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Walter de la Mare
1873-1956

 
The Fool Rings His Bells

(~1917)

 
Come, Death, I'd have a word with thee;
And thou, poor Innocency;
And Love a lad with broken wing;
And Pity, too:
The Fool shall sing to you,
As Fools will sing.

Ay, music hath small sense,
And a tune's soon told,
And Earth is old,
And my poor wits are dense;
Yet have I secrets, dark, my dear,
To breathe you all: Come near.
And lest some hideous listener tells,
I'll ring my bells.

They're all at war!
Yes, yes, their bodies go
'Neath burning sun and icy star
To chaunted songs of woe,
Dragging cold cannon through a mud
Of rain and blood;
The new moon glinting hard on eyes
Wide with insanities!

Hush!... I use words
I hardly know the meaning of;
And the mute birds
Are glancing at Love!
From out their shade of leaf and flower,
Trembling at treacheries

Which even in noonday cower,
Heed, heed not what I said
Of frenzied hosts of men,
More fools than I,
On envy, hatred fed,
Who kill, and die
Spake I not plainly, then?
Yet Pity whispered, "Why?"

Thou silly thing, off to thy daisies go.
Mine was not news for child to know,
And Death no ears hath. He hath supped where creep
Eyeless worms in hush of sleep;
Yet, when he smiles, the hand he draws
Athwart his grinning jaws
Faintly their thin bones rattle, and.... There, there;
Hearken how my bells in the air
Drive away care!...

Nay, but a dream I had
Of a world all mad.
Not a simple happy mad like me,
Who am mad like an empty scene
Of water and willow tree,
Where the wind hath been;
But that foul Satan-mad,
Who rots in his own head,
And counts the dead,
Not honest one and two
But for the ghosts they were,
Brave, faithful, true,
When, head in air,
In Earth's dear green and blue
Heaven they did share
With Beauty who bade them there....

There, now! he goes
Old Bones; I've wearied him.
Ay, and the light doth dim,
And asleep's the rose,
And tired Innocence
In dreams is hence....
Come, Love, my lad,
Nodding that drowsy head,
'T is time thy prayers were said.

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