Norman Rowland Gale

Here you will find the Long Poem An Orchard Dance of poet Norman Rowland Gale

An Orchard Dance

All work is over at the farm 
And men and maids are ripe for glee; 
Love slips among them sly and warm 
Or calls them to the chestnut-tree. 
As Colin looks askance at Jane 
He draws his hand across his mouth; 
She understands the rustic pain, 
And something of the tender south 
About her milkmaid beauty flits. 
Her dress of lilac print for guide 
Draws shepherd Colin where she sits, 
Who, faring to her lovely side 
To snatch his evening pension tries, 
But skimming like a bird from clutch 
The maid escapes his Cupid touch, 
And speeding down a passage flies 
Not fast enough to cheat his eyes. 
Ah, sweet-lip ways and sweet-lip days, 
And sweetheart captures of the waist, 
How swiftly still the virgin runs 
She's sure at last to be embraced! 
Now Colin fires at kiss delayed, 
And faster flits the red stone floor 
Till Fortune yields the tricky maid 
A captive at the pantry door! 

The farmer with his fifty years 
Is not too old to join the fun; 
He pulls the milkmaids' pinky ears 
And bids a likely stripling run 
To find the fiddlers for a dance: 
And in the cherry orchard there 
A tune shall mingle with romance, 
And love be brave in open air. 

The village wakens to the bliss, 
The crones and gaffers crawl to see 
The country game of step and kiss 
Beneath the laden cherry-tree. 
The chairs and benches now are set, 
Old John is wheedled from his pet, 
The cider cup with beady eyes 
Responds to winkings of the skies. 
The farmer, burly in his chair, 
Now claps for ev'ry fond and fair 
To foot it on the grassy patch 
While rustic violinists snatch 
From out those varnished birds of wood 
A tune to jink it in the blood. 
Now Jane and Colin in a trice 
Float sweetly round not less than thrice 
Before their motion draws a pair 
To revel with the dancing air. 
The thrush, that on his velvet wipes 
His juicy bill, protesting pipes, 
And, somewhat as a piccolo, 
Doth race the concord of the bow. 
A virgin yonder by the tree 
Rejects a mate who saucily 
Would press, if she might only start, 
Her modest homespun to his heart. 
Ah, sweet-lip ways and sweet-lip days, 
And sweetheart captures of the waist, 
Though like a finch the maiden flies 
She's sure at last to be embraced. 

The orchard now is in full bloom 
With rosy cheek and snowdrop throat; 
The stars invade the growing gloom, 
And rarelier sounds the blackbird's note. 
But in this dewy little park 
Love burns the brighter for the dark, 
And till he use a stricter rule 
Dear Cicely's cheek shall never cool! 
The fiddlers storm a tomboy tune, 
The shepherds closer clasp the girls 
While skirts the more desert the shoon, 
And rebel leap the loely curls. 
The farmer glows within his chair 
And muses on the dancing time 
When he and she--a matchless pair-- 
Were warm and nimble in their prime. 
God bless the man who, duller grown, 
Can feel the younger heaven anew 
By granting to his maids and men 
A romp by starlight in the dew! 
Ah, greenwood ways and greenwood days, 
And soft pursuings of the waist, 
The cheek must yellow out of praise, 
And bent be those who once embraced! 

And now they pant against the trees, 
And, using darkness for their plan, 
Girls loose the garters at their knees 
And mend the clumsiness of man. 
One virgin, thankful for the dance, 
About the music shyly trips-- 
Her Love's a fiddler, and her love 
Pops fruit in Paganini's lips; 
Or finding on the starlit tree 
The wife and husband cherry there, 
She hangs the couple at his cheek 
And hides the stalk with tufts of hair. 
The girls are at the cider-cup, 
And shepherds tilt the yellow base 
Until a giddy amber flood 
Runs, kissing, over Cicely's face, 
And Dora's upper lip doth shine 
With winking beads of apple-wine. 
The fiddlers scrape a farewell tune, 
The dancers dwindle in the dusk 
While summer puffs of easy wind 
Bring hints of cottage garden musk. 

And thus the revel dearly ends 
With milkmaid's palm in shepherd's hand, 
And lovers grow from only friends 
Where plum and pear and apple stand. 
Ah, sweet-lip ways and sweet-lip days, 
And sweetheart captures of the waist, 
How fast so-e'er the virgin flies 
She's sure at last to be embraced!