| The Englishman
written by Walter de la Mare
|Songs of Childhood (1902)|
I met a sailor in the woods,
A silver ring wore he,
His hair hung black, his eyes shone blue,
And thus he said to me:-
'What country, say, of this round earth,
What shore of what salt sea,
Be this, my son, I wander in,
And looks so strange to me?'
Says I, 'O foreign sailorman,
In England now you be,
This is her wood, and this her sky,
And that her roaring sea.'
He lifts his voice yet louder,
'What smell be this,' says he,
'My nose on the sharp morning air
Snuffs up so greedily?'
Says I, 'It is wild roses
Do smell so winsomely,
And winy briar too,' says I,
'That in these thickets be.'
'And oh!' says he, 'what leetle bird
Is singing in yon high tree,
So every shrill and long-drawn note
Like bubbles breaks in me?'
Says I, 'It is the mavis
That perches in the tree,
And sings so shrill, and sings so sweet,
When dawn comes up the sea.'
At which he fell a-musing,
And fixed his eye on me,
As one alone 'twixt light and dark
A spirit thinks to see
'England!' he whispers soft and harsh,
'England!' repeated he,
'And briar, and rose, and mavis,
A-singing in yon high tree.
'Ye speak me true, my leetle son,
So - so, it came to me,
A-drifting landwards on a spar,
And grey dawn on the sea.
'Ay, ay, I could not be mistook;
I knew them leafy trees,
I knew that land so witcherie sweet,
And that old noise of seas.
'Though here I've sailed a score of years,
And heard 'em, dream or wake,
Lap small and hollow 'gainst my cheek,
On sand and coral break;
'"Yet now, my leetle son," says I,
A-drifting on the wave,
"That land I see so safe and green
Is England, I believe.
'"And that there wood is English wood,
And this here cruel sea,
The selfsame old blue ocean
Years gone remembers me,
"A-sitting with my bread and butter
Down ahind yon chitterin' mill;
And this same Marinere" - (that's me),
"Is that same leetle Will!-
"That very same wee leetle Will
Eating his bread and butter there,
A-looking on the broad blue sea
Betwixt his yaller hair!"
'And here be I, my son, throwed up
Like corpses from the sea,
Ships, stars, winds, tempests, pirates past,
Yet leetle Will I be!'
He said no more, that sailorman,
But in a reverie
Stared like the figure of a ship
With painted eyes to sea.
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