Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
Ballads of the North (1889)
I. The First of June
By Harriet Eleanor Hamilton-King (1840–1920)
LAST night I lay upon my bed,
  With sinking heart alone;
Long weeks, long months I so have lain,
  Weeping and making moan.
All May has passed; I hardly know        5
  If swift spring-rains have stirred,
There hath not broken through the dark
  One flash of flower or bird.
But sleep stole on me unawares,
  Even on me at last;        10
Though drop by drop the minutes faint
  Like hours at midnight passed.
Short was the sleep, since even now
  The summer dawn is nigh;
But health and healing it has brought;        15
  I wake—but is it I?
I feel no more these limbs of pain,
  I draw no sobbing breath,
Life has come back to me at last,
  And God remembereth.        20
How many years since I have known
  A waking glad like this:
Nay, can I once recall an hour
  So peaceful as it is?
I have forgotten when it was        25
  That I such ease have known;
What hinders me from rising up
  And going forth alone?
Why should I, too, not wander out
  Through the sweet morning mist,        30
And see the sunrise out of doors,
  That all my life I missed?
The house is hushed and sleeping,
  My footsteps noiseless fall,
From door to door, from stair to stair:        35
  Peace rest within on all!
The door is opened easily,
  I stand beneath the sky;
The old watch-dog remembers me,
  Nor stirs as I go by.        40
Here on the lawn my children play;
  Across the stile I pass,
Out of the dewy garden
  Into the meadow grass.
The grass is cool and damp and tall,        45
  It rustles to my knees:
Year after year does morning bring
  Airs upon earth like these?
And to the crimson East I turn
  The rising sun to meet,        50
The clover and the daisies dim
  All close about my feet.
The cuckoo gives the signal call
  From hill to hill unseen,
From every side the hymn of birds        55
  Fills all the fields between.
Down to the brook, across the bridge;
  Where deep and high and dank
The orchis heads crowd through the grass,
  And leaning from the bank        60
The guelder-rose dips in the stream,
  And golden flags are hung,
Out of whose midst the water-hen
  Awakens with her young.
I have heard said, the kingfisher        65
  Was used to haunt this brook,
But seen no more of latter years:
  He comes again, for—look!—
The flashing of his wings goes by
  Almost against my face:        70
He is not shy to-day, within
  This willow fringèd place.
The sun is up, the mist is cleared,
  All the still land lies fair;
As up the sloping leas I pass,        75
  The sweetest grass grows there.
All in among the crowded lambs,
  They do not run away;
The field-mice flit along the path,
  Like little friends at play.        80
The larks sing high in the blue sky
  As if in heaven they were;
I too am free and full of glee
  Out in the open air.
And now I pass th’ horizon hill        85
  That bounds my window-view;
O house of love, O house of pain,
  For how long time?—adieu.
*        *        *        *        *
Oh, I have wandered many a mile
  Through a country wild and sweet;        90
I am not tired, I do not want
  To stay, or sit, or eat.
It seems as if at last the soul
  And body were reconciled;
I think there once was such a day        95
  When I was a little child.
A wicket-gate leads to the wood,
  And as I enter through,
The speedwell from the bank looks up
  With eyes of heavenly blue.        100
The flowers smile up, the birds sing down,
  Come in, they sing and say;
The wood is dark and fragrant-fresh
  With June’s first hour and day.
I wander deep, I wander far        105
  Into the green wood’s heart;
I come unto an open space
  Where the low branches part.
Beyond the level summer lawn
  The forest oak-trees spread;        110
Under the stateliest of them all
  The moss has made a bed.
Oh, on soft couches laid in vain
  With aching limbs across,
How often have I dreamed of this—        115
  A bed of earth and moss!
There I will rest—Oh, everywhere
  Is rest and health at last;
How can such utter weariness
  So suddenly be past?        120
The wood-doves murmur over my head,
  Soon! soon! soon! for a sign:
But who is this beside me
  Whose eyes look into mine?
“Oh, can it be you come back at last?        125
  And where is it I met with you?
Are not the waste wide waters
  Of Death between us two?”
“Oh, all these years, by night and day
  I have watched beside the gate;        130
I have looked down the road that you would come,
  I have waited early and late;
I have been weary in Paradise,
  Oh, it was long to wait!
“Do you not know that you have come        135
  Across the waves in sleep?
And this is your birthday morning
  Together we will keep.”

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