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I

SALLIED afield when the bud first swells,

And the sun first slanteth hotly,
And I came on a yokel in cap and bells,

And a suit of saffron motley.

II.

He was squat on a bank where a self-taught stream,

Fingering flint and pebble,
Was playing in tune to the yaffel's scream,

And the shake of the throstle's treble.

III.

Now, who may you be?” I asked, “and where

Do you look for your meals and pillow?"
My roof,” he said, “is the spacious air,
And my curtain the waving willow.

IV.

“My meal is a shive of the miller's loaf,

And hunger the grace that blesses: 'Tis banquet enough for a village oaf,

With a handful of fresh green cresses. VOL. IV.-No. 23.

U

V.

'A plague on your feasts where the dish goes round,

Though I know where the truffles burrow, And the plover's eggs may, in fours, be found,

In the folds of the pleated furrow.

VI.

"And my name? O, I am an April Fool,

So yclept in the hamlet yonder;
For when old and young are at work or school,

I sit on a stile and ponder.

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VIII.
“ But I flick them back ere they gape and pant,

After gazing at gill and speckle.
For why should I keep what I do not want,

Who can fish without hook or heckle?

IX. “Yes, I am an April Fool: confessed !

And my pate grows not wise for scratching; But I know where the kingfisher drills his nest,

And the long-tailed tits are hatching.”

X.
Then he leaped to his feet, and he shook his bells,

And they jangled all together,
As blithe as the chime that swings and swells

For the joy of a nuptial tether.

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The rustling whisper reached my ear

Of a loitering maiden's kirtle.

XII.
Whereat he laughed : “ I'm an April Fool,

But am jocund withal and jolly,
So long as I have this realm to rule,

And a lass to love my folly.

XIII.

“ Go and woo, where the deftly fair parade,

The smiles of a fine court lady ; But I will cuddle my rustic maid,

In the pheasant-drives husht and shady.

XIV.

“ Her cheek is as creamy as milk in June,

And the winds nor chap nor warp it ; We dance, with the blackbird to give the tune,

And with primroses for carpet.

XV. “ Her quick-flashing fingers knit the hose

For her little feet neat and nimble; Her kiss is as sweet as a half-shut rose,

And her laugh like a silver cymbal.

XVI.

" She never asks how my fortunes fare,

Nor wonders how full my purse is; She sits on my knee, and she strokes my hair,

And I tell her my wildwood verses.

XVII. “She has not a gem she can call her own,

But I rest on a sheepfold hurdle, And, out of the daffodils newly blown,

Entwine her a golden girdle.

XVIII.

"And soon I shall have for my nut-sweet girl,

When the May boughs are adorning
Their weather-tanned skin with rows of pearl,

A new necklace, night and morning.

XIX.

“When shortly we catch the cuckoo's call,

We shall clap our hands to hear him ; For, let whom they may his gibes appal,

This April Fool don't fear him."

XX.

Then a wind-cloud, hued like a ringdove's neck,

Made the rain run helter-skelter ;
The keen drops pattered on bank and beck,

And I crouched in the ditch for shelter.

XXI.

But he whistled his love, and he waved his cap.

And the bells all rang together. “ Just fancy!” he cried, “ to care one rap

For the whims of wind cr weather!

XXII.

“Through all the seasons I keep my youth,

Which is more than you town-folk do, sir. Now, which is the April Fool, in sooth ?

Do you think it is 1,-or you, sir ?”

XXIII.

Then the rain ceased slashing on branch and pool,

And swift came the sunshine, after ; And the thrush and the yaffel screamed, “ April Fool!”

And the covert rang with laughter.

ALFRED AUSTIN.

THE LABOUR COMMISSION AND ITS DUTIES.

A

Never increasing number of persons are urging the

necessity for a very much larger staff in the Labour Department of the Board of Trade than we at present have. In proportion to the staff undoubtedly good work is done, but that comprehensive collection of information of the ever changing relationship between workers and employers, which all who are called upon to deal in detail with Labour matters know to be so essential, is seriously lacking. A Ministry for Labour is wanted, and at once.

That the Government should not have long ago recognised the desirability of making the Labour Department a much more serviceable institution than it has yet become does not speak well for its foresight. Observers of the laws that control the human mind ought surely to have expected that the result of the Education Act and the Factory Acts, coupled with the extension of labour organisations on one side, and the march of invention and development of science on the other, was certain to shake some of the old ideas of “rest and be thankful” to their foundations; and a wise Government should long ago have provided machinery capable of guiding, if not controlling, the conflicting tendencies certain to arise. The Labour Department should be far and away the most important of all Governmental Departments, and ere long we may hope that steps will be taken to properly extend its present scope and usefulness.

Meanwhile, we may surely welcome a Royal Commission that shall do, with much difficulty and very imperfectly, what ought to be done daily with comparative ease. If we cannot have the Department, let us make use of the Commission as an acceptable

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