Walter de la Mare

Off the Ground

Three jolly Farmers

Once bet a pound

Each dance the others would

Off the ground.

Out of their coats

They slipped right soon,

And neat and nicesome

Put each his shoon.


And away they go,

Not too fast,

And not too slow;

Out from the elm-tree's

Noonday shadow,

Into the sun

And across the meadow.

Past the schoolroom,

With knees well bent

Fingers a-flicking,

They dancing went.

Up sides and over,

And round and round,

They crossed click-clacking,

The Parish bound,

By Tupman's meadow

They did their mile,


On a three-barred stile.

Then straight through Whipham,

Downhill to Week,

Footing it lightsome,

But not too quick,

Up fields to Watchet,

And on through Wye,

Till seven fine churches

They'd seen skip by—

Seven fine churches,

And five old mills,

Farms in the valley,

And sheep on the hills;

Old Man's Acre

And Dead Man's Pool

All left behind,

As they danced through Wool.

And Wool gone by,

Like tops that seem

To spin in sleep

They danced in dream:



Like an old clock

Their heels did go.

A league and a league

And a league they went,

And not one weary,

And not one spent.

And lo, and behold!

Past Willow-cum-Leigh

Stretched with its waters

The great green sea.

Says Farmer Bates,

"I puffs and I blows,

What's under the water,

Why, no man knows!"

Says Farmer Giles,

"My wind comes weak,

And a good man drownded

Is far to seek."

But Farmer Turvey,

On twirling toes

Up's with his gaiters,

And in he goes:

Down where the mermaids

Pluck and play

On their twangling harps

In a sea-green day;

Down where the mermaids,

Finned and fair,

Sleek with their combs

Their yellow hair. . . .

Bates and Giles—

On the shingle sat,

Gazing at Turvey's

Floating hat.

But never a ripple

Nor bubble told

Where he was supping

Off plates of gold.

Never an echo

Rilled through the sea

Of the feasting and dancing

And minstrelsy.

They called—called—called:

Came no reply:

Nought but the ripples'

Sandy sigh.

Then glum and silent

They sat instead,

Vacantly brooding

On home and bed,

Till both together

Stood up and said:—

"Us knows not, dreams not,

Where you be,

Turvey, unless

In the deep blue sea;

But excusing silver—

And it comes most willing—

Here's us two paying

Our forty shilling;

For it's sartin sure, Turvey,

Safe and sound,

You danced us square, Turvey,

Off the ground!"