Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
March Thoughts from England
By Margaret L. Woods (1856–1945)
O THAT I were lying under the olives,
Lying alone among the anemones!
Shell-colour’d blossoms they bloom there and scarlet,
Far under stretches of silver woodland,
Flame in the delicate shade of the olives.        5
O that I were lying under the olives!
Grey grows the thyme on the shadowless headland,
The long low headland, where white in the sunshine
The rocks run seaward. It seems suspended
Lone in an infinite gulf of azure.        10
There, were I lying under the olives,
Might I behold come following seaward,
Clear brown shapes in a world of sunshine,
A russet shepherd, his sheep too, russet.
Watch them wander the long grey headland        15
Out to the edge of the burning azure.
O that I were lying under the olives!
So should I see the far-off cities
Glittering low by the purple water,
Gleaming high on the purple mountain;        20
See where the road goes winding southward.
It passes the valleys of almond blossom,
Curves round the crag o’er the steep-hanging orchards,
Where almond and peach are aflush ’mid the olives—
Hardly the amethyst sea shines through them—        25
Over it cypress on solemn cypress
Lead to the lonely pilgrimage places.
O that I were dreaming under the olives
Hearing alone on the sun-steeped headland
A crystalline wave, almost inaudible,        30
Steal round the shore; and thin, far off,
The shepherd’s music! So did it sound
In fields Sicilian: Theocritus heard it,
Moschus and Bion piped it at noontide.
O that I were listening under the olives!        35
So should I hear behind in the woodland
The peasants talking. Either a woman,
A wrinkled grandame, stands in the sunshine,
Stirs the brown soil in an acre of violets—
Large odorous violets—and answers slowly        40
A child’s swift babble; or else at noon
The labourers come. They rest in the shadow,
Eating their dinner of herbs, and are merry.
Soft speech Provençal under the olives!
Like a queen’s raiment from days long perish’d,        45
Breathing aromas of old unremember’d
Perfumes and shining in dust-cover’d places
With sudden hints of forgotten splendour—
So on the lips of the peasant his language,
His only now, the tongue of the peasant.        50
Would I were listening under the olives!
So should I see in an airy pageant
A proud chivalrous pomp sweep by me;
Hear in high courts the joyous ladies
Devising of Love in a world of lovers;        55
Hear the song of the Lion-hearted,
A deep-voiced song—and oh! perchance,
Ghostly and strange and sweet to madness,
Rudel sing the Lady of Tripoli.

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