Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ON THE LAND 1916, DRIVING SHEEP

The green east flows with the tides of the rose Between the bars of night, half-drawn.
The moon shines cold and faint on the fold
Where sheep glimmer, gray in the dawn.
Oh, thin like a dream their sad cries seem,
Caught high above time and space;
And old as the world, from out fleece dew-pearled, •
Gazes each meek sheep-face.
Dazed with sleep, and numb, the sheep-women come,
And open the field gate wide.
The sheep surge out in an idiot rout,
Like gray foam swept on a tide.
Keep steady, move slow, we've three miles to go
To Grantchester from Chalk Field pen.
Herd them up all the way, lest some go astray,
Of our imbecile two score and ten.
Unreasoning, blind, each poor unhinged mind
Takes its thought from the sheep next ahead.
Through each hedge gate (if you reach it too late)
They charge, wild and pale, like the dead.
Their lilting bleat, their sharp, scuttling feet,
Are strange, strange as dreams before day,
And . . . counting the sheep ... we sway . . . into sleep
And trail along . . . foolish as they.
The wide tides of gold surge, quiet and cold;
The green west turns deep blue;
The moon's worn slip very soon will dip,
Like a pale night-bird, from view.
There seems no sound in the world all round
But of horn feet and quavering cries
In the young, cold hour. . . . Like flame, like a flower,
The sun springs, huge with surprise.

by Rose Macaulay  ( 1881 - 1958)

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