Victoria Sackville-West

(1892 - 1962 / England)

Making Cider


I saw within the wheelwright’s shed
The big round cartwheels, blue and red;
A plough with blunted share;
A blue tin jug; a broken chair;
And paint in trial patchwork square
Slapping up against the wall;
The lumber of the wheelwright’s trade,
And tools on benches neatly laid,
The brace, the adze, the awl;

And framed within the latticed-panes,
Above the cluttered sill,
Saw rooks upon the stubble hill
Seeking forgotten grains;

And all the air was sweet and shrill
With juice of apples heaped in skips,
Fermenting, rotten, soft and bruise,
And all the yard was strewn with pips,
Discarded pulp, and wrung-out ooze
That ducks with rummaging flat bill
Searched through beside the cider-press
To gobble in their greediness.

The young men strained upon the crank
To wring the last reluctant inch.
They laughed together, fair and frank,
And threw their loins across the winch.

A holiday from field and dung,
From plough and harrow, scythe and spade,
To dabble in another trade,
The crush the pippins in the slats,
And see that in the little vats
An extra pint was wring;
While round about the worthies stood
Profuse in comment, praise or blame,
Content the press should be of wood,
Advising rum, decrying wheat,
And black strong sugar makes it sweet,
But still resolved, with maundering tongue,
That cider could not be the same
As once when they were young;
But still the young contemptuous men
Laughed kindly at their old conceit,
And strained upon the crank again.

Now barrels ranged in portly line
Mature through winter’s sleep,
Aping the leisured sloths of wine
That dreams of Tiber or the Rhine,
Mellowing slow and deep;
But keen and cold the northern nights
Sharpen the quiet yard.
And sharp like no rich southern wine
The tang of cider bites;
For here the splintered stars and hard
Hold England in a frosty guard.
Orion and Pleiades
Above the wheelwright’s shed.
And Sirius resting on the trees
While all the village snores abed.

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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