The Milking-Maid

The Year stood at its equinox, And bluff the North was blowing, A bleat of lambs came from the flocks, Green hardy things were growing; I met a maid with shining locks Where milky kine were lowing. She wore a kerchief on her neck, Her bare arm showed its dimple, Her apron spread without a speck, Her air was frank and simple. She milked into a wooden pail, And sang a country ditty,— An innocent fond lovers’ tale, That was not wise or witty, Pathetically rustical, Too pointless for the city. She kept in time without a beat, As true as church-bell ringers, Unless she tapped time with her feet, Or squeezed it with her fingers; Her clear, unstudied notes were sweet As many a practised singer’s. I stood a minute out of sight, Stood silent for a minute, To eye the pail and creamy white The frothing milk within it,— To eye the comely milking-maid, Herself so fresh and creamy. “Good day to you!” at last I said; She turned her head to see me. “Good day!” she said, with lifted head; Her eyes looked soft and dreamy. And all the while she milked and milked The grave cow heavy-laden: I ’ve seen grand ladies, plumed and silked, But not a sweeter maiden; But not a sweeter, fresher maid Than this in homely cotton, Whose pleasant face and silky braid I have not yet forgotten. Seven springs have passed since then, as I Count with a sober sorrow; Seven springs have come and passed me by, And spring sets in to-morrow. I ’ve half a mind to shake myself Free, just for once, from London, To set my work upon the shelf, And leave it done or undone; To run down by the early train, Whirl down with shriek and whistle, And feel the bluff north glow again, And mark the sprouting thistle Set up on waste patch of the lane Its green and tender bristle; And spy the scarce-blown violet banks, Crisp primrose-leaves and others, And watch the lambs leap at their pranks, And butt their patient mothers. Alas! one point in all my plan My serious thoughts demur to: Seven years have passed for maid and man, Seven years have passed for her too. Perhaps my rose is over-blown, Not rosy, or too rosy; Perhaps in farm-house of her own Some husband keeps her cosy, Where I should show a face unknown,— Good-bye, my wayside posy!

1850
Sub Title: 
I. Admiration

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