Old is the elf, and wise, men say,
His hair grows green as ours grows grey;
He mocks the stars with myriad hands.
High as that swinging forest stands.
But though in pigmy wanderings dull
I scour the deserts of his skull,
I never find the face, eyes, teeth.
Lowering or laughing underneath.
I met my foe in an empty dell,
His face in the sun was naked hell.
I thought, ’One silent, bloody blow.
No priest would curse, no crowd would know.’
Then cowered: a daisy, half concealed,
Watched for the fame of that poor field;
And in that flower and suddenly
Earth opened its one eye on me.
If the stars fell; night’s nameless dreams
Of bliss and blasphemy came true,
If skies were green and snow were gold,
And you loved me as I love you;
O long light hands and curled brown hair,
And eyes where sits a naked soul;
Dare I even then draw near and burn
My fingers in the aureole?
Yes, in the one wise foolish hour
God gives this strange strength to a man.
He can demand, though not deserve,
Where ask he cannot, seize he can.
But once the blood’s wild wedding o’er,
Were not dread his, half dark desire,
To see the Christ-child in the cot,
The Virgin Mary by the fire?
I Cut a staff in a churchyard copse,
I clad myself in ragged things,
I set a feather in my cap
That fell out of an angel’s wings.
I filled my wallet with white stones,
I took three foxgloves in my hand,
I slung my shoes across my back,
And so I went to fairyland.
But Lo, within that ancient place
Science had reared her iron crown,
And the great cloud of steam went up
That telleth where she takes a town.
But cowled with smoke and starred with lamps
That strange land’s light was still its own;
The word that witched the woods and hills
Spoke in the iron and the stone.
Not Nature’s hand had ever curved
That mute unearthly porter’s spine.
Like sleeping dragon’s sudden eyes
The signals leered along the line.
The chimneys thronging crooked or straight
Were fingers signalling the sky;
The dog that strayed across the street
Seemed four-legged by monstrosity.
‘In vain,’ I cried, ’though you
The new time’s desecrating hand,
Through all the noises of a town
I hear the heart of fairyland.’
I read the name above a door,
Then through my spirit pealed and passed:
’This is the town of thine own home,
And thou hast looked on it at last.’
I cannot count the pebbles in the brook.
Well hath He spoken: ’Swear not by thy head,
Thou knowest not the hairs,’ though He, we read,
Writes that wild number in his own strange book.