Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Orchard by the Shore: A Pastoral
By Elinor Sweetman
HOW look’d your love, sweet Shepherd, yestereven,
  When under apple-boughs ye stole a tryst,
While Hesper held the glowing gates of heaven
  Ere colder stars besprent its amethyst?
Ah! happy one, how look’d those lids ye kiss’d,        5
  And seem’d her blush of half its rose bereaven
By wan green glimmer and by meadow mist,
  From grassy floor, with leaves enshadow’d o’er,
Dim filtering through the seven-score trees and seven
  Of the orchard by the shore?        10
Colin, the grass was grey and wet the sod
  O’er which I heard her velvet footfall come;
But heaven, where yet no pallid crescent rode
  Flower’d in fire behind the bloomless plum;
There stirr’d no wing nor wind, the wood was dumb,        15
  Only blown roses shook their leaves abroad
On stems more tender than an infant’s thumb—
  Soft leaves, soft hued, and curl’d like Cupid’s lip;
And each dim tree shed sweetness over me,
  From honey-dews that breathless boughs let slip        20
In the orchard by the sea.
Yea, Shepherd, I have seen how blossoms fold,
  And waded deep, where deep an orchard grows;
But what of her whose sweet ye leave untold,
  Whose step fell softer than a south-wind blows?        25
What of her beauty?—saw ye not unroll’d
  O’er little ears and throat a twine of gold?
And wore her lip the blown or budded rose?
  O did she reach through balmy pear and peach
White arms for greeting—did ye heaven hold        30
  In the orchard by the beach?
Nay, Colin, but I heard through walls of laurel
  A tide impassion’d brimming silent spaces,
Guess’d its soft weight, and knew its hoarded coral
  Given and withdrawn to shyer farther places;        35
Methought each wave shook loose in long embraces
  Wild trees and tangle over shells auroral,
And never wave but held all heaven’s faces,
  And seem’d to sweep a mirror’d moon asleep,
To break and blanch among the wet wood-sorrel,        40
  In the orchard by the deep.
O Shepherd, leave to speak of ocean-brede,
  And crescents gliding o’er the cold sea-floor;
All men may watch a risen tide recede,
  And scarlet secrets of the deep explore.        45
Were not your nymph’s fair face and footstep more
  Than foam and flake within a garden weed?
More sweet than hymning seas her sweet love-lore?
  Her hair, her hand, more soft than feathers fann’d
From sleeping doves, by small winds newly freed        50
  In the orchard by the strand?
O dull of soul and senseless! get thee gone!
  What though the lyre of him who loves be strung
To deep of heaven and deep of sea—alone
  The deep of love is evermore unsung!        55
Such music lieth hush upon the tongue.
  No, by the gods! not thou, nor any one
Shall force these stammering lips to do it wrong,
  Nor babble o’er from common door to door
What I, by favour of my gods, have known        60
  In the orchard by the shore!

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