Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
 
Poems of Tragedy: XII. England
High-Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire
Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)
 
[Time, 1571]

THE OLD mayor climbed the belfry tower,
  The ringers ran by two, by three;
“Pull! if ye never pulled 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 crouched 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 faire 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, sharpe 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 towered 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 swannerds, 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 looked 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 looked 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 cryed) 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 sayth;        90
“Where is my wife, Elizabeth?”
 
“Good sonne, where Lindis winds away
  With her two bairns I marked her long;
And ere yon bells beganne to play,
  Afar I heard her milking-song.”        95
He looked across the grassy sea,
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 pressed,
  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 marked 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 rowed;
And I,—my sonne was at my side,
  And yet the ruddy beacon glowed;        130
And yet he moaned 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 strewed 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 mourne his own (she sayth)        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,
Where 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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