Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
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William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
 
The Shepherd Boy
By Marjorie L. C. Pickthall (1883–1922)
 
WHEN the red moon hangs over the fold,
And the cypress shadow is rimmed with gold,
O little sheep, I have laid me low,
My face against the old earth’s face,
Where one by one the white moths go,        5
And the brown bee has his sleeping place.
And then I have whispered, ‘Mother, hear,
For the owls are awake and the night is near,
And whether I lay me near or far
No lips shall kiss me,        10
No eye shall miss me,
Saving the eye of a cold white star.’
 
And the old brown woman answers mild,
‘Rest you safe on my heart, O child.
Many a shepherd, many a king,        15
I fold them safe from their sorrowing.
Gwenever’s heart is bound with dust,
Tristram dreams of the dappled doe,
But the bugle moulders, the blade is rust;
Stilled are the trumpets of Jericho,        20
And the tired men sleep by the walls of Troy.
Little and lonely,
Knowing me only,
Shall I not comfort you, shepherd-boy?’
 
When the wind wakes in the apple tree,        25
And the shy hare feeds on the wild fern stem,
I say my prayers to the Trinity,—
The prayers that are three and the charms that are seven
To the angels guarding the towers of heaven,—
And I lay my head on her raiment’s hem,        30
Where the young grass darkens the strawberry star,
Where the iris buds and the bellworts are.
All night I hear her breath go by
Under the arch of the empty sky.
All night her heart beats under my head,        35
And I lie as still as the ancient dead,
Warm as the young lambs there with the sheep.
I and no other,
Close to my Mother,
Fold my hands in her hands, and sleep.        40
 
 
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