Francis Thompson: Daisy

Hans Olaf Heyerdahl - Little girl on the beach - from Wikimedia Commons

Hans Olaf Heyerdahl – Little girl on the beach – from Wikimedia Commons

After being rescued from vagrancy, the poet Francis Thompson was brought by Wilfrid and Alice Meynell to Our Lady of England Priory in Storrington, West Sussex, where he stayed in order to recover from his opium addiction. In his “Biographical Note” introducing Selected Poems of Francis Thompson, Wilfrid Meynell wrote:

After a course of medical treatment, he went to Storrington. That beautiful Sussex village has now its fixed place on the map of English literature. For there it was that Francis Thompson discovered his possibilities as a poet. On its common he met the village child, whom he calls “Daisy,” in the verses that are so named.

It is indeed one of the tenderest and most beautiful poems of Thompson.

Daisy_icon DAISY  Daisy_icon

Where the thistle lifts a purple crown
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Six foot out of the turf,
And the harebell shakes on the windy hill—
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 O the breath of the distant surf!—

The hills look over on the South,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And southward dreams the sea;
And, with the sea-breeze hand in hand,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Came innocence and she.

Where ‘mid the gorse the raspberry
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Red for the gatherer springs,
Two children did we stray and talk
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Wise, idle, childish things.

She listened with big-lipped surprise,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Breast-deep ‘mid flower and spine:
Her skin was like a grape, whose veins
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Run snow instead of wine.

She knew not those sweet words she spake,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Nor knew her own sweet way;
But there’s never a bird so sweet a song
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Thronged in whose throat that day!

Oh, there were flowers in Storrington
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 On the turf and on the spray;
But the sweetest flower on Sussex hills
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Was the Daisy-flower that day!

Her beauty smoothed earth’s furrowed face!
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 She gave me tokens three:—
A look, a word of her winsome mouth,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And a wild raspberry.

A berry red, a guileless look,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 A still word,—strings of sand!
And yet they made my wild, wild heart
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Fly down to her little hand.

For, standing artless as the air,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And candid as the skies,
She took the berries with her hand,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And the love with her sweet eyes.

The fairest things have fleetest end:
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Their scent survives their close,
But the rose’s scent is bitterness
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 To him that loved the rose!

She looked a little wistfully,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Then went her sunshine way:—
The sea’s eye had a mist on it,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And the leaves fell from the day.

She went her unremembering way,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 She went, and left in me
The pang of all the partings gone,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And partings yet to be.

She left me marvelling why my soul
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Was sad that she was glad;
At all the sadness in the sweet,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 The sweetness in the sad.

Still, still I seemed to see her, still
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 Look up with soft replies,
And take the berries with her hand,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And the love with her lovely eyes.

Nothing begins, and nothing ends,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 That is not paid with moan;
For we are born in others’ pain,
WhiteDaisy_archigraphs_16 And perish in our own.

Source of the poem: Selected Poems of Francis Thompson by Francis Thompson, Project Gutenberg ebook. It can also be found (without indentation) on PoemHunter.

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