Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
A House
By Ford Madox Hueffer
 
The House.  I am the House!
  I resemble
  The drawing of a child
  That draws “just a house.” Two windows and two doors,
  Two chimney pots;        5
  Only two floors.
  Three windows on the upper one; a fourth
  Looks towards the north.
  I am very simple and mild;
  I am very gentle and sad and old.        10
  I have stood too long.
The Tree.  I am the great Tree over above this House!
  I resemble
  The drawing of a child. Drawing “just a tree”
  The child draws Me!        15
  Heavy leaves, old branches, old knots:
  I am more old than the house is old.
  I have known nights so cold
  I used to tremble;
  For the sap was frozen in my branches,        20
  And the mouse,
  That stored her nuts in my knot-holes, died. I am strong
  Now … Let a storm come wild
  Over the Sussex Wold,
  I no longer fear it.        25
  I have stood too long!
The Nightingale.  I am the Nightingale. The summer through I sit
  In the great tree, watching the house, and throw jewels over it!
  There is no one watching but I; no other soul to waken
  Echoes in this valley night!        30
The Unborn Son of the House.  You are mistaken!
  I am the Son of the House!—
  That shall have silver limbs, and clean straight haunches,
  Lean hips, clean lips and a tongue of gold;
  That shall inherit        35
  A golden voice, and waken
  A whole world’s wonder!
The Nightingale.  Young blood! You are right,
  So you and I only
  Listen and watch and waken        40
  Under
  The stars of the night.
The Dog of the House.  You are mistaken!
  This house stands lonely.
  Let but a sound sound in the seven acres that surround        45
  Their sleeping house,
  And I, seeming to sleep, shall awaken.
  Let but a mouse
  Creep in the bracken,
  I seeming to drowse, I shall hearken.        50
  Let but a shadow darken
  Their threshold; let but a finger
  Lie long or linger,
  Holding their latch:
  I am their Dog. And I watch!        55
  I am just Dog. And being His hound
  I lie
  All night with my head on my paws,
  Watchful and whist!
The Nightingale.  So you and I and their Son and I        60
  Watch alone, under the stars of the sky.
The Cat of the House.  I am the Cat. And you lie!
  I am the Atheist!
  All laws
  I coldly despise.        65
  I have yellow eyes;
  I am the Cat on the Mat the child draws
  When it first has a pencil to use.
The Milch-goat.  I am the Goat. I give milk!
The Cat of the House.  I muse        70
  Over the hearth with my ’minishing eyes
  Until after
  The last coal dies.
  Every tunnel of the mouse,
  Every channel of the cricket,        75
  I have smelt.
  I have felt
  The secret shifting of the mouldered rafter,
  And heard
  Every bird in the thicket.        80
  I see
  You,
  Nightingale up in your tree!
The Nightingale.  The night takes a turn towards coldness; the stars
  Waver and shake.        85
  Truly more wake,
  More thoughts are afloat;
  More folk are afoot than I knew!
The Milch-goat.  I, even I, am the Goat!
Cat of the House.  Enough of your stuff of dust and of mud!        90
  I, born of a race of strange things,
  Of deserts, great temples, great kings,
  In the hot sands where the nightingale never sings!
  Old he-gods of ingle and hearth,
  Young she-gods of fur and of silk—        95
  Not the mud of the earth—
  Are the things that I dream of!
The Milch-goat.  Tibby-Tab, more than you deem of
  I dream of when chewing the cud
  For my milk:        100
  Who was born
  Of a Nan with one horn and a liking for gin
  In the backyard of an inn.
  A child of Original Sin,
  With a fleece of spun-silk        105
  And two horns in the bud—
  I, made in the image of Pan,
  With my corrugate, vicious-cocked horn,
  Now make milk for a child yet unborn.
  That’s a come-down!        110
  And you with your mouse-colored ruff,
  Discoursing your stuff-of-a-dream,
  Sell your birthright for cream,
  And bolt from a cuff or a frown.
