Nature selects the longest way,
And winds about in tortuous grooves;
A thousand years the oaks decay;
The wrinkled glacier hardly moves.
But here the whetted fangs of change
Daily devour the old demesne –
The busy farm, the quiet grange,
The wayside inn, the village green.
In gaudy yellow brick and red,
With rooting pipes, like creepers rank,
The shoddy terraces o’erspread
Meadow, and garth, and daisied bank.
With shelves for rooms the houses crowd,
Like draughty cupboards in a row –
Ice-chests when wintry winds are loud,
Ovens when summer breezes blow.
Roused by the fee’d policeman’s knock,
And sad that day should come again,
Under the stars the workmen flock
In haste to reach the workmen’s train.
For here dwell those who must fulfil
Dull tasks in uncongenial spheres,
Who toil through dread of coming ill,
And not with hope of happier years –
The lowly folk who scarcely dare
Conceive themselves perhaps misplaced,
Whose prize for unremitting care
Is only not to be disgraced.
* * * * *
From New Ballads, 1897.