Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

The Passing Of The Primroses - Poem by Alfred Austin

Primroses, why do you pass away?

Primroses
Nay, rather, why should we longer stay?
We are not needed, now stooping showers
Have sandalled the feet of May with flowers.

Surely, surely, 'tis time to go,
Now that the splendid bluebells blow,
Scattering a bridal peal, to hail
June blushing under her hawthorn veil.

We abode with you all the long winter through:
You may not have seen us, but we saw you,
Chafing your hands in the beaded haze,
And shivering home to your Yuletide blaze.

Why should we linger, when all things pass?
We have buried old Winter beneath the grass,
Seen the first larch break, heard the first lamb bleat,
Watched the first foal stoop to its mother's teat:

The crocus prick with its spears aglow
'Gainst the rallying flakes of the routed snow,
The isle-keeping titmouse wed and hatch,
And the swallow come home to its native thatch:

Fresh emeralds jewel the bare-brown mould,
And the blond sallow tassel herself with gold,
The hive of the broom brim with honeyed dew,
And Springtime swarm in the gorse anew.

When breastplated March his trumpets blew,
We laughed in his face, till he laughed too;
Then, drying our lids when the sleet was done,
Smiled back to the smile of the April sun.

We were first to hear, in the hazel moat,
The nut-brown bird with the poet's note,
That sings, ``Love is neither false nor fleet,''
Makes passion tender, and sorrow sweet.

We were stretched on the grass when the cuckoo's voice
Bade the old grow young, and the young rejoice;
The half-fledged singer who flouts and rails,
So forces the note when his first note fails:

Who scorns, understanding but in part,
The sweet solicitudes of the heart,
But might learn, from the all-year-cooing dove,
That joy hath a briefer life than love.

We would rather go ere the sweet Spring dies.
We have seen the violet droop its eyes,
The sorrel grow green where the celandine shone,
And the windflower fade ere you knew 'twas gone.

The campion comes to take our place,
And you will not miss us in brake or chase,
Now the fragile frond of the fern uncurls,
And the hawthorns necklace themselves with pearls.

When June's love crimsons the cheek of the rose,
And the meadow-swathes sweep in rhythmic rows,
And foxgloves gleam in the darkest glen,
You will not recall nor regret us then.

Leave us our heavenly lot, to cheer
Your lives in the midnight of the year;
And 'tis meet that our light should be withdrawn,
Being stars of winter, with summer's dawn.

For we do not sink into death's dank cave;
The earth is our cradle, and not our grave:
The tides and the stars sway it low and high,
And the sycamore bees hum lullaby.

But when winds roam lonely and dun clouds drift,
Let Winter, the white-haired nurse, but lift
The snowy coverlet softly, then
We will open our eyelids, and smile again.

How oft have you longed that your little ones would
Outgrow not the charm of babyhood,
Keep the soft round arms and the warm moist kiss,
And the magic of April sinlessness!

Then chide us not, now we look good-bye:
We are the children for whom you sigh.
We slip 'neath the sod before summer's prime,
And so keep young to the end of time.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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