On the Downs

“On the Downs” – John Masefield (published Sept., 1918)

Up on the downs the red-eyed kestrels hover,

Eyeing the grass.

The field-mouse flits like a shadow into cover

As their shadows pass.

Men are burning gorse on the down’s shoulder,

A drift of smoke

Glitters and hangs and the skies smoulder

And the lungs choke.

Once the tribe did thus on the downs, burning

Men in the frame,

Crying to the gods of the downs ’til their brains were burning

And the gods came.

And today on the downs, in the wind, the hawkes of the grasses

In blood and air,

Something passes me and cries as it passes,

On the chalk downland bare.

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