Read by Dr Andrew Lack, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Biology, Oxford Brookes University
This beauty made me dream there was a time Long past and irrecoverable, a clime Where any brook so radiant racing clear Through buttercup and kingcup bright as brass But gentle, nourishing the meadow grass That leans and scurries in the wind, would bear Another beauty, divine and feminine, Child to the sun, a nymph whose soul unstained Could love all day, and never hate or tire, A lover of mortal or immortal kin.
And yet, rid of this dream, ere I had drained Its poison, quieted was my desire So that I only looked into the water, Clearer than any goddess or man’s daughter, And hearkened while it combed the dark green hair And shook the millions of the blossoms white Of water-crowfoot, and curdled to one sheet The flowers fallen from the chestnuts in the park Far off. And sedge-warblers, clinging so light To willow twigs, sang longer than the lark, Quick, shrill, or grating, a song to match the heat Of the strong sun, nor less the water’s cool, Gushing through narrows, swirling in the pool. Their song that lacks all words, all melody, All sweetness almost, was dearer then to me Than sweetest voice that sings in tune sweet words. This was the best of May—the small brown birds Wisely reiterating endlessly What no man learnt yet, in or out of school.
This poem (1915) is in the public domain.