Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/First love


First Love - Frederick Walker.png

She was the first, the only star
That shone upon my life,
The summer of my days had set
Before I called her wife;
The leaves have fallen twenty times
Beneath our trysting tree,
Since the ringers shook the rafters
In the belfry by the sea.

The pulses of my heart beat slow,
With calm, uuflutter’d stroke,
Till with a party from the Grange
I pic-nic’d at the Oak;
A stranger to our Forest ways,
She came with Alan’s bride,
One glance—I knew my love was come—
The old indifference died.

The park, a summer’s walk across,
Was famous in the shire;
The porter at the crested gates
Grew rich and blessed the Squire;
I show’d the glade where ballads say
The King met Robin Hood,
I took her where, as boys, we cropp’d
Wild strawberries in the wood.

The gardens and the orange-trees,
The swans upon the lake,
The gazing stags among the fern,
The pheasants in the brake:
These sumptuous signs of wealthy state
She saw with sweet surprise,
And I—— new light was on them all,
Seen with a lover’s eyes.

When Alan blew his warning horn,
My chestnut join’d her bay;
Down the long grassy “rides” we rode,
And watch’d the rabbits play.
The dead sun in his crimson shroud
Lay buried in the west,
And Love was nestling in my heart,
An inmate, not a guest.

A gipsy party gaily plann’d,
A smile, a soft “good night,”
And then I left the low white house,
Just as the stars were bright:—
Lost in some far, forgotten sea,
The sailor on the shore
Sights, to his joy, the ship that comes
To bear him home once more.

The bride moon with her dower of stars
Twice grew to matron age,
Before my birdie flew away
Back to her northern cage;
She knew the abbey pictures well,
She dared the haunted room,
We laughed around the Oak again,
And saw the aloe bloom.

A promise in the oriel won
To crown my growing bliss,
A drooping head, a circled waist,
And such a binding kiss!
O, happy time! O, happy time!
It never has its fellow,—
The one green leaf that hangs among
So many sere and yellow.

Before the Autumn spent his wrath
Upon the Rectory vine,
I claim’d the promise that she made,
I went and whisper’d, “mine:”
May’s father trembled as he said,
“Take her, a trusting wife,
And cherish one whose love has thrown
A glory round my life.”

Some days beside a lonely mere,
(Lured by the waterfall),
And then we settled at the Grange,
For Alan took the Hall:
How swift the lustres pass’d along,
Sweet heart, with love and you,
For if the sky was sometimes dark,
There came a break of blue.

And ever, as the year winds round,
And brings the longest day,
We gather at the Forest Oak,
Where first I met my May;
Look, Alan’s boy and our maybud
Are coming down the “ride,”
Perhaps before another June
There ’ll be another bride.

R. F. Sketchley.