Cicely Fox Smith
The Gipsy Soldier - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
The gipsy wife came to my door with pegs and brooms to sell
They make by many a roadside fire and many a greenwood dell,
With bee-skeps and with baskets wove of osier, rush and sedge,
And withies from the river-bed and brambles from the hedge.
With her stately grace like Pharaoh's queen (for all her broken shoon),
You'd marvel one so proud and tall should ever ask a boon;
But 'livin's dear for us poor folk,' and 'money can't be had,'
And her 'man's in Mespotamia,' and 'times is cruel bad.'
Yes, times is cruel bad, we know, and passing strange also,
And it's strange as anything I've heard that gipsy men should go
To lands through which their forebears trod from some unknown abode
The way that ended long ago upon the Portsmouth Road.
I wonder if the Eastern skies and Eastern odours seem
Familiar to that gipsy man as memories of a dream;
Does Tigris' flow stir ancient dreams from immemorial rest
Ere ever gipsy poached a trout of Itchen or of Test?
Does something in him seem to know those red and arid lands
Where dust of ancient cities sleeps beneath the drifted sands?
Do Kurdish girls with lustrous eyes beneath their drooping lids
And Eastern babes look strangely like the Missis and the kids?
I wonder if the waving palms, when desert winds do blow,
In their dry rustling seem to sing a song he used to know,
Or does he only curse the heat, and wish that he were laid
Beneath the spread of Rufus' oaks or Harwood's beechen shade?
Well, luck be with the gipsy man, and lead him safely home
To the old familiar caravan and ways he used to roam,
And bring him, as it brought his sires from their far first abode
To where the gipsy camp-fires burn along the Portsmouth Road.
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