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    James Stephens

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    The Rivals

      I heard a bird at dawn
      Singing sweetly on a tree,
      That the dew was on the lawn,
      And the wind was on the lea;
      But I didn't listen to him,
      For he didn't sing to me.

      I didn't listen to him,
      For he didn't sing to me
      That the dew was on the lawn
      And the wind was on the lea;
      I was singing at the time
      Just as prettily as he.

      I was singing all the time,
      Just a prettily as he,
      About the dew upon the lawn
      And the wind upon the lea;
      So I didn't listen to him
      As he sang upon a tree.


    The Goat Paths

      The crooked paths go every way
      Upon the hill -- they wind about
      Through the heather in and out
      Of the quiet sunniness.
      And there the goats, day after day,
      Stray in sunny quietness,
      Cropping here and cropping there,
      As they pause and turn and pass,
      Now a bit of heather spray,
      Now a mouthful of the grass.

      In the deeper sunniness,
      In the place where nothing stirs,
      Quietly in quietness,
      In the quiet of the furze,
      For a time they come and lie
      Staring on the roving sky.

      If you approach they run away,
      They leap and stare, away they bound,
      With a sudden angry sound,
      To the sunny quietude;
      Crouching down where nothing stirs
      In the silence of the furze,
      Couching down again to brood
      In the sunny solitude.

      If I were as wise as they
      I would stray apart and brood,
      I would beat a hidden way
      Through he quiet heather spray
      To a sunny solitude;
      And should you come I'd run away,
      I would make an angry sound,
      I would stare and turn and bound
      To the deeper quietude,
      To the place where nothing stirs
      In the silence of the furze.

      In that airy quietness
      I would think as long as they;
      Through the quiet sunniness
      I would stray away to brood
      By a hidden beaten way
      In a sunny solitude.

      I would think until I found
      Something I can never find,
      Something lying on the ground,
      In the bottom of my mind.


    The Snare

    To A.E.

      I hear a sudden cry of pain!
      There is a rabbit in a snare;
      Now I hear the cry again,
      But I cannot tell from where.

      But I cannot tell from where
      He is calling out for aid;
      Crying on the frightened air,
      Making everything afraid.

      Making everything afraid,
      Wrinkling up his little face,
      As he cries again for aid;
      And I cannot find the place!

      And I cannot find the place
      Where his paw is in the snare:
      Little one! Oh, little one!
      I am searching everywhere.


    In Woods and Meadows

      Play to the tender stops, though cheerily:
      Gently, my soul, my song: let no one hear:
      Sing to thyself alone; thine ecstasy
      Rising in silence to the inward ear
      That is attuned to silence: do not tell
      A friend, a bird, a star, lest they should say --
      He danced in woods and meadows all the day,
      Waving his arms, and cried as evening fell,
      'O, do not come,' and cried, 'O, come, thou queen,
      And walk with me unwatched upon the green
             Under the sky.


    Deirdre

      Do not let any woman read this verse;
      It is for men, and after them their sons
      And their sons' sons.

      The time comes when our hearts sink utterly;
      When we remember Deirdre and her tale,
      And that her lips are dust.

      Once she did tread the earth: men took her hand;
      They looked into her eyes and said their say,
      And she replied to them.

      More than a thousand years it is since she
      Was beautiful: she trod the waving grass;
      She saw the clouds.

      A thousand years! The grass is stil the same,
      The clouds as lovely as they were that time
      When Deirdre was alive.

      But there has never been a woman born
      Who was so beautiful, not one so beautiful
      Of all the women born.

      Let all men go apart and mourn together;
      No man can ever love her; not a man
      Can ever be her lover.

      No man can bend before her: no man say --
      What could one say to her? There are no words
      That one could say to her!

      Now she is but a story that is told
      Beside the fire! No man can ever be
      The friend of that poor queen.


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