Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Shaded Pool
By Norman Gale (1862–1942)
A LAUGHING knot of village maids
Goes gaily tripping to the brook,
For water-nymphs they mean to be,
And seek some still, secluded nook.
Here Laura goes, my own delight,        5
And Colin’s love, the madcap Jane,
And half a score of goddesses
Trip over daisies in the plain:
Already now they loose their hair
And peep from out the tangled gold,        10
Or speed the flying foot to reach
The brook that ’s only summer-cold;
The lovely locks stream out behind
The shepherdesses on the wing,
And Laura’s is the wealth I love,        15
And Laura’s is the gold I sing.
A-row upon the bank they pant,
And all unlace the country shoe;
Their fingers tug the garter-knots
To loose the hose of varied hue.        20
The flashing knee at last appears,
The lower curves of youth and grace,
Whereat the maidens’ eyes do scan
The mazy thickets of the place.
But who ’s to see besides the thrush        25
Upon the wild crab-apple tree?
Within his branchy haunt he sits—
A very Peeping Tom is he!
Now music bubbles in his throat,
And now he pipes the scene in song—        30
The virgins slipping from their robes,
The cheated stockings lean and long,
The swift-descending petticoat,
The breasts that heave because they ran,
The rounded arms, the brilliant limbs,        35
The pretty necklaces of tan.
Did ever amorous god in Greece,
In search of some young mouth to kiss,
By any river chance upon
A sylvan scene as bright as this?        40
But though each maid is pure and fair,
For one alone my heart I bring,
And Laura’s is the shape I love,
And Laura’s is the snow I sing.
And now upon the brook’s green brink,        45
A milk-white bevy, lo, they stand,
Half shy, half frighten’d, reaching back
The beauty of a poising hand!
How musical their little screams
When ripples kiss their shrinking feet!        50
And then the brook embraces all
Till gold and white and water meet!
Within the streamlet’s soft cool arms
Delight and love and gracefulness
Sport till a horde of tiny waves        55
Swamps all the beds of floating cress:
And on his shining face are seen
Great yellow lilies drifting down
Beyond the ringing apple-tree,
Beyond the empty homespun gown.        60
Did ever Orpheus with his lute,
When making melody of old,
E’er find a stream in Attica
So ripely full of pink and gold?
At last they climb the sloping bank        65
And shake upon the thirsty soil
A treasury of diamond-drops
Not gain’d by aught of grimy toil.
Again the garters clasp the hose,
Again the polish’d knee is hid,        70
Again the breathless babble tells
What Colin said, what Colin did.
In grace upon the grass they lie
And spread their tresses to the sun,
And rival, musical as they,        75
The blackbird’s alto shake and run.
Did ever Love, on hunting bent,
Come idly humming through the hay,
And, to his sudden joyfulness,
Find fairer game at close of day?        80
Though every maid ’s a lily-rose,
And meet to sway a sceptred king,
Yet Laura’s is the face I love,
And Laura’s are the lips I sing.

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