  That’s a come-down!        115
  So let be! That’s enough!
The House.  The top star of the Plough now mounts
  Up to his highest place.
  The dace
  Hang silent in the pool.        120
  The night is cool
  Before the dawn. Behind the blind
  Dies down the one thin candle.
  Our harried man,
  My lease-of-a-life-long Master,        125
  Studies against disaster;
  Gropes for some handle
  Against too heavy Fate; pores over his accounts,
  Studying into the morn
  For the sake of his child unborn.        130
The Unborn Son of the House.  The vibrant notes of the spheres,
  Thin, sifting sounds of the dew,
  I hear. The mist on the meres
  Rising I hear … So here’s
  To a lad shall be lusty and bold,        135
  With a voice and a heart ringing true!
  To a house of a livelier hue!
The House.  That is true!
  I have stood here too long and grown old.
Himself.  What is the matter with the wicks?        140
  What on earth’s the matter with the wax?
  The candle wastes in the draught;
  The blind’s worn thin!
  … Thirty-four and four, ten …
  And ten … are forty-nine!        145
  And twenty pun twelve and six was all
  I made by the clover.
  It’s a month since I laughed:
  I have given up wine.
  And then …        150
  The Income Tax!
The Dog of the House.  The mare’s got out of the stable!
The Cat of the House.  She’s able, over and over,
  To push up the stable latch …
  Over and over again. You would say she’s a witch,        155
  With a spite on our Man!
The Milch-goat.  Heu! Did you see how she ran!
  She’s after the clover; she’s over the ditch,
  Doing more harm than a dozen of goats
  When there’s no one to watch.        160
  Yet she is the sober old mare with her skin full of oats,
  Whereas we get dry bracken and heather;
  Snatching now and then a scrap of old leather,
  Or half an old tin,
  As the price of original sin!        165
Himself.  I shall live to sell
  The clock from the hall;
  I shall have to pawn my old Dad’s watch,
  Or fell
  The last old oak; or sell half the stock …        170
  Or all!
  Or the oak chest out of the hall.
  One or the other—or all.
  God, it is hell to be poor
  For ever and ever, keeping the Wolf from the door!        175
The Cat of the House.  Wouldn’t you say
  That Something, heavy and furry and grey,
  Was sniffing round the door?
  Wouldn’t you say
  Skinny fingers, stretching from the thicket,        180
  Felt for the latch of the wicket?
Himself.  You would almost say
  These blows were repercussions
  Of an avenging Fate!
  But how have we earned them …        185
  The sparks that fell on the cornricks and burned them
  Still in the ear;
  And all the set-backs of the year—
  Frost, drought and demurrage,
  The tiles blown half off the roof?        190
  What is it, what is it all for?
  Chastisement of pride? I swear we have no pride!
  We ride
  Behind an old mare with a flea-bitten hide!
  Or over-much love for a year-old bride?        195
  But it’s your duty to love your bride!… But still,
  All the sows that died,
  And the cows all going off milk;
  The cream coming out under proof;
  The hens giving over laying;        200
  The bullocks straying,
  Getting pounded over the hill!
  It used to be something—cold feet going over
  The front of a trench after Stand-to at four!
  But these other things—God, how they make you blench!        205
  Aye, these are the pip-squeaks that call for
  Four-in-the-morning courage …
  May you never know, my wench,
  That’s asleep up the stair!
Herself  [in her sleep].  I’ll have a kitchen all white tiles;        210
  And a dairy, all marble the shelves and the floor;
  And a larder, cream-white and full of air.
  I’ll have whitewood kegs for the flour,
  And blackwood kegs for the rice and barley,
  And silvery jugs for the milk and cream …        215
  O glorious Me!
