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The Listeners and Other Poems

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THE THREE CHERRY TREES There were three cherry trees once,Grew in a garden all shady;And there for delight of so gladsome a sight,Walked a most beautiful lady,Dreamed a most beautiful lady. Birds in those branches did sing,Blackbird and throstle and linnet,But she walking there was by far the most fair—Lovelier than all else within it,Blackbird and throstle and linnet. But blossoms to berries do come,All hanging on stalks light and slender,And one long summer's day charmed that lady away,With vows sweet and merry and tender;A lover with voice low and tender. Moss and lichen the green branches deck;Weeds nod in its paths green and shady:Yet a light footstep seems there to wander in dreams,The ghost of that beautiful lady,That happy and beautiful lady.

OLD SUSAN When Susan's work was done she'd sit,With one fat guttering candle lit,And window opened wide to winThe sweet night air to enter in;There, with a thumb to keep her placeShe'd read, with stern and wrinkled face,Her mild eyes gliding very slowAcross the letters to and fro,While wagged the guttering candle flameIn the wind that through the window came.And sometimes in the silence sheWould mumble a sentence audibly,Or shake her head as if to say,'You silly souls, to act this way!'And never a sound from night I'd hear,Unless some far-off cock crowed clear;Or her old shuffling thumb should turnAnother page; and rapt and stern,Through her great glasses bent on meShe'd glance into reality;And shake her round old silvery head,With—'You!—I thought you was in bed!'—Only to tilt her book again,And rooted in Romance remain.

OLD BEN Sad is old Ben Thistlewaite,Now his day is done,And all his childrenFar away are gone. He sits beneath his jasmined porch,His stick between his knees,His eyes fixed vacantOn his moss-grown trees. Grass springs in the green path,His flowers are lean and dry,His thatch hangs in wisps againstThe evening sky. He has no heart to care now,Though the winds will blowWhistling in his casement,And the rain drip thro'. He thinks of his old Bettie,How she'd shake her head and say,'You'll live to wish my sharp old tongueCould scold—some day,' But as in pale high autumn skiesThe swallows float and play,His restless thoughts pass to and fro,But nowhere stay. Soft, on the morrow, they are gone;His garden then will beDenser and shadier and greener,Greener the moss-grown tree.

MISS LOO When thin-strewn memory I look through,I see most clearly poor Miss Loo,Her tabby cat, her cage of birds,Her nose, her hair—her muffled words,And how she'd open her green eyes,As if in some immense surprise,Whenever as we sat at teaShe made some small remark to me. It's always drowsy summer whenFrom out the past she comes again;The westering sunshine in a poolFloats in her parlour still and cool;While the slim bird its lean wires shakes,As into piercing song it breaks;Till Peter's pale-green eyes ajarDream, wake; wake, dream, in one brief bar. And I am sitting, dull and shy,And she with gaze of vacancy,And large hands folded on the tray,Musing the afternoon away;Her satin bosom heaving slowWith sighs that softly ebb and flow,And her plain face in such dismay,It seems unkind to look her way:Until all cheerful back will comeHer cheerful gleaming spirit home:And one would think that poor Miss LooAsked nothing else, if she had you.