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George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953). A Treasury of War Poetry. 1917.

Walter de la Mare

The Pool Rings his Bells

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 clear 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 cloth 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!