Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
The Brownie
By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
A GENTLE household Spirit, unchallenged and unpaid,
Attended with his service a lonely servant-maid.
She seemed a weary woman, who had found life unkind,
Whose youth had left her early and little left behind.
Most desolate and dreary her days went on until        5
Arose this unseen stranger her labours to fulfil.
But now she walked at leisure, secure of blame she slept,
The meal was always ready, the room was always swept.
And by the cheerful firelight, the winter evenings long,
He gave her words of kindness and snatches of sweet song;—        10
With useful housewife secret and tales of faeries fair,
From times when gaunt magicians and dwarfs and giants were;—
Thus, habit closing round her, by slow degrees she nurst
A sense of trust and pleasure, where she had feared at first.
When strange desire came on her, and shook her like a storm,        15
To see this faithful being distinct in outward form.
He was so pure a nature, of so benign a will,
It could be nothing fearful, it could be nothing ill.
At first with grave denial her prayer he laid aside,
Then warning and entreaty, but all in vain, he tried.        20
The wish upgrew to passion,—she urged him more and more,—
Until, as one outwearied, but still lamenting sore,
He promised in her chamber he would attend her call,
When from the small high window the full-moon light should fall.
Most proud and glad that evening she entered to behold        25
How there her phantom Lover his presence would unfold;
When, lo! in bloody pallor lay, on the moonlit floor,
The Babe she bore and murdered some thirteen years before.

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