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6

ENOCH ARDEN

AND OTHER POEMS

T. VI

B

ENOCH ARDEN

;

LONG lines of cliff breaking have left a chasm ;
And in the chasm are foam and yellow sands
Beyond, red roofs about a narrow wharf
In cluster; then a moulder'd church; and higher
A long street climbs to one tall-tower'd mill;
And high in heaven behind it a gray down
With Danish barrows; and a hazelwood,
By autumn nutters haunted, flourishes
Green in a cuplike hollow of the down.

Here on this beach a hundred years ago,
Three children of three houses, Annie Lee,
The prettiest little damsel in the port,
And Philip Ray the miller's only son,
And Enoch Arden, a rough sailor's lad
Made orphan by a winter shipwreck, play'd
Among the waste and lumber of the shore,
Hard coils of cordage, swarthy fishing-nets,
Anchors of rusty fluke, and boats updrawn ;
And built their castles of dissolving sand
To watch them overflow'd, or following up
And flying the white breaker, daily left
The little footprint daily wash'd away.

A narrow cave ran in beneath the cliff: In this the children play'd at keeping house. Enoch was host one day, Philip the next, While Annie still was mistress; but at times Enoch would hold possession for a week : "This is my house and this my little wife.' 'Mine too' said Philip 'turn and turn about': When, if they quarrell'd, Enoch stronger-made Was master then would Philip, his blue eyes All flooded with the helpless wrath of tears, Shriek out 'I hate you, Enoch,' and at this The little wife would weep for company, And pray them not to quarrel for her sake, And say she would be little wife to both.

But when the dawn of rosy childhood past,
And the new warmth of life's ascending sun
Was felt by either, either fixt his heart
On that one girl; and Enoch spoke his love,
But Philip loved in silence; and the girl
Seem'd kinder unto Philip than to him;
But she loved Enoch; tho' she knew it not,
And would if ask'd deny it. Enoch set
A purpose evermore before his eyes,
To hoard all savings to the uttermost,
To purchase his own boat, and make a home
For Annie and so prosper'd that at last
A luckier or a bolder fisherman,

A carefuller in peril, did not breathe
For leagues along that breaker-beaten coast

Than Enoch.

Likewise had he served a year On board a merchantman, and made himself Full sailor; and he thrice had pluck'd a life From the dread sweep of the down-streaming

seas:

And all men look'd upon him favourably:
And ere he touch'd his one-and-twentieth May
He purchased his own boat, and made a home
For Annie, neat and nestlike, halfway up
The narrow street that clamber'd toward the mill.

Then, on a golden autumn eventide, The younger people making holiday, With bag and sack and basket, great and small, Went nutting to the hazels. Philip stay'd (His father lying sick and needing him) An hour behind; but as he climb'd the hill, Just where the prone edge of the wood began To feather toward the hollow, saw the pair, Enoch and Annie, sitting hand-in-hand, His large gray eyes and weather-beaten face All-kindled by a still and sacred fire, That burn'd as on an altar. Philip look'd, And in their eyes and faces read his doom; Then, as their faces drew together, groan'd, And slipt aside, and like a wounded life Crept down into the hollows of the wood; There, while the rest were loud in merry-making, Had his dark hour unseen, and rose and past Bearing a lifelong hunger in his heart.

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