Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
By Lionel Johnson (1867–1902)
TO the fairest!
                Then to thee
Consecrate and bounden be,
Winchester! this verse of mine.
Ah, that loveliness of thine!
To have lived enchaunted years        5
Free from sorrows, free from fears,
Where thy Tower’s great shadow falls
Over those proud buttress’d walls;
Whence a purpling glory pours
From high heaven’s inheritors,        10
Throned within the arching stone!
To have wander’d, hush’d, alone,
Gently round thy fair, fern-grown
Chauntry of the Lilies, lying
Where the soft night winds go sighing        15
Round thy Cloisters, in moonlight
Branching dark, or touch’d with white:
Round old, chill aisles, where moon-smitten
Blanches the Orate, written
Under each worn old-world face        20
Graven on Death’s holy place!
To the noblest!
            None but thee.
Blest our living eyes, that see
Half a thousand years fulfill’d
Of that age, which Wykeham will’d        25
Thee to win; yet all unworn,
As upon that first March morn,
When thine honour’d city saw
Thy young beauty without flaw,
Born within her water-flowing        30
Ancient hollows, by wind-blowing
Hills enfolded evermore.
Thee, that lord of splendid lore,
Orient from old Hellas’ shore,
Grocyn, had to mother: thee,        35
Monumental majesty
Of most high philosophy
Honours, in thy wizard Browne:
Tender Otway’s dear renown,
Mover of a perfect pity,        40
Victim of the iron city,
Thine to cherish is: and thee,
Laureate of Liberty;
Harper of the Highland faith,
Elf, and faëry, and wan wraith;        45
Chaunting softly, chaunting slowly,
Minstrel of all melancholy;
Master of all melody,
Made to cling round memory;
Passion’s poet, Evening’s voice,        50
Collins glorified. Rejoice,
Mother! in thy sons: for all
Love thine immemorial
Name, august and musical.
Not least he, who left thy side,        55
For his sire’s, thine earlier pride,
Arnold: whom we mourn to-day,
Prince of song, and gone away
To his brothers of the bay:
Thine the love of all his years;        60
His be now thy praising tears.
To the dearest!

                Ah, to thee!
Hast thou not in all to me
Mother, more than mother, been?        65
Well t’ward thee may Mary Queen
Bend her with a mother’s mien;
Who so rarely dost express
An inspiring tenderness,
Woven with thy sterner strain,        70
Prelude of the world’s true pain.
But two years, and still my feet
Found thy very stones more sweet
Than the richest fields elsewhere:
Two years, and thy sacred air        75
Still pour’d balm upon me, when
Nearer drew the world of men;
When the passions, one by one,
All sprang upward to the sun;
Two years have I lived, still thine:        80
Lost, thy presence! gone, that shrine,
Where six years, what years! were mine.
Music is the thought of thee;
Fragrance all thy memory.
Those thy rugged Chambers old,        85
In their gloom and rudeness, hold
Dear remembrances of gold.
Some first blossoming of flowers
Made delight of all the hours;
Greatness, beauty, all things fair        90
Made the spirit of thine air:
Old years live with thee; thy sons
Walk with high companions.
Then, the natural joy of earth,
Joy of very health and birth!        95
Hills, upon a summer noon:
Water Meads, on eves of June:
Chamber Court, beneath the moon:
Days of spring, on Twyford Down,
Or when autumn woods grew brown,        100
As they look’d when here came Keats,
Chaunting of autumnal sweets;
Through this city of old haunts,
Murmuring immortal chaunts;
As when Pope, art’s earlier king,        105
Here, a child, did nought but sing,
Sang, a child, by nature’s rule,
Round the trees of Twyford School:
Hours of sun beside Meads’ Wall,
Ere the May began to fall;        110
Watching the rooks rise and soar,
High from lime and sycamore:
Wanderings by old-world ways,
Walks and streets of ancient days;
Closes, churches, arches, halls,        115
Vanish’d men’s memorials.
There was beauty, there was grace,
Each place was an holy place:
There the kindly fates allow’d
Me too room; and made me proud        120
(Prouder name I have not wist!)
With the name of Wykehamist.
These thy joys, and more than these:
Ah, to watch beneath thy trees,
Through long twilights linden-scented,        125
Sunsets, lingering, lamented,
In the purple west; prevented,
Ere they fell, by evening star!
Ah, long nights of Winter! far
Leaps and roars the faggot fire;        130
Ruddy smoke rolls higher, higher,
Broken through by flame’s desire;
Circling faces glow, all eyes
Take the light; deep radiance flies,
Merrily flushing overhead        135
Names of brothers, long since fled,
And fresh clusters in their stead,
Jubilant round fierce forest flame.
Friendship too must make her claim:
But what songs, what memories end,        140
When they tell of friend on friend?
And for them I thank thy name.
Love alone of gifts, no shame
Lessens, and I love thee: yet
Sound it but of echoes, let        145
This my maiden music be
Of the love I bear to thee,
Witness and interpreter,
Mother mine: loved Winchester!

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