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Songs in a Cornfield

by Christina Rossetti
A song in a cornfield
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Songs in a Cornfield

by Christina Rossetti
A song in a cornfield
  Where corn begins to fall,
Where reapers are reaping,
  Reaping one, reaping all.
Sing pretty Lettice,
  Sing Rachel, sing May;
Only Marian cannot sing
  While her sweetheart's away.
Where is he gone to
  And why does he stay?
He came across the green sea
  But for a day,
Across the deep green sea
  To help with the hay.
His hair was curly yellow
  And his eyes were grey,
He laughed a merry laugh
  And said a sweet say.
Where is he gone to
  That he comes not home?
To-day or to-morrow
  He surely will come.
Let him haste to joy
  Lest he lag for sorrow,
For one weeps to-day
  Who'll not weep to-morrow:
To-day she must weep
  For gnawing sorrow,
To-night she may sleep
  And not wake to-morrow.
May sang with Rachel
  In the waxing warm weather,
Lettice sang with them,
  They sang all together:—
    'Take the wheat in your arm
      Whilst day is broad above,
    Take the wheat to your bosom,
      But not a false love.
      Out in the fields
        Summer heat gloweth,
      Out in the fields
        Summer wind bloweth,
      Out in the fields
        Summer friend showeth,
      Out in the fields
        Summer wheat groweth;
    But in the winter
      When summer heat is dead
    And summer wind has veered
      And summer friend has fled,
    Only summer wheat remaineth,
      White cakes and bread.
    Take the wheat, clasp the wheat
      That's food for maid and dove;
    Take the wheat to your bosom,
      But not a false false love.'
A silence of full noontide heat
  Grew on them at their toil:
The farmer's dog woke up from sleep,
  The green snake hid her coil.
Where grass stood thickest, bird and beast
  Sought shadows as they could,
The reaping men and women paused
  And sat down where they stood;
They ate and drank and were refreshed,
  For rest from toil is good.
While the reapers took their ease,
  Their sickles lying by,
Rachel sang a second strain,
  And singing seemed to sigh:--
    'There goes the swallow—
    Could we but follow!
      Hasty swallow stay,
      Point us out the way;
Look back swallow, turn back swallow, stop swallow.
    'There went the swallow—
    Too late to follow:
      Lost our note of way,
      Lost our chance to-day;
Good bye swallow, sunny swallow, wise swallow.
    'After the swallow
    All sweet things follow:
      All things go their way,
      Only we must stay,
Must not follow; good bye swallow, good swallow.'
Then listless Marian raised her head
  Among the nodding sheaves;
Her voice was sweeter than that voice;
  She sang like one who grieves:
Her voice was sweeter than its wont
  Among the nodding sheaves;
All wondered while they heard her sing
  Like one who hopes and grieves:—
    'Deeper than the hail can smite,
    Deeper than the frost can bite,
    Deep asleep through day and night,
        Our delight.
    'Now thy sleep no pang can break,
    No to-morrow bid thee wake,
    Not our sobs who sit and ache
        For thy sake.
    'Is it dark or light below?
    Oh, but is it cold like snow?
    Dost thou feel the green things grow
        Fast or slow?
    'Is it warm or cold beneath,
    Oh, but is it cold like death?
    Cold like death, without a breath,
        Cold like death?'
If he comes to-day
  He will find her weeping;
If he comes to-morrow
  He will find her sleeping;
If he comes the next day
  He'll not find her at all,
He may tear his curling hair,
  Beat his breast and call.

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