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Four poems by Fredegond Shove

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Four Poems of Fredegond Shove

Text by Fredegond Shove (1899-1949)

1. Motion and Stillness
2. Four Nights
3. The New Ghost
4. The Water Mill


1. Motion and Stillness

The sea shells lie as cold as death
Under the sea,
The clouds move in a wasted wreath
Eternally;
The cows sleep on the tranquil slopes
Above the bay;
The ships like evanescent hopes
Vanish away.


2. Four Nights

O when I shut my eyes in spring
A choir of heavenís swans I see,
They sail on lakes of blue, and sing
Or shelter in a willow tree:
They sing of peace in hear and mind
Such as on earth you may not find.
When I lie down in summertime
I still can hear the scythes that smite
the ripened flowers in their prime,
And still can see the meadows white.
In summertime my rest is small,
If any rest I find at all.

In autumn, when my eyes I close
I see the yellow stars ablaze
Among the tangled winds that rose
At sunset in a circled maze;
Like armoured nights they ride the skies
And prick the closed lids of my eyes.

But when in wintertime I sleep
I nothing see, nor nothing hear;
The angels in my spirit keep
A silent watch, and being there
They cause my soul to lie as dead
A stream enchanted in her bed.


3. The New Ghost

And he cast it down, down, on the green grass,
Over the young crocuses, where the dew was.
He cast the garment of his flesh that was full of death,
And like a sword his spirit showed out of the cold sheath.

He went a pace or two, he went to meet his Lord
And, as I said, his spirit looked like a clean sword,
And seeing him the naked trees began shivering
And all the birds cried out aloud as it were late spring.

And the Lord came on, He came down, and saw
That a soul was waiting there for Him, one without flaw,
And they embraced in the churchyard where the robins play,
And the daffodils hang down their heads, as they burn away.

The Lord held his head fast, and you could see
That He kissed the unsheathed ghost that was gone free
As a hot sun, on a March day, kisses the cold ground;
And the spirit answered, for he knew well that his peace was found.

The spirit trembled, and sprang up at the Lord's word,
As on a wild April day, springs a small bird,
So the ghost's feet lifting him up, he kissed the Lord's cheek,
And for the greatness of their love neither of them could speak.

But the Lord went then, to show him the way,
Over the young crocuses, under the green may
That was not quite in flower yet, to a far distant land:
And the ghost followed like a naked cloud holding the sun's hand.


4. The Water Mill

There is a mill, an ancient one,
Brown with rain, and dry with sun,
The miller's house is joined with it,
And in July the swallows flit
To and fro, in and out,
Round the windows, all about;
The mill wheel whirrs and the waters roar
Out of the dark arch by the door,
The willows toss their silver heads,
And the phloxes in the garden beds
Turn red, turn grey,
With the time of day,
And smell sweet in the rain, then die away.

The miller's cat is a tabby, she
Is as lean as a healthy cat can be,
She plays in the loft where the sunbeams stroke
The sacks' fat backs, and beetles choke
In the floury dust. The Wheel goes round
And the miller's wife sleeps fast and sound.

There is a clock inside the house,
Very tall and very bright,
It strikes the hour when shadows drowse,
Or showers make the windows white;
Loud and sweet, in rain and sun,
The clock strikes, and the work is done.
The miller's wife and his eldest girl
Clean and cook, while the mill wheels whirl.
The children take their meat to school,
And at dusk they play by the twilit pool;
Bare-foot, bare-head,
Till the day is dead,
And their mother calls them in to bed.

The supper stands on the clean-scrubbed board,
And the miller drinks like a thirsty lord;
The young men come for their daughter's sake,
But she never knows which one to take;
She drives her needle, and pins her stuff,
While the moon shines gold, and the lamp shines buff.



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