Archive for November 9th, 2018

Friday, 9 November 2018

Leave in 1917 by Lilian M. Anderson

Moonlight and death were on the Narrow Seas
moonlight and death and sleep were on the land:
blindfold the lamps of home, but blinding bright
the wheeling, watching, search lamps of war.

To the lone pilot,
Homing like a dove,
his England was no England. Thought he not
of night-hushed fields and elms of sleeping farms
where bats, like swallows, hawked about the eaves,
and the white moonlight still as water lay
upon the farmyard and shippen roofs.
Thought he of hidden forts and hidden camps,
of  furnaces down-slaked to darkness towns
crouched slumbering beneath the threat of death.
North-west he held till, stopping, he could read
the map-small town of Bedford. Up and on.
Northampton, fell behind him, Twenty miles,
and Avon lay, a winding thread of steel,
among its wraith-white meadows.

Low and lower
swept the still wings. Beyond the many roofs,
beyond the chimney-shafts, behind the hills,
the moon hung pallid in an empty sky.
Ached in his throat the scent of morning frost.
The wren-shrill song of every harping wire
was joyful in the silence. Coventry
was yet asleep, but one among the sheds,
new-lit on frosty grass, he found a welcome.

The crystalled dawn grew red, and the sun crept
above the sharp-rimmed hills. And Sheringham,
seeing the rays smoke white athwart the field,
knew that from dawn to dawn, and once again
from dawn to eve, pain-precious every hours,
lay –  God be thanked for it! – two days of leave.

……He travelled south and west.
And still to him his England was no England
But, rocking the motion of the train,
Half-sleeping where he stood, and sleeping quite
Whenever chance and crowds and courtesy
Would give him the leave to rest, he dreamt of war,
Of flights and stunts and crashed’ tattered dreams
Of month-old happenings.

Until at last
his drowsiness was stirred by Devon names –
Exeter, Axminster,
Starcross and Dawlish Warren
and  from his dreams he woke to level waves
that broke on tide-wet shallows
Here was his England, stripped of mail and weapons,
child-sweet and maiden gentle. Here was Spring,
her feet frost-bright among the daffodils.

Four months ago
when ice hung from the ferns beside the spring
and robins came for crumbs, had Sheringham,
new-wedded, brought his wife to Devonshire.
The little house stood half-way up the hill,
with milk-white walls, and slated paths that went
like stepping-stones, from April to October,
among a foam of flowers. Apple trees
leaned from the orchard slopes; the hillside grass
showed apple-green beneath. Four months ago
had ice hung from the ferns beside the spring;
now, he climbed the hillside. Sheringham
saw snowdrops in the grass, and heard the lambs
in the Prior’s Acre and the valley fields
calling and calling, Clear dipped the spring
beside  the orchard-gate.

And ‘God’ he prayed,
for sunset lay along the upper boughs
of every twisted tree, and emerald dusk
lay stirlessly beneath. And, still as dusk
because she feared to meet her happiness,
his wife stood waiting on the orchard-steeps.

From: https://allpoetry.com/Lilian-M-Anderson

Date: 1917

By: Lilian M. Anderson (18??-19??)

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