« PreviousContinue »
And witness, dear companion of my walks, Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive Fast lock'd in mine, with pleasure such as love, Confirm’d by long experience of thy worth And well tried virtues, could alone inspireWitness a joy that thou hast doubled long. Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere, And that my raptures are not conjured up To serve occasions of poetic pomp, But genuine, and art partner of them all. How oft upon yon eminence our pace Has slacken’d to a pause, and we have borne The rufling wind, scarce conscious that it blew, While Admiration feeding at the eye, And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene, Thence with what pleasure have we just discern'd The distant plough slow moving, and beside His labouring team, that swerved not from the The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy! (track, Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er, Conducts the eye along his sinuous course Delighted. There, fast rooted in their bank, Stand, never overlook’d, our favourite elms, That screen the herdsman's solitary hut; While far beyond, and overthwart the stream, That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale, The sloping land recedes into the clouds; Displaying on its varied side the grace Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tower, Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells Just undulates upon the listening ear, Groves, heaths, and smoking villages, remote. Scenes must be beautiful, which, daily view'd,
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years.
Praise justly due to those that I describe.
Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit, and restore
The tone of languid Nature. Mighty winds,
That sweep the skirt of some far spreading wood
Of ancient growth, make music not unlike
The dash of Ocean on his winding shore,
And lull the spirit while they fill the mind;
· Unnúmber'd branches waving in the blast,
And all their leaves fast fluttering, all at once,
Nor less composure waits upon the roar
Of distant floods, or on the softer voice
Of neighbouring fountain, or of rills that slip
Through the cleft rock, and, chiming as they fall
Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length
In matted grass, that with a livelier green
Betrays the secret of their silent course.
Nature inanimate employs sweet sounds,
But animated nature sweeter still,
To sooth and satisfy the human ear.
Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one
The livelong night: nor these alone, whose notes
Nice finger'd Art must emulate in vain,
But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime
In still repeated circles, screaming loud,
The jay, the pie, and e’en the boding owl
That hails the rising moon, have charms for me.
Sounds inharmonious in themselves and harsh,
Yet heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns,
And only there, please highly for their sake.
Peace to the artist whose ingenious thought Devised the weatherhouse, that useful toy!
Fearless of humid air and gathering rains,
Forth steps the man-an emblem of myself!
More delicate, his timorous mate retires.
When winter soaks the fields, and female feet,
Too weak to struggle with tenacious clay,
Or ford the rivulets, are best at home,
The task of new discoveries falls on me.
At such a season, and with such a charge,
Once went I forth; and found, till then unknown,
A cottage, whither oft we since repair:
'Tis perch'd upon the green hill top, but close
Environ’d with a ring of branching elms,
That overhang the thatch, itself unseen
Peeps at the vale below; so thick beset
With foliage of such dark redundant growth,
I call’d the low-roof'd lodge the peasant's nest ;
And, hidden as it is, and far remote
From such unpleasing sounds as haunt the ear
In village or in town, the bay of curs.
Incessant, clinking hammers, grinding wheels,
And infants clamorous whether pleased or pain'd,
Oft have I wish'd the peaceful covert mine.
Here, I have said, at least I should possess
The poet's treasure, silence, and indulge
The dreams of fancy tranquil and secure.
Vain thought! the dweller in that still retreat
Dearly obtains the refuge it affords.
Its elevated site forbids the wretch
To drink sweet waters of the crystal well:
He dips his bowl into the weedy ditch, .
And, heavy laden, brings his beverage home,
Far fetch'd and little worth; nor seldom waits
Dependant on the baker's punctual call,
To hear his creaking panniers at the door,
Angry and sad, and his last crust consumed.
So farewell envy of the peasant's nest !
If solitude make scant the means of life,
Society for me!-thou seeming sweet,
Be still a pleasing object in my view;
My visit still, but never mine abode.
Not distant far a length of colonnade
Invites us. Monument of ancient taste,
Now scorn'd, but worthy of a better fate.
Our fathers knew the value of a screen
From sultry suns: and, in their shaded walks
And long protracted bowers, enjoy'd at noon
The gloom and coolness of declining day.
We bear our shades about us; self-deprived
Of other screen, the thin umbrella spread,
And range an Indian waste without a tree.
Thanks to Benevolus-he spares me yet
These chesnuts ranged in corresponding lines;
And, though himself so polish’d, still reprieves
The obsolete prolixity of shade.
Descending now (but cautious, lest too fast) A sudden steep, upon a rustic bridge We pass a gulf, in which the willows dip .. Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink. Hence, ankle deep in moss and flowery thyme, We mount again, and feel at every step Our foot half sunk in hillocks green and soft, Raised by the mole, the miner of the soil. He, not unlike the great ones of mankind, Disfigures Earth : and, plotting in the dark, Toils much to earn a monumental pile, That may record the mischiefs he has done.
The summit gain’d, behold the proud alcove That crowns it! yet not all its pride secures
The grand retreat from injuries impress'd
By rural carvers, who with knives deface
The pannels, leaving an obscure, rude name,
In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss.
So strong the zeal to’immortalize himself
Beats in the breast of man, that e'en a few,
Few transient years, won from the abyss abhorr'd
Of blank oblivion, seem a glorious prize,
And even to a clown. Now roves the eye;
And, posted on this speculative height,
Exults in its command. The sheepfold here
Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.
At first, progressive as a stream, they seek
The middle field; but scatter'd by degrees,
Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land.
There from the sunburnt hayfield homeward creeps
The loaded wain; while, lighten'd of its charge,
The wain that meets it passes swiftly by;
The boorish driver leaning o'er his team
Vociferous, and impatient of delay.
Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,
Diversified with trees of every growth,
Alike, yet various. Here the gray, smooth trunks
Of ash or lime or beech distinctly shine
Within the twilight of their distant shades; ·
There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood
Seems sunk, and shorten'd to its topmost boughs.
No tree in all the grove but has its charms,
Though each its hue peculiar; paler some,
And of a wannish gray: the willow such,
And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf,
And ash far stretching his umbrageous arm;
Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still,
Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak.