Showing posts with label Charlotte Mew (1869–1928). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charlotte Mew (1869–1928). Show all posts

Charlotte Mew – In The Fields

Charlotte Mew-In The Fields

Lord when I look at lovely things which pass,
Under old trees the shadow of young leaves
Dancing to please the wind along the grass,
Or the gold stillness of the August sun on the August sheaves;
Can I believe there is a heavenlier world than this?
And if there is
Will the heart of any everlasting thing
Bring me these dreams that take my breath away?
They come at evening with the home-flying rooks and the scent
of hay,
Over the fields. They come in spring.

Charlotte Mew – Ken

Charlotte Mew-Ken

The town is old and very steep
    A place of bells and cloisters and grey towers,
And black-clad people walking in their sleep—
     A nun, a priest, a woman taking flowers
     To her new grave; and watched from end to end
     By the great Church above, through the still hours:
         But in the morning and the early dark
The children wake to dart from doors and call
Down the wide, crooked street, where, at the bend,
         Before it climbs up to the park,
Ken’s is in the gabled house facing the Castle wall.
When first I came upon him there
Suddenly, on the half-lit stair,
I think I hardly found a trace
Of likeness to a human face
     In his. And I said then
If in His image God made men,
Some other must have made poor Ken—
But for his eyes which looked at you
As two red, wounded stars might do.
He scarcely spoke, you scarcely heard,
His voice broke off in little jars
To tears sometimes. An uncouth bird
     He seemed as he ploughed up the street,
Groping, with knarred, high-lifted feet
     And arms thrust out as if to beat
          Always against a threat of bars.
     And oftener than not there’d be
     A child just higher than his knee
Trotting beside him. Through his dim
     Long twilight this, at least, shone clear,
     That all the children and the deer,
        Whom every day he went to see
Out in the park, belonged to him.
         “God help the folk that next him sits
         He fidgets so, with his poor wits,”
The neighbours said on Sunday nights
When he would go to Church to “see the lights!”
     Although for these he used to fix                                                          
     His eyes upon a crucifix
     In a dark corner, staring on
    Till everybody else had gone.
    And sometimes, in his evil fits,
You could not move him from his chair—
You did not look at him as he sat there,
     Biting his rosary to bits.
While pointing to the Christ he tried to say,
    “Take it away”.
     Nothing was dead:
He said “a bird” if he picked up a broken wing,
     A perished leaf or any such thing
     Was just “a rose”; and once when I had said
  He must not stand and knock there any more,
  He left a twig on the mat outside my door.
     Not long ago
The last thrush stiffened in the snow,
    While black against a sullen sky
       The sighing pines stood by.
But now the wind has left our rattled pane
To flutter the hedge-sparrow’s wing,
The birches in the wood are red again
       And only yesterday
The larks went up a little way to sing
       What lovers say
   Who loiter in the lanes to-day;
   The buds begin to talk of May
   With learned rooks on city trees,
        And if God please
       With all of these
We, too, shall see another Spring.
But in that red brick barn upon the hill
    I wonder—can one own the deer,
And does one walk with children still
        As one did here?
        Do roses grow
Beneath those twenty windows in a row—
        And if some night
When you have not seen any light
They cannot move you from your chair
        What happens there?
         I do not know.
       So, when they took
Ken to that place, I did not look
After he called and turned on me
His eyes. These I shall see—

Charlotte Mew – Madeleine in Church

Charlotte Mew-Madeleine in Church

Here, in the darkness, where this plaster saint
       Stands nearer than God stands to our distress,
And one small candle shines, but not so faint
     As the far lights of everlastingness,
I’d rather kneel than over there, in open day
     Where Christ is hanging, rather pray
         To something more like my own clay,
                     Not too divine;
         For, once, perhaps my little saint
         Before he got his niche and crown,
     Had one short stroll about the town;
     It brings him closer, just that taint—
            And anyone can wash the paint
     Off our poor faces, his and mine!

