2 Couched with her arms behind her golden head, 3 Knees and tresses folded to slip and ripple idly, 4 Lies my young love sleeping in the shade. 5 Had I the heart to slide an arm beneath her, 6 Press her parting lips as her waist I gather slow, 7 Waking in amazement she could not but embrace me: 8 Then would she hold me and never let me go? 9 Shy as the squirrel and wayward as the swallow, 10 Swift as the swallow along the river's light 11 Circleting the surface to meet his mirrored winglets, 12 Fleeter she seems in her stay than in her flight. 13 Shy as the squirrel that leaps among the pine-tops, 14 Wayward as the swallow overhead at set of sun, 15 She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer, 16 Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won! 17 When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror, 18 Tying up her laces, looping up her hair, 19 Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded, 20 More love should I have, and much less care. 21 When her mother tends her before the lighted mirror, 22 Loosening her laces, combing down her curls, 23 Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded, 24 I should miss but one for many boys and girls. 25 Heartless she is as the shadow in the meadows 26 Flying to the hills on a blue and breezy noon. 27 No, she is athirst and drinking up her wonder: 28 Earth to her is young as the slip of the new moon. 29 Deals she an unkindness, 'tis but her rapid measure, 30 Even as in a dance; and her smile can heal no less: 31 Like the swinging May-cloud that pelts the flowers with hailstones 32 Off a sunny border, she was made to bruise and bless. 33 Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping 34 Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star. 35 Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-note unvaried, 37 Darker grows the valley, more and more forgetting: 38 So were it with me if forgetting could be willed. 39 Tell the grassy hollow that holds the bubbling well-spring, 40 Tell it to forget the source that keeps it filled. 41 Stepping down the hill with her fair companions, 42 Arm in arm, all against the raying West 43 Boldly she sings, to the merry tune she marches, 44 Brave in her shape, and sweeter unpossessed. 45 Sweeter, for she is what my heart first awaking 46 Whispered the world was; morning light is she. 47 Love that so desires would fain keep her changeless; 48 Fain would fling the net, and fain have her free. 49 Happy happy time, when the white star hovers 50 Low over dim fields fresh with bloomy dew, 51 Near the face of dawn, that draws athwart the darkness, 52 Threading it with colour, as yewberries the yew. 53 Thicker crowd the shades while the grave East deepens 54 Glowing, and with crimson a long cloud swells. 55 Maiden still the morn is; and strange she is, and secret; 56 Strange her eyes; her cheeks are cold as cold sea-shells. 57 Sunrays, leaning on our southern hills and lighting 58 Wild cloud-mountains that drag the hills along, 59 Oft ends the day of your shifting brilliant laughter 60 Chill as a dull face frowning on a song. 61 Ay, but shows the South-West a ripple-feathered bosom 62 Blown to silver while the clouds are shaken and ascend 63 Scaling the mid-heavens as they stream, there comes a sunset 64 Rich, deep like love in beauty without end. 65 When at dawn she sighs, and like an infant to the window 66 Turns grave eyes craving light, released from dreams, 67 Beautiful she looks, like a white water-lily 68 Bursting out of bud in havens of the streams. 69 When from bed she rises clothed from neck to ankle 70 In her long nightgown sweet as boughs of May, 71 Beautiful she looks, like a tall garden lily 72 Pure from the night, and splendid for the day. 73 Mother of the dews, dark eye-lashed twilight, 74 Low-lidded twilight, o'er the valley's brim, 75 Rounding on thy breast sings the dew-delighted skylark, 76 Clear as though the dewdrops had their voice in him. 77 Hidden where the rose-flush drinks the rayless planet, 78 Fountain-full he pours the spraying fountain-showers. 