« PreviousContinue »
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 hatch, 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,
Dependent 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 chestnuts ranged in corresponding lines ;
And, though himself so polish'd, still reprieves
The obsolete proxility 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 panels, 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 th' 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 sun-burnt hayfield homeward creeps
The loaded wain ; while, lighten'd of its charge,
* John Courtnay Throckmorton, Esq. of Weston-Underwood, afterwards Sir John Throckmorton.
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.
Some glossy-leaved, and shining in the sun,
The maple, and the beech of oily nuts
Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve
Diffusing odours ; nor unnoted pass
The sycamore, capricious in attire,
Now green, now tawny, and ere autumn yet
Have changed the woods, in scarlet honours bright.
O’er these but far beyond (a spacious map
Of hill and valley interposed between,)
The Ouse, dividing the well-water'd land,
Now glitters in the sun, and now retires,
As bashful, yet impatient to be seen.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short,
And such the re-ascent ; between them weeps
A little Naïad her impoverish'd urn
All summer long, which winter fills again.
The folded gates would bar my progress now,
But that the lord of this enclosed demesne,
Communicative of the good he owns,
Admits me to a share; the guiltless eye
Commits no wrong, nor wastes what it enjoys.
Refreshing change! where now the blazing sun ?
By short transition we have lost his glare,
And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime.
Ye fallen avenues ! once more I mourn ,
Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice
That yet a remnant of your race survives.
How airy and how light the graceful arch,
Yet awful as the consecrated roof
Re-echoing pious anthems ! while beneath
The checker'd earth seems restless as a flood
Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light
Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance,
Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
And darkening and enlightening, as the leaves
Play wanton, every moment, every spot.
And now, with nerves new braced, and spirits cheer'da
We tread the wilderness, whose well-roll'd walks,
With curvature of slow and easy sweep --
Deception innocent-give ample space
To narrow bounds. The grove receives us next;
Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms
We may discern the thresher at his task.
Thump after thump resounds the constant flail,
That seems to swing uncertain, and yet falls
Full on the destined ear. Wide flies the chaff,
The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist
Of atoms, sparkling in the noonday beam.
Come hithér, ye that press your beds of down,,
And sleep not ; see him sweating o'er his bread
Before he eats it. 'Tis the primal curse,
But soften’d into mercy ; made the pledge
Of cheerful days, and nights without a groan.
By ceaseless action all that is subsists.
Constant rotation of the unwearied wheel,
That Nature rides upon, maintains her health,
Her beauty, her fertility. She dreads
An instant's pause, and lives but while she moves.
Its own revolvency upholds the world.
Winds from all quarters agitate the air,
And fit the limpid element for use,
Else noxious; oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams,
All feel the freshening impulse, and are cleansed
By restless undulation; e'en the oak Thrives by the rude concussion of the storm : He seems, indeed, indignant, and to feel Th' impression of the blast with proud disdain, Frowning, as if in his unconscious arm He held the thunder : but the monarch owes His firm stability to what he scorns, More fix'd below, the more disturb'd above. The law, by which all creatures else are bound Binds man, the lord of all. Himself derives No mean advantage from a kindred cause, From strenuous toil his hours of sweetest ease. The sedentary stretch their lazy length When custom bids, but no refreshment find, For none they need : the languid eye, the cheek Deserted of its bloom, the flaccid, shrunk, And wither'd muscle, and the vapid soul, Reproach their owner with that love of rest, To which he forfeits e'en the rest he loves. Not such th' alert and active. Measure life By its true worth, the comforts it affords, And theirs alone seems worthy of the name. Good health, and, its associate in the most, Good temper; spirits prompt to undertake, And not soon spent, though in an arduous task ; The powers of fancy and strong thought are theirs ; Even age itself seems privileged in them, With clear exemption from its own defects. A sparkling eye beneath a wrinkled front The veteran shews, and gracing a gray beard With youthful smiles, descends toward the grave Sprightly and old almost without decay.
Like a coy maiden, ease, when courted most, Farthest retires—an idol, at whose shrine Who oftenest sacrifice are favour'd least. The love of Nature, and the scenes she draws, Is Nature's dictate. Strange! there should be found Who, self-imprison'd in their proud saloons, Renounce the odours of the open field For the unscented fictions of the loom ; Who, satisfied with only pencilld scenes,