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Title: Children of Love

Date of first publication: 1914

Author: Harold Monro (Mar 14, 1879-Mar 16, 1932)

Date first posted: January 14 2013

Date last updated: January 14 2013

Faded Page eBook #20130108

This eBook was produced by: L. Harrison & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net










Children of Love. 5
Overheard on a Saltmarsh. 7
The Rebellious Vine. 8
Great City. 9
London Interior. 10
Hearthstone. 12
Suburb. 14
Appointment. 16
Milk for the Cat. 18
The Departure. 20
The Poets are Waiting. 21
Youth in Arms.  
             1. 23
             2. Soldier. 24
             3. Retreat. 26
             4. Carrion. 27
The Strange Companion. (A Fragment). 29

[Pg 5]


The holy boy
Went from his mother out in the cool of the day
Over the sun-parched fields
And in among the olives shining green and shining grey.
There was no sound,
No smallest voice of any shivering stream.
Poor sinless little boy,
He desired to play, and to sing; he could only sigh and dream.
Suddenly came
Running along to him naked, with curly hair,
That rogue of the lovely world,
That other beautiful child whom the virgin Venus bare.
The holy boy
Gazed with those sad blue eyes that all men know.
Impudent Cupid stood
Panting, holding an arrow and pointing his bow.
(Will you not play?
Jesus, run to him, run to him, swift for our joy.
Is he not holy, like you?
Are you afraid of his arrows, O beautiful dreaming boy?)
[Pg 6] And now they stand
Watching one another with timid gaze;
Youth has met youth in the wood,
But holiness will not change its melancholy ways.
Cupid at last
Draws his bow and softly lets fly a dart.
Smile for a moment, sad world!—
It has grazed the white skin and drawn blood from the sorrowful heart.
Now, for delight,
Cupid tosses his locks and goes wantonly near;
But the child that was born to the cross
Has let fall on his cheek, for the sadness of life, a compassionate tear.
Marvellous dream!
Cupid has offered his arrows for Jesus to try;
He has offered his bow for the game.
But Jesus went weeping away, and left him there wondering why.

[Pg 7]


Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?
Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?
Give them me.
Give them me. Give them me.
Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.
Goblin, why do you love them so?
They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.
Hush I stole them out of the moon.
Give me your beads, I desire them.
I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.

[Pg 8]


One day, the vine
That clomb on God's own house
Cried, "I will not grow,"
And, "I will not grow,"
And "I will not grow,"
And, "I will not grow."
So God leaned out his head,
And said:
"You need not." Then the vine
Fluttered its leaves, and cried to all the winds:
"Oh, have I not permission from the Lord?
And may I not begin to cease to grow?"
But that wise God had pondered on the vine
Before he made it.
And, all the while it laboured not to grow,
It grew; it grew;
And all the time God knew.

[Pg 9]


When I returned at sunset,
The serving-maid was singing softly
Under the dark stairs, and in the house
Twilight had entered like a moonray.
Time was so dead I could not understand
The meaning of midday or of midnight,
But like falling waters, falling, hissing, falling,
Silence seemed an everlasting sound.
I sat in my dark room,
And watched sunset,
And saw starlight.
I heard the tramp of homing men,
And the last call of the last child;
Then a lone bird twittered,
And suddenly, beyond the housetops,
I imagined dew in the country,
In the hay, on the buttercups;
The rising moon,
The scent of early night,
The songs, the echoes,
[Pg 10] Dogs barking,
Day closing,
Gradual slumber,
Sweet rest.
When all the lamps were lighted in the town
I passed into the streetways, and I watched,
Wakeful, almost happy,
And half the night I wandered in the street.


Autumn is in the air,
The children are playing everywhere.
One dare not open this old door too wide;
It is so dark inside.
The hall smells of dust;
A narrow squirt of sunlight enters high,
Cold, yellow.
The floor creaks, and I hear a sigh,
Rise in the gloom and die.
[Pg 11] Through the hall, far away,
I just can see
The dingy garden with its wall and tree.
A yellow cat is sitting on the wall
Blinking, toward the leaves that fall.
And now I hear a woman call
Some child from play.
Then all is still. Time must go
Ticking slow, glooming slow.
The evening will turn grey.
It is sad in London after two.
All, all the afternoon
What can old men, old women do?
It is sad in London when the gloom
Thickens, like wool,
In the corners of the room;
The sky is shot with steel,
Shot with blue.
The bells ring the slow time;
The chairs creak, the hours climb;
The sunlight lays a streak upon the floor.

