The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Flute-Player

by Caryl Battersby
Volume 7, 1896, pgs. 697-698

[Caryl James Battersby, 1858-1927, is best known for his book "The Song of the Golden Bough and Other Poems," 1898. The book includes a thank you to The Parents' Review for publishing some of his poems. His poem "Who'll Buy My Lavender?" was set to music Edward German in 1896. He also wrote "The Gleanor's Slumber Song," which was set to music by Richard Walthew in 1895.]

He paused while upon the mountain-side,
And looking downward through the dark descried
      The village windows, evening stars of home,
Gleams from a Paradise to him denied.

A snowy flake, the firstling of its flight,
Flew to his lips. "It is the kiss of night,
      The welcome to her gusty revelries,"
He said, then turned toward the homeless height.

And, as he turned, the storm leapt suddenly
Upon him, smote him white from neck to knee,
      And round his tingling ears and in his eyes
Lashed like the spindrift of a reeling sea.

Onward he struggled, clutching to his breast,
In scant shelter of a tattered vest,
      His flute, the silver consort of his grief
The sweet interpreter of life's unrest.

Onward he struggled till at last he fell,
Breathless and blind, too weary to rebel
      Against the stern insistence of his doom,
And read to meet death with "It is well."

Then came the irony that haunts us still;
The storm passed southward, weakening in its will,
      And from their heaven the pale, unruffled stars
Looked on the white-robed silence of the hill.

He rose, a tottering shade above the snow,
And for a little moment saw below
      The valley twinkling with those lights of home
That he had known not, and could never know.

He sank and slept; the heartache and the cold,
He felt them not upon that frozen wold,
      For he had entered on a land of dream
Whose dusk horizon winked with stars of gold.

One star was his, the brightest shining there,
A star that shaped itself a roseate square,
      A cottage window filled with light to lead
His homeward footstep through the darkening air.

He reached the door, he raised the latch, and stood
A moment on the threshold. It was good
      To see his happiness and yet refrain,
Knowing that he might take it when he would.

The blazing hearth he saw, the waiting chair,
The simple meal set out with cleanly care,
      And in their midst, the heart of all the home,
The home that he loved, still young, still fair.

She heard his step, and, hastening from her place,
Ran laughing like a child to his embrace,
      Then softly drew his head down with her hands,
And kissed him tenderly upon the face.

That kiss was death. A shepherd boy at morn
Found him amid the snow, a thing forlorn.
      But smiling still, and on his ragged breast
Clutching the flute that he so long had borne.

Caryl Battersby.

Proofread by LNL, Sept 2020