Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Farmer's Bride / Charlotte Mew

The Farmer's Bride

     Three Summers since I chose a maid,
     Too young maybe — but more’s to do
     At harvest-time than bide and woo.
            When us was wed she turned afraid
     Of love and me and all things human;
     Like the shut of a winter’s day
     Her smile went out, and ’twasn’t a woman —
            More like a little frightened fay.
                    One night, in the Fall, she runned away.

     “Out ’mong the sheep, her be,” they said,
     ’Should properly have been abed;
     But sure enough she wasn’t there
     Lying awake with her wide brown stare.
So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down
     We chased her, flying like a hare
     Before our lanterns. To Church-Town
            All in a shiver and a scare
     We caught her, fetched her home at last
            And turned the key upon her, fast.

     She does the work about the house
     As well as most, but like a mouse:
            Happy enough to chat and play
            With birds and rabbits and such as they,
            So long as men-folk keep away.
     “Not near, not near!” her eyes beseech
     When one of us comes within reach.
            The women say that beasts in stall
            Look round like children at her call.
            I’ve hardly heard her speak at all.

     Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
     Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
     Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
     To her wild self. But what to me?

     The short days shorten and the oaks are brown,
            The blue smoke rises to the low grey sky,
     One leaf in the still air falls slowly down,
            A magpie’s spotted feathers lie
     On the black earth spread white with rime,
     The berries redden up to Christmas-time.
            What’s Christmas-time without there be
            Some other in the house than we!

            She sleeps up in the attic there
            Alone, poor maid. ’Tis but a stair
     Betwixt us. Oh! my God! the down,
     The soft young down of her, the brown,
The brown of her — her eyes, her hair, her hair!

Charlotte Mew (1869-1928)
from The Farmer's Bride, 1921

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada, the United States, and the European Union]

Charlotte Mew biography

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