A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields/Rhyme (Amédée Pommier)




Rhyme's the tiniest humming-bird
Startled at any sound that's heard,
It flies away, and on my word
Seems subject to vertigo;
But you may make the wild thing tame,
And prompt obedience from it claim,
If Molière should be your name,
Or you be Victor Hugo.

As a prisoner left alone,
Upon his own resources thrown,
In a dungeon dank of stone,
Easy finds it to entice
Upon his shoulder, lap or hand,
Thanks to forced leisure, patience planned,
Spider or lizard, and command
Out to peer the timid mice,

So by long effort, time and will,
Is obtained at last the skill
With confidence and trust to fill
Rhyme, the bird so shy before;

And if at first it oft is missed,
'Tis mastered soon, and on the wrist
Secured with filmy horse-hair twist!
Rhymes in print can fly no more.

I've done this frivolous work of old
For my favourite prized as gold,
Though sometimes when most firm my hold
Sudden it darts and flies away;
But then through window open wide,
Swift from roofs where sparrows hide,
Sudden again 'tis at my side,
Repentant to have gone astray.

Rarely does it long rebel,
Soon as my lips pronounce the spell
'Come my beauty, all is well,'
Down it flutters at my voice,
And exempt from every fear,
Sweet and gentle, perches near,
On my finger hops, or clear
Sings a song that bids rejoice.

Rhymes of every shape and kind
Come upon each passing wind,
Through the door or half-shut blind,
Soft, soft and softer drumming;
One might say legerdemain
When they thus upon me rain,
Giddy, giddy feels my brain
But to hear them humming.

What a swarm! And more, and more,
Hornets that above me soar,

Gay butterflies the girls adore,
And wasps with waists that taper;
None escape my watchful sight,
I arrest them in their flight,
Sudden and sharp them down I smite,
And fix them on my paper.

My songs and merry roundelays
And ballads with them are ablaze!
As I arrange them in all ways
How prettily they glitter!
Now in long collars are they set,
And now they dance a pirouette,
Like waves or coryphées coquette,
And like the finches twitter.

All obstacles, no matter what,
Must yield before the acrobat;
And I am that and only that,
No poet great or gifted.
But I can rhymes with ease coerce,
And verse precipitate on verse,
Like balls that cross, unite, disperse,
By jugglers deftly shifted.

Look at my chariot and my team!
When on these steeds the sun-rays gleam,
Apollo's own they almost seem,
And well may critics wonder!
I love their long, long rapid strides,
Their tossing manes, their glossy sides!
Away! Their speed the winds deride
When slack-reined on they thunder!

O Rhyme, no bounds thy magic knows!
And when at tournaments with prose
Thou joustest, human words disclose
All their latent mysteries;
'Tis thou that mak'st all things to shine,
Spread table, tankard, fruit and wine,
Man's face that shadows the divine,
And woman's lustrous eyes!

Thou limnest the acanthus leaves
Of graceful curves, the wheaten sheaves,
And vine-sprays plucked in autumn eves
Which the wild Bacchantes wear,
And carvest as no goldsmith can
The cloven-footed hairy Pan,
On sides of brimming cups that man
Rightly deems the charm for care.

Thou wakest up the merry din
Of fiddle and of violin,
Until the organ swelling, win
The heart to loftier melodies,
Thou lendest life to hautboy shrill,
And tourterelle with dove-like trill;
O hark! that treble weeping still!
Thou givest it these sympathies.

Thanks to thee, the poet's song
The cannon's thunder can prolong,
And give the glave that rights the wrong
A lightning fiercely glancing;
Thou mak'st the axe more sharp and fell,
The buckler round more proudly swell,
And tall plumes wave 'mid shot and shell
On warriors proudly prancing!

O Rhyme, where wit contends with wit
Be thou my sword, to guard and hit!
My mistress too, when times are fit!
In ocean waves my galley.
My temple, altar, idol, priest,
The thing beloved in West and East,
Whate'er it be, till life hath ceased,
And Death made up his tally.