Sunday Up the River:1

A poem by James Thomson (BV)

“En allant promener aux champs,
J’y ai trouvé les blés si grands,
Les aubépines florissant.
En verite, en verite,
C’est le mois, le joli mois,
C’est le joli mois de mai.

. . . . .

“Dieu veuill’ garder les wins, les blés,
Les jeunes filles à marier,
Les jeun’ garçons pour les aimer!
En vérité, en vérité,
C’est le mois, le joli mois,
C’est le joli mois de mai.”
- Carol of Lorraine.2

I.

I looked out into the morning,
I looked out into the west:
The soft blue eye of the quiet sky
Still drooped in dreamy rest;

The trees were still like clouds there
The clouds like mountains dim;
The broad mist lay, a silver bay
Whose tide was at the brim.

I looked out into the morning,
I looked out into the east:
The flood of light upon the night
Had silently increased;

The sky was pale with fervour,
The distant trees were grey,
The hill-lines drawn like waves of dawn
Dissolving in the day.

I looked out into the morning;
Looked east, looked west,with glee:
O richest day of happy May,
My Love will spend with me!



II.

“Oh, what are you waiting for here, young man?
What are you looking for over the bridge?”
A little straw hat with the streaming blue ribbons
Is soon to come dancing over the bridge.

Her heart beats the measure that keeps her feet dancing,
Dancing along like a wave o’ the sea;
Her heart pours the sunshine with which her eyes glancing
Light up strange faces in looking for me.

The strange faces brighten in meeting her glances;
The strangers all bless her, pure, lovely, and free:
She fancies she walks, but her walk skips and dances,
Her heart makes such music in coming to me.

Oh, thousands and thousands of happy young maidens
Are tripping this morning their sweethearts to see;
But none whose heart beats to a sweeter love-cadence
Than hers who will brighten the sunshine for me.

“ Oh, what are you waiting for here, young man?
What are you looking for over the bridge?”
A little straw hat with the streaming blue ribbons;
And here it comes dancing over the bridge!



III.

In the vast vague grey,
Mistily luminous, brightly dim,
The trees to the south there, far away,
Float as beautiful, strange and grand
As pencilled palm-trees, every line
Mystic with a grace divine,
In our dreams of the holy Eastern Land.

There is not a cloud in the sky;
The vague vast grey
Melts into azure dim on high.
Warmth, and languor, and infinite peace!
Surely the young Day
Hath fallen into a vision and a trance,
And his burning flight doth cease.

Yet look how here and there
Soft curves, fine contours, seem to swim,
Half emerging, wan and dim,
Into the quiet air
Like statues growing slowly, slowly out
From the great vault of marble; here a limb,
And there a feature, but the rest all doubt.

Then the sculpturing sunbeams smite,
And the forms start forth to the day;
And the breath of the morning sweepeth light
The luminous dust away:
And soon, soon, soon,
Crowning the floor of the land and the sea,
Shall be wrought the dome of Noon.

The burning sapphire dome,
With solemn imagery; vast shapes that stand
Each like an island ringed with flashing foam,
Black-purple mountains, creeks and rivers of light,
Crags of cleft crystal blazing to the crest:
Vast isles that move, that roam
A tideless sea of infinite fathomless rest.

Thus shall it be this noon:
And thus; so slowly, slowly from its birth
In the long night’s dark swoon,
Through the long morning’s trance, sweet, vague, and dim,
The Sun divine above
Doth build up in us, Heaven completing Earth,
Our solemn Noon of Love.



IV.

The church bells are ringing:
How green the earth, how fresh and fair!
The thrushes are singing:
What rapture but to breathe this air!

The church bells are ringing:
Lo, how the river dreameth there!
The thrushes are singing:
Green flames wave lightly everywhere!

The church bells are ringing:
How all the world breathes praise and prayer!
The thrushes are singing:
What Sabbath peace doth trance the air!



V.

I love all hardy exercise
That makes one strain and quiver;
And best of all I love and prize
This boating on our river.
I to row and you to steer,
Gay shall be Life’s trip, my dear:
You to steer and I to row,
All is bright where’er we go.

We push off from the bank; again
We’re free upon the waters;
The happiest of the sons of men,
The fairest of earth’s daughters.
And I row, and I row;
The blue floats above us as we go:
And you steer, and you steer,
Framed in gliding wood and water, O my dear.

I pull a long calm mile or two,
Pull slowly, deftly feather:
How sinful any work to do
In this Italian weather!
Yet I row, yet I row;
The blue floats above us as we go:
While you steer, while you steer,
Framed in gliding wood and water, O my dear.

Those lovely breadths of lawn that sweep
Adown in still green billows!
And o’er the brim in fountains leap;
Green fountains, weeping willows!
And I row, and I row;
The blue floats above us as we go:
And you steer, and you steer,
Framed in gliding wood and water, O my dear.

