Three Poems by Alice Meynell

Early poems:


I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the thought that lurks in all delight –
The thought of thee – and in the blue Heaven’s height,
And in the sweetest passage of a song.

O just beyond the fairest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits, hidden yet bright;
But it must stop short of thee the whole day long.

But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,

Must doff my will as raiment laid away, –
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart.

Later poem:

The Rainy Summer

There’s much afoot in heaven and earth this year;
The winds hunt up the sun, hunt up the moon,
Trouble the dubious dawn, hasten the drear
Height of a threatening noon.

No breath of boughs, no breath of leaves, of fronds,
May linger or grow warm; the trees are loud;
The forest, rooted, tosses in her bonds,
And strains against the cloud.

No scents may pause within the garden-fold;
The rifled flowers are cold as ocean-shells;
Bees, humming in the storm, carry their cold
Wild honey to cold cells.

From last poems:

Intimations of Mortality

(From recollections of early childhood
A simple child………..
That lightly draws its breath
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

It knows but will not tell.
Awake, alone, it counts it’s father’s years –
How few are left – it’s mother’s. Ah, how well
It knows of death, in tears.

If any of the three –
Parents and child – believe they have prevailed
To keep the secret of mortality,
I know that two have failed.

The third, the lonely, keeps
One secret – a child’s knowledge. When they come
At night to ask wherefore the sweet one weeps,
Those hidden lips are dumb.

From ‘ The poems of Alice Meynell‘. Complete edition published 1923 by Burnes Oates & Washbourne Ltd

There are several more poems I could have included. My intention is for only three as ‘a taste’ and I feel bad for leaving out the current ‘topicality’ of Nurse Edith Cavell and especially: Summer in England, 1914., and Letter from a Girl to Her Own Old Age. These are two of her best and can be located via Poem as can so many other poet’s poetry.

Her religious conviction comes out in many, especially her later poems, but not always and her emotion rings true whether wholeheartedly religious or blended with her other ideas of the poet and or Nature. I did not find any hints towards her commitment as a suffragette though her childhood in Italy would certainly influenced at least her early work and religion.


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