Lyrical Ballads, with other poems


William Wordsworth

logo

This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:13.

To the best of our knowledge, the text of this
work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work.

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Table of Contents

Preface.

  1. Expostulation and Reply
  2. The Tables turned; an Evening Scene, on the same subject
  3. Animal Tranquillity and Decay
  4. The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman
  5. The Last of the Flock
  6. Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree
  7. The Foster–Mother’s Tale
  8. Goody Blake and Harry Gill
  9. The Thorn
  10. We are Seven
  11. Anecdote for Fathers
  12. Lines written at a small distance from my House
  13. The Female Vagrant
  14. The Dungeon
  15. Simon Lee, the old Huntsman
  16. Lines written in early Spring
  17. The Nightingale.
  18. Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening
  19. Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames
  20. The Idiot Boy
  21. Love
  22. The Mad Mother
  23. The Ancient Mariner
  24. Lines written above Tintern Abbey
  25. Hart-leap Well
  26. There was a Boy, &c
  27. The Brothers, a Pastoral Poem
  28. Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle
  29. Strange fits of passion I have known, &c.
  30. Song
  31. A slumber did my spirit seal, &c
  32. The Waterfall and the Eglantine
  33. The Oak and the Broom
  34. Lucy Gray
  35. The Idle Shepherd–Boys or Dungeon–Gill Force
  36. ’Tis said that some have died for love, &c.
  37. Poor Susan
  38. Inscription for the Spot where the Hermitage stood on St. Herbert’s Island, Derwent–Water
  39. Inscription for the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere
  40. To a Sexton
  41. Andrew Jones
  42. The two Thieves, or the last stage of Avarice
  43. A whirl-blast from behind the Hill, &c.
  44. Song for the wandering Jew
  45. Ruth
  46. Lines written with a Slate–Pencil upon a Stone
  47. Lines written on a Tablet in a School
  48. The two April Mornings
  49. The Fountain, a conversation
  50. Nutting
  51. Three years she grew in sun and shower, &c.
  52. The Pet–Lamb, a Pastoral
  53. Written in Germany on one of the coldest days of the century
  54. The Childless Father
  55. The Old Cumberland Beggar
  56. Rural Architecture
  57. A Poet’s Epitaph
  58. A Character
  59. A Fragment
  60. Poems on the Naming of Places,
  61. Michael

Preface.

The First Volume of these Poems has already been submitted to general perusal. It was published, as an experiment which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavour to impart.

I had formed no very inaccurate estimate of the probable effect of those Poems: I flattered myself that they who should be pleased with them would read them with more than common pleasure: and on the other hand I was well aware that by those who should dislike them they would be read with more than common dislike. The result has differed from my expectation in this only, that I have pleased a greater number, than I ventured to hope I should please.

For the sake of variety and from a consciousness of my own weakness I was induced to request the assistance of a Friend, who furnished me with the Poems of the ANCIENT MARINER, the FOSTER-MOTHER’S TALE, the NIGHTINGALE, the DUNGEON, and the Poem entitled LOVE. I should not, however, have requested this assistance, had I not believed that the poems of my Friend would in a great measure have the same tendency as my own, and that, though there would be found a difference, there would be found no discordance in the colours of our style; as our opinions on the subject of poetry do almost entirely coincide.

Several of my Friends are anxious for the success of these Poems from a belief, that if the views, with which they were composed, were indeed realized, a class of Poetry would be produced, well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and not unimportant in the multiplicity and in the quality of its moral relations: and on this account they have advised me to prefix a systematic defence of the theory, upon which the poems were written. But I was unwilling to undertake the task, because I knew that on this occasion the Reader would look coldly upon my arguments, since I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him into an approbation of these particular Poems: and I was still more unwilling to undertake the task, because adequately to display my opinions and fully to enforce my arguments would require a space wholly disproportionate to the nature of a preface. For to treat the subject with the clearness and coherence, of which I believe it susceptible, it would be necessary to give a full account of the present state of the public taste in this country, and to determine how far this taste is healthy or depraved; which again could not be determined, without pointing out, in what manner language and the human mind act and react on each other, and without retracing the revolutions not of literature alone but likewise of society itself. I have therefore altogether declined to enter regularly upon this defence; yet I am sensible, that there would be some impropriety in abruptly obtruding upon the Public, without a few words of introduction, Poems so materially different from those, upon which general approbation is at present bestowed.

It is supposed, that by the act of writing in verse an Author makes a formal engagement that he will gratify certain known habits of association, that he not only thus apprizes the Reader that certain classes of ideas and expressions will be found in his book, but that others will be carefully excluded. This exponent or symbol held forth by metrical language must in different aeras of literature have excited very different expectations: for example, in the age of Catullus Terence and Lucretius, and that of Statius or Claudian, and in our own country, in the age of Shakespeare and Beaumont and Fletcher, and that of Donne and Cowley, or Dryden, or Pope. I will not take upon me to determine the exact import of the promise which by the act of writing in verse an Author in the present day makes to his Reader; but I am certain it will appear to many persons that I have not fulfilled the terms of an engagement thus voluntarily contracted. I hope therefore the Reader will not censure me, if I attempt to state what I have proposed to myself to perform, and also, (as far as the limits of a preface will permit) to explain some of the chief reasons which have determined me in the choice of my purpose: that at least he may be spared any unpleasant feeling of disappointment, and that I myself may be protected from the most dishonorable accusation which can be brought against an Author, namely, that of an indolence which prevents him from endeavouring to ascertain what is his duty, or, when his duty is ascertained prevents him from performing it.

The principal object then which I proposed to myself in these Poems was to make the incidents of common life interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. Low and rustic life was generally chosen because in that situation the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that situation our elementary feelings exist in a state of greater simplicity and consequently may be more accurately contemplated and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and from the necessary character of rural occupations are more easily comprehended; and are more durable; and lastly, because in that situation the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. The language too of these men is adopted (purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived; and because, from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the action of social vanity they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions. Accordingly such a language arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings is a more permanent and a far more philosophical language than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets, who think that they are conferring honour upon themselves and their art in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression in order to furnish food for fickle tastes and fickle appetites of their own creation.1

1 It is worth while here to observe that the affecting parts of Chaucer are almost always expressed in language pure and universally intelligible even to this day.

I cannot be insensible of the present outcry against the triviality and meanness both of thought and language, which some of my contemporaries have occasionally introduced into their metrical compositions; and I acknowledge that this defect where it exists, is more dishonorable to the Writer’s own character than false refinement or arbitrary innovation, though I should contend at the same time that it is far less pernicious in the sum of its consequences. From such verses the Poems in these volumes will be found distinguished at least by one mark of difference, that each of them has a worthy purpose. Not that I mean to say, that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived; but I believe that my habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken I can have little right to the name of a Poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other, we discover what is really important to men, so by the repetition and continuance of this act feelings connected with important subjects will be nourished, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much organic sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced that by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits we shall describe objects and utter sentiments of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, his taste exalted, and his affections ameliorated.

I have said that each of these poems has a purpose. I have also informed my Reader what this purpose will be found principally to be: namely to illustrate the manner in which our feelings and ideas are associated in a state of excitement. But speaking in less general language, it is to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature. This object I have endeavoured in these short essays to attain by various means; by tracing the maternal passion through many of its more subtle windings, as in the poems of the IDIOT BOY and the MAD MOTHER; by accompanying the last struggles of a human being at the approach of death, cleaving in solitude to life and society, as in the Poem of the FORSAKEN INDIAN; by shewing, as in the Stanzas entitled WE ARE SEVEN, the perplexity and obscurity which in childhood attend our notion of death, or rather our utter inability to admit that notion; or by displaying the strength of fraternal, or to speak more philosophically, of moral attachment when early associated with the great and beautiful objects of nature, as in THE BROTHERS; or, as in the Incident of SIMON LEE, by placing my Reader in the way of receiving from ordinary moral sensations another and more salutary impression than we are accustomed to receive from them. It has also been part of my general purpose to attempt to sketch characters under the influence of less impassioned feelings, as in the OLD MAN TRAVELLING, THE TWO THIEVES, &c. characters of which the elements are simple, belonging rather to nature than to manners, such as exist now and will probably always exist, and which from their constitution may be distinctly and profitably contemplated. I will not abuse the indulgence of my Reader by dwelling longer upon this subject; but it is proper that I should mention one other circumstance which distinguishes these Poems from the popular Poetry of the day; it is this, that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation and not the action and situation to the feeling. My meaning will be rendered perfectly intelligible by referring my Reader to the Poems entitled POOR SUSAN and the CHILDLESS FATHER, particularly to the last Stanza of the latter Poem.

I will not suffer a sense of false modesty to prevent me from asserting, that I point my Reader’s attention to this mark of distinction far less for the sake of these particular Poems than from the general importance of the subject. The subject is indeed important! For the human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this, and who does not further know that one being is elevated above another in proportion as he possesses this capability. It has therefore appeared to me that to endeavour to produce or enlarge this capability is one of the best services in which, at any period, a Writer can be engaged; but this service, excellent at all times, is especially so at the present day. For a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves. The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse. — When I think upon this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation I am almost ashamed to have spoken of the feeble effort with which I have endeavoured to counteract it; and reflecting upon the magnitude of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonorable melancholy, had I not a deep impression of certain inherent and indestructible qualities of the human mind, and likewise of certain powers in the great and permanent objects that act upon it which are equally inherent and indestructible; and did I not further add to this impression a belief that the time is approaching when the evil will be systematically opposed by men of greater powers and with far more distinguished success.

Having dwelt thus long on the subjects and aim of these Poems, I shall request the Reader’s permission to apprize him of a few circumstances relating to their style, in order, among other reasons, that I may not be censured for not having performed what I never attempted. Except in a very few instances the Reader will find no personifications of abstract ideas in these volumes, not that I mean to censure such personifications: they may be well fitted for certain sorts of composition, but in these Poems I propose to myself to imitate, and, as far as possible, to adopt the very language of men, and I do not find that such personifications make any regular or natural part of that language. I wish to keep my Reader in the company of flesh and blood, persuaded that by so doing I shall interest him. Not but that I believe that others who pursue a different track may interest him likewise: I do not interfere with their claim, I only wish to prefer a different claim of my own. There will also be found in these volumes little of what is usually called poetic diction; I have taken as much pains to avoid it as others ordinarily take to produce it; this I have done for the reason already alleged, to bring my language near to the language of men, and further, because the pleasure which I have proposed to myself to impart is of a kind very different from that which is supposed by many persons to be the proper object of poetry. I do not know how without being culpably particular I can give my Reader a more exact notion of the style in which I wished these poems to be written than by informing him that I have at all times endeavoured to look steadily at my subject, consequently I hope it will be found that there is in these Poems little falsehood of description, and that my ideas are expressed in language fitted to their respective importance. Something I must have gained by this practice, as it is friendly to one property of all good poetry, namely good sense; but it has necessarily cut me off from a large portion of phrases and figures of speech which from father to son have long been regarded as the common inheritance of Poets. I have also thought it expedient to restrict myself still further, having abstained from the use of many expressions, in themselves proper and beautiful, but which have been foolishly repeated by bad Poets till such feelings of disgust are connected with them as it is scarcely possible by any art of association to overpower.

If in a Poem there should be found a series of lines, or even a single line, in which the language, though naturally arranged and according to the strict laws of metre, does not differ from that of prose, there is a numerous class of critics who, when they stumble upon these prosaisms as they call them, imagine that they have made a notable discovery, and exult over the Poet as over a man ignorant of his own profession. Now these men would establish a canon of criticism which the Reader will conclude he must utterly reject if he wishes to be pleased with these volumes. And it would be a most easy task to prove to him that not only the language of a large portion of every good poem, even of the most elevated character, must necessarily, except with reference to the metre, in no respect differ from that of good prose, but likewise that some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose when prose is well written. The truth of this assertion might be demonstrated by innumerable passages from almost all the poetical writings, even of Milton himself. I have not space for much quotation; but, to illustrate the subject in a general manner, I will here adduce a short composition of Gray, who was at the head of those who by their reasonings have attempted to widen the space of separation betwixt Prose and Metrical composition, and was more than any other man curiously elaborate in the structure of his own poetic diction.

In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,

And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire:

The birds in vain their amorous descant join,

Or chearful fields resume their green attire:

These ears alas! for other notes repine;

A different object do these eyes require;

My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;

And in my breast the imperfect joys expire;

Yet Morning smiles the busy race to cheer,

And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;

The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;

To warm their little loves the birds complain.

I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear

And weep the more because I weep in vain.

It will easily be perceived that the only part of this Sonnet which is of any value is the lines printed in Italics: it is equally obvious that except in the rhyme, and in the use of the single word “fruitless” for fruitlessly, which is so far a defect, the language of these lines does in no respect differ from that of prose.

Is there then, it will be asked, no essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition? I answer that there neither is nor can be any essential difference. We are fond of tracing the resemblance between Poetry and Painting, and, accordingly, we call them Sisters: but where shall we find bonds of connection sufficiently strict to typify the affinity betwixt metrical and prose composition? They both speak by and to the same organs; the bodies in which both of them are clothed may be said to be of the same substance, their affections are kindred and almost identical, not necessarily differing even in degree; Poetry 2 sheds no tears “such as Angels weep,” but natural and human tears; she can boast of no celestial Ichor that distinguishes her vital juices from those of prose; the same human blood circulates through the veins of them both.

2 I here use the word “Poetry” (though against my own judgment) as opposed to the word Prose, and synonomous with metrical composition. But much confusion has been introduced into criticism by this contradistinction of Poetry and Prose, instead of the more philosophical one of Poetry and Science. The only strict antithesis to Prose is Metre.

If it be affirmed that rhyme and metrical arrangement of themselves constitute a distinction which overturns what I have been saying on the strict affinity of metrical language with that of prose, and paves the way for other distinctions which the mind voluntarily admits, I answer that the distinction of rhyme and metre is regular and uniform, and not, like that which is produced by what is usually called poetic diction, arbitrary and subject to infinite caprices upon which no calculation whatever can be made. In the one case the Reader is utterly at the mercy of the Poet respecting what imagery or diction he may choose to connect with the passion, whereas in the other the metre obeys certain laws, to which the Poet and Reader both willingly submit because they are certain, and because no interference is made by them with the passion but such as the concurring testimony of ages has shewn to heighten and improve the pleasure which coexists with it. It will now be proper to answer an obvious question, namely, why, professing these opinions have I written in verse? To this in the first place I reply, because, however I may have restricted myself, there is still left open to me what confessedly constitutes the most valuable object of all writing whether in prose or verse, the great and universal passions of men, the most general and interesting of their occupations, and the entire world of nature, from which I am at liberty to supply myself with endless combinations of forms and imagery. Now, granting for a moment that whatever is interesting in these objects may be as vividly described in prose, why am I to be condemned if to such description I have endeavoured to superadd the charm which by the consent of all nations is acknowledged to exist in metrical language? To this it will be answered, that a very small part of the pleasure given by Poetry depends upon the metre, and that it is injudicious to write in metre unless it be accompanied with the other artificial distinctions of style with which metre is usually accompanied, and that by such deviation more will be lost from the shock which will be thereby given to the Reader’s associations than will be counterbalanced by any pleasure which he can derive from the general power of numbers. In answer to those who thus contend for the necessity of accompanying metre with certain appropriate colours of style in order to the accomplishment of its appropriate end, and who also, in my opinion, greatly under-rate the power of metre in itself, it might perhaps be almost sufficient to observe that poems are extant, written upon more humble subjects, and in a more naked and simple style than what I have aimed at, which poems have continued to give pleasure from generation to generation. Now, if nakedness and simplicity be a defect, the fact here mentioned affords a strong presumption that poems somewhat less naked and simple are capable of affording pleasure at the present day; and all that I am now attempting is to justify myself for having written under the impression of this belief.

But I might point out various causes why, when the style is manly, and the subject of some importance, words metrically arranged will long continue to impart such a pleasure to mankind as he who is sensible of the extent of that pleasure will be desirous to impart. The end of Poetry is to produce excitement in coexistence with an overbalance of pleasure. Now, by the supposition, excitement is an unusual and irregular state of the mind; ideas and feelings do not in that state succeed each other in accustomed order. But if the words by which this excitement is produced are in themselves powerful, or the images and feelings have an undue proportion of pain connected with them, there is some danger that the excitement may be carried beyond its proper bounds. Now the copresence of something regular, something to which the mind has been accustomed when in an unexcited or a less excited state, cannot but have great efficacy in tempering and restraining the passion by an intertexture of ordinary feeling. This may be illustrated by appealing to the Reader’s own experience of the reluctance with which he comes to the reperusal of the distressful parts of Clarissa Harlowe, or the Gamester. While Shakespeare’s writings, in the most pathetic scenes, never act upon us as pathetic beyond the bounds of pleasure — an effect which is in a great degree to be ascribed to small, but continual and regular impulses of pleasurable surprise from the metrical arrangement. — On the other hand (what it must be allowed will much more frequently happen) if the Poet’s words should be incommensurate with the passion, and inadequate to raise the Reader to a height of desirable excitement, then, (unless the Poet’s choice of his metre has been grossly injudicious) in the feelings of pleasure which the Reader has been accustomed to connect with metre in general, and in the feeling, whether chearful or melancholy, which he has been accustomed to connect with that particular movement of metre, there will be found something which will greatly contribute to impart passion to the words, and to effect the complex end which the Poet proposes to himself.

If I had undertaken a systematic defence of the theory upon which these poems are written, it would have been my duty to develope the various causes upon which the pleasure received from metrical language depends. Among the chief of these causes is to be reckoned a principle which must be well known to those who have made any of the Arts the object of accurate reflection; I mean the pleasure which the mind derives from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude. This principle is the great spring of the activity of our minds and their chief feeder. From this principle the direction of the sexual appetite, and all the passions connected with it take their origin: It is the life of our ordinary conversation; and upon the accuracy with which similitude in dissimilitude, and dissimilitude in similitude are perceived, depend our taste and our moral feelings. It would not have been a useless employment to have applied this principle to the consideration of metre, and to have shewn that metre is hence enabled to afford much pleasure, and to have pointed out in what manner that pleasure is produced. But my limits will not permit me to enter upon this subject, and I must content myself with a general summary.

I have said that Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till by a species of reaction the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, similar to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind and in whatever degree, from various causes is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will upon the whole be in a state of enjoyment. Now if Nature be thus cautious in preserving in a state of enjoyment a being thus employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson thus held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions, if his Reader’s mind be sound and vigorous, should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure. Now the music of harmonious metrical language, the sense of difficulty overcome, and the blind association of pleasure which has been previously received from works of rhyme or metre of the same or similar construction, all these imperceptibly make up a complex feeling of delight, which is of the most important use in tempering the painful feeling which will always be found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper passions. This effect is always produced in pathetic and impassioned poetry; while in lighter compositions the ease and gracefulness with which the Poet manages his numbers are themselves confessedly a principal source of the gratification of the Reader. I might perhaps include all which it is necessary to say upon this subject by affirming what few persons will deny, that of two descriptions either of passions, manners, or characters, each of them equally well executed, the one in prose and the other in verse, the verse will be read a hundred times where the prose is read once. We see that Pope by the power of verse alone, has contrived to render the plainest common sense interesting, and even frequently to invest it with the appearance of passion. In consequence of these convictions I related in metre the Tale of GOODY BLAKE and HARRY GILL, which is one of the rudest of this collection. I wished to draw attention to the truth that the power of the human imagination is sufficient to produce such changes even in our physical nature as might almost appear miraculous. The truth is an important one; the fact (for it is a fact) is a valuable illustration of it. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that it has been communicated to many hundreds of people who would never have heard of it, had it not been narrated as a Ballad, and in a more impressive metre than is usual in Ballads.

Having thus adverted to a few of the reasons why I have written in verse, and why I have chosen subjects from common life, and endeavoured to bring my language near to the real language of men, if I have been too minute in pleading my own cause, I have at the same time been treating a subject of general interest; and it is for this reason that I request the Reader’s permission to add a few words with reference solely to these particular poems, and to some defects which will probably be found in them. I am sensible that my associations must have sometimes been particular instead of general, and that, consequently, giving to things a false importance, sometimes from diseased impulses I may have written upon unworthy subject; but I am less apprehensive on this account, than that my language may frequently have suffered from those arbitrary connections of feelings and ideas with particular words, from which no man can altogether protect himself. Hence I have no doubt that in some instances feelings even of the ludicrous may be given to my Readers by expressions which appeared to me tender and pathetic. Such faulty expressions, were I convinced they were faulty at present, and that they must necessarily continue to be so, I would willingly take all reasonable pains to correct. But it is dangerous to make these alterations on the simple authority of a few individuals, or even of certain classes of men; for where the understanding of an Author is not convinced, or his feelings altered, this cannot be done without great injury to himself: for his own feelings are his stay and support, and if he sets them aside in one instance, he may be induced to repeat this act till his mind loses all confidence in itself and becomes utterly debilitated. To this it may be added, that the Reader ought never to forget that he is himself exposed to the same errors as the Poet, and perhaps in a much greater degree: for there can be no presumption in saying that it is not probable he will be so well acquainted with the various stages of meaning through which words have passed, or with the fickleness or stability of the relations of particular ideas to each other; and above all, since he is so much less interested in the subject, he may decide lightly and carelessly.

Long as I have detained my Reader, I hope he will permit me to caution him against a mode of false criticism which has been applied to Poetry in which the language closely resembles that of life and nature. Such verses have been triumphed over in parodies of which Dr. Johnson’s Stanza is a fair specimen.

“I put my hat upon my head,

And walk’d into the Strand,

And there I met another man

Whose hat was in his hand.”

Immediately under these lines I will place one of the most justly admired stanzas of the “Babes in the Wood.”

“These pretty Babes with hand in hand

Went wandering up and down;

But never more they saw the Man

Approaching from the Town.”

In both of these stanzas the words, and the order of the words, in no respect differ from the most unimpassioned conversation. There are words in both, for example, “the Strand,” and “the Town,” connected with none but the most familiar ideas; yet the one stanza we admit as admirable, and the other as a fair example of the superlatively contemptible. Whence arises this difference? Not from the metre, not from the language, not from the order of the words; but the matter expressed in Dr. Johnson’s stanza is contemptible. The proper method of treating trivial and simple verses to which Dr. Johnson’s stanza would be a fair parallelism is not to say this is a bad kind of poetry, or this is not poetry, but this wants sense; it is neither interesting in itself, nor can lead to any thing interesting; the images neither originate in that sane state of feeling which arises out of thought, nor can excite thought or feeling in the Reader. This is the only sensible manner of dealing with such verses: Why trouble yourself about the species till you have previously decided upon the genus? Why take pains to prove that an Ape is not a Newton when it is self-evident that he is not a man.

I have one request to make of my Reader, which is, that in judging these Poems he would decide by his own feelings genuinely, and not by reflection upon what will probably be the judgment of others. How common is it to hear a person say, “I myself do not object to this style of composition or this or that expression, but to such and such classes of people it will appear mean or ludicrous.” This mode of criticism so destructive of all sound unadulterated judgment is almost universal: I have therefore to request that the Reader would abide independently by his own feelings, and that if he finds himself affected he would not suffer such conjectures to interfere with his pleasure.

If an Author by any single composition has impressed us with respect for his talents, it is useful to consider this as affording a presumption, that, on other occasions where we have been displeased, he nevertheless may not have written ill or absurdly; and, further, to give him so much credit for this one composition as may induce us to review what has displeased us with more care than we should otherwise have bestowed upon it. This is not only an act of justice, but in our decisions upon poetry especially, may conduce in a high degree to the improvement of our own taste: for an accurate taste in Poetry and in all the other arts, as Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by thought and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned not with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced Reader from judging for himself, (I have already said that I wish him to judge for himself;) but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if Poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgment may be erroneous, and that in many cases it necessarily will be so.

I know that nothing would have so effectually contributed to further the end which I have in view as to have shewn of what kind the pleasure is, and how the pleasure is produced which is confessedly produced by metrical composition essentially different from what I have here endeavoured to recommend; for the Reader will say that he has been pleased by such composition and what can I do more for him? The power of any art is limited and he will suspect that if I propose to furnish him with new friends it is only upon condition of his abandoning his old friends. Besides, as I have said, the Reader is himself conscious of the pleasure which he has received from such composition, composition to which he has peculiarly attached the endearing name of Poetry; and all men feel an habitual gratitude, and something of an honorable bigotry for the objects which have long continued to please them: we not only wish to be pleased, but to be pleased in that particular way in which we have been accustomed to be pleased. There is a host of arguments in these feelings; and I should be the less able to combat them successfully, as I am willing to allow, that, in order entirely to enjoy the Poetry which I am recommending, it would be necessary to give up much of what is ordinarily enjoyed. But would my limits have permitted me to point out how this pleasure is produced, I might have removed many obstacles, and assisted my Reader in perceiving that the powers of language are not so limited as he may suppose; and that it is possible that poetry may give other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature. But this part of my subject I have been obliged altogether to omit: as it has been less my present aim to prove that the interest excited by some other kinds of poetry is less vivid, and less worthy of the nobler powers of the mind, than to offer reasons for presuming, that, if the object which I have proposed to myself were adequately attained, a species of poetry would be produced, which is genuine poetry; in its nature well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and likewise important in the multiplicity and quality of its moral relations. From what has been said, and from a perusal of the Poems, the Reader will be able clearly to perceive the object which I have proposed to myself: he will determine how far I have attained this object; and, what is a much more important question, whether it be worth attaining; and upon the decision of these two questions will rest my claim to the approbation of the public.

Expostulation and Reply

“Why, William, on that old grey stone,

Thus for the length of half a day,

Why, William, sit you thus alone,

And dream your time away?”

“Where are your books? that light bequeath’d

To beings else forlorn and blind!

Up! Up! and drink the spirit breath’d

From dead men to their kind.”

“You look round on your mother earth,

As if she for no purpose bore you;

As if you were her first-born birth,

And none had lived before you!”

One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,

When life was sweet, I knew not why,

To me my good friend Matthew spake,

And thus I made reply.

“The eye it cannot chuse but see,

We cannot bid the ear be still;

Our bodies feel, where’er they be,

Against, or with our will.”

“Nor less I deem that there are powers

Which of themselves our minds impress,

That we can feed this mind of ours

In a wise passiveness.”

“Think you, mid all this mighty sum

Of things for ever speaking,

That nothing of itself will come,

But we must still be seeking?”

“— Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,

Conversing as I may,

I sit upon this old grey stone,

And dream my time away.”

The Tables turned; an Evening Scene, on the same subject

An Evening Scene, on the same Subject,

Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks,

Why all this toil and trouble?

Up! up! my friend, and quit your books,

Or surely you’ll grow double.

The sun, above the mountain’s head,

A freshening lustre mellow

Through all the long green fields has spread,

His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ’tis dull and endless strife,

Come, here the woodland linnet,

How sweet his music; on my life

There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!

And he is no mean preacher;

Come forth into the light of things,

Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,

Our minds and hearts to bless —

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,

Truth breathed by chearfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man;

Of moral evil and of good,

Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which nature brings;

Our meddling intellect

Mishapes the beauteous forms of things;

— We murder to dissect.

Enough of science and of art;

Close up these barren leaves;

Come forth, and bring with you a heart

That watches and receives.

Animal Tranquillity and Decay

A Sketch.

                The little hedge-row birds

That peck along the road, regard him not.

He travels on, and in his face, his step,

His gait, is one expression; every limb,

His look and bending figure, all bespeak

A man who does not move with pain, but moves

With thought — He is insensibly subdued

To settled quiet: he is one by whom

All effort seems forgotten, one to whom

Long patience has such mild composure given,

That patience now doth seem a thing, of which

He hath no need. He is by nature led

To peace so perfect, that the young behold

With envy, what the old man hardly feels.

— I asked him whither he was bound, and what

The object of his journey; he replied

That he was going many miles to take

A last leave of his son, a mariner,

Who from a sea-fight had been brought to Falmouth,

And there was lying in an hospital.

The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman

[When a Northern Indian, from sickness, is unable to continue his journey with his companions; he is left behind, covered over with Deer-skins, and is supplied with water, food, and fuel if the situation of the place will afford it. He is informed of the track which his companions intend to pursue, and if he is unable to follow, or overtake them, he perishes alone in the Desart; unless he should have the good fortune to fall in with some other Tribes of Indians. It is unnecessary to add that the females are equally, or still more, exposed to the same fate. See that very interesting work, Hearne’s Journey from Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean. In the high Northern Latititudes, as the same writer informs us, when the Northern Lights vary their position in the air, they make a rustling and a crackling noise. This circumstance is alluded to in the first stanza of the following poem.]

Before I see another day,

Oh let my body die away!

In sleep I heard the northern gleams;

The stars they were among my dreams;

In sleep did I behold the skies,

I saw the crackling flashes drive;

And yet they are upon my eyes,

And yet I am alive.

Before I see another day,

Oh let my body die away!

My fire is dead: it knew no pain;

Yet is it dead, and I remain.

All stiff with ice the ashes lie;

And they are dead, and I will die.

When I was well, I wished to live,

For clothes, for warmth, for food, and fire;

But they to me no joy can give,

No pleasure now, and no desire.

Then here contented will I lie;

Alone I cannot fear to die.

Alas! you might have dragged me on

Another day, a single one!

Too soon despair o’er me prevailed;

Too soon my heartless spirit failed;

When you were gone my limbs were stronger,

And Oh how grievously I rue,

That, afterwards, a little longer,

My friends, I did not follow you!

For strong and without pain I lay,

My friends, when you were gone away.

My child! they gave thee to another,

A woman who was not thy mother.

When from my arms my babe they took,

On me how strangely did he look!

