Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

A Florilegium


I
All the seasons of the year,
I have flowers for you, dear.
When the ploughland's flecked with snow,
And the blue-eyed scyllas blow,
Gazing, through the wintry gale,
Like your eyes when you are pale;
When in many a cloistered walk
Droop upon their modest stalk
Vestal snowdrops, one by one,
White as is a wimpled nun;
When, as sleet away doth slip,
And the thawing gables drip,
The precocious crocus peers,-
Childlike, sunshine half, half tears,-
And from out the snug warm leaves
Silent housewife Winter weaves,
Scarlet windflowers, wide unfurled,
Dazzle an awakened world;
These and more to you I bring,
Bold outriders of the Spring.


II
When along the Northern skies
Routed Winter shrieks and flies,
And again the mavis shrills,
Come the dauntless daffodils,
Laughing, as they sway and swing,
At rude March's blustering.
These I gather, and with these
Rosy-white anemones,
Like the coral-shells you wear
Sometimes in your hazel hair;
Primroses loved none the less
For their wilding lavishness;
Honeysuckle, like to you,
To what's near it clinging true;
Violets, surprised in shade,
By their own sweet breath betrayed;
Lagging hawthorn prized the more
That it long was waited for;
These unto your bower I bring,
Gifts of Summer lent to Spring.


III
Which are loveliest, lilies dight
In their stateliness of white,
Safe against a touch too rude
By their cold proud maidenhood,
Or the unreservëd rose,
Careless where it gads or goes,
So it be allowed to cling,
Rioting and revelling?
Rose and lily both I cull,
Iris scarce less beautiful,
Mignonette more sweet than myrrh,
Homely-smelling lavender,
Pinks and pansies, golden whin,
Constellated jessamine,
Bunches of the maiden's-bower,
Tufts of gaudy gillyflower,
Sprays of softening maidenhair;
With my posy mount your stair
To the chamber where you sit,
Tenderly awaiting it.


IV
Then, when gorgeous Summer wanes,
Autumn woods and Winter lanes
Do I haunt, that I may dress
With their lingering loveliness
Nook and ingle where you be
Busy with your housewifery:
Ripened reedmace' barren sheaves,
Hardy hornbeam's russet leaves,
Jewels from the spindle-tree,
Coral-fruited briony,
Crimson haws and purple sloes,
Rubies that were once the rose,
Holly-berries warm in snow,
Amber-beaded misletoe,
Everything the waning year
Spares, that I may bring you, dear.


V
But should frost and rifling wind
Leave not even these behind,
And from out the leafless blast
I must come to you at last
Empty-handed, you would be
More than all the flowers to me.

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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