Sydney Thompson Dobell

(1824-1874 / England)

A Shower In War-Time


Rain, rain, sweet warm rain,
On the wood and on the plain!
Rain, rain, warm and sweet,
Summer wood lush leafy and loud,
With note of a throat that ripples and rings,
Sad sole sweet from her central seat,
Bubbling and trilling,
Filling, filling, filling
The shady space of the green dim place
With an odour of melody,
Till all the noon is thrilling,
And the great wood hangs in the balmy day
Like a cloud with an angel in the cloud,
And singing because she sings!


In the sheltering wood,
At that hour I stood;
I saw that in that hour
Great round drops, clear round drops,
Grew on every leaf and flower,
And its hue so fairly took
And faintly, that each tinted elf
Trembled with a rarer self,
Even as if its beauty shook
With passion to a tenderer look.


Rain, rain, sweet warm rain,
On the wood and on the plain!
Rain, rain, warm and sweet,
Summer wood lush leafy and loud,
With note of a throat that ripples and rings,
Sad sole sweet from her central seat,
Bubbling and trilling,
Filling, filling, filling
The shady space of the green dim place
With an odour of melody,
Till all the noon is thrilling,
And the great wood hangs in the balmy day,
Like a cloud with an angel in the cloud,
And singing because she sings!


Then out of the sweet warm weather
There came a little wind sighing, sighing:
Came to the wood sighing, and sighing went in,
Sighed thro' the green grass, and o'er the leaves brown,
Sighed to the dingle, and, sighing, lay down,
While all the flowers whispered together.
Then came swift winds after her who was flying,
Swift bright winds with a jocund din,
Sought her in vain, her boscage was so good,
And spread like baffled revellers thro' the wood.
Then, from bough, and leaf, and bell,
The great round drops, the clear round drops,
In fitful cadence drooped and fell-
Drooped and fell as if some wanton air
Were more apparent here and there,
Sphered on a favourite flower in dewy kiss,
Grew heavy with delight and dropped with bliss.


Rain, rain, sweet warm rain,
On the wood and on the plain;
Rain, rain, still and sweet,
For the winds have hushed again,
And the nightingale is still,
Sleeping in her central seat.
Rain, rain, summer rain,
Silent as the summer heat.
Doth it fall, or doth it rise?
Is it incense from the hill,
Or bounty from the skies?
Or is the face of earth that lies
Languid, looking up on high,
To the face of Heaven so nigh
That their balmy breathings meet?


Rain, rain, summer rain,
On the wood and on the plain:
Rain, rain, rain, until
The tall wet trees no more athirst,
As each chalice green doth fill,
See the pigmy nations nurst
Round their distant feet, and throw
The nectar to the herbs below.
The droughty herbs, without a sound,
Drink it ere it reach the ground.


Rain, rain, sweet warm rain,
On the wood and on the plain,
And round me like a dropping well,
The great round drops they fell and fell.


I say not War is good or ill;
Perchance they may slay, if they will,
Who killing love, and loving kill.


I do not join yon captive's din;
Some man among us without sin
Perhaps may rightly lock him in.


I do not grant the Tyrant's plea;
The slaves potential to be free
Already are the Powers that be.


Whether our bloodsheds flow or cease,
I know that as the years increase,
The flower of all is human peace.


'The Flower.' Vertumnus hath repute
O'er Flora; yet methinks the fruit
But alter ego of the root;


And that which serves our fleshly need,
Subserves the blossom that doth feed
The soul which is the life indeed.


Nor well he deems who deems the rose
Is for the roseberry, nor knows
The roseberry is for the rose.


And Autumn's garnered treasury,
But prudent Nature's guarantee
That Summer evermore shall be,


And yearly, once a year, complete
That top and culmen exquisite
Whereto the slanting seasons meet.


Whether our bloodsheds flow or cease,
I know that, as the years increase,
The flower of all is human peace.


'The flower.' Yet whether shall we sow
A blossom or a seed? I know
The flower will rot, the seed will grow.


