William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

The Sun-Dial - Poem by William Bell Scott


Let us read this ancient thing,
The bronze plate on our dial stone:
Here's Father Time upon the wing.
His scythe too by which all is mown:
Here stars and zodiac signs profound
Are graven all the circle round:
A moralising motto too
In Latin cut, but not quite new,
Completes the decorated ring.

How many golden days there are
In this our life-year's calendar!
Each one diverse is with some,
As with the traveller far from home;

With others show they all one strain,
Like a child's white daisy-chain,
Or a book without a stain,
And sooth to say, without a dower.
By the shadow of the Past,
Upon the sun-smit dial cast,
We know the Present passing hour.
Why should the motto then be new,
To decorate this dial stone,
With that thin green moss overgrown?
It is enough if it be true.


Around this sun-dial daughter May
Sometimes holds a holiday;
She is the matron, makes the tea;
The kettle by the gnomon stands:
We think the scene right fair to see,
As all scenes are when love commands.

I am too old for such a sphere,
Yet comet-like I venture near,
And so, perhaps, I overhear
Their talk of books, or of the play
Our laureate made but yesterday,
In which the Terry speaks a prayer
To great Diana Hecate,
A prayer that makes the bridegroom fear
There's dangerous thunder in the air.

Then daughter May, I do declare,
Repeats comments I made myself,
Yet is not in the least aware
Each word was mine, the innocent elf!
A maiden soul whose heart is free
A crystal globe is, where we see
Prophetic visions flash and fly.
And here's the little boy too, he
Must make himself a pleasantry!
He almost blushes, feels too shy
To sit in that sweet company:
‘I am the only gentleman,’
He said to nurse, and off he ran,
But soon we found him mounted near,
Where hid he could both see and hear:
Already, very strange indeed,
In his small heart is sown Love's seed!

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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