The Nightingale

‘From nine o'clock till morning light
The copse was never more than grey.
The darkness did not close that night
But day passed into day.
And soon I saw it shewing new
Beyond the hurst with such a hue
As silky garden-poppies do.

A crimson East, that bids for rain.
So from the dawn was ill begun
The day that brought my lasting pain
And put away my sun.
But watching while the colour grew
I only feared the wet for you
Bound for the Harbour and your crew.

I did not mean to sleep, but found
I had slept a little and was chill.
And I could hear the tiniest sound,
The morning was so still—
The bats' wings lisping as they flew
And water draining through and through
The wood: but not a dove would coo.

You know you said the nightingale
In all our western shires was rare,
That more he shuns our special dale
Or never lodges there:
And I had thought so hitherto—
Up till that morning's fall of dew,
And now I wish that it were true.

For he began at once and shook
My head to hear. He might have strung
A row of ripples in the brook,
So forcibly he sung,
The mist upon the leaves have strewed,
And danced the balls of dew that stood
In acres all above the wood.

I thought the air must cut and strain
The windpipe when he sucked his breath
And when he turned it back again
The music must be death.
With not a thing to make me fear,
A singing bird in morning clear
To me was terrible to hear.

Yet as he changed his mighty stops
Betweens I heard the water still
All down the stair-way of the copse
And churning in the mill.
But that sweet sound which I preferred,
Your passing steps, I never heard
For warbling of the warbling bird.’

Thus Frances sighed at home, while Luke
Made headway in the frothy deep.
She listened how the sea-gust shook
And then lay back to sleep.
While he was washing from on deck
She pillowing low her lily neck
Timed her sad visions with his wreck.
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