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The Miller’s Daughter

         
      I see the wealthy miller yet,
         His double chin, his portly size,
      And who that knew him could forget
         The busy wrinkles round his eyes?
      The slow wise smile that, round about
         His dusty forehead drily curl’d,
      Seem’d half-within and half-without,
         And full of dealings with the world?
       

      In yonder chair I see him sit,
         Three fingers round the old silver cup–
      I see his gray eyes twinkle yet
         At his own jest–gray eyes lit up
      With summer lightnings of a soul
         So full of summer warmth, so glad,
      So healthy, sound, and clear and whole,
         His memory scarce can make me sad.
       

      Yet fill my glass: give me one kiss:
         My own sweet Alice, we must die.
      There’s somewhat in this world amiss
         Shall be unriddled by and by.
      There’s somewhat flows to us in life,
         But more is taken quite away.
      Pray, Alice, pray, my darling wife,
         That we may die the self-same day.
       

      Have I not found a happy earth?
         I least should breathe a thought of pain.
      Would God renew me from my birth
         I’d almost live my life again.
      So sweet it seems with thee to walk,
         And once again to woo thee mine–
      It seems in after-dinner talk
         Across the walnuts and the wine–
       

      To be the long and listless boy
         Late-left an orphan of the squire,
      Where this old mansion mounted high
         Looks down upon the village spire:
      For even here, where I and you
         Have lived and loved alone so long,
      Each morn my sleep was broken thro’
         By some wild skylark’s matin song.
       

      And oft I heard the tender dove
         In firry woodlands making moan;
      But ere I saw your eyes, my love,
         I had no motion of my own.
      For scarce my life with fancy play’d
         Before I dream’d that pleasant dream–
      Still hither thither idly sway’d
         Like those long mosses in the stream.
       

      Or from the bridge I lean’d to hear
         The milldam rushing down with noise,
      And see the minnows everywhere
         In crystal eddies glance and poise,
      The tall flag-flowers when they sprung
         Below the range of stepping-stones,
      Or those three chestnuts near, that hung
         In masses thick with milky cones.
       

      But, Alice, what an hour was that,
         When after roving in the woods
      (’Twas April then), I came and sat
         Below the chestnuts, when their buds
      Were glistening to the breezy blue;
         And on the slope, an absent fool,
      I cast me down, nor thought of you,
         But angled in the higher pool.
       

      A love-song I had somewhere read,
         An echo from a measured strain,
      Beat time to nothing in my head
         From some odd corner of the brain.
      It haunted me, the morning long,
         With weary sameness in the rhymes,
      The phantom of a silent song,
         That went and came a thousand times.
       

      Then leapt a trout. In lazy mood
         I watch’d the little circles die;
      They past into the level flood,
         And there a vision caught my eye;
      The reflex of a beauteous form,
         A glowing arm, a gleaming neck,
      As when a sunbeam wavers warm
         Within the dark and dimpled beck.
       

      For you remember, you had set,
         That morning, on the casement-edge
      A long green box of mignonette,
         And you were leaning from the ledge
      And when I raised my eyes, above
         They met with two so full and bright–
      Such eyes! I swear to you, my love,
         That these have never lost their light.
       

      I loved, and love dispell’d the fear
         That I should die an early death:
      For love possess’d the atmosphere,
         And fill’d the breast with purer breath.
      My mother thought, what ails the boy?
         For I was alter’d, and began
      To move about the house with joy,
         And with the certain step of man.
       

      I loved the brimming wave that swam
         Thro’ quiet meadows round the mill,
      The sleepy pool above the dam,
         The pool beneath it never still,
      The meal-sacks on the whiten’d floor,
         The dark round of the dripping wheel,
      The very air about the door
         Made misty with the floating meal.
       

      And oft in ramblings on the wold,
         When April nights began to blow,
      And April’s crescent glimmer’d cold,
         I saw the village lights below;
      I knew your taper far away,
         And full at heart of trembling hope,
      From off the wold I came, and lay
         Upon the freshly-flower’d slope.
       

      The deep brook groan’d beneath the mill;
         And ‘by that lamp,’ I thought, ‘she sits!’
      The white chalk-quarry from the hill
         Gleam’d to the flying moon by fits.
      ‘O that I were beside her now!
         O will she answer if I call?
      O would she give me vow for vow,
         Sweet Alice, if I told her all?’
       

