The Woodman’s Daughter - Poem by Coventry Patmore
In Gerald's Cottage by the hill,
Old Gerald and his child,
Innocent Maud, dwelt happily;
He toil'd, and she beguiled
The long day at her spinning-wheel,
In the garden now grown wild.
At Gerald's stroke the jay awoke;
Till noon hack follow'd hack,
Before the nearest hill had time
To give its echo back;
And evening mists were in the lane
Ere Gerald's arm grew slack.
Meanwhile, below the scented heaps
Of honeysuckle flower,
That made their simple cottage-porch
A cool, luxurious bower,
Maud sat beside her spinning-wheel,
And spun from hour to hour.
The growing thread thro' her fingers sped;
Round flew the polish'd wheel;
Merrily rang the notes she sang
At every finish'd reel;
From the hill again, like a glad refrain,
Follow'd the rapid peal.
But all is changed. The rusting axe
Reddens a wither'd bough;
A spider spins in the spinning-wheel,
And Maud sings wildly now;
And village gossips say she knows
Grief she may not avow.
Her secret's this: In the sweet age
When heaven's our side the lark,
She follow'd her old father, where
He work'd from dawn to dark,
For months, to thin the crowded groves
Of the old manorial Park.
She fancied and he felt she help'd;
And, whilst he hack'd and saw'd,
The rich Squire's son, a young boy then,
Whole mornings, as if awed,
Stood silent by, and gazed in turn
At Gerald and on Maud.
And sometimes, in a sullen tone,
He offer'd fruits, and she
Received them always with an air
So unreserved and free,
That shame-faced distance soon became
Therefore in time, when Gerald shook
The woods, no longer coy,
The young heir and the cottage-girl
Would steal out to enjoy
The sound of one another's talk,
A simple girl and boy.
Spring after Spring, they took their walks
Uncheck'd, unquestion'd; yet
They learn'd to hide their wanderings
By wood and rivulet,
Because they could not give themselves
A reason why they met.
Once Maud came weeping back. ‘Poor Child!’
Was all her father said:
And he would steady his old hand
Upon her hapless head,
And think of her as tranquilly
As if the child were dead.
But he is gone: and Maud steals out,
This gentle day of June;
And having sobb'd her pain to sleep,
Help'd by the stream's soft tune,
She rests along the willow-trunk,
Below the calm blue noon.
The shadow of her shame and her
Deep in the stream, behold!
Smiles quake over her parted lips:
Some thought has made her bold;
She stoops to dip her fingers in,
To feel if it be cold.
'Tis soft and warm, and runs as 'twere
Perpetually at play:
But then the stream, she recollects,
Bears everything away.
There is a dull pool hard at hand
That sleeps both night and day.
She marks the closing weeds that shut
The water from her sight;
They stir awhile, but now are still;
Her arms fall down; the light
Is horrible, and her countenance
Is pale as a cloud at night.
Merrily now from the small church-tower
Clashes a noisy chime;
The larks climb up thro' the heavenly blue,
Carolling as they climb:
Is it the twisting water-eft
That dimples the green slime?
The pool reflects the scarlet West
With a hot and guilty glow;
The East is changing ashy pale;
But Maud will never go
While those great bubbles struggle up
From the rotting weeds below.
The light has changed. A little since
You scarcely might descry
The moon, now gleaming sharp and bright,
From the small cloud slumbering nigh;
And, one by one, the timid stars
Step out into the sky.
The night blackens the pool; but Maud
Is constant at her post,
Sunk in a dread, unnatural sleep,
Beneath the skiey host
Of drifting mists, thro' which the moon
Is riding like a ghost.
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