A Legend of Devonshire

There were three daughters long ago, 
  In a lonely house that faced the sea;
They sent their father forth to plough
  The narrow meadow that skirts the sea.

The autumn fogs are drifting by,
  The old man's wits are dull and numb;
He has opened the barn where the young colts lie 
  Safe from the biting frosts to come.

He has taken the plough-gear and harnessed three 
  Hot young bloods that no lash will bear;
The rain is falling—he cannot see
  If young or old be harnessed there.

He is ploughing the meadow that skirts the sea— 
  Old hands a-quivering with the cold;
The furrows are running crookedly,
  And the share is clogged with the clinging mould .

The crow and daw fly fast to eat
  Their food, while afar the sea-gulls scream; 
The rain has changed to a stinging sleet;
  He is ploughing as one who ploughs in a dream.

They have swerved from the field; the shingles grate 
  Beneath their hooves and the jangling plough;
The day is dying, the hour is late:
  But the salt sea-foam is light to plough.

                          *         *         * 

[The old man smiles, by the handles twain, 
  The colts are speeding, the share runs fast;
I plough as tho' 'twere my youth again—
  We'll finish the field and rest at last.

One furrow more, and the thick whip cracks, 
  Hot is their blood as the sea is cold;
He has eased the gear from off their backs,
  And  stoops to loosen their feet from mould .

He is ploughing again, and the colts go slowly, 
  The furrows are filled by the rising sea;
The salt has encrusted the iron wholly,
  And the old man's beard is wet with the sea.

The tide is rising, the shore-spume flees,
  The colts are stamping twixt sea and land,
The gulls are wailing o'er the seas,
  And the forewheel drags in the drifting sand.

The tide is rising, the furrows fill,
  The handles are wet with the flying foam, 
The colts are plunging, and over the hill
  They are waiting to welcome the old man home.)]

(Note: the last five stanzas above are from the USCC 
version. They were omitted when the poem was collected.)