Through his whole body something ran,

A most strange something did I see;

— As if he strove to be a man,

That he might pull the sledge for me.

And then he stretched his arms, how wild!

Oh mercy! like a little child.

My little joy! my little pride!

In two days more I must have died.

Then do not weep and grieve for me;

I feel I must have died with thee.

Oh wind that o’er my head art flying,

The way my friends their course did bend,

I should not feel the pain of dying,

Could I with thee a message send.

Too soon, my friends, you went away;

For I had many things to say.

I’ll follow you across the snow,

You travel heavily and slow:

In spite of all my weary pain,

I’ll look upon your tents again.

My fire is dead, and snowy white

The water which beside it stood;

The wolf has come to me to-night,

And he has stolen away my food.

For ever left alone am I,

Then wherefore should I fear to die?

My journey will be shortly run,

I shall not see another sun,

I cannot lift my limbs to know

If they have any life or no.

My poor forsaken child! if I

For once could have thee close to me,

With happy heart I then should die,

And my last thoughts would happy be.

I feel my body die away,

I shall not see another day.

The Last of the Flock

In distant countries I have been,

And yet I have not often seen

A healthy man, a man full grown,

Weep in the public roads alone.

But such a one, on English ground,

And in the broad high-way, I met;

Along the broad high-way he came,

His cheeks with tears were wet.

Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;

And in his arms a lamb he had.

He saw me, and he turned aside,

As if he wished himself to hide:

Then with his coat he made essay

To wipe those briny tears away.

I follow’d him, and said, “My friend

What ails you? wherefore weep you so?”

—“Shame on me, Sir! this lusty lamb,

He makes my tears to flow.

To-day I fetched him from the rock;

He is the last of all my flock.”

When I was young, a single man,

And after youthful follies ran.

Though little given to care and thought,

Yet, so it was, a ewe I bought;

And other sheep from her I raised,

As healthy sheep as you might see,

And then I married, and was rich

As I could wish to be;

Of sheep I numbered a full score,

And every year increas’d my store.

Year after year my stock it grew,

And from this one, this single ewe,

Full fifty comely sheep I raised,

As sweet a flock as ever grazed!

Upon the mountain did they feed;

They throve, and we at home did thrive.

— This lusty lamb of all my store

Is all that is alive;

And now I care not if we die,

And perish all of poverty.

Six children, Sir! had I to feed,

Hard labour in a time of need!

My pride was tamed, and in our grief,

I of the parish ask’d relief.

They said I was a wealthy man;

My sheep upon the mountain fed,

And it was fit that thence I took

Whereof to buy us bread:

“Do this; how can we give to you,”

They cried, “what to the poor is due?”

I sold a sheep as they had said,

And bought my little children bread,

And they were healthy with their food;

For me it never did me good.

A woeful time it was for me,

To see the end of all my gains,

The pretty flock which I had reared

With all my care and pains,

To see it melt like snow away!

For me it was a woeful day.

Another still! and still another!

A little lamb, and then its mother!

It was a vein that never stopp’d,

Like blood-drops from my heart they dropp’d.

Till thirty were not left alive

They dwindled, dwindled, one by one,

And I may say that many a time

I wished they all were gone:

They dwindled one by one away;

For me it was a woeful day.

To wicked deeds I was inclined,

And wicked fancies cross’d my mind,

And every man I chanc’d to see,

I thought he knew some ill of me.

No peace, no comfort could I find,

No ease, within doors or without,

And crazily, and wearily

I went my work about.

Oft-times I thought to run away;

For me it was a woeful day.

Sir! ’twas a precious flock to me,

As dear as my own children be;

For daily with my growing store

I loved my children more and more.

Alas! it was an evil time;

God cursed me in my sore distress,

I prayed, yet every day I thought

I loved my children less;

And every week, and every day,

My flock, it seemed to melt away.

They dwindled. Sir, sad sight to see!

From ten to five, from five to three,

A lamb, a weather, and a ewe;

And then at last, from three to two;

And of my fifty, yesterday

I had but only one,

And here it lies upon my arm,

Alas! and I have none;

To-day I fetched it from the rock;

It is the last of all my flock.

Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite, on a desolate part of the shore, yet commanding a beautiful prospect.

— Nay, Traveller! rest. This lonely yew-tree stands

Far from all human dwelling: what if here

No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb;

What if these barren boughs the bee not loves;

Yet, if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves,

That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind

By one soft impulse saved from vacancy.

                                        — Who he was

That piled these stones, and with the mossy sod

First covered o’er and taught this aged tree

With its dark arms to form a circling bower,

I well remember. — He was one who owned

No common soul. In youth by science nursed

And led by nature into a wild scene

Of lofty hopes, he to the world went forth,

A favored being, knowing no desire

Which genius did not hallow, ‘gainst the taint

Of dissolute tongues, and jealousy, and hate

And scorn, against all enemies prepared.

All but neglect. The world, for so it thought,

Owed him no service: he was like a plant

Fair to the sun, the darling of the winds,

But hung with fruit which no one, that passed by,

Regarded, and, his spirit damped at once,

With indignation did he turn away

And with the food of pride sustained his soul

In solitude. — Stranger! these gloomy boughs

Had charms for him; and here he loved to sit,

His only visitants a straggling sheep,

The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper;

And on these barren rocks, with juniper,

And heath, and thistle, thinly sprinkled o’er,

Fixing his downcast eye, he many an hour

A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here

An emblem of his own unfruitful life:

And lifting up his head, he then would gaze

On the more distant scene; how lovely ’tis

Thou seest, and he would gaze till it became

Far lovelier, and his heart could not sustain

The beauty still more beauteous. Nor, that time

When Nature had subdued him to herself

Would he forget those beings, to whose minds,

Warm from the labours of benevolence,

The world, and man himself, appeared a scene

Of kindred loveliness: then he would sigh

With mournful joy, to think that others felt

What he must never feel: and so, lost man!

On visionary views would fancy feed,

Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale

He died, this seat his only monument.

If thou be one whose heart the holy forms

Of young imagination have kept pure,

Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know, that pride,

Howe’er disguised in its own majesty,

Is littleness; that he, who feels contempt

For any living thing, hath faculties

Which he has never used; that thought with him

Is in its infancy. The man, whose eye

Is ever on himself, doth look on one,

The least of nature’s works, one who might move

The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds

Unlawful, ever. O, be wiser thou!

Instructed that true knowledge leads to love,

True dignity abides with him alone

Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,

Can still suspect, and still revere himself,

In lowliness of heart.

The Foster–Mother’s Tale

A Narration in Dramatic Blank Verse

      But that entrance, Mother!

FOSTER-MOTHER.

Can no one hear? It is a perilous tale!

MARIA.

No one.

FOSTER-MOTHER.

      My husband’s father told it me,

Poor old Leoni! — Angels rest his soul!

He was a woodman, and could fell and saw

With lusty arm. You know that huge round beam

Which props the hanging wall of the old chapel?

Beneath that tree, while yet it was a tree

He found a baby wrapt in mosses, lined

With thistle beards, and such small locks of wool

As hang on brambles. Well, he brought him home,

And reared him at the then Lord Velez’ cost.

And so the babe grew up a pretty boy,

A pretty boy, but most unteachable —

And never learnt a prayer, nor told a bead.

But knew the names of birds, and mocked their notes,

And whistled, as he were a bird himself:

And all the autumn ’twas his only play

To get the seeds of wild flowers, and to plant them

With earth and water, on the stumps of trees.

A Friar, who gathered simples in the wood,

A grey-haired man — he loved this little boy,

The boy loved him — and, when the Friar taught him,

He soon could write with the pen: and from that time,

Lived chiefly at the Convent or the Castle.

So he became a very learned youth.

But Oh! poor wretch! — he read, and read, and read,

Till his brain turned — and ere his twentieth year,

He had unlawful thoughts of many things:

And though he prayed, he never loved to pray

With holy men, nor in a holy place —

But yet his speech, it was so soft and sweet,

The late Lord Velez ne’er was wearied with him.

And once, as by the north side of the Chapel

They stood together, chained in deep discourse,

The earth heaved under them with such a groan,

That the wall tottered, and had well-nigh fallen

Right on their heads. My Lord was sorely frightened;

A fever seized him, and he made confession

Of all the heretical and lawless talk

Which brought this judgment: so the youth was seized

And cast into that cell. My husband’s father

Sobbed like a child — it almost broke his heart:

And once as he was working in the cellar,

He heard a voice distinctly; ’twas the youth’s

Who sang a doleful song about green fields,

How sweet it were on lake or wild savannah,

To hunt for food, and be a naked man,

And wander up and down at liberty.

Leoni doted on the youth, and now

His love grew desperate; and defying death,

He made that cunning entrance I described:

And the young man escaped.

MARIA.

                         ’Tis a sweet tale.

And what became of him?

FOSTER-MOTHER.

                        He went on ship-board

With those bold voyagers, who made discovery

Of golden lands. Leoni’s younger brother

Went likewise, and when he returned to Spain,

He told Leoni, that the poor mad youth,

Soon after they arrived in that new world,

In spite of his dissuasion, seized a boat,

And all alone, set sail by silent moonlight

Up a great river, great as any sea,

And ne’er was heard of more: but ’tis supposed,

He lived and died among the savage men.

Goody Blake and Harry Gill

A true story

Oh! what’s the matter? what’s the matter?

What is’t that ails young Harry Gill?

That evermore his teeth they chatter,

Chatter, chatter, chatter still.

Of waistcoats Harry has no lack,

Good duffle grey, and flannel fine;

He has a blanket on his back,

And coats enough to smother nine.

In March, December, and in July,

’Tis all the same with Harry Gill;

The neighbours tell, and tell you truly,

His teeth they chatter, chatter still.

At night, at morning, and at noon,

’Tis all the same with Harry Gill;

Beneath the sun, beneath the moon,

His teeth they chatter, chatter still.

Young Harry was a lusty drover,

And who so stout of limb as he?

His cheeks were red as ruddy clover,

His voice was like the voice of three.

Auld Goody Blake was old and poor,

Ill fed she was, and thinly clad;

And any man who pass’d her door,

Might see how poor a hut she had.

All day she spun in her poor dwelling,

And then her three hours’ work at night!

Alas! ’twas hardly worth the telling,

It would not pay for candle-light.

— This woman dwelt in Dorsetshire,

Her hut was on a cold hill-side,

And in that country coals are dear,

For they come far by wind and tide.

By the same fire to boil their pottage,

Two poor old dames as I have known,

Will often live in one small cottage,

But she, poor woman, dwelt alone.

’Twas well enough when summer came,

The long, warm, lightsome summer-day,

Then at her door the canty dame

Would sit, as any linnet gay.

But when the ice our streams did fetter,

Oh! then how her old bones would shake!

You would have said, if you had met her,

’Twas a hard time for Goody Blake.

Her evenings then were dull and dead;

Sad case it was, as you may think,

For very cold to go to bed,

And then for cold not sleep a wink.

Oh joy for her! whene’er in winter

The winds at night had made a rout,

And scatter’d many a lusty splinter,

And many a rotten bough about.

Yet never had she, well or sick,

As every man who knew her says,

A pile before hand, wood or stick,

Enough to warm her for three days.

Now when the frost was past enduring,

And made her poor old bones to ache,

Could any thing be more alluring,

Than an old hedge to Goody Blake?

And now and then, it must be said,

When her old bones were cold and chill,

She left her fire, or left her bed,

To seek the hedge of Harry Gill.

Now Harry he had long suspected

This trespass of old Goody Blake,

And vow’d that she should be detected,

And he on her would vengeance take.

And oft from his warm fire he’d go,

And to the fields his road would take,

And there, at night, in frost and snow,

He watch’d to seize old Goody Blake.

And once, behind a rick of barley,

Thus looking out did Harry stand;

The moon was full and shining clearly,

And crisp with frost the stubble land.

— He hears a noise — he’s all awake — Again? — on tip-toe down the hill

He softly creeps —’Tis Goody Blake,

She’s at the hedge of Harry Gill.

Right glad was he when he beheld her;

Stick after stick did Goody pull,

He stood behind a bush of elder,

Till she had filled her apron full.

When with her load she turned about,

The bye-road back again to take,

He started forward with a shout,

And sprang upon poor Goody Blake.

And fiercely by the arm he took her,

And by the arm he held her fast,

And fiercely by the arm he shook her,

And cried, “I’ve caught you then at last!”

Then Goody, who had nothing said,

Her bundle from her lap let fall;

And kneeling on the sticks, she pray’d

To God that is the judge of all.

She pray’d, her wither’d hand uprearing,

While Harry held her by the arm —

“God! who art never out of hearing,

O may he never more be warm!”

The cold, cold moon above her head,

Thus on her knees did Goody pray,

Young Harry heard what she had said;

And icy-cold he turned away.

He went complaining all the morrow

That he was cold and very chill:

His face was gloom, his heart was sorrow,

Alas! that day for Harry Gill!

That day he wore a riding-coat,

But not a whit the warmer he:

Another was on Thursday brought,

And ere the Sabbath he had three.

’Twas all in vain, a useless matter,

And blankets were about him pinn’d;

Yet still his jaws and teeth they clatter,

Like a loose casement in the wind.

And Harry’s flesh it fell away;

And all who see him say ’tis plain,

That, live as long as live he may,

He never will be warm again.

No word to any man he utters,

A-bed or up, to young or old;

But ever to himself he mutters,

“Poor Harry Gill is very cold.”

A-bed or up, by night or day;

His teeth they chatter, chatter still.

Now think, ye farmers all, I pray,

Of Goody Blake and Harry Gill.

The Thorn

I.

There is a thorn; it looks so old,

In truth you’d find it hard to say,

How it could ever have been young,

It looks so old and grey.

Not higher than a two years’ child

It stands erect this aged thorn;

No leaves it has, no thorny points;

It is a mass of knotted joints,

A wretched thing forlorn.

It stands erect, and like a stone

With lichens it is overgrown.

II.

Like rock or stone, it is o’ergrown

With lichens to the very top,

And hung with heavy tufts of moss,

A melancholy crop:

Up from the earth these mosses creep,

And this poor thorn! they clasp it round

So close, you’d say that they were bent

With plain and manifest intent,

To drag it to the ground;

And all had join’d in one endeavour

To bury this poor thorn for ever.

III.

High on a mountain’s highest ridge,

Where oft the stormy winter gale

Cuts like a scythe, while through the clouds

It sweeps from vale to vale;

Not five yards from the mountain-path,

This thorn you on your left espy;

And to the left, three yards beyond,

You see a little muddy pond

Of water, never dry;

I’ve measured it from side to side:

’Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.

IV.

And close beside this aged thorn,

There is a fresh and lovely sight,

A beauteous heap, a hill of moss,

Just half a foot in height.

All lovely colours there you see,

All colours that were ever seen,

And mossy network too is there,

As if by hand of lady fair

The work had woven been,

And cups, the darlings of the eye,

So deep is their vermillion dye.

V.

Ah me! what lovely tints are there!

Of olive green and scarlet bright,

In spikes, in branches, and in stars,

Green, red, and pearly white.

This heap of earth o’ergrown with moss,

Which close beside the thorn you see,

So fresh in all its beauteous dyes,

Is like an infant’s grave in size

As like as like can be:

But never, never any where,

An infant’s grave was half so fair.

VI.

Now would you see this aged thorn,

This pond and beauteous hill of moss,

You must take care and chuse your time

The mountain when to cross.

For oft there sits, between the heap

That’s like an infant’s grave in size

And that same pond of which I spoke,

A woman in a scarlet cloak,

And to herself she cries,

“Oh misery! oh misery!

Oh woe is me! oh misery!”

VII.

At all times of the day and night

This wretched woman thither goes,

And she is known to every star,

And every wind that blows;

And there beside the thorn she sits

When the blue day-light’s in the skies,

And when the whirlwind’s on the hill,

Or frosty air is keen and still,

And to herself she cries,

“Oh misery! oh misery!

Oh woe is me! oh misery;”

VIII.

“Now wherefore thus, by day and night,

In rain, in tempest, and in snow

Thus to the dreary mountain-top

Does this poor woman go?

And why sits she beside the thorn

When the blue day-light’s in the sky,

Or when the whirlwind’s on the hill,

Or frosty air is keen and still,

And wherefore does she cry? —

Oh wherefore? wherefore? tell me why

Does she repeat that doleful cry?”

IX.

I cannot tell; I wish I could;

For the true reason no one knows,

But if you’d gladly view the spot,

The spot to which she goes;

The heap that’s like an infant’s grave,

The pond — and thorn, so old and grey.

Pass by her door — tis seldom shut —

And if you see her in her hut,

Then to the spot away! —

I never heard of such as dare

Approach the spot when she is there.

X.

“But wherefore to the mountain-top,

Can this unhappy woman go,

Whatever star is in the skies,

Whatever wind may blow?”

Nay rack your brain —’tis all in vain,

I’ll tell you every thing I know;

But to the thorn and to the pond

Which is a little step beyond,

I wish that you would go:

Perhaps when you are at the place

You something of her tale may trace.

XI.

I’ll give you the best help I can:

Before you up the mountain go,

Up to the dreary mountain-top,

I’ll tell you all I know.

’Tis now some two and twenty years,

Since she (her name is Martha Ray)

Gave with a maiden’s true good will

Her company to Stephen Hill;

And she was blithe and gay,

And she was happy, happy still

Whene’er she thought of Stephen Hill.

XII.

And they had fix’d the wedding-day,

The morning that must wed them both;

But Stephen to another maid

Had sworn another oath;

And with this other maid to church

Unthinking Stephen went —

Poor Martha! on that woful day

A cruel, cruel fire, they say,

Into her bones was sent:

It dried her body like a cinder,

And almost turn’d her brain to tinder.

XIII.

They say, full six months after this,

While yet the summer leaves were green,

She to the mountain-top would go,

And there was often seen.

’Tis said, a child was in her womb,

As now to any eye was plain;

She was with child, and she was mad,

Yet often she was sober sad

From her exceeding pain.

Oh me! ten thousand times I’d rather,

That he had died, that cruel father!

XIV.

Sad case for such a brain to hold

Communion with a stirring child!

Sad case, as you may think, for one

Who had a brain so wild!

Last Christmas when we talked of this,

Old Farmer Simpson did maintain,

That in her womb the infant wrought

About its mother’s heart, and brought

Her senses back again:

And when at last her time drew near,

Her looks were calm, her senses clear.

XV.

No more I know, I wish I did,

And I would tell it all to you;

For what became of this poor child

There’s none that ever knew:

And if a child was born or no,

There’s no one that could ever tell

And if ’twas born alive or dead,

There’s no one knows, as I have said,

But some remember well,

That Martha Ray about this time

Would up the mountain often climb.

XVI.

And all that winter, when at night

The wind blew from the mountain-peak,

’Twas worth your while, though in the dark,

The church-yard path to seek:

For many a time and oft were heard

Cries coming from the mountain-head,

Some plainly living voices were,

And others, I’ve heard many swear,

Were voices of the dead:

I cannot think, whate’er they say,

They had to do with Martha Ray.

XVII.

But that she goes to this old thorn,

The thorn which I’ve described to you,

And there sits in a scarlet cloak,

I will be sworn is true.

For one day with my telescope,

To view the ocean wide and bright,

When to this country first I came,

Ere I had heard of Martha’s name,

I climbed the mountain’s height:

A storm came on, and I could see

No object higher than my knee.

XVIII.

’Twas mist and rain, and storm and rain,

No screen, no fence could I discover,

And then the wind! in faith, it was

A wind full ten times over.

Hooked around, I thought I saw

A jutting crag, and off I ran,

Head-foremost, through the driving rain,

The shelter of the crag to gain,

And, as I am a man,

Instead of jutting crag, I found

A woman seated on the ground.

XIX.

I did not speak — I saw her face,

In truth it was enough for me;

I turned about and heard her cry,

“O misery! O misery!”

And there she sits, until the moon

Through half the clear blue sky will go,

And when the little breezes make

The waters of the pond to shake,

As all the country know

She shudders, and you hear her cry,

“Oh misery! oh misery!”

XX.

“But what’s the thorn? and what’s the pond?

And what’s the hill of moss to her?

And what’s the creeping breeze that comes

The little pond to stir?”

I cannot tell; but some will say

She hanged her baby on the tree,

Some say she drowned it in the pond,

Which is a little step beyond,

But all and each agree,

The little babe was buried there,

Beneath that hill of moss so fair.

XXI.

I’ve heard, the moss is spotted red

With drops of that poor infant’s blood;

But kill a new-born infant thus!

I do not think she could.

Some say, if to the pond you go,

And fix on it a steady view,

The shadow of a babe you trace,

A baby and a baby’s face,

And that it looks at you;

Whene’er you look on it, ’tis plain

The baby looks at you again.

XXII.

And some had sworn an oath that she

Should be to public justice brought;

And for the little infant’s bones

With spades they would have sought.

But then the beauteous bill of moss

Before their eyes began to stir;

And for full fifty yards around,

The grass it shook upon the ground;

But all do still aver

The little babe is buried there.

Beneath that hill of moss so fair.

XXIII.

I cannot tell how this may be,

But plain it is, the thorn is bound

With heavy tufts of moss, that strive

To drag it to the ground.

And this I know, full many a time,

When she was on the mountain high,

By day, and in the silent night;

When all the stars shone clear and bright,

That I have heard her cry,

“Oh misery! oh misery!

O woe is me! oh misery!”

NOTE to THE THORN— This Poem ought to have been preceded by an introductory Poem, which I have been prevented from writing by never having felt myself in a mood when it was probable that I should write it well. — The character which I have here introduced speaking is sufficiently common. The Reader will perhaps have a general notion of it, if he has ever known a man, a Captain of a small trading vessel for example, who being past the middle age of life, had retired upon an annuity or small independent income to some village or country town of which he was not a native, or in which he had not been accustomed to live. Such men having little to do become credulous and talkative from indolence; and from the same cause, and other predisposing causes by which it is probable that such men may have been affected, they are prone to superstition. On which account it appeared to me proper to select a character like this to exhibit some of the general laws by which superstition acts upon the mind. Superstitious men are almost always men of slow faculties and deep feelings; their minds are not loose but adhesive; they have a reasonable share of imagination, by which word I mean the faculty which produces impressive effects out of simple elements; but they are utterly destitute of fancy, the power by which pleasure and surprize are excited by sudden varieties of situation and by accumulated imagery.

It was my wish in this poem to shew the manner in which such men cleave to the same ideas; and to follow the turns of passion, always different, yet not palpably different, by which their conversation is swayed. I had two objects to attain; first, to represent a picture which should not be unimpressive yet consistent with the character that should describe it, secondly, while I adhered to the style in which such persons describe, to take care that words, which in their minds are impregnated with passion, should likewise convey passion to Readers who are not accustomed to sympathize with men feeling in that manner or using such language. It seemed to me that this might be done by calling in the assistance of Lyrical and rapid Metre. It was necessary that the Poem, to be natural, should in reality move slowly; yet I hoped, that, by the aid of the metre, to those who should at all enter into the spirit of the Poem, it would appear to move quickly. The Reader will have the kindness to excuse this note as I am sensible that an introductory Poem is necessary to give this Poem its full effect.

Upon this occasion I will request permission to add a few words closely connected with THE THORN and many other Poems in these Volumes. There is a numerous class of readers who imagine that the same words cannot be repeated without tautology: this is a great error: virtual tautology is much oftener produced by using different words when the meaning is exactly the same. Words, a Poet’s words more particularly, ought to be weighed in the balance of feeling and not measured by the space which they occupy upon paper. For the Reader cannot be too often reminded that Poetry is passion: it is the history or science of feelings: now every man must know that an attempt is rarely made to communicate impassioned feelings without something of an accompanying consciousness of the inadequateness of our own powers, or the deficiencies of language. During such efforts there will be a craving in the mind, and as long as it is unsatisfied the Speaker will cling to the same words, or words of the same character. There are also various other reasons why repetition and apparent tautology are frequently beauties of the highest kind. Among the chief of these reasons is the interest which the mind attaches to words, not only as symbols of the passion, but as things, active and efficient, which are of themselves part of the passion. And further, from a spirit of fondness, exultation, and gratitude, the mind luxuriates in the repetition of words which appear successfully to communicate its feelings. The truth of these remarks might be shewn by innumerable passages from the Bible and from the impassioned poetry of every nation.

“Awake, awake Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song:”

“Arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou Son of Abinoam.”

“At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet be bowed, he fell; where he bowed there he fell down dead.”

“Why is his Chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the Wheels of his

Chariot?”— Judges, Chap. 5th. Verses 12th, 27th, and part of 28th.

— See also the whole of that tumultuous and wonderful Poem.

We are Seven

A simple child, dear brother Jim,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage girl,

She was eight years old, she said;

Her hair was thick with many a curl

That cluster’d round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,

And she was wildly clad;

Her eyes were fair, and very fair,

— Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little maid,

How many may you be?”

“How many? seven in all,” she said,

And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they, I pray you tell?”

She answered, “Seven are we,

And two of us at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea.”

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,

My sister and my brother,

And in the church-yard cottage, I

Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea,

Yet you are seven; I pray you tell

Sweet Maid, how this may be?”

Then did the little Maid reply,

“Seven boys and girls are we;

Two of us in the church-yard lie,

Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little maid,

Your limbs they are alive;

If two are in the church-yard laid,

Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”

The little Maid replied,

“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,

And they are side by side.”

“My stockings there I often knit,

My ‘kerchief there I hem;

And there upon the ground I sit —

I sit and sing to them.”

“And often after sunset, Sir,

When it is light and fair,

I take my little porringer,

And eat my supper there.”

“The first that died was little Jane;

In bed she moaning lay,

Till God released her of her pain,

And then she went away.”

“So in the church-yard she was laid,

And all the summer dry,

Together round her grave we played,

My brother John and I.”

“And when the ground was white with snow,

And I could run and slide,

My brother John was forced to go,

And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you then,” said I,

“If they two are in Heaven?”

The little Maiden did reply,

“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!

Their spirits are in heaven!”

’Twas throwing words away; for still

The little Maid would have her will,

And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

Anecdote for Fathers

Shewing how the practice of Lying may be taught.

I have a boy of five years old,

His face is fair and fresh to see;

His limbs are cast in beauty’s mould,

And dearly he loves me.

One morn we stroll’d on our dry walk,

Our quiet house all full in view,

And held such intermitted talk

As we are wont to do.

My thoughts on former pleasures ran;

I thought of Kilve’s delightful shore,

My pleasant home, when Spring began,

A long, long year before.

A day it was when I could bear

To think, and think, and think again;

With so much happiness to spare,

I could not feel a pain.

My boy was by my side, so slim

And graceful in his rustic dress!

And oftentimes I talked to him

In very idleness.

The young lambs ran a pretty race;

The morning sun shone bright and warm;

“Kilve,” said I, “was a pleasant place,

And so is Liswyn farm.”

“My little boy, which like you more,”

I said and took him by the arm —

“Our home by Kilve’s delightful shore,

Or here at Liswyn farm?”

“And tell me, had you rather be,”

I said and held-him by the arm,

“At Kilve’s smooth shore by the green sea,

Or here at Liswyn farm?”

In careless mood he looked at me,

While still I held him by the arm,

And said, “At Kilve I’d rather be

Than here at Liswyn farm.”

“Now, little Edward, say why so;

My little Edward, tell me why;”

“I cannot tell, I do not know.”

“Why this is strange,” said I.

“For, here are woods and green hills warm:

There surely must some reason be

Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm,

For Kilve by the green sea.”

At this, my boy hung down his head,

He blush’d with shame, nor made reply;

And five times to the child I said,

“Why, Edward, tell me, why?”

His head he raised — there was in sight,

It caught his eye, he saw it plain —

Upon the house-top, glittering bright,

A broad and gilded vane.

Then did the boy his tongue unlock,

And thus to me he made reply;

“At Kilve there was no weather-cock,

And that’s the reason why.”

Oh dearest, dearest boy! my heart

For better lore would seldom yearn

Could I but teach the hundredth part

Of what from thee I learn.

Lines written at a small distance from my House and sent by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed

It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before,

The red-breast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,

Which seems a sense of joy to yield

To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.

My Sister! (’tis a wish of mine)

Now that our morning meal is done,

Make haste, your morning task resign;

Come forth and feel the sun.

Edward will come with you, and pray,

Put on with speed your woodland dress,

And bring no book, for this one day

We’ll give to idleness.

No joyless forms shall regulate

Our living Calendar:

We from today, my friend, will date

The opening of the year.

Love, now an universal birth,

From heart to heart is stealing,

From earth to man, from man to earth,

— It is the hour of feeling.

One moment now may give us more

Than fifty years of reason;

Our minds shall drink at every pore

The spirit of the season.

Some silent laws our hearts may make,

Which they shall long obey;

We for the year to come may take

Our temper from today.

And from the blessed power that rolls

About, below, above;

We’ll frame the measure of our souls,

They shall be tuned to love.

Then come, my sister I come, I pray,

With speed put on your woodland dress,

And bring no book; for this one day

We’ll give to idleness.

The Female Vagrant

By Derwent’s side my Father’s cottage stood,

(The Woman thus her artless story told)

One field, a flock, and what the neighbouring flood

Supplied, to him were more than mines of gold.

Light was my sleep; my days in transport roll’d:

With thoughtless joy I stretch’d along the shore

My father’s nets, or from the mountain fold

Saw on the distant lake his twinkling oar

Or watch’d his lazy boat still less’ning more and more

My father was a good and pious man,

An honest man by honest parents bred,

And I believe that, soon as I began

To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,

And in his hearing there my prayers I said:

And afterwards, by my good father taught,

I read, and loved the books in which I read;

For books in every neighbouring house I sought,

And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.

Can I forget what charms did once adorn

My garden, stored with pease, and mint, and thyme,

And rose and lilly for the sabbath morn?

