ArtMagick Illustrated Poetry Collection

Walter Howell Deverell

A Modern Idyl

Year written: 1850

Published in 'The Germ', no. 4, May 1850.

"Pride clings to age, for few and withered powers,
Which fall on youth in pleasures manifold,
Like some bright dancer with a crowd of flowers
And scented presents more than she can hold:

"Or as it were a child beneath a tree,
Who in this healthy joy holds hand and cap
Beneath the shaken boughs, and eagerly
Expects the fruit to fall into his lap."

So thought I while my cousin sat alone,
Moving with many leaves in undertone,
And, sheened as snow lit by a pale moonlight,
Her childish dress struck clearly on the sight:
That, as the lilies growing by her side
Casting their silver radiance forth with pride,
She seemed to dart an arrowy halo round,
Brightening the spring-time trees, brightening the ground;
And beauty, like keen lustre from a star,
Glorified all the garden near and far.
The sunlight smote the grey and mossy wall
Where, 'mid the leaves, the peaches one and all,
Most like twin cherubim entranced above,
Leaned their soft cheeks together, pressed in love.
As the child sat, the tendrils shook round her;
And, blended tenderly in middle air,
Gleamed the long orchard through the ivied gate:
And slanting sunbeams made the heart elate,
Startling it into gladness like the sound,--
Which echo childlike mimicks faintly round,
Blending it with the lull of some far flood,--
Of one long shout heard in a quiet wood.
A gurgling laugh far off the fountain sent,
As if the mermaid shape that in it bent
Spoke with subdued and faintest melody:
And birds sang their whole hearts spontaneously.

When from your books released, pass here    your hours,
Dear child, the sweet companion of these flowers,
These poplars, scented shrubs, and blossomed boughs
Of fruit trees, where the noisy sparrows house,
Shaking from off the leaves the beaded dew.
Now while the air is warm, the heavens blue,
Give full abandonment to all your gay
Swift childlike impulses in rompish play;--
The while    your sisters in shrill laughter shout,
Whirling above the leaves and round about,--
Until at length it drops behind the wall,--
With awkward jerks, the parti-coloured ball:
Winning a smile even from the stooping age
Of that old matron leaning on her page,
Who in the orchard takes a stroll or two,
Watching you closely yet unseen by you.

Then, tired of gambols, turn into the dark
Fir-skirted margins of your father's park;
And watch the moving shadows, as you pass,
Trace their dim network on the tufted grass,
And how on birch-trunks smooth and branches old,
The velvet moss bursts out in green and gold,
Like the rich lustre full and manifold
On breasts of birds that star the curtained gloom
From their glass cages in the drawing-room.
Mark the spring leafage bend its tender spray
Gracefully on the sky's aerial grey;
And listen how the birds so voluble
Sing joyful paeans winding to a swell,
And how the wind, fitful and mournful grieves
In gusty whirls among the dry red leaves;
And watch the minnows in the water cool,
And floating insects wrinkling all the pool.

So in your ramblings bend your earnest eyes,
High thoughts and feelings will come unto you,--
Gladness will fall upon your heart like dew,--
Because you love the earth and love the skies.

Fair pearl, the pride of all our family:
Girt with the plenitude of joys so strong,
Fashion and cushion dull can do no wrong:
Nestling your young face thus on Nature's knee.

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