by Robert Graves (1895‐1985)
Strawberries that in gardens grow Are plump and juicy fine, But sweeter far as wise men know Spring from the woodland vine. No need for bowl or silver spoon, Sugar or spice or cream, Has the wild berry plucked in June Beside the trickling stream. One such to melt at the tongue's root, Confounding taste with scent, Beats a full peck of garden fruit: Which points my argument. May sudden justice overtake And snap the froward pen, That old and palsied poets shake Against the minds of men. Blasphemous trusting to hold caught In far-flung webs of ink The utmost ends of human thought, Till nothing's left to sink. But may the gift of heavenly peace And glory for all time Keep the boy Tom who tending geese First made the nursery rhyme. By the brookside one August day, Using the sun for clock, Tom whiled the languid hours away Beside his scattering flock. Carving with a sharp pointed stone On a broad slab of slate The famous lives of Jumping Joan, Dan Fox and Greedy Kate; Rhyming of wolves and bears and birds, Spain, Scotland, Babylon, That sister Kate might learn the words To tell to Toddling John. But Kate, who could not stay content To learn her lesson pat, New beauty to the rough lines lent By changing this or that; And she herself set fresh things down In corners of her slate, Of lambs and lanes and London Town. God's blessing fall on Kate! The baby loved the simple sound, With jolly glee he shook, And soon the lines grew smooth and round Like pebbles in Tom's brook. From mouth to mouth told and retold By children sprawled at ease Before the fire in winter's cold, In June beneath tall trees; Till though long lost are tool and slate, Though the brook no more runs, And dead long time are Tom, John, Kate, Their sons and their sons' sons. Yet, as when Time with stealthy tread Lays the rich garden waste, The woodland berry ripe and red Fails not in scent or taste, So these same rhymes shall still be told To children yet unborn, While false philosophy growing old Fades and is killed by scorn.