The sabbath bells, and their delightful chime;

The gambols and wild freaks at shearing time;

My hen’s rich nest through long grass scarce espied;

The cowslip-gathering at May’s dewy prime;

The swans, that, when I sought the water-side,

From far to meet me came, spreading their snowy pride.

The staff I yet remember which upbore

The bending body of my active sire;

His seat beneath the honeyed sycamore

When the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire;

When market-morning came, the neat attire

With which, though bent on haste, myself I deck’d;

My watchful dog, whose starts of furious ire,

When stranger passed, so often I have check’d;

The red-breast known for years, which at my casement peck’d.

The suns of twenty summers danced along —

Ah! little marked, how fast they rolled away:

Then rose a stately hall our woods among,

And cottage after cottage owned its sway.

No joy to see a neighbouring house, or stray

Through pastures not his own, the master took;

My Father dared his greedy wish gainsay;

He loved his old hereditary nook,

And ill could I the thought of such sad parting brook.

But when he had refused the proffered gold,

To cruel injuries he became a prey,

Sore traversed in whate’er he bought and sold:

His troubles grew upon him day by day,

Till all his substance fell into decay.

His little range of water was denied; 3

All but the bed where his old body lay.

All, all was seized, and weeping, side by side,

We sought a home where we uninjured might abide.

3 Several of the Lakes in the north of England are let out to different Fishermen, in parcels marked out by imaginary lines drawn from rock to rock.

Can I forget that miserable hour,

When from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed,

Peering above the trees, the steeple tower

That on his marriage-day sweet music made?

Till then he hoped his bones might there be laid,

Close by my mother in their native bowers:

Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed —

I could not pray:— through tears that fell in showers,

Glimmer’d our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!

There was a youth whom I had loved so long.

That when I loved him not I cannot say.

‘Mid the green mountains many and many a song

We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May.

When we began to tire of childish play

We seemed still more and more to prize each other;

We talked of marriage and our marriage day;

And I in truth did love him like a brother,

For never could I hope to meet with such another.

His father said, that to a distant town

He must repair, to ply the artist’s trade.

What tears of bitter grief till then unknown?

What tender vows our last sad kiss delayed!

To him we turned:— we had no other aid.

Like one revived, upon his neck I wept,

And her whom he had loved in joy, he said

He well could love in grief: his faith he kept;

And in a quiet home once more my father slept.

Four years each day with daily bread was blest,

By constant toil and constant prayer supplied.

Three lovely infants lay upon my breast;

And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,

And knew not why. My happy father died

When sad distress reduced the childrens’ meal:

Thrice happy! that from him the grave did hide

The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,

And tears that flowed for ills which patience could not heal.

’Twas a hard change, an evil time was come;

We had no hope, and no relief could gain.

But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum

Beat round, to sweep the streets of want and pain.

My husband’s arms now only served to strain

Me and his children hungering in his view:

In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:

To join those miserable men he flew;

And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.

There foul neglect for months and months we bore,

Nor yet the crowded fleet its anchor stirred.

Green fields before us and our native shore,

By fever, from polluted air incurred,

Ravage was made, for which no knell was heard.

Fondly we wished, and wished away, nor knew,

‘Mid that long sickness, and those hopes deferr’d,

That happier days we never more must view:

The parting signal streamed, at last the land withdrew.

But from delay the summer calms were past.

On as we drove, the equinoctial deep

Ran mountains-high before the howling blast.

We gazed with terror on the gloomy sleep

Of them that perished in the whirlwind’s sweep,

Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,

Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,

That we the mercy of the waves should rue.

We readied the western world, a poor, devoted crew.

Oh I dreadful price of being to resign

All that is dear in being! better far

In Want’s most lonely cave till death to pine,

Unseen, unheard, unwatched by any star;

Or in the streets and walks where proud men are,

Better our dying bodies to obtrude,

Than dog-like, wading at the heels of war,

Protract a curst existence, with the brood

That lap (their very nourishment!) their brother’s blood.

The pains and plagues that on our heads came down;

Disease and famine, agony and fear,

In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,

It would thy brain unsettle even to hear.

All perished — all, in one remorseless year,

Husband and children! one by one, by sword

And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear

Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board

A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored.

Peaceful as some immeasurable plain

By the first beams of dawning light impress’d;

In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main,

The very ocean has its hour of rest,

That comes not to the human mourner’s breast.

Remote from man, and storms of mortal care,

A heavenly silence did the waves invest:

I looked and looked along the silent air,

Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.

Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps!

And groans, that rage of racking famine spoke:

The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps!

The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke!

The shriek that from the distant battle broke!

The mine’s dire earthquake, and the pallid host

Driven by the bomb’s incessant thunder-stroke

To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish toss’d,

Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!

Yet does that burst of woe congeal my frame,

When the dark streets appeared to heave and gape,

While like a sea the storming army came,

And Fire from hell reared his gigantic shape,

And Murder, by the ghastly gleam, and Rape

Seized their joint prey, the mother and the child!

But from these crazing thoughts my brain, escape!

— For weeks the balmy air breathed soft and mild,

And on the gliding vessel Heaven and Ocean smiled.

Some mighty gulph of separation past,

I seemed transported to another world:—

A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast

The impatient mariner the sail unfurl’d,

And whistling, called the wind that hardly curled

The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home,

And from all hope I was forever hurled.

For me — farthest from earthly port to roam

Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.

And oft, robb’d of my perfect mind, I thought

At last my feet a resting-place had found:

Here will I weep in peace, (so fancy wrought,)

Roaming the illimitable waters round;

Here watch, of every human friend disowned,

All day, my ready tomb the ocean-flood —

To break my dream the vessel reached its bound:

And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,

And near a thousand tables pined, and wanted food.

By grief enfeebled was I turned adrift,

Helpless as sailor cast on desert rock;

Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,

Nor dared my hand at any door to knock.

I lay, where with his drowsy mates, the cock

From the cross timber of an out-house hung;

How dismal tolled, that night, the city clock!

At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,

Nor to the beggar’s language could I frame my tongue.

So passed another day, and so the third:

Then did I try, in vain, the crowd’s resort,

In deep despair by frightful wishes stirr’d,

Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort:

There, pains which nature could no more support,

With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall;

Dizzy my brain, with interruption short

Of hideous sense; I sunk, nor step could crawl,

And thence was borne away to neighbouring hospital.

Recovery came with food: but still, my brain

Was weak, nor of the past had memory.

I heard my neighbours, in their beds, complain

Of many things which never troubled me;

Of feet still bustling round with busy glee,

Of looks where common kindness had no part.

Of service done with careless cruelty,

Fretting the fever round the languid heart,

And groans, which, as they said, would make a dead man start.

These things just served to stir the torpid sense,

Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.

Memory, though slow, returned with strength: and thence

Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,

At houses, men, and common light, amazed.

The lanes I sought, and as the sun retired,

Came, where beneath the trees a faggot blazed;

The wild brood saw me weep, my fate enquired,

And gave me food, and rest, more welcome, more desired.

My heart is touched to think that men like these,

The rude earth’s tenants, were my first relief:

How kindly did they paint their vagrant ease!

And their long holiday that feared not grief,

For all belonged to all, and each was chief.

No plough their sinews strained; on grating road

No wain they drove, and yet, the yellow sheaf

In every vale for their delight was stowed:

For them, in nature’s meads, the milky udder flowed,

Semblance, with straw and panniered ass, they made

Of potters wandering on from door to door:

But life of happier sort to me pourtrayed,

And other joys my fancy to allure;

The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor

In barn uplighted, and companions boon

Well met from far with revelry secure,

In depth of forest glade, when jocund June

Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.

But ill it suited me, in journey dark

O’er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch;

To charm the surly house-dog’s faithful bark,

Or hang on tiptoe at the lifted latch;

The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,

The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,

And ear still busy on its nightly watch,

Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill;

Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.

What could I do, unaided and unblest?

Poor Father! gone was every friend of thine:

And kindred of dead husband are at best

Small help, and, after marriage such as mine,

With little kindness would to me incline.

Ill was I then for toil or service fit:

With tears whose course no effort could confine,

By high-way side forgetful would I sit

Whole hours, my idle arms in moping sorrow knit.

I lived upon the mercy of the fields

And oft of cruelty the sky accused;

On hazard, or what general bounty yields.

Now coldly given, now utterly refused,

The fields I for my bed have often used:

But, what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth

Is, that I have my inner self abused,

Foregone the home delight of constant truth,

And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.

Three years a wanderer, often have I view’d,

In tears, the sun towards that country tend

Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:

And now across this moor my steps I bend —

Oh! tell me whither — for no earthly friend

Have I. — She ceased, and weeping turned away,

As if because her tale was at an end

She wept; — because she had no more to say

Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.

The Dungeon

And this place our forefathers made for man!

This is the process of our love and wisdom

To each poor brother who offends against us —

Most innocent, perhaps — and what if guilty?

Is this the only cure? Merciful God!

Each pore and natural outlet shrivell’d up

By ignorance and parching poverty,

His energies roll back upon his heart,

And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison,

They break out on him, like a loathsome plague spot.

Then we call in our pamper’d mountebanks —

And this is their best cure! uncomforted.

And friendless solitude, groaning and tears.

And savage faces, at the clanking hour,

Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon,

By the lamp’s dismal twilight! So he lies

Circled with evil, till his very soul

Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed

By sights of ever more deformity!

With other ministrations thou, O nature!’

Healest thy wandering and distempered child:

Thou pourest on him thy soft influences.

Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sheets,

Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,

Till he relent, and can no more endure

To be a jarring and a dissonant thing,

Amid this general dance and minstrelsy;

But, bursting into tears, wins back his way,

His angry spirit healed and harmonized

By the benignant touch of love and beauty.

Simon Lee, the old Huntsman

With an incident in which he was concerned.

In the sweet shire of Cardigan,

Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall,

An old man dwells, a little man,

I’ve heard he once was tall.

Of years he has upon his back,

No doubt, a burthen weighty;

He says he is three score and ten,

But others say he’s eighty.

A long blue livery-coat has he,

That’s fair behind, and fair before;

Yet, meet him where you will, you see

At once that he is poor.

Full five and twenty years he lived

A running huntsman merry;

And, though he has but one eye left,

His cheek is like a cherry.

No man like him the horn could sound,

And no man was so full of glee;

To say the least, four counties round.

Had heard of Simon Lee;

His master’s dead, and no one now

Dwells in the hall of Ivor;

Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead;

He is the sole survivor.

His hunting feats have him bereft

Of his right eye, as you may see:

And then, what limbs those feats have left

To poor old Simon Lee!

He has no son, he has no child,

His wife, an aged woman,

Lives with him, near the waterfall,

Upon the village common.

And he is lean and he is sick,

His dwindled body’s half awry,

His ancles they are swoln and thick;

His legs are thin and dry.

When he was young he little knew

‘Of husbandry or tillage;

And now he’s forced to work, though weak,

— The weakest in the village.

He all the country could outrun,

Could leave both man and horse behind;

And often, ere the race was done,

He reeled and was stone-blind.

And still there’s something in the world

At which his heart rejoices;

For when the chiming bounds are out,

He dearly loves their voices!

Old Ruth works out of doors with him.

And does what Simon cannot do;

For she, not over stout of limb,

Is stouter of the two.

And though you with your utmost skill

From labour could not wean them,

Alas! ’tis very little, all

Which they can do between them.

Beside their moss-grown hut of clay,

Not twenty paces from the door,

A scrap of land they have, but they

Are poorest of the poor.

This scrap of land he from the heath

Enclosed when he was stronger;

But what avails the land to them,

Which they can till no longer?

Few months of life has he in store,

As he to you will-tell,

For still, the more he works, the more

His poor old ancles swell.

My gentle reader, I perceive

How patiently you’ve waited,

And I’m afraid that you expect

Some tale will be related.

O reader! had you in your mind

Such stores as silent thought can bring,

O gentle reader! you would find

A tale in every thing.

What more I have to say is short,

I hope you’ll kindly take it;

It is no tale; but should you think,

Perhaps a tale you’ll make it.

One summer-day I chanced to see

This old man doing all he could

About the root of an old tree,

A stump of rotten wood.

The mattock totter’d in his hand;

So vain was his endeavour

That at the root of the old tree

He might have worked for ever.

“You’ve overtasked, good Simon Lee,

Give me your tool” to him I said;

And at the word right gladly he

Received my proffer’d aid.

I struck, and with a single blow

The tangled root I sever’d,

At which the poor old man so long

And vainly had endeavoured.

The tears into his eyes were brought,

And thanks and praises seemed to run

So fast out of his heart, I thought

They never would have done.

— I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds

With coldness still returning.

Alas! the gratitude of men

Has oftner left me mourning.

Lines written in early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it griev’d my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,

The periwinkle trail’d its wreathes;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopp’d and play’d:

Their thoughts I cannot measure,

But the least motion which they made,

It seem’d a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

If I these thoughts may not prevent,

If such be of my creed the plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?

The Nightingale.

Written in April, 1798.

No cloud, no relique of the sunken day

Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip

Of sullen Light, no obscure trembling hues.

Come, we will rest on this old mossy Bridge!

You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,

But hear no murmuring: it flows silently

O’er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,

A balmy night! and tho’ the stars be dim,

Yet let us think upon the vernal showers

That gladden the green earth, and we shall find

A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.

And hark! the Nightingale begins its song

“Most musical, most melancholy” 4 Bird!

A melancholy Bird? O idle thought!

In nature there is nothing melancholy.

— But some night wandering Man, whose heart was pierc’d

With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,

Or slow distemper or neglected love,

(And so, poor Wretch! fill’d all things with himself

And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale

Of his own sorrows) he and such as he

First named these notes a melancholy strain:

And many a poet echoes the conceit;

Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme

4Most musical, most melancholy.” This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superior to that of mere description: it is spoken in the character of the melancholy Man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The Author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having alluded with levity to a line in Milton: a charge than which none could be more painful to him, except perhaps that of having ridiculed his Bible.

When he had better far have stretch’d his limbs

Beside a ‘brook in mossy forest-dell

By sun or moonlight, to the influxes

Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements

Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song

And of his fame forgetful! so his fame

Should share in nature’s immortality,

A venerable thing! and so his song

Should make all nature lovelier, and itself

Be lov’d, like nature! — But ’twill not be so;

And youths and maidens most poetical

Who lose the deep’ning twilights of the spring

In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still

Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs

O’er Philomela’s pity-pleading strains.

My Friend, and my Friend’s Sister! we have learnt

A different lore: we may not thus profane

Nature’s sweet voices always full of love

And joyance! Tis the merry Nightingale

That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates

With fast thick warble his delicious notes,

As he were fearful, that an April night

Would be too short for him to utter forth

Hi? love-chant, and disburthen his full soul

Of all its music! And I know a grove

Of large extent, hard by a castle huge

Which the great lord inhabits not: and so

This grove is wild with tangling underwood,

And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,

Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.

But never elsewhere in one place I knew

So many Nightingales: and far and near

In wood and thicket over the wide grove

They answer and provoke each other’s songs —

With skirmish and capricious passagings,

And murmurs musical and swift jug jug

And one low piping sound more sweet than all —

Stirring the air with such an harmony,

That should you close your eyes, you might almost

Forget it was not day!

                       A most gentle maid

Who dwelleth in her hospitable home

Hard by the Castle, and at latest eve,

(Even like a Lady vow’d and dedicate

To something more than nature in the grove)

Glides thro’ the pathways; she knows all their notes,

That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment’s space,

What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,

Hath heard a pause of silence: till the Moon

Emerging, hath awaken’d earth and sky

With one sensation, and those wakeful Birds

Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,

At if one quick and sudden Gale had swept

An hundred airy harps! And she hath watch’d

Many a Nightingale perch giddily

On blosmy twig still swinging from the breeze,

And to that motion tune his wanton song,

Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.

Farewell, O Warbler! till tomorrow eve,

And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!

We have been loitering long and pleasantly,

And now for our dear homes. — That strain again!

Full fain it would delay me!-My dear Babe,

Who, capable of no articulate sound,

Mars all things with his imitative lisp,

How he would place his hand beside his ear,

His little hand, the small forefinger up,

And bid us listen! And I deem it wise

To make him Nature’s playmate. He knows well

The evening star: and once when he awoke

In most distressful mood (some inward pain

Had made up that strange thing, an infant’s dream)

I hurried with him to our orchard plot,

And he beholds the moon, and hush’d at once

Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,

While his fair eyes that swam with undropt tears

Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well —

It is a father’s tale. But if that Heaven

Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up

Familiar with these songs, that with the night

He may associate Joy! Once more farewell,

Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.

LINES

Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening

How rich the wave, in front, imprest

With evening twilights summer hues,

While, facing thus the crimson west,

The boat her silent path pursues!

And see how dark the backward stream!

A little moment past, so smiling!

And still, perhaps, with faithless gleam,

Some other loiterer beguiling.

Such views the youthful bard allure,

But, heedless of the following gloom,

He deems their colours shall endure

‘Till peace go with him to the tomb.

— And let him nurse his fond deceit,

And what if he must die in sorrow!

Who would not cherish dreams so sweet,

Though grief and pain may come tomorrow?

Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames

Glide gently, thus for ever glide,

O Thames! that other bards may see,

As lovely visions by thy side

As now, fair river! come to me.

Oh glide, fair stream! for ever so;

Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,

‘Till all our minds for ever flow,

As thy deep waters now are flowing.

Vain thought! yet be as now thou art,

That in thy waters may be seen

The image of a poet’s heart,

How bright, how solemn, how serene!

Such as did once the poet bless,

Who, pouring here a later ditty,

Could find no refuge from distress,

But in the milder grief of pity.

Remembrance! as we float along,

For him suspend the dashing oar,

And pray that never child of Song

May know his freezing sorrows more.

How calm! how still! the only sound,

The dripping of the oar suspended!

— The evening darkness gathers round

By virtue’s holiest powers attended. 5

5 Collins’s Ode on the death of Thomson, the last written, I believe, of the poems which were published during his life-time. This Ode is also alluded to in the next stanza.

The Idiot Boy

’Tis eight o’clock — a clear March night,

The moon is up — the sky is blue,

The owlet in the moonlight air,

He shouts from nobody knows where;

He lengthens out his lonely shout,

Halloo! halloo! a long halloo!

— Why bustle thus about your door,

What means this bustle, Betty Foy?

Why are you in this mighty fret?

And why on horseback have you set

Him whom you love, your idiot boy?

Beneath the moon that shines so bright,

Till she is tired, let Betty Foy

With girt and stirrup fiddle-faddle;

But wherefore set upon a saddle

Him whom she loves, her idiot boy?

There’s scarce a soul that’s out of bed;

Good Betty put him down again;

His lips with joy they burr at you,

But, Betty! what has he to do

With stirrup, saddle, or with rein?

The world will say ’tis very idle,

Bethink you of the time of night;

There’s not a mother, no not one,

But when she hears what you have done,

Oh! Betty she’ll be in a fright.

But Betty’s bent on her intent,

For her good neighbour, Susan Gale,

Old Susan, she who dwells alone,

Is sick, and makes a piteous moan,

As if her very life would fail.

There’s not a house within a mile,

No hand to help them in distress;

Old Susan lies a bed in pain,

And sorely puzzled are the twain,

For what she ails they cannot guess.

And Betty’s husband’s at the wood,

Where by the week he doth abide,

A woodman in the distant vale;

There’s none to help poor Susan Gale,

What must be done? what will betide?

And Betty from the lane has fetched

Her pony, that is mild and good,

Whether he be in joy or pain,

Feeding at will along the lane,

Or bringing faggots from the wood.

And he is all in travelling trim,

And by the moonlight, Betty Foy

Has up upon the saddle set,

The like was never heard of yet,

Him whom she loves, her idiot boy.

And he must post without delay

Across the bridge that’s in the dale,

And by the church, and o’er the down,

To bring a doctor from the town,

Or she will die, old Susan Gale.

There is no need of boot or spur,

There is no need of whip or wand,

For Johnny has his holly-bough,

And with a hurly-burly now

He shakes the green bough in his hand.

And Betty o’er and o’er has told

The boy who is her best delight,

Both what to follow, what to shun,

What do, and what to leave undone,

How turn to left, and how to right.

And Betty’s most especial charge,

Was, “Johnny! Johnny! mind that you

Come home again, nor stop at all,

Come home again, whate’er befal,

My Johnny do, I pray you do.”

To this did Johnny answer make,

Both with his head, and with his hand,

And proudly shook the bridle too,

And then! his words were not a few,

Which Betty well could understand.

And now that Johnny is just going,

Though Betty’s in a mighty flurry,

She gently pats the pony’s side,

On which her idiot boy must ride,

And seems no longer in a hurry.

But when the pony moved his legs,

Oh! then for the poor idiot boy!

For joy he cannot hold the bridle,

For joy his head and heels are idle,

He’s idle all for very joy.

And while the pony moves his legs,

In Johnny’s left hand you may see,

The green bough’s motionless and dead:

The moon that shines above his head

Is not more still and mute than he.

His heart it was so full of glee,

That till full fifty yards were gone,

He quite forgot his holly whip,

And all his skill in horsemanship,

Oh! happy, happy, happy John.

And Betty’s standing at the door,

And Betty’s face with joy o’erflows,

Proud of herself, and proud of him,

She sees him in his travelling trim;

How quietly her Johnny goes.

The silence of her idiot boy,

What hopes it sends to Betty’s heart!

He’s at the guide-post — he turns right,

She watches till he’s out of sight,

And Betty will not then depart.

Burr, burr — now Johnny’s lips they burr,

As loud as any mill, or near it,

Meek as a lamb the pony moves,

And Johnny makes the noise he loves,

And Betty listens, glad to hear it.

Away she hies to Susan Gale:

And Johnny’s in a merry tune,

The owlets hoot, the owlets purr,

And Johnny’s lips they burr, burr, burr,

And on he goes beneath the moon.

His steed and he right well agree,

For of this pony there’s a rumour,

That should he lose his eyes and ears,

And should he live a thousand years,

He never will be out of humour.

But then he is a horse that thinks!

And when he thinks his pace is slack;

Now, though he knows poor Johnny well,

Yet for his life he cannot tell

What he has got upon his back.

So through the moonlight lanes they go,

And far into the moonlight dale,

And by the church, and o’er the down,

To bring a doctor from the town,

To comfort poor old Susan Gale.

And Betty, now at Susan’s side,

Is in the middle of her story,

What comfort Johnny soon will bring,

With many a most diverting thing,

Of Johnny’s wit and Johnny’s glory.

And Betty’s still at Susan’s side:

By this time she’s not quite so flurried;

Demure with porringer and plate

She sits, as if in Susan’s fate

Her life and soul were buried.

But Betty, poor good woman! she,

You plainly in her face may read it,

Could lend out of that moment’s store

Five years of happiness or more,

To any that might need it.

But yet I guess that now and then

With Betty all was not so well,

And to the road she turns her ears,

And thence full many a sound she hears,

Which she to Susan will not tell.

Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans,

“As sure as there’s a moon in heaven,”

Cries Betty, “he’ll be back again;

They’ll both be here, ’tis almost ten,

They’ll both be here before eleven.”

Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans,

The clock gives warning for eleven;

’Tis on the stroke —“If Johnny’s near,”

Quoth Betty “he will soon be here,

As sure as there’s a moon in heaven.”

The clock is on the stroke of twelve,

And Johnny is not yet in sight,

The moon’s in heaven, as Betty sees,

But Betty is not quite at ease;

And Susan has a dreadful night.

And Betty, half an hour ago,

On Johnny vile reflections cast:

“A little idle sauntering thing!”

With other names, an endless string.

But now that time is gone and past.

And Betty’s drooping at the heart.

That happy time all past and gone,

“How can it be he is so late?

The Doctor he has made him wait,

Susan! they’ll both be here anon.”

And Susan’s growing worse and worse,

And Betty’s in a sad quandary;

And then there’s nobody to say

If she must go or she must stay:

— She’s in a sad quandary.

The clock is on the stroke of one;

But neither Doctor nor his guide

Appear along the moonlight road,

There’s neither horse nor man abroad,

And Betty’s still at Susan’s side.

And Susan she begins to fear

Of sad mischances not a few,

That Johnny may perhaps be drown’d,

Or lost perhaps, and never found;

Which they must both for ever rue.

She prefaced half a hint of this

With, “God forbid it should be true!”

At the first word that Susan said

Cried Betty, rising from the bed,

“Susan, I’d gladly stay with you.”

“I must be gone, I must away,

Consider, Johnny’s but half-wise;

Susan, we must take care of him,

If he is hurt in life or limb”—

“Oh God forbid!” poor Susan cries.

“What can I do?” says Betty, going,

“What can I do to ease your pain?

Good Susan tell me, and I’ll stay;

I fear you’re in a dreadful way,

But I shall soon be back again.”

“Nay, Betty, go! good Betty, go!

There’s nothing that can ease my pain.”

Then off she hies, but with a prayer

That God poor Susan’s life would spare,

Till she comes back again.

So, through the moonlight lane she goes,

And far into the moonlight dale;

And how she ran, and how she walked,

And all that to herself she talked,

Would surely be a tedious tale.

In high and low, above, below,

In great and small, in round and square,

In tree and tower was Johnny seen,

In bush and brake, in black and green,

’Twas Johnny, Johnny, every where.

She’s past the bridge that’s in the dale,

And now the thought torments her sore,

Johnny perhaps his horse forsook,

To hunt the moon that’s in the brook,

And never will be heard of more.

And now she’s high upon the down,

Alone amid a prospect wide;

There’s neither Johnny nor his horse,

Among the fern or in the gorse;

There’s neither doctor nor his guide.

“Oh saints! what is become of him?

Perhaps he’s climbed into an oak,

Where he will stay till he is dead;

Or sadly he has been misled,

And joined the wandering gypsey-folk.”

“Or him that wicked pony’s carried

To the dark cave, the goblins’ hall,

Or in the castle he’s pursuing,

Among the ghosts, his own undoing;

Or playing with the waterfall,”

At poor old Susan then she railed,

While to the town she posts away;

“If Susan had not been so ill,

Alas! I should have had him still,

My Johnny, till my dying day.”

Poor Betty! in this sad distemper,

The doctor’s self would hardly spare,

Unworthy things she talked and wild,

Even he, of cattle the most mild,

The pony had his share.

And now she’s got into the town,

And to the doctor’s door she hies;

’Tis silence all on every side;

The town so long, the town so wide,

Is silent as the skies.

And now she’s at the doctor’s door,

She lifts the knocker, rap, rap, rap,

The doctor at the casement shews,

His glimmering eyes that peep and doze;

And one hand rubs his old night-cap.

“Oh Doctor! Doctor! where’s my Johnny?”

“I’m here, what is’t you want with me?”

“Oh Sir! you know I’m Betty Foy,

And I have lost my poor dear boy,

You know him — him you often see;”

“He’s not so wise as some folks be,”

“The devil take his wisdom!” said

The Doctor, looking somewhat grim,

“What, woman! should I know of him?”

And, grumbling, he went back to bed.

“O woe is me! O woe is me!

Here will I die; here will I die;

I thought to find my Johnny here,

But he is neither far nor near,

Oh! what a wretched mother I!”

She stops, she stands, she looks about,

Which way to turn she cannot tell.

Poor Betty! it would ease her pain

If she had heart to knock again;

— The clock strikes three — a dismal knell!

Then up along the town she hies,

No wonder if her senses fail,

This piteous news so much it shock’d her,

She quite forgot to send the Doctor,

To comfort poor old Susan Gale.

And now she’s high upon the down,

And she can see a mile of road,

“Oh cruel! I’m almost three-score;

Such night as this was ne’er before,

There’s not a single soul abroad.”

She listens, but she cannot hear

The foot of horse, the voice of man;

The streams with softest sound are flowing,

The grass you almost hear it growing,

You hear it now if e’er you can.

The owlets through the long blue night

Are shouting to each other still:

Fond lovers, yet not quite hob nob,

They lengthen out the tremulous sob,

That echoes far from hill to hill.

Poor Betty now has lost all hope,

Her thoughts are bent on deadly sin;

A green-grown pond she just has pass’d,

And from the brink she hurries fast,

Lest she should drown herself therein.

And now she sits her down and weeps;

Such tears she never shed before;

“Oh dear, dear pony! my sweet joy!

Oh carry back my idiot boy!

And we will ne’er o’erload thee more.”

A thought it come into her head;

“The pony he is mild and good,

And we have always used him well;

Perhaps he’s gone along the dell,

And carried Johnny to the wood.”

Then up she springs as if on wings;

She thinks no more of deadly sin;

If Betty fifty ponds should see,

The last of all her thoughts would be,

To drown herself therein.

Oh reader! now that I might tell

What Johnny and his horse are doing!

What they’ve been doing all this time,

Oh could I put it into rhyme,

A most delightful tale pursuing!

Perhaps, and no unlikely thought!

He with his pony now doth roam

The cliffs and peaks so high that are,

To lay his hands upon a star,

And in his pocket bring it home.

Perhaps he’s turned himself about,

His face unto his horse’s tail,

And still and mute, in wonder lost,

All like a silent horse-man ghost,

He travels on along the vale.

And now, perhaps, he’s hunting sheep,

A fierce and dreadful hunter he!

Yon valley, that’s so trim and green,

In five months’ time, should he be seen,

A desart wilderness will be.

Perhaps, with head and heels on fire,

And like the very soul of evil,

He’s galloping away, away,

And so he’ll gallop on for aye,

The bane of all that dread the devil.

I to the muses have been bound

These fourteen years, by strong indentures:

Oh gentle muses! let me tell

But half of what to him befel,

For sure he met with strange adventures.

Oh gentle muses! is this kind

Why will ye thus my suit repel?

Why of your further aid bereave me?

