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Morris, William

· William Morris: A Death Song · William Morris: Spring’s Bedfellow · William Morris: Mother and Son · William Morris: Meeting in Winter

William Morris: A Death Song

William Morris



A Death Song

What cometh here from west to east awending?

And who are these, the marchers stern and slow?

We bear the message that the rich are sending

Aback to those who bade them wake and know.

Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,

But one and all if they would dusk the day.


We asked them for a life of toilsome earning,

They bade us bide their leisure for our bread;

We craved to speak to tell our woeful learning:

We come back speechless, bearing back our dead.

Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,

But one and all if they would dusk the day.


They will not learn; they have no ears to hearken.

They turn their faces from the eyes of fate;

Their gay-lit halls shut out the skies that darken.

But, lo! this dead man knocking at the gate.

Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,

But one and all if they would dusk the day.


Here lies the sign that we shall break our prison;

Amidst the storm he won a prisoner’s rest;

But in the cloudy dawn the sun arisen

Brings us our day of work to win the best.

Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,

But one and all if they would dusk the day.


William Morris poetry

kempis poetry magazine

More in: Morris, William

William Morris: Spring’s Bedfellow

William Morris



Spring’s Bedfellow

Spring went about the woods to-day,

The soft-foot winter-thief,

And found where idle sorrow lay

‘Twixt flower and faded leaf.

She looked on him, and found him fair

For all she had been told;

She knelt adown beside him there,

And sang of days of old.


His open eyes beheld her nought,

Yet ‘gan his lips to move;

But life and deeds were in her thought,

And he would sing of love.


So sang they till their eyes did meet,

And faded fear and shame;

More bold he grew, and she more sweet,

Until they sang the same.


Until, say they who know the thing,

Their very lips did kiss,

And Sorrow laid abed with Spring

Begat an earthly bliss.

William Morris poetry

kempis poetry magazine

More in: Morris, William

William Morris: Mother and Son

W i l l i a m   M o r r i s



Mother and Son

Now sleeps the land of houses,

and dead night holds the street,

And there thou liest, my baby,

and sleepest soft and sweet;

My man is away for awhile,

but safe and alone we lie,

And none heareth thy breath but thy mother,

and the moon looking down from the sky

On the weary waste of the town,

as it looked on the grass-edged road

Still warm with yesterday’s sun,

when I left my old abode;

Hand in hand with my love,

that night of all nights in the year;

When the river of love o’erflowed

and drowned all doubt and fear,

And we two were alone in the world,

and once if never again,

We knew of the secret of earth

and the tale of its labour and pain.


Lo amidst London I lift thee,

and how little and light thou art,

And thou without hope or fear

thou fear and hope of my heart!

Lo here thy body beginning,

O son, and thy soul and thy life;

But how will it be if thou livest,

and enterest into the strife,

And in love we dwell together

when the man is grown in thee,

When thy sweet speech I shall hearken,

and yet ‘twixt thee and me

Shall rise that wall of distance,

that round each one doth grow,

And maketh it hard and bitter

each other’s thought to know.


Now, therefore, while yet thou art little

and hast no thought of thine own,

I will tell thee a word of the world;

of the hope whence thou hast grown;

Of the love that once begat thee,

of the sorrow that hath made

Thy little heart of hunger,

and thy hands on my bosom laid.

Then mayst thou remember hereafter,

as whiles when people say

All this hath happened before

in the life of another day;

So mayst thou dimly remember

this tale of thy mother’s voice,

As oft in the calm of dawning

I have heard the birds rejoice,

As oft I have heard the storm-wind

go moaning through the wood;

And I knew that earth was speaking,

and the mother’s voice was good.


Now, to thee alone will I tell it

that thy mother’s body is fair,

In the guise of the country maidens

Who play with the sun and the air;

Who have stood in the row of the reapers

in the August afternoon,

Who have sat by the frozen water

in the high day of the moon,

When the lights of the Christmas feasting

were dead in the house on the hill,

And the wild geese gone to the salt-marsh

had left the winter still.

Yea, I am fair, my firstling;

if thou couldst but remember me!

The hair that thy small hand clutcheth

is a goodly sight to see;

I am true, but my face is a snare;

soft and deep are my eyes,

And they seem for men’s beguiling

fulfilled with the dreams of the wise.

Kind are my lips, and they look

as though my soul had learned

Deep things I have never heard of,

my face and my hands are burned

By the lovely sun of the acres;

three months of London town

And thy birth-bed have bleached them indeed,

"But lo, where the edge of the gown"

(So said thy father) "is parting

the wrist that is white as the curd

From the brown of the hand that I love,

bright as the wing of a bird."


Such is thy mother, O firstling,

yet strong as the maidens of old,

Whose spears and whose swords were the warders

of homestead, of field and of fold.

Oft were my feet on the highway,

often they wearied the grass;

From dusk unto dusk of the summer

three times in a week would I pass

To the downs from the house on the river

through the waves of the blossoming corn.

Fair then I lay down in the even,

and fresh I arose on the morn,

And scarce in the noon was I weary.

