THE MANY-MANSIONED HOUSE
AND OTHER POEMS


By
EDWARD WILLIAM THOMSON




 

SWEETEST WHISTLE EVER BLEW



A DAY when April willows fringed the pool
     Of fifty years ago with freshening gold,
Myself came trudging from the country school
     With my tall grandsire of the wars of old;
His peaceful jack-knife trimmed a ravished shoot,

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     Nicked deep the green and hollowed out the white,
To fashion for the child a willow flute,
     His age exulting in the shrill delight;
            “For so,” he said, “my grandsire made
                 The sweetest whistles ever blew,

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            When I and he were you and me,
                 And all the world was new.”

To-day in mine a grandchild’s balmy hand
     Eagerly thrills as toward the pool we go,
He confident that never sea nor land

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     Wotted of wonders more than grandsires know;
They sail all seas, explore all giants’ caves,
     Play wolves and bears, and panthers worse by far,
Are scalped complacently as Indian braves,
     And little boys their favored comrades are;

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            By grandpa’s lore, well learned of yore,
                 I hold the rank I most esteem
            Of dear and wise in Billy’s eyes,
                 And boast the pomp supreme.

Now, blade unclasped, I skirt the marge to choose

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     One withe from all the willow’s greening throng,
The imperfect branches tacitly refuse,
     To clip at last the wand without a prong;
Its knots I scan, the smoothest reach to find,
     Cut true around the tender bark a ring,

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Bevel the end, and artful tip the rind,
     Draw out the pith, and shape the chambered thing [Page 98]
            Exactly so as long ago,
                 In April weather sweet as this,
            My grandsire did when he would bid

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                 A whistle for a kiss.

Now Billy snuggles palm again in mine,
     “Over the hills,” he blows, “and far away.”
O pipe of Arcady, how clear and fine
     Thy single note salutes the yearning day!

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The breeze in branches bare, the whistling wing,
     The subtle-bubbling frogs, the bluebird’s call,
The quivering sounds of ever-piercing spring,
     That one thin willow note attunes them all;
            And, far and near at once, I hear

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                 The sweetest whistle ever blew,
            Lilting again the olden strain,
                 And all the world is new. [Page 99]