And can ye thus unfriended leave me?

Ye muses! whom I love so well.

Who’s yon, that, near the waterfall,

Which thunders down with headlong force,

Beneath the moon, yet shining fair,

As careless as if nothing were,

Sits upright on a feeding horse?

Unto his horse, that’s feeding free,

He seems, I think, the rein to give;

Of moon or stars he takes no heed;

Of such we in romances read,

— Tis Johnny! Johnny! as I live.

And that’s the very pony too.

Where is she, where is Betty Foy?

She hardly can sustain her fears;

The roaring water-fall she hears,

And cannot find her idiot boy.

Your pony’s worth his weight in gold,

Then calm your terrors, Betty Foy!

She’s coming from among the trees,

And now all full in view she sees

Him whom she loves, her idiot boy.

And Betty sees the pony too:

Why stand you thus Good Betty Foy?

It is no goblin, ’tis no ghost,

’Tis he whom you so long have lost,

He whom you love, your idiot boy.

She looks again-her arms are up —

She screams — she cannot move for joy;

She darts as with a torrent’s force,

She almost has o’erturned the horse,

And fast she holds her idiot boy.

And Johnny burrs, and laughs aloud,

Whether in cunning or in joy,

I cannot tell; but while he laughs,

Betty a drunken pleasure quaffs,

To hear again her idiot boy.

And now she’s at the pony’s tail,

And now she’s at the pony’s head,

On that side now, and now on this,

And almost stifled with her bliss,

A few sad tears does Betty shed.

She kisses o’er and o’er again,

Him whom she loves, her idiot boy,

She’s happy here, she’s happy there.

She is uneasy every where;

Her limbs are all alive with joy.

She pats the pony, where or when

She knows not, happy Betty Foy!

The little pony glad may be,

But he is milder far than she,

You hardly can perceive his joy.

“Oh! Johnny, never mind the Doctor;

You’ve done your best, and that is all.”

She took the reins, when this was said,

And gently turned the pony’s head

From the loud water-fall.

By this the stars were almost gone,

The moon was setting on the hill,

So pale you scarcely looked at her:

The little birds began to stir,

Though yet their tongues were still.

The pony, Betty, and her boy,

Wind slowly through the woody dale;

And who is she, betimes abroad,

That hobbles up the steep rough road?

Who is it, but old Susan Gale?

Long Susan lay deep lost in thought,

And many dreadful fears beset her,

Both for her messenger and nurse;

And as her mind grew worse and worse,

Her body it grew better.

She turned, she toss’d herself in bed,

On all sides doubts and terrors met her;

Point after point did she discuss;

And while her mind was fighting thus,

Her body still grew better.

“Alas! what is become of them?

These fears can never be endured,

I’ll to the wood.”— The word scarce said,

Did Susan rise up from her bed,

As if by magic cured.

Away she posts up hill and down,

And to the wood at length is come,

She spies her friends, she shouts a greeting;

Oh me! it is a merry meeting,

As ever was in Christendom.

The owls have hardly sung their last,

While our four travellers homeward wend;

The owls have hooted all night long,

And with the owls began my song,

And with the owls must end.

For while they all were travelling home,

Cried Betty, “Tell us Johnny, do,

Where all this long night you have been,

What you have heard, what you have seen,

And Johnny, mind you tell us true.”

Now Johnny all night long had heard

The owls in tuneful concert strive;

No doubt too he the moon had seen;

For in the moonlight he had been

From eight o’clock till five.

And thus to Betty’s question, he,

Made answer, like a traveller bold,

(His very words I give to you,)

“The cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo,

And the sun did shine so cold.”

— Thus answered Johnny in his glory,

And that was all his travel’s story.

Love

All Thoughts, all Passions, all Delights,

Whatever stirs this mortal Frame,

All are but Ministers of Love,

  And feed his sacred flame.

Oft in my waking dreams do I

Live o’er again that happy hour,

When midway on the Mount I lay

  Beside the Ruin’d Tower.

The Moonshine stealing o’er the scene

Had blended with the Lights of Eve;

And she was there, my Hope, my Joy,

  My own dear Genevieve!

She lean’d against the Armed Man,

The Statue of the Armed Knight:

She stood and listen’d to my Harp

  Amid the ling’ring Light.

Few Sorrows hath she of her own,

My Hope, my Joy, my Genevieve!

She loves me best, whene’er I sing

  The Songs, that make her grieve.

I play’d a soft and doleful Air,

I sang an old and moving Story —

An old rude Song that fitted well

  The Ruin wild and hoary.

She listen’d with a flitting Blush,

With downcast Eyes and modest Grace;

For well she knew, I could not choose

  But gaze upon her Face.

I told her of the Knight, that wore

Upon his Shield a burning Brand;

And that for ten long Years he woo’d

  The Lady of the Land.

I told her, how he pin’d: and, ah!

The low, the deep, the pleading tone,

With which I sang another’s Love,

  Interpreted my own.

She listen’d with a flitting Blush,

With downcast Eyes and modest Grace;

And she forgave me, that I gaz’d

  Too fondly on her Face!

But when I told the cruel scorn

Which craz’d this bold and lovely Knight,

And that be cross’d the mountain woods

  Nor rested day nor night;

That sometimes from the savage Den,

And sometimes from the darksome Shade,

And sometimes starting up at once

  In green and sunny Glade,

There came, and look’d him in the face,

An Angel beautiful and bright;

And that he knew, it was a Fiend,

  This miserable Knight!

And that, unknowing what he did,

He leapt amid a murd’rous Band,

And sav’d from Outrage worse than Death

  The Lady of the Land;

And how she wept and clasp’d his knees

And how she tended him in vain —

And ever strove to expiate

  The Scorn, that craz’d his Brain

And that she nurs’d him in a Cave;

And how his Madness went away

When on the yellow forest leaves

  A dying Man he lay;

His dying words — but when I reach’d

That tenderest strain of all the Ditty,

My falt’ring Voice and pausing Harp

  Disturb’d her Soul with Pity!

All Impulses of Soul and Sense

Had thrill’d my guileless Genevieve,

The Music, and the doleful Tale,

  The rich and balmy Eve;

And Hopes, and Fears that kindle Hope,

An undistinguishable Throng!

And gentle Wishes long subdued,

  Subdued and cherish’d long!

She wept with pity and delight,

She blush’d with love and maiden shame;

And, like the murmur of a dream,

  I heard her breathe my name.

Her Bosom heav’d — she stepp’d aside;

As conscious of my Look, she stepp’d —

Then suddenly with timorous eye

  She fled to me and wept.

She half inclosed me with her arms,

She press’d me with a meek embrace;

And bending back her head look’d up,

  And gaz’d upon my face.

’Twas partly Love, and partly Fear,

And partly ’twas a bashful Art

That I might rather feel than see

  The Swelling of her Heart.

I calm’d her Tears; and she was calm,

And told her love with virgin Pride.

And so I won my Genevieve,

  My bright and beauteous Bride!

The Mad Mother

Her eyes are wild, her head is bare,

The sun has burnt her coal-black hair,

Her eye-brows have a rusty stain,

And she came far from over the main.

She has a baby on her arm,

Or else she were alone;

And underneath the hay-stack warm,

And on the green-wood stone,

She talked and sung the woods among;

And it was in the English tongue.

“Sweet babe! they say that I am mad,

But nay, my heart is far too glad;

And I am happy when I sing

Full many a sad and doleful thing:

Then, lovely baby, do not fear!

I pray thee have no fear of me,

But, safe as in a cradle, here

My lovely baby! thou shalt be,

To thee I know too much I owe;

I cannot work thee any woe.”

A fire was once within my brain;

And in my head a dull, dull pain;

And fiendish faces one, two, three,

Hung at my breasts, and pulled at me.

But then there came a sight of joy;

It came at once to do me good;

I waked, and saw my little boy,

My little boy of flesh and blood;

Oh joy for me that sight to see!

For he was here, and only he.

Suck, little babe, oh suck again!

It cools my blood; it cools my brain;

Thy lips I feel them, baby! they

Draw from my heart the pain away.

Oh! press me with thy little hand;

It loosens something at my chest;

About that tight and deadly band

I feel thy little fingers press’d.

The breeze I see is in the tree;

It comes to cool my babe and me.

Oh! love me, love me, little boy!

Thou art thy mother’s only joy;

And do not dread the waves below,

When o’er the sea-rock’s edge we go;

The high crag cannot work me harm,

Nor leaping torrents when they howl;

The babe I carry on my arm,

He saves for me my precious soul;

Then happy lie, for blest am I;

Without me my sweet babe would die.

Then do not fear, my boy! for thee

Bold as a lion I will be;

And I will always be thy guide,

Through hollow snows and rivers wide.

I’ll build an Indian bower; I know

The leaves that make the softest bed:

And if from me thou wilt not go.

But still be true ‘till I am dead,

My pretty thing! then thou shalt sing,

As merry as the birds in spring.

Thy father cares not for my breast,

’Tis thine, sweet baby, there to rest:

’Tis all thine own! and if its hue

Be changed, that was so fair to view,

’Tis fair enough for thee, my dove!

My beauty, little child, is flown;

But thou will live with me in love,

And what if my poor cheek be brown?

’Tis well for me, thou canst not see

How pale and wan it else would be.

Dread not their taunts, my little life!

I am thy father’s wedded wife;

And underneath the spreading tree

We two will live in honesty.

If his sweet boy he could forsake,

With me he never would have stay’d:

From him no harm my babe can take,

But he, poor man! is wretched made,

And every day we two will pray

For him that’s gone and far away.

I’ll teach my boy the sweetest things;

I’ll teach him how the owlet sings.

My little babe! thy lips are still,

And thou hast almost suck’d thy fill.

— Where art thou gone my own dear child?

What wicked looks are those I see?

Alas! alas! that look so wild,

It never, never came from me:

If thou art mad, my pretty lad,

Then I must be for ever sad.

Oh! smile on me, my little lamb!

For I thy own dear mother am.

My love for thee has well been tried:

I’ve sought thy father far and wide.

I know the poisons of the shade,

I know the earth-nuts fit for food;

Then, pretty dear, be not afraid;

We’ll find thy father in the wood.

Now laugh and be gay, to the woods away!

And there, my babe; we’ll live for aye.

The Ancient Mariner

A Poet’s Reverie.
Argument.

How a Ship, having first sailed to the Equator, was driven by Storms, to the cold Country towards the South Pole; how the Ancient Mariner cruelly, and in contempt of the laws of hospitality, killed a Sea-bird; and how he was followed by many and strange Judgements; and in what manner he came back to his own Country.

I.

It is an ancient Mariner,

  And he stoppeth one of three:

“By thy long grey beard and thy glittering eye

  Now wherefore stoppest me?”

“The Bridegroom’s doors are open’d wide

  And I am next of kin;

The Guests are met, the Feast is set —

  May’st hear the merry din.”

But still he holds the wedding guest —

  “There was a Ship, quoth he —”

“Nay, if thou’st got a laughsome tale,

  Mariner! come with me.”

He holds him with his skinny hand,

  Quoth he, there was a Ship —

“Now get thee hence, thou grey-beard Loon

  Or my Staff shall make thee skip.”

He holds him with his glittering eye —

  The wedding guest stood still

And listens like a three year’s child;

  The Mariner hath his will.

The wedding-guest sate on a stone,

  He cannot chuse but hear:

And thus spake on that ancient man,

  The bright-eyed Mariner.

The Ship was cheer’d, the Harbour clear’d —

  Merrily did we drop

Below the Kirk, below the Hill,

  Below the Light-house top.

The Sun came up upon the left,

  Out of the Sea came he:

And he shone bright, and on the right

  Went down into the Sea.

Higher and higher every day,

  Till over the mast at noon —

The wedding-guest here beat his breast,

  For he heard the loud bassoon.

The Bride hath pac’d into the Hall,

  Red as a rose is she;

Nodding their heads before her goes

  The merry Minstralsy.

The wedding-guest he beat his breast,

  Yet he cannot chuse but hear:

And thus spake on that ancient Man,

  The bright-eyed Mariner.

But now the Northwind came more fierce,

  There came a Tempest strong!

And Southward still for days and weeks

  Like Chaff we drove along.

And now there came both Mist and Snow,

  And it grew wond’rous cold;

And Ice mast-high came floating by

  As green as Emerald.

And thro’ the drifts the snowy clifts

  Did send a dismal sheen;

Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken —

  The Ice was all between.

The Ice was here, the Ice was there,

  The Ice was all around:

It crack’d and growl’d, and roar’d and howl’d —

  A wild and ceaseless sound.

At length did cross an Albatross,

  Thorough the Fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian Soul,

  We hail’d it in God’s name.

The Mariners gave it biscuit-worms,

  And round and round it flew:

The Ice did split with a Thunder-fit;

  The Helmsman steer’d us thro’.

And a good south wind sprung up behind.

  The Albatross did follow;

And every day for food or play

  Came to the Mariner’s hollo!

In mist or cloud on mast or shroud

  It perch’d for vespers nine,

Whiles all the night thro’ fog-smoke white

  Glimmer’d the white moon-shine.

“God save thee, ancient Mariner!

  From the fiends that plague thee thus —”

“Why look’st thou so? — with my cross bow

  I shot the Albatross.”

II:

The Sun now rose upon the right,

  Out of the Sea came he;

Still hid in mist; and on the left

  Went down into the Sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,

  But no sweet Bird did follow

Nor any day for food or play

  Came to the Mariner’s hollo!

And I had done an hellish thing

  And it would work e’m woe:

For all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird

  That made the Breeze to blow.

Nor dim nor red, like an Angel’s head,

  The glorious Sun uprist:

Then all averr’d, I had kill’d the Bird

  That brought the fog and mist.

’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay

  That bring the fog and mist.

The breezes blew, the white foam flew,

  The furrow follow’d free:

We were the first that ever burst

  Into that silent Sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the Sails dropt down,

  ’Twas sad as sad could be

And we did speak only to break

  The silence of the Sea.

All in a hot and copper sky

  The bloody sun at noon,

Right up above the mast did stand,

  No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,

  We stuck, nor breath nor motion,

As idle as a painted Ship

  Upon a painted Ocean.

Water, water, every where

  And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

  Nor any drop to drink.

The very deeps did rot: O Christ!

  That ever this should be!

Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs

  Upon the slimy Sea.

About, about, in reel and rout

  The Death-fires danc’d at night;

The water, like a witch’s oils.

  Burnt green and blue and white.

And some in dreams assured were

  Of the Spirit that plagued us so:

Nine fathom deep he had follow’d us

  From the Land of Mist and Snow.

And every tongue thro’ utter drouth

  Was wither’d at the root;

We could not speak no more than if

  We had been choked with soot.

Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks

  Had I from old and young;

Instead of the Cross the Albatross

  About my neck was hung.

III.

So past a weary time; each throat

  Was parch’d, and glaz’d each eye,

When, looking westward, I beheld

  A something in the sky.

At first it seem’d a little speck

  And then it seem’d a mist:

It mov’d and mov’d, and took at last

  A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!

  And still it near’d and near’d;

And, as if it dodg’d a water-sprite,

  It plung’d and tack’d and veer’d.

With throat unslack’d, with black lips bak’d

  We could nor laugh nor wail;

Thro’ utter drouth all dumb we stood

Till I bit my arm and suck’d the blood,

  And cry’d, A sail! a sail!

With throat unslack’d, with black lips bak’d

  Agape they heard me call:

Gramercy! they for joy did grin

And all at once their breath drew in

  As they were drinking all.

See! See! (I cry’d) she tacks no more!

  Hither to work us weal

Without a breeze, without a tide

  She steddies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a flame,

  The day was well nigh done!

Almost upon the western wave

  Rested the broad bright Sun;

When that strange shape drove suddenly

  Betwixt us and the Sun.

And strait the Sun was fleck’d with bars

  (Heaven’s mother send us grace)

As if thro’ a dungeon grate he peer’d

  With broad and burning face.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)

  How fast she nears and nears!

Are those her Sails that glance in the Sun

  Like restless gossameres?

Are those her Ribs, thro’ which the Sun

  Did peer, as thro’ a grate?

And are those two all, all her crew.

  That Woman, and her Mate?

His bones were black with many a crack,

  All black and bare, I ween;

Jet-black and bare, save where with rust

Of mouldy damps and charnel crust

  They were patch’d with purple and green.

Her lips were red, her looks were free,

  Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

And she was far liker Death than he;

  Her flesh made the still air cold.

The naked Hulk alongside came

  And the Twain were playing dice;

“The Game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won!”

  Quoth she, and whistled thrice.

A gust of wind sterte up behind

  And whistled thro’ his bones;

Thro’ the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth

  Half-whistles and half-groans.

With never a whisper in the Sea

  Off darts the Spectre-ship;

While clombe above the Eastern bar

The horned Moon, with one bright Star

  Almost between the tips.

One after one by the horned Moon

  (Listen, O Stranger! to me)

Each turn’d his face with a ghastly pang

  And curs’d me with his ee.

Four times fifty living men,

  With never a sigh or groan,

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump

  They dropp’d down one by one.

Their souls did from their bodies fly —

  They fled to bliss or woe;

And every soul it pass’d me by,

  Like, the whiz of my Cross-bow.

IV.

“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!

  I fear thy skinny hand;

And thou art long and lank and brown

  As is the ribb’d Sea-sand.”

“I fear thee and thy glittering eye

  And thy skinny hand so brown —”

“Fear not, fear not, thou wedding guest!

  This body dropt not down.”

Alone, alone, all all alone

  Alone on the wide wide Sea;

And Christ would take no pity on

  My soul in agony.

The many men so beautiful,

  And they all dead did lie!

And a million million slimy things

  Liv’d on — and so did I.

I look’d upon the rotting Sea,

  And drew my eyes away;

I look’d upon the ghastly deck,

  And there the dead men lay.

I look’d to Heaven, and try’d to pray;

  But or ever a prayer had gusht,

A wicked whisper came and made

  My heart as dry as dust.

I clos’d my lids and kept them close,

  Till the balls like pulses beat;

For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky

Lay like a load on my weary eye,

  And the dead were at my feet.

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

  Nor rot, nor reek did they;

The look with which they look’d on me,

  Had never pass’d away.

An orphan’s curse would drag to Hell

  A spirit from on high:

But O! more horrible than that

  Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!

Seven days, seven nights I saw that curse,

  And yet I could not die.

The moving Moon went up the sky

  And no where did abide:

Softly she was going up

  And a star or two beside —

Her beams bemock’d the sultry main

  Like April hoar-frost spread;

But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,

The charmed water burnt alway

  A still and awful red.

Beyond the shadow of the ship

  I watch’d the water-snakes:

They mov’d in tracks of shining white;

And when they rear’d, the elfish light

  Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship

  I watch’d their rich attire:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black

They coil’d and swam; and every track

  Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue

  Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gusht from my heart,

  And I bless’d them unaware!

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

  And I bless’d them unaware.

The self-same moment I could pray;

  And from my neck so free

The Albatross fell off, and sank

  Like lead into the sea.

V.

O sleep, it is a gentle thing

  Belov’d from pole to pole!

To Mary-queen the praise be given

She sent the gentle sleep from heaven

  That slid into my soul.

The silly buckets on the deck

  That had so long remain’d,

I dreamt that they were fill’d with dew

  And when I awoke it rain’d.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,

  My garments all were dank;

Sure I had drunken in my dreams

  And still my body drank.

I mov’d and could not feel my limbs,

  I was so light, almost

I thought that I had died in sleep,

  And was a blessed Ghost.

And soon I heard a roaring wind,

  It did not come anear;

But with its sound it shook the sails

  That were so thin and sere.

The upper air burst into life

  And a hundred fire-flags sheen

To and fro they were hurried about;

And to and fro, and in and out

  The wan stars danc’d between.

And the coming wind did roar more loud;

  And the sails did sigh like sedge:

And the rain pour’d down from one black cloud

  The moon was at its edge.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still

  The Moon was at its side:

Like waters shot from some high crag,

The lightning fell, with never a jag

  A river steep and wide.

The loud wind never reach’d the Ship,

  Yet now the Ship mov’d on!

Beneath the lightning and the moon

  The dead men gave a groan.

They groan’d; they stirr’d, they all uprose,

  Nor spake, nor mov’d their eyes:

It had been strange, even in a dream

  To have seen those dead men rise,

The helmsman steerd, the ship mov’d on;

  Yet never a breeze up-blew;

The Mariners all gan work the ropes,

  Where they were wont to do:

They rais’d their limbs like lifeless tools —

  We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother’s son

  Stood by me knee to knee:

The body and I pull’d at one rope,

  But he said nought to me.

“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!”

  “Be calm, thou wedding guest!

’Twas not those souls, that fled in pain,

Which to their corses came again,

  But a troop of Spirits blest:”

“For when it dawn’d — they dropp’d their arms,

  And cluster’d round the mast:

Sweet sounds rose slowly thro’ their mouths

  And from their bodies pass’d.”

Around, around, flew each sweet sound,

  Then darted to the sun:

Slowly the sounds came back again

  Now mix’d, now one by one.

Sometimes a dropping from the sky

  I heard the Sky-lark sing;

Sometimes all little birds that are

How they seem’d to fill the sea and air

  With their sweet jargoning.

And now ’twas like all instruments,

  Now like a lonely flute;

And now it is an angel’s song

  That makes the heavens be mute.

It ceas’d: yet still the sails made on

  A pleasant noise till noon,

A noise like of a hidden brook

  In the leafy month of June,

That to the sleeping woods all night,

  Singeth a quiet tune.

Till noon we silently sail’d on

  Yet never a breeze did breathe:

Slowly and smoothly went the Ship

  Mov’d onward from beneath.

Under the keel nine fathom deep

  From the land of mist and snow

The spirit slid: and it was He

  That made the Ship to go.

The sails at noon left off their tune

  And the Ship stood still also.

The sun right up above the mast

  Had fix’d her to the ocean:

But in a minute she ‘gan stir

  With a short uneasy motion —

Backwards and forwards half her length

  With a short uneasy motion.

Then, like a pawing horse let go,

  She made a sudden bound:

It flung the blood into my head,

  And I fell into a swound.

How long in that same fit I lay,

  I have not to declare;

But ere my living life return’d,

I heard and in my soul discern’d

  Two voices in the air.

“Is it he?” quoth one, “Is this the man?

  By him who died on cross,

With his cruel bow he lay’d full low

  The harmless Albatross.”

“The spirit who ‘bideth by himself

  In the land of mist and snow,

He lov’d the bird that lov’d the man

  Who shot him with his bow.”

The other was a softer voice,

  As soft as honey-dew:

Quoth he the man hath penance done,

  And penance more will do.

VI.

FIRST VOICE.

“But tell me, tell me! speak again,

  Thy soft response renewing —

What makes that ship drive on so fast?

  What is the Ocean doing?”

SECOND VOICE.

“Still as a Slave before his Lord,

  The Ocean hath no blast:

His great bright eye most silently

  Up to the moon is cast —”

“If he may know which way to go,

  For she guides him smooth or grim,

See, brother, see! how graciously

  She looketh down on him.”

FIRST VOICE.

“But why drives on that ship so fast

  Without or wave or wind?”

SECOND VOICE.

“The air is cut away before,

  And closes from behind.”

“Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high,

  Or we shall be belated:

For slow and slow that ship will go,

  When the Mariner’s trance is abated.”

I woke, and we were sailing on

  As in a gentle weather:

’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;

  The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck,

  For a charnel-dungeon fitter:

All fix’d on me their stony eyes

  That in the moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,

  Had never pass’d away;

I could not draw my eyes from theirs

  Nor turn them up to pray.

And now this spell was snapt: once more

  I view’d the ocean green,

And look’d far forth, yet little saw

  Of what had else been seen.

Like one, that on a lonesome road

  Doth walk in fear and dread,

And having once turn’d round, walks on

  And turns no more his head:

Because he knows, a frightful fiend

  Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breath’d a wind on me,

  Nor sound nor motion made:

Its path was not upon the sea

  In ripple or in shade.

It rais’d my hair, it fann’d my cheek,

  Like a meadow-gale of spring —

It mingled strangely with my fears,

  Yet it felt like a welcoming.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship

  Yet she sail’d softly too:

Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze —

  On me alone it blew.

O dream of joy! is this indeed

  The light-house top I see?

Is this the Hill? Is this the Kirk?

  Is this mine own countrée?

We drifted o’er the Harbour-bar,

  And I with sobs did pray —

“O let me be awake, my God!

  Or let me sleep alway!”

The harbour-bay was clear as glass,

  So smoothly it was strewn!

And on the bay the moonlight lay,

  And the shadow of the moon.

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less:

  That stands above the rock:

The moonlight steep’d in silentness

  The steady weathercock.

And the bay was white with silent light,

  Till rising from the same

Full many shapes, that shadows were,

  In crimson colours came.

A little distance from the prow

  Those crimson shadows were:

I turn’d my eyes upon the deck —

  O Christ! what saw I there?

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat;

  And by the Holy rood

A man all light, a seraph-man,

  On every corse there stood.

This seraph-band, each wav’d his hand:

  It was a heavenly sight:

They stood as signals to the land,

  Each one a lovely light:

This seraph-band, each wav’d his hand,

  No voice did they impart —

No voice; but O! the silence sank,

  Like music on my heart.

But soon I heard the dash of oars,

  I heard the pilot’s cheer:

My head was turn’d perforce away

  And I saw a boat appear.

The pilot, and the pilot’s boy

  I heard them coming fast:

Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy,

  The dead men could not blast.

I saw a third — I heard his voice:

  It is the Hermit good!

He singeth loud his godly hymns

  That he makes in the wood.

He’ll shrive my soul, he’ll wash away

  The Albatross’s blood.

VII.

This Hermit good lives in that wood

  Which slopes down to the Sea.

How loudly his sweet voice he rears!

He loves to talk with Mariners

  That come from a far countrée.

He kneels at morn and noon and eve —

  He hath a cushion plump:

It is the moss, that wholly hides

  The rotted old Oak-stump.

The Skiff-boat ner’d: I heard them talk,

  “Why, this is strange, I trow!

Where are those lights so many and fair

  That signal made but now?”

“Strange, by my faith!” the Hermit said —

  “And they answer’d not our cheer.

The planks look warp’d, and see those sails

  How thin they are and sere!

I never saw aught like to them

  Unless perchance it were”

“The skeletons of leaves that lag

  My forest brook along:

When the Ivy-tod is heavy with snow,

And the Owlet whoops to the wolf below

  That eats the she-wolf’s young.”

“Dear Lord! it has a fiendish look —”

  (The Pilot made reply)

“I am a-fear’d.”—“Push on, push on!”

  “Said the Hermit cheerily.”

The Boat came closer to the Ship,

  But I nor spake nor stirr’d!

The Boat came close beneath the Ship,

  And strait a sound was heard!

Under the water it rumbled on,

  Still louder and more dread:

It reach’d the Ship, it split the bay;

  The Ship went down like lead.

Stunn’d by that loud and dreadful sound,

  Which sky and ocean smote:

Like one that hath been seven days drown’d

  My body lay afloat:

But, swift as dreams, myself I found

  Within the Pilot’s boat.

Upon the whirl, where sank the Ship,

  The boat spun round and round:

And all was still, save that the hill

  Was telling of the sound.

I mov’d my lips: the Pilot shriek’d

  And fell down in a fit.

The Holy Hermit rais’d his eyes

  And pray’d where he did sit.

I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy,

  Who now doth crazy go,

Laugh’d loud and long, and all the while

  His eyes went to and fro,

“Ha! ha!” quoth he —“full plain I see,

  The devil knows how to row.”

And now all in mine own Countrée

  I stood on the firm land!

The Hermit stepp’d forth from the boat,

  And scarcely he could stand.

“O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy Man!”

  The Hermit cross’d his brow —

“Say quick,” quoth he, “I bid thee say

  What manner man art thou?”

Forthwith this frame of mind was wrench’d

  With a woeful agony,

Which forc’d me to begin my tale

  And then it left me free.

Since then at an uncertain hour,

  That agency returns;

And till my ghastly tale is told

  This heart within me burns.

I pass, like night, from land to land;

  I have strange power of speech;

The moment that his face I see

I know the man that must hear me;

  To him my tale I teach.

What loud uproar bursts from that door!

  The Wedding-guests are there;

But in the Garden-bower the Bride

  And Bride-maids singing are:

And hark the little Vesper-bell

  Which biddeth me to prayer.

O Wedding-guest! this soul hath been

  Alone on a wide wide sea:

So lonely ’twas, that God himself

  Scarce seemed there to be.

O sweeter than the Marriage-feast,

  ’Tis sweeter far to me

To walk together to the Kirk

  With a goodly company.

To walk together to the Kirk

  And all together pray,

While each to his great father bends,

Old men, and babes, and loving friends,

  And Youths, and Maidens gay.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

  To thee, thou wedding-guest!

He prayeth well who loveth well

  Both man, and bird and beast.

He prayeth best who loveth best

  All things both great and small:

For the dear God, who loveth us,

  He made and loveth all.

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

  Whose beard with age is hoar,

Is gone; and now the wedding-guest

  Turn’d from the bridegroom’s door.

He went, like one that hath been stunn’d

  And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man

  He rose the morrow morn,

NOTE to the ANCIENT MARINER, p. 155. — I cannot refuse myself the gratification of informing such Readers as may have been pleased with this Poem, or with any part of it, that they owe their pleasure in some sort to me; as the Author was himself very desirous that it should be suppressed. This wish had arisen from a consciousness of the defects of the Poem, and from a knowledge that many persons had been much displeased with it. The Poem of my Friend has indeed great defects; first, that the principal person has no distinct character, either in his profession of Mariner, or as a human being who having been long under the controul of supernatural impressions might be supposed himself to partake of something supernatural: secondly, that he does not act, but is continually acted upon: thirdly, that the events having no necessary connection do not produce each other; and lastly, that the imagery is somewhat too laboriously accumulated. Yet the Poem contains many delicate touches of passion, and indeed the passion is every where true to nature; a great number of the stanzas present beautiful images, and are expressed with unusual felicity of language; and the versification, though the metre is itself unfit for long poems, is harmonious and artfully varied, exhibiting the utmost powers of that metre, and every variety of which it is capable. It therefore appeared to me that these several merits (the first of which, namely that of the passion, is of the highest kind,) gave to the Poem a value which is not often possessed by better Poems. On this account I requested of my Friend to permit me to republish it.

