Lines for the first of May

for Rachel, who knows

The choristers sang at dawn in Oxfordtown, birdnotes chiming from tower’d nest
of stone above the mink-brown Cher. I have never heard them do it
but by the heart’s hard listening, that fancy-flight of longing
that makes an actuality of the imagined, till the dream is more real
than the real. And while I dreamed an inexorable sea away, they sang,
white robes ruffled like fledgling feathers breathed upon by auroral breezes,
round mouths wide to drink in all that dew of blushing morn and maiden
May. The earth is glad once more—their sweet song rouses it with a shout!
       And I awake, dispossessed of all that happy dream.

My morning broods, welling tears of unshed rain, while the green world waits,
shuddering at one long, low sob of thunder. Yet the wild roses breathe out
a holy incense, flouncing their frills over western hedges and showering a veil
of bridal white from the low-sweeping pines. In the breathless orthodoxy
of this newborn day that first, wild, young madness of honeysuckle plies
an arrow through my awakened heart. And at evening, we sit beneath
a windswept sky, remembering how the sun kindled her honeyed face and how the rain
silvered the hoary fretwork of her spires. “To England,” he says, lifting a glass of stars,
       summer wine enflamed by one glance of that great light

7 Responses to “Lines for the first of May”

  1. JJ says:


  2. Dianne L says:

    What lovely words. I’ve only been to England once, and was thankful to spend a day in Oxford. I would love to go back. “To England, and to springtime.”

  3. Josh says:

    This is so, so well done. Completely made my evening. 🙂


    I just came looking for this poem after my class read Song on May Morning by
    John Milton today. My birthday is May 1 and a student’s is also. She remembered
    this poem I sent to her last year and declared: WE MUST read it on Thursday.
    SO , thank you from our full hearts full of May songs.

  5. Josie Ray says:

    Lovely. My favorite lines begin at “And at evening.” The mood of the entire piece is wonderful.

  6. Jody says:

    Your words breathed life into the spirit of spires and Mayday songs of Oxford… But what I loved, even more than that dear City, was the second half of this poem. The sorrow and longing painted in a brooding sky, the lovely line about the glass of stars – these burned themselves upon my mind’s eye. Your gift of words has done that more than once, and I am greatly blessed by you sharing them. Thank you.

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