WEEK-END - Tom Skeyhill Poems


Poems » tom skeyhill » week end



The train! The twelve o’clock for paradise.
  Hurry, or it will try to creep away.
Out in the country everyone is wise:
  We can be only wise on Saturday.
There you are waiting, little friendly house:
  Those are your chimney-stacks with you between,
Surrounded by old trees and strolling cows,
  Staring through all your windows at the green.
Your homely floor is creaking for our tread;
  The smiling teapot with contented spout
Thinks of the boiling water, and the bread
  Longs for the butter. All their hands are out
      To greet us, and the gentle blankets seem
      Purring and crooning: “Lie in us, and dream.”


The key will stammer, and the door reply,
  The hall wake, yawn, and smile; the torpid stair
Will grumble at our feet, the table cry:
  “Fetch my belongings for me; I am bare.”
A clatter! Something in the attic falls.
  A ghost has lifted up his robes and fled.
The loitering shadows move along the walls;
  Then silence very slowly lifts his head.
The starling with impatient screech has flown
  The chimney, and is watching from the tree.
They thought us gone for ever: mouse alone
  Stops in the middle of the floor to see.
      Now all you idle things, resume your toil.
      Hearth, put your flames on. Sulky kettle, boil.


Contented evening; comfortable joys;
  The snoozing fire, and all the fields are still:
Tranquil delight, no purpose, and no noise–
  Unless the slow wind flowing round the hill.
“Murry” (the kettle) dozes; little mouse
  Is rambling prudently about the floor.
There’s lovely conversation in this house:
  Words become princes that were slaves before.
What a sweet atmosphere for you and me
  The people that have been here left behind …
Oh, but I fear it may turn out to be
  Built of a dream, erected in the mind:
      So if we speak too loud, we may awaken
      To find it vanished, and ourselves mistaken.


Lift up the curtain carefully. All the trees
  Stand in the dark like drowsy sentinels.
The oak is talkative to-night; he tells
  The little bushes crowding at his knees
That formidable, hard, voluminous
  History of growth from acorn into age.
They titter like school-children; they arouse
  Their comrades, who exclaim: “He is very sage.”
Look how the moon is staring through that cloud,
  Laying and lifting idle streaks of light.
O hark! was that the monstrous wind, so loud
  And sudden, prowling always through the night?
      Let down the shaking curtain. They are queer,
      Those foreigners. They and we live so near.


Come, come to bed. The shadows move about,
  And someone seems to overhear our talk.
The fire is low; the candles flicker out;
  The ghosts of former tenants want to walk.
Already they are shuffling through the gloom.
  I felt an old man touch my shoulder-blade;
Once he was married here: they love this room,
  He and his woman and the child they made.
Dead, dead, they are, yet some familiar sound,
  Creeping along the brink of happy life,
Revives their memory from under ground–
  The farmer and his troublesome old wife.
      Let us be going: as we climb the stairs,
      They’ll sit down in our warm half-empty chairs.


Morning! Wake up! Awaken! All the boughs
  Are rippling on the air across the green.
The youngest birds are singing to the house.
  Blood of the world!–and is the country clean?
Disturb the precinct. Cool it with a shout.
  Sing as you trundle down to light the fire.
Turn the encumbering shadows tumbling out,
  And fill the chambers with a new desire.
Life is no good, unless the morning brings
  White happiness and quick delight of day.
These half-inanimate domestic things
  Must all be useful, or must go away.
      Coffee, be fragrant. Porridge in my plate,
      Increase the vigour to fulfill my fate.


The fresh air moves like water round a boat.
  The white clouds wander. Let us wander too.
The whining wavering plover flap and float.
  That crow is flying after that cuckoo.
Look! Look! … They’re gone. What are the great trees calling?
  Just come a little farther, by that edge
Of green, to where the stormy ploughland, falling
  Wave upon wave, is lapping to the hedge.
Oh, what a lovely bank! Give me your hand.
  Lie down and press your heart against the ground.
Let us both listen till we understand,
  Each through the other, every natural sound …

      I can’t hear anything to-day, can you,
      But, far and near: “Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!”?


The everlasting grass–how bright, how cool!
  The day has gone too suddenly, too soon.
There’s something white and shiny in that pool–
  Throw in a stone, and you will hit the moon,
Listen, the church-bell ringing! Do not say
  We must go back to-morrow to our work.
We’ll tell them we are dead: we died to-day.
  We’re lazy. We’re too happy. We will shirk.
We’re cows. We’re kettles. We’ll be anything
  Except the manikins of time and fear.
We’ll start away to-morrow wandering.
  And nobody will notice in a year …
      Now the great sun is slipping under ground.
      Grip firmly!–How the earth is whirling round.


Be staid; be careful; and be not too free.
  Temptation to enjoy your liberty
May rise against you, break into a crime,
  And smash the habit of employing Time.
It serves no purpose that the careful clock
  Mark the appointment, the officious train
Hurry to keep it, if the minutes mock
  Loud in your ear: “Late. Late. Late. Late again.”
Week-end is very well on Saturday:
  On Monday it’s a different affair–
A little episode, a trivial stay
  In some oblivious spot somehow, somewhere.
      On Sunday night we hardly laugh or speak:
      Week-end begins to merge itself in Week.


Pack up the house, and close the creaking door.
  The fields are dull this morning in the rain.
It’s difficult to leave that homely floor.
  Wave a light hand; we will return again.
(What was that bird?) Good-bye, ecstatic tree,
  Floating, bursting, and breathing on the air.
The lonely farm is wondering that we
  Can leave. How every window seems to stare!
That bag is heavy. Share it for a bit.
  You like that gentle swashing of the ground
As we tread? …
              It is over. Now we sit
              Reading the morning paper in the sound
                  Of the debilitating heavy train.
                  London again, again. London again.