A fortnight before Christmas Gypsies were everywhere:
Vans were drawn up on wastes, women trailed to the fair.
‘My gentleman,’ said one, ‘You’ve got a lucky face.’
‘And you’ve a luckier,’ I thought, ‘if such grace
And impudence in rags are lucky.’ ‘Give a penny
For the poor baby’s sake.’ ‘Indeed I have not any
Unless you can give change for a sovereign, my dear.’
‘Then just half a pipeful of tobacco can you spare?’
I gave it. With that much victory she laughed content.
I should have given more, but off and away she went
With her baby and her pink sham flowers to rejoin
The rest before I could translate to its proper coin
Gratitude for her grace. And I paid nothing then,
As I pay nothing now with the dipping of my pen
For her brother’s music when he drummed the tambourine
And stamped his feet, which made the workmen passing grin,
While his mouth-organ changed to a rascally Bacchanal dance
‘Over the hills and far away.’ This and his glance
Outlasted all the fair, farmer, and auctioneer,
Cheap-jack, balloon-man, drover with crooked stick, and steer,
Pig, turkey, goose, and duck, Christmas corpses to be.
Not even the kneeling ox had eyes like the Romany.
That night he peopled for me the hollow wooded land,
More dark and wild than the stormiest heavens, that I searched and scanned
Like a ghost new-arrived. The gradations of the dark
Were like an underworld of death, but for the spark
In the Gypsy boy’s black eyes as he played and stamped his tune,
‘Over the hills and far away,’ and a crescent moon.