[Pg 12]


I want nothing but your fireside now.
Friend, you are sitting there alone I know,
And the quiet flames are licking up the soot,
Or crackling out of some enormous root:
All the logs on your hearth are four feet long.
Everything in your room is wide and strong
According to the breed of your hard thought.
Now you are leaning forward; you have caught
That great dog by his paw and are holding it,
And he looks sidelong at you, stretching a bit,
Drowsing with open eyes, huge warm and wide,
The full hearth-length on his slow-breathing side.
Your book has dropped unnoticed: you have read
So long you cannot send your brain to bed.
The low quiet room and all its things are caught
And linger in the meshes of your thought.
(Some people think they know time cannot pause.)
Your eyes are closing now though not because
Of sleep. You are searching something with your brain;
You have let the old dog's paw drop down again . . .
Now suddenly you hum a little catch,
And pick up the book. The wind rattles the latch;
There's a patter of light cool rain and the curtain shakes;
The silly dog growls, moves, and almost wakes.
[Pg 13] The kettle near the fire one moment hums.
Then a long peace upon the whole room comes.
So the sweet evening will draw to its bedtime end.
I want nothing now but your fireside, friend.

[Pg 14]


Dull and hard the low wind creaks
Among the rustling pampas plumes.
Drearily the year consumes
Its fifty-two insipid weeks.
Most of the grey-green meadow land
Was sold in parsimonious lots;
The dingy houses stand
Pressed by some stout contractor's hand
Tightly together in their plots.
Through builded banks the sullen river
Gropes, where its houses crouch and shiver.
Over the bridge the tyrant train
Shrieks, and emerges on the plain.
In all the better gardens you may pass,
(Product of many careful Saturdays),
Large red geraniums and tall pampas grass
Adorn the plots and mark the gravelled ways.
Sometimes in the background may be seen
A private summer-house in white or green.
[Pg 15] Here on warm nights the daughter brings
Her vacillating clerk,
To talk of small exciting things
And touch his fingers through the dark.
He, in the uncomfortable breach
Between her trilling laughters,
Promises, in halting speech,
Hopeless immense Hereafters.
She trembles like the pampas plumes.
Her strained lips haggle. He assumes
The serious quest. . .
Now as the train is whistling past
He takes her in his arms at last.
It's done. She blushes at his side
Across the lawn—a bride, a bride.
  *  *  *  *  *
The stout-contractor will design,
The lazy labourers will prepare,
Another villa on the line;
In the little garden-square
Pampas grass will rustle there.

[Pg 16]


I said seven o'clock:
You are there, O you fool.
The floating air of the summer is cool;
You delight in the drift of your white frock.
And I am secure in the gloom.
Your waiting thoughts are remembering my face—
Which reclines in a secret contented grimace
In my lonely room.
I am thinking so hard of you. How I prefer
To imagine you here, without trouble or stir.
Anger is now beginning to tinge
Your temples below that careful fringe.
You were tolerant always. Your female control
Was designed and expressed
In every gasping sign of soul
You ever confessed.
I followed for long like a dog on the leather.
I knew all the time all the tricks of your plot.
We wandered the ways of the summer together.
I knew what you were—and what you are not.
[Pg 17] Now walk in the twilight. I'm here
Contented. Your hour
Is finished. I am without fear
Of your beauty or hopeless power.
Come to me, if you dare! Come! Who
Is knocking? Who's there? Come in.
I'm alone you see. Oh, it's you.
I was reading a book. I was not
Thinking. It's late. I forgot.
Are you ill? You are thin.
I am sorry. What? Well . . .
Sit down. We've heaps to tell
Each other. Let's begin.
I am glad you have come. Let me fold
You close in my arms. You are cold.

