Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, 1571
By Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)
 
THE OLD mayor climb’d the belfry tower,
  The ringers ran by two, by three;
‘Pull, if ye never pull’d before;
  Good ringers, pull your best,’ quoth he.
‘Play uppe, play uppe, O Boston bells!        5
Ply all your changes, all your swells,
    Play uppe “The Brides of Enderby”.’
 
Men say it was a stolen tyde—
  The Lord that sent it, He knows all;
But in myne ears doth still abide        10
  The message that the bells let fall:
And there was naught of strange, beside
The flights of mews and peewits pied
    By millions crouch’d on the old sea wall.
 
I sat and spun within the doore,        15
  My thread brake off, I raised myne eyes;
The level sun, like ruddy ore,
  Lay sinking in the barren skies,
And dark against day’s golden death
She moved where Lindis wandereth,        20
My sonne’s fair wife, Elizabeth.
 
‘Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!’ calling,
Ere the early dews were falling,
Farre away I heard her song.
‘Cusha! Cusha!’ all along        25
Where the reedy Lindis floweth,
    Floweth, floweth;
From the meads where melick groweth
Faintly came her milking song—
 
‘Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!’ calling,        30
‘For the dews will soone be falling;
Leave your meadow grasses mellow,
    Mellow, mellow;
Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,        35
Quit the stalks of parsley hollow,
    Hollow, hollow;
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
From the clovers lift your head;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,        40
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
Jetty, to the milking shed.’
 
If it be long, ay, long ago,
  When I beginne to think howe long,
Againe I hear the Lindis flow,        45
  Swift as an arrowe, sharp and strong;
And all the aire, it seemeth mee,
Bin full of floating bells (sayth shee),
That ring the tune of Enderby.
 
Alle fresh the level pasture lay,        50
  And not a shadowe mote be seene,
Save where full fyve good miles away
  The steeple tower’d from out the greene;
And lo! the great bell farre and wide
Was heard in all the country side        55
That Saturday at eventide.
 
The swanherds where their sedges are
  Moved on in sunset’s golden breath,
The shepherde lads I heard afarre,
  And my sonne’s wife, Elizabeth;        60
Till floating o’er the grassy sea
Came downe that kyndly message free,
The ‘Brides of Mavis Enderby’.
 
Then some look’d uppe into the sky,
  And all along where Lindis flows        65
To where the goodly vessels lie,
  And where the lordly steeple shows.
They sayde, ‘And why should this thing be?
What danger lowers by land or sea?
They ring the tune of Enderby!        70
 
‘For evil news from Mablethorpe,
  Of pyrate galleys warping down;
For shippes ashore beyond the scorpe,
  They have not spared to wake the towne;
But while the west bin red to see,        75
And storms be none, and pyrates flee,
Why ring “The Brides of Enderby”?’
 
I look’d without, and lo! my sonne
  Came riding downe with might and main:
He raised a shout as he drew on,        80
  Till all the welkin rang again,
‘Elizabeth! Elizabeth!’
(A sweeter woman ne’er drew breath
Than my sonne’s wife, Elizabeth.)
 
‘The olde sea wall (he cried) is downe,        85
  The rising tide comes on apace,
And boats adrift in yonder towne
  Go sailing uppe the market-place.’
He shook as one that looks on death:
‘God save you, mother!’ straight he saith;        90
‘Where is my wife, Elizabeth?’
 
‘Good sonne, where Lindis winds away,
  With her two bairns I mark’d her long;
And ere yon bells beganne to play
  Afar I heard her milking song.’        95
He looked across the grassy lea,
To right, to left, ‘Ho Enderby!’
They rang ‘The Brides of Enderby!’
 
With that he cried and beat his breast;
  For, lo! along the river’s bed        100
A mighty eygre reared his crest,
  And uppe the Lindis raging sped.
It swept with thunderous noises loud;
Shaped like a curling snow-white cloud,
Or like a demon in a shroud.        105
 
And rearing Lindis backward press’d
  Shook all her trembling bankes amaine;
Then madly at the eygre’s breast
  Flung uppe her weltering walls again.
Then bankes came downe with ruin and rout—        110
Then beaten foam flew round about—
Then all the mighty floods were out.
 
So farre, so fast the eygre drave,
  The heart had hardly time to beat,
Before a shallow seething wave        115
  Sobbed in the grasses at oure feet:
The feet had hardly time to flee
Before it brake against the knee,
And all the world was in the sea.
 
Upon the roofe we sate that night,        120
  The noise of bells went sweeping by;
I mark’d the lofty beacon light
  Stream from the church tower, red and high—
A lurid mark and dread to see;
And awsome bells they were to mee,        125
That in the dark rang ‘Enderby’.
 
They rang the sailor lads to guide
  From roofe to roofe who fearless row’d;
And I—my sonne was at my side,
  And yet the ruddy beacon glow’d;        130
And yet he moan’d beneath his breath,
‘O come in life, or come in death!
O lost! my love, Elizabeth.’
 
And didst thou visit him no more?
  Thou didst, thou didst, my daughter deare;        135
The waters laid thee at his doore,
  Ere yet the early dawn was clear.
Thy pretty bairns in fast embrace,
The lifted sun shone on thy face,
Downe drifted to thy dwelling-place.        140
 
That flow strew’d wrecks about the grass,
That ebbe swept out the flocks to sea;
A fatal ebbe and flow, alas!
  To manye more than myne and mee:
But each will mourn his own (she saith),        145
And sweeter woman ne’er drew breath
Than my sonne’s wife, Elizabeth.
 
  I shall never hear her more
  By the reedy Lindis shore,
‘Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!’ calling,        150
Ere the early dews be falling;
I shall never hear her song,
‘Cusha! Cusha!’ all along
Where the sunny Lindis floweth,
      Goeth, floweth;        155
From the meads where melick groweth,
When the water winding down,
Onward floweth to the town.
 
I shall never see her more
Where the reeds and rushes quiver,        160
      Shiver, quiver;
Stand beside the sobbing river,
Sobbing, throbbing, in its falling
To the sandy lonesome shore;
I shall never hear her calling,        165
Leave your meadow grasses mellow,
      Mellow, mellow;
Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot;
Quit your pipes of parsley hollow,        170
      Hollow, hollow;
Come uppe Lightfoot, rise and follow;
      Lightfoot, Whitefoot,
From your clovers lift the head;
Come uppe Jetty, follow, follow,        175
Jetty, to the milking shed.
 
 
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