  And hour by hour by hour by hour,
  On piles of cushions from hearth to door,
  I’ll sit sewing my silken seams,
  I’ll sit dreaming my silver dreams;        220
  With a little, mettlesome, brown-legged Charley,
  To leave his ploys and come to my knee,
  And question how God can be Three-in-One
  And One-in-Three.
  And all the day and all the day        225
  Nothing but hoys for my dearest one;
  And no care at all but to kiss and twine;
  And nought to contrive for but ploys and play
  For my son, my son, my son, my son!
  Only at nine,        230
  With the dinner finished, the men at their wine;
  And the girls in the parlor at forfeits for toffee,
  I’ll make such after-dinner coffee …
  But it’s all like a dream!
Himself.  If Dixon could pay!… But he never will.        235
  He promised to do it yesterday … But poor old Dicky’s been through the mill.
  And it’s late—it’s too late to sit railing at Fate!
  He’d pay if he could; but he’s got his fix on …
  Yet … If he could pay—
  God!—It would carry us over the day        240
  Of Herself!
The Clock in the Room.  I am the Clock on the Shelf!
  Is … Was … Is … Was!
  Too late … Because … Too late … Because …
  One!… Two!… Three!… Four!        245
Himself.  Just over The Day and a week or two more!
  And we’d maybe get through.
  Not with a hell of a lot
  Of margin to spare … But just through!
The Clock in the Hall.  One!… Two!… One!… Two!        250
  As … your … hours … pass
  I re … cord them
  Though you … waste them
  Or have … stored them
  ALL …        255
    One!
    Two!
    Three!
    Four!
    Begun!        260
    Half through!
    Let be!
    No more at all!
  I am the Great Clock in the Hall!
Himself.  It is four by the clock:        265
  The creak of the stair
  Might waken Herself;
  It would give her a shock
  If I went up the stair.
  I will doze in the chair.        270
The House.  Sad! Sad!
  Poor lad!
  I am getting to talk like the clock!
  Year after year! Shock after shock!
  Sunlight and starlight; moonlight and shadows!        275
  I’ve seen him sit on his three-legged stool,
  And heard him whimper, going to school.
  But he’s paid all the debts that a proper lad owes
  Stoutly enough … You might call me a clock
  With a face of old brick-work instead of the brass        280
  Of a dial.
  For I mark the generations as they pass:
  Generation on generation,
  Passing like shadows over the dial
  To triumph or trial;        285
  Over the grass, round the paths till they lie all
  Silent under the grass.
Himself.  And it isn’t as if we courted the slap-up people …
The House.  Now does he remember the night when he came from the station
  In Flood-year December?        290
Himself.  Or kicked our slippers over the steeple,
  Or leaving the whites ate only the yolk.
  We’re such simple folk!
  With an old house … Just any old house!
  Only she’s clean: you won’t find a flea or a louse!        295
  We’ve a few old cows—
  Just any old cows!—
  No champion short-horns with fabulous yields …
  Two or three good fields;
  And the old mare, going blinder and blinder …        300
  And too much Care to ride behind her!
The House.  I’d like him to remember …
  There were floods out far and wide;
  And that was my last night of pride,
  With all my windows blazing across the tide …        305
  I wish he would remember …
Himself.  Just to get through; keeping a stiff upper lip!
  Just … through!… With my lamb unshorn;
  So that she mayn’t like me be torn by care!
  It’s not        310
  Such a hell of a lot!
  Just till the child is born …
  You’d think: God, you’d think
  They could let us little people … creep
  Past in the shadows …        315
  But the sea’s … too … deep!
  Not to sink … Not … sink!
  Just to get through …
  Christ, I can’t keep … It’s too … deep …
The Cat of the House.  He has fallen asleep. Up onto his knee!        320
  I shall sleep in the pink.
The House.  You see!
  His mind turns to me
  As soon as he sleeps. For he called me a ship
  On my last day of pride,        325
  And he dreams of me now as a ship
  As I looked in the days of my pride.