Is that why I see Monty now? equal to any saint, poor boy, as good as gold,
But still, with just the proper trace
Of earthliness on his shining wedding face;
And then gone suddenly blank and old
The hateful day of the divorce:
Stuart got his, hands down, of course
Crowing like twenty cocks and grinning like a horse:
But Monty took it hard. All said and done I liked him best,—
He was the first, he stands out clearer than the rest.
                             It seems too funny all we other rips
       Should have immortal souls; Monty and Redge quite damnably
       Keep theirs afloat while we go down like scuttled ships.—
                            It’s funny too, how easily we sink,
                            One might put up a monument, I think
               To half the world and cut across it “Lost at Sea!”
I should drown Jim, poor little sparrow, if I netted him to-night—
                         No, it’s no use this penny light—
                Or my poor saint with his tin-pot crown—
                The trees of Calvary are where they were,
                       When we are sure that we can spare
                   The tallest, let us go and strike it down
                And leave the other two still standing there.
                                         I, too, would ask Him to remember me
         If there were any Paradise beyond this earth that I could see.                          
                             Oh! quiet Christ who never knew
                     The poisonous fangs that bite us through
                              And make us do the things we do,
                     See how we suffer and fight and die,
                              How helpless and how low we lie,
                     God holds You, and You hang so high,
                     Though no one looking long at You,
                              Can think You do not suffer too,
But, up there, from your still, star-lighted tree
        What can You know, what can You really see
                Of this dark ditch, the soul of me!
                We are what we are: when I was half a child I could not sit
Watching black shadows on green lawns and red carnations burning in the sun,
                                                   Without paying so heavily for it
                That joy and pain, like any mother and her unborn child were almost one.
                                                         I could hardly bear
                                 The dreams upon the eyes of white geraniums in the dusk,
                                                 The thick, close voice of musk,
                                        The jessamine music on the thin night air,
                                  Or, sometimes, my own hands about me anywhere —
   The sight of my own face (for it was lovely then) even the scent of my own hair,
            Oh! there was nothing, nothing that did not sweep to the high seat
                     Of laughing gods, and then blow down and beat
   My soul into the highway dust, as hoofs do the dropped roses of the street.
                                            I think my body was my soul,
                                           And when we are made thus
                                                   Who shall control
                           Our hands, our eyes, the wandering passion of our feet,
                                           Who shall teach us
   To thrust the world out of our heart: to say, till perhaps in death,
                                                  When the race is run,
           And it is forced from us with our last breath
                                                  “Thy will be done”?
If it is Your will that we should be content with the tame, bloodless things.
                As pale as angels smirking by, with folded wings—
                        Oh! I know Virtue, and the peace it brings!
                                                   The temperate, well-worn smile
                The one man gives you, when you are evermore his own:
                    And afterwards the child’s, for a little while,
                                                 With its unknowing and all-seeing eyes
          So soon to change, and make you feel how quick
       The clock goes round. If one had learned the trick—
                                                            (How does one though?) quite early on,
                          Of long green pastures under placid skies,
                          One might be walking now with patient truth.
          What did we ever care for it, who have asked for youth,
                          When, oh! my God! this is going or has gone?
                              There is a portrait of my mother, at nineteen,
                     With the black spaniel, standing by the garden seat,
                     The dainty head held high against the painted green
And throwing out the youngest smile, shy, but half haughty and half sweet.
                     Her picture then: but simply Youth, or simply Spring
                                  To me to-day: a radiance on the wall,
                                  So exquisite, so heart-breaking a thing
                     Beside the mask that I remember, shrunk and small,
                                     Sapless and lined like a dead leaf,
All that was left of oh! the loveliest face, by time and grief!
    And in the glass, last night, I saw a ghost behind my chair—
    Yet why remember it, when one can still go moderately gay—?
                Or could—with any one of the old crew,
                        But oh! these boys! the solemn way
                They take you and the things they say—
                This “I have only as long as you”
    When you remind them you are not precisely twenty-two—
                Although at heart perhaps—God! if it were
                                Only the face, only the hair!
                        If Jim had written to me as he did to-day
                        A year ago—and now it leaves me cold—
                                 I know what this means, old, old, old:
                        Et avec ça—mais on a vécu, tout se paie.
That is not always true: there was my Mother (well at least the dead are free!)
                Yoked to the man that Father was; yoked to the woman I am, Monty too;
                The little portress at the Convent School, stewing in hell so patiently;
The poor, fair boy who shot himself at Aix. And what of me—and what of me ?
                But I, I paid for what I had, and they for nothing. No, one cannot see
                           How it shall be made up to them in some serene eternity.
If there were fifty heavens God could not give us back the child who went or never came;
                 Here, on our little patch of this great earth, the sun of any darkened day.
              Not one of all the starry buds hung on the hawthorn trees of last year’s May,
                              No shadow from the sloping fields of yesterday;
                 For every hour they slant across the hedge a different way,
                                 The shadows are never the same.
                     “Find rest in Him” One knows the parsons’ tags—
                 Back to the fold, across the evening fields, like any flock of baa-ing sheep:
Yes, it may be, when He has shorn, led us to slaughter, torn the bleating soul in us to rags,
                                 For so He giveth His belovèd sleep.
                             Oh! He will take us stripped and done,
                             Driven into His heart. So we are won:
                  Then safe, safe are we? in the shelter of His everlasting wings—
