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DRINKWATER, John



In Lady Street


All day long the traffic goes

In Lady Street by dingy rows

Of sloven houses, tattered shops—

Fried fish, old clothes and fortune-tellers—

Tall trams on silver-shining rails,

With grinding wheels and swaying tops,

And lorries with their corded bales,

And screeching cars. “Buy, buy!” the sellers

Of rags and bones and sickening meat

Cry all day long in Lady Street.


And when the sunshine has its way

In Lady Street, then all the grey

Dull desolation grows in state

More dull and grey and desolate,

And the sun is a shamefast thing,

A lord not comely-housed, a god

Seeing what gods must blush to see,

A song where it is ill to sing,

And each gold ray despiteously

Lies like a gold ironic rod.


Yet one grey man in Lady Street

Looks for the sun. He never bent

Life to his will, his travelling feet

Have scaled no cloudy continent,

Nor has the sickle-hand been strong.

He lives in Lady Street; a bed,

Four cobwebbed walls.


But all day long

A time is singing in his head

Of youth in Gloucester lanes. He hears

The wind among the barley-blades,

The tapping of the woodpeckers

On the smooth beeches, thistle-spades

Slicing the sinewy roots; he sees

The hooded filberts in the copse

Beyond the loaded orchard trees,

The netted avenues of hops;

He smells the honeysuckle thrown

Along the hedge. He lives alone,

Alone—yet not alone, for sweet

Are Gloucester lanes in Lady Street.


Aye, Gloucester lanes. For down below
The cobwebbed room this grey man plies
A trade, a colored trade. A show
Of many-colored merchandise
Is in his shop. Brown filberts there,
And apples red with Gloucester air,
And cauliflowers he keeps, and round
Smooth marrows grown on Gloucester ground.
Fat cabbages and yellow plums,
And gaudy brave chrysanthemums.
And times a glossy pheasant lies
Among his store, not Tyrian dyes
More rich than are the neck-feathers;
And times a prize of violets,
Or dewy mushrooms satin-skinned
And times an unfamiliar wind
Robbed of its woodland favor stirs
Gay daffodils this grey man sets
Among his treasure.

All day long
In Lady Street the traffic goes
By dingy houses, desolate rows
Of shops that stare like hopeless eyes.
Day long the sellers cry their cries,
The fortune-tellers tell no wrong
Of lives that know not any right,
And drift, that has not even the will
To drift, toils through the day until
The wage of sleep is won at night.
But this grey man heeds not at all
The hell of Lady Street. His stall
Of many-colored merchandise
He makes a shining paradise,
As all day long chrysanthemums
He sells, and red and yellow plums
And cauliflowers. In that one spot
Of Lady Street the sun is not
Ashamed to shine and send a rare
Shower of color through the air;
The grey man says the sun is sweet
On Gloucester lanes in Lady Street.


The Vagabond


I know the pools where the grayling rise,

I know the trees where the filberts fall,

I know the woods where the red fox lies,

The twisted elms where the brown owls call.

And I’ve seldom a shilling to call my own,

And there’s never a girl I’d marry,

I thank the Lord I’m a rolling stone

With never a care to carry.


I talk to the stars as they come and go

On every night from July to June,

I’m free of the speech of the winds that blow,

And I know what weather will sing what tune.

I sow no seed and I pay no rent,

And I thank no man for his bounties,

But I’ve a treasure that’s never spent,

I’m lord of a dozen counties.



Cotswold Love


Blue skies are over Cotswold

And April snows go by,

The lasses turn their ribbons

For April’s in the sky,

And April is the season

When Sabbath girls are dressed,

From Rodboro’ to Campden,

In all their silken best.


An ankle is a marvel

When first the buds are brown,

And not a lass but knows it

From Stow to Gloucester town.

And not a girl goes walking

Along the Cotswold lanes

But knows men’s eyes in April

Are quicker than their brains.


It’s little that it matters,

So long as you’re alive,

If you’re eighteen in April,

Or rising sixty-five,

When April comes to Amberley

With skies of April blue,

And Cotswold girls are briding

With slyly tilted shoe.