* A Distributed Proofreaders Canada eBook *

This eBook is made available at no cost and with very few restrictions. These restrictions apply only if (1) you make a change in the eBook (other than alteration for different display devices), or (2) you are making commercial use of the eBook. If either of these conditions applies, please check with an FP administrator before proceeding.

This work is in the Canadian public domain, but may be under copyright in some countries. If you live outside Canada, check your country's copyright laws. If the book is under copyright in your country, do not download or redistribute this file.

Title: Mountains & Molehills

Date of first publication: 1934

Author: Frances Cornford (1886-1960)

Date first posted: May 20, 2017

Date last updated: May 20, 2017

Faded Page eBook #20170541

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

Cambridge University Press


Maruzen Company Ltd

All rights reserved



Illustrated with woodcuts



Printed in Great Britain

F. M. C.

F. C. and G. R.


Our thanks are due to the following publications, in which many of these poems and a few of these woodcuts have already appeared: The Weekend Review, Time and Tide, The London Mercury, Professor Abercrombie's anthology New English Poems, Country Life, The New Statesman, The Woman's Magazine, The Listener, The Adelphi, The Spectator, The Nation, The New York Saturday Review, etc. etc.

F. C.
G. R.

September 1934


Mountain Path page 1
Fool's Song 8
On August thirteenth, at the Mount, Marsden, Bucks 9
Sir Philip Sidney 11
Nurse 12
A Back View 13
Grand Ballet 14
Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents 17
Mother to Child Asleep 20
Constant 21
After a Latin Epitaph in Madingley Church 23
The End 24
The Spirit of Man 25
Tapestry Song 27
Neighbours 32
The Madman and the Child 33
After the Eumenides 34
Near an old Prison 35
Yama and Yami 36
London Despair 37
After a Fever Page 38
Recitative and Air 39
Night-nursery Thoughts 43
On the Downs 44
For a Madrigal 45
The Bells of St Legier 47
Coursegoules 49
Soliloquy 50
The Lake and the Instant 51
Cambridge Autumn 52
'The Trumpet shall Sound' 57
The Single Woman 58
The Conversation 59
The Poet discouraged 60
Fairy Tale for Two Voices 61


Mountain Path

    How high the achievèd fir-cones are held up
And reached into the mist. The mist droops down,
Encompasses, so still. The squirrels have gone.

    With greater peace than is in human prayer,
With more fidelity than is in praise,
These dark hieratic trees their branches raise
And lift their burnished cones, and testify
Of their November stillness to the sky.

    How dark their greenness, as deservèd sleep,
Which to the wearied woodman comes at last—
He who all day in the uprising woods
Wrought bare-armed, whilst that old enchanted bird,
King Woodpecker, alone looked down, and heard
(Brightheaded in the silver beeches rare)
His far-off axe. The time of work is past
And I alone, no living creature sees,
Admitted share, in the slow-leaving light,
The meditation of the mountain trees
Before the winter, and before the night.

    Quiet as sleep this universe of mist.
Gone the fair crests, snow-pearled in flawless skies,
Those giant kings, with cohorts of dark trees
Climbing their unembarrassed greatness. Gone
Those chasms rent by cold torrential streams
And dawn-loved heights, unreachable as dreams.

    The mist droops down, and slow the daylight dies.
Yet far beneath the unembroidered earth
The certainty of summer sleeping lies
Safe-stored for resurrection; and is known
As to a mother, brooding and alone,
Her guarded treasure, that awaits his birth.

    Your roots can tell the resurrection sure,
O still, awaiting trees, who must endure,
Before its thousand tender buds unfold,
The coming of the prehistoric cold—
Resistless cold and iron ice-gray airs
Such as the giants breathed, the empty-eyed,
Who lived in caves, and with the fierce brown bears
Danced naked through the night in staggering routs,
With icicles for clubs, before Christ died.
And only your high fir-cones and the moon
Looked down and saw. Will you remember soon
The echo of their cries? their barbarous shouts?

    Your very tree-trunks, like the mist, are gray.
Yet through them, down the rocky winding way,
Might not an old dwarf come with humpèd back,
With beard like lichen, and a yellow hood,
And precious jewels jolting in his sack?

