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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Arthur Christopher Benson 1862–1925



BY copse and hedgerow, waste and wall,

He thrusts his cushions red;

O’er burdock rank, o’er thistles tall,

He rears his hardy head:

Within, without, the strong leaves press,

He screens the mossy stone,

Lord of a narrow wilderness,

Self-centred and alone.

He numbers no observant friends,

He soothes no childish woes,

Yet nature nurtures him, and tends

As duly as the rose;

He drinks the blessed dew of heaven,

The wind is in his ears,

To guard his growth the planets seven

Swing in their airy spheres.

The spirits of the fields and woods

Throb in is sturdy veins:

He drinks the secret, stealing floods,

And swills the volleying rains:

And when the birds’ note showers and breaks

The wood’s green heart within,

He stirs his plumy brow and wakes

To draw the sunlight in.

Mute sheep that pull the grasses soft

Crop close and pass him by,

Until he stands alone, aloft,

In surly majesty.

No fly so keen, no bee so bold,

To pierce that knotted zone,

He frowns as though he guarded gold,

And yet he garners none.

And so when autumn winds blow late,

And whirl the chilly wave,

He bows before the common fate,

And drops beside his grave.

None ever owed him thanks or said

“A gift of gracious heaven.”

Down in the mire he droops his head;

Forgotten, not forgiven.

Smile on, brave weed! let none inquire

What made or bade thee rise:

Toss thy tough fingers high and higher

To flout the drenching skies.

Let others toil for others’ good,

And miss or mar their own;

Thou hast brave health, and fortitude

To live and die alone!