[English Prize verse]

Midnight is past – the pouring rain
  Drives hitting on the window pane
        The west wind fiercely blows;
No cats, or Tabby, black or white*
  Have left the warm hearthstones tonight

        To soil their dainty toes.

The rain has ceased; with sharp quick cries
  Around the house a swallow flies,
        And tells us dawn is here;
Then slowly from the dripping trees
  Voice answers voice, and by degrees
        Birds twitter everywhere.

Night’s mantle slips, and now again
  The south wind turns the steeple vane
        And light awhile is grey;
Then sudden in the dawning East
  A long cloud lights its rose flushed breast
        And ushers in Today.

Up rose the sun, and wondrous bright
  Bathed bluff Northampton’s hills in light
        Streamed up each opening vale
Peered through the triple window’d spire
  Set the school chapel all on fire
        And made the dawning pale.

But soon each tiny burning-glass
  That hung on tree, on bud, on grass
        Its spirit power would win;
And tired of catching solar rays
  Rises to Heaven in purple haze
        Like Eastern fabled Djinn.

It wraps from sight the distant wood
  Steals up the vale & o’er the flood,
        Where swimmers are at play,
Then passes by the cricket field,
  Where boys are met to win or yield,
        For ’tis a match today.


It fades, and leaden clouds on high,
  Portending thunder, fill the sky;
        Hush’d are the blackbirds songs,
The late-come swifts now skim the ground,
  To seek the gnats that there are found,
        In wavy buzzing throngs.

But see the long imprisoned sun,
  Bursts from amid the cloudlets dun,
        And bids the blackbirds sing;
Now snow-white fleecy clouds are seen
  Passing their mirage o’er the green,
        In shadows that they fling.

We stroll; the erst so dark green wheat
  Shines white & wan about our feet
        Washed by the heavy rains.
Corncrakes are busy in the grass
  And larks spring up as on we pass
        To carol evening strains.

Yon old green wall is bright with trails
  Of frosted silver, where the snails
        Have passed along, last night;
See this huge caterpillar track
  His way with undulating back,
        Now swollen, now slim and slight.

That nettle bed is all alive
  With hairy shapes that grow and thrive
        And die with wings at last.
Scarce said, as if to verify
  My words, a shattered butterfly
        An orange-tip flew past.

Then on through meads whose king-cups pour
  About our feet their golden store,
        The dust of fairy-land.
And may-flies rising as we walk
  With galaxy wings, from stalk to stalk
        Flit on – a lazy band.

We paused, ’neath chestnut trees, whose flowers
  Like cressets hung in faery bowers,
        Gleamed in the evening light;
When from the topmost boughs of all
  Two cuckoos flew, without a call
        Nor wishing us goodnight.

Here myriad emerald coated things,
  With tiny ever-sparkling wings
        Creep up each grassy blade
There lady-birds sit ruby bright
  And spiders, scarlet spots of light,
        Fleck here & there the shade.

Then Home – the Eastern sky’s aglow,
  Its huge clouds move majestic, slow,
        Illumined from the West;
But sudden all their glory flies,
  The life of light within them dies
        The sun has sunk to rest.
                                                                                                Uppingham. 1 June 1869

* Alluding to the cats that prowl about the School House wall at night.

[Unpublished poem, written when Hardwicke was 17 and at Uppingham School.  It has been transcribed from RR/1/7, Catherine Rawnsley’s Commonplace Book, held in the Rawnsley Archives]