    With trustless eyeballs searching through the wood
He'll stoop and kneel beside the shelvèd crags.
There where the secret rotting leaves are black,
There he'll undo his little safe-tied bags
Of leather older than Europa's bull,
And peer within, and find them full.
                                                                          O full
Of green-sparked emeralds, topaz leopard-eyed,
Crystals like early rain and tears and pride,
Blue-welling sapphires, dark carbuncles found
In the old Toad King's palace underground,
And dragon-blooded rubies, and red gold—
All to be hidden in the rooted mould,
Most deeply hidden where the tall trees rise
Safe from the search of wicked enemy eyes.


    Till, in the fairest of fair April eves
His greedy fingers grub them out again
Among the lily-of-the-valley leaves;
And who shall hear,—shall not a child hear plain,
Who wanders in the wood when sap is springing—
His old cracked voice, like Rumpelstiltskin, singing,
And see the wood-smoke of his little fire
Rise through the fir-green softly high and higher?

    This is the hour when the children come
Each from the school to his especial home.
Far off they call, or chatter by the way
Of near-approaching wonders that they know,
Or ponder those they have not words to say:—
The first hard hoarfrost of a winter's day,
And dove-gray darkness that precedes the snow,
A night to be of falling flakes, and then
Eternity upon the roofs of men,
And even the homely haystacks coifed like nuns;
Then morning bright as with a thousand suns,
And you, O trees, uprising in a night
Out of the curvèd loveliness of white,
As great pagodas myriad-roofed in snow.

    Or is it otherwise their quick thoughts go
To still more magic dream-fulfilling trees
Only one festival of winter sees?
Strange trees, that draw no sap from earthly roots
To feed their red and green and purple fruits,
Dark, bright and lit, and dazzling to the eyes
And incense-smelling, as in Paradise
The trees of God are usually found,
With singing angels dancing round and round.

    With legs that toil, but not with hearts that tire
They, heavy-booted in the fall of night,
Fare, like December shepherds towards the star,
Up wet-leaved paths to where their homesteads are,
Their cheeks though cold with mist, already bright
As with the coming radiance of fire.

    Red-embered fire, securely kept aglow,
And onion-savoured soup—how well they know
Each certain thing that waits them where they go:
Ranged beehives in the cabbaged garden small,
The sleeping sledge, the vines upon the wall,
The nosing welcome of the wolfish dog,
The winter's wood, stored log on log on log
Beneath the mothering roof, the cobbles hard,
And the brown smell of dung about the yard
(That rich dark smell through which the Magi came,
White-bearded, wise, with jewelled cups aflame),
The silver water in the moss-dark trough
Whose liquid voice for ever, like a friend,
Accompanies their nightly dreams. And then,
Then with the strangeness of the mist shed off
They have entered in, and found their journey's end:
The brown safe shadows, and warm light of men.

    So soon they'll sit beneath the ceiling low,
Each with his soup, in his allotted chair,
Shadow-surrounded, munching calm and slow.
And bright their faces in the orange glow,
And bright and warm like fruits their foreheads fair;
Yet behind these what is it that they know?

    For deep inside each secret flower-faced head
There is more knowledge than of soup and bread.
They know the very wood-smoke of their homes
Rises to join the dark hieratic trees,
The ever-mounting trees, whose roots down-grow
To where dwell goblins and the earth-wise gnomes,
And where are streams, whose voices never cease
With the dark branches prophesying peace,
And caves the giants roared in long ago.

    Then as with darkness all the valley fills,
And as with sleep their sealèd lids are kissed,
Old thoughts come near to children, and they know
Those ceaseless voices say: The strength of the hills,
And we who fall asleep, are his also.


Fool's Song

If you want to be warm
    Go into the sun;
Your heart will be happy
    Your cares will be done.

If you want to be cold
    There's the light of the moon,
Where your heart will become
    What we all shall be soon—

Ashes and ashes.
    But shall I be wise?
Yes, like a skull
    Who has holes for his eyes.

Of your two lights,
    The sun for me,
Where seeds can flower,
    And sap run free
    And morning birds sing Twiddledy-dee.


On August thirteenth,
At the Mount, Marsden, Bucks

Out of this seemliness, this solid order,
At half-past four to-day,
When down below
Geraniums were bright
In the contented glow,
And Jones was planting seedlings all about,
Geometrically right
For all to see
In your herbaceous border,
You had to go,
Who always liked to stay.
Before Louisa sliced the currant roll,
And re-arranged the zinnias in the bowl,
All in a rhythm reachless by modernity,
Correct and slow,
And brought the tea
And tray,
At half-past four on Friday you went out:
To the unseemly, seemly,
Dateless, whole
Light of Eternity
You went away.