[Pg 18]


When the tea is brought at five o'clock,
And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
The little black cat with bright green eyes
Is suddenly purring there.
At first she pretends, having nothing to do,
She has come in merely to blink by the grate,
But, though tea may be late or the milk may be sour,
She is never late.
And presently her agate eyes
Take a soft large milky haze,
And her independent casual glance
Becomes a stiff hard gaze.
Then she stamps her claws or lifts her ears
Or twists her tail and begins to stir,
Till suddenly all her lithe body becomes
One breathing trembling purr.
The children eat and wriggle and laugh;
The two old ladies stroke their silk:
But the cat is grown small and thin with desire,
Transformed to a creeping lust for milk.
[Pg 19] The white saucer like some full moon descends
At last from the clouds of the table above;
She sighs and dreams and thrills and glows,
Transfigured with love.
She nestles over the shining rim,
Buries her chin in the creamy sea;
Her tail hangs loose; each drowsy paw
Is doubled under each bending knee.
A long dim ecstasy holds her life;
Her world is an infinite shapeless white,
Till her tongue has curled the last holy drop,
Then she sinks back into the night,
Draws and dips her body to heap
Her sleepy nerves in the great arm-chair,
Lies defeated and buried deep
Three or four hours unconscious there.

[Pg 20]


God, I've stayed, thy hated guest,
In thy tavern far too long.
I desire a little rest
From thy sermon and thy song.
Frown no more to me of sin:
Evil for the evil heart.
To the tavern of my kin
I am ready to depart.
We have found a stronger wine,
(For most bibulous are we.)
Every vineyard is not thine
Over all eternity.
God, thou melancholy host,
Greybeard without any jest,
Make it never more thy boast
That I linger like a ghost
In thy tavern as thy guest.

[Pg 21]


To what God
Shall we chant
Our songs of Battle?
The professional poets
Are measuring their thoughts
For felicitous sonnets;
They try them and fit them
Like honest tailors
Cutting materials
For fashion-plate suits.
The unprofessional
Little singers,
Most intellectual,
Merry with gossip,
Heavy with cunning,
Whose tedious brains are draped
In sultry palls of hair,
Reclining as usual
On armchairs and sofas,
Are grinning and gossiping,
Cake at their elbows—
They will not write us verses for the time;
[Pg 22] Their storms are brewed in teacups and their wars
Are fought in sneers or little blots of ink.
To what God
Shall we chant
Our songs of Battle?
Hefty barbarians,
Roaring for war,
Are breaking upon us;
Clouds of their cavalry,
Waves of their infantry,
Mountains of guns.
Winged they are coming,
Plated and mailed,
Snorting their jargon.
Oh to whom shall a song of battle be chanted?
Not to our lord of the hosts on his ancient throne,
Drowsing the ages out in Heaven alone.
The celestial choirs are mute, the angels have fled:
Word is gone forth abroad that our lord is dead.
To what God
Shall we chant
Our songs of Battle?

[Pg 23]



Happy boy, happy boy,
David the immortal-willed,
Youth a thousand thousand times
Slain, but not once killed,
Swaggering again to-day
In the old contemptuous way;
Leaning backward from your thigh
Up against the tinselled bar—
Dust and ashes! is it you?
Laughing, boasting, there you are!
First we hardly recognised you
In your modern avatar.
Soldier, rifle, brown khaki—
Is your blood as happy so?
Where's your sling, or painted shield,
Helmet, pike, or bow?
Well, you're going to the wars—
That is all you need to know.
Greybeards plotted. They were sad.
Death was in their wrinkled eyes.
At their tables, with their maps
[Pg 24] Plans and calculations, wise
They all seemed; for well they knew
How ungrudgingly Youth dies.
At their green official baize
They debated all the night
Plans for your adventurous days
Which you followed with delight,
Youth in all your wanderings,
David of a thousand slings.



Are you going? To-night we must all hear your laughter;
We shall need to remember it in the quiet days after.
Lift your rough hands, grained like unpolished oak.
Drink, call, lean forward, tell us some happy joke.
Let us know every whim of your brain and innocent soul.
Your speech is let loose; your great loafing words roll
Like hill-waters. But every syllable said
[Pg 25] Brings you nearer the time you'll be found lying dead
In a ditch, or rolled stiff on the stones of a plain.
(Thought! Thought go back into your kennel again:
Hound, back!) Drink your glass, happy soldier, to-night.
Death is quick; you will laugh as you march to the fight.
We are wrong. Dreaming ever, we falter and pause:
You go forward unharmed without Why or Because.
Spring does not question. The war is like rain;
You will fall in the field like a flower without pain;
And who shall have noticed one sweet flower that dies?
The rain comes; the leaves open, and other flowers rise.
The old clock tolls. Now all our words are said.
We drift apart and wander away to bed.
We dream of War. Your closing eyelids keep
Quiet watch upon your heavy dreamless sleep.
You do not wonder if you shall, nor why,
If you must, by whom, for whom, you will die.
You are snoring. (The hound of thought by every breath
Brings you nearer for us to your foreign death.)
Are you going? Good-bye, then, to that last word you spoke.
We must try to remember you best by some happy joke.


