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In spite of gravity, and sage remark
That I myself am but a fleeting shade,
Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance
I view the muscular proportioned limb
Transformed to a lean shank. The shapeless
As they designed to mock me, at my side
Take step for step; and, as I near approach
The cottage, walk along the plastered wall,
Preposterous sight! the legs without the man.
The verdure of the plain lies buried deep
Beneath the dazzling deluge ; and the bents,
And coarser grass, upspearing o'er the rest,
Of late unsightly and unseen, now shine
Conspicuous, and in bright apparel clad,
And, fledged with icy feathers, nod superb.
The cattle mourn in corners, where the fence
Screens them, and seem half petrified to sleep
In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait
Their wonted fodder ; not, like hungering man,
Fretful if unsupplied ; but silent, meek,
And patient of the slow-paced swain's delay.
He from the stack carves out the accustomed
Deep plunging, and again deep plunging oft,
His broad keen knife into the solid mass :
Smooth as a wall the upright remnant stands,
With such undeviating and even force
He severs it away: no needless care,
Lest storms should overset the leaning pile
Deciduous, or its own unbalanced weight.
Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcerned
The cheerful haunts of men, to wield the axe
And drive the wedge in yonder forest drear,
From morn to eve his solitary task.
Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears,
And tail cropped short, half lurcher and half
cur, His dog attends him. Close behind his heel Now creeps he slow; and now, with many a
frisk Wide-scampering, snatches up the drifted snow With ivory teeth, or ploughs it with his snout; Then shakes his powdered coat, and barks for joy.
* . Now from the roost, or from the neighbouring
pale, Where, diligent to catch the first faint gleam Of smiling day, they gossiped side by side, Come trooping at the housewife's well-known
call The feathered tribes domestic. Half on wing, And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood, Conscious and fearful of too deep a plunge. The sparrows peep, and quit the sheltering
eaves, To seize the fair occasion. Well they eye The scattered grain, and thievishly resolved To escape the impending famine, often scared
As oft return, a pert voracious kind.
Clean riddance quickly made, one only care
Remains to each, the search of sunny nook,
Or shed impervious to the blast. Resigned
To sad necessity, the cock foregoes .
His wonted strut; and wading at their head
With well-considered steps, seems to resent
His altered gait and stateliness retrenched.
How find the myriads, that in summer cheer
The hills and valleys with their ceaseless songs,
Due sustenance, or where subsist they now?
Earth yields them nought; the imprisoned worm
Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs
Lie covered close ; and berry-bearing thorns,
That feed the thrush, (whatever some suppose)
Afford the smaller minstrels no supply.
The long protracted rigour of the year,
Thins all their numerous flocks. In chinks and
holes Ten thousand seek an unmolested end, As instinct prompts; self-buried ere they die.
There is in souls a sympathy with sounds, And as the mind is pitched the ear is pleased With melting airs or martial, brisk or grave; Some chord in unison with what we hear Is touched within us, and the heart replies. How soft the music of those village bells, Falling at intervals upon the ear In cadence sweet, now dying all away, Now pealing loud again, and louder still, Clear and sonorous, as the gale comes on! With easy force it opens all the cells Where memory slept. Wherever I have heard A kindred melody, the scene recurs, And with it all its pleasures and its pains. Such comprehensive views the spirit takes, That in a few short moments I retrace (As in a map the voyager his course) The windings of my way through many years. Short as in retrospect the journey seems, It seemed not always short; the rugged path, And prospect oft so dreary and forlorn, Moved many a sigh at its disheartening length. Yet feeling present evils, while the past
Faintly impress the mind, or not at all,
How readily we wish time spent revoked,
That we might try the ground again, where once
(Through inexperience, as we now perceive)
We missed that happiness we might have found !
Some friend is gone, perhaps his son's best friend,
A father, whose authority, in show
When most severe, and mustering all its force,
Was but the graver countenance of love;
Whose favour, like the clouds of spring, might
And utter now and then an awful voice,
But had a blessing in its darkest frown,
Threatening at once and nourishing the plant.
We loved, but not enough, the gentle hand,
That reared us. At a thoughtless age, allured
By every gilded folly, we renounced
His sheltering side, and wilfully forewent
That converse, which we now in vain regret.
How gladly would the man recall to life
The boy's neglected sire ! a mother too,
That softer friend, perhaps more gladly still,
Might he demand them at the gates of death.
Sorrow has, since they went, subdued and
tamed The playful humour ; he could now endure, (Himself grown sober in the vale of tears) And feel a parent's presence no restraint. But not to understand a treasure's worth Till time has stolen away the slighted good,