Oak and Olive

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I And bred in Gloucestershire,I walked in Hellas years ago With friends in white attire:And I remember how my soul Drank wine as pure as fire.

And when I stand by Charing Cross I can forget to hearThe crash of all those smoking wheels, When those cold flutes and clearPipe with such fury down the street, My hands grow moist with fear.

And there's a hall in Bloomsbury No more I dare to tread,For all the stone men shout at me And swear they are not dead;And once I touched a broken girl And knew that marble bled.

II That swims in dust and sunPerverse, I think of London then Where massive work is done,And with what sweep at Westminster The rayless waters run.

I ponder how from Attic seed There grew an English tree,How Byron like his heroes fell, Fighting a country free,And Swinburne took from Shelley's lips The kiss of Poetry.

And while our poets chanted Pan Back to his pipes and power,Great Verrall, bending at his desk, And searching hour on hourFound out old gardens, where the wise May pluck a Spartan flower.

III My friends are deaf and blind:Fast as they turn their foolish eyes The Mænads leap behind,And when I hear the fire-winged feet, They only hear the wind.

Have I not chased the fluting Pan Through Cranham's sober trees?Have I not sat on Painswick Hill With a nymph upon my knees,And she as rosy as the dawn, And naked as the breeze?

IV Smothered in asphodel,Or climb the blue and barren hills, Or sing in woods that smellWith such hot spices of the South As mariners might sell --

Then my heart turns where no sun burns, To lands of glittering rain,To fields beneath low-clouded skies New-widowed of their grain,And Autumn leaves like blood and gold That strew a Gloucester lane.

V And well I knew it then,When I with starry lads walked out -- But ah, for home again!Was I not bred in Gloucestershire, One of the Englishmen!

© Flecker James Elroy