Foxdale Camp: Canto 7: Friday

 

1. Rain, droning rain, and a gloom that filled our hearts.
Will it never cease its funeral dirge
To the dying summer and the joy that parts
From us? Are we no more to feel the urge
To wander in the green ways? The waters surge
With sullen roar between the weeping ranks,
Weeping beneath the tempest’s cruel scourge.
Fled is the streamlet’s joy, its merry pranks
Lost in a raging ire, black rushing ‘neath its banks.

2. Mournfully to the sky the drooping bird
Rolls a wet eye and shakes bedraggled wing,
Not now his morning rhapsodies are heard,
Not now upon the streaming bough doth sing.
But frogs croak in the mud where rushes fling
Great drops upon the wind. The plaintive bleat
Of distant sheep rises and falls riding
Upon the wind and mingled with the beat
Of long slant rods of rain, a sound piteous but sweet.

3. The canvas streams, drip, drip, into the trench,
And beetles crawl there black against the grey,
Whirled off by sudden gusts that fair would wrench
The tent from off the pole to fly away
Over the mud-browned rocks and sodden clay!
Rain, droning rain, our faces long and drawn,
Eyes puffed with sleep, we gazed upon the day,
Half-night, yet past long time the distant dawn,
And slowly rose with dismal sigh and cavernous yawn.

4. Was there a ripple on the placid lake
Of Arthur’s love for Shiel? Had her sweet charms
Palled on him now? Had he become awake
To what we’d seen long since? Held her soft arms
No more attraction? Did vaguest alarms
Fill him? We know not; but this thing is true,
He chose Gleneedle of the two near farms
To visit for the eggs, and we well knew
Shiel lived not there. With pipe alight he broached the broo

5. Through the wet grass, and it was left to Charles
To visit Arthur’s love, so off he went
With many curses and fraternal snarls,
And peace again reigned in the silent tent.
But not for long. Arthur returned, quite spent
With haste, his angry shouts were loud and long
And to the wind an added bluster lent.
Then Charles returned, singing a aye a song,
Soon Primus flared and we did eat, a hungry throng.

6. Alas! But half-way through there came a crack
From my poor mug upon the swaying pole,
And sliding raindrops left a shiny track
Where they streamed from the ever-widening hole.
We finished eating quickly, sheets did roll
Back out of harm. Then to the business sprang
Of substituting my enamel bowl
For mug, and while we worked they loudly sang,
But me, for sad to see where my loved bowl did hang.

7. Long the day dragged. Amid the dripping gloom
We lay reclined and smoked incessantly.
Damp the foul air around, like a wet tomb,
The canvas glowing phosphorescently.
Silent we lay, nor spoke. But presently
Harry and I arose to bring a little cheer
To the cold hearts, and clad quite pleasantly
Acted a drama, but the atmosphere
Was not encouraging, so down we lay to hear

8. The drumming rain that beat into our brains
Almost to make us frantic. With restraint
We kept our minds in check. Then did the drains
In iodine bottle lure us. We did paint
Harry and I each other. There was no complaint
From all the rest, so to it we with zest
Plied the small brush. But Frankie near did faint
When he beheld the product, saw us dressed
In paint like savages, each with an orange breast.

9. ‘Twas five hours after noon ere some one thought
Of a suggestion that was we should eat.
We hailed it joyfully, just as we ought.
But no one thought of rising to his feet,
Till Arthur dressed and with his kit complete
Pipe in full blast he left the company,
To Eagle Farm again, not Shiel to meet.
Certain split is their true harmony!
Maybe he realised lived no worse frump than she.

10. No sooner fed than each his toilet made,
And clothed himself, and when he was attired
To his own satisfaction and arrayed
To please, he to his magazine retired.
For each of us with little sleep felt tired,
And sought to rest at any slight excuse.
Charles ready (being last), with courage fired
We threaded dewy grass in rubber shoes;
No socks, we carried them in hand, this way did choose.

11. Cold though it was, anon our feet to dry
In the old station hut beside the line
With towels warm, keeping a wary eye
Open. Towards ever the clouds rolled by, ‘twas fine.
Filled was the air with rose and eglantine.
Our hearts were merry, now, and full of bliss,
And not for other pastures did we pine,
For where was rarer happiness than this?
We reached the Captain’s house. Art gave his Shiel a kiss!

12. Haidee sat by herself upon the couch,
Mutely inviting me to sit beside
Her and to entertain. I would not vouch
For her security, so I denied
Myself such doubtful joy. Unsatisfied
Was she to be. I sought the piano stool,
And Harry, Charles and I, three of us, tried
To sing, till Charlie, like an am’rous fool
Sat by her side and talked; I thought his action cool.

13. This is our last evening, so we crammed the night
With concentrated joy. But one was sad,
Nor all Charles’ efforts could bring back the light
Into her eyes. I often caught her glad
Expectant look, but maybe I was mad,
For undisturbed my heart lay with her look.
I must have seemed to her all that was bad.
Yet now and then I seek a quiet nook
And wistful are my dream of her beside the brook.

14. At last there came the hall-clock’s silver chime.
One of the clock! Is it so very late?
Can night so soon be sped on wings of time?
Slowly we donned our coats and did debate
Who should take whom home. Sealed was Arthur’s fate!
So four of us the other took in tow,
And quickly saw her home, and at the gate
Left her with quick “Goodbye!” and gay did go
Down through the fields white-mantled in a lunar snow.