Foxdale Camp: Canto 6: Thursday

 

1. Day with her consort of the blazing locks
Stormed on the shades and drove them from the dell,
Set fire to tree-tops, heated red the rocks
And burst a shower of glory over fell
And field and mountain stream. The light did swell
Over the sleeping hamlet and moved o’er the grass
To where beneath white tent five youths did dwell,
Now lying asleep. Over their forms did pass
But wakened not, nor stilled the heavy booming bass.

2. A bird’s throat fluttered ‘neath its feathered coat
Where it was perched upon the leafy bough,
Then the whole colony sent from each throat
A chirping madrigal. O Sleepers, thou
See not, not hear! Come, youths, awaken now
Or there for ever sleep till day no more
Shall break upon thy world! Waken, see how
The fresh grass glistens, how the earth’s green floor
Hangs jewels in the sun! Quench that resounding snore,

3. And rouse ye to enjoy the budding day!
Let not the golden hours go slipping by.
Awake, awake! All Nature is at play.
Slowly rolled round a single bleary eye
Whence lid had lifted, looked from earth to sky,
Noted the slanting beam upon the ground,
Then with a drowsy long contented sight
Deeper into my blankets nestled, wrapped around,
And sank again to slumber, and the sun confound.

4. When next my eyes peeped forth upon the world
Harry was sitting up, his pipe alight,
And wreaths of blue tobacco incense curled
About the tent; at once sleep took to flight,
I rose and joined him there and then. Despite
The fact that sleepers lay around we sang
Songs of the sea and land, we did recite
Dramatic fragments, out our voices rang,
Circling the tent, returning like a boomerang.

5. Oh, I detest the pipe that Harry smokes!
In sinuous curves it hugs his shaggy chin,
With irritating action Harry pokes,
Looking at me gleefully, his finger in
The cavernous bowl, upon his face a grin.
This is a hooker, so he tells me oft,
It shines with varnish thick like a new pin
And belches nicotinic fumes aloft
That build in tier on tier great billowing clouds and soft.

6. Enough of this. As on the other morns
Charles stirred the last. His rising timed our day.
This morn he had to cut his bulging corns,
Which made us more than ever late. Delay
Dogged every action, ere we got away
From the tent’s precincts all eve’s trembling palm
Began to exercise restraining sway
Upon the light. Fall’n on the fields the calm
Of late mid-day ere we five passed the well-known farm.

7. We went to Peel again. The city’s lure
Found yielding substance in each eager heart.
There am I happy most, its essence pure
Sinks in my brain till is of me a part
That I relinquish sadly when we start
For camp again; its salty breath like wine
Enters my head, and with consummate art
Lights up my dullest hour with ray divine.
Let not thy voice be stilled, there is no voice like thine!

8. Harry left us to seek his waiting maid
In the near hamlet; we strolled to the shore
And gazed and gazed where the red water played
As if ‘twas new, till we could gaze no more
Without discovering an inmost sore
That were best dulled; so to the hall again,
There to sit in the foremost red-plushed four
Of all the seats; there killed the wistful pain
In hearty laughter, to the struggling actors’ gain.

9. Deep brown eyes glowing, white hand graceful arched
O’er supple bow, the fiddle’s plaintive air
Came as fresh water to lips hot and parched!
Laughing red mouth and riotous clustering hair, –
Oh, why, should one so rapturously fair
Be thus compelled to eke a living scant
A tender flower exposed to footlight glare?
Yea, we yearned for thee. Bosoms quick did pant
With bear-suppressed emotion, each a supplicant.

10. Oh, all hell’s curses on thee, toothless hag,
That next takes stage. Thy gummy yawning void
Confronts us as thy lower jaw doth sag
In song, thy skinny form a solenoid!
Go, get thee hence, thou almost had destroyed
Our blissful state, did we not loudly laugh,
Nonegenarian, at thee! Thou toyed
With music, oh thou animated staff,
Quit ere we injure thee. Return, oh lovely Daff!

11. Thou lanky youth dressed like bedraggled page,
Thy lower jaw tucked in beneath great teeth,
Thou wouldst do better on a better stage.
Thy humour is unique. But you that breathe
Into old saxophone, you should beneath
The daisied grass be put. And you, small man,
Whose thin hair clings the pate like mole-grey sheath,
You’ll never be a light comedian!
Lastly the blonde sweet-voiced. Thus the whole acting clan.