Sir Philip Sidney

Still through the ages' intervening gloom
You are fair, you glow.
Faceless you are, and yet your face I know;
Your gestures even, on a gala night,
And how you screwed your eyes against the light;
And bent your head to listen; your young hair;
Your young man's, great man's, secret, poet's air;
And the heart's sudden twist that you were there,
That you were in the room.

And later how it spread—
The unbelievable truth that you were dead.


I cannot but believe, though you were dead,
Lying stone-still, and I came in, and said
(Having been out perhaps in storm and rain):—
"O dear, O look, I have torn my skirt again",
That you would rise with the old simple ease,
And say, "Yes, child", and come to me.
                                                                                And there
In your white crackling apron, on your knees,
With your quick hands, rough with the washing-up
Of every separate tended spoon and cup,
And with bent head, coiled with the happy hair
Your own child should have pulled for you (But no,
Your child who might have been, you did not bear,
Because the bottomless riches of your care
Were all for us) you would mend and heal my tear—
Mend, touch and heal; and stitching all the while,
Your cottons on your lap, look up and show
The sudden light perpetual of your smile—

And only then, you dear one, being dead
Go back and lie, like stone, upon your bed.



A Back View

Now when his hour shall strike
For this old man,
And he arrives in Heaven late,
He can
To Peter and the Angel Gabriel,
Having completely known,
Completely tell
What it was like
To lean upon a gate;
And knowing one thing well
He need not fear his fate.


Grand Ballet

I saw you dance that summer before the war.
One thunderous night it was, at Covent Garden,
When we, who walked, beneath the weighted trees,
Hot metropolitan pavements, might have smelt
Blood in the dust, and heard the traffic's cry
Ceaseless and savage like a prophecy.

As by a sunrise sea I saw you stand,
Your sylphides round you on the timeless strand,
White, pure, delicious poisèd butterflies,
The early nineteenth century in their eyes,
And Chopin ready for their silver toes.
(O sighs unsatisfied, and one red rose!)

The fountain of all movement ready to flow
Seemed prisoned in your entrancèd body. So
You stood, their Prince, most elegantly fair,
Swan-sleeved, black-jacketed, with falling hair
And hands half-raised in ravishment. O there,
You Grecian arrow fitted to the bow,
You beech-tree in a legendary wood,
You panther in a velvet bolero,
There you for one immortal moment stood—

One moment like a wave before it flows,
Frozen in perfectness. Then one hand rose
And tossed a silver curl, demurely light
(O grace, O rose, O Chopin and all delight),
And the enchantment broke.
                                                    That thunderous night
We saw Nijinsky dance.
                                              Thereafter fell
On the awaiting world the powers of Hell,
Chaos, and irremediable pain;
And utter darkness on your empty brain,
Not even grief to say, No more, no more.

But tell me, when my mortal memories wane
As death draws near, and peace is mine and pardon,
Where will it like an escapèd dove repair?
To what Platonic happy heaven—where?—
Untouchable by Fate and free of Time,
That one immortal moment of the mime
We saw Nijinsky dance at Covent Garden?



Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents

The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where they can lightly come again.

Yes, children have integrity like flowers,
But when pain comes, and fear,
Why then you must be powerful and near
In those bewildering hours.

You who are dust must yet become a tree,
In whose unending heights of flowering green
The heart-distracting plumaged birds are seen,
And golden fruits and silver-sounding bells
And everything a fairy story tells;
But more than this, O then you must possess
Deep roots that drink the sustenance of earth,
And strong and wrinkled and consoling bark
To kiss.

And yes,
Each night,
At dark,
When on the pillow lies the upgazing head,
And in the candle's comfortable light
The drinking holy eyes
Are fixed on you,
And from the curious cupboards of the heart
The memories come to birth,
The questions rise
Of everything that you have ever said
And whether it is true
(So many whys
Of suns and snakes and parallelograms and flies,
Of learning and of art,
Like clustering stars that through the window show
In winter skies),
O then you must put on
The robes of Solomon,
Then you must grow
A Presence, must be more
Than any harbouring shore,
Or archetypal tree
In safety spread,
Then you must be
The Magus Zoroaster sitting on the bed.


Mother to Child Asleep

These tiny, fringèd eyes
Must look on all that dies;
In some strange dawn with bleeding tears perceive
This house they now believe
Coeval with its dome
Of arching sky, this home
Which an unending tabernacle seems,
Dissolve like dreams—
This tree-tall clock, that sempiternal door,
The table white for dinner, all no more.

