I scrambled down to the brookside and hunted all
There wasn’t a sign of a fisherman; there wasn’t a sign of
But I heard somebody chuckle behind the hollow oak
And I got a whiff of tobacco like Lilly used to smoke.
It’s fifteen years, they tell me, since anyone
And there’s nothing in it but minnows that nibble the
bait off your hook.
But before the sun has risen and after the moon has set
I know that it’s full of ghostly trout for Lilly’s ghost to get.
I guess I’ll go to the tavern and get a bottle
And leave it down by the hollow oak, where Lilly’s ghost went by.
I meant to go up on the hillside and try to find his grave
And put some flowers on it—but this will be better for Dave.
When I am tired of earnest men,
Intense and keen and sharp and clever,
Pursuing fame with brush or pen,
Or counting metal disks forever,
Then from the halls of Shadowland,
Beyond the trackless purple sea,
Old Martin’s ghost comes back to stand
Beside my desk and talk to me.
Still on his delicate pale face
A quizzical thin smile is showing,
His cheeks are wrinkled like fine lace,
His kind blue eyes are gay and glowing.
He wears a brilliant-hued cravat,
A suit to match his soft grey hair,
A rakish stick, a knowing hat,
A manner blithe and debonair.
How good that he who always knew
That being lovely was a duty,
Should have gold halls to wander through
And should himself inhabit beauty.
How like his old unselfish way
To leave those halls of splendid mirth
And comfort those condemned to stay
Upon the dull and sombre earth.
Some people ask: “What cruel chance
Made Martin’s life so sad a story?”
Martin? Why, he exhaled romance,
And wore an overcoat of glory.
A fleck of sunlight in the street,
A horse, a book, a girl who smiled,
Such visions made each moment sweet
For this receptive ancient child.
Because it was old Martin’s lot
To be, not make, a decoration,
Shall we then scorn him, having not
His genius of appreciation?
Rich joy and love he got and gave;
His heart was merry as his dress;
Pile laurel wreaths upon his grave
Who did not gain, but was, success!
THE LISTENERS: WALTER DE LA MARE
“Is anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again the second time;
“Is there anybody there?”