The years had worn their seasons’ belt,
From bud to rosy prime,
Since Nellie by the larch-pole knelt
And helped the hop to climb.
Most diligent of teachers then,
But now with all to learn,
She breathed beyond a thought of men,
Though formed to make men burn.
She dwelt where ‘twixt low-beaten thorns
Two mill-blades, like a snail,
Enormous, with inquiring horns,
Looked down on half the vale.
You know the grey of dew on grass
Ere with the young sun fired,
And you know well the thirst one has
For the coming and desired.
Quick in our ring she leapt, and gave
Her hand to left, to right.
No claim on her had any, save
To feed the joy of sight.
For man and maid a laughing word
She tossed, in notes as clear
As when the February bird
Sings out that Spring is near.
Of what befell behind that scone,
Let none who knows reveal.
In ballad days she might have been
A heroine rousing steel.
On us did she bestow the hour,
And fixed it firm in thought;
Her spirit like a meadow flower
That gives, and asks for nought.
She seemed to make the sunlight stay
And show her in its pride.
O she was fair as a beech in May
With the sun on the yonder side.
There was more life than breath can give,
In the looks in her fair form;
For little can we say we live
Until the heart is warm.