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Robert Graves (1895–1985). Fairies and Fusiliers. 1918.

5. To Robert Nichols

(From Frise on the Somme in February, 1917, in answer to a letter saying: “I am just finishing my ‘Faun’s Holiday.’ I wish you were here to feed him with cherries.”)

HERE by a snowbound river

In scrapen holes we shiver,

And like old bitterns we

Boom to you plaintively:

Robert, how can I rhyme

Verses for your desire—

Sleek fauns and cherry-time,

Vague music and green trees,

Hot sun and gentle breeze,

England in June attire,

And life born young again,

For your gay goatish brute

Drunk with warm melody

Singing on beds of thyme

With red and rolling eye,

Waking with wanton lute

All the Devonian plain,

Lips dark with juicy stain,

Ears hung with bobbing fruit?

Why should I keep him time?

Why in this cold and rime,

Where even to dream is pain?

No, Robert, there’s no reason:

Cherries are out of season,

Ice grips at branch and root,

And singing birds are mute.