John Drinkwater (1882 – 1937) was a poet and playwright, who often performed his own works. He was the first husband of violinist Daisy Kennedy. Associated with Barry Jackson in the formation of the company that developed into the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, in and for which his plays up to and including “Abraham Lincoln” were written. Published New Numbers in conjunction with Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, and was a contributor to the five volumes of Mr. Marsh’s Georgian Poetry. In addition to his poetry and plays, he has written various critical studies, including volumes on Byron, Charles II, and Charles James Fox.

Lecture 70: John Drinkwater reading his own poems
Part 1: Mystery; Vagabond; Moonlit Apples; Birthright
Part 2: Cotswold Love; Anthony Crumble; Mrs. Willow; Mamble
The sides are labelled as:

Made in England & Published by
Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd.
Sole Official Publishers for
International Educational Society.

The address is given on side 1 as 26, Buckingham Gate, Westminster, S. W. 1, and on side 2 as 98, Clerkenwell Road, E.C.

Download – John Drinkwater reading his own poems

(mp3 file – right click the link, then select “Save as”)

Columbia D40140
Matrices WAX 4608-1, 4609-2 (11340, 11330)
Recorded 30th January 1929

MYSTERY
Think not that mystery has place
In the obscure and veiled face,
Or when the midnight watches are
Unaccompanied of moon or star,
Or where the fields and forests lie
Enfolded from the loving eye
By fogs rebellious to the sun,
Or when the poet’s rhymes are spun
From dreams that even in his own
Imagining are half-unknown.

These are not mystery, but mere
Conditions that deny the clear
Reality that lies behind
The weak, unspeculative mind,
Beyond contagions of the air
And screens of beauty everywhere,
The brooding and tormented sky,
The hesitation of an eye.

Look rather when the landscapes glow
Through crystal distances as though
The forty shires of England spread
Into one vision harvested,
Or when the moonlit waters lie
In silver cold lucidity;
Those countenances search that bear

Witness to very character,
And listen to the song that weighs
A life’s adventure in a phrase –
These are the founts of wonder, these
The plainer miracles to please
The brain that reads the world aright;
Here is the mystery of light.

THE VAGABOND
I know the pools where the grayling rise,
I know the trees where the filberts fall,
I know the woods where the red fox lies,
The twisted elms where the brown owls calL
And I’ve seldom a shilling to call my own.
And there ‘s never a girl I’d marry,
I thank the Lord I’m a rolling stone
With never a care to carry.

I talk to the stars as they come and go
On every night from July to June,
I ‘m free of the speech of the winds that blow
And I know what weather will sing what tune.
I sow no seed and I pay no rent,
And I thank no man for his bounties,
But I’ve a treasure that’s never spent,
I ‘m lord of a dozen counties.

MOONLIT APPLES
AT the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes
A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown and the moon again
Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
On moon-washed apples of wonder.

BIRTHRIGHT
Lord Rameses of Egypt sighed
Because a summer evening passed;
And little Ariadne cried
That summer fancy fell at last

To dust; and young Verona died
When beauty’s hour was overcast.
Theirs was the bitterness we know
Because the clouds of hawthorn keep

So short a state, and kisses go
To tombs unfathomably deep,
While Rameses and Romeo
And little Ariadne sleep.

COTSWOLD LOVE
Blue skies are over Cotswold
And April snows go by,
The lasses turn their ribbons
For April’s in the sky,
And April is the season
When Sabbath girls are dressed,
From Rodboro’ to Campden,
In all their silken best.

An ankle is a marvel
When first the buds are brown,
And not a lass but knows it
From Stow to Gloucester town.
And not a girl goes walking
Along the Cotswold lanes
But knows men’s eyes in April
Are quicker than their brains.

It ‘s little that it matters.
So long as you’re alive.
If you’re eighteen in April,
Or rising sixty-five.
When April comes to Amberley
With skies of April blue,
And Cotswold girls are briding
With slyly tilted shoe.

ANTHONY CRUNDLE R.I.P.
Here lies the body of
ANTHONY CRUNDLE,
Farmer, of this parish,
Who died in 1849 at the age of 82.
“He delighted in music.”
R.I.P.
And of
SUSAN,
For fifty-three years his wife.
Who died in 1860, aged 86.

ANTHONY CRUNDLE of Dorrington Wood
Played on a piccolo. Lord was he,
For seventy years, of sheaves that stood
Under the perry and cider tree ;
    Anthony Crundle, R.I.P.

And because he prospered with sickle and scythe,
With cattle afield and labouring ewe,
Anthony was uncommonly blithe,
And played of a night to himself and Sue
    Anthony Crundle, eighty-two.

The earth to till, and a tune to play,
And Susan for fifty years and three,
And Dorrington Wood at the end of day . . .
May Providence do no worse by me ;
    Anthony Crundle, R.I.P.

MRS. WILLOW
Mrs. Thomas Willow seems very glum.
Her life, perhaps, is very lonely and hum-drum,
Digging up potatoes, cleaning out the weeds,
Doing the little for a lone woman’s needs.
Who was her husband? How long ago?
What does she wonder? What does she know?
Why does she listen over the wall,
Morning and noon-time and twilight and all.
As though unforgotten were some footfall?

“Good morning, Mrs. Willow.” “Good morning, sir,”
Is all the conversation I can get from her.
And her path-stones are white as lilies of the wood.
And she washes this and that till she must be very good.
She sends no letters, and no one calls,
And she doesn’t go whispering beyond her walls;
Nothing in her garden is secret, I think —
That’s all sun-bright with foxglove and pink,
And she doesn’t hover around old cupboards and shelves
As old people do who have buried themselves;
She has no late lamps, and she digs all day
And polishes and plants in a common way,
But glum she is, and she listens now and then
For a footfall, a footfall, a footfall again,
And whether it ‘s hope, or whether it’s dread,
Or a poor old fancy in her head,
I shall never be told; it will never be said.

MAMBLE
I never went to Mamble
That lies above the Teme,
So I wonder who’s in Mamble,
And whether people seem
Who breed and brew along there
As lazy as the name,
And whether any song there
Sets alehouse wits aflame.

The finger-post says Mamble,
And that is all I know
Of the narrow road to Mamble,
And should I turn and go
To that place of lazy token
That lies above the Teme,
There might be a Mamble broken
That was lissom in a dream.

So leave the road to Mamble
And take another road
To as good a place as Mamble
Be it lazy as a toad;
Who travels Worcester county
Takes any place that comes
When April tosses bounty
To the cherries and the plums.