Moonlight – Victoria Sackville West

What time the meanest brick and stone 

Take on a beauty not their own, 

And past the flaw of builded wood 

Shines the intention whole and good, 

And all the little homes of man 

Rise to a dimmer, nobler span; 

When colour’s absence gives escape 

To the deeper spirit of the shape, 
— Then earth’s great architecture swells 

Among her mountains and her fells 

Under the moon to amplitude 

Massive and primitive and rude: 
— Then do the clouds like silver flags 

Stream out above the tattered crags, 

And black and silver all the coast 

Marshalls its hunched and rocky host, 

And headlands striding sombrely 

Buttress the land against the sea, 

— The darkened land, the brightening wave — 

And moonlight slants through Merlin’s cave.

Making Cider – Victoria Sackville West

I saw within the wheelwright’s shed 

The big round cartwheels, blue and red; 

A plough with blunted share; 

A blue tin jug; a broken chair; 

And paint in trial patchwork square 

Slapping up against the wall; 

The lumber of the wheelwright’s trade, 

And tools on benches neatly laid, 

The brace, the adze, the awl; 
And framed within the latticed-panes, 

Above the cluttered sill, 

Saw rooks upon the stubble hill 

Seeking forgotten grains; 
And all the air was sweet and shrill 

With juice of apples heaped in skips, 

Fermenting, rotten, soft and bruise, 

And all the yard was strewn with pips, 

Discarded pulp, and wrung-out ooze 

That ducks with rummaging flat bill 

Searched through beside the cider-press 

To gobble in their greediness. 
The young men strained upon the crank 

To wring the last reluctant inch. 

They laughed together, fair and frank, 

And threw their loins across the winch. 
A holiday from field and dung, 

From plough and harrow, scythe and spade, 

To dabble in another trade, 

The crush the pippins in the slats, 

And see that in the little vats 

An extra pint was wring; 

While round about the worthies stood 

Profuse in comment, praise or blame, 

Content the press should be of wood, 

Advising rum, decrying wheat, 

And black strong sugar makes it sweet, 

But still resolved, with maundering tongue, 

That cider could not be the same 

As once when they were young; 

But still the young contemptuous men 

Laughed kindly at their old conceit, 

And strained upon the crank again. 
Now barrels ranged in portly line 

Mature through winter’s sleep, 

Aping the leisured sloths of wine 

That dreams of Tiber or the Rhine, 

Mellowing slow and deep; 

But keen and cold the northern nights 

Sharpen the quiet yard. 

And sharp like no rich southern wine 

The tang of cider bites; 

For here the splintered stars and hard 

Hold England in a frosty guard. 

Orion and Pleiades 

Above the wheelwright’s shed. 

And Sirius resting on the trees 

While all the village snores abed.

Sailing Ships  – Victoria Sackville West

Lying on Downs above the wrinkling bay 

I with the kestrels shared the cleanly day, 

The candid day; wind-shaven, brindled turf; 

Tall cliffs; and long sea-line of marbled surf 

From Cornish Lizard to the Kentish Nore 

Lipping the bulwarks of the English shore, 

While many a lovely ship below sailed by 

On unknown errand, kempt and leisurely; 

And after each, oh, after each, my heart 

Fled forth, as, watching from the Downs apart, 

I shared with ships good joys and fortunes wide 

That might befall their beauty and their pride; 
Shared first with them the blessed void repose 

Of oily days at sea, when only rose 

The porpoise’s slow wheel to break the sheen 

Of satin water indolently green, 

When for’ard the crew, caps tilted over eyes, 

Lay heaped on deck; slept; mumbled; smoked; threw dice; 

The sleepy summer days; the summer nights 

(The coast pricked out with rings of harbour-lights), 

The motionless nights, the vaulted nights of June 

When high in the cordage drifts the entangled moon, 

And blocks go knocking, and the sheets go slapping, 

And lazy swells against the sides come lapping; 

And summer mornings off red Devon rocks, 

Faint inland bells at dawn and crowing cocks; 
Shared swifter days, when headlands into ken 

Trod grandly; threatened; and were lost again, 

Old fangs along the battlemented coast; 

And followed still my ship, when winds were most 

Night-purified, and, lying steeply over, 

She fled the wind as flees a girl her lover, 

Quickened by that pursuit for which she fretted, 

Her temper by the contest proved and whetted. 

Wild stars swept overhead; her lofty spars 

Reared to a ragged heaven sown with stars 

As leaping out from narrow English ease 

She faced the roll of long Atlantic seas. 
Her captain then was I, I was her crew, 

The mind that laid her course, the wake she drew, 

The waves that rose against her bows, the gales,– 

Nay, I was more: I was her very sails 

Rounded before the wind, her eager keel, 

Her straining mast-heads, her responsive wheel, 

Her pennon stiffened like a swallow’s wing; 

Yes, I was all her slope and speed and swing, 

Whether by yellow lemons and blue sea 

She dawdled through the isles off Thessaly, 

Or saw the palms like sheaves of scimitars 

On desert’s verge below the sunset bars, 

Or passed the girdle of the planet where 

The Southern Cross looks over to the Bear, 

And strayed, cool Northerner beneath strange skies, 

Flouting the lure of tropic estuaries, 

Down that long coast, and saw Magellan’s Clouds arise. 
And some that beat up Channel homeward-bound 

I watched, and wondered what they might have found, 

What alien ports enriched their teeming hold 

With crates of fruit or bars of unwrought gold? 

And thought how London clerks with paper-clips 

Had filed the bills of lading of those ships, 

Clerks that had never seen the embattled sea, 

But wrote down jettison and barratry, 

Perils, Adventures, and the Act of God, 

Having no vision of such wrath flung broad; 

Wrote down with weary and accustomed pen 

The classic dangers of sea-faring men; 

And wrote ‘Restraint of Princes,’ and ‘the Acts 

Of the King’s Enemies,’ as vacant facts, 

Blind to the ambushed seas, the encircling roar 

Of angry nations foaming into war.