OAK AND OLIVE - Edward FitzGerald Poems

 
 

Poems » edward fitzgerald » oak and olive

OAK AND OLIVE

Though I was born a Londoner,
    And bred in Gloucestershire,
I walked in Hellas years ago
    With friends in white attire:
And I remember how my soul
    Drank wine as pure as fire.

And when I stand by Charing Cross
    I can forget to hear
The crash of all those smoking wheels,
    When those cold flutes and clear
Pipe with such fury down the street,
    My hands grow moist with fear.

And there's a hall in Bloomsbury
    No more I dare to tread,
For all the stone men shout at me
    And swear they are not dead;
And once I touched a broken girl
    And knew that marble bled.

But when I walk in Athens town
    That swims in dust and sun
Perverse, I think of London then
    Where massive work is done,
And with what sweep at Westminster
    The rayless waters run.

I ponder how from Attic seed
    There grew an English tree,
How Byron like his heroes fell,
    Fighting a country free,
And Swinburne took from Shelley's lips
    The kiss of Poetry.

And while our poets chanted Pan
    Back to his pipes and power,
Great Verrall, bending at his desk,
    And searching hour on hour
Found out old gardens, where the wise
    May pluck a Spartan flower.

When I go down the Gloucester lanes
    My friends are deaf and blind:
Fast as they turn their foolish eyes
    The Mænads leap behind,
And when I hear the fire-winged feet,
    They only hear the wind.

Have I not chased the fluting Pan
    Through Cranham's sober trees?
Have I not sat on Painswick Hill
    With a nymph upon my knees,
And she as rosy as the dawn,
    And naked as the breeze?

But when I lie in Grecian fields,
    Smothered in asphodel,
Or climb the blue and barren hills,
    Or sing in woods that smell
With such hot spices of the South
    As mariners might sell --

Then my heart turns where no sun burns,
    To lands of glittering rain,
To fields beneath low-clouded skies
    New-widowed of their grain,
And Autumn leaves like blood and gold
    That strew a Gloucester lane.

Oh well I know sweet Hellas now,
    And well I knew it then,
When I with starry lads walked out --
    But ah, for home again!
Was I not bred in Gloucestershire,
    One of the Englishmen!