Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Faëry Reaper
By Robert Buchanan (1841–1901)
’TIS on Eilanowen,
  There ’s laughter nightly!
For the Fays are sowing
    Their golden grain:
It springs by moonlight        5
  So stilly and brightly,
And it drinks no sunlight,
    Or silver rain;—
Tho’ the shoots upcreeping
  No man may see,        10
When men are reaping
  It reapt must be;
But to reap it rightly,
  With sickle keen,
They must lead there nightly        15
  A pure colleen!
Yes, pure completely
  Must be that maiden.
Just feeling sweetly
    Her love’s first dream.        20
Should one steal thither
  With evil laden,
The crop would wither
    In the pale moon’s beam!
For midnights seven,        25
  While all men sleep,
’Neath the silent heaven
  The maid must reap;
And the sweeter and whiter
  Of soul is she,        30
The better and brighter
  Will that harvest be!
… In Lough Bawn’s bosom
  The isle is lying,
Like a bright green blossom        35
    On a maiden’s breast—
There the water-eagle
  O’erhead is flying,
And beneath the sea-gull
    Doth build its nest.        40
And across the water
  A farm gleams fair,
And the farmer’s daughter
  Dwelt lonely there:—
And on Eilanowen        45
  She’d sit and sing,
When the Fays were sowing
  Their seeds in spring,
She could not hear them,
  Nor see them peeping;        50
Tho’ she wander’d near them
    The spring-tide thro’,
When the grouse was crowing,
  The trout was leaping,
And with hare-bells blowing        55
    The banks were blue.
But not by moonlight
  She dared to stay,
Only by sunlight
  She went that way.        60
And on Eilanowen
  They walk’d each night,
Her footprints sowing
  With lilies white!
When the sun above her        65
  Was brightly blazing,
She’d bare (God love her!)
    Each round white limb.
Unseen, unnoted,
  Save fay-folk gazing,        70
Dark hair’d, white throated,
    She’d strip to swim!
Out yonder blushing
  A space she’d stand,
Then falter flushing        75
  Across the strand,—
Till the bright still water
  Would sparkle sweet,
As it kiss’d and caught her
  From neck to feet!        80
There, sparkling round her
  With fond caresses,
It clasp’d her, crown’d her,
    My maiden fair!
Then, brighter glowing        85
  From its crystal kisses,
The bright drops flowing
    From her dripping hair,
Outleaping, running
  Beneath the sky,        90
The bright light sunning
  Her limbs, she’d fly,—
And ’mid tinkling laughter
  Of elfin bowers,
The Fays ran after        95
  With leaves and flowers!
Could the Fays behold her,
  Nor long to gain her?
From foot to shoulder
    None pure as she!        100
They cried ‘God keep her,
  No sorrow stain her!
The Faëry Reaper
    In troth she’ll be!’…
With stalks of amber        105
  And silvern ears,
From earth’s dark chamber
  The grain appears.
’Tis harvest weather!
  The moon swims high:        110
And they flock together
  With elfin cry!
Now long and truly
  I’d loved that maiden;
And served her duly        115
    With kiss and sign;
And that same season
  My soul love-laden
Had found new reason
    To wish her mine.        120
For her cheek grew paler,
  Her laughter less,
And what might ail her
  I could not guess.
Each harvest morrow        125
  We kissing met,
And with weary sorrow
  Her eyes seem’d wet.
‘Oh, speak, Mavourneen,
  What ails ye nightly?        130
For sure each morning
    ’Tis sad ye seem!’
Her eyes not weeping
  Looked on me brightly:—
‘Each night when sleeping        135
    I dream a Dream.
’Tis on Eilanowen
  I seem to be,
And bright grain growing
  I surely see;        140
A golden sickle
  My fingers keep,
And my slow tears trickle
  On what I reap!
‘The moon is gleaming,        145
  The faëries gather,
Like glow-worms gleaming,
    Their eyes flash quick;
I try while reaping
  To name ‘Our Father!’        150
But round me leaping
    They pinch and prick—
On the stalks of amber,
  On the silvern ears,
They cling, they clamber,        155
  Till day appears!
And here I’m waking
  In bed, once more,
My bones all aching,
  My heart full sore!’        160
I kiss’d her, crying
  ‘God bless your reaping!
For sure no sighing
    Can set you free.
They’ll bless your wedding        165
  Who vex your sleeping;
So do their bidding,
    Ma cushla chree!
But O, remember!
  Your fate is cast,        170
And ere December
  Hath fairly past,
The Faëry Reaper
  Must be a Bride,
Or a sad cold sleeper        175
  On the green hill-side!
‘Sure wedding ’s better
  Than dying sadly!’
She smiled, and set her
    Soft hand in mine.        180
For three nights after
  She labour’d gladly,
’Mid fairy laughter,
    And did not pine;
And when the seven        185
  Long nights were run,
Full well ’neath Heaven
  That work was done:
Their sheaves were slanted,
  Their harvest made,        190
And no more they wanted
  A mortal’s aid.
’Tis on Eilanowen
  There ’s laughter nightly,
When the Fays are sowing        195
    Their golden grain!
God bless that laughter
  That grain blow brightly!
For luck came after
    My Mary’s pain.        200
And when sweet Mary
  Was wed to me,
Sure the folk of faëry
  Were there to see:—
The white board spreading,        205
  Unheard, unseen,
They blest the wedding
  Of a pure colleen!

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.