October 28, 2004

Hay poets born in the early nineteenth century.

Robert Nicoll (1814-1837).
“The Making o’ the Hay”

Thomas English (1819-1902).

Dora Greenwell(1821-1882).

William Allingham.William Allingham(1824-1889).
“To the Author of 'Hesperides'”

Emily Dickinson.Emily Dickinson(1830-1886).
“The Grass”

William Morris.William Morris(1834-1896).
“The Half of Life Gone”

Andrew Lang(1844-1912).
"Scythe Song"

Will Carleton(1845-1912).
“The Boy in the Mow”

Grave of J K Casey.<John Keegan Casey(1846-1870).
“The Making of the Hay”

George Barlow(1847-1914).
“The Hay-fields on the Cliff-top”

Michael Field(1848-1914).
“The Hayfield”

Ritch. Haystack and capped cocks. 1987. This section reflects the widely diverse sensibility of a period of rapid cultural and social change. Beginning with the lilting Burns-like ballad of Robert Nicoll, our anthology is dominated by a sense of nostalgic loss in the face of industrial change (English, Greenwell, Morris, Casey, Field), but also includes: a playful, brief tribute to the romantic “Hayrick” (Robert Herrick); Emily Dickinson’s typically ambiguous envy of the mortal grass (returning to the Biblical trope mentioned above); Andrew Lang’s onomatopoeic “Scythe Song;” William Carleton’s sentimental tribute to “The boy in the mow” representing rural obscurity and disappointment; and George Barlow’s late romantic lines on love and death, the sweet hay and “the scentless sea.”

Hulme. Haymaking, Shetland.Robert Nicoll (1814-1837).
“The Making o’ the Hay”
from Poems (1842)

Across the rigs we'll wander
The new-mawn hay amang,
And hear the blackbird in the wood,
And gi'e it sang for sang.
We'll gi'e it sang for sang, we will,
For ilka heart is gay,
As lads and lasses trip alang,
At making o' the hay!

It is sae sweetly scented,
It seems a maiden's breath;
Aboon, the sun has wither'd it,
But there is green beneath.
But there is caller green beneath,
Come, lasses, foot away!
The heart is dowie can be cauld,
At making o' the hay!

Step lightly o'er, gang saftly by,
Mak' rig and furrow clean,
And coil it up in fragrant heaps,---
We maun ha'e done at e'en:---
We maun ha'e done at gloaming e'en;
And when the clouds grow gray,
Ilk lad may kiss his bonnie lass
Amang the new-made hay!

Hicks. Haymaker Raking. 1863.Thomas English (1819-1902).
from The select poems (1894)

Their homage men pay to the mowing machine
Which does all the work of a dozen as one,
And, cutting a passageway smoothly and keen,
Keeps steadily on till its labor is done;
But I like to remember the primitive way
When I joined with my fellows to gather the hay,
And labor was pleasantly tempered by play.

The sweep of the scythe as it came and it went,
And the fall at its swish of the green crescent swath;
The swing of the mower with body well-bent,
As the steel gave him room on its pitiless path:
The pause for a moment each haymaker made,
When the grass clogged a little and progress was stayed,
And the clickety-click as he whetted the blade.

The farmer behind with the fork in his grip
To scatter the ridges of grass to the light,
Grim, busy and steady, no smile on his lip,
And a hope that the work would be over by night;
His glances were cast now and then to the sky,
And in fear that some sign of a rain storm was nigh,
He watched every cloud that went lazily by.

The fun of the nooning out under the trees
Where the dainties I mowed as my scythe had the grass,
[Page 246]
Where I lolled back in hope of a puff of the breeze,
And saw the gay butterflies flutter and pass,
And laughed at some worn, but yet ever new joke,
And felt my heart beat with a trip-hammer stroke
When to her I loved dearly another one spoke.
The calm hush of noonday was pleasantly stirred
By the buzz of our voices, the noise of our glee;
And once in a lull cometh notes of a bird,
Undisturbed by our presence, far up in a tree.
We sat at our ease as we chatted and laughed,
While our mugs of cool switchel we carelessly quaffed,
And thought that Jove's nectar ne'er equalled the draught.

But the frolic next day was the best of it all,
When in windrows they raked the dried grass as it lay,
The girls with us then---there was one, Katy Ball,
Our neighbor's fair daughter, who helped with the hay.
I wore her sunbonnet and she wore my hat---
I dare say I looked like a great, awkward flat;
But what did I care at the moment for that?

For at night when we loaded our wains with the crop
Till they seemed like dark blots on a background of sky,
And Katy with me rode in one on the top,
What monarch in state was so happy as I?
With my darling, all blushes, enthroned by my side,
I sat there in tremulous pleasure and pride---
Dear Katy! ah, black was the day when she died!

A wonderful thing is your mowing machine,
That sweeps o'er the meadow in merciless way;
But I sigh for the scythe, curved and tempered and keen,
And the labor and joy of the earlier day;
[Page 247]
I sigh for the toil that was mingled with fun,
The contentment we felt when the end had been won,
And the sound, peaceful slumber when daylight was done.

