(AET. 16.)

IN Gerald's Cottage by the hill,
     Old Gerald and his child
Innocent Maud, dwelt happily;
     He toil'd, and she beguiled
The long day at her spinning-wheel,
     In the garden now grown wild.

At Gerald's stroke the jay awoke;
     Till noon hack followed hack,
Before the nearest hill had time
     To give its echo back;
And evening mists were in the lane
     Ere Gerald's arm grew slack.

Meanwhile, below the scented heaps
     Of honeysuckle flower,
That made their simple cottage-porch
     A cool, luxurious bower,
Maud sat beside her spinning-wheel,
     And spun from hour to hour.

The growing' thread thro' her fingers sped;
     Round new the pohsh'd wheel;
Merrily rang the notes she sang
     At every finish'd reel;
From the hill again, like a glad refrain,
     Follow'd the rapid peal.

But all is changed. The rusting axe
     Reddens a wither'd bough;
A spider spins in the spinning-wheel,
     And Maud sings wildly now;
And village gossips say she knows
     Grief she may not avow.

Her secret's this: In the sweet age
     When heaven's our side the lark,
She followed her old father, where
     He work'd from dawn to dark,
For months, to thin the crowded groves
     Of the old manorial Park.

She fancied and he felt she help'd;
     And, whilst he hack'd and saw'd,
The rich Squire's son, a young boy then,
     Whole mornings, as if awed,
Stood silent by, and gazed in turn
     At Gerald and on Maud.

And sometimes, in a sullen tone
     He offer'd fruits, and she Received them always with an air
     So unreserved and free,
That shame-faced distance soon became
     Familiarity.

Therefore in time, when Gerald shook
     The woods, no longer coy,
The young- heir and the cottage-girl
     Would steal out to enjoy The sound of one another's talk,
     A simple girl and boy.

Spring after Spring, they took their walks,
     Uncheck'd, unquestion'd; yet
They learn'd to hide their wanderings
     By wood and rivulet,
Because they could not give themselves
A reason why they met.

Once Maud came weeping back. 'Poor Child!'
     Was all her father said:
And he would steady his old hand
     Upon her hapless head,
And think of her as tranquilly
     As if the child were dead.

But he is gone: and Maud steals out,
     This gentle day of June;
And having sobb'd her pain to sleep,
     Help'd by the stream's soft tune,
She rests along the willow-trunk,
     Below the calm blue noon.

The shadow of her shame and her
     Deep in the stream, behold!
Smiles quake over her parted lips;
     Some thought has made her bold;
She stoops to dip her finders in,
     To feel if it be cold.

'Tis soft and warm, and runs as 'twere
     Perpetually at play:
But then the stream, she recollects,
     Bears everything away.
There is a dull pool hard at hand
     That sleeps both night and day.

She marks the closing weeds that shut
     The water from her sight;
They stir awhile, but now are still:
     Her arms fall down; the light
Is horrible, and her countenance
     Is pale as a cloud at night,

Merrily now from the small church-tower
     Clashes a noisy chime;
The larks climb up thro' the heavenly blue,
     Carolling as they climb;
Is it the twisting water-eft
     That dimples the green slime ?

The pool reflects the scarlet West
     With a hot and guilty glow;
The East is changing ashy pale;
     But Maud will never go
While those great bubbles struggle up
     From the rotting weeds below.

The light has changed. A little since
     You scarcely might descry
The moon, now gleaming sharp and bright,
     From the small cloud slumbering nigh;
And, one by one, the timid stars
     Step out into the sky.

The night blackens the pool, but Maud
     Is constant at her post,
Sunk in a dread, unnatural sleep.
     Beneath the skiey host
Of drifting mists, thro' which the moon
     Is riding like a ghost.

Related Materials

References

Patmore, Coventry. Poems. "Seventh Collective Edition." 2 vols. London: George Bell an Son, 1900. II, 169-71.


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Last updated 25 June 2004