Ah, though I might, no magic must be willed
On your vexed waters, vexed when mine are stilled.
On that strange morning you must sail alone,
My utterly-sleeping own.


When you awake at dawn in Paradise,
Who sheltered all men like an apple-tree,
What, after many years and pain unknown,
In dew-gray fields beneath celestial skies,
What would your first desired fulfilment be?

That he who loved you and who died alone,
Should on your warm lap lie,
To faint and die;
The lovely hair fallen back upon your knee;
The eyes that shut alone closed by your kiss
And washed by your own tears. It would be this.


After a Latin Epitaph in
Madingley Church

(The monument bears no name or date)

Bring roses, singing girls, soft pansies strew
To decorate these little ashes new;
Nor with one cry or longing tears invade
The sleeping stillness of an infant maid,
Who in one showery day was here and gone,
To God's invariable peace passed on.
He whispered to her soul; without a stain,
She, to his goodness, gave it back again.

The End

This effigy that was a man, reposes;
All questions cease.
Yet fire, and snakes, and roses,
Jungles of pain, and sudden pools of peace
Were in this packed tumultuous heart, that here
Unbeating lies beneath the purple of the bier.

And so much more, much more, much more,
So strange a medley and so infinite a store
No thought can compass and no music say
Upon his burial day.

The Spirit of Man

Not age, or creed,
Or Fate,
Can separate
Those who, more surely than with eyes
Or thought,
Can recognize
(As a bird can, who in the house was caught,
The sudden skies)
Each in the other the same need,
The same
Clear undescribable flame.


Tapestry Song

O here is Paradise for me
    With white Does bounding,
And here the fair immortal Tree
    With various fruits abounding.

Hesperidean apples gold,
    And apples red as wine,
And gourds that show like moons below,
    And silver pears that shine.

O sweeter, sweeter, every one
    Than mead the Gods have drunk,
And all are for the Shepherd's Son
    Who leans against the trunk.

And there he'll stay, the timeless day,
    Where no harsh wind can find him,
His crook among the strawberry leaves,
    And dark, dark woods behind him.

There roam the strange and savage beasts;
    No peace their fear will grant them
Until he play his roundelay
    And music shall enchant them.

See where the Tiger to destroy
    Doth roam with ebon stripes.
O Shepherd, O Arcadian boy,
    Play, play your pipes!—


How sweet the shepherd his pipes doth blow—
Sing Ut Hoy, Tirlee, Tirlow—
How silverly, silverly whistle and play
Like drops of dew at the break of the day.

Like drops of dew where cowslips are,
Sing Ut Hoy and echo it far,
Drops of dew where periwinkles blow
Ut Hoy, Tirlee, Tirlow.

Ut Hoy, and echo it high,
Larks are lost in the light of the sky,
Echo it all the valleys through,
Periwinkles, periwinkles, periwinkles blue.

Sing Ut Hoy, at dawn of the day,
Fear, Fear is fled away,
The sun on the meadows, the lark in the morn,
Joy, Joy, Joy is born.


Tirlee, Tirlow and Ut Hoy,
Born, born, born is Joy;
Sing Ut Hoy, Tirlee, Tirlow
So sweet the shepherd his pipes doth blow.

Now, in the dark arcaded wood
Every creature still is stood;
Each one pricks a happy ear,
Tirlee, Tirlow, this song to hear.

Out of the branchèd wood come they
All for his silver roundelay,
Out of the wood on dancing feet
All to obey his music sweet.

Here the gentled Tiger goes
By the delicate, dancing Does;
Here the Stag with golden horns
And the prancing Unicorns.


Spotted Pard with agate stare
Frights no more the Fawn so fair;
Capering Kids spring high in air
Round the blunder-footed Bear.

Conies gambol out of the rocks,
Leveret with tawny Fox;
Leaping Lambs desert their folds,
Frogs dance out of the marigolds.

Here appear in lumbering bounds
Great King Theseus' dew-lapped Hounds;
Here his white, escapèd Steed
Comes curvetting over the mead.

Here with jewelled tails aglow
Peacocks gloriously go;
Here the swinging Monkey gets
Purple grapes for castanets.


Here the Lion, King of Beasts,
On the golden apples feasts;
Whilst my lady's Brachet rare
Rollicks with a silver pear.