The lush grass of Lehigh, it grows as of yore,
The hay smells as sweetly, the sun is as bright;
But all the old glory of hay-time is o'er,
And the toil of the season has lost its delight;
The scythe and the hay rake are hung up for show,
The fork gives the tedder its place in the row;
And gone are the joys of the loved long ago.

Mann. Day Dreams. 1882.Dora Greenwell(1821-1882).
from [Poems, in] Home thoughts and home scenes (1865)]

Many a long hard-working day
Life brings us! and many an hour of play;
But they never come now together.
Playing at work, and working in play,
As they came to us children among the hay,
In the breath of the warm June weather.

Oft with our little rakes at play,
Making believe at making hay,
With grave and steadfast endeavour;
Caught by an arm, and out of sight
Hurled and hidden, and buried light
In laughter and hay for ever.

Pissarro. Haymaking. 1895.William Allingham(1824-1889).
“To the Author of 'Hesperides'” [Robert Herrick}
from Poems (1850)

Hayrick some do spell thy name,
And thy verse approves the same;
For 'tis like fresh-scented hay,---
With country lasses in't at play.

Pissarro. Rest. 1882.Emily Dickinson(1830-1886).
“The Grass”
from Poems (1890)

The grass so little has to do,---
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine,---
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

[Page 79]
And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away,---
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!

Brown. Hayfield. 1855.William Morris(1834-1896).
“The Half of Life Gone”
from The Collected Works (1910-1911)

The days have slain the days, and the seasons have gone by
And brought me the summer again; and here on the grass I lie
As erst I lay and was glad ere I meddled with right and with wrong.
Wide lies the mead as of old, and the river is creeping along
By the side of the the elm-clad bank that turns its weedy stream;
And grey o'er its hither lip the quivering rushes gleam.
There is work in the mead as of old; they are eager at winning hay,
While every sun sets bright and begets a fairer day.

The forks shine white in the sun round the yellow red-wheeled wain,
Where the mountain of hay grows fast; and now from out of the lane
Comes the ox-team drawing another, comes the bailiff and the beer,
And thump, thump, goes the farmer's nag o'er the narrow bridge of the weir.
High up and light are the clouds, and though the swallows flit
So high o'er the sunlit earth, they are well a part of it,
And so, though high over them, are the wings of the wandering herne;
In measureless depths above him doth the fair sky quiver and burn;
The dear sun floods the land as the morning falls toward noon,
And a little wind is awake in the best of the latter June.

They are busy winning the hay, and the life and the picture they make,
If I were as once I was, I should deem it made for my sake;
For here if one need not work is a place for happy rest,
While one's thought wends over the world north, south, and east and west.
There are the men and the maids, and the wives and the gaffers grey
Of the fields I know so well, and but little changed are they
Since I was a lad amongst them; and yet how great is the change!
Strange are they grown unto me; yea I to myself am strange.
Their talk and their laughter mingling with the music of the meads
Has now no meaning to me to help or to hinder my needs,
So far from them have I drifted. And yet amidst of them goes
A part of myself, my boy, and of pleasure and pain he knows,
And deems it something strange, when he is other than glad.
Lo now! the woman that stoops and kisses the face of the lad,
And puts a rake in his hand and laughs in his laughing face.
[Page 198]
Whose is the voice that laughs in the old familiar place?
Whose should it be but my love's, if my love were yet on the earth?
Could she refrain from the fields where my joy and her joy had birth,
When I was there and her child, on the grass that knew her feet
'Mid the flowers that led her on when the summer eve was sweet?

No, no, it is she no longer; never again can she come
And behold the hay-wains creeping o'er the meadows of her home;
No more can she kiss her son or put the rake in his hand
That she handled a while agone in the midst of the haymaking band.
Her laughter is gone and her life; there is no such thing on the earth,
No share for me then in the stir, no share in the hurry and mirth.

Nay, let me look and believe that all these will vanish away,
At least when the night has fallen, and that she will be there 'mid the hay,
Happy and weary with work, waiting and longing for love.
There will she be, as of old, when the great moon hung above,
There will she rise to meet me, and my hands will she hasten to take,
And thence shall we wander away, and over the ancient bridge
By many a rose-hung hedgerow, till we reach the sun-burnt ridge
And the great trench digged by the Romans: there then awhile shall we stand,
To watch the dawn come creeping o'er the fragrant lovely land,
Till all the world awaketh, and draws us down, we twain,
To the deeds of the field and the fold and the merry summer's gain.

Scyther. 1903. Andrew Lang(1844-1912).
"Scythe Song"

Mowers, weary and brown, and blithe,
What is the word methinks ye know,
Endless over-word that the Scythe
Sings to the blades of the grass below?
Scythes that swing in the grass and clover,
Something still, they say as they pass;
What is the word that, over and over,
Sings the Scythe to the flowers and grass?

Hush, ah hush, the Scythes are saying,
Hush, and heed not, and fall asleep;
Hush, they say to the grasses swaying,
Hush, they sing to the clover deep!
Hush - 'tis the lullaby Time is singing -
Hush, and heed not, for all things pass,
Hush, ah hush! and the Scythes are swinging
Over the clover and over the grass!

