Thomas Caulfield Irwin (1823-1892)


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The rough green wealth of wheaten fields that sway
In the low wind of midsummer all day;
The morning valley's warm perfumed breeze
Floating from southern sycamore shadowed rills,
The singing forest on the dawn-topped hills,
The living depth of azure spacing seas:
Still, brooding shadows upon mossy walls,
Aerial vapours crumbling down the heights,
Silence of woods amid green mellow lights,
And sighs of distant drizzling waterfalls:
The sweet faint breath of the short moonlit nights
From misty meadows where the quaint crake calls;
Rare pageants in the western day withdrawn,
And fleets of rich light-laden clouds at dawn.


The rainbow o'er the sea of afternoon
Whence comes the fresh sound of the distant wave;
The mirrored lights that roof the lonely cave,
Where roll the waters from the rising moon;
The airs that stir the grasses on the grave,
And whisper spirit-like to one beneath,
That love in Summer grieves no more for death:
The first sweet secret touch of lips grown dear
In happy twilight woods when none are near;
Sweet fancies just awaked at morn, when still
The level red cloud lies beyond the hill:--
Such are the thoughts and objects that appear,
To lap in sacred sadness, or inspire
Thy strings to Beauty's moods, oh, Summer lyre.


Regions of soft clear air, of cold green leaves,
Heaths, grasses, solitary as a sea:
Vistas of gold and violet radiancy,
Isles where the surge and the lone wave-bird grieves;
White-citied plains, hill-cinctured, whence there flow
Eurotean rivulets pellucidly
'Mid laurels, reeds, blue lilies;--in the glow
A cape, with sheep, and ruins like ripe sheaves;
Fallen columns smooth as aged ivory:
Some citadel remote or rocky pyre
The sunset turns to purple and to fire;
Gardens of thyme and groves of olives brown
Along the slopes Olympian vapours crown,
Like gods in commune, formless, divine and dire.


Remote from smoky cities, aged and grey,
I pass the long-drawn Summer sea-side day:
Now reading in the garden arbour where
In light and silence comes the freckled morn
When dews are on the leaf, and cool the air;
The faint wave wash is heard the beach along,
Whence a warm wind waves languidly the corn;
And poised in haze the lark shakes out her song;
Now hearing in deep grass the sweeping scythe,
And, in the sultry stillness voices blythe,
'Till day is done. Blue coolness comes once more:
The reapers bind in twilight the last sheaf,
And the fresh spring-tide foams the sloaky reef
As floats the white moon up the lonely land.


Into the wood at close of rainy day
I walk, dim cloud above, green leaves around;
Upon the humid air only the sound
Of drop on drop stirring the stillness grey:
Almost I hear the rose leaves fall away
Too heavily weighed with damp to cling o'er-blown
To their wet branches straggling o'er the copse;
Until the faint waved twilight airs entone
Tide-like along the blossom'd beech tree-tops;
And amid showers and flowers scattering, alone
Pass from the fresh dusk solitude among
Meadows in clouded moonlight, glimmeringly
Seen like the low blue hills; and hear the song
Of the last bird, and wash of the cool sea.


Awakened, I behold through dewy leaves
Wavering in the air, the pale dawn's level glow;
And hear the sparrow's twitter on the eaves,
The engine's quick steam throb, the first cock's crow:
And soon a prayer-bell toll, remote and slow:
And then a-while with light-reclosed eyes
I float upon my pillow as a cloud,
Unto a land whose snowy ruins rise
Along a plain girt by blue mountains proud;
And under solitary Egerean skies,
Bright verdure and bright marbles, in a dell
Deserted, where within a recluse well,
Through leafy lights I see a nymph's face beam,
Which fades not when in daylight dies my dream.


Upon an upland orchard's sunny side,
I pass the quiet blue September day:
There winds through tented fields they sometimes hide,
Past woods and meadows green, the dusty way,
Down to the ship-speckled level of the bay,
And amber sands in crescent spreading wide.
Last night the winds were in the trees, and here
In golden moss a few red apples lie,
And from the copse a thrush flutes strong and clear,
And faintly humming flits the emerald fly:
All things autumnalised are rich and calm;
Steam-plumed argosies surge up the main,
And o'er the singing woodlands breathing balm,
One superb white cloud passes, dropping rain.


