George Meredith (1828-1909)
Love in the Valley
1Under yonder beech-tree single on the green-sward,
2 Couched with her arms behind her golden head,
3Knees and tresses folded to slip and ripple idly,
4 Lies my young love sleeping in the shade.
5Had I the heart to slide an arm beneath her,
6 Press her parting lips as her waist I gather slow,
7Waking in amazement she could not but embrace me:
8 Then would she hold me and never let me go?
9Shy as the squirrel and wayward as the swallow,
10 Swift as the swallow along the river's light
11Circleting the surface to meet his mirrored winglets,
12 Fleeter she seems in her stay than in her flight.
13Shy as the squirrel that leaps among the pine-tops,
14 Wayward as the swallow overhead at set of sun,
15She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer,
16 Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won!
17When her mother tends her before the laughing mirror,
18 Tying up her laces, looping up her hair,
19Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded,
20 More love should I have, and much less care.
21When her mother tends her before the lighted mirror,
22 Loosening her laces, combing down her curls,
23Often she thinks, were this wild thing wedded,
24 I should miss but one for many boys and girls.
25Heartless she is as the shadow in the meadows
26 Flying to the hills on a blue and breezy noon.
27No, she is athirst and drinking up her wonder:
28 Earth to her is young as the slip of the new moon.
29Deals she an unkindness, 'tis but her rapid measure,
30 Even as in a dance; and her smile can heal no less:
31Like the swinging May-cloud that pelts the flowers with hailstones
32 Off a sunny border, she was made to bruise and bless.
33Lovely are the curves of the white owl sweeping
34 Wavy in the dusk lit by one large star.
35Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-note unvaried,
36 Brooding o'er the gloom, spins the brown eve-jar.
37Darker grows the valley, more and more forgetting:
38 So were it with me if forgetting could be willed.
39Tell the grassy hollow that holds the bubbling well-spring,
40 Tell it to forget the source that keeps it filled.
41Stepping down the hill with her fair companions,
42 Arm in arm, all against the raying West
43Boldly she sings, to the merry tune she marches,
44 Brave in her shape, and sweeter unpossessed.
45Sweeter, for she is what my heart first awaking
46 Whispered the world was; morning light is she.
47Love that so desires would fain keep her changeless;
48 Fain would fling the net, and fain have her free.
49Happy happy time, when the white star hovers
50 Low over dim fields fresh with bloomy dew,
51Near the face of dawn, that draws athwart the darkness,
52 Threading it with colour, as yewberries the yew.
53Thicker crowd the shades while the grave East deepens
54 Glowing, and with crimson a long cloud swells.
55Maiden still the morn is; and strange she is, and secret;
