In the Little Old Market-Place
(To the memory of A. V.)
It rains, it rains,
From gutters and drains
And gargoyles and gables:
It drips from the tables
That tell us the tolls upon grains,
Oxen, asses, sheep, turkeys and fowls
Set into the rain-soaked wall
Of the old Town Hall.
The mountains being so tall
And forcing the town on the river,
The market’s so small
That, with the wet cobbles, dark arches and all,
(For in dark rainy weather the owls fly out
Well before four), so the owls
In the gloom
Have too little room
And brush by the saint on the fountain
In veering about.
The poor saint on the fountain!
Supported by plaques of the giver
To whom we’re beholden;
His name was de Sales
And his wife’s name von Mangel.
(Now is he a saint or archangel?)
He stands on a dragon
On a ball, on a column
Gazing up at the vines on the mountain:
And his falchion is golden
And his wings are all golden.
He bears golden scales
And in spite of the coils of his dragon, without hint of alarm of invective
Looks up at the mists on the mountain.
(Now what saint or archangel
Stands winged on a dragon,
Bearing golden scales and a broad bladed sword all golden?
Alas, my knowledge
Of all the saints of the college,
Of all these glimmering, olden
Sacred and misty stories
Of angels and saints and old glories…
Is sadly defective.)
The poor saint on the fountain…
On top of his column
Gazes up sad and solemn.
But is it towards the top of the mountain
Where the spindrifty haze is
That he gazes?
Or is it into the casement
Where the girl sits sewing?
There’s no knowing.
Hear it rain!
And from eight leaden pipes in the ball he stands on
That has eight leaden and copper bands on,
There gurgle and drain
Eight driblets of water down into the basin.
And he stands on his dragon
And the girl sits sewing
High, very high in her casement
And before her are many geraniums in a parket
All growing and blowing
In box upon box
From the gables right down to the basement
With frescoes and carvings and paint…
The poor saint!
It rains and it rains,
In the market there isn’t an ox,
And in all the emplacement
For waggons there isn’t a waggon,
Not a stall for a grape or a raisin,
Not a soul in the market
Save the saint on his dragon
With the rain dribbling down in the basin,
And the maiden that sews in the casement.
They are still and alone,
And the rain dribbles down from his heels and his crown,
From wet stone to wet stone.
It’s grey as at dawn,
And the owls, grey and fawn,
Call from the little town hall
With its arch in the wall,
Where the fire-hooks are stored.
From behind the flowers of her casement
That’s all gay with the carvings and paint,
The maiden gives a great yawn,
But the poor saint—
No doubt he’s as bored!
Stands still on his column
Uplifting his sword
With never the ease of a yawn
From wet dawn to wet dawn…
This poem is in the public domain.
Ford Madox Ford
Often associated with the Imagist movement, Ford Madox Ford was the author of numerous poetry collections, including New Poems (William Edwin Rudge, 1927). He fought in World War I from 1915 to 1917 and died in 1939.
Date Published: 2017-09-22
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/little-old-market-place