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Editor's Selection of Poems
The Fool Rings His Bells

by Walter de la Mare

Come, Death, I'd have a word with thee; 
And thou, poor Innocency; 
And Love -- a lad with broken wing; 
And Pity, too: 
The Fool shall sing to you, 
As Fools will sing. 

Aye, music hath small sense. 
And a time's soon told, 
And Earth is old, 
And my poor wits are dense; 
Yet I have secrets, -- dark, my dear, 
To breathe you all: Come near. 
And lest some hideous listener tells, 
I'll ring the bells. 

They're all at war! 
Yes, yes, their bodies go 
'Neath burning sun and icy star 
To chaunted songs of woe, 
Dragging cold cannon through a mire 
Of rain and blood and spouting fire, 
The new moon glinting hard on eyes 
Wide with insanities! 

Hush! . . . I use words 
I hardly know the meaning of; 
And the mute birds 
Are glancing at Love 
From out their shade of leaf and flower, 
Trembling at treacheries 
Which even in noonday cower. 

Heed, heed not what I said 
Of frenzied hosts of men, 
More fools than I, 
On envy, hatred fed, 
Who kill, and die -- 
Spake I not plainly, then? 
Yet Pity whispered, 'Why?' 

Thou silly thing, off to thy daisies go. 
Mine was not news for a child to know, 
And Death -- no ears hath. He hath supped where creep 
Eyeless worms in hush of sleep; 
Yet, when he smiles, the hand he draws 
Athwart his grinning jaws -- 
Faintly the thin bones rattle and . . . there, there, 
Hearken how my bells in the air 
Drive away care! . . . 

Nay, but a dream I had 
Of a world all mad. 
Not simple happy mad like me, 
Who am mad like an empty scene 
Of water and willow tree, 
Where the wind hath been; 
But that foul Satan-mad, 
Who rots in his own head, 
And counts the dead, 
Not honest one -- and two -- 
But for the ghosts they were, 
Brave, faithful, true, 
When, head in air, 
In Earth's clear green and blue 
Heaven they did share 
With Beauty who bade them there. . . . 

There, now! -- Death goes -- 
Mayhap I have wearied him. 
Aye, and the light doth dim, 
And asleep's the rose, 
And tired Innocence 
In dreams is hence. . . . 
Come, Love, my lad, 
Nodding that drowsy head, 
'Tis time thy prayers were said. 
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