Sunday, June 26, 2011

"A Dream" (a poem by Ruth Manning-Sanders)

Here is "A Dream," which is one of Ruth Manning-Sanders' early poems. It's from "The Pedlar and Other Poems," which might be her first published book.

"The Pedlar and Other Poems" -- which is available here as a free ebook -- was published in 1919 by Selwyn & Blount of London. There is a short note from the author in which she states: "I wish to thank the Editors of The Saturday Westminster, New Statesman, and Poetry Review for permission to reprint some of these poems."

You can see the author's interest in fairy tales and magic in this early work.

Here is Manning-Sanders' poem:
As we sat in dim firelight,
You and I, when starless night
Pressed against the cottage wall,
And the flames wrought webs of dreaming,
Flickering silence 'twixt us, gleaming
Threads of light and shadows small,
That twisted into fairy ravel
Things by day most plain to see,—
Sitting in this dusky-bright
We heard a gate click in the night.
There came no step along the gravel,
Only soft palms feeling for
The handle of the outer door,
A breeze that crept along the floor,
And standing there 'twixt you and me—
Where the fire danced flickeringly—
Straight and slim as any wand
An elfin man from fairyland.

"Come," said he, "I will show you your house."

But sure the house was all bewitchen,
Such ages long it took to go
Adown the passage that you know
Leads from the parlour to the kitchen;
And in the larder by the way
Was nothing but a wisp of hay
Set lonely on a silver platter-
It seemed strange ceremony lent
To such a scrap of nourishment—
And from the kitchen came a clatter,
Growing louder, scream and chatter;
But when we reached the kitchen door
It made us weep for mirth to see
A huge slug sitting heavily
In the fat servant's place, and there,
Widdershins about her chair,
A host of imps whirled, every one
Shouting of some task undone,
Brandishing amid the din
Kettle, spoon, or rolling-pin.

"Come," said the fairy, "I will show you your house."

So small a house, and yet so thronged!
And nothing wore its stolid face,
And nothing stood where it belonged;
We scarce could find a treading place,
For from the parlour marched a crowd
Of footstools, chairs, and cushions proud;
And where the rows of books should be
A host of wing├ęd creatures tried
In vain to fly, with flap and bound
And piteous flutter, each one tied
Firm by the leg, and on the landing
Where the old clock should be standing,
A crazy hen ran round and round,
Cackling with a note profound.

We found our clothes shrunk very small
In a wardrobe monster tall;
Peeping therein we marvelled why
These vast important cupboardings
Were needed for such tiny things.
We saw the bed whereon we lie
A glowing rose, but sharp and high
The thorns that hedged it; slumbering near
Did our little babes appear
Two cherubs, each within a cage,
Wrought with curious subtlety,
With iron stealth and secrecy,
By people of a bygone age.

"Come," said the fairy, and he broke
The bars, and our sweet babes awoke,
One like a golden moon, and one
Ruddy as the rising sun.
We went down to the littered hall,
We left the crazy hen to call,
We left each struggling spirit book,
We left the kitchen and its riot,
And stepped out into moony quiet.
Only in golden brazier took
Our small hearth fire; so hand in hand,
Cherub babes and you and I,
With the fairy small and spry,
Whilst the flames danced flickeringly,
Wandered down a ferny lee
Into depths of fairyland.

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