Caterpillars striped and green
Measuring up the twigs are seen;
Asp with spotted Adder weaves,
Harmless, in and out the leaves.

Dove and Hawk with folded wing
On the fruited branches swing;
Hovering, dipping, dancing rise
Honey-bees and Butterflies.

All Creation, safe and free,
Sings around the Happy Tree.
Tirlee, Tirlow, and Ut Hoy,
Play for ever, Shepherd Boy.


Old Mrs Thompson down the road is dead.
The maids knew first from what the milkman said
(He heard on Sunday she was very bad)
And as they work they are sorry, stirred, and glad.

One day soon I shall die,
As still as Mrs Thompson I shall lie;
And in her house that April day
The maids of the new family will say
That Mrs Jones—who was me—has passed away.
They will know first, because the fish-boy heard;
And as they dust, be sorry, glad, and stirred.


The Madman and the Child

"Where have you been? you look queer,
You look black." "O my dear,
All alone to Hell and back,
By my known, my desert track;
Though once I might, like you, have gone
By candlelight to Babylon."

"What have you seen?" "No flames or fires,
But such a stream of terrors and desires.
O my child, nothing's there
Like your fingers, like your hair,
Nor this table, nor this chair;
Nothing certain but despair."


After the Eumenides

Long ago, in stony Greece,
The human heart knew no peace.
In its darkness it was torn,
And cursed, as now, the fate of being born;
And tried to heal its agony with song.
        O Lord, how long?

Near an old Prison

When we would reach the anguish of the dead,
Whose bones alone, irrelevant, are dust,
Out of ourselves it seems we must, we must
To some obscure but ever-bleeding thing
Unreconciled, a needed solace bring,
Like a resolving chord, like daylight shed.

Or through thick time must we reach back in vain
To inaccessible pain?


Yama and Yami

(From the Veda)

The first created pair possessed a world
    Where darkness was unknown;
Till Yama died, and left in endless light
    Yami, his twin, alone.

The high Gods tried to comfort her distress,
    But all in vain they tried.
She would not listen to their wisest words;
    She said: "To-day he died".

Then were the Gods confounded, for her grief
    Troubled their equal sight;
They said: "In this way she will not forget.
    We must create the Night".

So they created Night. And after Night
    Came into being Morrow;
And she forgot him. Thus it is they say:—
    The days and nights make men forget their sorrow.

London Despair

This endless gray-roofed city, and each heart—
Each with its problems, urgent and apart—
And hearts unborn that wait to come again,
Each to its problems, urgent, and such pain.

Why cannot all of us together—why?—
Achieve the one simplicity: to die?


After a Fever

I have been out, to know again
The lovely lakes of muddy rain
    That cart-tracks hold;
The intellectual branches, high
In gray oases of the sky;
    The uncaring cold.

And what distortion can withstand
The sanity of winter land?

Recitative and Air

I heard a shepherd in the morning light,
A piping shepherd leant against a tree,
Who filled with music all the mountain height,
And so sang he—
So sang he in a hollow of the hills
To the cold rushing of the April rills,
The rushing rills which down the pastures go
From the high melting snow.
Cold, cold the waters plash
And bare the branches of the mountain ash
But strong as snakes his branches rise
Bud-covered in the April, April skies.

Still from the burden of the snow the grass is brown,
And bare and gray the unfrozen rocks look down;
    But over the hollow and up the mound
    The new-born crocuses delight the ground,
    And every least and lovely one
    Is laden full of morning sun.
    O, ships they are that sail the seas
    Whose joy rejoices all my mind;
    O ships that sail and hopes that dance,
    And pygmy armies that advance,
    And but the wind, the wind, the wind
    Visits their golden hearts with the dark bees.


A thousand rushing, cold, and intersecting rills
Pour down the chasmed hills,
Down, down descending till they reach
The tall, bare woods of silver-branchèd beech.
    There on the grave enchanted ground
    No frolic shadows checker,
    By gathering children—all around—
    The blue anemones are found,
    The blue, the fair, the heaven-faced,
    There through the sky's blue lovely waste
    Laughs the woodpecker.

The children cry aloud to watch him go
Over the woods where torrent waters flow,
And the deep-sheltered villages below.
    There every pebble of the street
    Is happy in the early heat,
    There Mother Céline since the sun was hot
    Stood on the sill her cactus in a pot,
    And leaned her elbows on the balustrade
    Of sun-brown wood her father's father made,
    To see below her young white kid
    Who butted with his head and knew not why he did;
    Butted with his head and knew not why
    To hear the silvery streams go by.