56 Strange her eyes; her cheeks are cold as cold sea-shells.
57Sunrays, leaning on our southern hills and lighting
58 Wild cloud-mountains that drag the hills along,
59Oft ends the day of your shifting brilliant laughter
60 Chill as a dull face frowning on a song.
61Ay, but shows the South-West a ripple-feathered bosom
62 Blown to silver while the clouds are shaken and ascend
63Scaling the mid-heavens as they stream, there comes a sunset
64 Rich, deep like love in beauty without end.
65When at dawn she sighs, and like an infant to the window
66 Turns grave eyes craving light, released from dreams,
67Beautiful she looks, like a white water-lily
68 Bursting out of bud in havens of the streams.
69When from bed she rises clothed from neck to ankle
70 In her long nightgown sweet as boughs of May,
71Beautiful she looks, like a tall garden lily
72 Pure from the night, and splendid for the day.
73Mother of the dews, dark eye-lashed twilight,
74 Low-lidded twilight, o'er the valley's brim,
75Rounding on thy breast sings the dew-delighted skylark,
76 Clear as though the dewdrops had their voice in him.
77Hidden where the rose-flush drinks the rayless planet,
78 Fountain-full he pours the spraying fountain-showers.
79Let me hear her laughter, I would have her ever
80 Cool as dew in twilight, the lark above the flowers.
81All the girls are out with their baskets for the primrose;
82 Up lanes, woods through, they troop in joyful bands.
83My sweet leads: she knows not why, but now she totters,
84 Eyes the bent anemones, and hangs her hands.
85Such a look will tell that the violets are peeping,
86 Coming the rose: and unaware a cry
87Springs in her bosom for odours and for colour,
88 Covert and the nightingale; she knows not why.
89Kerchiefed head and chin she darts between her tulips,
90 Streaming like a willow grey in arrowy rain:
91Some bend beaten cheek to gravel, and their angel
92 She will be; she lifts them, and on she speeds again.
93Black the driving raincloud breasts the iron gateway:
94 She is forth to cheer a neighbour lacking mirth.
95So when sky and grass met rolling dumb for thunder
96 Saw I once a white dove, sole light of earth.
97Prim little scholars are the flowers of her garden,
98 Trained to stand in rows, and asking if they please.
99I might love them well but for loving more the wild ones:
100 O my wild ones! they tell me more than these.
101You, my wild one, you tell of honied field-rose,
102 Violet, blushing eglantine in life; and even as they,
103They by the wayside are earnest of your goodness,
104 You are of life's, on the banks that line the way.
105Peering at her chamber the white crowns the red rose,
106 Jasmine winds the porch with stars two and three.
107Parted is the window; she sleeps; the starry jasmine
108 Breathes a falling breath that carries thoughts of me.
109Sweeter unpossessed, have I said of her my sweetest?
110 Not while she sleeps: while she sleeps the jasmine breathes,
111Luring her to love; she sleeps; the starry jasmine
112 Bears me to her pillow under white rose-wreaths.
113Yellow with birdfoot-trefoil are the grass-glades;
114 Yellow with cinquefoil of the dew-grey leaf;
115Yellow with stonecrop; the moss-mounds are yellow;
116 Blue-necked the wheat sways, yellowing to the sheaf:
117Green-yellow bursts from the copse the laughing yaffle;
118 Sharp as a sickle is the edge of shade and shine:
119Earth in her heart laughs looking at the heavens,
120 Thinking of the harvest: I look and think of mine.
121This I may know: her dressing and undressing
122 Such a change of light shows as when the skies in sport
123Shift from cloud to moonlight; or edging over thunder
124 Slips a ray of sun; or sweeping into port
125White sails furl; or on the ocean borders
126 White sails lean along the waves leaping green.
127Visions of her shower before me, but from eyesight
128 Guarded she would be like the sun were she seen.
129Front door and back of the mossed old farmhouse
130 Open with the morn, and in a breezy link
131Freshly sparkles garden to stripe-shadowed orchard,
132 Green across a rill where on sand the minnows wink.
133Busy in the grass the early sun of summer
134 Swarms, and the blackbird's mellow fluting notes
135Call my darling up with round and roguish challenge:
136 Quaintest, richest carol of all the singing throats!
137Cool was the woodside; cool as her white dairy
138 Keeping sweet the cream-pan; and there the boys from school,
139Cricketing below, rushed brown and red with sunshine;
140 O the dark translucence of the deep-eyed cool!
141Spying from the farm, herself she fetched a pitcher
142 Full of milk, and tilted for each in turn the beak.
143Then a little fellow, mouth up and on tiptoe,
144 Said, "I will kiss you": she laughed and leaned her cheek.
145Doves of the fir-wood walling high our red roof
146 Through the long noon coo, crooning through the coo.
147Loose droop the leaves, and down the sleepy roadway
148 Sometimes pipes a chaffinch; loose droops the blue.
149Cows flap a slow tail knee-deep in the river,
150 Breathless, given up to sun and gnat and fly.
151Nowhere is she seen; and if I see her nowhere,
152 Lightning may come, straight rains and tiger sky.
153O the golden sheaf, the rustling treasure-armful!
