Foxdale Camp: Canto 5: Wednesday


1. Awake, ye sleepers, to the blushing day,
Blushing for shame that here low-couched ye lie,
When her great herald with his fiery ray
Has covered half the blue enamel sky
From horizon to zenith, there on high
He blazes. Oh, awake, awake, for shame
To lie there snoring. Here Harry and I
Are ready for the village, to the dame
At village stores we go, Kathleen again to claim.

2. ‘Twas little with the noon by sun and clock
When we left Parr’s replete with breakfast fare,
And all the earth was smiling. Rose and stock
Flung incense on the warm and vibrant air,
And spiders busily weaved new their lair
A lesson that were much too apt to miss,
Yet to this pageant not a glance could spare
Three heavy sleepers, but a threefold bliss
Of snore met us, each mouth a red abyss.

3. As in we came. So, leaving there the food,
Again we quit the heavy atmosphere
Pervading all the tent – like hens that brood
In colonies of fleas, so three lay there
Each one a log! – we could not help a sneer
As to fair Shiel’s abode we struck the trail,
For this was Arthur’s task. His lady dear
Would not be comforted to hear our tale
How Arthur slept and minded not his sweet female.

4. Quiet was Shiel, she did not stay to chat
After our purchase of fresh eggs and milk,
But left us. “Hum!” said Harry, “that is that!”
Thought she Arthur was not of her own ilk?
I know not. But ‘tis true her portly bulk
Seemed a shade narrower. A hollow sham
Is Arthur’s love, for who could love this hulk
Of fat, whose brain is less than that of ram?
When we returned, lo, sleepers up! Frank cooking ham.

5. Their laziness infected Harry then,
Its germs entered as well into my blood.
After the meal five comfortable men
Lolled on the grass; none spake, nor any stood,
And no stray cow into our solitude
Insinuated probing horn, or low.
We were contented in a new childhood,
Our fancies lightly played from joy to woe,
From woe to joy, till evening breeze bade us in go.

6. Yea, Frankie knew where we could find some tea,
So we abandoned camp and, spruce and neat,
Closed the tent-flap and strode off cheerily
In search of hostelry and hungry feet.
Past the low tavern with its rustic seat
And creaking sign, past villagers – a knot
Of whom gathered each night in cobbled street
To thrash anew each dastard nation’s plot
And argue the world’s destiny with language hot.

7. And spit in rank disgust upon the stone,
And turn again as some new dazzling thought
Stuck in their brains, to bawl like megaphone.
These, then, we passed, each neck was craned out taut
To see us better. Argument is naught
Compared with viewing strangers! Mannequins
We were as we strode by! New grist was brought
To mills of argument, fev’rish were the chins
Of villagers, and silent were our answering grins.

8. To wait for tea sharpens the appetitie!
Which thought to me was borne where on the lake,
At least upon its flags, upon the slight
And yielding boat that seemed quite prone to break
Down its entire backbone as it did shake
Upon the flags, where I did sit and smoke,
Thinking of tea, bitter and bread and cake,
Of comfortably housed, fat, well-fed folk;
Nothing to eat since breakfast, this was past a joke!

9. The Eairy Dam lay chill, its surface flecked
Into sharp ripples by the breeze; reeds swayed
Ever so slightly where they stood erect
Like armies in red uniform arrayed
Where the late sun touched each narrow pointed blade;
A reddish grey the bosom of the mere;
Up on the road a group of children played,
Their voices shrill came on the breezes clear
To where I lay in silence. How sublime! How drear!

10. At length came Frankie’s voice, a gladsome note
It held, a note of joy, its sonorous flow
Tickled my ears where I lay in the boat.
“Hi, William, are you sleeping there below?”
The other three joined in, the sound did grow
In volume; I fully happily replied,
“Coming, O blessed herald!” And not slow
Was my convulsive leap from what did ride
Upon the shallow water; and we passed inside

11. The cottage where a hearty meal was spread.
We set upon the viands there laid out
With ceremony scant, nothing was said
For little while, then with a noisy shout
We sang and talked, the good things put to rout;
Deep were the draughts, all busy were the jaws,
How merrily the tea welled from the spout
Of homely tea-pot. So we made no pause
Till all was done and we replete; closed ravenous maws.

12. With many a lilting tune we stepped the miles
Upon the winding road ‘neath evening skies,
Our faces wreathed in full expansive smiles,
And clouds of smoke from pipes did reeking rise.
Rapture and wild abandon lit our eyes,
And many an awestruck peasant leaned on hedge
With mouth agape and look of blank surprise,
Happy, perhaps, that he had signed the pledge.
We reached the tent as late sun dipped the last low edge.

13. Haidee to-night we visit at her home,
And merry shall this evening be, I wot.
Here once ensconced outside we shall not roam
But make the roof-beams tremble in the cot.
Songs shall trill forth, the piano wires grow hot,
And purple face shall leer through streaming sweat,
And smoke pervade the air. Full many a tot
Of tea will gurgle down our throats. A jet
Continuous as the Milky Way, but sweet and wet.

14. She greeted us. Aunt Fanny too was there,
Shiel in her girth, and a strange Scottish girl
In whom Frank found attraction! Did declare
Before the dawn he’d kiss that wayward curl
That o’er her freckled forehead did unfurl!
Frank found the sofa, there they sat, those two,
And by them Arthur, like a country churl
He made the rotund Shiel stand. What a crew
To have collected! Oh, what damage we could do!

15. Kenneth sat in the corner. By his side
Was Charlie, his brown merry eyes aglow
Anticipating what joy should betide
Our evening’s meeting. Harry wandered slow
About the little room, he knew not where to go.
Against the piano leaned at last, his face
As the late sunset red. Aunt Fan did stow
Herself into a very awkward place
‘Twixt table and the door, which must have agonized her stays.

16. Haidee sat by the fire. Her face was white
With much confusion written thereupon,
And I before the ivories sat tight
Ready to strike full hard and quick thereon
When time was ripe. All faces pinkly shone
In mellow candle-glow. Too soon was sped
The night, too quick the fleeting hours had gone,
Too soon, too soon, our parting words were said
Ere we beneath the starry dome of Heav’n sought bed.

17. This was a lovely night. The fresh cold dew
Fell on each fevered forehead with a soft
Caressing touch. Our hearts rose up anew
In praise. We silent passed each sleeping croft
And ever cast an awestruck glance aloft
At the great vault that spread above the hill,
Studded with jewels. This we had seen oft
But not so deeply felt. Our glade was still
When we arrived, only the whisper of the rill.