Shepherd. That cry's from the first cuckoo of the year. I wished before it ceased.
Goatherd. Nor bird nor beast Could make me wish for anything this day, Being old, but that the old alone might die, And that would be against God's providence. Let the young wish. But what has brought you here? Never until this moment have we met Where my goats browse on the scarce grass or leap From stone to Stone.
Shepherd. I am looking for strayed sheep; Something has troubled me and in my rrouble I let them stray. I thought of rhyme alone, For rhme can beat a measure out of trouble And make the daylight sweet once more; but when I had driven every rhyme into its Place The sheep had gone from theirs.
Goatherd. I know right well What turned so good a shepherd from his charge.
Shepherd. He that was best in every country sport And every country craft, and of us all Most courteous to slow age and hasty youth, Is dead.
Goatherd. The boy that brings my griddle-cake Brought the bare news.
Shepherd. He had thrown the crook away And died in the great war beyond the sea.
Goatherd. He had often played his pipes among my hills, And when he played it was their loneliness, The exultation of their stone, that died Under his fingers.
Shepherd. I had it from his mother, And his own flock was browsing at the door.
Goatherd. How does she bear her grief? There is not a shepherd But grows more gentle when he speaks her name, Remembering kindness done, and how can I, That found when I had neither goat nor grazing New welcome and old wisdom at her fire Till winter blasts were gone, but speak of her Even before his children and his wife?
Shepherd. She goes about her house erect and calm Between the pantry and the linen-chest, Or else at meadow or at grazing overlooks Her labouring men, as though her darling lived, But for her grandson now; there is no change But such as I have Seen upon her face Watching our shepherd sports at harvest-time When her son's turn was over.
Goatherd. Sing your song. I too have rhymed my reveries, but youth Is hot to show whatever it has found, And till that's done can neither work nor wait. Old goatherds and old goats, if in all else Youth can excel them in accomplishment, Are learned in waiting.
Shepherd. You cannot but have seen That he alone had gathered up no gear, Set carpenters to work on no wide table, On no long bench nor lofty milking-shed As others will, when first they take possession, But left the house as in his father's time As though he knew himself, as it were, a cuckoo, No settled man. And now that he is gone There's nothing of him left but half a score Of sorrowful, austere, sweet, lofty pipe tunes.
Goatherd. You have put the thought in rhyme.
Shepherd. I worked all day, And when 'twas done so little had I done That maybe "I am sorry' in plain prose Had Sounded better to your mountain fancy.
"Like the speckled bird that steers Thousands of leagues oversea, And runs or a while half-flies On his yellow legs through our meadows. He stayed for a while; and we Had scarcely accustomed our ears To his speech at the break of day, Had scarcely accustomed our eyes To his shape at the rinsing-pool Among the evening shadows, When he vanished from ears and eyes. I might have wished on the day He came, but man is a fool.'
Goatherd. You sing as always of the natural life, And I that made like music in my youth Hearing it now have sighed for that young man And certain lost companions of my own.
Shepherd. They say that on your barren mountain ridge You have measured out the road that the soul treads When it has vanished from our natural eyes; That you have talked with apparitions.
Goatherd. Indeed My daily thoughts since the first stupor of youth Have found the path my goats' feet cannot find.
Shepherd. Sing, for it may be that your thoughts have plucked Some medicable herb to make our grief Less bitter.
Goatherd. They have brought me from that ridge Seed-pods and flowers that are not all wild poppy.
"He grows younger every second That were all his birthdays reckoned Much too solemn seemed; Because of what he had dreamed, Or the ambitions that he served, Much too solemn and reserved. Jaunting, journeying To his own dayspring, He unpacks the loaded pern Of all 'twas pain or joy to learn, Of all that he had made. The outrageous war shall fade; At some old winding whitethorn root He'll practise on the shepherd's flute, Or on the close-cropped grass Court his shepherd lass, Or put his heart into some game Till daytime, playtime seem the same; Knowledge he shall unwind Through victories of the mind, Till, clambering at the cradle-side, He dreams himself hsi mother's pride, All knowledge lost in trance Of sweeter ignorance.'
Shepherd. When I have shut these ewes and this old ram Into the fold, we'll to the woods and there Cut out our rhymes on strips of new-torn bark But put no name and leave them at her door. To know the mountain and the valley have grieved May be a quiet thought to wife and mother, And children when they spring up shoulder-high.