Ah, son, in the days of thy strife,

If thy soul could but harbour a dream

of the blossom of my life!

It would be as the sunlit meadows

beheld from a tossing sea,

And thy soul should look on a vision

of the peace that is to be.


Yet, yet the tears on my cheek!

and what is this doth move

My heart to thy heart, beloved,

save the flood of yearning love?

For fair and fierce is thy father,

and soft and strange are his eyes

That look on the days that shall be

with the hope of the brave and the wise.

It was many a day that we laughed,

as over the meadows we walked,

And many a day I hearkened

and the pictures came as he talked;

It was many a day that we longed,

and we lingered late at eve

Ere speech from speech was sundered,

and my hand his hand could leave.

Then I wept when I was alone,

and I longed till the daylight came;

And down the stairs I stole,

and there was our housekeeping dame

(No mother of me, the foundling)

kindling the fire betimes

Ere the haymaking folk went forth

to the meadows down by the limes;

All things I saw at a glance;

the quickening fire-tongues leapt

Through the crackling heap of sticks,

and the sweet smoke up from it crept,

And close to the very hearth

the low sun flooded the floor,

And the cat and her kittens played

in the sun by the open door.

The garden was fair in the morning,

and there in the road he stood

Beyond the crimson daisies

and the bush of southernwood.

Then side by side together

through the grey-walled place we went,

And O the fear departed,

and the rest and sweet content!


Son, sorrow and wisdom he taught me,

and sore I grieved and learned

As we twain grew into one;

and the heart within me burned

With the very hopes of his heart.

Ah, son, it is piteous,

But never again in my life

shall I dare to speak to thee thus;

So may these lonely words

about thee creep and cling,

These words of the lonely night

in the days of our wayfaring.

Many a child of woman

to-night is born in the town,

The desert of folly and wrong;

and of what and whence are they grown?

Many and many an one

of wont and use is born;

For a husband is taken to bed

as a hat or a ribbon is worn.

Prudence begets her thousands;

"good is a housekeeper’s life,

So shall I sell my body

that I may be matron and wife."

"And I shall endure foul wedlock

and bear the children of need."

Some are there born of hate,

many the children of greed.

"I, I too can be wedded,

though thou my love hast got."

"I am fair and hard of heart,

and riches shall be my lot."

And all these are the good and the happy,

on whom the world dawns fair.

O son, when wilt thou learn

of those that are born of despair,

As the fabled mud of the Nile

that quickens under the sun

With a growth of creeping things,

half dead when just begun?

E’en such is the care of Nature

that man should never die,

Though she breed of the fools of the earth,

and the dregs of the city sty.

But thou, O son, O son,

of very love wert born,

When our hope fulfilled bred hope,

and fear was a folly outworn.

On the eve of the toil and the battle

all sorrow and grief we weighed,

We hoped and we were not ashamed,

we knew and we were not afraid.


Now waneth the night and the moon;

ah, son, it is piteous

That never again in my life

shall I dare to speak to thee thus.

But sure from the wise and the simple

shall the mighty come to birth;

And fair were my fate, beloved,

if I be yet on the earth

When the world is awaken at last,

and from mouth to mouth they tell

Of thy love and thy deeds and thy valour,

and thy hope that nought can quell.


William Morris poetry

kempis poetry magazine

More in: Morris, William

William Morris: Meeting in Winter

William Morris



Meeting in Winter

Winter in the world it is,

Round about the unhoped kiss

Whose dream I long have sorrowed o’er;

Round about the longing sore,

That the touch of thee shall turn

Into joy too deep to burn.


Round thine eyes and round thy mouth

Passeth no murmur of the south,

When my lips a little while

Leave thy quivering tender smile,

As we twain, hand holding hand,

Once again together stand.


Sweet is that, as all is sweet;

For the white drift shalt thou meet,

Kind and cold-cheeked and mine own,

Wrapped about with deep-furred gown

In the broad-wheeled chariot:

Then the north shall spare us not;

The wide-reaching waste of snow

Wilder, lonelier yet shall grow

As the reddened sun falls down.


But the warders of the town,

When they flash the torches out

O’er the snow amid their doubt,

And their eyes at last behold

Thy red-litten hair of gold;

Shall they open, or in fear

Cry, "Alas! What cometh here?

Whence hath come this Heavenly

To tell of all the world undone?"


They shall open, and we shall see

The long street litten scantily

By the long stream of light before

The guest-hall’s half-open door;

And our horses’ bells shall cease

As we reach the place of peace;

Thou shalt tremble, as at last

The worn threshold is o’er-past,

And the fire-light blindeth thee:

Trembling shalt thou cling to me

As the sleepy merchants stare

At thy cold hands slim and fair,

Thy soft eyes and happy lips

Worth all lading of their ships.


O my love, how sweet and sweet

That first kissing of thy feet,

When the fire is sunk alow,

And the hall made empty now

Groweth solemn, dim and vast!

O my love, the night shall last

Longer than men tell thereof

Laden with our lonely love!

William Morris poetry

kempis poetry magazine

More in: Morris, William

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