“I once crossed through Cumbran vales”

I once crossed through Cumbran vales
Host to slinking fog and unseen underbarrows,
Where Summer wanes to wind
Amid widow’s fingers push’d through umber soil.
I walked in towns beside gaelick ocean
And plucked strings ’fore unsober crowd;
A ringing pixie did take my hand
And return a kiss ’neath castle ruins.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where bluebells grow, and friends get lost.

Shard of lightning cracks in the distance
As water fills the dale;
River-break and bridge collapse, Callaszag’s domain—
Sunlight thrice a year, but Autumn pays its due.
A time to walk in auburn youth with young pixie girl,
Spirit-sister who grows old just as you,
With whom you faced eldritch music, afeared;
With whom you parted when the ground turned frost.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where the mist does slope, and friends get lost.

Romantic land of lakes, I knew you just:
Chaos addictions and sins of lust.
And ruthless hikes up promontories vague
In harried gales, when love was fresh;
And carried guilt when bonds did break,
Celebrations of a well-spent youth;
On indulgence and synaptical separation I do treat:
In serpentine forests did we break.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where the poets wander, and friends get lost.

We knew her, Lucy: her hair was foxglove
And her round cheeks smiled even in sorrow;
We planted mushrooms, walked grey streets at night,
And never did I know if she was truly real.
She died, and left to us an elusive memory
Of girl-child caught too soon by listless haze.
Her brother passed soon after—
We didn’t chance to say goodbye.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where the hills whistle, and friends get lost.

I passed the vales of Cumbran rain
And eventually travelled on my way;
No more wet valleys and whispering brooks,
No pixie girls amongst bankside trees.
But often my spirit wandered, and saw those crags,
Those windswept peaks where brothers sat.
Now all have left, and only ghosts remain;
People, memories — but ghosts all the same.
The woods will answer when the trees I cross:
Where the daffodils murmur, and friends get lost.

 

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