Lines written above Tintern Abbey

Written a few miles above TINTERN ABBEY, on revisiting the banks of the WYE during a Tour
.
July 13, 1798.

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length

Of five long winters! and again I hear

These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

With a sweet inland murmur. 6 — Once again

Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,

Which on a wild secluded scene impress

Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect

The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

6 The river is not affacted by the tides a few miles above Tintern.

The day is come when I again repose

Here, under this dark sycamore, and view

These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,

Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,

Among the woods and copses lose themselves,

Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb

The wild green landscape. Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms

Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,

With some uncertain notice, as might seem,

Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,

Or of some hermit’s cave, where by his fire

The hermit sits alone.

                       Though absent long.

These forms of beauty have not been to me,

As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,

In hours of wariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,

And passing even into my purer mind,

With tranquil restoration:— feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,

As may have had no trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man’s life;

His little, nameless, unremembered acts

Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,

To them I may have owed another gift,

Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world

Is lighten’d:— that serene and blessed mood;

In which the affections gently lead us on,

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul:

While with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things.

                                If this

Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,

In darkness, and amid the many shapes

Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir

Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,

Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee

O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,

How often has my spirit turned to thee!

And now, with gleams, of half-extinguish’d thought,

With many recognitions dim and faint,

And somewhat of a sad perplexity,

The picture of the mind revives again:

While here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by,)

To me was all in all. — I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite: a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, or any interest

Unborrowed from the eye. — That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: other gifts

Have followed, for such loss, I would believe

Abundant recompence. For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean, and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye and ear; both what they half create, 7

And what perceive; well pleased to recognize

In nature and the language of the sense,

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being.

7 This line has a close resemblance to an admirable line of Young, the exact expression of which I cannot recollect.

                       Nor, perchance,

If I were not thus taught, should I the more

Suffer my genial spirits to decay?

For thou art with me, here, upon the banks

Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,

My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch

The language of my former heart, and read

My former pleasures in the shooting lights

Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while

May I behold in thee what I was once,

My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,

Knowing that Nature never did betray

The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,

Through all the years of this our life, to lead

From joy to joy: for she can so inform

The mind that is within us, so impress

With quietness and beauty, and so feed

With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,

Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,

Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all

The dreary intercourse of daily life,

Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb

Our chearful faith that all which we behold

Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon

Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;

And let the misty mountain winds be free

To blow against thee: and in after years,

When these wild ecstasies shall be matured

Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind

Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,

Thy memory be as a dwelling-place

For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,

If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,

Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts

Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,

And these my exhortations! Nor perchance,

If I should be, where I no more can hear

Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams

Of past existence, wilt thou then forget

That on the banks of this delightful stream

We stood together; and that I, so long

A worshipper of Nature, hither came,

Unwearied in that service: rather say

With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal

Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,

That after many wanderings, many years

Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,

And this green pastoral landscape, were to me

More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.

NOTE to the Poem ON REVISITING THE WYE, p. 201. — I have not ventured to call this Poem an Ode; but it was written with a hope that in the transitions, and the impassioned music of the versification would be found the principal requisites of that species of composition.

Hart-leap Well

Hart–Leap Well is a small spring of water, about five miles from Richmond in Yorkshire, and near the side of the road which leads from Richmond to Askrigg. Its name is derived from a remarkable chase, the memory of which is preserved by the monuments spoken of in the second Part of the following Poem, which monuments do now exist as I have there described them.

The Knight had ridden down from Wensley moor

With the slow motion of a summer’s cloud;

He turn’d aside towards a Vassal’s door,

And, “Bring another Horse!” he cried aloud.

“Another Horse!”— That shout the Vassal heard,

And saddled his best steed, a comely Grey;

Sir Walter mounted him; he was the third

Which he had mounted on that glorious day.

Joy sparkeled in the prancing Courser’s eyes;

The horse and horsemen are a happy pair;

But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,

There is a doleful silence in the air.

A rout this morning left Sir Walter’s Hall,

That as they gallop’d made the echoes roar;

But horse and man are vanish’d, one and all;

Such race, I think, was never seen before.

Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,

Calls to the few tired dogs that yet remain:

Brach, Swift and Music, noblest of their kind,

Follow, and weary up the mountain strain.

The Knight halloo’d, he chid and cheer’d them on

With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern;

But breath and eye-sight fail, and, one by one,

The dogs are stretch’d among the mountain fern.

Where is the throng, the tumult of the chace?

The bugles that so joyfully were blown?

— This race it looks not like an earthly race;

Sir Walter and the Hart are left alone.

The poor Hart toils along the mountain side;

I will not stop to tell how far he fled,

Nor will I mention by what death he died;

But now the Knight beholds him lying dead.

Dismounting then, he lean’d against a thorn;

He had no follower, dog, nor man, nor boy:

He neither smack’d his whip, nor blew his horn,

But gaz’d upon the spoil with silent joy.

Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter lean’d,

Stood his dumb partner in this glorious act;

Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yean’d,

And foaming like a mountain cataract.

Upon his side the Hart was lying stretch’d:

His nose half-touch’d a spring beneath a hill,

And with the last deep groan his breath had fetch’d

The waters of the spring were trembling still.

And now, too happy for repose or rest,

Was never man in such a joyful case,

Sir Walter walk’d all round, north, south and west,

And gaz’d, and gaz’d upon that darling place.

And turning up the hill, it was at least

Nine roods of sheer ascent, Sir Walter found

Three several marks which with his hoofs the beast

Had left imprinted on the verdant ground.

Sir Walter wiped his face, and cried, “Till now

Such sight was never seen by living eyes:

Three leaps have borne him from this lofty brow,

Down to the very fountain where he lies.”

I’ll build a Pleasure-house upon this spot,

And a small Arbour, made for rural joy;

Twill be the traveller’s shed, the pilgrim’s cot,

A place of love for damsels that are coy.

A cunning Artist will I have to frame

A bason for that fountain in the dell;

And they, who do make mention of the same,

From this day forth, shall call it Hart-leap Well.

And, gallant brute! to make thy praises known,

Another monument shall here be rais’d;

Three several pillars, each a rough hewn stone,

And planted where thy hoofs the turf have graz’d.

And in the summer-time when days are long,

I will come hither with my paramour,

And with the dancers, and the minstrel’s song,

We will make merry in that pleasant bower.

Till the foundations of the mountains fail

My mansion with its arbour shall endure,

— The joy of them who till the fields of Swale,

And them who dwell among the woods of Ure.

Then home he went, and left the Hart, stone-dead,

With breathless nostrils stretch’d above the spring.

And soon the Knight perform’d what he had said,

The fame whereof through many a land did ring.

Ere thrice the moon into her port had steer’d,

A cup of stone receiv’d the living well;

Three pillars of rude stone Sir Walter rear’d,

And built a house of pleasure in the dell.

And near the fountain, flowers of stature tall

With trailing plants and trees were intertwin’d,

Which soon composed a little sylvan hall,

A leafy shelter from the sun and wind.

And thither, when the summer days were long,

Sir Walter journey’d with his paramour;

And with the dancers and the minstrel’s song

Made merriment within that pleasant bower.

The Knight, Sir Walter, died in course of time,

And his bones lie in his paternal vale. —

But there is matter for a second rhyme,

And I to this would add another tale.

PART SECOND.

The moving accident is not my trade.

To curl the blood I have no ready arts;

’Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,

To pipe a simple song to thinking hearts,

As I from Hawes to Richmond did repair,

It chanc’d that I saw standing in a dell

Three aspins at three corners of a square,

And one, not four yards distant, near a well.

What this imported I could ill divine,

And, pulling now the rein my horse to stop,

I saw three pillars standing in a line,

The last stone pillar on a dark hill-top.

The trees were grey, with neither arms nor head;

Half-wasted the square mound of tawny green;

So that you just might say, as then I said,

“Here in old time the hand of man has been.”

I look’d upon the hills both far and near;

More doleful place did never eye survey;

It seem’d as if the spring-time came not here,

And Nature here were willing to decay.

I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,

When one who was in Shepherd’s garb attir’d,

Came up the hollow. Him did I accost,

And what this place might be I then inquir’d.

The Shepherd stopp’d, and that same story told

Which in my former rhyme I have rehears’d.

“A jolly place,” said he, “in times of old,

But something ails it now; the spot is curs’d.”

You see these lifeless stumps of aspin wood,

Some say that they are beeches, others elms,

These were the Bower; and here a Mansion stood,

The finest palace of a hundred realms.

The arbour does its own condition tell,

You see the stones, the fountain, and the stream,

But as to the great Lodge, you might as well

Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.

There’s neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,

Will wet his lips within that cup of stone;

And, oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,

This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.

Some say that here a murder has been done,

And blood cries out for blood: but, for my part,

I’ve guess’d, when I’ve been sitting in the sun,

That it was all for that unhappy Hart.

What thoughts must through the creature’s brain have pass’d!

To this place from the stone upon the steep

Are but three bounds, and look, Sir, at this last!

O Master! it has been a cruel leap.

For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race;

And in my simple mind we cannot tell

What cause the Hart might have to love this place,

And come and make his death-bed near the well.

Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,

Lull’d by this fountain in the summer-tide;

This water was perhaps the first he drank

When he had wander’d from his mother’s side.

In April here beneath the scented thorn

He heard the birds their morning carols sing,

And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born

Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.

But now here’s neither grass nor pleasant shade;

The sun on drearier hollow never shone:

So will it be, as I have often said,

Till trees, and stones, and fountain all are gone.

Grey-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well;

Small difference lies between thy creed and mine;

This beast not unobserv’d by Nature fell,

His death was mourn’d by sympathy divine.

The Being, that is in the clouds and air,

That is in the green leaves among the groves.

Maintains a deep and reverential care

For them the quiet creatures whom he loves.

The Pleasure-house is dust:— behind, before,

This, is no common waste, no common gloom;

But Nature, in due course of time, once more

Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.

She leaves these objects to a slow decay

That what we are, and have been, may be known;

But, at the coming of the milder day,

These monuments shall all be overgrown.

One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,

Taught both by what she shews, and what conceals,

Never to blend our pleasure or our pride

With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.

There was a Boy, &c

There was a Boy, ye knew him well, ye Cliffs

And Islands of Winander! many a time,

At evening, when the stars had just begun

To move along the edges of the hills,

Rising or setting, would he stand alone,

Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake,

And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands

Press’d closely palm to palm and to his mouth

Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,

Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls

That they might answer him. And they would shout

Across the wat’ry vale and shout again

Responsive to his call, with quivering peals,

And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud

Redoubled and redoubled, a wild scene

Of mirth and jocund din. And, when it chanced

That pauses of deep silence mock’d his skill,

Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung

Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprize

Has carried far into his heart the voice

Of mountain torrents, or the visible scene

Would enter unawares into his mind

With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,

Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, receiv’d

Into the bosom of the steady lake.

Fair are the woods, and beauteous is the spot,

The vale where he was born: the Church-yard hangs

Upon a slope above the village school,

And there along that bank when I have pass’d

At evening, I believe, that near his grave

A full half-hour together I have stood,

Mute — for he died when he was ten years old.

The Brothers, a Pastoral Poem

This Poem was intended to be the concluding poem of a series of pastorals, the scene of which was laid among the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland. I mention this to apologise for the abruptness with which the poem begins.

These Tourists, Heaven preserve us! needs must live

A profitable life: some glance along

Rapid and gay, as if the earth were air.

And they were butterflies to wheel about

Long as their summer lasted; some, as wise,

Upon the forehead of a jutting crag

Sit perch’d with book and pencil on their knee,

And look and scribble, scribble on and look,

Until a man might travel twelve stout miles,

Or reap an acre of his neighbour’s corn.

But, for that moping son of Idleness

Why can he tarry yonder? — In our church-yard

Is neither epitaph nor monument,

Tomb-stone nor name, only the turf we tread.

And a few natural graves. To Jane, his Wife,

Thus spake the homely Priest of Ennerdale.

It was a July evening, and he sate

Upon the long stone seat beneath the eaves

Of his old cottage, as it chanced that day,

Employ’d in winter’s work. Upon the stone

His Wife sate near him, teasing matted wool,

While, from the twin cards tooth’d with glittering wire,

He fed the spindle of his youngest child,

Who turn’d her large round wheel in the open air

With back and forward steps. Towards the field

In which the parish chapel stood alone,

Girt round with a bare ring of mossy wall,

While half an hour went by, the Priest had sent

Many a long look of wonder, and at last,

Risen from his seat, beside the snowy ridge

Of carded wool — which the old Man had piled

He laid his implements with gentle care,

Each in the other lock’d; and, down the path

Which from his cottage to the church-yard led,

He took his way, impatient to accost

The Stranger, whom he saw still lingering there.

’Twas one well known to him in former days,

A Shepherd-lad: who ere his thirteenth year

Had chang’d his calling, with the mariners

A fellow-mariner, and so had fared

Through twenty seasons; but he had been rear’d

Among the mountains, and he in his heart

Was half a Shepherd on the stormy seas.

Oft in the piping shrouds had Leonard heard

The tones of waterfalls, and inland sounds

Of caves and trees; and when the regular wind

Between the tropics fill’d the steady sail

And blew with the same breath through days and weeks,

Lengthening invisibly its weary line

Along the cloudless main, he, in those hours

Of tiresome indolence would often hang

Over the vessel’s aide, and gaze and gaze,

And, while the broad green wave and sparkling foam

Flash’d round him images and hues, that wrought

In union with the employment of his heart,

He, thus by feverish passion overcome,

Even with the organs of his bodily eye,

Below him, in the bosom of the deep

Saw mountains, saw the forms of sheep that graz’d

On verdant hills, with dwellings among trees,

And Shepherds clad in the same country grey

Which he himself had worn. 9

9 This description of the Calenture is sketched from an imperfect recollection of an admirable one in prose, by Mr. Gilbert, Author of the Hurricane.

                          And now at length,

From perils manifold, with some small wealth

Acquir’d by traffic in the Indian Isles,

To his paternal home he is return’d,

With a determin’d purpose to resume

The life which he liv’d there, both for the sake

Of many darling pleasures, and the love

Which to an only brother he has borne

In all his hardships, since that happy time

When, whether it blew foul or fair, they two

Were brother Shepherds on their native hills.

— They were the last of all their race; and now,

When Leonard had approach’d his home, his heart

Fail’d in him, and, not venturing to inquire

Tidings of one whom he so dearly lov’d,

Towards the church-yard he had turn’d aside,

That, as he knew in what particular spot

His family were laid, he thence might learn

If still his Brother liv’d, or to the file

Another grave was added. — He had found

Another grave, near which a full half hour

He had remain’d, but, as he gaz’d, there grew

Such a confusion in his memory,

That he began to doubt, and he had hopes

That he had seen this heap of turf before,

That it was not another grave, but one,

He had forgotten. He had lost his path,

As up the vale he came that afternoon,

Through fields which once had been well known to him.

And Oh! what joy the recollection now

Sent to his heart! he lifted up his eyes,

And looking round he thought that he perceiv’d

Strange alteration wrought on every side

Among the woods and fields, and that the rocks,

And the eternal hills, themselves were chang’d.

By this the Priest who down the field had come

Unseen by Leonard, at the church-yard gate

Stopp’d short, and thence, at leisure, limb by limb

He scann’d him with a gay complacency.

Aye, thought the Vicar, smiling to himself;

’Tis one of those who needs must leave the path

Of the world’s business, to go wild alone:

His arms have a perpetual holiday,

The happy man will creep about the fields

Following his fancies by the hour, to bring

Tears down his check, or solitary smiles

Into his face, until the setting sun

Write Fool upon his forehead. Planted thus

Beneath a shed that overarch’d the gate

Of this rude church-yard, till the stars appear’d

The good man might have commun’d with himself

But that the Stranger, who had left the grave,

Approach’d; he recogniz’d the Priest at once,

And after greetings interchang’d, and given

By Leonard to the Vicar as to one

Unknown to him, this dialogue ensued.

LEONARD.

You live, Sir, in these dales, a quiet life:

Your years make up one peaceful family;

And who would grieve and fret, if, welcome come

And welcome gone, they are so like each other,

They cannot be remember’d. Scarce a funeral

Comes to this church-yard once, in eighteen months;

And yet, some changes must take place among you.

And you, who dwell here, even among these rocks

Can trace the finger of mortality,

And see, that with our threescore years and ten

We are not all that perish. — I remember,

For many years ago I pass’d this road,

There was a foot-way all along the fields

By the brook-side —’tis gone — and that dark cleft!

To me it does not seem to wear the face

Which then it had.

PRIEST.

                  Why, Sir, for aught I know,

That chasm is much the same —

LEONARD.

                              But, surely, yonder —

PRIEST.

Aye, there indeed, your memory is a friend

That does not play you false. — On that tall pike,

(It is the loneliest place of all these hills)

There were two Springs which bubbled side by side,

As if they had been made that they might be

Companions for each other: ten years back,

Close to those brother fountains, the huge crag

Was rent with lightning — one is dead and gone,

The other, left behind, is flowing still. —

For accidents and changes such as these,

Why we have store of them! a water-spout

Will bring down half a mountain; what a feast

For folks that wander up and down like you,

To see an acre’s breadth of that wide cliff

One roaring cataract — a sharp May storm

Will come with loads of January snow,

And in one night send twenty score of sheep

To feed the ravens, or a Shepherd dies

By some untoward death among the rocks:

The ice breaks up and sweeps away a bridge —

A wood is fell’d:— and then for our own homes!

A child is born or christen’d, a field plough’d,

A daughter sent to service, a web spun,

The old house cloth is deck’d with a new face;

And hence, so far from wanting facts or dates

To chronicle the time, we all have here

A pair of diaries, one serving, Sir,

For the whole dale, and one for each fire-side,

Your’s was a stranger’s judgment: for historians

Commend me to these vallies.

LEONARD.

                             Yet your church-yard

Seems, if such freedom may be used with you,

To say that you are heedless of the past.

Here’s neither head nor foot-stone, plate of brass,

Cross-bones or skull, type of our earthly state

Or emblem of our hopes: the dead man’s home

Is but a fellow to that pasture field.

PRIEST.

Why there, Sir, is a thought that’s new to me.

The Stone-cutters, ’tis true, might beg their bread

If every English church-yard were like ours:

Yet your conclusion wanders from the truth.

We have no need of names and epitaphs,

We talk about the dead by our fire-sides.

And then for our immortal part, we want

No symbols, Sir, to tell us that plain tale:

The thought of death sits easy on the man

Who has been born and dies among the mountains:

LEONARD.

Your dalesmen, then, do in each other’s thoughts

Possess a kind of second life: no doubt

You, Sir, could help me to the history

Of half these Graves?

PRIEST.

With what I’ve witness’d; and with what I’ve heard,

Perhaps I might, and, on a winter’s evening,

If you were seated at my chimney’s nook

By turning o’er these hillocks one by one,

We two could travel, Sir, through a strange round,

Yet all in the broad high-way of the world.

Now there’s a grave — your foot is half upon it,

It looks just like the rest, and yet that man

Died broken-hearted.

LEONARD.

                     ’Tis a common case,

We’ll take another: who is he that lies

Beneath yon ridge, the last of those three graves; —

It touches on that piece of native rock

Left in the church-yard wall.

PRIEST.

                             That’s Walter Ewbank.

He had as white a head and fresh a cheek

As ever were produc’d by youth and age

Engendering in the blood of hale fourscore.

For five long generations had the heart

Of Walter’s forefathers o’erflow’d the bounds

Of their inheritance, that single cottage,

You see it yonder, and those few green fields.

They toil’d and wrought, and still, from sire to son,

Each struggled, and each yielded as before

A little — yet a little — and old Walter,

They left to him the family heart, and land

With other burthens than the crop it bore.

Year after year the old man still preserv’d

A chearful mind, and buffeted with bond,

Interest and mortgages; at last he sank,

And went into his grave before his time.

Poor Walter! whether it was care that spurr’d him

God only knows, but to the very last

He had the lightest foot in Ennerdale:

His pace was never that of an old man:

I almost see him tripping down the path

With his two Grandsons after him — but you,

Unless our Landlord be your host to-night,

Have far to travel, and in these rough paths

Even in the longest day of midsummer —

LEONARD.

But these two Orphans!

PRIEST.

                        Orphans! such they were —

Yet not while Walter liv’d — for, though their Parents

Lay buried side by side as now they lie,

The old Man was a father to the boys,

Two fathers in one father: and if tears

Shed, when he talk’d of them where they were not,

And hauntings from the infirmity of love,

Are aught of what makes up a mother’s heart,

This old Man in the day of his old age

Was half a mother to them. — If you weep, Sir,

To hear a stranger talking about strangers,

Heaven bless you when you are among your kindred!

Aye. You may turn that way — it is a grave

Which will bear looking at.

LEONARD.

                           These Boys I hope

They lov’d this good old Man —

PRIEST.

                               They did — and truly,

But that was what we almost overlook’d,

They were such darlings of each other. For

Though from their cradles they had liv’d with Walter,

The only kinsman near them in the house,

Yet he being old, they had much love to spare,

And it all went into each other’s hearts.

Leonard, the elder by just eighteen months,

Was two years taller: ’twas a joy to see,

To hear, to meet them! from their house the School

Was distant three short miles, and in the time

Of storm and thaw, when every water-course

And unbridg’d stream, such as you may have notic’d

Crossing our roads at every hundred steps,

Was swoln into a noisy rivulet,

Would Leonard then, when elder boys perhaps

Remain’d at home, go staggering through the fords

Bearing his Brother on his back. — I’ve seen him,

On windy days, in one of those stray brooks,

Aye, more than once I’ve seen him mid-leg deep,

Their two books lying both on a dry stone

Upon the hither side:— and once I said,

As I remember, looking round these rocks

And hills on which we all of us were born,

That God who made the great book of the world

Would bless such piety —

LEONARD.

                        It may be then —

PRIEST.

Never did worthier lads break English bread:

The finest Sunday that the Autumn saw,

With all its mealy clusters of ripe nuts,

Could never keep these boys away from church,

Or tempt them to an hour of sabbath breach.

Leonard and James! I warrant, every corner

Among these rocks and every hollow place

Where foot could come, to one or both of them

Was known as well as to the flowers that grew there.

Like roe-bucks they went bounding o’er the hills:

They play’d like two young ravens on the crags:

Then they could write, aye and speak too, as well

As many of their betters — and for Leonard!

The very night before he went away,

In my own house I put into his hand

A Bible, and I’d wager twenty pounds,

That, if he is alive, he has it yet.

LEONARD.

It seems, these Brothers have not liv’d to be

A comfort to each other. —

PRIEST.

                           That they might

Live to that end, is what both old and young

In this our valley all of us have wish’d,

And what, for my part, I have often pray’d:

But Leonard —

LEONARD.

              Then James still is left among you —

PRIEST.

’Tis of the elder Brother I am speaking:

They had an Uncle, he was at that time

A thriving man, and traffick’d on the seas:

And, but for this same Uncle, to this hour

Leonard had never handled rope or shroud.

For the Boy lov’d the life which we lead here;

And, though a very Stripling, twelve years old;

His soul was knit to this his native soil.

But, as I said, old Walter was too weak

To strive with such a torrent; when he died,

The estate and house were sold, and all their sheep,

A pretty flock, and which, for aught I know,

Had clothed the Ewbauks for a thousand years.

Well — all was gone, and they were destitute.

And Leonard, chiefly for his brother’s sake,

Resolv’d to try his fortune on the seas.

’Tis now twelve years since we had tidings from him.

If there was one among us who had heard

That Leonard Ewbank was come home again,

From the great Gavel 10, down by Leeza’s Banks,

And down the Enna, far as Egremont,

The day would be a very festival,

And those two bells of ours, which there you see

Hanging in the open air — but, O good Sir!

This is sad talk — they’ll never sound for him

Living or dead — When last we heard of him

He was in slavery among the Moors

Upon the Barbary Coast —’Twas not a little

That would bring down his spirit, and, no doubt,

Before it ended in his death, the Lad

Was sadly cross’d — Poor Leonard! when we parted,

He took me by the hand and said to me,

If ever the day came when he was rich,

He would return, and on his Father’s Land

He would grow old among us.

10 The great Gavel, so called I imagine, from its resemblance to the Gable end of a house, is one of the highest of the Cumberland mountains. It stands at the head of the several vales of Ennerdale, Wastdale, and Borrowdale.

The Leeza is a River which follows into the Lake of Ennerdale: on issuing from the Lake, it changes its name, and is called the End, Eyne, or Enna. It falls into the sea a little below Egremont.]

LEONARD.

                           If that day

Should come, ‘twould needs be a glad day for him;

He would himself, no doubt, be as happy then

As any that should meet him —

PRIEST.

                              Happy, Sir —

LEONARD.

You said his kindred all were in their graves,

And that he had one Brother —

PRIEST.

                              That is but

A fellow tale of sorrow. From his youth

James, though not sickly, yet was delicate,

And Leonard being always by his side

Had done so many offices about him,

That, though he was not of a timid nature,

Yet still the spirit of a mountain boy

In him was somewhat check’d, and when his Brother

Was gone to sea and he was left alone

The little colour that he had was soon

Stolen from his cheek, he droop’d, and pin’d and pin’d;

LEONARD.

But these are all the graves of full grown men!

PRIEST.

Aye, Sir, that pass’d away: we took him to us.

He was the child of all the dale — he liv’d

Three months with one, and six months with another:

And wanted neither food, nor clothes, nor love,

And many, many happy days were his.

But, whether blithe or sad, ’tis my belief

His absent Brother still was at his heart.

And, when he liv’d beneath our roof, we found

(A practice till this time unknown to him)

That often, rising from his bed at night,

He in his sleep would walk about, and sleeping

He sought his Brother Leonard — You are mov’d!

Forgive me, Sir: before I spoke to you,

I judg’d you most unkindly.

LEONARD.

                          But this youth,

How did he die at last?

PRIEST.

                        One sweet May morning,

It will be twelve years since, when Spring returns,

He had gone forth among the new-dropp’d lambs,

With two or three companions whom it chanc’d

Some further business summon’d to a house

Which stands at the Dale-head. James, tir’d perhaps,

Or from some other cause remain’d behind.

You see yon precipice — it almost looks

Like some vast building made of many crags,

And in the midst is one particular rock

That rises like a column from the vale,

Whence by our Shepherds it is call’d, the Pillar.

James, pointing to its summit, over which

They all had purpos’d to return together,

Inform’d them that he there would wait for them:

They parted, and his comrades pass’d that way

Some two hours after, but they did not find him

At the appointed place, a circumstance

Of which they took no heed: but one of them,

Going by chance, at night, into the house

Which at this time was James’s home, there learn’d

That nobody had seen him all that day:

The morning came, and still, he was unheard of:

The neighbours were alarm’d, and to the Brook

Some went, and some towards the Lake; ere noon

They found him at the foot of that same Rock

Dead, and with mangled limbs. The third day after

I buried him, poor Lad, and there he lies.

LEONARD.

And that then is his grave! — Before his death

You said that he saw many happy years?

PRIEST.

Aye, that he did —

LEONARD.

                  And all went well with him —

PRIEST.

If he had one, the Lad had twenty homes.

LEONARD.

And you believe then, that his mind was easy —

PRIEST.

Yes, long before he died, he found that time

Is a true friend to sorrow, and unless

His thoughts were turn’d on Leonard’s luckless fortune,

He talk’d about him with a chearful love.

LEONARD.

He could not come to an unhallow’d end!

PRIEST.

Nay, God forbid! You recollect I mention’d

A habit which disquietude and grief

Had brought upon him, and we all conjectur’d

That, as the day was warm, he had lain down

Upon the grass, and, waiting for his comrades

He there had fallen asleep, that in his sleep

He to the margin of the precipice

Had walk’d, and from the summit had fallen head-long,

And so no doubt he perish’d: at the time,

We guess, that in his hands he must have had

His Shepherd’s staff; for midway in the cliff

It had been caught, and there for many years

It hung — and moulder’d there.

                              The Priest here ended —

The Stranger would have thank’d him, but he felt

Tears rushing in; both left the spot in silence,

And Leonard, when they reach’d the church-yard gate,

As the Priest lifted up the latch, turn’d round,

And, looking at the grave, he said, “My Brother.”

The Vicar did not hear the words: and now,

Pointing towards the Cottage, he entreated

That Leonard would partake his homely fare:

The other thank’d him with a fervent voice,

But added, that, the evening being calm,

He would pursue his journey. So they parted.

It was not long ere Leonard reach’d a grove

That overhung the road: he there stopp’d short,

And, sitting down beneath the trees, review’d

All that the Priest had said: his early years

Were with him in his heart: his cherish’d hopes,

And thoughts which had been his an hour before.

All press’d on him with such a weight, that now,

This vale, where he had been so happy, seem’d

A place in which he could not bear to live:

So he relinquish’d all his purposes.

He travell’d on to Egremont; and thence,

That night, address’d a letter to the Priest

Reminding him of what had pass’d between them.

And adding, with a hope to be forgiven,

That it was from the weakness of his heart,

He had not dared to tell him, who he was.

This done, he went on shipboard, and is now

A Seaman, a grey headed Mariner.

NOTE I.