Hassam. Hay Barn. 1920. Will Carleton(1845-1912).
“The Boy in the Mow”
from Rhymes of our planet (1895)

There glides through the barn's mammoth door
A sweet-scented hill-top of hay;
An athlete, with strength bubbling o'er,
Now flings it in forkfuls away.
Another is stowing it back,
With white pearls of toil on his brow;
And, treading the hay in his track,
Looms faintly the boy in the mow.

Through crevices often can he
View, past the old barn-wall of brown,
A river that leads to the sea---
A railway that drives to the town.
"Oh, when shall my fortune make hay,
In yon fields of splendor, and how?
'Twill wait for full many a day:
I'm only a boy in the mow."

A cloud, like a flag from the sky,
Is splendidly spread and unrolled;
[Page 99]
The sun reaches down from on high
To fringe it with silver and gold.
"Oh when will Heaven's mercy my name
As bright as those colors allow?
But Earth has no glory or fame
To waste on a boy in a mow."

A cloud in the west, like a pall,
Creeps upward, and hangs in the light;
It carries a gloom over all---
It looks like a part of the night.
With clamor the thunder-bolts swarm,
And trees bend in agony, now;
"'Tis thus, too, that Poverty's storm
Hangs over the boy in the mow!"

The clouds have flown into a dream,
The birds are discoursing in glee,
The smile of the sun is agleam
On river and hill-top and tree.
Look up to the Heavens, little lad,
And then to your earth-duties bow;
And some day both worlds may be glad
To honor the boy from the mow!

Synge. Haymaking, Wicklow. c1900.John Keegan Casey(1846-1870).
“The Making of the Hay”
from Reliques of John K. Casey (1878)]

'Tis just a year ago,
When my heart was light and free,
Where the Inny's waters flow
Thro' a vale in Annaly,
That amid a crowd I stept
Down the flowery meadow way,
And our young hearts---how they leapt
For the making of the hay.

There were foreheads hard and brown,
Ruddy cheeks and laughing eyes;
There were pale lips from the town,
Blushing 'neath our country skies;
There were smiles would coax a saint
When he kneels at eve to pray---
Oh! no words our joy could paint
At the making of the hay.

And we "tidded," and we raked,
Till we heard the evening bell,
Then our parting thirst we slaked
In the cool and crystal well;
[Page 164]
And young Gerald from the hill
Sang a ringing gladsome lay---
Oh! what joys our hearts did fill
At the making of the hay.

And a-clinging to my side,
With her brown hair in a curl---
On her cheeks the rosy tide---
Sat my own dear little girl:
Oh! the brightness of her glance,
And the soft words she did say,
Kept my senses in a trance
At the making of the hay.

As the stars rose clear and pale
Thro' the purple of the west,
And the cool winds thro' the vale
Fann'd the mower's weary breast,
Then fair Maggie parted me
Near the twining osier bays---
Oh! she cried, what fun had we
At the making of the hay.

'Tis but a year ago,
And my heart is full of care,
For the free and gladsome flow
Of the old time is not there:
Reft of hope, and friends, and home,
With affections dull and grey,
Sure my thoughts will backward roam
To the making of the hay.

Blake. Shaking the Hay on the Coast.George Barlow(1847-1914).
“The Hay-fields on the Cliff-top”
from The Marriage Before Death (1878).

Just as the hay-fields on the cliff-top draw
Seafarers---yea, two miles away from land!
Bringing sweet thoughts of many a leafy strand,
Making more hateful the fierce wind and raw
That smites those barren furrows which they plough---
Just as the scent of hay-fields makes the hand
Tremble upon the oar, the heart crave now
For fields where flowers and grass-blades do expand:---

So, Gertrude, far away thou drawest me
From life and labour, and their scentless sea---
[Page 154]
Sweeter than hay-fields is thy spirit-breath,
Which, loved one, lures me through the gulfs of death,
More wonderful the magic of thine eyes,
Convulsed at sight of which life swoons and dies.

Stocqueler. Hay Ride. 19th c.Michael Field(1848-1914).
“The Hayfield”
from The new minnesinger (1875)

'The last load is carried,
The meadow is mown;
Then why on the scythe-track
Still wanderest lone?

'The high-loaded wagon
Has wound round the hill;
But thou in the valley
Art lingering still.
'Dost think of the voices
So cheery, so blithe?
The bloom on the grasses?
The sweep of the scythe?

[Page 39]
'The joy of the children
A-rock on the hay?
The wind-wafted fragrance?
The laughter, the play?'

'The high-loaded wagon
Has wound round the hill;
But I in the valley
Am lingering still,

'To think of their sorrow,
Whose day's work is done,
Who are not called homeward
At set of the sun.

'Whose life's tale is ended,
Or e'er the life close;
To think, for a moment,
How bitter for those

'Who in the bare stubble
Must still linger on;
The burdens all carried,
The comrades all gone.'

Posted by Alan Ritch at October 28, 2004 01:06 PM