Cicely Fox Smith
The Lay Of The White Heifer - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
Home from the fields the kine came slowly winding,
Thro' the soft summer twilight, calm and still,
Up the steep lanes, between the hanging hedgerows,
To the little lonely farmstead by the hill.
Slowly they came, the black and brown and dappled,
And with them pacing to the open door,
With nostrils breathing scent of sweetest clover,
A snow-white heifer none had seen before.
Unknown it came up from the evening meadows;
No trace of whence it wandered could be found;
No one had ever known so fair a creature -
So white and sleek, in all the country round.
Within the farm the aged wife lay dying,
The grey old witch the village held in fear:
And sudden, in the silence of the midnight,
She started up some distant sound to hear.
'O lassie, don't you hear my baby calling,
My baby that I buried long ago:
Calling across the meadows: 'Mother, mother,'
Calling and calling ever, soft and low?'
'Oh no, it's but the snow-white heifer lowing,
Across the upland meadow, far away,'
Answered the trembling village maiden
That watched beside her to the break of day.
'Oh no, I hear my little baby calling:
I know her voice across the weary years;
She's come to take me where she went aforetime,
And left me with my sorrow and my tears.'
'I lived my life unloved, and all unloving,
Because my heart was hardened by my woe;
But yet I think they'll let me see my baby,
My little baby that left me years ago.'
Loud howled the wind around the quaint old gables,
Fierce on the shaken casement beat the rain;
And in the dark was heard above the tempest
A hand that tapped against the window-pane.
They spoke of wondrous happenings in the night-time,
A finger on the latch - a fair white form -
One flitting swiftly thro' the darkened chamber,
Two passing hand-in-hand into the storm.
The old wife died before the dawn came creeping
Over the eastern uplands veiled in rain:
They said she smiled in death: and since that morning
None saw the snow-white heifer there again.
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