Her agèd eyes see further far
Where the terraced vineyards are,
Where the rushing torrents cease
And in the opal lake their waters are at peace.
    O, where the waters lap below
    To dress the vines the women go.
    One has a basket, one has a hoe,
    One, one a kerchief red
    Wrapt around her patient head,
    And everywhere the sun is shed.
    And soon from every tended root
    From barren earth the buds will shoot,
    Soon in the wealth of sun be seen
    The tendrilled Dionysian green,
    Till in a far October's gold
    The grapes, the abounding grapes behold!

So played a shepherd in the early light,
A brown-faced spirit lolling by a tree,
Who filled with music all the mountain height,
O, so sang he—
So sang he in a hollow of the hills
To the cold rushing of the April rills,
The rushing rills which down the pastures go
From the high, melting snow.


Night-nursery Thoughts

O sometimes when I wake at night
I think the moon so round and bright
That it must fall for very light.

That lovely, lovely liquid fall
Would make the stars cry out and call,
But would not burn my hands at all.

Now even raindrops off the tip
Of leaves and twigs, soft, softly drip;
But if the moon should suddenly slip,

You'd never hear the softest sup
And nobody could scrape it up;
It would not stay in any cup.

The moon would fall without a sound
Without a stain upon the ground,
And in the morning, not be found.

On the Downs

Only the harebells and the turf are near,
The bumble booms, beseeching all around
(Hark the eternal, hot, insistent sound),
Even the flints, to rouse themselves and hear,
But only more of peace her bumbling seems
To give their desolation, give my dreams.

Surely one indistinguishable day,
A Roman sentinel, when times were slack,
Heard the high larks, and lay upon his back;
And heard the brown, unceasing bumble say
How but for her the sky itself would fall.
And then he slept in the sun, and dreamed of Gaul.


For a Madrigal

This hour,
So lie,
So lie as though your hair
Were heavy weed
Fallen back into the sea—
The great sea's power.

So calm, so lie:
So rest
As though, where your warm arm is near your breast,
A dove might be,
Might downward fly,
Might nest.

So lie,
So rest indeed
As though your heart,
As though your heart had grown an evening pool,
Among the safe surrounding hills apart,
Among the trees,—
Where all distracted things
In peace repair
To find their perfect images;
And there,
There heal their frantic wings
In waters cool,
There heal their wings in waters wide and deep.

So lie,
So blessed
This hour,
So lie and sleep.


The Bells of St Legier

"Mon berger
    Est L'Eternel!"
The great bells say.
"Mon berger,—
Ring and sway
    And swing us well,—
Mon berger
    Est L'Eternel."

The heavy limes
    Are dark and sweet.
How many times
The heavy limes
Have heard the chimes
    And passing feet.
The heavy limes
    Are dark and sweet.

In Sunday best
    The people pass.
Though proudly dressed
In Sunday best,
They soon shall rest
    Below the grass.
In Sunday best
    The people pass.

They all must die
    Alone. Alone.
Both low and high
They all must die
And come to lie
    Beneath a stone.
They all must die
    Alone. Alone.

    Est mon berger",
Cries each bell,
All is well,
    Their stone shall say:
    Est mon berger".



Beside the road to Coursegoules
    Are shepherdess and sheep.
The sun is hot. The shade is cool
Beside the road to Coursegoules,
And every man's a fool, a fool
    Who does not fall asleep
Beside the road to Coursegoules,
    And shepherdess and sheep.


Wide sands and seas,
The rounded skies unstained,
The waves,
The language of the shores,
All these
Not only to exterior sense are yours,
But are in you surrounded and contained
And held, and given again,
Like sleep to pain,
Like strength to slaves,
Like foliage to trees.

The Lake and the Instant

Have you not seen
The dove-gray waters' undulating sheen
Whereon a bird can rest
Its rounded, slowly, slowly heaving breast,
Whilst all the blue-aired delicate mountains round
Attend, without a sound.
So, freed from fear, man's first primeval crime,
A heart might rest upon the lap of time.


Cambridge Autumn

For long, so long, this timeless afternoon
My body has lain in sun-receiving fields
By the wood's border, by the bounteous elms,—
An unbeliever in approaching night
And the cold, winter-prophesying dew,—
Heedless of all, forgetting all but now.