We push among the flags in flower,
Beneath the branches tender,
And we are in a faerie bower
Of green and golden splendour.
I to row and you to steer,
Gay must be Life’s trip, my dear;
You to steer and I to row,
All is bright where’er we go.

A secret bower where we can hide
In lustrous shadow lonely;
The crystal floor may lap and glide
To rock our dreaming only.
I to row and you to steer,
Gay must be Life’s trip, my dear;
You to steer and I to row,
All is bright where’er we go.



VI.

I love this hardy exercise,
This strenuous toil of boating:
Our skiff beneath the willow lies
Half stranded and half floating.
As I lie, as I lie,
Glimpses dazzle of the blue and burning sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
Faerie Princess of the secret faerie scene.

My shirt is of the soft red wool,
My cap is azure braided
By two white hands so beautiful,
My tie mauve purple-shaded.
As I lie, as I lie,
Glimpses dazzle of white clouds and sapphire sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
Faerie Princess of the secret faerie scene.

Your hat with long blue streamers decked,
Your pure throat crimson-banded;
White-robed, my own white dove unflecked,
Dove-footed, lilac-handed.
As I lie, as I lie,
Glimpses dazzle of white clouds and sapphire sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
Faerie Princess of the secret faerie scene.

If any boaters boating past
Should look where we’re reclining,
They’ll say, To-day green willows glassed
Rubies and sapphires shining!
As I lie, as I lie,
Glimpses dazzle of the blue and burning sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
Faerie Princess of the secret faerie scene.



VII.

Grey clouds come puffing from my lips
And hang there softly curling,
While from the bowl now leaps, now slips,
A steel-blue thread high twirling.
As I lie, as I lie,
The hours fold their wings beneath the sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
In that trance of perfect love and bliss serene.

I gaze on you and I am crowned,
A Monarch great and glorious,
A Hero in all realms renowned,
A Faerie Prince victorious.
As I lie, as I lie,
The hours fold their wings beneath the sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
In that trance of perfect love and bliss serene.

Your violet eyes pour out their whole
Pure light in earnest rapture;
Your thoughts come dreaming through my soul,
And nestle past recapture.
As I lie, as I lie,
The hours fold their wings beneath the sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
In that trance of perfect love and bliss serene.

O friends, your best years to the oar
Like galley-slaves devoting,
This is and shall be evermore
The true sublime of boating!
As I lie, as I lie,
The hours fold their wings beneath the sky;
As you lean, as you lean,
In that trance of perfect love and bliss serene.



VIII.

The water is cool and sweet and pure,
The water is clear as crystal;
And water’s a noble liquid, sure;
But look at my pocket-pistol!

Tim Boyland gave it me, one of two
The rogue brought back from Dublin;
With a jar of the genuine stuff: hurroo!
How deliciously it comes bubblin’

It is not brandy, it is not wine,
It is Jameson’s Irish Whisky:
It fills the heart with joy divine,
And it makes the fancy frisky.

All other spirits are vile resorts,
Except its own Scotch first cousin;
And as for your Clarets and Sherries and Ports,
A naggin is worth a dozen.

I have watered this, though a toothful neat
Just melts like cream down the throttle
But it’s grand in the punch, hot, strong, and sweet!
Not a headache in a bottle.

It is amber as the western skies
When the sunset glows serenest;
It is mellow as the mild moonrise
When the shamrock leaves fold greenest.

Just a little, wee, wee, tiny sip!
Just the wet of the bill of a starling!
A drop of dew for the rosy lip,
And two stars in the eyes of my darling!

’Faith your kiss has made it so sweet at the brim
I could go on supping for ever!
We’ll pocket the pistol: And Tim, you limb,
May this craturr abandon you never!



IX.

Like violets pale i’ the Spring o’ the year
Came my Love’s sad eyes to my youth;
Wan and dim with many a tear,
But the sweeter for that in sooth:
Wet and dim,
Tender and true,
Violet eyes
Of the sweetest blue.

Like pansies dark i’ the June o’ the year
Grow my Love’s glad eyes to my prime;
Rich with the purple splendour clear
Of their thoughtful bliss sublime:
Deep and dark,
Solemn and true,
Pansy eyes
Of the noblest blue.



X.

Were I a real Poet, I would sing
Such joyous songs of you, and all mere truth;
As true as buds and tender leaves in Spring,
As true as lofty dreams in dreamful youth;
That men should cry: How foolish every one
Who thinks the world is getting out of tune!
Where is the tarnish in our golden sun?
Where is the clouding in our crystal moon?
The lark sings now the eversame new song
With which it soared through Eden’s purest skies;
This poet’s music doth for us prolong
The very speech Love learnt in Paradise;
This maiden is as young and pure and fair
As Eve agaze on Adam sleeping there.



XI.

When will you have not a sole kiss left,
And my prodigal mouth be all bereft?
When your lips have ravished the last sweet flush
Of the red with which the roses blush:
Now I kiss them and kiss them till they hush.

