
With many a merry word.
Their eyes blue fountains of delight,
And every cheek a rose,
Their dimpled hands with grasses light
So full, they hardly close.

One fawn-like little maiden falls
Breathless upon her mother,
Telling how yonder elf who calls,
Her tiny wavering brother,
Chose to pull the tender stems
Where the dew-drop lingers,
And marvelled when the limpid gems
Fell upon his fingers.
She tells a soft-eyed rabbit brown
Near a wimpling runnel
Eyed them askance, then hurried down
Through a plantain tunnel.
In the woodland sweetly smell
Fairy grass and clover,
Sensitive in the woodland dell,
Where the bees hum over;
'O! I love the summer well;
Mother, will it soon be over?'

Where the unholy river gleameth,
Deep, and cold, and dun,
Hiding secrets from the sun,
As an awful dream one dreameth,
As Oblivion:

Three little children in the reek
Of the monster town,
With a woman worn and weak,
Ere the sun goes down,
Toil by flare of ghastly light
In a dingy fume:
Two young children carry bright
Grasses in the room:
An elder sister with her mother
Decks the blades with grass,
Sprinkles one and then another,
As with dews of grass.
How the vivid verdure gleams
In the child's old face!
Starved and very pale she seems,
With a hollow place
Dark beneath her eyes, how wearied,
Lashless looking on the blearèd
Mimic grass,
Dewed with glass!
Hark! she gives a feeble cough,
And the withered mother
Glances where some paces off
A coffin holds another
Maiden very cold and white,
Not yet hidden out of sight.
'Mother, I am very weary!'
So she moans with accents dreary:
'Mother, make my bed!'
'Child,' the woman answers, 'finish!
Dare not from your task diminish
Aught, for fear a watchful neighbour,
Bidding lower for the labour,
Seize our bitter bread!'
Ladies in a lustred hall
Wear them gaily for a ball
In their fair
Wavy hair.
'Mother, I can toil no longer;
After sleep I shall be stronger!'
. . . . After sleep, the child was dead.

There the unholy river gleameth,
Deep, and cold, and dun,
Hiding secrets from the sun,
As an awful dream one dreameth,
As Oblivion:

Are not these thy children, Father?
These - or only those?
Are we all lost orphans rather
Of whom - none knows?

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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