So, when the far creak of a country cart
Reaches my wind-hushed heart, my thought divines
Its red and faded wheels, its Saxon self,
But gropingly,—I have forgotten carts.
The seated driver towering on its side,
Who jolts at leisure down the long, low road
Towards the dun-thatched village, goes too far
For my lulled sense to follow; though at noon

I walked its very whiteness. Even the old,
Old labourer sunning in a windsor chair,
Patient as tree-roots and the stubbled fields,
With pink and purple asters at his door,
Whom but to pass this morning, stirred awake,
Heart-deep, my father's fathers' loyalties—
Our joint familiar never-spoken loves—
Even his image is too hard to hold,
Lapped as I lie in this Lethean gold.


This hushing wind on every side, as though
The world's invisible sails swelled softly out
And bore me to Eternity, laid low,
Like the dead knights and nobles of the north,
When their last battle had gone well with them,
Among Northumbrian boulders quite at rest;
Or as they lie, pure-effigied, in sleep,
In stone, in shadowed churches. Yet these rays
Pour through no windows, but from Heaven's springs,
Directly blessing all created things.

Shall you not stir your sealèd lids at last?
The whole autumnal earth is round you, vast,
Serene, eventful. Watch at ease you may
The dear progression of a country day,
That friendliness which never had a name.
Open your eyes and look. Two pheasants came
To the wood's edge, among the thistles brown
Footing it featly, pecking silver down.
They sun their long, soft tails, they disappear
Behind the elm-boles. Hips and haws are here
Contented, so it seems they almost said,
To have known another day of turning red.

Sudden, an echoing bang, a farmer's gun.
The settled rooks rise circling, one by one
From the tall elm. The unperturbèd skies
Fill with an old cacophony of cries:—
                    I spy, I can,
                    A dog. A man.
                    What? Where? Which one?
                    A man. A gun.
                    He's here. He's where?
                    He's gone. Beware.
                    Cry out. Cry on.
                    He's gone.
Then, suavely slow, and gradually dumb,
Back in a circling saraband they come
Each to his elm-bough, neither fast nor soon,
Black judges of the golden afternoon.

The new-born calf lies down to sleep again
In the long, streaking shadows of the plain.
His swing-tail mother feeds, and now and then
To see his safety in a world of men
Turns a slow, gazing head; whilst gazing I
Amazed upon this rounded planet lie.

This planet soon from the benignant sun
And so sure-seeming amplitude of light
To turn away, and like a great horse plunge—
Plunge in submerging lapping seas of cold
And ever-darkening space.
                                                    I saw last night
A streak of sunset over mounded stacks,
Black as the eyes of ghosts. And mist comes soon.
Even this last largess of blackberries
Warm on the hedge, are purple-dark as storms,
Storms that awake the safely-sleeping child
In midnight terror, sway the blackened elms
In gulfs of dark, and the clear stars devour.
And these red thorns tear like a sleeting shower.

O, I must raise myself and go, for now
The sun sinks down, and that old labourer,
That simple vision by the cottage door
Which morning brought, returns; who soon must fare
Alone into the dark of death, no more,
Like this unconquered planet, to emerge
On crystal April light, with daffodils.

His strange, eternal spring shall be elsewhere,
Only the dead can tell how clear, and fair,
And certain as the look their faces bear
After the storm and ravage. Yet it seems
Though all creation shares the departing light—
Red cows and robins, and the rooks in flight,
And the great elm-trees heavy with their dreams,
And the great barns—that most of all to those
Old, patient eyes no temporal spring shall bless,
This vast, warm, earthly autumn tenderness
Is come to say Amen, before they close.


'The Trumpet Shall Sound'

Messiah (1742)

We who are met to celebrate
Grandly to-day our God and King and State
    "We shall be changed"—but shall not change too far:
Twice as superb will be, and twice as big
    Each fair, redundant, and immortal wig;
    And every button on our coats, a star.

Where Lords and Commons ever equal are
Each regal coach will grow a wingèd car,
Whose laurelled lackeys in triumphant light
Sing their symmetrical delight,
And link-boys with the flaming cherubim
Dance in their buckled shoes and shout the morning hymn;
Where coachmen crowned with asphodel and moly
Echo the cries of Holy, Holy, Holy,
And disembodied horses fly
With golden trumpeters about the sky.

O we shall change, but with no pangs of birth,
To glorious heaven from this glorious earth.


