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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Love in the Valley

By George Meredith (1828–1909)

UNDER yonder beech-tree single on the green-sward,

Couched with her arms behind her golden head,

Knees and tresses folded to slip and ripple idly,

Lies my young love sleeping in the shade.

Had I the heart to slide an arm beneath her,

Press her parting lips as her waist I gather slow,

Waking in amazement she could not but embrace me:

Then would she hold me and never let me go?

Shy as the squirrel and wayward as the swallow,

Swift as the swallow along the river’s light

Circleting the surface to meet his mirrored winglets,

Fleeter she seems in her stay than in her flight.

Shy as the squirrel that leaps among the pine-tops,

Wayward as the swallow overhead at set of sun,

She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer,

Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won!

When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror,

Tying up her laces, looping up her hair,

Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded,

More love should I have, and much less care.

When her mother tends her before the lighted mirror,

Loosening her laces, combing down her curls,

Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded,

I should miss but one for many boys and girls.

Heartless she is as the shadow in the meadows

Flying to the hills on a blue and breezy noon.

No, she is athirst and drinking up her wonder:

Earth to her is young as the slip of the new moon.

Deals she an unkindness, ’tis but her rapid measure,

Even as in a dance; and her smile can heal no less:

Like the swinging May-cloud that pelts the flowers with hailstones

Off a sunny border, she was made to bruise and bless.

Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping

Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star.

Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-note unvaried,

Brooding o’er the gloom, spins the brown evejar.

Darker grows the valley, more and more forgetting:

So were it with me if forgetting could be willed.

Tell the grassy hollow that holds the bubbling well-spring,

Tell it to forget the source that keeps it filled.

Stepping down the hill with her fair companions,

Arm in arm, all against the raying West,

Boldly she sings, to the merry tune she marches,

Brave is her shape, and sweeter unpossessed.

Sweeter, for she is what my heart first awaking

Whispered the world was; morning light is she.

Love that so desires would fain keep her changeless;

Fain would fling the net, and fain have her free.

Happy happy time, when the white star hovers

Low over dim fields fresh with bloomy dew,

Near the face of dawn, that draws athwart the darkness,

Threading it with color, like yewberries the yew.

Thicker crowd the shades as the grave East deepens,

Glowing, and with crimson a long cloud swells.

Maiden still the morn is; and strange she is, and secret;

Strange her eyes; her cheeks are cold as cold seashells.

When at dawn she sighs, and like an infant to the window

Turns grave eyes craving light, released from dreams,

Beautiful she looks, like a white water-lily

Bursting out of bud in havens of the streams.

When from bed she rises clothed from neck to ankle

In her long nightgown sweet as boughs of May,

Beautiful she looks, like a tall garden lily

Pure from the night, and splendid for the day.

All the girls are out with their baskets for the primrose,

Up lanes, woods through, they troop in joyful bands.

My sweet leads; she knows not why, but now she loiters,

Eyes the bent anemones, and hangs her hands.

Such a look will tell that the violets are peeping,

Coming the rose: and unaware a cry

Springs in her bosom for odors and for color,

Covert and the nightingale; she knows not why.

Cool was the woodside; cool as her white dairy

Keeping sweet the cream-pan; and there the boys from school,

Cricketing below, rushed brown and red with sunshine;

O the dark translucence of the deep-eyed cool!

Spying from the farm, herself she fetched a pitcher

Full of milk, and tilted for each in turn the beak.

Then a little fellow, mouth up and on tiptoe,

Said, “I will kiss you”; she laughed and leaned her cheek.

Doves of the fir-wood walling high our red roof

Through the long noon coo, crooning through the coo.

Loose droop the leaves, and down the sleepy roadway

Sometimes pipes a chaffinch; loose droops the blue.

Cows flap a slow tail knee-deep in the river,

Breathless, given up to sun and gnat and fly.

Nowhere is she seen; and if I see her nowhere,

Lightning may come, straight rains and tiger sky.

O the golden sheaf, the rustling treasure-armful!

O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced!

O the treasure-tresses one another over

Nodding! O the girdle slack about the waist!

Slain are the poppies that shot their random scarlet

Quick amid the wheatears: wound about the waist,

Gathered, see these brides of Earth one blush of ripeness!

O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced!

Could I find a place to be alone with heaven,

O would speak my heart out: heaven is my need.

Every woodland tree is flushing like the dogwood,

Flashing like the whitebeam, swaying like the reed.

Flushing like the dogwood crimson in October;

Streaming like the flag-reed South-west blown;

Flashing as in gusts the sudden-lighted whitebeam:

All seem to know what is for heaven alone.