  Then, he was driving his guests from the station,
  And the floods were wide
  All over the countryside …        330
  All my windows lit up and wide,
  And blazing like torches down a tide,
  Over the waters …
The Mare  [From the cloverfield].  That wouldn’t be me!
  When I was young I lived in Dover,        335
  In Kent, by the sea. So he didn’t drive me.
  When I was young I went much faster
  Over the sticks as slick as a hare,
  With a gunner officer for a master.
  And I took officers out to lunch        340
  With their doxies to Folkestone. It wouldn’t be me!
The Milch-goat.  Munch; munch … Munch; munch!
  In the Master’s clover … But poor old Me!
The Unborn Son of the House.  Malodorous Image-of-Sin-with-a-Beard,
  It is time I was heard.        345
The House.  That Christmas night …
Son of the House.  It would have to be Christmas
  With floods so they missed Mass …
The House.  Your Dad’s never missed Mass
  At Christmas!…        350
  So all my windows, blazing with light
  Called out Welcome across the night.
  And the Master’s voice came over to me:
  “The poor old shanty looks just like a ship,
  Lit up and sailing across the sea!”        355
  That was my lad …
  And another, just as young and as glad,
  As they used to be, all, before the war,
  Said: “And all of her lamps have all their wicks on!”
  That would be Dickson …        360
Son of the House.  My mother, when her pains have loosed her
  And I am grown to man’s estate,
  Shall go in gold and filagree;
  And I’ll be king and have a king’s glory …
The Rooster.  Kickeriko! Kickerikee!        365
  I am the Rooster!
Son of the House.  The Dad, with no hair on his pate,
  Reading my story …
The Rooster.  I am the Bird of the Dawn, calling the world to arouse.
  I, even I, am the cock of the house!        370
The Skylark.  Time I was up in the sky!
  It is time for the dew to dry.
  I am the Bird of the Dawn!
The Nightingale.  Time I was down on my nest.
  The moon has gone down in the west:        375
  Day-folk, goodbye!
The House-dog.  Here’s our young maid! What a yawn!
The Milch-goat.  The houseboy is crossing the lawn
  Under the fir.
  Will he give me a Swede?        380
  That’s the thing I most need!
The House.  What a stir! What a stir!
  Did you ever?
  All of a sudden it’s day
  With its tumult and fever!        385
  I must have nodded away!
The Drake.  I am the Drake! I’m the Drake.
  We too have been all night awake;
  But making no fuss, not one of the seven of us.
  For our heads were far under our legs        390
  Drinking the dregs of the lake.
  Therefore my ladies lay eggs,
  Ducksegg green!
The Maid.  Where have you hid
  The copper-lid?        395
  Where on earth have you been?
  Where on earth is it hidden?
Houseboy.  I didn’t!
Maid.  You did!
Houseboy.  I didn’t … I never …        400
Maid.  I see you …
Houseboy.  You never!
Maid.  How on earth can I ever
  Cook the pigs’ food if I can’t find the lid
  Of the copper?        405
Houseboy.  You whopper! I never
  Touched the old lid of your copper!
Maid.  The lid’s lying out in the midden.
  Himself must have took it!
Houseboy.  So there then! Give over!
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
        410
Maid.  Did you ever! What next!
  Our Master’s asleep in his chair!
  I’ll wager you never a leg he’s stirred
  Since four of the clock, with the cat on his knee!
Postman.  This letter’s registered!        415
Maid  [To Himself].  Ned Postman wants a receipt in ink …
Himself  [Opening letter].  To sink … No, not to sink!
Maid.  It’s a registered letter
  The postman wants a receipt in ink for.
Herself  [Calling from upper window].  Charley!        420
  The mare’s in the clover,
  Making for the barley.
  She’s knocking down the sticks …
Himself.  It’s over—
  We’re over this terrible fix        425
  For a quarter or so!
Herself.  And we were in such a terrible fix!—
  And you never let me know!