Page 26 — line 20 “There were two springs that bubbled side by side.” The impressive circumstance here described, actually took place some years ago in this country, upon an eminence called Kidstow Pike, one of the highest of the mountains that surround Hawes-water. The summit of the pike was stricken by lightning; and every trace of one of the fountains disappeared, while the other continued to flow as before.

NOTE II.

Page 29 — line 5 “The thought of death sits easy on the man,” &c. There is not any thing more worthy of remark in the manners of the inhabitants of these mountains, than the tranquillity, I might say indifference, with which they think and talk upon the subject of death. Some of the country church-yards, as here described, do not contain a single tombstone, and most of them have a very small number.

Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle

The Kirtle is a River in the Southern part of Scotland, on whose banks the events here related took place.

Fair Ellen Irwin, when she sate

Upon the Braes of Kirtle,

Was lovely as a Grecian Maid

Adorn’d with wreaths of myrtle.

Young Adam Bruce beside her lay,

And there did they beguile the day

With love and gentle speeches,

Beneath the budding beeches.

From many Knights and many Squires

The Brace had been selected,

And Gordon, fairest of them all,

By Ellen was rejected.

Sad tidings to that noble Youth!

For it may be proclaim’d with truth,

If Bruce hath lov’d sincerely,

The Gordon loves as dearly.

But what is Gordon’s beauteous face?

And what are Gordon’s crosses

To them who sit by Kirtle’s Braes

Upon the verdant mosses?

Alas that ever he was born!

The Gordon, couch’d behind a thorn,

Sees them and their caressing,

Beholds them bless’d and blessing.

Proud Gordon cannot bear the thoughts

That through his brain are travelling,

And, starting up, to Bruce’s heart

He launch’d a deadly jav’lin!

Fair Ellen saw it when it came,

And, stepping forth to meet the same,

Did with her body cover

The Youth her chosen lover.

And, falling into Bruce’s arms,

Thus died the beauteous Ellen,

Thus from the heart of her true-love

The mortal spear repelling.

And Bruce, as soon as he had slain

The Gordon, sail’d away to Spain,

And fought with rage incessant

Against the Moorish Crescent.

But many days and many months,

And many years ensuing,

This wretched Knight did vainly seek

The death that he was wooing:

So coming back across the wave,

Without a groan on Ellen’s grave

His body he extended,

And there his sorrow ended.

Now ye who willingly have heard

The tale I have been telling,

May in Kirkonnel church-yard view

The grave of lovely Ellen:

By Ellen’s side the Bruce is laid,

And, for the stone upon his head,

May no rude hand deface it,

And its forlorn ‘Hic jacet’.

Strange fits of passion I have known, &c.

Strange fits of passion I have known,

And I will dare to tell,

But in the lover’s ear alone,

What once to me befel.

When she I lov’d, was strong and gay

And like a rose in June,

I to her cottage bent my way,

Beneath the evening moon.

Upon the moon I fix’d my eye,

All over the wide lea;

My horse trudg’d on, and we drew nigh

Those paths so dear to me.

And now we reach’d the orchard plot,

And, as we climb’d the hill,

Towards the roof of Lucy’s cot

The moon descended still.

In one of those sweet dreams I slept,

Kind Nature’s gentlest boon!

And, all the while, my eyes I kept

On the descending moon.

My horse mov’d on; hoof after hoof

He rais’d and never stopp’d:

When down behind the cottage roof

At once the planet dropp’d.

What fond and wayward thoughts will slide

Into a Lover’s head —

“O mercy!” to myself I cried,

“If Lucy should be dead!”

Song

She dwelt among th’ untrodden ways

  Beside the springs of Dove,

A Maid whom there were none to praise

  And very few to love.

A Violet by a mossy stone

  Half-hidden from the Eye!

— Fair, as a star when only one

  Is shining in the sky!

She liv’d unknown, and few could know

  When Lucy ceas’d to be;

But she is in her Grave, and Oh!

  The difference to me.

A slumber did my spirit seal, &c

A slumber did my spirit seal,

  I had no human fears:

She seem’d a thing that could not feel

  The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force

  She neither hears nor sees

Roll’d round in earth’s diurnal course

  With rocks and stones and trees!

The Waterfall and the Eglantine

“Begone, thou fond presumptuous Elf,

Exclaim’d a thundering Voice,

Nor dare to thrust thy foolish self

Between me and my choice!”

A falling Water swoln with snows

Thus spake to a poor Briar-rose,

That all bespatter’d with his foam,

And dancing high, and dancing low,

Was living, as a child might know,

In an unhappy home.

“Dost thou presume my course to block?

Off, off! or, puny Thing!

I’ll hurl thee headlong with the rock

To which thy fibres cling.”

The Flood was tyrannous and strong;

The patient Briar suffer’d long,

Nor did he utter groan or sigh,

Hoping the danger would be pass’d:

But seeing no relief, at last

He venture’d to reply.

“Ah!” said the Briar, “Blame me not!

Why should we dwell in strife?

We who in this, our natal spot,

Once liv’d a happy life!

You stirr’d me on my rocky bed —

What pleasure thro’ my veins you spread!

The Summer long from day to day

My leaves you freshen’d and bedew’d;

Nor was it common gratitude

That did your cares repay.”

When Spring came on with bud and bell,

Among these rocks did I

Before you hang my wreath to tell

That gentle days were nigh!

And in the sultry summer hours

I shelter’d you with leaves and flowers;

And in my leaves now shed and gone

The linnet lodg’d and for us two

Chaunted his pretty songs when you

Had little voice or none.

But now proud thoughts are in your breast —

What grief is mine you see.

Ah! would you think, ev’n yet how blest

Together we might be!

Though of both leaf and flower bereft,

Some ornaments to me are left —

Rich store of scarlet hips is mine,

With which I in my humble way

Would deck you many a Winter’s day,

A happy Eglantine!

What more he said, I cannot tell.

The stream came thundering down the dell

And gallop’d loud and fast;

I listen’d, nor aught else could hear,

The Briar quak’d and much I fear.

Those accents were his last.

The Oak and the Broom

A Pastoral.

His simple truths did Andrew glean

Beside the babbling rills;

A careful student he had been

Among the woods and hills.

One winter’s night when through the Trees

The wind was thundering, on his knees

His youngest born did Andrew hold:

And while the rest, a ruddy quire

Were seated round their blazing fire,

This Tale the Shepherd told.

I saw a crag, a lofty stone

As ever tempest beat!

Out of its head an Oak had grown,

A Broom out of its feet.

The time was March, a chearful noon —

The thaw-wind with the breath of June

Breath’d gently from the warm South-west;

When in a voice sedate with age

This Oak, half giant and half sage,

His neighbour thus address’d.

“Eight weary weeks, thro’ rock and clay,

Along this mountain’s edge

The Frost hath wrought both night and day,

Wedge driving after wedge.

Look up, and think, above your head

What trouble surely will be bred;

Last night I heard a crash —’tis true,

The splinters took another road —

I see them yonder — what a load

For such a Thing as you!”

You are preparing as before

To deck your slender shape;

And yet, just three years back — no more —

You had a strange escape.

Down from yon Cliff a fragment broke,

It came, you know, with fire and smoke

And hither did it bend its way.

This pond’rous block was caught by me,

And o’er your head, as you may see,

’Tis hanging to this day.

The Thing had better been asleep,

Whatever thing it were,

Or Breeze, or Bird, or fleece of Sheep,

That first did plant you there.

For you and your green twigs decoy

The little witless Shepherd-boy

To come and slumber in your bower;

And trust me, on some sultry noon,

Both you and he, Heaven knows how soon!

Will perish in one hour.

“From me this friendly warning take”—

— The Broom began to doze,

And thus to keep herself awake

Did gently interpose.

“My thanks for your discourse are due;

That it is true, and more than true,

I know and I have known it long;

Frail is the bond, by which we hold

Our being, be we young or old,

Wise, foolish, weak or strong.”

Disasters, do the best we can,

Will reach both great and small;

And he is oft the wisest man,

Who is not wise at all.

For me, why should I wish to roam?

This spot is my paternal home,

It is my pleasant Heritage;

My Father many a happy year

Here spread his careless blossoms, here

Attain’d a good old age.

Even such as his may be may lot.

What cause have I to haunt

My heart with terrors? Am I not

In truth a favor’d plant!

The Spring for me a garland weaves

Of yellow flowers and verdant leaves,

And, when the Frost is in the sky,

My branches are so fresh and gay

That You might look on me and say

This plant can never die.

The butterfly, all green and gold,

To me hath often flown,

Here in my Blossoms to behold

Wings lovely as his own.

When grass is chill with rain or dew,

Beneath my shade the mother ewe

Lies with her infant lamb; I see

The love, they to each other make,

And the sweet joy, which they partake,

It is a joy to me.

Her voice was blithe, her heart was light;

The Broom might have pursued

Her speech, until the stars of night

Their journey had renew’d.

But in the branches of the Oak

Two Ravens now began to croak

Their nuptial song, a gladsome air;

And to her own green bower the breeze

That instant brought two stripling Bees

To feed and murmur there.

One night the Wind came from the North

And blew a furious blast,

At break of day I ventur’d forth

And near the Cliff I pass’d.

The storm had fall’n upon the Oak

And struck him with a mighty stroke,

And whirl’d and whirl’d him far away;

And in one hospitable Cleft

The little careless Broom was left

To live for many a day.

Lucy Gray

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray,

And when I cross’d the Wild,

I chanc’d to see at break of day

The solitary Child.

No Mate, no comrade Lucy knew;

She dwelt on a wild Moor,

The sweetest Thing that ever grew

Beside a human door!

You yet may spy the Fawn at play,

The Hare upon the Green;

But the sweet face of Lucy Gray

Will never more be seen.

“To-night will be a stormy night,

You to the Town must go,

And take a lantern, Child, to light

Your Mother thro’ the snow.”

“That, Father! will I gladly do;

’Tis scarcely afternoon —

The Minster-clock has just struck two,

And yonder is the Moon.”

At this the Father rais’d his hook

And snapp’d a faggot-band;

He plied his work, and Lucy took

The lantern in her hand.

Not blither is the mountain roe,

With many a wanton stroke

Her feet disperse, the powd’ry snow

That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time,

She wander’d up and down,

And many a hill did Lucy climb

But never reach’d the Town.

The wretched Parents all that night

Went shouting far and wide;

But there was neither sound nor sight

To serve them for a guide.

At day-break on a hill they stood

That overlook’d the Moor;

And thence they saw the Bridge of Wood

A furlong from their door.

And now they homeward turn’d, and cry’d

“In Heaven we all shall meet!”

When in the snow the Mother spied

The print of Lucy’s feet.

Then downward from the steep hill’s edge

They track’d the footmarks small;

And through the broken hawthorn-hedge,

And by the long stone-wall;

And then an open field they cross’d,

The marks were still the same;

They track’d them on, nor ever lost,

And to the Bridge they came.

They follow’d from the snowy bank

The footmarks, one by one,

Into the middle of the plank,

And further there were none.

Yet some maintain that to this day

She is a living Child,

That you may see sweet Lucy Gray

Upon the lonesome Wild.

O’er rough and smooth she trips along,

And never looks behind;

And sings a solitary song

That whistles in the wind.

The Idle Shepherd–Boys
or
Dungeon–Gill Force

A Pastoral.

‘Gill’, in the dialect of Cumberland and Westmoreland, is a short and for the most part a steep narrow valley, with a stream running through it. Force is the word universally employed in these dialects for Waterfall.

I.

The valley rings with mirth and joy,

Among the hills the Echoes play

A never, never ending song

To welcome in the May.

The Magpie chatters with delight;

The mountain Raven’s youngling Brood

Have left the Mother and the Nest,

And they go rambling east and west

In search of their own food,

Or thro’ the glittering Vapors dart

In very wantonness of Heart.

II.

Beneath a rock, upon the grass,

Two Boys are sitting in the sun;

It seems they have no work to do

Or that their work is done.

On pipes of sycamore they play

The fragments of a Christmas Hymn,

Or with that plant which in our dale

We call Stag-horn, or Fox’s Tail

Their rusty Hats they trim:

And thus as happy as the Day,

Those Shepherds wear the time away.

III.

Along the river’s stony marge

The sand-lark chaunts a joyous song;

The thrush is busy in the Wood,

And carols loud and strong.

A thousand lambs are on the rocks,

All newly born! both earth and sky

Keep jubilee, and more than all,

Those Boys with their green Coronal,

They never hear the cry,

That plaintive cry! which up the hill

Comes from the depth of Dungeon–Gill.

IV.

Said Walter, leaping from the ground,

“Down to the stump of yon old yew

I’ll run with you a race.”— No more —

Away the Shepherds flew.

They leapt, they ran, and when they came

Right opposite to Dungeon–Gill,

Seeing, that he should lose the prize,

“Stop!” to his comrade Walter cries —

James stopp’d with no good will:

Said Walter then, “Your task is here,

’Twill keep you working half a year.”

V.

“Till you have cross’d where I shall cross,

Say that you’ll neither sleep nor eat.”

James proudly took him at his word,

But did not like the feat.

It was a spot, which you may see

If ever you to Langdale go:

Into a chasm a mighty Block

Hath fallen, and made a bridge of rock;

The gulph is deep below,

And in a bason black and small

Receives a lofty Waterfall.

VI.

With staff in hand across the cleft

The Challenger began his march;

And now, all eyes and feet, hath gain’d

The middle of the arch.

When list! he hears a piteous moan —

Again! his heart within him dies —

His pulse is stopp’d, his breath is lost,

He totters, pale as any ghost,

And, looking down, he spies

A Lamb, that in the pool is pent

Within that black and frightful rent.

VII.

The Lamb had slipp’d into the stream,

And safe without a bruise or wound

The Cataract had borne him down

Into the gulph profound,

His dam had seen him when he fell,

She saw him down the torrent borne;

And while with all a mother’s love

She from the lofty rocks above

Sent forth a cry forlorn,

The Lamb, still swimming round and round

Made answer to that plaintive sound.

VIII.

When he had learnt, what thing it was,

That sent this rueful cry; I ween,

The Boy recover’d heart, and told

The sight which he had seen.

Both gladly now deferr’d their task;

Nor was there wanting other aid —

A Poet, one who loves the brooks

Far better than the sages’ books,

By chance had thither stray’d;

And there the helpless Lamb he found

By those huge rocks encompass’d round.

IX.

He drew it gently from the pool,

And brought it forth into the light;

The Shepherds met him with his charge

An unexpected sight!

Into their arms the Lamb they took,

Said they, “He’s neither maim’d nor scarr’d”—

Then up the steep ascent they hied

And placed him at his Mother’s side;

And gently did the Bard

Those idle Shepherd-boys upbraid,

And bade them better mind their trade.

’Tis said that some have died for love, &c.

’Tis said, that some have died for love:

And here and there a church-yard grave is found

In the cold North’s unhallow’d ground,

Because the wretched man himself had slain,

His love was such a grievous pain.

And there is one whom I five years have known;

He dwells alone

Upon Helvellyn’s side.

He loved — The pretty Barbara died,

And thus he makes his moan:

Three years had Barbara in her grave been laid

When thus his moan he made.

Oh! move thou Cottage from behind that oak

Or let the aged tree uprooted lie,

That in some other way yon smoke

May mount into the sky!

The clouds pass on; they from the Heavens depart:

I look — the sky is empty space;

I know not what I trace;

But when I cease to look, my hand is on my heart.

O! what a weight is in these shades! Ye leaves,

When will that dying murmur be suppress’d?

Your sound my heart of peace bereaves,

It robs my heart of rest.

Thou Thrush, that singest loud and loud and free,

Into yon row of willows flit,

Upon that alder sit;

Or sing another song, or chuse another tree

Roll back, sweet rill! back to thy mountain bounds,

And there for ever be thy waters chain’d!

For thou dost haunt the air with sounds

That cannot be sustain’d;

If still beneath that pine-tree’s ragged bough

Headlong yon waterfall must come,

Oh let it then be dumb! —

Be any thing, sweet rill, but that which thou art now.

Thou Eglantine whose arch so proudly towers

(Even like a rainbow spanning half the vale)

Thou one fair shrub, oh! shed thy flowers,

And stir not in the gale.

For thus to see thee nodding in the air,

To see thy arch thus stretch and bend,

Thus rise and thus descend,

Disturbs me, till the sight is more than I can bear.

The man who makes this feverish complaint

Is one of giant stature, who could dance

Equipp’d from head to foot in iron mail.

Ah gentle Love! if ever thought was thine

To store up kindred hours for me, thy face

Turn from me, gentle Love, nor let me walk

Within the sound of Emma’s voice, or know

Such happiness as I have known today.

Poor Susan

At the corner of Wood–Street, when day-light appears,

There’s a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:

Poor Susan has pass’d by the spot and has heard

In the silence of morning the song of the bird.

’Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees

A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;

Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,

And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,

Down which she so often has tripp’d with her pail,

And a single small cottage, a nest like a Jove’s,

The only one dwelling on earth that she loves.

She looks, and her heart is in Heaven, but they fade,

The mist and the river, the hill and the shade;

The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,

And the colours have all pass’d away from her eyes.

Poor Outcast! return — to receive thee once more

The house of thy Father will open its door,

And thou once again, in thy plain russet gown,

May’st hear the thrush sing from a tree of its own.

Inscription for the Spot where the Hermitage stood on St. Herbert’s Island, Derwent–Water

If thou in the dear love of some one friend

Hast been so happy, that thou know’st what thoughts

Will, sometimes, in the happiness of love

Make the heart sink, then wilt thou reverence

This quiet spot. — St. Herbert hither came

And here, for many seasons, from the world

Remov’d, and the affections of the world

He dwelt in solitude. He living here,

This island’s sole inhabitant! had left

A Fellow-labourer, whom the good Man lov’d

As his own soul; and when within his cave

Alone he knelt before the crucifix

While o’er the lake the cataract of Lodore

Peal’d to his orisons, and when he pac’d

Along the beach of this small isle and thought

Of his Companion, he had pray’d that both

Might die in the same moment. Nor in vain

So pray’d he:— as our Chronicles report,

Though here the Hermit number’d his last days,

Far from St. Cuthbert his beloved friend,

Those holy men both died in the same hour.

Inscription for the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere

Rude is this Edifice, and Thou hast seen

Buildings, albeit rude, that have maintain’d

Proportions more harmonious, and approach’d

To somewhat of a closer fellowship

With the ideal grace. Yet as it is

Do take it in good part; for he, the poor

Vitruvius of our village, had no help

From the great city; never on the leaves

Of red Morocco folio saw display’d

The skeletons and preexisting ghosts

Of Beauties yet unborn, the rustic Box,

Snug Cot, with Coach-house, Shed and Hermitage.

It is a homely pile, yet to these walls

The heifer comes in the snow-storm, and here

The new-dropp’d lamb finds shelter from the wind.

And hither does one Poet sometimes row

His pinnace, a small vagrant barge, up-piled

With plenteous store of heath and wither’d fern,

A lading which he with his sickle cuts

Among the mountains, and beneath this roof

He makes his summer couch, and here at noon

Spreads out his limbs, while, yet unborn, the sheep

Panting beneath the burthen of their wool

Lie round him, even as if they were a part

Of his own household: nor, while from his bed

He through that door-place looks toward the lake

And to the stirring breezes, does he want

Creations lovely as the work of sleep,

Fair sights, and visions of romantic joy.

To a Sexton

Let thy wheel-barrow alone.

Wherefore, Sexton, piling still

In thy bone-house bone on bone?

Tis already like a hill

In a field of battle made,

Where three thousand skulls are laid.

— These died in peace each with the other,

Father, Sister, Friend, and Brother.

Mark the spot to which I point!

From this platform eight feet square

Take not even a finger-joint:

Andrew’s whole fire-side is there.

Here, alone, before thine eyes,

Simon’s sickly Daughter lies

From weakness, now, and pain defended,

Whom he twenty winters tended.

Look but at the gardener’s pride,

How he glories, when he sees

Roses, lilies, side by side,

Violets in families.

By the heart of Man, his tears,

By his hopes and by his fears,

Thou, old Grey-beard! art the Warden

Of a far superior garden.

Thus then, each to other dear,

Let them all in quiet lie,

Andrew there and Susan here,

Neighbours in mortality.

And should I live through sun and rain

Seven widow’d years without my Jane,

O Sexton, do not then remove her,

Let one grave hold the Lov’d and Lover!

Andrew Jones

I hate that Andrew Jones: he’ll breed

His children up to waste and pillage.

I wish the press-gang or the drum

With its tantara sound would come,

And sweep him from the village!

I said not this, because he loves

Through the long day to swear and tipple;

But for the poor dear sake of one

To whom a foul deed he had done,

A friendless Man, a travelling Cripple!

For this poor crawling helpless wretch

Some Horseman who was passing by,

A penny on the ground had thrown;

But the poor Cripple was alone

And could not stoop — no help was nigh.

Inch-thick the dust lay on the ground

For it had long been droughty weather:

So with his staff the Cripple wrought

Among the dust till he had brought

The halfpennies together.

It chanc’d that Andrew pass’d that way

Just at the time; and there he found

The Cripple in the mid-day heat

Standing alone, and at his feet

He saw the penny on the ground.

He stopp’d and took the penny up.

And when the Cripple nearer drew,

Quoth Andrew, “Under half-a-crown.

What a man finds is all his own,

And so, my Friend, good day to you.”

And hence I said, that Andrew’s boys

Will all be train’d to waste and pillage;

And wish’d the press-gang, or the drum

With its tantara sound, would come

And sweep him from the village!

The two Thieves, or the last stage of Avarice

Oh now that the genius of Bewick were mine

And the skill which He learn’d on the Banks of the Tyne;

When the Muses might deal with me just as they chose

For I’d take my last leave both of verse and of prose.

What feats would I work with my magical hand!

Book-learning and books should be banish’d the land

And for hunger and thirst and such troublesome calls

Every ale-house should then have a feast on its walls.

The Traveller would hang his wet clothes on a chair

Let them smoke, let them burn, not a straw would he care.

For the Prodigal Son, Joseph’s Dream and his Sheaves,

Oh what would they be to my tale of two Thieves!

Little Dan is unbreech’d, he is three birth-days old,

His Grandsire that age more than thirty times told,

There’s ninety good seasons of fair and foul weather

Between them, and both go a stealing together.

With chips is the Carpenter strewing his floor?

It a cart-load of peats at an old Woman’s door?

Old Daniel his hand to the treasure will slide,

And his Grandson’s as busy at work by his side.

Old Daniel begins, he stops short and his eye

Through the lost look of dotage is cunning and sly.

’Tis a look which at this time is hardly his own,

But tells a plain tale of the days that are flown.

Dan once had a heart which was mov’d by the wires

Of manifold pleasures and many desires:

And what if he cherish’d his purse? ’Twas no more

Than treading a path trod by thousands before.

’Twas a path trod by thousands, but Daniel is one

Who went something farther than others have gone;

And now with old Daniel you see how it fares

You see to what end he has brought his grey hairs.

The pair sally forth hand in hand; ere the sun

Has peer’d o’er the beeches their work is begun:

And yet into whatever sin they may fall,

This Child but half knows it and that not at all.

They hunt through the street with deliberate tread,

And each in his turn is both leader and led;

And wherever they carry their plots and their wiles,

Every face in the village is dimpled with smiles.

Neither check’d by the rich nor the needy they roam,

For grey-headed Dan has a daughter at home;

Who will gladly repair all the damage that’s done,

And three, were it ask’d, would be render’d for one.

Old Man! whom so oft I with pity have ey’d,

I love thee and love the sweet boy at thy side:

Long yet may’st thou live, for a teacher we see

That lifts up the veil of our nature in thee.

A whirl-blast from behind the Hill, &c.

A whirl-blast from behind the hill

Rush’d o’er the wood with startling sound:

Then all at once the air was still,

And showers of hail-stones patter’d round.

Where leafless Oaks tower’d high above,

I sate within an undergrove

Of tallest hollies, tall and green,

A fairer bower was never seen.

From year to year the spacious floor

With wither’d leaves is cover’d o’er,

You could not lay a hair between:

And all the year the bower is green.

But see! where’er the hailstones drop

The wither’d leaves all skip and hop,

There’s not a breeze — no breath of air —

Yet here, and there, and every where

Along the floor, beneath the shade

By those embowering hollies made,

The leaves in myriads jump and spring,

As if with pipes and music rare

Some Robin Good-fellow were there,

And all those leaves, that jump and spring,

Were each a joyous, living thing.

Oh! grant me Heaven a heart at ease

That I may never cease to find,

Even in appearances like these

Enough to nourish and to stir my mind!

Song for the wandering Jew

Though the torrents from their fountains

Roar down many a craggy steep,

Yet they find among the mountains

Resting-places calm and deep.

Though almost with eagle pinion

O’er the rocks the Chamois roam.

Yet he has some small dominion

Which no doubt he calls his home.

If on windy days the Raven

Gambol like a dancing skiff,

Not the less he loves his haven

On the bosom of the cliff.

Though the Sea-horse in the ocean

Own no dear domestic cave;

Yet he slumbers without motion

On the calm and silent wave.

Day and night my toils redouble!

Never nearer to the goal,

Night and day, I feel the trouble,

Of the Wanderer in my soul.

Ruth

When Ruth was left half desolate,

Her Father took another Mate;

And so, not seven years old,

The slighted Child at her own will

Went wandering over dale and hill

In thoughtless freedom bold.

And she had made a pipe of straw

And from that oaten pipe could draw

All sounds of winds and floods;

Had built a bower upon the green,

As if she from her birth had been

An Infant of the woods.

There came a Youth from Georgia’s shore,

A military Casque he wore

With splendid feathers drest;

He brought them from the Cherokees;

The feathers nodded in the breeze

And made a gallant crest.

From Indian blood you deem him sprung:

Ah no! he spake the English tongue

And bare a Soldier’s name;

And when America was free

From battle and from jeopardy

He cross the ocean came.

With hues of genius on his cheek

In finest tones the Youth could speak.

— While he was yet a Boy

The moon, the glory of the sun,

And streams that murmur as they run

Had been his dearest joy.

He was a lovely Youth! I guess

The panther in the wilderness

Was not so fair as he;

And when he chose to sport and play,

No dolphin ever was so gay

Upon the tropic sea.

Among the Indians he had fought,

And with him many tales he brought

Of pleasure and of fear,

Such tales as told to any Maid

By such a Youth in the green shade

Were perilous to hear.

He told of Girls, a happy rout,

Who quit their fold with dance and shout

Their pleasant Indian Town

To gather strawberries all day long,

Returning with a choral song

When day-light is gone down.

He spake of plants divine and strange

That ev’ry day their blossoms change,

Ten thousand lovely hues!

With budding, fading, faded flowers

They stand the wonder of the bowers

From morn to evening dews.

He told of the Magnolia, 13 spread

High as a cloud, high over head!

The Cypress and her spire,

Of flowers that with one scarlet gleam 14

Cover a hundred leagues and seem

To set the hills on fire.

13 Magnolia grandiflora.

14 The splendid appearance of these scarlet flowers, which are scattered with such profusion over the Hills in the Southern parts of North America is frequently mentioned by Bartram in his Travels.

The Youth of green Savannahs spake,

And many an endless endless lake

With all its fairy crowds

Of islands that together lie

As quietly as spots of sky

Among the evening clouds:

And then he said “How sweet it were

A fisher or a hunter there,

A gardener in the shade,

Still wandering with an easy mind

To build a household fire and find

A home in every glade.”

“What days and what sweet years! Ah me!

Our life were life indeed, with thee

So pass’d in quiet bliss,

And all the while” said he “to know

That we were in a world of woe.

On such an earth as this!”

And then he sometimes interwove

Dear thoughts about a Father’s love,

“For there,” said he, “are spun

Around the heart such tender ties

That our own children to our eyes

Are dearer than the sun.”

Sweet Ruth! and could you go with me

My helpmate in the woods to be,

Our shed at night to rear;

Or run, my own adopted bride,

A sylvan huntress at my side

And drive the flying deer.

“Beloved Ruth!” No more he said

Sweet Ruth alone at midnight shed

A solitary tear,

She thought again — and did agree

With him to sail across the sea,

And drive the flying deer.

“And now, as fitting is and right,

We in the Church our faith will plight,

A Husband and a Wife.”

Even so they did; and I may say

That to sweet Ruth that happy day

Was more than human life.

Through dream and vision did she sink,

Delighted all the while to think

That on those lonesome floods

And green Savannahs she should share

His board with lawful joy, and bear

His name in the wild woods.

But, as you have before been told,

This Stripling, sportive gay and bold,

And, with his dancing crest,

So beautiful, through savage lands

Had roam’d about with vagrant bands

Of Indians in the West.

The wind, the tempest roaring high,

The tumult of a tropic sky

Might well be dangerous food.

For him, a Youth to whom was given

So much of earth so much of Heaven,

And such impetuous blood.

Whatever in those climes he found

Irregular in sight or sound

Did to his mind impart

A kindred impulse, seem’d allied

To his own powers, and justified

The workings of his heart.

Nor less to feed voluptuous thought

The beauteous forms of Nature wrought,

Fair trees and lovely flowers;

The breezes their own languor lent,

The stars had feelings which they sent

Into those magic bowers.

Yet, in his worst pursuits, I ween,

That sometimes there did intervene

Pure hopes of high intent:

For passions link’d to forms so fair

And stately, needs must have their share

Of noble sentiment.

But ill he liv’d, much evil saw

With men to whom no better law

Nor better life was known;

Deliberately and undeceiv’d

Those wild men’s vices he receiv’d,

And gave them back his own.

His genius and his moral frame

Were thus impair’d, and he became

The slave of low desires;

A man who without self-controul

Would seek what the degraded soul

Unworthily admires.