                  I do not envy Him his victories, His arms are full of broken things.
                         But I shall not be in them. Let Him take
                                 The finer ones, the easier to break.
And they are not gone, yet, for me, the lights, the colours, the perfumes,
                         Though now they speak rather in sumptuous rooms.
                                          In silks and in gemlike wines;
                  Here, even, in this corner where my little candle shines
                                          And overhead the lancet-window glows
                         With golds and crimsons you could almost drink 
To know how jewels taste, just as I used to think
There was the scent in every red and yellow rose
                                Of all the sunsets. But this place is grey,
                                       And much too quiet. No one here,
                                       Why, this is awful, this is fear!
                                                  Nothing to see, no face.
                         Nothing to hear except your heart beating in space
                                        As if the world was ended. Dead at last!
                                        Dead soul, dead body, tied together fast.
                         These to go on with and alone, to the slow end:
                 No one to sit with, really, or to speak to, friend to friend:
                         Out of the long procession, black or white or red
Not one left now to say “Still I am here, then see you, dear, lay here your head”.
                         Only the doll’s house looking on the Park
                 To-night, all nights, I know, when the man puts the lights out, very dark.
With, upstairs, in the blue and gold box of a room, just the maids' footsteps overhead,
Then utter silence and the empty world—the room—the bed—
                                         The corpse! No, not quite dead, while this cries out in me.
                                                          But nearly: very soon to be
                                                          A handful of forgotten dust—
                                        There must be someone. Christ! there must,
                                             Tell me there will be someone. Who?
                                        If there were no one else, could it be You?
                                        How old was Mary out of whom you cast
                 So many devils? Was she young or perhaps for years
She had sat staring, with dry eyes, at this and that man going past
                 Till suddenly she saw You on the steps of Simon’s house
                                        And stood and looked at You through tears.
                                                     I think she must have known by those
                                        The thing, for what it was that had come to her.
                                        For some of us there is a passion, I suppose,
                                        So far from earthly cares and earthly fears
                                        That in its stillness you can hardly stir
                                                     Or in its nearness, lift your hand,
                                        So great that you have simply got to stand
                                        Looking at it through tears, through tears.
                                        Then straight from these there broke the kiss,
                                                    I think You must have known by this
                                        The thing, for what it was, that had come to You:
                                                    She did not love You like the rest,
                                         It was in her own way, but at the worst, the best,
                                                    She gave You something altogether new.
                                         And through it all, from her, no word,
                                                    She scarcely saw You, scarcely heard:
                                         Surely You knew when she so touched You with her hair,
                                                    Or by the wet cheek lying there,
And while her perfume clung to You from head to feet all through the day
                                         That You can change the things for which we care,
                                         But even You, unless You kill us, not the way.
                                         This, then was peace for her, but passion too.        
                                         I wonder was it like a kiss that once I knew,
                                              The only one that I would care to take
       Into the grave with me, to which if there were afterwards, to wake.
                                              Almost as happy as the carven dead
                                         In some dim chancel lying head by head
       We slept with it, but face to face, the whole night through—
One breath, one throbbing quietness, as if the thing behind our lips was endless life,
       Lost, as I woke, to hear in the strange earthly dawn, his “Are you there?”
                                   And lie still, listening to the wind outside, among the firs.
       So Mary chose the dream of Him for what was left to her of night and day,
It is the only truth: it is the dream in us that neither life nor death nor any other
                               thing can take away:
       But if she had not touched Him in the doorway of the dream could she have
                               cared so much ?
       She was a sinner, we are what we are: the spirit afterwards, but first the touch.
And He has never shared with me my haunted house beneath the trees
Of Eden and Calvary, with its ghosts that have not any eyes for tears,
And the happier guests who would not see, or if they did, remember these,
                                                      Though they lived there a thousand years.
                                       Outside, too gravely looking at me. He seems to stand,
                                                    And looking at Him, if my forgotten spirit came
                                                            Unwillingly back, what could it claim
                                                            Of those calm eyes, that quiet speech,
                                                    Breaking like a slow tide upon the beach,
                                                            The scarred, not quite human hand ?—
                                       Unwillingly back to the burden of old imaginings
                                       When it has learned so long not to think, not to be,
              Again, again it would speak as it has spoken to me of things
                                                             That I shall not see!
              I cannot bear to look at this divinely bent and gracious head:
                     When I was small I never quite believed that He was dead:
                         And at the Convent school I used to lie awake in bed
              Thinking about His hands. It did not matter what they said,
     He was alive to me, so hurt, so hurt! And most of all in Holy Week
                                      When there was no one else to see
                              I used to think it would not hurt me too, so terribly,
                                               If He had ever seemed to notice me
                                               Or, if, for once, He would only speak.

