A poem by Henry Newbolt


JULY 28, 1909


Enter FLORA, Lady of Summer, with her maidens, PHYLLIS
and AMARYLLIS. She takes her seat upon a bank,
playing with a basket of freshly gathered flowers, one
of which she presently holds up in her hand.

FLORA. Ah! how I love a rose! But come, my girls,
Here's for your task: to-day you, Amaryllis,
Shall take the white, and, Phyllis, you the red.
Hold out your kirtles for them. White, red, white,
Red, red, and white again. . . .
Wonder you not
How the same sun can breed such different beauties?
[She divides all her roses between them.
Well, take them all, and go--scatter them wide
In gardens where men love me, and be sure

Where even one flower falls, or one soft petal,
Next year shall see a hundred.
[As they turn to go, enter LUCIA in hunting dress,
with bow in hand and a hound by her side. FLORA
rises to meet her, and recalls her maidens.]
Stay! attend me.

LUCIA. Greeting, fair ladies; you, I think, must be
Daughters of this green Earth, and one of you
The sweet Dame Flora.

FLORA. Your true servant, madam.
But if my memory be not newly withered
I have not known the pleasure. . . .

LUCIA. Yes, you have seen me--
At least, you might have seen me; I am Lucia,
Lady of Moonlight, and I often hunt
These downs of yours with all my nightly pack
Of questing beams and velvet-footed shadows.

FLORA. I fear at night. . . .

LUCIA. Oh, yes! at night you are sleeping!
And I by day am always rather faint;
So we don't meet; but sometimes your good folk
Have torn my nets by raking in the water;
And though their neighbours laughed, there are worse ways
Of spending time, and far worse things to rake for
Than silver lights upon a crystal stream.
But come! My royal Sire, the Man in the Moon--
He has been here?

FLORA. So many kings come here,
I can't be sure; I've heard the Man in the Moon

Did once come down and ask his way to Norwich.
But that was years agone--hundreds of years--
It may not be the same--I do not know
You royal father's age. . . .

LUCIA. His age? Oh surely!
He never can be more than one month old.

FLORA. Yet he's your father!

LUCIA. Well, he is and is not;
[Proudly] I am the daughter of a million moons.
They month by month and year by circling year,
From their celestial palace looking down
On your day-wearied Earth, have soothed her sleep,
And rocked her tides, and made a magic world
For all her lovers and her nightingales.
You owe them much, my ancestors. No doubt,
At times they suffered under clouds; at times
They were eclipsed; yet in their brighter hours
They were illustrious!

FLORA. And may I hope
Your present Sire, his present Serene Highness,
Is in his brighter hours to-day?

LUCIA. Ah! no.
Be sure he is not--else I had not left
My cool, sweet garden of unfading stars
For the rank meadows of this sun-worn mould.

FLORA. What is your trouble, then?

LUCIA. Although my father
Has been but ten days reigning, he is sad
With all the sadness of a phantom realm,
And all the sorrows of ten thousand years.

We in our Moonland have no life like yours,
No birth, no death: we live but in our dreams:
And when they are grown old--these mortal visions
Of an immortal sleep--we seem to lose them.
They are too strong for us, too self-sufficient
To live for us; they go their ways and leave us,
Like shadows grown substantial.

FLORA. I have heard
Something on earth not unlike this complaint,
But can I help you?

LUCIA. Lady, if you cannot,
No one can help. In Moonland there is famine,
We are losing all our dreams, and I come hither
To buy a new one for my father's house.

FLORA. To buy a dream?

LUCIA. Some little darling dream
That will be always with us, night and day,
Loving and teasing, sailing light of heart
Over our darkest deeps, reminding us
Of our lost childhood, playing our old games,
Singing our old songs, asking our old riddles,
Building our old hopes, and with our old gusto
Rehearsing for us in one endless act
The world past and the world to be.

FLORA. Oh! now
I see your meaning. Yes, I have indeed
Plenty of such sweet dreams: we call them children.
They are our dreams too, and though they are born of us,
Truly in them we live. But, dearest lady,
We do not sell them.

LUCIA. Do you mean you will not?
Not one? Could you not lend me one--just one?

FLORA. Ah! but to lend what cannot be returned
Is merely giving--who can bring again
Into the empty nest those wing├Ęd years?
Still, there are children here well worth your hopes,
And you shall venture: if there be among them
One that your heart desires, and she consent,
Take her and welcome--for the will of Love
Is the wind's will, and none may guess his going.

LUCIA. O dearest Lady Flora!

FLORA. Stay! they are here,
Mad as a dance of May-flies.

[The children run in dancing and singing.

Shall we sit
And watch these children?
Phyllis, bid them play,
And let them heed us no more than the trees
That girdle this green lawn with whispering beauty.
[The children play and sing at their games, till at a
convenient moment the LADY FLORA holds up her hand.]

FLORA. Now, Amaryllis, stay the rushing stream,
The meadows for this time have drunk enough.
[To LUCIA.] And you, what think you, lady, of these maids?
Has their sweet foolish singing moved your heart
To choose among them?

LUCIA. I have heard them gladly,
And if I could, would turn them all to elves,
That if they cannot live with me, at least

I might look down when our great galleon sails
Close over earth, and see them always here
Dancing upon the moonlit shores of night.
But how to choose!--and though they are young and fair
Their every grace foretells the fatal change,
The swift short bloom of girlhood, like a flower
Passing away, for ever passing away.
Have you not one with petals tenderer yet,
More deeply folded, further from the hour
When the bud dies into the mortal rose?

FLORA [pointing.] There is my youngest blossom and my fairest,
But my most wilful too--you'll pluck her not
Without some aid of magic.

LUCIA. Time has been
When I have known even your forest trees
Sway to a song of moonland. I will try it.

[She sings and dances a witching measure.]


(To an air by HENRY LAWES, published in 1652)

The flowers that in thy garden rise,
Fade and are gone when Summer flies,
And as their sweets by time decay,
So shall thy hopes be cast away.

The Sun that gilds the creeping moss
Stayeth not Earth's eternal loss:
He is the lord of all that live,
Yet there is life he cannot give.

The stir of Morning's eager breath--
Beautiful Eve's impassioned death--
Thou lovest these, thou lovest well,
Yet of the Night thou canst not tell.

In every land thy feet may tread,
Time like a veil is round thy head:
Only the land thou seek'st with me
Never hath been nor yet shall be.

It is not far, it is not near,
Name it hath none that Earth can hear;
But there thy Soul shall build again
Memories long destroyed of men,
And Joy thereby shall like a river
Wander from deep to deep for ever.

[When she has finished the child runs into her arms.]

FLORA. Your spell has won her, and I marvel not:
She was but half our own.
[To the Child] Farewell, dear child,
'Tis time to part, you with this lovely lady
To dance in silver halls, and gather stars
And be the dream you are: while we return
To the old toil and harvest of the Earth.
Farewell! and farewell all!

ALL. Farewell! farewell!

[Exeunt omnes.

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