When will you have not a glance to give
Of the love in whose lustre my glances live?
When, O my darling, your fathomless eyes
Have drawn all the azure out of the skies:
Now I gaze and I gaze till they dare not rise.

When will you find not a single vow
Of the myriads and myriads you lavish now?
When your voice has gurgled the last sweet note
That was meant from the nightingales to float:
Now I whisper it, whisper it dumb in your throat.

When will you love me no more, no more,
And my happy, happy dream be o’er?
When no rose is red, and no skies are blue,
And no nightingale sings the whole year through,
Then my heart may have no love for you.



XII.

My Love o’er the water bends dreaming;
It glideth and glideth away
She sees there her own beauty, gleaming
Through shadow and ripple and spray.

Oh, tell her, thou murmuring river,
As past her your light wavelets roll,
How steadfast that image for ever
Shines pure in pure depths of my soul.



XIII.

The wandering airs float over the lawn,
And linger and whisper in at our bower;
(They babble, babble all they know:)
The delicate secrets they have drawn
From bird and meadow and tree and flower;
(Gossiping softly, whispering low.)

Some linden stretches itself to the height,
Then rustles back to its dream of the day;
(They babble, babble all they know:)
Some bird would trill out its love-delight,
But, the honey melts in its throat away;
(Gossiping softly, whispering low.)

Some flower seduced by the treacherous calm
Breathes all its soul in a fragrant sigh;
(They babble, babble all they know:)
Some blossom weeps a tear of balm
For the lost caress of a butterfly;
(Gossiping softly, whispering low.)

Our Mother lies in siesta now,
And we listen to her breathings here;
(They babble, babble all they know:)
And we learn all the thoughts hid under her brow,
All her heart’s deep dreams of the happy year:
(Gossiping softly, whispering low.)



XIV.

Those azure, azure eyes
Gaze on me with their love;
And I am lost in dream,
And cannot speak or move.

Those azure, azure eyes
Stay with me when we part;
A sea of azure thoughts
Overfloods my heart.3



XV.

Give a man a horse he can ride,
Give a man a boat he can sail;
And his rank and wealth, his strength and health,
On sea nor shore shall fail.

Give a man a pipe he can smoke,
Give a man a book he can read;
And his home is bright with a calm delight,
Though the room be poor indeed.

Give a man a girl he can love,
As I, O my Love, love thee;
And his heart is great with the pulse of Fate,
At home, on land, on sea.



XVI.

My love is the flaming Sword
To fight through the world;
Thy love is the Shield to ward,
And the Armour of the Lord
And the Banner of Heaven unfurled.



XVII.

Let my voice ring out and over the earth,
Through all the grief and strife,
With a golden joy in a silver mirth:
Thank God for Life!

Let my voice swell out through the great abyss
To the azure dome above,
With a chord of faith in the harp of bliss:
Thank God for Love!

Let my voice thrill out beneath and above,
The whole world through
O my Love and Life, O my Life and Love;
Thank God for you!



XVIII.

The wine of Love is music,
And the feast of Love is song:
And when Love sits down to the banquet,
Love sits long:

Sits long and ariseth drunken,
But not with the feast and, the wine;
He reeleth with his own heart,
That great rich Vine.



XIX.

Drink! drink! open your mouth!
This air is as rich as wine;
Flowing with balm from the sunny south,
And health from the western brine.

Drink! drink! open your mouth!
This air is as strong as wine:
My brain is drugged with the balm o’ the south,
And rolls with the western brine.

Drink! drink! open your mouth!
This air is the choicest wine;
From that golden grape the Sun, i’ the south
Of Heaven’s broad vine.



XX.

Could we float thus ever,
Floating down a river,
Down a tranquil river, and you alone with me:
Past broad shining meadows,
Past the great wood-shadows,
Past fair farms and hamlets, for ever to the sea.

Through the golden noonlight,
Through the silver moonlight,
Through the tender gloaming, gliding calm and free;
From the sunset gliding,
Into morning sliding,
With the tranquil river for, ever to the sea.

Past the masses hoary
Of cities great in story,
Past their towers and temples drifting lone and free:
Gliding, never hasting,
Gliding, never resting,
Ever with the river that glideth to the sea.

With a swifter motion
Out upon the Ocean,
Heaven above and round us, and you alone with me;
Heaven around and o’er us,
The Infinite before us,
Floating on for ever upon the flowing sea.

. . . . .

What time is it, dear, now?
We are in the year now
Of the New Creation one million two or three.
But where are we now, Love?
We are as I trow, Love,
In the Heaven of Heavens upon the Crystal Sea.

And may mortal sinners
Care for carnal dinners
In your Heaven of Heavens, New Era millions three?
Oh, if their boat gets stranding
Upon some Richmond landing,
They’re thirsty as the desert and hungry as the sea!

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