An old bear in a scarlet pelt
Came next, old Squire Harridew,
His eyebrows gave a man the grue
So bushy and so fierce they were;
He had a bitter tongue to swear.
A fierce, hot, hard, old, stupid squire,
With all his liver made of fire,
Small brain, great courage, mulish will.
The hearts in all his house stood still
When someone crossed the squire’s path.
For he was terrible in wrath,
And smashed whatever came to hand.
Two things he failed to understand,
The foreigner and what was new.
His daughters, Carrie, Jane and Lu,
Rode with him, Carrie at his side.
His son, the ne’er-do-weel, had died
In Arizona, long before.
The Squire set the greatest store
By Carrie, youngest of the three,
And lovely to the blood was she;
Blonde, with a face of blush and cream,
And eyes deep violet in their gleam,
Bright blue when quiet in repose.
She was a very golden rose.
And many a man when sunset came
Would see the manor windows flame,
And think, “My beauty’s home is there.”
Queen Helen had less golden hair,
Queen Cleopatra paler lips,
Queen Blanche’s eyes were in eclipse,
By golden Carrie’s glancing by.
She had a wit for mockery
And sang mild, pretty senseless songs
Of sunsets, Heav’n and lover’s wrongs,
Sweet to the Squire when he had dined.
A rosebud need not have a mind.
A lily is not sweet from learning.
Jane looked like a dark lantern, burning.
Outwardly dark, unkempt, uncouth,
But minded like the living truth,
A friend that nothing shook nor wearied.
She was not “Darling Jan’d,” nor “dearie’d,”
She was all prickles to the touch,
So sharp, that many feared to clutch,
So keen, that many thought her bitter.
She let the little sparrows twitter.
She had a hard ungracious way.
Her storm of hair was iron-grey,
And she was passionate in her heart
For women’s souls that burn apart,
Just as her mother’s had, with Squire.
She gave the sense of smouldering fire.
She was not happy being a maid,
At home, with Squire, but she stayed
Enduring life, however bleak,
To guard her sisters who were weak,
And force a life for them from Squire.
And she had roused and stood his fire
A hundred times, and earned his hate,
To win those two a better state.
Long years before the Canon’s son
Had cared for her, but he had gone
To Klondyke, to the mines, for gold,
To find, in some strange way untold
A foreign grave that no men knew.
No depth, nor beauty, was in Lu,
But charm and fun, for she was merry,
Round, sweet and little like a cherry,
With laughter like a robin’s singing;
She was not kittenlike and clinging,
But pert and arch and fond of flirting,
In mocking ways that were not hurting,
And merry ways that women pardoned.
Not being married yet she gardened.
She loved sweet music; she would sing
Songs made before the German King
Made England German in her mind.
She sang “My lady is unkind,”
“The Hunt is up,” and those sweet things
Which Thomas Campion set to strings,
“Thrice toss,” and “What,” and “Where are now?”
The next to come was Major Howe
Driv’n in a dog-cart by a groom.
The testy major was in fume
To find no hunter standing waiting;
The groom who drove him caught a rating,
The groom who had the horse in stable,
Was damned in half the tongues of Babel.
The Major being hot and heady
When horse or dinner was not ready.
He was a lean, tough, liverish fellow,
With pale blue eyes (the whites pale yellow),
Mustache clipped toothbrush-wise, and jaws
Shaved bluish like old partridge claws.
When he had stripped his coat he made
A speckless presence for parade,
New pink, white cords, and glossy tops
New gloves, the newest thing in crops,
Worn with an air that well expressed
His sense that no one else was dressed.
Read more poems by John Masefield!