Spring, Rouen, May 1917

Ivor Gurney

If I am dumb, I am dumb!
And here's a Norman orchard and here's Spring
Goading the sullen words that will not come.
Romance, beating his distant magical drum,
Calls to a soldier bearing alien arms,
" Throw off your yoke and hear my darlings sing,
Blackbirds " (by red-roofed farms)
" More drunk than any poet with May's delight,
Green alive to the eye, and pink and white."
Joy's there, but not for me;
And song, but shall I sing
That live as in a dream of some bad night,
Whose memories are of such ecstasy
And height of passionate joy, that pain alone
Is born of beauty in cloud and flower and tree;
Yes, and the great Cathedral's towering stone.

To me these are but shadows
Of orchards and old meadows
Trodden before the dawn,
Trodden after the dusk
All loveliness of France is as a husk,
The inner living spirit of beauty gone,
To that familiar beauty now withdrawn
From exiles hungering ever for the sight
Of her day-face;
Or in some orchard space
Breathless to drink peace from her calm night.
How shall I sing, since she sings not to me
Songs any more ?
High rule she holds for ever on the sea
That's hers, but dreams too might guard the shore
Of France, that's French and set apart for ever.
A Spirit of Love our link of song does sever.
Had it been hate
(The weakest of all sworn enemies of Love)
We should have broken through or passed above
Its foolish barriers;
Here we must bow as to established Fate,
And reverently; for, comrades and high peers,
Sisters in blood,
Our mothers brook no rival in their state
Of motherhood.
But not for ever shall our travail last,
And not for ever we
Be held by iron Duty over sea.
The image of evil shall be overcast,
And all his willing slaves and priests of evil
Scattered like dust, shall lie upon the plain;
That image, ground to dust utterly level
With unregarded weeds and all as vain.

The oppressed shall lift their hearts up once again,
And we return
Not to scarred lands and homes laid in the dust,
Not with hard hearts to sights that sear and burn,
But with assured longing and certain trust,
To England's royal grace and dignity,
To England's changing skies, rich greenery,
High strength controlled, queenly serenity,
Inviolate kept by her confederate sea
And hearts resolved to every sacrifice.
We shall come home,
We shall come home again,
Living and dead, one huge victorious host —
The dead that would not leave their comrades till
The last steep were topped of the difficult hill,
The last farthing paid of the Great Cost,
The last thrill suffered of the Great Pain.

Living and dead, we shall come home at last
To her sweet breast,
England's; by one touch be paid in full
For all things grey and long and terrible
Of that dread night which seemed eternity.
O Mother, shall thy kisses not restore
Body and life-sick soul ? Yes, and set free
Songs and great floods of lovelier melody
Than thou didst give
When we those days of half-awake did live.
And joy must surely flower again more fair
To us, who dwelt in shadows and foul air.
We'll breathe and drink in song.

Spring shall blot out all traces of old care;
Her clouds of green and waves of gold among
We shall grow free of heart, and great, and young-
Be made anew in that Great Resurrection,
Perfect as is the violet's perfection.
Perfect as she
Who sanctifies our memory with sorrow,
Hugs, as a mother hugs, the thoughts that harrow,
Watching for dawn, hungering for the morrow
Lone oversea.
I am dumb now, dumb,
But in that time what music shall not come?
Mother of Beauty, Mistress of the Sea.