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Francis Ledwidge (1891-1917)

June


              1Broom out the floor now, lay the fender by,
              2And plant this bee-sucked bough of woodbine there,
              3And let the window down. The butterfly
              4Floats in upon the sunbeam, and the fair
              5Tanned face of June, the nomad gipsy, laughs
              6Above her widespread wares, the while she tells
              7The farmers' fortunes in the fields, and quaffs
              8The water from the spider-peopled wells.

              9The hedges are all drowned in green grass seas,
            10And bobbing poppies flare like Elmo's light,
            11While siren-like the pollen-stainéd bees
            12Drone in the clover depths. And up the height
            13The cuckoo's voice is hoarse and broke with joy.
            14And on the lowland crops the crows make raid,
            15Nor fear the clappers of the farmer's boy,
            16Who sleeps, like drunken Noah, in the shade.

            17And loop this red rose in that hazel ring
            18That snares your little ear, for June is short
            19And we must joy in it and dance and sing,
            20And from her bounty draw her rosy worth.
            21Ay! soon the swallows will be flying south,
            22The wind wheel north to gather in the snow,
            23Even the roses spilt on youth's red mouth
            24Will soon blow down the road all roses go.

Notes

1] fender: "metal frame placed in front of a fire to keep falling coals from rolling out into the room" (OED, "fender," n. 3.a.).

10] Elmo's light: natural spherical light or corona fixed to the mast of a ship or another pointed object (here the poppies), named after St. Erasmus, that is, St. Elmo, patron saint of Mediterranean sailors (OED, "St. Elmo").

15] clappers: handheld rattles shaken to scare away birds.

16] Biblical Noah, after the great Flood, discovered wine and fell into a naked, drunken sleep in which his sons found him. One of them, Ham, laughed at Noah exposed, but the other two, Shem and Japheth, covered him decorously with a loin cloth. This is the subject of a painting by Giovanni Bellini (ca. 1500-15) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Besançon, France.


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: The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge, intro. by Lord Dunsany (London: Herbert Kenkins, 1919): 63-64. British Library 011649.g.88
First publication date: 1919
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/10/3

Form: octaves
Rhyme: ababcdcd


Other poems by Francis Ledwidge