The apples ripen under yellowing leaves,
And in the farm yards by the little bay
The shadows come and go amid the sheaves,
And on the long dry inland winding way:
Where, in the thinning boughs each air bereaves,
Faint sunlights golden, and the spider weaves.
Grey are the low-laid sleepy hills, and grey
The autumn solitude of the sea day,
Where from the deep 'mid-channel, less and less
You hear along the pale east afternoon
A sound, uncertain as the silence, swoon--
The tide's sad voice ebbing toward loneliness:
And past the sands and seas' blue level line,
Ceaseless, the faint far murmur of the brine.


An isle of trees full foliaged in a meadow,
Along whose quiet grassy shores below
The white sheep bathe in level lengths of shadow,
And sweet airs amiable as summer blow
Warmly and faint among the happy leaves,
Loving each other in a green repose
Folded; or waking in the slumbrous glow
Where the wind passing, indolently weaves
A net of lazy listless whisperings,
Most like the liquid lullaby of springs
Pulsing demure and quaintly in some cool
Dell of the woods; unseen save of some ray
Piercing the boughs, having somewhat to say
To fairies couched on bubbles round the pool.


When I had turned Catullus into rhyme,
And stars shone from the sea's blue southern zone,
Breathing in slumber tranquil as my own,
Above those pages of the antique time
Laid in a casement near me, where the vines
Trembled their shade: lo! on a sudden rose
Beautiful Venus naked amid glows
Of roseate cloud, and all the Lesbian lines
With her white finger touching as she smiled,
Stooped her, and kissed them, for a space beguiled,
'Till with a sigh she vanished. Then above
The sheaf of song in darkness I beheld
Impassioned foreheads as of poet gods
Bend their gold curls, and o'er them muse enspelled;
And wild and epic music from their abodes,
Heard blend in the high night with those of love.


Ye two fair trees that I so long have known
And loved, as living over dust so dear;
Who silently have seen tear after tear
Rise from my heart, when to the engraved stone
I came to pray, and with true love alone
Live back old times, amid a world so drear
With cares and changes of a many a year,
And loss of most things I could love or own:
Now 'mid the calm of this blue April noon
While the fresh wind breathes warm from the clear west,
Put fancy once more with thy leaves in tune
Green genial Muse of the grey grave:--for soon
By the dear dust it roofs, I too shall rest.


A roadside inn this summer Saturday:--
The doors are open to the wide warm air,
The parlour, whose old window views the bay,
Garnished with cracked delph full of flowers fair
From the fields round, and whence you see the glare
Fall heavy on the hot slate roofs and o'er
The wall's tree shadows drooping in the sun.
Now rumbles slowly down the dusty street
The lazy drover's clattering cart; and crows
Fainter through afternoon the cock; with hoes
Tan-faced harvest folk trudge in the heat:
The neighbours at their shady doors swept clean,
Gossip, and with cool eve fresh scents of wheat,
Grasses and leaves, come from the meadows green.


I walk of grey noons by the old canal
Where rain-drops patter on the autumn leaves,
Now watching from some ivied orchard wall
In slopes of stubble figures pile the sheaves;
Or under banks in shadow of their grass,
Blue water-flies by starts jettingly pass
'Mid large leaves level on the glassy cool;
Or noiseless dizzy midges winking round
The yellow sallows of the meadow pool;
While into cloudy silence ebbs each sound,
And sifts the moulting sunlight warm and mellow
O'er sandy beach remote, or slumberous flood,
Or rooky, red brick mansion by the wood,
Mossed gate, or farmyard hay-stacks tanned and yellow.


Now, winter's dolorous days are o'er, and through
March morning casements comes the sharp spring air,
And noises from the distant city, where
The steeples stand up keenly in the blue:
No more the clouds by crispy frost defined,
Pile the pale North, but float, dispersed shapes;
Though still around the cool grey twilight capes,
The sullen sea is dark with drifts of wind.
Like a forgotten fleck of snow still left,
The cascade gleams in the far mountain cleft;
Brown rushes by the river's brimming bank
Rustle, and matted sedges sway and sigh,
Where grasses in sleek shallows waver dank,
Or drift in windy ripples greyly by.


Blow, summer wind, from yonder ocean blow
Along the wild sea banks and grasses drear,
And loamy shores, where mosses brown and sere
And pale pinks in the sandy ridges grow;
Float round yon promontory in the brine,
Whose stretching arm in deepest azure lies,
Where quiet browse the heavy-uddered kine
By rock and shining shallow, grey and clear;
And fill, this listless hour, the dreamy ear
With thy scarce toned and wordless harmonies:
For here with Nature will I rest, and please
My heart with sweetest fancies all the noon,
Until the limpid crescent of the moon
Lights the blue east above the evening trees.