As Lucy went A-Walking

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As Lucy went A-Walking
written by Walter de la Mare
Songs of Childhood (1902)




    As Lucy went a-walking one wintry morning fine,
    There sate three crows upon a bough, and three times three is nine:
    Then 'O!' said Lucy, in the snow, 'it's very plain to see
    A witch has been a-walking in the fields in front of me.'

    Then stept she light and heedfully across the frozen snow,
    And plucked a bunch of elder-twigs that near a pool did grow:
    And, by and by, she comes to seven shadows in one place
    All stretched by seven poplar-trees against the sun's bright face.

    She looks to left, she looks to right, and in the midst she sees
    A little well of water clear and frozen 'neath the trees;
    Then down beside its margent in the crusty snow she kneels,
    And hears a magic belfry a-ringing with sweet bells.

    But when the belfry ceased to sound yet nothing could she see,
    Save only frozen water in the shadow of the tree.
    But presently she lifted up her eyes along the snow,
    And sees a witch in brindled shawl a-frisking to and fro.

    Her shoes were buckled scarlet that capered to and fro,
    And all her rusty locks were wreathed with twisted mistletoe;
    But never a dint, or mark, or print, in the whiteness for to see,
    Though danced she high, though danced she fast, though danced she
        lissomely.

    It seemed 'twas diamonds in the air, or little flakes of frost;
    It seemed 'twas golden smoke around, or sunbeams lightly tost;
    It seemed an elfin music like to reeds and warblers rose:
    'Nay!' Lucy said, 'it is the wind that through the branches flows.'

    And as she peeps, and as she peeps, 'tis no more one, but three,
    And eye of bat, and downy wing of owl within the tree,
    And the bells of that sweet belfry a-pealing as before,
    And now it is not three she sees, and now it is not four.

    'O! who are ye,' sweet Lucy cries, 'that in a dreadful ring,
    All muffled up in brindled shawls, do caper, frisk, and spring?'
    'A witch and witches, one and nine,' they straight to her reply,
    And looked upon her narrowly, with green and needle eye.

    Then Lucy sees in clouds of gold sweet cherry-trees upgrow,
    And bushes of red roses that bloomed above the snow;
    She smells all faint the almond-boughs that blow so wild and fair,
    And doves with milky eyes ascend fluttering in the air.

    Clear flow'rs she sees, like tulip buds, go floating by like birds,
    With wavering tips that warbled sweetly strange enchanted words;
    And as with ropes of amethyst the boughs with lamps were hung,
    And clusters of green emeralds like fruit upon them clung.

    'O witches nine, ye dreadful nine, O witches seven and three!
    Whence come these wondrous things that I this Christmas morning see?'
    But straight, as in a clap, when she of Christmas says the word,
    Here is the snow, and there the sun, but never bloom nor bird;

    Nor warbling flame, nor gloaming-rope of amethyst there shows,
    Nor bunches of green emeralds, nor belfry, well, and rose,
    Nor cloud of gold, nor cherry-tree, nor witch in brindled shawl,
    But like a dream which vanishes, so vanished were they all.

    When Lucy sees, and only sees, three crows upon a bough,
    And earthly twigs, and bushes hidden white in driven snow,
    Then 'O!' said Lucy, 'three times three is nine - I plainly see
    Some witch has been a-walking in the fields in front of me.'

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