The Single Woman

Now quenched each midnight window is. Now unimpeded
Darkness indeed descends on roof and tree and slope;
And in my heart the houses that you have not needed
Put out their coloured lights of comfort and of hope.

The Conversation

From my mind's cliff you knocked a stone away.
There in the light, a full-born Purpose lay;
And half in terror, half in glad surprise
I saw his unknown coils, and sleeping eyes.


The Poet discouraged

There is more power in a single bough
Than all I fashion with the sweat of my brow;
More freshness in its unimportant leaves
Than any lyric that my heart conceives;
More wonder in a wood-louse, tightly curled,
Than my whole epic on the rounded world.

Fairy Tale for Two Voices

—O sing or tell a story.
                                                    —What shall I tell?
—There was a Princess woke at early dawn,
A Princess in a castle, in the north,
And saw the forests rising tree on tree
Out of her little window, and ran forth
To look for berries in the autumn woods.
—O sing of what she found in the woods as well.

—She must slip away before the kitchen stirs,
With hooded golden hair, down garden walks,
Past home-faced apples,
                                                —Over the open ground
Where feed her father's herd of great cream cows,
With swinging tails and delicate, peaceful feet
Among the mountain crocuses,
                                                            —With bells
Like hope and dew,
                                        —And come to the edge of the woods.
—Brave she must be, for in the woods are bears;
—The noise of waters fills them like a breath
—And footsteps make no sound.
                                                            —At home they tell
The king of the bears is an enchanted Prince
Who waits release.
                                        —But who shall break the spell?


The forests rise around her, tree on tree,
To cloud-high crags;
                                        —They rise round secret lawns
Where red ash-berries for no human hand
            —And she listens.
                                                —If she listens long
She hears clear voices,
                                                —Voices of surprise,
Wonder, and argument, and prophecies
Hid in the streams.
                                        —For whom to understand?
—She can but tell a spirit in her bones
Tells her to climb,
                                        —To climb and fear no ills,
—To fear no presence in the unpeopled woods
Or hidden in the caverns of the hills.
—She can but tell how swiftly she must start
Up, up the paths where only hunters go,
—Running with silver shoes that make no mark,
—Quick with a purpose that she cannot know
And singing unawares.

—Wet bilberries and scarlet cranberries,
Green brionies,
—Four-leaved herb Paris with his sorcerer's heart
Whose home is in the stillness under trees;
—Red ash-berries as well
And black strange cherries,
                                                    —Strange with double stones,
—O, all of these,
Tell how she plucks them with her weaving hands
To make a wreath of berries bright and dark,
—And some that shine like blood in the early sun
To make a wreath,
                                    —A wreath for whom begun?
—To make a garland for the king of the bears.
—And then, O tell
How all at once her singing voice was dumb
And her heart fell.
—Fierce-eyed and hairy round a jutting rock,
—Dark, dark and softly footing he was there;
—The king of the woods—The black bewitchèd bear
—Unpassably, unconquerably come.
—But quickly, now tell this,
How she was brave, how she was not afraid.
—She flung the enchanted berries round his neck,
The ripple of her amber-yellow hair
Sweeping his claws and pouring from her hood,
Her young thin arms, her oval cheek in fur,
And made him captive,
                                            —Captive with a kiss.
—And suddenly
Slant-eyed and smiling in the leaf-strewn light,
—Silent as moss, and all the streams his speech,
—A Prince was standing in the bilberry wood,
—Strong as the sun, and all the streams his power,
—Proud and delivered in the world of men.

—Right through the trees the sun ascending burned
In wealth of swaying gold his glorious way,
—And wrapped in light and shadow each to each
No spoken word need say,
—For in the arisen morning there he stands,
—Free from his cavern's airless echoing space,
Free from the dark compulsion of his form.
—Sing how he looked at her with eyes returned
From exile to the harbour of her face,
—To certainty from storm;
And touched her shoulders with his stranger's hands,
—With hands grown more familiar in an hour
Than all her home and years of yesterday,
—The unilluminated years before.
—O sing and tell of this.
                                                    —And tell no more.
But how, as on the first created day
All things were new.
—And through the tall-stemmed forest, far below
—Before they turned in harmony to go,
The clustered berries round their shoulders wound,
—Before they reached the fruitful open ground,
They heard the bells of feeding flocks,
                                                                                —The sound
Like hope and dew.


Cambridge: Printed by Walter Lewis, M.A., at the University Press

[The end of Mountains & Molehills by Frances Cornford]