I loved my love on sunny days
Until late Summer’s wane;
But now that frost begins to glaze
How should one love again? 10
Nay, love and pain
Walk wide apart in diverse ways.
I loved my love—alas to see
That this should be, alas!
I thought that this could scarcely be,
Yet has it come to pass:
Sweet sweet love was,
Now bitter bitter grown to me.
The year stood at its equinox
And bluff the North was blowing,
A bleat of lambs came from the flocks,
Green hardy things were growing;
I met a maid with shining locks
Where milky kine were lowing.
She wore a kerchief on her neck,
Her bare arm showed its dimple,
Her apron spread without a speck,
Her air was frank and simple. 10
She milked into a wooden pail
And sang a country ditty,
An innocent fond lovers’ tale,
That was not wise nor witty,
Too pointless for the city.
She kept in time without a beat
As true as church-bell ringers,
Unless she tapped time with her feet,
Or squeezed it with her fingers; 20
Her clear unstudied notes were sweet
As many a practised singer’s.
I stood a minute out of sight,
Stood silent for a minute
To eye the pail, and creamy white
The frothing milk within it;
To eye the comely milking maid
Herself so fresh and creamy:
‘Good day to you,’ at last I said;
She turned her head to see me: 30
‘Good day,’ she said with lifted head;
Her eyes looked soft and dreamy,
And all the while she milked and milked
The grave cow heavy-laden:
I’ve seen grand ladies plumed and silked,
But not a sweeter maiden;
But not a sweeter fresher maid
Than this in homely cotton,
Whose pleasant face and silky braid
I have not yet forgotten. 40
Seven springs have passed since then, as I
Count with a sober sorrow;
Seven springs have come and passed me by,
And spring sets in to-morrow.
I’ve half a mind to shake myself
Free just for once from London,
To set my work upon the shelf
And leave it done or undone;
To run down by the early train,
Whirl down with shriek and whistle, 50
And feel the bluff North blow again,
And mark the sprouting thistle
Set up on waste patch of the lane
Its green and tender bristle.
And spy the scarce-blown violet banks,
Crisp primrose leaves and others,
And watch the lambs leap at their pranks
And butt their patient mothers.
Alas, one point in all my plan
My serious thoughts demur to: 60
Seven years have passed for maid and man,
Seven years have passed for her too;