Harvest Home

Do you remember, Cynthia,
How the great corn-waggons used to lurch out of the gate
And sway down the little white road.
Brushing the hedges on either side
Till both of them were caught and strewn
With wisps and stalks of corn
With sometimes the ears on it still,
Hanging there,
Swaying over the twigs?
Do you remember, Cynthia,
How strange the sea used to look
Appearing above the waggon
As it went down the hill —
A broad blue bar,
Hard, against the paler blue of the sky?
Do you remember the great golden twenty-acre field
And the reapers,
Their cries and laughter?
And the little dusty edge of the stubble all the way round
Poppy-strewn, and strewn with nettles and dock,
Where sometimes playing and exploring in the hedges
We ‘d start a couple of partridges
With whirr and scuffle
And plaintive cry?
Do you remember how we used to ride the horses
Going down the swathes between the stooks,
And how the long golden lads
Who seemed to us giants then, —
Leonard, Mike, and the rest, —
With their lithe arms and sunburned faces,
Would pitch the golden stuff high over our heads,
And gather the straggling bits that still remained
With long sweeping curves
Of their two-pronged forks And then cry 1 Hold-jee ‘
For the great old horse to move on
To the next lot of sheaves?
Do you remember the rise of the shafts
Beneath our sand-shoes,
And the feel of the buckles and straps of the harness
Digging into our bare legs
As the cart moved on?
You used to wear a little sunbonnet
From which your black curly hair overflowed
And blossomed about your warm cheeks;
And sometimes, impatient, you’d push it back,
And shake your curls out free
In the wind and the sun.
And when we were astride the horse together
You used to put your arms round me
And laugh over my shoulder;
I could feel your breath on my cheek
And your hair, tickling.
And then I used to feel what a man I was
To do great and adventurous things
In the years to come —
Do you remember old Father John,
Thigh-deep at the top of the great stack,
With the harvest moon at the full
Swinging up out of the deepening skies
Behind him —
And still the huge waggons lumbering up below
With their burden of golden grain
To be pitched on top,
And the ceaseless rustle and whisper of corn,
And lads’ voices and laughter
Through the moonlit dusk?
We used to leave them there,
And wonder how long they’d work on into the night,
By the gleam of the moon.
We used to leave them there
And run home down the darkening lanes,
With our shadows flitting in front of us
And the whisper of bats’ wings above.
Do you remember?