Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Charlotte Mew

Charlotte Mew was born on November 15, 1869, in London, England. Her poetry collections include Saturday Market (Macmillan, 1921) and the posthumously published The Rambling Sailor (Poetry Bookshop, 1929). She died on March 24, 1928, in London.

By This Poet

2

On the Road to the Sea

We passed each other, turned and stopped for half an hour, then went our way,
           I who make other women smile did not make you--
But no man can move mountains in a day.
                  So this hard thing is yet to do.

But first I want your life:--before I die I want to see
                  The world that lies behind the strangeness of your eyes,
There is nothing gay or green there for my gathering, it may be,
                             Yet on brown fields there lies
A haunting purple bloom: is there not something in grey skies
                      And in grey sea?
                  I want what world there is behind your eyes,
                  I want your life and you will not give it me.

                 Now, if I look, I see you walking down the years,
                 Young, and through August fields--a face, a thought, a swinging dream
                               perched on a stile--;
                  I would have liked (so vile we are!) to have taught you tears
                   But most to have made you smile.
                 To-day is not enough or yesterday: God sees it all--
Your length on sunny lawns, the wakeful rainy nights--; tell me--;
                   (how vain to ask), but it is not a question--just a call--;
Show me then, only your notched inches climbing up the garden wall,
                     I like you best when you are small.

                                   Is this a stupid thing to say
                                  Not having spent with you one day?
                  No matter; I shall never touch your hair
                   Or hear the little tick behind your breast,
                                   And as a flying bird
                  Brushes the branches where it may not rest
                 I have brushed your hand and heard
               The child in you: I like that best
So small, so dark, so sweet; and were you also then too grave and wise?
                  Always I think. Then put your far off little hand in mine;--
                         Oh! let it rest;
I will not stare into the early world beyond the opening eyes,
                 Or vex or scare what I love best.
                  But I want your life before mine bleeds away--
                      Here--not in heavenly hereafters--soon,--
                      I want your smile this very afternoon,
                 (The last of all my vices, pleasant people used to say,
                     I wanted and I sometimes got--the Moon!)

                      You know, at dusk, the last bird's cry,
                  And round the house the flap of the bat's low flight,
                     Trees that go black against the sky
                 And then--how soon the night!

          No shadow of you on any bright road again,
And at the darkening end of this--what voice? whose kiss? As if you'd say!
It is not I who have walked with you, it will not be I who take away
                  Peace, peace, my little handful of the gleaner's grain
                 From your reaped fields at the shut of day.

                Peace! Would you not rather die
                  Reeling,--with all the cannons at your ear?
                So, at least, would I,
                   And I may not be here
                   To-night, to-morrow morning or next year.
                  Still I will let you keep your life a little while,
                      See dear?
                    I have made you smile.

Fame

Sometimes in the over-heated house, but not for long,
        Smirking and speaking rather loud,
    I see myself among the crowd,
Where no one fits the singer to his song,
Or sifts the unpainted from the painted faces
Of the people who are always on my stair;
They were not with me when I walked in heavenly places;
           But could I spare
In the blind Earth’s great silences and spaces,
    The din, the scuffle, the long stare
    If I went back and it was not there?
Back to the old known things that are the new,
The folded glory of the gorse, the sweet-briar air,
To the larks that cannot praise us, knowing nothing of what we do
    And the divine, wise trees that do not care
Yet, to leave Fame, still with such eyes and that bright hair!
God! If I might! And before I go hence
          Take in her stead
          To our tossed bed,
One little dream, no matter how small, how wild.
Just now, I think I found it in a field, under a fence—
A frail, dead, new-born lamb, ghostly and pitiful and white,
          A blot upon the night,
          The moon’s dropped child!