HOW slowly creeps the hand of Time
by William Cosmo Monkhouse
On the old clock’s green-mantled face!
Yea, slowly as those ivies climb,
The hours roll round with patient pace;
The drowsy rooks caw on the tower,
The tame doves hover round and round;
Below, the slow grass hour by hour
Makes green God’s sleeping-ground.
All moves, but nothing here is swift;
The grass grows deep, the green boughs shoot;
From east to west the shadows drift;
The earth feels heavenward underfoot;
The slow stream through the bridge doth stray
With water-lilies on its marge,
And slowly, pil’d with scented hay,
Creeps by the silent barge.
All stirs, but nothing here is loud:
The cushat broods, the cuckoo cries;
Faint, far up, under a white cloud,
The lark trills soft to earth and skies;
And underneath the green graves rest;
And through the place, with slow footfalls,
With snowy cambric on his breast,
The old gray Vicar crawls.
And close at hand, to see him come,
Clustering at the playground gate,
The urchins of the schoolhouse, dumb
And bashful, hang the head and wait;
The little maidens curtsey deep,
The boys their forelocks touch meanwhile,
The Vicar sees them, half asleep,
And smiles a sleepy smile.
Slow as the hand on the clock’s face,
Slow as the white cloud in the sky,
He cometh now with tottering pace
To the old vicarage hard by:
Smother’d it stands in ivy leaves,
Laurels and yews make dark the ground;
The swifts that build beneath the eaves
Wheel in still circles round.
And from the portal, green and dark,
He glances at the church-clock old—
Gray soul! why seek his eyes to mark
The creeping of that finger cold?
He cannot see, but still as stone
He pauses, listening for the chime,
And hears from that green tower intone
The eternal voice of Time.