154 O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced!
155O the treasure-tresses one another over
156 Nodding! O the girdle slack about the waist!
157Slain are the poppies that shot their random scarlet
158 Quick amid the wheatears: wound about the waist,
159Gathered, see these brides of Earth one blush of ripeness!
160 O the nutbrown tresses nodding interlaced!
161Large and smoky red the sun's cold disk drops,
162 Clipped by naked hills, on violet shaded snow:
163Eastward large and still lights up a bower of moonrise,
164 Whence at her leisure steps the moon aglow.
165Nightlong on black print-branches our beech-tree
166 Gazes in this whiteness: nightlong could I.
167Here may life on death or death on life be painted.
168 Let me clasp her soul to know she cannot die!
169Gossips count her faults; they scour a narrow chamber
170 Where there is no window, read not heaven or her.
171"When she was a tiny," one aged woman quavers,
172 Plucks at my heart and leads me by the ear.
173Faults she had once as she learnt to run and tumbled:
174 Faults of feature some see, beauty not complete.
175Yet, good gossips, beauty that makes holy
176 Earth and air, may have faults from head to feet.
177Hither she comes; she comes to me; she lingers,
178 Deepens her brown eyebrows, while in new surprise
179High rise the lashes in wonder of a stranger;
180 Yet am I the light and living of her eyes.
181Something friends have told her fills her heart to brimming,
182 Nets her in her blushes, and wounds her, and tames.--
183Sure of her haven, O like a dove alighting,
184 Arms up, she dropped: our souls were in our names.
185Soon will she lie like a white-frost sunrise.
186 Yellow oats and brown wheat, barley pale as rye,
187Long since your sheaves have yielded to the thresher,
188 Felt the girdle loosened, seen the tresses fly.
189Soon will she lie like a blood-red sunset.
190 Swift with the to-morrow, green-winged Spring!
191Sing from the South-West, bring her back the truants,
192 Nightingale and swallow, song and dipping wing.
193Soft new beech-leaves, up to beamy April
194 Spreading bough on bough a primrose mountain, you,
195Lucid in the moon, raise lilies to the skyfields,
196 Youngest green transfused in silver shining through:
197Fairer than the lily, than the wild white cherry:
198 Fair as in image my seraph love appears
199Borne to me by dreams when dawn is at my eyelids:
200 Fair as in the flesh she swims to me on tears.
201Could I find a place to be alone with heaven,
202 I would speak my heart out: heaven is my need.
203Every woodland tree is flushing like the dog-wood,
204 Flashing like the whitebeam, swaying like the reed.
205Flushing like the dog-wood crimson in October;
206 Streaming like the flag-reed South-West blown;
207Flashing as in gusts the sudden-lighted white beam:
208 All seem to know what is for heaven alone.
1] First published in Poems (1851), in eleven stanzas. The expanded and altered edition printed here first appeared in Macmillan's Magazine (October 1878). For comparison, four stanzas of the original version (1, 2, 8, 9) are reproduced:
Under yonder beech-tree standing on the green sward,
Couch'd with her arms behind her little head,
Her knees folded up, and 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 mirror'd 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 of the dove!
Full of all the wildness of the woodland creatures,
Happy in herself is the maiden that I love!
When at dawn she wakens, and her fair face gazes
Out on the weather thro' the window panes,
Then when my darling tempts the early breeze,
She the only star that dies not with the dark!
Powerless to speak all the ardour of my passion
I catch her little hand as we listen to the lark.
36] eve-jar: the night-jar, a bird resembling the whip-poor-will.
117] yaffle: the green woodpecker.
204] whitebeam: a small tree with leaves white underneath.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Macmillan's Magazine (Oct. 1878). AP 4 M2 ROBA AP M337 MICR mfm.
First publication date:
Publication date note: also 1878
RPO poem editor: H. Kerpneck
RP edition: 3RP 3.285.
Recent editing: 2:2002/1/30
Other poems by George Meredith