      Sometimes I saw you sit and spin;
         And, in the pauses of the wind,
      Sometimes I heard you sing within;
         Sometimes your shadow cross’d the blind.
      At last you rose and moved the light,
         And the long shadow of the chair
      Flitted across into the night,
         And all the casement darken’d there.
       

      But when at last I dared to speak,
         The lanes, you know, were white with may,
      Your ripe lips moved not, but your cheek
         Flush’d like the coming of the day;
      And so it was–half-sly, half-shy,
         You would, and would not, little one!
      Although I pleaded tenderly,
         And you and I were all alone.
       

      And slowly was my mother brought
         To yield consent to my desire:
      She wish’d me happy, but she thought
         I might have look’d a little higher;
      And I was young–too young to wed:
         ‘Yet must I love her for your sake;
      Go fetch your Alice here,’ she said:
         Her eyelid quiver’d as she spake.
       

      And down I went to fetch my bride:
         But, Alice, you were ill at ease;
      This dress and that by turns you tried,
         Too fearful that you should not please.
      I loved you better for your fears,
         I knew you could not look but well;
      And dews, that would have fall’n in tears,
         I kiss’d away before they fell.
       

      I watch’d the little flutterings,
         The doubt my mother would not see;
      She spoke at large of many things,
         And at the last she spoke of me;
      And turning look’d upon your face,
         As near this door you sat apart,
      And rose, and, with a silent grace
         Approaching, press’d you heart to heart.
       

      Ah, well–but sing the foolish song
         I gave you, Alice, on the day
      When, arm in arm, we went along,
         A pensive pair, and you were gay
      With bridal flowers–that I may seem,
         As in the nights of old, to lie
      Beside the mill-wheel in the stream,
         While those full chestnuts whisper by.
       

      It is the miller’s daughter,
         And she is grown so dear, so dear,
      That I would be the jewel
         That trembles in her ear:
      For hid in ringlets day and night,
      I’d touch her neck so warm and white.
       

      And I would be the girdle
         About her dainty dainty waist,
      And her heart would beat against me,
         In sorrow and in rest:
      And I should know if it beat right,
      I’d clasp it round so close and tight.
       

      And I would be the necklace,
         And all day long to fall and rise
      Upon her balmy bosom,
         With her laughter or her sighs,
      And I would lie so light, so light,
      I scarce should be unclasp’d at night.
       

      A trifle, sweet! which true love spells–
         True love interprets–right alone.
      His light upon the letter dwells,
         For all the spirit is his own.
      So, if I waste words now, in truth
         You must blame Love. His early rage
      Had force to make me rhyme in youth,
         And makes me talk too much in age.
       

      And now those vivid hours are gone,
         Like mine own life to me thou art,
      Where Past and Present, wound in one,
         Do make a garland for the heart:
      So sing that other song I made,
         Half-anger’d with my happy lot,
      The day, when in the chestnut shade
         I found the blue Forget-me-not.
       

          Love that hath us in the net,
          Can he pass, and we forget?
          Many suns arise and set.
          Many a chance the years beget.
          Love the gift is Love the debt.

               Even so.
          Love is hurt with jar and fret.
          Love is made a vague regret.
          Eyes with idle tears are wet.
          Idle habit links us yet.
          What is love? for we forget:
               Ah, no! no!
         

      Look thro’ mine eyes with thine. True wife,
         Round my true heart thine arms entwine
      My other dearer life in life,
         Look thro’ my very soul with thine!
      Untouch’d with any shade of years,
         May those kind eyes for ever dwell!
      They have not shed a many tears,
         Dear eyes, since first I knew them well.
       

      Yet tears they shed: they had their part
         Of sorrow: for when time was ripe,
      The still affection of the heart
         Became an outward breathing type,
      That into stillness past again,
         And left a want unknown before;
      Although the loss had brought us pain,
         That loss but made us love the more,
       

      With farther lookings on. The kiss,
         The woven arms, seem but to be
      Weak symbols of the settled bliss,
         The comfort, I have found in thee:
      But that God bless thee, dear–who wrought
         Two spirits to one equal mind–
      With blessings beyond hope or thought,
         With blessings which no words can find.
       

      Arise, and let us wander forth,
         To yon old mill across the wolds;
      For look, the sunset, south and north,
         Winds all the vale in rosy folds,
      And fires your narrow casement glass,
         Touching the sullen pool below:
      On the chalk-hill the bearded grass
         Is dry and dewless. Let us go.
       


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