And yet he with no feign’d delight

Had woo’d the Maiden, day and night

Had luv’d her, night and morn;

What could he less than love a Maid

Whose heart with so much nature play’d

So kind and so forlorn?

But now the pleasant dream was gone,

No hope, no wish remain’d, not one,

They stirr’d him now no more,

New objects did new pleasure give,

And once again he wish’d to live

As lawless as before.

Meanwhile as thus with him it fared.

They for the voyage were prepared

And went to the sea-shore,

But, when they thither came, the Youth

Deserted his poor Bride, and Ruth

Could never find him more.

“God help thee Ruth!”— Such pains she had

That she in half a year was mad

And in a prison hous’d,

And there, exulting in her wrongs,

Among the music of her songs

She fearfully carouz’d.

Yet sometimes milder hours she knew,

Nor wanted sun, nor rain, nor dew,

Nor pastimes of the May,

They all were with her in her cell,

And a wild brook with chearful knell

Did o’er the pebbles play.

When Ruth three seasons thus had lain

There came a respite to her pain,

She from her prison fled;

But of the Vagrant none took thought,

And where it liked her best she sought

Her shelter and her bread.

Among the fields she breath’d again:

The master-current of her brain

Ran permanent and free,

And to the pleasant Banks of Tone 15

She took her way, to dwell alone

Under the greenwood tree.

The engines of her grief, the tools

That shap’d her sorrow, rocks and pools,

And airs that gently stir

The vernal leaves, she loved them still,

Nor ever tax’d them with the ill

Which had been done to her.

15 The Tone is a River of Somersetshire at no great distance from the Quantock Hills. These Hills, which are alluded to a few Stanzas below, are extremely beautiful, and in most places richly covered with Coppice woods.

A Barn her winter bed supplies,

But till the warmth of summer skies

And summer days is gone,

(And in this tale we all agree)

She sleeps beneath the greenwood tree,

And other home hath none.

If she is press’d by want of food

She from her dwelling in the wood

Repairs to a road side,

And there she begs at one steep place,

Where up and down with easy pace

The horsemen-travellers ride.

That oaten pipe of hers is mute

Or thrown away, but with a flute

Her loneliness she cheers;

This flute made of a hemlock stalk

At evening in his homeward walk

The Quantock Woodman hears.

I, too have pass’d her on the hills

Setting her little water-mills

By spouts and fountains wild,

Such small machinery as she turn’d

Ere she had wept, ere she had mourn’d

A young and happy Child!

Farewel! and when thy days are told

Ill-fated Ruth! in hallow’d mold

Thy corpse shall buried be,

For thee a funeral bell shall ring,

And all the congregation sing

A Christian psalm for thee.

Lines written with a Slate–Pencil upon a Stone, the largest of a heap lying near a deserted Quarry, upon one of the Islands at Rydale.

Stranger! this hillock of mishapen stones

Is not a ruin of the ancient time,

Nor, as perchance thou rashly deem’st, the Cairn

Of some old British Chief: ’tis nothing more

Than the rude embryo of a little dome

Or pleasure-house, which was to have been built

Among the birch-trees of this rocky isle.

But, as it chanc’d, Sir William having learn’d

That from the shore a full-grown man might wade,

And make himself a freeman of this spot

At any hour he chose, the Knight forthwith

Desisted, and the quarry and the mound

Are monuments of his unfinish’d task. —

The block on which these lines are trac’d, perhaps,

Was once selected as the corner-stone

Of the intended pile, which would have been

Some quaint odd play-thing of elaborate skill,

So that, I guess, the linnet and the thrush,

And other little builders who dwell here,

Had wonder’d at the work. But blame him not,

For old Sir William was a gentle Knight

Bred in this vale to which he appertain’d

With all his ancestry. Then peace to him

And for the outrage which he had devis’d

Entire forgiveness. — But if thou art one

On fire with thy impatience to become

An Inmate of these mountains, if disturb’d

By beautiful conceptions, thou hast hewn

Out of the quiet rock the elements

Of thy trim mansion destin’d soon to blaze

In snow-white splendour, think again, and taught

By old Sir William and his quarry, leave

Thy fragments to the bramble and the rose,

There let the vernal slow-worm sun himself,

And let the red-breast hop from stone to stone.

Lines written on a Tablet in a School

In the School of —— is a tablet on which are inscribed, in gilt letters, the names of the federal persons who have been Schoolmasters there since the foundation of the School, with the time at which they entered upon and quitted their office. Opposite one of those names the Author wrote the following lines.

If Nature, for a favorite Child

In thee hath temper’d so her clay,

That every hour thy heart runs wild

Yet never once doth go astray,

Read o’er these lines; and then review

This tablet, that thus humbly rears

In such diversity of hue

Its history of two hundred years.

— When through this little wreck of fame,

Cypher and syllable, thine eye

Has travell’d down to Matthew’s name,

Pause with no common sympathy.

And if a sleeping tear should wake

Then be it neither check’d nor stay’d:

For Matthew a request I make

Which for himself he had not made.

Poor Matthew, all his frolics o’er,

Is silent as a standing pool,

Far from the chimney’s merry roar,

And murmur of the village school.

The sighs which Matthew heav’d were sighs

Of one tir’d out with fun and madness;

The tears which came to Matthew’s eyes

Were tears of light, the oil of gladness.

Yet sometimes when the secret cup

Of still and serious thought went round

It seem’d as if he drank it up,

He felt with spirit so profound.

— Thou soul of God’s best earthly mould,

Thou happy soul, and can it be

That these two words of glittering gold

Are all that must remain of thee?

The two April Mornings

We walk’d along, while bright and red

Uprose the morning sun,

And Matthew stopp’d, he look’d, and said,

“The will of God be done!”

A village Schoolmaster was he,

With hair of glittering grey;

As blithe a man as you could see

On a spring holiday.

And on that morning, through the grass,

And by the steaming rills,

We travell’d merrily to pass

A day among the hills.

“Our work,” said I, “was well begun;

Then, from thy breast what thought,

Beneath so beautiful a sun,

So sad a sigh has brought?”

A second time did Matthew stop,

And fixing still his eye

Upon the eastern mountain-top

To me he made reply.

Yon cloud with that long purple cleft

Brings fresh into my mind

A day like this which I have left

Full thirty years behind.

And on that slope of springing corn

The self-same crimson hue

Fell from the sky that April morn,

The same which now I view!

With rod and line my silent sport

I plied by Derwent’s wave,

And, coming to the church, stopp’d short

Beside my Daughter’s grave.

Nine summers had she scarcely seen

The pride of all the vale;

And then she sang! — she would have been

A very nightingale.

Six feet in earth my Emma lay,

And yet I lov’d her more,

For so it seem’d, than till that day

I e’er had lov’d before.

And, turning from her grave, I met

Beside the church-yard Yew

A blooming Girl, whose hair was wet

With points of morning dew.

The Fountain, a conversation

We talk’d with open heart, and tongue

Affectionate and true,

A pair of Friends, though I was young,

And Matthew seventy-two.

We lay beneath a spreading oak,

Beside a mossy seat,

And from the turf a fountain broke,

And gurgled at our feet.

Now, Matthew, let us try to match

This water’s pleasant tune

With some old Border-song, or catch

That suits a summer’s noon.

Or of the Church-clock and the chimes

Sing here beneath the shade,

That half-mad thing of witty rhymes

Which you last April made!

On silence Matthew lay, and eyed

The spring beneath the tree;

And thus the dear old Man replied,

The grey-hair’d Man of glee.

“Down to the vale this water steers,

How merrily it goes!

Twill murmur on a thousand years,

And flow as now it flows.”

And here, on this delightful day,

I cannot chuse but think

How oft, a vigorous Man, I lay

Beside this Fountain’s brink.

My eyes are dim with childish tears.

My heart is idly stirr’d,

For the same sound is in my ears,

Which in those days I heard.

Thus fares it still in our decay:

And yet the wiser mind

Mourns less for what age takes away

Than what it leaves behind.

The blackbird in the summer trees,

The lark upon the hill,

Let loose their carols when they please,

Are quiet when they will.

With Nature never do they wage

A foolish strife; they see

A happy youth, and their old age

Is beautiful and free:

But we are press’d by heavy laws,

And often, glad no more,

We wear a face of joy, because

We have been glad of yore.

If there is one who need bemoan

His kindred laid in earth,

The houshold hearts that were his own,

It is the man of mirth.

“My days, my Friend, are almost gone,

My life has been approv’d,

And many love me, but by none

Am I enough belov’d.”

“Now both himself and me he wrongs,

The man who thus complains!

I live and sing my idle songs

Upon these happy plains,”

“And, Matthew, for thy Children dead

I’ll be a son to thee!”

At this he grasp’d his hands, and said,

“Alas! that cannot be.”

We rose up from the fountain-side,

And down the smooth descent

Of the green sheep-track did we glide,

And through the wood we went,

And, ere we came to Leonard’s Rock,

He sang those witty rhymes

About the crazy old church-clock

And the bewilder’d chimes.

Nutting

— It seems a day,

One of those heavenly days which cannot die,

When forth I sallied from our cottage-door, 16

And with a wallet o’er my shoulder slung,

A nutting crook in hand, I turn’d my steps

Towards the distant woods, a Figure quaint,

Trick’d out in proud disguise of Beggar’s weeds

Put on for the occasion, by advice

And exhortation of my frugal Dame.

16 The house at which I was boarded during the time I was at School.

Motley accoutrements! of power to smile

At thorns, and brakes, and brambles, and, in truth,

More ragged than need was. Among the woods,

And o’er the pathless rocks, I forc’d my way

Until, at length, I came to one dear nook

Unvisited, where not a broken bough

Droop’d with its wither’d leaves, ungracious sign

Of devastation, but the hazels rose

Tall and erect, with milk-white clusters hung,

A virgin scene! — A little while I stood,

Breathing with such suppression of the heart

As joy delights in; and with wise restraint

Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed

The banquet, or beneath the trees I sate

Among the flowers, and with the flowers I play’d;

A temper known to those, who, after long

And weary expectation, have been bless’d

With sudden happiness beyond all hope. —

— Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves

The violets of five seasons reappear

And fade, unseen by any human eye,

Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on

For ever, and I saw the sparkling foam,

And with my cheek on one of those green stones

That, fleec’d with moss, beneath the shady trees,

Lay round me scatter’d like a flock of sheep,

I heard the murmur and the murmuring sound,

In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay

Tribute to ease, and, of its joy secure

The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,

Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones,

And on the vacant air. Then up I rose,

And dragg’d to earth both branch and bough, with crash

And merciless ravage; and the shady nook

Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower

Deform’d and sullied, patiently gave up

Their quiet being: and unless I now

Confound my present feelings with the past,

Even then, when, from the bower I turn’d away,

Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings

I felt a sense of pain when I beheld

The silent trees and the intruding sky. —

Then, dearest Maiden! move along these shades

In gentleness of heart with gentle hand

Touch — for there is a Spirit in the woods.

Three years she grew in sun and shower, &c.

Three years she grew in sun and shower,

Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower

On earth was never sown;

This Child I to myself will take,

She shall be mine, and I will make

A Lady of my own.”

Myself will to my darling be

Both law and impulse, and with me

The Girl in rock and plain,

In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,

Shall feel an overseeing power

To kindle or restrain.

She shall be sportive as the fawn

That wild with glee across the lawn

Or up the mountain springs,

And hers shall be the breathing balm,

And hers the silence and the calm

Of mute insensate things.

The floating clouds their state shall lend

To her, for her the willow bend,

Nor shall she fail to see

Even in the motions of the storm

A beauty that shall mould her form

By silent sympathy.

The stars of midnight shall be dear

To her, and she shall lean her ear

In many a secret place

Where rivulets dance their wayward round,

And beauty born of murmuring sound

Shall pass into her face.

And vital feelings of delight

Shall rear her form to stately height,

Her virgin bosom swell,

Such thoughts to Lucy I will give

While she and I together live

Here in this happy dell.

Thus Nature spake — The work was done —

How soon my Lucy’s race was run!

She died and left to me

This heath, this calm and quiet scene,

The memory of what has been,

And never more will be.

The Pet–Lamb, a Pastoral

The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink;

I heard a voice, it said, Drink, pretty Creature, drink!

And, looking o’er the hedge, before me I espied;

A snow-white mountain Lamb with a Maiden at its side.

No other sheep were near, the Lamb was all alone,

And by a slender cord was tether’d to a stone;

With one knee on the grass did the little Maiden kneel,

While to that Mountain Lamb she gave its evening meal.

The Lamb while from her hand he thus his supper took

Seem’d to feast with head and ears, and his tail with pleasure shook.

“Drink, pretty Creature, drink,” she said in such a tone

That I almost receiv’d her heart into my own.

’Twas little Barbara Lewthwaite, a Child of beauty rare;

I watch’d them with delight, they were a lovely pair.

And now with empty Can the Maiden turn’d away,

But ere ten yards were gone her footsteps did she stay.

Towards the Lamb she look’d, and from that shady place

I unobserv’d could see the workings of her face:

If Nature to her tongue could measur’d numbers bring

Thus, thought I, to her Lamb that little Maid would sing.

What ails thee, Young One? What? Why pull so at thy cord?

Is it not well with thee? Well both for bed and board?

Thy plot of grass is soft, and green as grass can be.

Rest little Young One, rest; what is’t that aileth thee?

What is it thou would’st seek? What is wanting to thy heart?

Thy limbs are they not strong? And beautiful thou art:

This grass is tender grass, these flowers they have no peer,

And that green corn all day is rustling in thy ears.

If the Sun is shining hot, do but stretch thy woollen chain,

This beech is standing by, its covert thou can’st gain,

For rain and mountain storms the like thou need’st not fear,

The rain and storm are things which scarcely can come here.

Rest, little Young One, rest; thou hast forgot the day

When my Father found thee first in places far away:

Many flocks are on the hills, but thou wert own’d by none,

And thy Mother from thy side for evermore was gone.

He took thee in his arms, and in pity brought thee home,

A blessed day for thee! then whither would’st thou roam?

A faithful nurse thou hast, the dam that did thee yean

Upon the mountain tops no kinder could have been.

Thou know’st that twice a day I have brought thee in this Can

Fresh water from the brook as clear as ever ran;

And twice in the day when the ground is wet with dew

I bring thee draughts of milk, warm milk it is and new.

Thy limbs will shortly be twice as stout as they are now,

Then I’ll yoke thee to my cart like a pony in the plough,

My playmate thou shalt be, and when the wind is cold

Our hearth shall be thy bed, our house shall be thy fold.

It will not, will not rest! — poor Creature can it be

That ’tis thy Mother’s heart which is working so in thee?

Things that I know not of belike to thee are dear,

And dreams of things which thou can’st neither see nor hear.

Alas, the mountain tops that look so green and fair!

I’ve heard of fearful winds and darkness that come there,

The little brooks, that seem all pastime and all play,

When they are angry, roar like lions for their prey.

Here thou needst not dread the raven in the sky,

He will not come to thee, our Cottage is hard by,

Night and day thou art safe as living thing can be,

Be happy then and rest, what is’t that aileth thee?

As homeward through the lane I went with lazy feet,

This song to myself did I oftentimes repeat,

And it seem’d as I retrac’d the ballad line by line

That but half of it was hers, and one half of it was mine.

Again, and once again did I repeat the song,

“Nay” said I, “more than half to the Damsel must belong,

For she look’d with such a look, and she spake with such a tone,

That I almost receiv’d her heart into my own.”

Written in Germany on one of the coldest days of the century

I must apprize the Reader that the stoves in North Germany generally have the impression of a galloping Horse upon them, this being part of the Brunswick Arms.

A fig for your languages, German and Norse,

Let me have the song of the Kettle,

And the tongs and the poker, instead of that horse

That gallops away with such fury and force

On this dreary dull plate of black metal.

Our earth is no doubt made of excellent stuff,

But her pulses beat slower and slower.

The weather in Forty was cutting and rough,

And then, as Heaven knows, the glass stood low enough,

And now it is four degrees lower.

Here’s a Fly, a disconsolate creature, perhaps

A child of the field, or the grove,

And sorrow for him! this dull treacherous heat

Has seduc’d the poor fool from his winter retreat,

And he creeps to the edge of my stove.

Alas! how he fumbles about the domains

Which this comfortless oven environ,

He cannot find out in what track he must crawl

Now back to the tiles, and now back to the hall,

And now on the brink of the iron.

Stock-still there he stands like a traveller bemaz’d,

The best of his skill he has tried;

His feelers methinks I can see him put forth

To the East and the West, and the South and the North,

But he finds neither guide-post nor guide.

See! his spindles sink under him, foot, leg and thigh,

His eyesight and hearing are lost,

Between life and death his blood freezes and thaws,

And his two pretty pinions of blue dusky gauze

Are glued to his sides by the frost.

No Brother, no Friend has he near him, while I

Can draw warmth from the cheek of my Love,

As blest and as glad in this desolate gloom,

As if green summer grass were the floor of my room,

And woodbines were hanging above.

Yet, God is my witness, thou small helpless Thing,

Thy life I would gladly sustain

Till summer comes up from the South, and with crowds

Of thy brethren a march thou should’st sound through the clouds,

And back to the forests again.

The Childless Father

Up, Timothy, up with your Staff and away!

Not a soul in the village this morning will stay;

The Hare has just started from Hamilton’s grounds,

And Skiddaw is glad with the cry of the hounds.

— Of coats and of jackets both grey, scarlet, and green,

On the slopes of the pastures all colours were seen,

With their comely blue aprons and caps white as snow,

The girls on the hills made a holiday show.

The bason of box-wood, 17 just six months before,

Had stood on the table at Timothy’s door,

A Coffin through Timothy’s threshold had pass’d,

One Child did it bear and that Child was his last.

17 In several parts of the North of England, when a funeral takes place, a bason full of Sprigs of Box-wood is placed at the door of the house from which the Coffin is taken up, and each person who attends the funeral ordinarily takes a Sprig of this Box-wood, and throws it into the grave of the deceased.

Now fast up the dell came the noise and the fray,

The horse and the horn, and the hark! hark! away!

Old Timothy took up his Staff, and he shut

With a leisurely motion the door of his hut.

Perhaps to himself at that moment he said,

“The key I must take, for my Ellen is dead”

But of this in my ears not a word did he speak,

And he went to the chase with a tear on his cheek.

The Old Cumberland Beggar

A Description.

The class of Beggars to which the old man here described belongs, will probably soon be extinct. It consisted of poor, and, mostly, old and infirm persons, who confined themselves to a stated round in their neighbourhood, and had certain fixed days, on which, at different houses, they regularly received charity; sometimes in money, but mostly in provisions.

I saw an aged Beggar in my walk,

And he was seated by the highway side

On a low structure of rude masonry

Built at the foot of a huge hill, that they

Who lead their horses down the steep rough road

May thence remount at ease. The aged man

Had placed his staff across the broad smooth stone

That overlays the pile, and from a bag

All white with flour the dole of village dames,

He drew his scraps and fragments, one by one,

And scann’d them with a fix’d and serious look

Of idle computation. In the sun,

Upon the second step of that small pile,

Surrounded by those wild unpeopled hills,

He sate, and eat his food in solitude;

And ever, scatter’d from his palsied hand,

That still attempting to prevent the waste,

Was baffled still, the crumbs in little showers

Fell on the ground, and the small mountain birds,

Not venturing yet to peck their destin’d meal,

Approached within the length of half his staff.

Him from my childhood have I known, and then

He was so old, he seems not older now;

He travels on, a solitary man,

So helpless in appearance, that for him

The sauntering horseman-traveller does not throw

With careless hand his alms upon the ground,

But stops, that he may safely lodge the coin

Within the old Man’s hat; nor quits him so,

But still when he has given his horse the rein

Towards the aged Beggar turns a look,

Sidelong and half-reverted. She who tends

The toll-gate, when in summer at her door

She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees

The aged Beggar coming, quits her work,

And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.

The Post-boy when his rattling wheels o’ertake

The aged Beggar, in the woody lane,

Shouts to him from behind, and, if perchance

The old Man does not change his course, the Boy

Turns with less noisy wheels to the road-side,

And passes gently by, without a curse

Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.

He travels on, a solitary Man,

His age has no companion. On the ground

His eyes are turn’d, and, as he moves along,

They move along the ground; and evermore;

Instead of common and habitual sight

Of fields with rural works, of hill and dale,

And the blue sky, one little span of earth

Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day,

Bowbent, his eyes for ever on the ground,

He plies his weary journey, seeing still,

And never knowing that he sees, some straw,

Some scatter’d leaf, or marks which, in one track,

The nails of cart or chariot wheel have left

Impress’d on the white road, in the same line,

At distance still the same. Poor Traveller!

His staff trails with him, scarcely do his feet

Disturb the summer dust, he is so still

In look and motion that the cottage curs,

Ere he have pass’d the door, will turn away

Weary of barking at him. Boys and girls,

The vacant and the busy, maids and youths,

And urchins newly breech’d all pass him by:

Him even the slow-paced waggon leaves behind.

But deem not this man useless. — Statesmen! ye

Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye

Who have a broom still ready in your hands

To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud,

Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate

Your talents, power, and wisdom, deem him not

A burthen of the earth. Tis Nature’s law

That none, the meanest of created things,

Of forms created the most vile and brute,

The dullest or most noxious, should exist

Divorced from good, a spirit and pulse of good,

A life and soul to every mode of being

Inseparably link’d. While thus he creeps

From door to door, the Villagers in him

Behold a record which together binds

Past deeds and offices of charity

Else unremember’d, and so keeps alive

The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years,

And that half-wisdom, half-experience gives

Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign

To selfishness and cold oblivious cares.

Among the farms and solitary huts

Hamlets, and thinly-scattered villages,

Where’er the aged Beggar takes his rounds,

The mild necessity of use compels

To acts of love; and habit does the work

Of reason, yet prepares that after joy

Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul,

By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursu’d

Doth find itself insensibly dispos’d

To virtue and true goodness. Some there are,

By their good works exalted, lofty minds

And meditative, authors of delight

And happiness, which to the end of time

Will live, and spread, and kindle; minds like these,

In childhood, from this solitary being,

This helpless wanderer, have perchance receiv’d,

(A thing more precious far than all that books

Or the solicitudes of love can do!)

That first mild touch of sympathy and thought,

In which they found their kindred with a world

Where want and sorrow were. The easy man

Who sits at his own door, and like the pear

Which overhangs his head from the green wall,

Feeds in the sunshine; the robust and young,

The prosperous and unthinking, they who live

Shelter’d, and flourish in a little grove

Of their own kindred, all behold in him

A silent monitor, which on their minds

Must needs impress a transitory thought

Of self-congratulation, to the heart

Of each recalling his peculiar boons,

His charters and exemptions; and perchance,

Though he to no one give the fortitude

And circumspection needful to preserve

His present blessings, and to husband up

The respite of the season, he, at least,

And ’tis no vulgar service, makes them felt.

Yet further. — Many, I believe, there are

Who live a life of virtuous decency,

Men who can hear the Decalogue and feel

No self-reproach, who of the moral law

Establish’d in the land where they abide

Are strict observers, and not negligent,

Meanwhile, in any tenderness of heart

Or act of love to those with whom they dwell,

Their kindred, and the children of their blood.

Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace!

— But of the poor man ask, the abject poor,

Go and demand of him, if there be here,

In this cold abstinence from evil deeds,

And these inevitable charities,

Wherewith to satisfy the human soul.

No — man is dear to man: the poorest poor

Long for some moments in a weary life

When they can know and feel that they have been

Themselves the fathers and the dealers out

Of some small blessings, have been kind to such

As needed kindness, for this single cause,

That we have all of us one human heart.

— Such pleasure is to one kind Being known

My Neighbour, when with punctual care, each week

Duly as Friday comes, though press’d herself

By her own wants, she from her chest of meal

Takes one unsparing handful for the scrip

Of this old Mendicant, and, from her door

Returning with exhilarated heart,

Sits by her tire and builds her hope in heav’n.

Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!

And while, in that vast solitude to which

The tide of things has led him, he appears

To breathe and live but for himself alone,

Unblam’d, uninjur’d, let him bear about

The good which the benignant law of heaven

Has hung around him, and, while life is his,

Still let him prompt the unletter’d Villagers

To tender offices and pensive thoughts.

Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!

And, long as he can wander, let him breathe

The freshness of the vallies, let his blood

Struggle with frosty air and winter snows,

And let the charter’d wind that sweeps the heath

Beat his grey locks against his wither’d face.

Reverence the hope whose vital anxiousness

Gives the last human interest to his heart.

May never House, misnamed of industry,

Make him a captive; for that pent-up din,

Those life-consuming sounds that clog the air,

Be his the natural silence of old age.

Let him be free of mountain solitudes,

And have around him, whether heard or nor,

The pleasant melody of woodland birds.

Few are his pleasures; if his eyes, which now

Have been so long familiar with the earth,

No more behold the horizontal sun

Rising or setting, let the light at least

Find a free entrance to their languid orbs.

And let him, where and when he will, sit down

Beneath the trees, or by the grassy bank

Of high-way side, and with the little birds

Share his chance-gather’d meal, and, finally,

As in the eye of Nature he has liv’d,

So in the eye of Nature let him die.

Rural Architecture

There’s George Fisher, Charles Fleming, and Reginald Shore,

Three rosy-cheek’d School-boys, the highest not more

Than the height of a Counsellor’s bag;

To the top of Great How did it please them to climb,

and there they built up without mortar or lime

A Man on the peak of the crag.

They built him of stones gather’d up as they lay,

They built him and christen’d him all in one day,

An Urchin both vigorous and hale;

And so without scruple they call’d him Ralph Jones.

Now Ralph is renown’d for the length of his bones;

The Magog of Legberthwaite dale.

Just half a week after the Wind sallied forth,

And, in anger or merriment, out of the North

Coming on with a terrible pother,

From the peak of the crag blew the Giant away.

And what did these School-boys? — The very next day

They went and they built up another.

— Some little I’ve seen of blind boisterous works

In Paris and London, ‘mong Christians or Turks,

Spirits busy to do and undo:

At remembrance whereof my blood sometimes will flag.

— Then, light-hearted Boys, to the top of the Crag!

And I’ll build up a Giant with you.

Great How is a single and conspicuous hill, which rises towards the foot of Thirl-mere, on the western side of the beautiful dale of Legberthwaite, along the ‘high road between Keswick’ and Ambleside.

A Poet’s Epitaph

Art thou a Statesman, in the van

Of public business train’d and bred,

— First learn to love one living man;

Then may’st thou think upon the dead.

A Lawyer art thou? — draw not nigh;

Go, carry to some other place

The hardness of thy coward eye,

The falshood of thy sallow face.

Art thou a man of purple cheer?

A rosy man, right plump to see?

Approach; yet Doctor, not too near:

This grave no cushion is for thee.

Art thou a man of gallant pride,

A Soldier, and no mail of chaff?

Welcome! — but lay thy sword aside,

And lean upon a Peasant’s staff.

Physician art thou? One, all eyes,

Philosopher! a fingering slave,

One that would peep and botanize

Upon his mother’s grave?

Wrapp’d closely in thy sensual fleece

O turn aside, and take, I pray,

That he below may rest in peace,

Thy pin-point of a soul away!

— A Moralist perchance appears;

Led, Heaven knows how! to this poor sod:

And He has neither eyes nor ears;

Himself his world, and his own God;

One to whose smooth-rubb’d soul can cling

Nor form nor feeling great nor small,

A reasoning, self-sufficing thing,

An intellectual All in All!

Shut close the door! press down the latch:

Sleep in thy intellectual crust,

Nor lose ten tickings of thy watch,

Near this unprofitable dust.

But who is He with modest looks,

And clad in homely russet brown?

He murmurs near the running brooks

A music sweeter than their own.

He is retired as noontide dew,

Or fountain in a noonday grove;

And you must love him, ere to you

He will seem worthy of your love.

The outward shews of sky and earth.

Of hill and valley he has view’d;

And impulses of deeper birth

Have come to him in solitude.

In common things that round us lie

Some random truths he can impart

The harvest of a quiet eye

That broods and sleeps on his own heart.

But he is weak, both man and boy,

Hath been an idler in the land;

Contented if he might enjoy

The things which others understand.

— Come hither in thy hour of strength,

Come, weak as is a breaking wave!

Here stretch thy body at full length

Or build thy house upon this grave. —

A Character

In the antithetical Manner.

I marvel how Nature could ever find space

For the weight and the levity seen in his face:

There’s thought and no thought, and there’s paleness and bloom,

And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom.

There’s weakness, and strength both redundant and vain;

Such strength, as if ever affliction and pain

Could pierce through a temper that’s soft to disease,

Would be rational peace — a philosopher’s ease.

There’s indifference, alike when he fails and succeeds,

And attention full ten times as much as there needs,

Pride where there’s no envy, there’s so much of joy;

And mildness, and spirit both forward and coy.

There’s freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare

Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she’s there.

There’s virtue, the title it surely may claim,

Yet wants, heaven knows what, to be worthy the name.

What a picture! ’tis drawn without nature or art,

— Yet the Man would at once run away with your heart,

And I for five centuries right gladly would be

Such an odd, such a kind happy creature as he.

A Fragment

Between two sister moorland rills

There is a spot that seems to lie

Sacred to flowrets of the hills,

And sacred to the sky.

And in this smooth and open dell

There is a tempest-stricken tree;

A corner stone by lightning cut,

The last stone of a cottage hut;

And in this dell you see

A thing no storm can e’er destroy,

The shadow of a Danish Boy.

In clouds above, the lark is heard,

He sings his blithest and his beet;

  But in this lonesome nook the bird

Did never build his nest.

No beast, no bird hath here his home;

The bees borne on the breezy air

Pass high above those fragrant bells

To other flowers, to other dells.