12. There was a carnival in Peel that night,
And joyous laughter rang thro’ starry dark.
Clear calls and maidens’ giggling took their flight
Out o’er the wave with rough swains’ garting bark.
Confetti fell in showers, a rainbow arc
Where the pale lamp shone on it eerily.
All was abandon, yet it seemed most start
In all it shallowness and crudity,
For e’er above it came the moaning of the sea

13. Where it soft glimmered to the watchful stars,
And seemed to send the message, “They are fled
“In but an hour, silent behind the bars,
“But I shall still be here. They will be dead
“In years to come, but round the sandstone head
“I shall still swell, and stars still watch the shore.
“It too shall go to make my rocky bed,
“And that shall be till planets are no more
“And in my wave has dipped the final lingering oar.”

14. We joined the fun. How could we stand aloof?
Youth calls to youth, and we are young and free.
Forgive us if we forgot the stretching roof
Of heav’n in some wild earthly rhapsody!
We are but mortal clay, no spirits we,
Flesh calls to flesh, and we are flesh and blood.
Blithely as any swain where girls would flee
Then would we follow, as a human should;
Too soon all maidens reach their sober womanhood!

15. Art Conrad met we, merry Charles and I,
With his fair consort in the carnival.
Augmented thus our numbers. We did try
Full hard to lure more maidens to our call,
Not for our charmings would the damsels fall.
‘Twere just as well that this should be. We met
Harry at length, and from the dark sea wall
Three went, left Art farewell, alone to pet
Without our aid, bound with a vow to supper get.

16. Supper of bright green peas and well-browned chips,
O Epicurus, I would that thou couldst smell
The dainty fragrance that to nostrils trips,
Then would thy life be easier in Hell.
This far transcends aught thou canst tell.
Here wouldst thou be in Paradise. Ah, we
Full justice paid to it, we treated well
The good things ere we rose half-longingly,
Our hearts said “More!” Our stomachs, “No, ‘tis not to be!”

17. Peel was asleep for it was twelve o’clock
As we passed through, and sight-less window-eyes
Looked on us coldly, seemed as if to mock
And say, “Thy beds lie distant far. Unwise
“Art thou to make return so late!” Like spies
They watched us up the road, a silent row,
Until we turned the bend and topped the rise,
To dip down into Faba Glen, where low
The road lay in a misty-mantled spectral glow

18. There the new-ris’n moon chilled with a touch
Of silver frost. By the old water-mill
Tramped our young feet, past the old timbered hutch
Round o’er the gloomy bridge ‘neath trees, until
We reached the cot where one was lying still
In her warm bed, one dear to Harry’s soul,
One with whom he that night had climbed the hill,
So at his earnest bidding softly stole
To the maid’s window. Out a carol rich did roll.

19. The carol finished, just a murmured sigh
Game gently on the night, and echo low
From the breeze-fondled trees that brushed the sky.
No more. We turned away with footsteps slow,
From the mute window did we three then go,
Up the pale road from out the sleeping glen
And climbed the hill and felt the breezes blow
Upon our faces, in our hair. And then
Turned off at Patrick by the silent spectral fen.

20. Ballaspet came and went, and memories rose
Now in our minds unbidden. Years flew back.
What dream those half-forgotten girls? Who knows?
Have they lost sight of the age-clouded track?
Do they think ever of the mountains black
Rising above the cottage? Then, as now,
The sky-sea flung above its silvered wrack,
And bushes glimmered whitely. “Seest thou,”
One maid had whispered then, “that ghost?” ‘Twas but a cow.

21. And we laughed not at all their town-bred fears,
For laughter comes not in the solemn hours.
How near it is! And yet the thieving years
Have moulded the sharp outlines, and the flowers
That bloomed then now are dust. And all our powers
Cannot recall the anguish when we left
Them to return, the grief that then was ours.
All gone, all gone! A cottage void, bereft
Of laughing voices, lonely glimpsed in dark leaves’ weft.

22. The Hope! Here, too, a cottage stands where oft
We sang unto one who has lately flown
Across the seas. Each voice was muted soft
As we stole by to-night. We did not own
The sadness, but we felt it. Young grass mown
Never to spring again. Long years will pass
Ere we will meet, or reap the seeds then sown.
Again we sang. Foxdale drew near. Like glass
The damp, silvered the tent, pearled the dewy grass.