Charlotte Mew – A Quoi Bon Dire

Charlotte Mew-A Quoi Bon Dire

Seventeen years ago you said
Something that sounded like Good-bye;
And everybody thinks that you are dead,
But I.

So I, as I grow stiff and cold
To this and that say Good-bye too;
And everybody sees that I am old
But you.

And one fine morning in a sunny lane
Some boy and girl will meet and kiss and swear
That nobody can love their way again
While over there
You will have smiled, I shall have tossed your hair.

Charlotte Mew – On the Road to the Sea

Charlotte Mew-On the Road to the Sea

We passed each other, turned and stopped for half an hour, then went our way,
I who make other women smile did not make you--
But no man can move mountains in a day.
So this hard thing is yet to do.

But first I want your life:--before I die I want to see
The world that lies behind the strangeness of your eyes,
There is nothing gay or green there for my gathering, it may be,
Yet on brown fields there lies
A haunting purple bloom: is there not something in grey skies
And in grey sea?
I want what world there is behind your eyes,
I want your life and you will not give it me.

Now, if I look, I see you walking down the years,
Young, and through August fields--a face, a thought, a swinging dream
perched on a stile--;
I would have liked (so vile we are!) to have taught you tears
But most to have made you smile.
To-day is not enough or yesterday: God sees it all--
Your length on sunny lawns, the wakeful rainy nights--; tell me--;
(how vain to ask), but it is not a question--just a call--;
Show me then, only your notched inches climbing up the garden wall,
I like you best when you are small.

Is this a stupid thing to say
Not having spent with you one day?
No matter; I shall never touch your hair
Or hear the little tick behind your breast,
Still it is there,
And as a flying bird
Brushes the branches where it may not rest
I have brushed your hand and heard
The child in you: I like that best
So small, so dark, so sweet; and were you also then too grave and wise?
Always I think. Then put your far off little hand in mine;--
Oh! let it rest;
I will not stare into the early world beyond the opening eyes,
Or vex or scare what I love best.
But I want your life before mine bleeds away--
Here--not in heavenly hereafters--soon,--
I want your smile this very afternoon,
(The last of all my vices, pleasant people used to say,
I wanted and I sometimes got--the Moon!)

You know, at dusk, the last bird's cry,
And round the house the flap of the bat's low flight,
Trees that go black against the sky
And then--how soon the night!

No shadow of you on any bright road again,
And at the darkening end of this--what voice? whose kiss? As if you'd say!
It is not I who have walked with you, it will not be I who take away
Peace, peace, my little handful of the gleaner's grain
From your reaped fields at the shut of day.

Peace! Would you not rather die
Reeling,--with all the cannons at your ear?
So, at least, would I,
And I may not be here
To-night, to-morrow morning or next year.
Still I will let you keep your life a little while,
See dear?
I have made you smile.