[Pg 26]


That is not war—oh it hurts! I am lame.
A thorn is burning me.
We are going back to the place from which we came.
I remember the old song now:—
Soldier, soldier, going to war,
When will you come back?
Mind that rut. It is very deep.
All these ways are parched and raw.
Where are we going? How we creep!
Are you there? I never saw—
Damn this jingle in my brain.
I'm full of old songs—Have you ever heard this?
All the roads to victory
Are flooded as we go.
There's so much blood to paddle through,
That's why we're marching slow.
Yes sir; I'm here. Are you an officer?
I can't see. Are we running away?
How long have we done it? One whole year,
A month, a week, or since yesterday?
[Pg 27] Damn the jingle. My brain
Is scragged and banged—
Fellows, these are happy times;
Tramp and tramp with open eyes.
Yet, try however much you will,
You cannot see a tree, a hill,
Moon, stars, or even skies.
I won't be quiet. Sing too, you fool.
I had a dog I used to beat.
Don't try it on me. Say that again.
Who said it? Halt! Why? Who can halt?
We're marching now. Who fired? Well. Well.
I'll lie down too. I'm tired enough.



It is plain now what you are. Your head has dropped
Into a furrow. And the lovely curve
Of your strong leg has wasted and is propped
Against a ridge of the ploughed land's watery swerve.
You are swayed on waves of the silent ground;
You clutch and claim with passionate grasp of your fingers
[Pg 28] The dip of earth in which your body lingers;
If you are not found,
In a little while your limbs will fall apart;
The birds will take some, but the earth will take most of your heart.
You are fuel for a coming spring if they leave you here;
The crop that will rise from your bones is healthy bread.
You died—we know you—without a word of fear,
And as they loved you living I love you dead.
No girl would kiss you. But then
No girls would ever kiss the earth
In the manner they hug the lips of men:
You are not known to them in this, your second birth.
No coffin-cover now will cram
Your body in a shell of lead;
Earth will not fall on you from the spade with a slam,
But will fold and enclose you slowly, you living dead.
Hush, I hear the guns. Are you still asleep?
Surely I saw you a little heave to reply.
I can hardly think you will not turn over and creep
Along the furrows trenchward as if to die.

[Pg 29]



That strange companion came on shuffling feet,
Passed me, then turned, and touched my arm.
He said (and he was melancholy,
And both of us looked fretfully,
And slowly we advanced together)
He said: "I bring you your inheritance."
I watched his eyes; they were dim.
I doubted him, watched him, doubted him . . .
But, in a ceremonious way,
He said: "You are too grey:
Come, you must be merry for a day."
And I, because my heart was dumb,
Because the life in me was numb,
Cried: "I will come. I will come."
So, without another word,
We two jaunted on the street.
I had heard, often heard,
The shuffling of those feet of his,
The shuffle of his feet.
[Pg 30] And he muttered in my ear
Such a wheezy jest
As a man may often hear—
Not the worst, not the best
That a man may hear.
Then he murmured in my face
Something that was true.
He said: "I have known this long, long while,
All there is to know of you."
And the light of the lamp cut a strange smile
On his face, and we muttered along the street,
Good enough friends, on the usual beat.
We lived together long, long.
We were always alone, he and I.
We never smiled with each other;
We were like brother and brother,
Dimly accustomed.
Can a man know
Why he must live, or where he should go?
He brought me that joke or two,
And we roared with laughter, for want of a smile,
As every man in the world might do.
[Pg 31] He who lies all night in bed
Is a fool, and midnight will crush his head.
When he threw a glass of wine in my face
One night, I hit him, and we parted;
But in a short space
We came back to each other melancholy-hearted,
Told our pain,
Swore we would not part again.
One night we turned a table over
The body of some slain fool to cover,
And all the company clapped their hands;
So we spat in their faces,
And travelled away to other lands.
I wish for every man he find
A strange companion so
Completely to his mind
With whom he everywhere may go.

By the Same Author.

Judas: A Poem (Sampson Low, 1/- net) 1908.

Before Dawn: Poems and Impressions (Constable, 5/- net) 1911.


Pg 12: Spelling for "you brain" to "your brain" in "So long you cannot send you brain to bed."

[The end of Children of Love by Harold Monro]