79 Let me hear her laughter, I would have her ever 80 Cool as dew in twilight, the lark above the flowers. 81 All the girls are out with their baskets for the primrose; 82 Up lanes, woods through, they troop in joyful bands. 83 My sweet leads: she knows not why, but now she totters, 84 Eyes the bent anemones, and hangs her hands. 85 Such a look will tell that the violets are peeping, 86 Coming the rose: and unaware a cry 87 Springs in her bosom for odours and for colour, 88 Covert and the nightingale; she knows not why. 89 Kerchiefed head and chin she darts between her tulips, 90 Streaming like a willow grey in arrowy rain: 91 Some bend beaten cheek to gravel, and their angel 92 She will be; she lifts them, and on she speeds again. 93 Black the driving raincloud breasts the iron gateway: 94 She is forth to cheer a neighbour lacking mirth. 95 So when sky and grass met rolling dumb for thunder 96 Saw I once a white dove, sole light of earth. 97 Prim little scholars are the flowers of her garden, 98 Trained to stand in rows, and asking if they please. 99 I might love them well but for loving more the wild ones: 100 O my wild ones! they tell me more than these. 101 You, my wild one, you tell of honied field-rose, 102 Violet, blushing eglantine in life; and even as they, 103 They by the wayside are earnest of your goodness, 104 You are of life's, on the banks that line the way. 105 Peering at her chamber the white crowns the red rose, 106 Jasmine winds the porch with stars two and three. 107 Parted is the window; she sleeps; the starry jasmine 108 Breathes a falling breath that carries thoughts of me. 109 Sweeter unpossessed, have I said of her my sweetest? 110 Not while she sleeps: while she sleeps the jasmine breathes, 111 Luring her to love; she sleeps; the starry jasmine 112 Bears me to her pillow under white rose-wreaths. 113 Yellow with birdfoot-trefoil are the grass-glades; 114 Yellow with cinquefoil of the dew-grey leaf; 115 Yellow with stonecrop; the moss-mounds are yellow; 116 Blue-necked the wheat sways, yellowing to the sheaf: 118 Sharp as a sickle is the edge of shade and shine: 119 Earth in her heart laughs looking at the heavens, 120 Thinking of the harvest: I look and think of mine. 121 This I may know: her dressing and undressing 122 Such a change of light shows as when the skies in sport 123 Shift from cloud to moonlight; or edging over thunder 124 Slips a ray of sun; or sweeping into port 125 White sails furl; or on the ocean borders 126 White sails lean along the waves leaping green. 127 Visions of her shower before me, but from eyesight 128 Guarded she would be like the sun were she seen. 129 Front door and back of the mossed old farmhouse 130 Open with the morn, and in a breezy link 131 Freshly sparkles garden to stripe-shadowed orchard, 132 Green across a rill where on sand the minnows wink. 133 Busy in the grass the early sun of summer 134 Swarms, and the blackbird's mellow fluting notes 135 Call my darling up with round and roguish challenge: 136 Quaintest, richest carol of all the singing throats! 137 Cool was the woodside; cool as her white dairy 138 Keeping sweet the cream-pan; and there the boys from school, 139 Cricketing below, rushed brown and red with sunshine; 140 O the dark translucence of the deep-eyed cool! 141 Spying from the farm, herself she fetched a pitcher 142 Full of milk, and tilted for each in turn the beak. 143 Then a little fellow, mouth up and on tiptoe, 144 Said, "I will kiss you": she laughed and leaned her cheek. 145 Doves of the fir-wood walling high our red roof 146 Through the long noon coo, crooning through the coo. 147 Loose droop the leaves, and down the sleepy roadway 148 Sometimes pipes a chaffinch; loose droops the blue. 149 Cows flap a slow tail knee-deep in the river, 150 Breathless, given up to sun and gnat and fly. 151 Nowhere is she seen; and if I see her nowhere, 152 Lightning may come, straight rains and tiger sky. 153 O the golden sheaf, the rustling treasure-armful! 154 O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced! 155 O the treasure-tresses one another over 156 Nodding! O the girdle slack about the waist! 