Nor ever linger there.

The Danish Boy walks here alone:

The lovely dell is all his own.

A spirit of noon day is he,

He seems a Form of flesh and blood;

A piping Shepherd he might be,

A Herd-boy of the wood.

A regal vest of fur he wears,

In colour like a raven’s wing;

It fears nor rain, nor wind, nor dew,

But in the storm ’tis fresh and blue

As budding pines in Spring;

His helmet has a vernal grace,

Fresh as the bloom upon his face.

A harp is from his shoulder slung;

He rests the harp upon his knee,

And there in a forgotten tongue

He warbles melody.

Of flocks and herds both far and near

He is the darling and the joy,

And often, when no cause appears,

The mountain ponies prick their ears,

They hear the Danish Boy,

While in the dell he sits alone

Beside the tree and corner-stone.

When near this blasted tree you pass,

Two sods are plainly to be seen

Close at its root, and each with grass

Is cover’d fresh and green.

Like turf upon a new-made grave

These two green sods together lie,

Nor heat, nor cold, nor rain, nor wind

Can these two sods together bind,

Nor sun, nor earth, nor sky,

But side by side the two are laid,

As if just sever’d by the spade.

There sits he: in his face you spy

No trace of a ferocious air,

Nor ever was a cloudless sky

So steady or so fair.

The lovely Danish Boy is blest

And happy in his flowery cove;

From bloody deeds his thoughts are far;

And yet he warbles songs of war;

They seem like songs of love,

For calm and gentle is his mien;

Like a dead Boy he is serene.

Poems on the Naming of Places,

Advertisement.

By Persons resident in the country and attached to rural objects, many places will be found unnamed or of unknown names, where little Incidents will have occurred, or feelings been experienced, which will have given to such places a private and peculiar interest. From a wish to give some sort of record to such Incidents or renew the gratification of such Feelings, Names have been given to Places by the Author and some of his Friends, and the following Poems written in consequence.

I.

It was an April Morning: fresh and clear

The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,

Ran with a young man’s speed, and yet the voice

Of waters which the winter had supplied

Was soften’d down into a vernal tone.

The spirit of enjoyment and desire,

And hopes and wishes, from all living things

Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.

The budding groves appear’d as if in haste

To spur the steps of June; as if their shades

Of various green were hindrances that stood

Between them and their object: yet, meanwhile,

There was such deep contentment in the air

That every naked ash, and tardy tree

Yet leafless, seem’d as though the countenance

With which it look’d on this delightful day

Were native to the summer. — Up the brook

I roam’d in the confusion of my heart,

Alive to all things and forgetting all.

At length I to a sudden turning came

In this continuous glen, where down a rock

The stream, so ardent in its course before,

Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all

Which I till then had heard, appear’d the voice

Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb,

The Shepherd’s dog, the linnet and the thrush

Vied with this waterfall, and made a song

Which, while I listen’d, seem’d like the wild growth

Or like some natural produce of the air

That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here,

But ’twas the foliage of the rocks, the birch,

The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn,

With hanging islands of resplendent furze:

And on a summit, distant a short space,

By any who should look beyond the dell,

A single mountain Cottage might be seen.

I gaz’d and gaz’d, and to myself I said,

“Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook,

My EMMA, I will dedicate to thee.”

— Soon did the spot become my other home,

My dwelling, and my out-of-doors abode.

And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there,

To whom I sometimes in our idle talk

Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps,

Years after we are gone and in our graves,

When they have cause to speak of this wild place,

May call it by the name of EMMA’S DELL.

II.

To Joanna.

Amid the smoke of cities did you pass

Your time of early youth, and there you learn’d,

From years of quiet industry, to love

The living Beings by your own fire-side,

With such a strong devotion, that your heart

Is slow towards the sympathies of them

Who look upon the hills with tenderness,

And make dear friendships with the streams and groves.

Yet we who are transgressors in this kind,

Dwelling retired in our simplicity

Among the woods and fields, we love you well,

Joanna! and I guess, since you have been

So distant from us now for two long years,

That you will gladly listen to discourse

However trivial, if you thence are taught

That they, with whom you once were happy, talk

Familiarly of you and of old times.

While I was seated, now some ten days past,

Beneath those lofty firs, that overtop

Their ancient neighbour, the old Steeple tower,

The Vicar from his gloomy house hard by

Came forth to greet me, and when he had ask’d,

“How fares Joanna, that wild-hearted Maid!

And when will she return to us?” he paus’d,

And after short exchange of village news,

He with grave looks demanded, for what cause,

Reviving obsolete Idolatry,

I like a Runic Priest, in characters

Of formidable size, had chisel’d out

Some uncouth name upon the native rock,

Above the Rotha, by the forest side.

— Now, by those dear immunities of heart

Engender’d betwixt malice and true love,

I was not both to be so catechiz’d,

And this was my reply. —“As it befel,

One summer morning we had walk’d abroad

At break of day, Joanna and myself.

—’Twas that delightful season, when the broom,

Full flower’d, and visible on every steep,

Along the copses runs in veins of gold.”

Our pathway led us on to Rotha’s banks,

And when we came in front of that tall rock

Which looks towards the East, I there stopp’d short,

And trac’d the lofty barrier with my eye

From base to summit; such delight I found

To note in shrub and tree, in stone and flower,

That intermixture of delicious hues,

Along so vast a surface, all at once,

In one impression, by connecting force

Of their own beauty, imag’d in the heart.

— When I had gaz’d perhaps two minutes’ space,

Joanna, looking in my eyes, beheld

That ravishment of mine, and laugh’d aloud.

The rock, like something starting from a sleep,

Took up the Lady’s voice, and laugh’d again:

That ancient Woman seated on Helm-crag

Was ready with her cavern; Hammar–Scar,

And the tall Steep of Silver–How sent forth

A noise of laughter; southern Loughrigg heard,

And Fairfield answer’d with a mountain tone:

Helvellyn far into the clear blue sky

Carried the Lady’s voice — old Skiddaw blew

His speaking trumpet; — back out of the clouds

Of Glaramara southward came the voice;

And Kirkstone toss’d it from his misty head.

Now whether, (said I to our cordial Friend

Who in the hey-day of astonishment

Smil’d in my face) this were in simple truth

A work accomplish’d by the brotherhood

Of ancient mountains, or my ear was touch’d

With dreams and visionary impulses,

Is not for me to tell; but sure I am

That there was a loud uproar in the hills.

And, while we both were listening, to my side

The fair Joanna drew, is if she wish’d

To shelter from some object of her fear.

— And hence, long afterwards, when eighteen moons

Were wasted, as I chanc’d to walk alone

Beneath this rock, at sun-rise, on a calm

And silent morning, I sate down, and there,

In memory of affections old and true,

I chissel’d out in those rude characters

Joanna’s name upon the living stone.

And I, and all who dwell by my fire-side

Have call’d the lovely rock, Joanna’s Rock.

NOTE.

In Cumberland and Westmoreland are several Inscriptions upon the native rock which from the wasting of Time and the rudeness of the Workmanship had been mistaken for Runic. They are without doubt Roman.

The Roths, mentioned in this poem, is the River which flowing through the Lakes of Grasmere and Rydole fells into Wyndermere. On Helm–Crag, that impressive single Mountain at the head of the Vale of Grasmere, is a Rock which from most points of view bears a striking resemblance to an Old Woman cowering. Close by this rock is one of those Fissures or Caverns, which in the language of the Country are called Dungeons. The other Mountains either immediately surround the Vale of Grasmere, or belong to the same Cluster.

III.

There is an Eminence — of these our hills

The last that parleys with the setting sun.

We can behold it from our Orchard seat.

And, when at evening we pursue our walk

Along the public way, this Cliff, so high

Above us, and so distant in its height,

Is visible, and often seems to send

Its own deep quiet to restore our hearts.

The meteors make of it a favorite haunt:

The star of Jove, so beautiful and large

In the mid heav’ns, is never half so fair

As when he shines above it. ’Tis in truth

The loneliest place we have among the clouds.

And She who dwells with me, whom I have lov’d

With such communion, that no place on earth

Can ever be a solitude to me,

Hath said, this lonesome Peak shall bear my Name.

IV.

A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags,

A rude and natural causeway, interpos’d

Between the water and a winding slope

Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore

Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy.

And there, myself and two beloved Friends,

One calm September morning, ere the mist

Had altogether yielded to the sun,

Saunter’d on this retir’d and difficult way.

— Ill suits the road with one in haste, but we

Play’d with our time; and, as we stroll’d along,

It was our occupation to observe

Such objects as the waves had toss’d ashore,

Feather, or leaf, or weed, or wither’d bough,

Each on the other heap’d along the line

Of the dry wreck. And in our vacant mood,

Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft

Of dandelion seed or thistle’s beard,

Which, seeming lifeless half, and half impell’d

By some internal feeling, skimm’d along

Close to the surface of the lake that lay

Asleep in a dead calm, ran closely on

Along the dead calm lake, now here, now there,

In all its sportive wanderings all the while

Making report of an invisible breeze

That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse,

Its very playmate, and its moving soul.

— And often, trifling with a privilege

Alike indulg’d to all, we paus’d, one now,

And now the other, to point out, perchance

To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair

Either to be divided from the place

On which it grew, or to be left alone

To its own beauty. Many such there are,

Fair ferns and flowers, and chiefly that tall plant

So stately, of the Queen Osmunda nam’d,

Plant lovelier in its own retir’d abode

On Grasmere’s beach, than Naid by the side

Of Grecian brook, or Lady of the Mere

Sole-sitting by the shores of old Romance.

— So fared we that sweet morning: from the fields

Meanwhile, a noise was heard, the busy mirth

Of Reapers, Men and Women, Boys and Girls.

Delighted much to listen to those sounds,

And in the fashion which I have describ’d,

Feeding unthinking fancies, we advanc’d

Along the indented shore; when suddenly,

Through a thin veil of glittering haze, we saw

Before us on a point of jutting land

The tall and upright figure of a Man

Attir’d in peasant’s garb, who stood alone

Angling beside the margin of the lake.

That way we turn’d our steps: nor was it long,

Ere making ready comments on the sight

Which then we saw, with one and the same voice

We all cried out, that he must be indeed

An idle man, who thus could lose a day

Of the mid harvest, when the labourer’s hire

Is ample, and some little might be stor’d

Wherewith to chear him in the winter time.

Thus talking of that Peasant we approach’d

Close to the spot where with his rod and line

He stood alone; whereat he turn’d his head

To greet us — and we saw a man worn down

By sickness, gaunt and lean, with sunken cheeks

And wasted limbs, his legs so long and lean

That for my single self I look’d at them,

Forgetful of the body they sustain’d. —

Too weak to labour in the harvest field,

The man was using his best skill to gain

A pittance from the dead unfeeling lake

That knew not of his wants. I will not say

What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how

The happy idleness of that sweet morn,

With all its lovely images, was chang’d

To serious musing and to self-reproach.

Nor did we fail to see within ourselves

What need there is to be reserv’d in speech,

And temper all our thoughts with charity.

— Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,

My Friend, Myself, and She who then receiv’d

The same admonishment, have call’d the plate

By a memorial name, uncouth indeed

As e’er by Mariner was giv’n to Bay

Or Foreland on a new-discover’d coast,

And, POINT RASH-JUDGMENT is the Name it bears.

V.

To M. H.

Our walk was far among the ancient trees:

There was no road, nor any wood-man’s path,

But the thick umbrage, checking the wild growth

Of weed sapling, on the soft green turf

Beneath the branches of itself had made

A track which brought us to a slip of lawn,

And a small bed of water in the woods.

All round this pool both flocks and herds might drink

On its firm margin, even as from a well

Or some stone-bason which the Herdsman’s hand

Had shap’d for their refreshment, nor did sun

Or wind from any quarter ever come

But as a blessing to this calm recess,

This glade of water and this one green field.

The spot was made by Nature for herself:

The travellers know it not, and ’twill remain

Unknown to them; but it is beautiful,

And if a man should plant his cottage near.

Should sleep beneath the shelter of its tress,

And blend its waters with his daily meal,

He would so love it that in his death-hour

Its image would survive among his thoughts,

And, therefore, my sweet MARY, this still nook

With all its beeches we have named from You.

Michael

A Pastoral Poem.

If from the public way you turn your steps

Up the tumultuous brook of Green-head Gill,

You will suppose that with an upright path

Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent

The pastoral Mountains front you, face to face.

But, courage! for beside that boisterous Brook

The mountains have all open’d out themselves,

And made a hidden valley of their own.

No habitation there is seen; but such

As journey thither find themselves alone

With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites

That overhead are sailing in the sky.

It is in truth an utter solitude,

Nor should I have made mention of this Dell

But for one object which you might pass by,

Might see and notice not. Beside the brook

There is a straggling heap of unhewn stones!

And to that place a story appertains,

Which, though it be ungarnish’d with events,

Is not unfit, I deem, for the fire-side,

Or for the summer shade. It was the first,

The earliest of those tales that spake to me

Of Shepherds, dwellers in the vallies, men

Whom I already lov’d, not verily

For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills

Where was their occupation and abode.

And hence this Tale, while I was yet a boy

Careless of books, yet having felt the power

Of Nature, by the gentle agency

Of natural objects led me on to feel

For passions that were not my own, and think

At random and imperfectly indeed

On man; the heart of man and human life.

Therefore, although it be a history

Homely and rude, I will relate the same

For the delight of a few natural hearts,

And with yet fonder feeling, for the sake

Of youthful Poets, who among these Hills

Will be my second self when I am gone.

Upon the Forest-side in Grasmere Vale

There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name.

An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb.

His bodily frame had been from youth to age

Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen

Intense and frugal, apt for all affairs,

And in his Shepherd’s calling he was prompt

And watchful more than ordinary men.

Hence he had learn’d the meaning of all winds,

Of blasts of every tone, and often-times

When others heeded not, He heard the South

Make subterraneous music, like the noise

Of Bagpipers on distant Highland hills;

The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock

Bethought him, and he to himself would say

The winds are now devising work for me!

And truly at all times the storm, that drives

The Traveller to a shelter, summon’d him

Up to the mountains: he had been alone

Amid the heart of many thousand mists

That came to him and left him on the heights.

So liv’d he till his eightieth year was pass’d.

And grossly that man errs, who should suppose

That the green Valleys, and the Streams and Rocks

Were things indifferent to the Shepherd’s thoughts.

Fields, where with chearful spirits he had breath’d

The common air; the hills, which he so oft

Had climb’d with vigorous steps; which had impress’d

So many incidents upon his mind

Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear;

Which like a book preserv’d the memory

Of the dumb animals, whom he had sav’d,

Had fed or shelter’d, linking to such acts,

So grateful in themselves, the certainty

Of honorable gains; these fields, these hills

Which were his living Being, even more

Than his own Blood — what could they less? had laid

Strong hold on his affections, were to him

A pleasurable feeling of blind love,

The pleasure which there is in life itself.

He had not passed his days in singleness.

He had a Wife, a comely Matron, old

Though younger than himself full twenty years.

She was a woman of a stirring life

Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had

Of antique form, this large for spinning wool,

That small for flax, and if one wheel had rest,

It was because the other was at work.

The Pair had but one Inmate in their house,

An only Child, who had been born to them

When Michael telling o’er his years began

To deem that he was old, in Shepherd’s phrase,

With one foot in the grave. This only son,

With two brave sheep dogs tried in many a storm.

The one of an inestimable worth,

Made all their Household. I may truly say,

That they were as a proverb in the vale

For endless industry. When day was gone,

And from their occupations out of doors

The Son and Father were come home, even then,

Their labour did not cease, unless when all

Turn’d to their cleanly supper-board, and there

Each with a mess of pottage and skimm’d milk,

Sate round their basket pil’d with oaten cakes,

And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when their meal

Was ended, LUKE (for so the Son was nam’d)

And his old Father, both betook themselves

To such convenient work, as might employ

Their hands by the fire-side; perhaps to card

Wool for the House-wife’s spindle, or repair

Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe,

Or other implement of house or field.

Down from the cicling by the chimney’s edge,

Which in our ancient uncouth country style

Did with a huge projection overbrow

Large space beneath, as duly as the light

Of day grew dim, the House-wife hung a lamp;

An aged utensil, which had perform’d

Service beyond all others of its kind.

Early at evening did it burn and late,

Surviving Comrade of uncounted Hours

Which going by from year to year had found

And left the Couple neither gay perhaps

Nor chearful, yet with objects and with hopes

Living a life of eager industry.

And now, when LUKE was in his eighteenth year,

There by the light of this old lamp they sate,

Father and Son, while late into the night

The House-wife plied her own peculiar work,

Making the cottage thro’ the silent hours

Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.

Not with a waste of words, but for the sake

Of pleasure, which I know that I shall give

To many living now, I of this Lamp

Speak thus minutely: for there are no few

Whose memories will bear witness to my tale,

The Light was famous in its neighbourhood,

And was a public Symbol of the life,

The thrifty Pair had liv’d. For, as it chanc’d,

Their Cottage on a plot of rising ground

Stood single, with large prospect North and South,

High into Easedale, up to Dunmal–Raise,

And Westward to the village near the Lake.

And from this constant light so regular

And so far seen, the House itself by all

Who dwelt within the limits of the vale,

Both old and young, was nam’d The Evening Star.

Thus living on through such a length of years,

The Shepherd, if he lov’d himself, must needs

Have lov’d his Help-mate; but to Michael’s heart

This Son of his old age was yet more dear —

Effect which might perhaps have been produc’d

By that instinctive tenderness, the same

Blind Spirit, which is in the blood of all,

Or that a child, more than all other gifts,

Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts,

And stirrings of inquietude, when they

By tendency of nature needs must fail.

From such, and other causes, to the thoughts

Of the old Man his only Son was now

The dearest object that he knew on earth.

Exceeding was the love he bare to him,

His Heart and his Heart’s joy! For oftentimes

Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms,

Had done him female service, not alone

For dalliance and delight, as is the use

Of Fathers, but with patient mind enforc’d

To acts of tenderness; and he had rock’d

His cradle with a woman’s gentle hand.

And in a later time, ere yet the Boy

Had put on Boy’s attire, did Michael love,

Albeit of a stern unbending mind,

To have the young one in his sight, when he

Had work by his own door, or when he sate

With sheep before him on his Shepherd’s stool,

Beneath that large old Oak, which near their door

Stood, and from it’s enormous breadth of shade

Chosen for the Shearer’s covert from the sun,

Thence in our rustic dialect was call’d

The CLIPPING TREE, 18 a name which yet it bears.

18 Clipping is the word used in the North of England for shearing.

There, while they two were sitting in the shade,

With others round them, earnest all and blithe,

Would Michael exercise his heart with looks

Of fond correction and reproof bestow’d

Upon the child, if he dislurb’d the sheep

By catching at their legs, or with his shouts

Scar’d them, while they lay still beneath the shears.

And when by Heaven’s good grace the Boy grew up

A healthy Lad, and carried in his cheek

Two steady roses that were five years old,

Then Michael from a winter coppice cut

With his own hand a sapling, which he hoop’d

With iron, making it throughout in all

Due requisites a perfect Shepherd’s Staff,

And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipp’d

He as a Watchman oftentimes was plac’d

At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock,

And to his office prematurely call’d

There stood the urchin, as you will divine,

Something between a hindrance and a help,

And for this cause not always, I believe,

Receiving from his Father hire of praise.

While this good household thus were living on

From day to day, to Michael’s ear there came

Distressful tidings. Long before, the time

Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound

In surety for his Brother’s Son, a man

Of an industrious life, and ample means,

But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly

Had press’d upon him, and old Michael now

Was summon’d to discharge the forfeiture,

A grievous penalty, but little less

Than half his substance. This unlook’d-for claim

At the first hearing, for a moment took

More hope out of his life than he supposed

That any old man ever could have lost.

As soon as he had gather’d so much strength

That he could look his trouble in the face,

It seem’d that his sole refuge was to sell

A portion of his patrimonial fields.

Such was his first resolve; he thought again,

And his heart fail’d him. “Isabel,” said he,

Two evenings after he had heard the news,

“I have been toiling more than seventy years,

And in the open sun-shine of God’s love

Have we all liv’d, yet if these fields of ours

Should pass into a Stranger’s hand, I think

That I could not lie quiet in my grave.”

“Our lot is a hard lot; the Sun itself

Has scarcely been more diligent than I,

And I have liv’d to be a fool at last

To my own family. An evil Man

That was, and made an evil choice, if he

Were false to us; and if he were not false,

There are ten thousand to whom loss like this

Had been no sorrow. I forgive him — but

’Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus.

When I began, my purpose was to speak

Of remedies and of a chearful hope.”

“Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land

Shall not go from us, and it shall be free,

He shall possess it, free as is the wind

That passes over it. We have, thou knowest,

Another Kinsman, he will be our friend

In this distress. He is a prosperous man,

Thriving in trade, and Luke to him shall go,

And with his Kinsman’s help and his own thrift,

He quickly will repair this loss, and then

May come again to us. If here he stay,

What can be done? Where every one is poor

What can be gain’d?” At this, the old man paus’d,

And Isabel sate silent, for her mind

Was busy, looking back into past times.

There’s Richard Bateman, thought she to herself,

He was a parish-boy — at the church-door

They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence,

And halfpennies, wherewith the Neighbours bought

A Basket, which they fill’d with Pedlar’s wares,

And with this Basket on his arm, the Lad

Went up to London, found a Master there,

Who out of many chose the trusty Boy

To go and overlook his merchandise

Beyond the seas, where he grew wond’rous rich,

And left estates and monies to the poor,

And at his birth-place built a Chapel, floor’d

With Marble, which he sent from foreign lands.

These thoughts, and many others of like sort,

Pass’d quickly thro’ the mind of Isabel,

And her face brighten’d. The Old Man was glad.

And thus resum’d. “Well I Isabel, this scheme

These two days has been meat and drink to me.

Far more than we have lost is left us yet.

— We have enough — I wish indeed that I

Were younger, but this hope is a good hope.

— Make ready Luke’s best garments, of the best

Buy for him more, and let us send him forth

To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night:

— If he could go, the Boy should go to-night.”

Here Michael ceas’d, and to the fields went forth

With a light heart. The House-wife for five days

Was restless morn and night, and all day long

Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare

Things needful for the journey of her Son.

But Isabel was glad when Sunday came

To stop her in her work; for, when she lay

By Michael’s side, she for the two last nights

Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep:

And when they rose at morning she could see

That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon

She said to Luke, while they two by themselves

Were sitting at the door, “Thou must not go,

We have no other Child but thee to lose,

None to remember — do not go away,

For if thou leave thy Father he will die.”

The Lad made answer with a jocund voice,

And Isabel, when she had told her fears,

Recover’d heart. That evening her best fare

Did she bring forth, and all together sate

Like happy people round a Christmas fire.

Next morning Isabel resum’d her work,

And all the ensuing week the house appear’d

As cheerful as a grove in Spring: at length

The expected letter from their Kinsman came,

With kind assurances that he would do

His utmost for the welfare of the Boy,

To which requests were added that forthwith

He might be sent to him. Ten times or more

The letter was read over; Isabel

Went forth to shew it to the neighbours round:

Nor was there at that time on English Land

A prouder heart than Luke’s. When Isabel

Had to her house return’d, the Old Man said,

“He shall depart tomorrow.” To this word

The House — wife answered, talking much of things

Which, if at such, short notice he should go,

Would surely be forgotten. But at length

She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.

Near the tumultuous brook of Green-head Gill,

In that deep Valley, Michael had design’d

To build a Sheep-fold, and, before he heard

The tidings of his melancholy loss,

For this same purpose he had gathered up

A heap of stones, which close to the brook side

Lay thrown together, ready for the work.

With Luke that evening thitherward he walk’d;

And soon as they had reach’d the place he stopp’d,

And thus the Old Man spake to him. “My Son,

To-morrow thou wilt leave me; with full heart

I look upon thee, for thou art the same

That wert a promise to me ere thy birth,

And all thy life hast been my daily joy.

I will relate to thee some little part

Of our two histories; ’twill do thee good

When thou art from me, even if I should speak

Of things thou caust not know of. — After thou

First cam’st into the world, as it befalls

To new-born infants, thou didst sleep away

Two days, and blessings from thy Father’s tongue

Then fell upon thee. Day by day pass’d on,

And still I lov’d thee with encreasing love.”

Never to living ear came sweeter sounds

Than when I heard thee by our own fire-side

First uttering without words a natural tune,

When thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy

Sing at thy Mother’s breast. Month follow’d month,

And in the open fields my life was pass’d

And in the mountains, else I think that thou

Hadst been brought up upon thy father’s knees.

— But we were playmates, Luke; among these hills,

As well thou know’st, in us the old and young

Have play’d together, nor with me didst thou

Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.

Luke had a manly heart; but at these words

He sobb’d aloud; the Old Man grasp’d his hand,

And said, “Nay do not take it so — I see

That these are things of which I need not speak.

— Even to the utmost I have been to thee

A kind and a good Father: and herein

I but repay a gift which I myself

Receiv’d at others’ hands, for, though now old

Beyond the common life of man, I still

Remember them who lov’d me in my youth.”

Both of them sleep together: here they liv’d

As all their Forefathers had done, and when

At length their time was come, they were not loth

To give their bodies to the family mold.

I wish’d that thou should’st live the life they liv’d.

But ’tis a long time to look back, my Son,

And see so little gain from sixty years.

These fields were burthen’d when they came to me;

‘Till I was forty years of age, not more

Than half of my inheritance was mine.

“I toil’d and toil’d; God bless’d me in my work,

And ‘till these three weeks past the land was free.

— It looks as if it never could endure

Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,

If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good

That thou should’st go.” At this the Old Man paus’d,

Then, pointing to the Stones near which they stood,

Thus, after a short silence, he resum’d:

“This was a work for us, and now, my Son,

It is a work for me. But, lay one Stone —

Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.

I for the purpose brought thee to this place.”

Nay, Boy, be of good hope:— we both may live

To see a better day. At eighty-four

I still am strong and stout; — do thou thy part,

I will do mine. — I will begin again

With many tasks that were resign’d to thee;

Up to the heights, and in among the storms,

Will I without thee go again, and do

All works which I was wont to do alone,

Before I knew thy face. — Heaven bless thee, Boy!

Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast

With many hopes — it should be so — yes — yes —

I knew that thou could’st never have a wish

To leave me, Luke, thou hast been bound to me

Only by links of love, when thou art gone

What will be left to us! — But, I forget

My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone,

As I requested, and hereafter, Luke,

When thou art gone away, should evil men

Be thy companions, let this Sheep-fold be

Thy anchor and thy shield; amid all fear

And all temptation, let it be to thee

An emblem of the life thy Fathers liv’d,

Who, being innocent, did for that cause

Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well —

When thou return’st, thou in this place wilt see

A work which is not here, a covenant

’Twill be between us — but whatever fate

Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,

And bear thy memory with me to the grave.

The Shepherd ended here; and Luke stoop’d down,

And as his Father had requested, laid

The first stone of the Sheep-fold; at the sight

The Old Man’s grief broke from him, to his heart

He press’d his Son, he kissed him and wept;

And to the House together they return’d.

Next morning, as had been resolv’d, the Boy

Began his journey, and when he had reach’d

The public Way, he put on a bold face;

And all the Neighbours as he pass’d their doors

Came forth, with wishes and with farewell pray’rs,

That follow’d him ‘till he was out of sight.

A good report did from their Kinsman come,

Of Luke and his well-doing; and the Boy

Wrote loving letters, full of wond’rous news,

Which, as the House-wife phrased it, were throughout

The prettiest letters that were ever seen.

Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.

So, many months pass’d on: and once again

The Shepherd went about his daily work

With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now

Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour

He to that valley took his way, and there

Wrought at the Sheep-fold. Meantime Luke began

To slacken in his duty, and at length

He in the dissolute city gave himself

To evil courses: ignominy and shame

Fell on him, so that he was driven at last

To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.

There is a comfort in the strength of love;

’Twill make a thing endurable, which else

Would break the heart:— Old Michael found it so.

I have convers’d with more than one who well

Remember the Old Man, and what he was

Years after he had heard this heavy news.

His bodily frame had been from youth to age

Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks

He went, and still look’d up upon the sun.

And listen’d to the wind; and as before

Perform’d all kinds of labour for his Sheep,

And for the land his small inheritance.

And to that hollow Dell from time to time

Did he repair, to build the Fold of which

His flock had need. ’Tis not forgotten yet

The pity which was then in every heart

For the Old Man — ands ’tis believ’d by all

That many and many a day he thither went,

And never lifted up a single stone.

There, by the Sheep-fold, sometimes was he seen

Sitting alone, with that his faithful Dog,

Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.

The length of full seven years from time to time

He at the building of this Sheep-fold wrought,

And left the work unfinished when he died.

Three years, or little more, did Isabel,

Survive her Husband: at her death the estate

Was sold, and went into a Stranger’s hand.

The Cottage which was nam’d The Evening Star

Is gone, the ploughshare has been through the ground

On which it stood; great changes have been wrought

In all the neighbourhood, yet the Oak is left

That grew beside their Door; and the remains

Of the unfinished Sheep-fold may be seen

Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Gill.

NOTE I.

Page 213 — line 14 “There’s Richard Bateman,” &c. This story alluded to here is well known in the country. The chapel is called Ings Chapel; and is on the right hand side of the road leading from Kendal to Ambleside.

NOTE II.

Page 217 — line 4 “— had design’d to build a sheep-fold.” etc. It may be proper to inform some readers, that a sheep-fold in these mountains is an unroofed building of stone walls, with different divisions. It is generally placed by the side of a brook, for the convenience of washing the sheep; but it is also useful as a shelter for them, and as a place to drive them into, to enable the shepherds conveniently to single out one or more for any particular purpose.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005