The earth smells dank, the weeds grow rank,
The cold rain drowns the moon,
The old barn-owl has called me thrice,
And I must ride eftsoon.
The brindled cat has spared the rat,
And circles round my seat,
He winds me with his tail as he
Would lift me off my feet.
My every bone is stiff, ohone!
I scarce can grip the broom;
But hist!-the hour has warned, and I
Must mount and meet my doom.
If I should fail upon the gale
To ride o’er tower and town,
And falling headlong through the rift,
Go down, and down, and down!
It was not so awhile ago,
When every turn of spite,-
The fools that fret me dealt by day,
I paid them back at night.
When I aloft o’er roof and croft
Went sailing at my ease,
And sowed my curses on their sleep
As thick as mites in cheese.
Oh, it was rare, high up in air,
To shoot from out the drift,
Or with a gossip cheek by jowl
To spin across the lift;
With but one word to turn to curd
The nursing-mother’s milk,
And make a weanling’s bones to wind
About your thumbs like silk;
To know that lambs beside their dams
Would sicken as you pass;
To poison all the earing wheat
And blight the meadow-grass!
We mustered from the right and left,
We came from field and alley,
We steered our brooms and dodged the wind
That whistled down the valley;
We saw the gibbet on the height,
We heard the rattling bones,
We lighted on a barren moor
Beside a ring of stones;
We struck live sparks from out the flint,
We lit our brimstone matches,
We blew the embers into flame,
We sung and curst by snatches.
Each brought a sample of her work,
Exchanging gift for gift;-
An adder’s fang, a viscous herb
For slow death or for swift.
It gave your curses strength, it warmed
Your bones the coldest night,
To feel you were not all alone
Again the world to fight.
This darkening room smells like a tomb,
Come, Brindle, cease to scold,
We’ll make the wind our hobby-horse
As in the nights of old.
It sings so loud of wreckage proud
These pitiless Novembers,
And down the chimney spits the sleet
To sting the dying embers.
Well, let it drive, we’ll look alive,
And would though we were dying;
Come, once more o’er the world we’ll ride,
And pay off scores outlying.
My broomstick here will help me steer
To where the mist lies pale,
And wraps the village-green and pond,
And whitens all the vale.
Young Daisy there, with yellow hair,
Lies on the cheek so red
I stroked one day till it grew white,
And Daisy turned and fled.
Then to the mill which crowns the hill;-
Ugh! mother’s arms are warm,
But can they shut out evil spells
As they can cold and storm?
A mort of pains, of scabs and blains,
Be on their beauties poured,
Or ere their soft young skins like mine
The teeth of Time has scored!
Again aloft o’er roof and croft,
Na-keep your curses ready
To go with mine, you foul-mouthed mate,-
No claws, my deary, steady!
Now one, two, three, we’re off, I see
The savage rain and scud,
It beats the smoke into your maw,-
It freezes all your blood.
The rough winds rieve your skirts, and leave
Your legs as clem as stones;
Your arms are weak, your head is faint,
A curse upon old bones!
Awhile ago the wind might blow,-
My veins would prick delighted;
Now, now I grab at weather-cocks,-
So dizzy and affrighted.
They shake, they shake, they bend, they break!
I slide from off the steeple,
I light ‘mid new-made graves, I see
The ghosts of long-dead people;
Their hollow eyes in kind surprise
Look hard at me, and tears,
Or something like ’em, dims my sight,
As in the buried years.
My senses reel; what is’t I feel
The bed where I lie shaking
Is in the old dark nook, and this
Is just the old dull waking.
Nay, Brindle, nay, stand off, away!
Your eyeballs on me glaring,
Your breath that draws my breath, your purr
Is worse than all your swearing.
Off, off, damned cat! The rat, the rat;
He dares you with his shriek;
Avaunt, or I shall strike; ohone!
Too weak, my arm, too weak!
My limbs are stark,-all dark, so dark;-
The very hell-fire’s wink
From out those eyes; beneath some soft
Warm weight I sink, sink, sink.
Can this be sleep? You creep, still creep,
Your mouth to mine so near,-
Your head upon my breast, where once
There lay a head-so dear-
So dear to me! How could that be?
I dream again,-good-night!
No, little one-this starveling breast-
Light! Light is it? What light?
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Based on Keywords: meadow-grass, mustered, brindled, long-dead, jowl, curd, mites, hell-fire, starveling, scabs, broomstick