I Wonder

A poem by Thomas Edward Brown

I wonder if in that far isle,
Some child is growing now, like me
When I was child : care-pricked, yet healed the while
With balm of rock and sea.

I wonder if the purple ring
That rises on a belt of blue
Provokes the little bashful thing
To guess what may ensue,
When he has pierced the screen, and holds the further clue.

I wonder if beyond the verge
He dim conjectures England’s coast:
The land of Edwards and of Henries, scourge
Of insolent foemen, at the most
Faint caught where Cumbria looms a geographic ghost.

I wonder if to him the sycamore
Is full of green and tender light;
If the gnarled ash stands stunted at the door,
By salt sea-blast defrauded of its right;
If budding larches feed the hunger of his sight.

I wonder if to him the dewy globes
Like mercury nestle in the caper leaf;
If, when the white narcissus dons its robes,
It soothes his childish grief;
If silver plates the birch, gold rustles in the sheaf.

I wonder if to him the heath-clad mountain
With crimson pigment fills the sensuous cells;
If like full bubbles from an emerald fountain
Gorse-bloom luxuriant wells
If God with trenchant forms the insolent lushness quells.

I wonder if the hills are long and lonely
That North from South divide;
I wonder if he thinks that it is only
The hither slope where men abide,
Unto all mortal homes refused the other side.

I wonder if some day he, chance-conducted,
Attains the vantage of the utmost height,
And, by his own discovery instructed,
Sees grassy plain and cottage white,
Each human sign and pledge that feeds him with delight.

At eventide, when lads with lasses dally,
And milking Pei sits singing at the pail,
I wonder if he hears along the valley
The wind’s sad sough, half credulous of the tale
How from Slieu-whallian moans the murdered witches’ wail.

I wonder if to him " the Boat," descending
From the proud East, his spirit fills
With a strange joy, adventurous ardour lending
To the mute soul that thrills
As booms the herald gun, and westward wakes the hills.

I wonder if he loves that Captain bold
Who has the horny hand,
Who swears the mighty oath, who well can hold,
Half-drunk, serene command,
And guide his straining bark to refuge of the land.

I wonder if he thinks the world has aught
Of strong, or nobly wise,
Like him by whom the invisible land is caught
With instinct true, nor storms, nor midnight skies
Avert the settled aim, or daunt the keen emprise.

I wonder if he deems the English men
A higher type beyond his reach,
Imperial blood, by Heaven ordained with pen
And sword the populous world to teach;
If awed he hears the tones as of an alien speech

Or, older grown, suspects a braggart race,
Ignores phlegmatic claim
Of privileged assumption, holding base
Their technic skill and aim,
And all the prosperous fraud that binds their social frame.

Young rebel ! how he pants, who knows not what
He hates, yet hates : all one to him
If Guelph, or Buonaparte, or sans-culotte,
If Strafford or if Pym
Usurp the clumsy helm, if England sink or swim!

Ah ! crude, undisciplined, when thou shalt know
What good is in this England, still of joys
The chiefest count it thou wast nurtured so
That thou may’st keep the larger equipoise,
And stand outside these nations and their noise.

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