How still this quiet cornfield is to-night! By an intenser glow the evening falls, Bringing, not darkness, but a deeper light; Among the stooks a partridge covey calls. The windows glitter on the distant hill; Beyond the hedge the sheep-bells in the fold Stumble on sudden music and are still; The forlorn pinewoods droop above the wold. An endless quiet valley reaches out Pat the blue hills into the evening sky; Over the stubble, cawing, goes a rout Of rooks from harvest, flagging as they fly. So beautiful it is, I never saw So great a beauty on these English fields, Touched by the [twilight's]1 coming into awe, Ripe to the soul and rich with [summer's]1 yields. * * * * * * * * * * * * * These homes, this valley spread below me here, The rooks, the tilted stacks, the beasts in pen, Have been the heartfelt things, past-speaking dear To unknown generations of dead men, Who, century after century, held these farms, And, looking out to watch the changing sky, Heard, as we hear, the rumours and alarms Of war at hand and danger pressing nigh. And knew, as we know, that the message meant The breaking off of ties, the loss of friends, Death, like a miser getting in his rent, And no new stones laid where the trackway ends. The harvest not yet won, the empty bin, The friendly horses taken from the stalls, The fallow on the hill not yet brought in, The cracks unplastered in the leaking walls. Yet heard the news, and went discouraged home, And brooded by the fire with heavy mind, With such dumb loving of the Berkshire loam As breaks the dumb hearts of the English kind, Then sadly rose and left the well-loved Downs, And so by ship to sea, and knew no more The fields of home, the byres, the market towns, Nor the dear outline of the English shore, But knew the misery of the soaking trench, The freezing in the rigging, the despair In the revolting second of the wrench When the blind soul is flung upon the air, And died (uncouthly, most) in foreign lands For some idea but dimly understood Of an English city never built by hands Which love of England prompted and made good. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * If there be any life beyond the grave, It must be near the men and things we love, Some power of quick suggestion how to save, Touching the living soul as from above. An influence from the Earth from those dead hearts So passionate once, so deep, so truly kind, That in the living child the spirit starts, Feeling companioned still, not left behind. Surely above these fields a spirit broods A sense of many watchers muttering near Of the lone Downland with the forlorn woods Loved to the death, inestimably dear. A muttering from beyond the veils of Death From long-dead men, to whom this quiet scene Came among blinding tears with the last breath, The dying soldier's vision of his queen. All the unspoken worship of those lives Spent in forgotten wars at other calls Glimmers upon these fields where evening drives Beauty like breath, so gently darkness falls. Darkness that makes the meadows holier still, The elm-trees sadden in the hedge, a sigh Moves in the beech-clump on the haunted hill, The rising planets deepen in the sky, And silence broods like spirit on the brae, A glimmering moon begins, the moonlight runs Over the grasses of the ancient way Rutted this morning by the passing guns.
R. Still sets stanzas 1, 3-4
G. Finzi sets stanzas 1-8, 10
About the headline (FAQ)View original text (without footnotes)
1 Still has omitted "'s"
- by John Masefield (1878 - 1967), "August 1914", written 1914, appears in Philip the King, and Other Poems, first published 1914 [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
- by Gerald Finzi (1901 - 1956), "from 'August 1914'", 1924, first performed 1990, stanzas 1-8, 10 [baritone, chorus, orchestra], from Requiem da Camera, no. 2. [text verified 1 time]
- by Robert Still (1910 - 1971), "August", stanzas 1,3-4. [text verified 1 time]
Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
This text was added to the website: 2004-05-02
Line count: 78
Word count: 610