Fragments of Richard


As void as clouds that house and harbour none,
Whose gaps and hollows are not browzed upon,
As void as those the gentle downs appear
On such a season of the day and year.
There was no bleat of ewe, no chime of wether,
Only the belled foxgloves lisp'd together.
Yet there came one who sent his flock before him,
Alone upon the hill-top, heaven o'er him,
And where the brow in first descending bow'd
He sat and wrought his outline on a cloud.
His sheep seem'd to come from it as they stept,
One and then one, along their walks, and kept
Their changing feet in flicker all the time
And to their feet the narrow bells gave rhyme.
Affined well to that sweet solitude,
He was a shepherd of the Arcadian mood
That not Arcadia knew nor Haemony.
His tale and telling has been given to me.


But what drew shepherd Richard from his downs,
And bred acquaintance of unused towns?
What put taught graces on his country lip,
And brought the sense of gentle fellowship,
That many centres found in many hearts?
What taught the humanities and the round of arts?┬░
And for the tinklings on the falls and swells
Gave the much music of our Oxford bells?


" Sylvester, come, Sylvester; you may trust
Your footing now to the much-dreaded dust,┬░
Crisp'd up and starchy from a short half-hour
Of standing to the blossom-hitting shower
That still makes counter-roundels in the pond.
A rainbow also shapes itself beyond
The shining slates and houses. Come and see.
You may quote Wordsworth, if you like, to me."
Sylvester came: they went by Cumnor hill,┬░
Met a new shower, and saw the rainbow fill
From one frail horn that crumbled to the plain
His steady wheel quite to the full again.
They watched the brush of the swift stringy drops,
Help'd by the darkness of a block of copse
Close-rooted in the downward-hollowing fields;
Then sought such leafy shelter as it yields,
And each drew bluebells up, and for relief
Took primroses, their pull'd and plotted leaf
Being not forgotten, for primroses note
The blue with brighter places not remote.


There was a meadow level almost: you traced
The river wound about it as a waist.
Beyond, the banks were steep; a brush of trees
Rounded it, thinning skywards by degrees,
With parallel shafts, — as upward-parted ashes, —
Their highest sprays were drawn as fine as lashes,
With centres duly touch'd and nestlike spots, —
And oaks, — but these were leaved in sharper knots.
Great butter-burr-leaves floor'd the slope corpse ground
Beyond the river, all the meadow's round,
And each a dinted circle. The grass was red
And long, the trees were colour'd, but the o'er-head,
Milky and dark, with an attuning stress
Controll'd them to a grey-green temperateness,
Making the shadow sweeter. A spiritual grace,
Which Wordsworth would have dwelt on, about the place
Led Richard with a sweet undoing pain
To trace some traceless loss of thought again.
Here at the very furthest reach away
(The furthest reach this side, on that the bay
Most dented) lay Sylvester, reading Keats'
Epistles, while the running pastoral bleats
Of sheep from the high fields and other wild
Sounds reach'd him. Richard came. Sylvester smiled
And said " I like this: it is almost isled,
The river spans it with so deep a hip.
I hope that all the places on our trip
Will please us so."
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