By this the rain had ceased, and I went forth
From that Dodona green of oak and beech.
But ere my steps could reach
The hamlet, I beheld along the verge
A flight of fleeing cloudlets that did urge
Unequal speed, as when a herd is driven
By the recurring pulse of shoutings loud.
I saw; but held the omen of no worth.
For by the footway not a darnel stirred,
And still the noon slept on, nor even a bird
Moved the dull air; but, at each silent hand,
Upon the steaming land
The hare lay basking, and the budded wheat
Hung slumberous heads of sleep.
Then I was 'ware that a great northern cloud
Moved slowly to the centre of the heaven.
His white head was so high
That the great blue fell round him like the wide
And ermined robe of kings. He sat in pride
Lonely and cold; but methought when he spied
From that severe inhospitable height
The distant dear delight,
The meiting world with summer at her side,
His pale brow mellowed with a mournful light,
And like a marble god he wept his stony tears.
The loyal clouds that sit about his feet,
All in their courtier kinds,
Do weep to see him weep.
After the priceless drops the sycophant winds
Leap headlong down, and chase, and swirl, and sweep
Beneath the royal grief that scarce may reach the ground.
To see their whirling zeal,
Unlikely things that in the kennel lie
Begin to wheel and wheel;
The wild tarantula-will spreads far and nigh,
And spinning straws go spiral to the sky,
And leaves long dead leap up and dance their ghastly round.
And so it happened in the street
'Neath a broad eave I stood and mused again,
And all the arrows of the driving rain
Were tipped with slanting sleet.
I mused beneath the straw pent of the bricked
And sodded cot, with damp moss mouldered o'er,
The bristled thatch gleamed with a carcanet,
And from the inner eaves the reeking wet
Dripped; dropping more
And more, as more the sappy roof was sapped,
And wept a mirkier wash that splashed and clapped
The plain-stones, dribbling to the flooded door.
A plopping pool of droppings stood before,
Worn by a weeping age in rock of easy grain.
O'erhead, hard by, a pointed beam o'erlapped,
And from its jewelled tip
The slipping slipping drip
Did whip the fillipped pool whose hopping plashes ticked.


Let one or thousands loose or bind,
That land's enslaved whose sovran mind
Collides the conscience of mankind.


And free-whoever holds the rood-
Where Might in Right, and Power in Good,
Flow each in each, like life in blood.


The age has broken from his kings!
Stop him! Behold his feet have wings.
Upon his back the hero springs.


Tho' Jack's horse run away with Jack,
Who knows, while Jack keeps on his back,
If Jack rule him or he rule Jack?


Cuckoo takes the mud away!
True the sun doth shine all day;
Cuckoo takes the mud away.


Who sneers at heirloom rank? God knows
Each man that lives, each flower that blows.
There may be lords-and a blue rose.


Even to the sod whereon you prate
This land is ours. Do you debate
How we shall manage our estate?


Norman, War granted you your lease:
The very countersign of Peace
Shows the first Lessor can release.


Therefore altho' you cannot guide,
Be wise; and spare the almighty pride
Of that mild monster that you ride.


If England's head and heart were one,
Where is that good beneath the sun
Her noble hands should leave undone!


Small unit, hast thou hardiness
To bid mankind to battle? Yes.
The worm will rout them, and is less.


The world assaults? Nor fight nor fly.
Stand in some steadfast truth, and eye
The stubborn siege grow old and die.


My army is manking. My foe
The very meanest truth I know.
Shall I come back a conqueror? No.


Wouldst light? See Phosphor shines confest,
Turn thy broad back upon the west;
Stand firm. The world will do the rest.


Stand firm. Unless thy strength can climb
Yon alp, and from that height sublime
See, ere we see, the advancing time.


Act for to-day? Friend, this 'to-day'
Washed Adam's feet and streams away
Far into yon Eternity.


Build as men steer, by chart and pole;
Care for each stone as each were sole,
Yet lay it conscious of the whole.


Sow with the signs. The wise man heeds
The seasons. Capricornus feeds
Upon the sluggard's winter seeds.


Each enterprise, or small or great,
Hath its own touchhole; watch and wait,
Find that and fire the loaded fate.


Do in few acts whate'er thou dost;
Let thy oe play to his own cost,
Who moves the oftenest errs the most.


Choose arms from Nature's armouries,
Plagues, conflagrations, storms, and seas,
For God is surety for all these.


Our town is threatened by a bear,
We've manned the thresholds far and near,
Fools! send five men to kill the bear.


Do good to him that hates thee. Good,
Still good. By physic or by food?
By letting or by stanching blood?


Do as thou wouldst be done by. See
What it were well he did to thee,
He pure as thou, thou foul as he.


Lovest thou not Peace? Aye, moralist,
Both Peace and thee. Yet well I wist
They who shut Janus did slay Christ.

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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