Thomas Aird

A Winter Day: Noon And Afternoon

 Next Poem          

Creep out and in, and shiver all the day.
But take the country wide, conquer the cold,
And in your frost-fed flush of blood enjoy
The glowing triumph of consummate health:
Heart-cheering most, when shines the mid-day sun,
Sweating the clammy brow of puckered frost
In mellower spots, to tread the rustling skirts
Of woods high hanging on the southern hill.

Stand on this height and listen. The broad noon
How meekly quiet; yet how many a sound
Distinct you catch—the cock from farm remote
To answering farm; the house-dog's deep-mouthed bay;
The petulant yaffle of the cottage cur;
The nicking sound of the slow carrier's wheels,
Far away heard; the children's nearer noise
Of sliding sport; the fagot-felling axe;
And, intermitting oft, from yonder grange
The double-flail: from out the barn-door, see,
A thin light dust hangs in the yellow sun.
That faint vibration far! back, levelled low,
Yon smoky streamer!—'tis the railway train:
'Tis near—'tis buried in the cut embanked,
And hid from sight; but puffs of fat white smoke,
Still onward onward spouting from the ground,
Tell where it is—'tis out—'tis past—'tis gone!
Down by the grange we turn. Forth lilting comes
The farm-lass, driving from the byre her cows
To water at the frosty reeking well,
Farrow, ill-haired, and lean, but frisking mad,
Tipsy with freedom: through the shrilling air
She twangs her ditty with a nasal twang.
Lo! chanticleer, his yellow legs well spurred,
Leads forth his dames along the strawy ways.
He claps his wings; he strains his clarion throat,
His blood-red comb inflamed with fiercer life,
And crows triumphant: Soul-distressing sound,
When in the pent-up city, ill at ease,
Your keen and nervous spirit cannot sleep,
Hearing him nightly from some neighbouring court!
Oft have we wished the gallinaceous tribe
Had but one neck, and that were in our hands
To twist and draw: the morrow's sun had risen
Upon a cockless and a henless world.
And yet the fellow there, so bold of blast
To sound the morn, to summon Labour up,
Is quite a social power: we'll let him live.
How lifelike now, for he has found a corn,
He lowers and lifts his swelling breast and throat,
And lowers again, with cluck peculiar; straight,
Their necks outstretched, in rocking haste, wing-helped,
His straggling dames come running all to him,
In affectation of some hoped-for prize
Great beyond measure; trulier in the pride
Of loving wifehood. He, self-dignified
That portions to his partlets thus he gives,
All to himself denied, crows forth, and round
Stalking in his uxorious majesty,
His mincing toe-tips scarcely touch the earth.

The sun goes down the early afternoon,
And soon will set. A rim of steaming haze
Above the horizon, deeper in its dye
Than the light orange of the general west,
Receives his reddened orb. As through their glades
Westward you go, a sifted dust of gold
Fills all the fir-wood tops; ruddy below
Their rough-barked stems; and aye the wings of birds
Twink with illumination, as they flit
From tree to tree across your startled eye.

That gray bowed man has seen a hundred years!
With chips and splinters from the forest roots,
To make his evening fire, he totters home,
Shuffling the withered leaves. How wonderful,
With pipes and valves so manifold and nice,
Cords, bloody knots, and tangled threads of life,
And membranes filmy fine, which plank us in
From the great ocean of Eternity,
Roaring around us, with incumbent weight
In on us pressing,—oh, how wonderful
This sherd of clay should stand a hundred years!
Home goes the poor old man; if home it be,
Where once were wife and children, but where now
Are want forlorn and ghosts of happy days.
Yet well with thee, old man! humble and frail
In earthly eyes, yet on thy going out
The angels look, and on thy coming in;
And trained by thee, not lost but gone before,
Thy family wait to have thee in the skies.

Yon upland wasted, dim-furrowed of old time,
Day loves to linger with Tradition there.
'Tis hallowed ground. By Edward bent and bowed,
Our fathers there from the sour moorland wrung
Their meagre bread; but aye, blood-earnest men,
For freedom rose they: Right, they made it Might.

Day fades. But more is left than ta'en away:
The social eve, be Winter blest for this—
Friend facing friend, mild speech, and poignant quick
The sharp clear angles of the Attic salt.
Then to the hour, the meditative hour,
Dear to the Muse. Cast large the true seed-thought,
O Son of Song: the seed-field of the world,
Great field of function, dewed with tears and blood,
Is quick of womb: sow: trust no grain will die;
Fit soil it ever finds, it roots, it grows
Rough crops of action, arts, and schemes of life,
Harvests of time, and garners in the Heavens.

Next Poem 

 Back to
Thomas Aird