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A Young Man's Exhortation

Word count: 1230

Song Cycle by Gerald Finzi (1901 - 1956)

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1. A young man's exhortation


Call off your eyes from care
By some determined deftness; put forth joys
Dear as excess without the core that cloys,
  And charm Life's lourings fair.

  Exalt and crown the hour
That girdles us, and fill it with glee,
Blind glee, excelling aught could ever be,
  Were heedfulness in power.

  Send up such touching strains
That limitless recruits from Fancy's pack
Shall rush upon your tongue, and tender back
  All that your soul contains.

  For what do we know best?
That a fresh love-leaf crumpled soon will dry,
And that men moment after moment die,
  Of all scope dispossest.

  If I have seen one thing
It is the passing preciousness of dreams;
That aspects are within us; and who seems
  Most kingly is the King.


2. Budmouth Dears


When we lay where Budmouth Beach is,
  O, the girls were fresh as peaches,
With their tall and tossing figures and their eyes of blue and brown!
  And our hearts would ache with longing
  As we paced from our sing-songing,
With a smart Clink! Clink! up the Esplanade and down.

  They distracted and delayed us
  By the pleasant pranks they played us,
And what marvel, then, if troopers, even of regiments of renown,
  On whom flashed those eyes divine, O,
  Should forget the countersign, O,
As we tore Clink! Clink! back to camp above the town.

  Do they miss us much, I wonder,
  Now that war has swept us sunder,
And we roam from where the faces smile to where the faces frown?
  And no more behold the features
  Of the fair fantastic creatures,
And no more Clink! Clink! past the parlours of the town?

  Shall we once again there meet them?
  Falter fond attempts to greet them?
Will the gay sling-jacket glow again beside the muslin gown?
  Will they archly quiz and con us
  With a sideway glance upon us,
While our spurs Clink! Clink! up the Esplanade and down?


2. Ditty


Beneath a knap where flown
  Nestlings play,
Within walls of weathered stone,
  Far away
From the files of formal houses,
By the bough the firstling browses,
Lives a Sweet: no merchants meet,
No man barters, no man sells
  Where she dwells.

Upon that fabric fair
  "Here is she!"
Seems written everywhere
  Unto me.
But to friends and nodding neighbours,
Fellow wights in lot and labours,
Who descry the times as I,
No such lucid legend tells
  Where she dwells.

Should I lapse to what I was
  Ere we met;
(Such will not be, but because
  Some forget
Let me feign it) - none would notice
That where she I know by rote is
Spread a strange and withering change,
Like a drying of the wells
  Where she dwells.

To feel I might have kissed -
  Loved as true -
Otherwhere, nor Mine have missed
  My life through,
Had I never wandered near her,
Is a smart severe - severer
In the thought that she is nought,
Even as I, beyond the dells
  Where she dwells.

And Devotion droops her glance
  To recall
What bond-servants of Chance
  We are all.
I but found her in that, going
On my errant path unknowing,
I did not out-skirt the spot
That no spot on earth excels -
  Where she dwells!


4. Her temple


Dear, think not that they will forget you:
- If craftsmanly art should be mine
I will build up a temple, and set you
		Therein as its shrine.

They may say: "Why a woman such honour?"
- Be told, "O so sweet was her fame,
That a man heaped this splendour upon her;
		None now knows his name."


5. The Comet at Yell'ham


It bends far over Yell'ham Plain,
  And we, from Yell'ham Height,
Stand and regard its fiery train,
  So soon to swim from sight.

It will return long years hence, when
  As now its strange swift shine
Will fall on Yell'ham; but not then
  On that sweet form of thine.


6. Shortening days


The first fire since the summer is lit, and is smoking into the room:
The sun-rays thread it through, like woof-lines in a loom.
Sparrows spurt from the hedge, whom misgivings appal
That winter did not leave last year for ever, after all.
  Like shock-headed urchins, spiny-haired,
  Stand pollard willows, their twigs just bared.

Who is this coming with pondering pace,
Black and ruddy, with white embossed,
His eyes being black, and ruddy his face
And the marge of his hair like morning frost?
   It's the cider-maker,
   And appletree-shaker,
And behind him on wheels, in readiness,
His mill, and tubs, and vat, and press.


7. The sigh


Little head against my shoulder, 
Shy at first, then somewhat bolder,
  And up eyed;
Till she, with a timid quaver,
Yielded to the kiss I gave her;
  But, she sighed.

That there mingled with her feeling
Some sad thought she was concealing
  It implied.
- Not that she had ceased to love me,
None on earth she set above me;
  But she sighed.

She could not disguise a passion,
Dread, or doubt, in weakest fasion
  If she tried:
Nothing seemed to hold us sundered,
Hearts were victors; so I wondered
  Why she sighed.

Afterwards I knew her thoroughly,
And she loved me staunchly, truly,
  Till she died;
But she never made confession
Why, at that first sweet concession,
  She had sighed.

It was in our May, remember;
And though now I near November
  And abide
Till my appointed change, unfretting,
Sometimes I sit half regretting
  That she sighed.


8. Former beauties


These market-dames, mid-aged, with lips thin-drawn,
  And tissues sere,
Are they the ones we loved in years agone,
  And courted here?

Are these the muslined pink young things to whom
  We vowed and swore
In nooks on summer Sundays by the Froom,
  Or Budmouth shore?

Do they remember those gay tunes we trod
  Clasped on the green;
Aye; trod till moonlight set on the beaten sod
  A satin sheen?

They must forget, forget! They cannot know
  What once they were,
Or memory would transfigure them, and show
  Them always fair.


9. Transformations


Portions of this yew
Is a man my grandsire knew,
Bosomed here at its foot:
This branch may be his wife,
A ruddy human life
Now turned to a green shoot.

These grasses must be made
Of her who often prayed,
Last century, for repose;
And the fair girl long ago
Whom I often tried to know
May be entering this rose.

So, they are not underground,
But as nerves and veins abound
In the growths of upper air,
And they feel the sun and rain,
And the energy again
That made them what they were!


10. The dance continued


    Regret not me;
  Beneath the sunny tree
I lie uncaring, slumbering peacefully.

    Swift as the light
  I flew my faery flight;
Ecstatically I moved, and feared no night.

    I did not know
  That heydays fade and go,
But deemed that what was would be always so.

    I skipped at morn
  Between the yellowing corn,
Thinking it good and glorious to be born.

    I ran at eves
  Among the piled-up sheaves,
Dreaming, `I greave not, therefore nothing grieves'

    Now soon will come
  The apple, pear, and plum,
And hinds will sing, and autumn insects hum.

    Again you will fare
  To cider-makings rare,
And junketings; but I shall not be there.

    Yet gaily sing
  Until the pewter ring
Those songs we sang when we went gipsying.

    And lightly dance
  Some triple-timed romance
In coupled figures, and forget mischance;

    And mourn not me
  Beneath the yellowing tree;
For I shall mind not, slumbering peacefully.


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