Himself.  Not quite enough to take to drink for …
  [To Houseboy.]  Fetch the mare from the barley,        430
  You’d better …
Herself.  Oh, Charley!
Himself.  I said: Not quite enough to take to drink for!
  It was like being master of a ship,
  Watching a grey torpedo slip        435
  Through waves all green.
  It would have been …
  And all one’s folk aboard …
Herself.  Yourself! Yourself! You’ll surely now afford
  Yourself a new coat …        440
  And a proper chain and collar for the goat!
Himself.  Good Lord!
  Yourself! Yourself! You may go to town
  And see a show: there are five or six on,
  And you can have the little new gown        445
  You said you’d fix on …
Herself.  But, O Yourself, we can’t afford it!
Himself.  You’ve not had a jaunt since the honeymoon …
  Thirteen months and a day. And very soon …
The Unborn Son of the House.  I shall so pronk it and king it and lord it—        450
  Over the sunshine and under the moon …
Himself.  If Fate be kind and do not frown,
  And do not smite us knee and hip,
  This poor old patched-up thing of a ship
  May take us yet over fields all green,        455
  And you be a little dimity queen …
Son of the House.  As the years roll on and the days go by,
  I shall grow and grow in majesty …
Herself.  You always say I’ve no majesty!—
  Not even enough for a cobbler’s queen!        460
The House.  By and by
  They’ll be talking of copper roofs for the stye!
The Pigs.  We were wondering when you would come to the Pigs!
  Yet they say it’s we that pay the rent!
Himself.  Great golden ships in ancient rigs        465
  Went sailing under the firmament,
  And still sail under the sky and away—
  Tall ships and small …
  And great ships sink and no soul to say.
  But, God being good, in the last resort        470
  I will bring our cockle-shell into port
  In a land-locked bay,
  And no more go sailing at all!
Herself.  Kind God! We are safe for a year and a day!
  And he is so skilful, my lord and my master,        475
  So skilled to keep us all from disaster;
  Such a clever, kindly, Working One!
  That I’ll yet have my dairy with slabs of marble,
  A sweet-briar thicket where sweet birds warble,
  And an ordered life in a household whereof he        480
  Most shall praise the nine-o’clock coffee;
  And a little, mettlesome, brown-kneed One
  To lie on my heart when the long day’s done …
Rooster.  Pullets, go in; run out of the sun!
  He’s climbing high and the hayseed’s dun.        485
  I am the Rooster with marvelous legs!
  Pullets, run nestwards and lay your eggs!
Herself.  For my son; my son; my son; my son!
 
EPILOGUE

The House Itself.  I am their House! I resemble
  The drawing of a child.        490
  Drawing, “just a house,” a child draws one like me,
  With a stye beside it maybe, or a willow-tree,
  Or aspens that tremble.
  That’s as may be …
 
  But all the other houses of all nations        495
  Grand or simple, in country or town,
  All, all the houses standing beneath the sky
  Shall have very much the same fate as I!
  They shall see the pressing of generations
  On the heels of generations;        500
  Shall bear with folly; shall house melancholy;
  At seasons dark and holy shall be hung with holly;
  On given days they shall have the blinds drawn down,
  And so pass into the hands—
  Houses and lands into the hands        505
  Of new generations.
  These shall remain
  For a short space or a long,
  Masterful, cautious or strong;
  Confident or overbold.        510
  But at last all strong hands falter;
  Frosts come; great winds and drought;
  The tiles blow loose; the steps wear out;
  The rain
  Percolates down by the rafter.        515
  Their youths wear out;
  Until, maybe, they become very gentle and mild.
  For certain they shall become very gentle and old,
  Having stood too long.
  And so, all over again,        520
  The circle comes round:
  Over and over again.
  And …
  If You rise on this earth a thousand years after
  I have fallen to the ground,        525
  Your fate shall be the same:
  Only the name
  Shall alter!
 
 
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