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What change has made the pastures sweet
And reached the daisies at my feet,
  And cloud that wears a golden hem?
This lovely world, the hills, the sward—­
They all look fresh, as if our Lord
  But yesterday had finished them.

And here’s the field with light aglow;
How fresh its boundary lime-trees show,
  And how its wet leaves trembling shine!
Between their trunks come through to me
The morning sparkles of the sea
  Below the level browsing line.

I see the pool more clear by half
Than pools where other waters laugh
  Up at the breasts of coot and rail.
There, as she passed it on her way,
I saw reflected yesterday
  A maiden with a milking-pail.

There, neither slowly nor in haste,
One hand upon her slender waist,
  The other lifted to her pail,
She, rosy in the morning light,
Among the water-daisies white,
  Like some fair sloop appeared to sail.

Against her ankles as she trod
The lucky buttercups did nod.
  I leaned upon the gate to see:
The sweet thing looked, but did not speak;
A dimple came in either cheek,
  And all my heart was gone from me.

Then, as I lingered on the gate,
And she came up like coming fate,
  I saw my picture in her eyes—­
Clear dancing eyes, more black than sloes,
Cheeks like the mountain pink, that grows
  Among white-headed majesties.

I said, “A tale was made of old
That I would fain to thee unfold;
  Ah! let me—­let me tell the tale.”
But high she held her comely head;
“I cannot heed it now,” she said,
  “For carrying of the milking-pail.”

She laughed.  What good to make ado?
I held the gate, and she came through,
  And took her homeward path anon.
From the clear pool her face had fled;
It rested on my heart instead,
  Reflected when the maid was gone.

With happy youth, and work content,
So sweet and stately on she went,
  Right careless of the untold tale.
Each step she took I loved her more,
And followed to her dairy door
  The maiden with the milking-pail.

For hearts where wakened love doth lurk,
How fine, how blest a thing is work!
  For work does good when reasons fail—­
Good; yet the axe at every stroke
The echo of a name awoke—­
  Her name is Mary Martindale.

I’m glad that echo was not heard
Aright by other men:  a bird
  Knows doubtless what his own notes tell;
And I know not, but I can say
I felt as shame-faced all that day
  As if folks heard her name right well.

And when the west began to glow
I went—­I could not choose but go—­
  To that same dairy on the hill;
And while sweet Mary moved about
Within, I came to her without.
  And leaned upon the window-sill.

The garden border where I stood
Was sweet with pinks and southernwood.
  I spoke—­her answer seemed to fail:
I smelt the pinks—­I could not see;
The dusk came down and sheltered me,
  And in the dusk she heard my tale.

And what is left that I should tell?
I begged a kiss, I pleaded well:
  The rosebud lips did long decline;
But yet I think, I think ’tis true,
That, leaned at last into the dew,
  One little instant they were mine.

O life! how dear thou hast become:
She laughed at dawn and I was dumb,
  But evening counsels best prevail.
Fair shine the blue that o’er her spreads,
Green be the pastures where she treads,
  The maiden with the milking-pail!

© Jean Ingelow