157 Slain are the poppies that shot their random scarlet 158 Quick amid the wheatears: wound about the waist, 159 Gathered, see these brides of Earth one blush of ripeness! 160 O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced! 161 Large and smoky red the sun's cold disk drops, 162 Clipped by naked hills, on violet shaded snow: 163 Eastward large and still lights up a bower of moonrise, 164 Whence at her leisure steps the moon aglow. 165 Nightlong on black print-branches our beech-tree 166 Gazes in this whiteness: nightlong could I. 167 Here may life on death or death on life be painted. 168 Let me clasp her soul to know she cannot die! 169 Gossips count her faults; they scour a narrow chamber 170 Where there is no window, read not heaven or her. 171 "When she was a tiny," one aged woman quavers, 172 Plucks at my heart and leads me by the ear. 173 Faults she had once as she learnt to run and tumbled: 174 Faults of feature some see, beauty not complete. 175 Yet, good gossips, beauty that makes holy 176 Earth and air, may have faults from head to feet. 177 Hither she comes; she comes to me; she lingers, 178 Deepens her brown eyebrows, while in new surprise 179 High rise the lashes in wonder of a stranger; 180 Yet am I the light and living of her eyes. 181 Something friends have told her fills her heart to brimming, 182 Nets her in her blushes, and wounds her, and tames.-- 183 Sure of her haven, O like a dove alighting, 184 Arms up, she dropped: our souls were in our names. 185 Soon will she lie like a white-frost sunrise. 186 Yellow oats and brown wheat, barley pale as rye, 187 Long since your sheaves have yielded to the thresher, 188 Felt the girdle loosened, seen the tresses fly. 189 Soon will she lie like a blood-red sunset. 190 Swift with the to-morrow, green-winged Spring! 191 Sing from the South-West, bring her back the truants, 192 Nightingale and swallow, song and dipping wing. 193 Soft new beech-leaves, up to beamy April 194 Spreading bough on bough a primrose mountain, you, 195 Lucid in the moon, raise lilies to the skyfields, 196 Youngest green transfused in silver shining through: 197 Fairer than the lily, than the wild white cherry: 198 Fair as in image my seraph love appears 199 Borne to me by dreams when dawn is at my eyelids: 200 Fair as in the flesh she swims to me on tears. 201 Could I find a place to be alone with heaven, 202 I would speak my heart out: heaven is my need. 203 Every woodland tree is flushing like the dog-wood, 205 Flushing like the dog-wood crimson in October; 206 Streaming like the flag-reed South-West blown; 207 Flashing as in gusts the sudden-lighted white beam: 208 All seem to know what is for heaven alone. Notes 1] First published in Poems (1851), in eleven stanzas. The expanded and altered edition printed here first appeared in Macmillan's Magazine (October 1878). For comparison, four stanzas of the original version (1, 2, 8, 9) are reproduced: Under yonder beech-tree standing on the green sward, Couch'd with her arms behind her little head, Her knees folded up, and her tresses on her bosom, Lies my young love sleeping in the shade. Had I the heart to slide one arm beneath her! Press her dreaming lips as her waist I folded slow, Waking on the instant she could not but embrace me-- Ah! would she hold me, and never let me go?
Shy as the squirrel, and wayward as the swallow;
Swift as the swallow when athwart the western flood. Circleting the surface he meets his mirror'd winglets,-- Is that dear one in her maiden bud. Shy as the squirrel whose nest is in the pine tops; Gentle--ah! that she were jealous of the dove! Full of all the wildness of the woodland creatures, Happy in herself is the maiden that I love!
When at dawn she wakens, and her fair face gazes
Out on the weather thro' the window panes, Then when my darling tempts the early breeze, She the only star that dies not with the dark! Powerless to speak all the ardour of my passion I catch her little hand as we listen to the lark. Back to Line 36] eve-jar: the night-jar, a bird resembling the whip-poor-will. Back to Line 204] whitebeam: a small tree with leaves white underneath. Back to Line