The Return of Summer: An Eclogue

A poem by Henry Newbolt



H. Here then, if you insist, my daughter: still,
I must confess that I preferred the hill.
The warm scent of the pinewood seemed to me
The first true breath of summer; did you see
The waxen hurt-bells with their promised fruit
Already purple at the blossom's root,
And thick among the rusty bracken strown
Sunburnt anemones long overblown?
Summer is come at last!

C. And that is why
Mine is a better place than yours to lie.
This dark old yew tree casts a fuller shade
Than any pine; the stream is simply made
For keeping bottles cool; and when we've dined
I could just wade a bit while you . . . reclined.

H. Empty the basket then, without more words . . .
But I still wish we had not left the birds.

C. Father! you are perverse! Since when, I beg,
Have forest birds been tethered by the leg?
They're everywhere! What more can you desire?
The cuckoo shouts as though he'd never tire,
The nuthatch, knowing that of noise you're fond,
Keeps chucking stones along a frozen pond,
And busy gold-crest, somewhere out of sight,
Works at his saw with all his tiny might.
I do not count the ring-doves or the rooks,
We hear so much about them in the books
They're hardly real; but from where I sit
I see two chaffinches, a long-tailed tit,
A missel-thrush, a yaffle----

H. That will do:
I may have overlooked a bird or two.
Where are the biscuits? Are you getting cramp
Down by the water there--it must be damp?

C. I'm only watching till your bottle's cool:
It lies so snug beneath this glassy pool,
Like a sunk battleship; and overhead
The water-boatmen get their daily bread
By rowing all day long, and far below
Two little eels go winding, winding slow . . .
Oh! there's a shark!

H. A what?

C. A miller's thumb.
Don't move, I'll tempt him with a tiny crumb.

H. Be quick about it, please, and don't forget
I am at least as dry as he is wet.

C. Oh, very well then, here's your drink.

H. That's good!
I feel much better now.

C. I thought you would (exit quietly).

H. How beautiful the world is when it breathes
The news of summer!--when the bronzy sheathes
Still hang about the beech-leaf, and the oaks
Are wearing still their dainty tasselled cloaks,
While on the hillside every hawthorn pale
Has taken now her balmy bridal veil,
And, down below, the drowsy murmuring stream
Lulls the warm noonday in an endless dream.
O little brook, far more thou art to me
Than all the pageantry of field and tree:
Es singen wohl die Nixen--ah! 'tis truth--
Tief unten ihren Reih'n--but only Youth
Can hear them joyfully, as once I lay
And heard them singing of the world's highway,
Of wandering ended, and the maiden found,
And golden bread by magic mill-wheel ground.
Lost is the magic now, the wheel is still,
And long ago the maiden left the mill:
Yet once a year, one day, when summer dawns,
The old, old murmur haunts the river-lawns,
The fairies wake, the fairy song is sung,
And for an hour the wanderer's feet are young (he dozes).

C. (returning) Father! I called you twice.

H. I did not know:
Where have you been?

C. Oh, down the stream.

H. Just so:
Well, I went up.

C. I wish you'd been with me.

H. When East is West, my daughter, that may be.

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