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

George Meredith (1828–1909)

Love in the Valley

UNDER yonder beech-tree standing on the greensward,

Couched with her arms behind her little head,

Her knees folded up, her tresses on her bosom,

Lies my young love sleeping in the shade.

Had I the heart to slide one arm beneath her,

Press her dreaming lips as her waist I folded slow!

Waking on the instant she could not but embrace me—

Ah! would she hold me, and never let me go?

Shy as the squirrel, and wayward as the swallow;

Swift as the swallow when athwart the western flood

Circleting the surface he meets his mirrored winglets,—

Is that dear one in her maiden bud.

Shy as the squirrel whose nest is in the pine-tops;

Gentle—ah! that she were jealous as the dove!

Full of all the wildness of the woodland creatures,

Happy in herself is the maiden that I love!

What can have taught her distrust of all I tell her?

Can she truly doubt me when looking on my brows?

Nature never teaches distrust of tender love-tales,

What can have taught her distrust of all my vows?

No, she does not doubt me! on a dewy eve-tide,

Whispering together beneath the listening moon,

I prayed till her cheek flushed, implored till she faltered—

Fluttered to my bosom—ah! to fly away so soon!

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,

I should have more love, and much less care.”

When her mother tends her before the bashful mirror,

Loosening her laces, combing down her curls,

Often she thinks, “Were this wild thing wedded,

I should lose but one for so many boys and girls.”

Clambering roses peep into her chamber,

Jasmine and woodbine breathe sweet, sweet;

White-necked swallows twittering of summer,

Fill her with balm and nested peace from head to feet.

Ah! will the rose-bough see her lying lonely,

When the petals fall and fierce bloom is on the leaves?

Will the autumn garners see her still ungathered,

When the fickle swallows forsake the weeping eaves?

Comes a sudden question—should a strange hand pluck her!

Oh what an anguish smites me at the thought,

Should some idle lordling bribe her mind with jewels!—

Can such beauty ever thus be bought?

Sometimes the huntsmen prancing down the valley

Eye the village lasses, full of sprightly mirth;

They see as I see, mine is the fairest!

Would she were older, and could read my worth!

Are there not sweet maidens if she will deny me?

Show the bridal heavens but one bright star?

Wherefore thus then do I chase a shadow,

Chattering one note like a brown eve-jar?

So I rhyme and reason till she darts before me—

Through the milky meadows from flower to flower she flies,

Sunning her sweet palms to shade her dazzled eyelids

From the golden love that looks too eager in her eyes.

When at dawn she wakens, and her fair face gazes

Out on the weather through the window-panes,

Beauteous she looks! like a white water-lily

Bursting out of bud on the rippled river-plains.

When from bed she rises, clothed from neck to ankle

In her long nightgown, sweet as boughs of May,

Beauteous she looks! like a tall garden lily

Pure from the night and perfect for the day!

Happy, happy time, when the gray star twinkles

Over the fields all fresh with bloomy dew;

When the cold-cheeked dawn grows ruddy up the twilight,

And the gold sun wakes, and weds her in the blue.

Then when my darling tempts the early breezes,

She the only star that dies not with the dark!

Powerless to speak all the ardor of my passion,

I catch her little hand as we listen to the lark.

Shall the birds in vain then valentine their sweethearts,

Season after season tell a fruitless tale?

Will not the virgin listen to their voices?

Take the honeyed meaning—wear the bridal veil?

Fears she frosts of winter, fears she the bare branches?

Waits she the garlands of spring for her dower?

Is she a nightingale that will not be nested

Till the April woodland has built her bridal bower?

Then come, merry April, with all thy birds and beauties!

With thy crescent brows and thy flowery, showery glee;

With thy budding leafage and fresh green pastures:

And may thy lustrous crescent grow a honeymoon for me!

Come, merry month of the cuckoo and the violet!

Come, weeping Loveliness, in all thy blue delight!

Lo! the nest is ready, let me not languish longer!

Bring her to my arms on the first May night.