First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Gypsy


A fortnight before Christmas Gypsies were everywhere: Vans were drawn up on wastes, women trailed to the fair. 'My gentleman,' said one, 'you've got a lucky face.' 'And you've a luckier,' I thought, 'if such a grace And impudence in rags are lucky.' 'Give a penny For the poor baby's sake.' 'Indeed I have not any Unless you can give change for a sovereign, my dear.' 'Then just half a pipeful of tobacco can you spare?' I gave it. With that much victory she laughed content. I should have given more, but off and away she went With her baby and her pink sham flowers to rejoin The rest before I could translate to its proper coin Gratitude for her grace. And I paid nothing then, As I pay nothing now with the dipping of my pen For her brother's music when he drummed the tambourine And stamped his feet, which made the workmen passing grin, While his mouth-organ changed to a rascally Bacchanal dance 'Over the hills and far away.' This and his glance Outlasted all the fair, farmer, and auctioneer, Cheap-jack, balloon-man, drover with crooked stick, and steer, Pig, turkey, goose, and duck, Christmas Corpses to be. Not even the kneeling ox had eyes like the Romany. That night he peopled for me the hollow wooded land, More dark and wild than stormiest heavens, that I searched and scanned Like a ghost new-arrived. The gradations of the dark Were like an underworld of death, but for the spark In the Gypsy boy's black eyes as he played and stamped his tune, 'Over the hills and far away', and a crescent moon.

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