« PreviousContinue »
At this calm season, hour of sweet repose
After diurnal toil. The sober change
Of Nature, at her period of decline,
Fixes th' unsteady thought to solemn themes
Of highest import ; of mortality,
Hastily tending to its sick decay,
And like autumnal leaf turning to sear,
And thence of the dark tomb, and lands unknown,
Beyond life's continent, from whence the mind
Shudd'ring starts back, as from a hideous dream.
Along the fold of yonder lingy hill,
Reckless of thoughts like these, the shepherd-boy
Homeward returning with his flock to rest,
Tunes his gay pipe, of accent shrill but sweet;
Unable he to match the warbled trill
Of skilful Florio, when at theatre,
Or on a gala day, fair ladies melt
To the soft stop of Tuscan instrument ;
Yet not less likely the kind ear to win
Of village girl with Scottish glee or air.
Far other sounds thy brother, gentle swain,
On foreign plains, from his low hut decoy'd,
To stand the brunt of mad ambition's sport,
And fight the quarrels of he knows not whom,
Hears now the secret call of sentinel;
Or, as beneath the counterscarp he stands,
Over his head the rumour of loud bomb,
That voids its dire contents of sulph'rous flame ;
Ruing the hour in which he left his home,
And calm contentedness of shepherd's life,
For sleepless nights, lean want, and thankless toil.
'Mid yon tall elms, whence in light-wreathed curls The bluish smoke ascends, stands the full grange, And, like a smiling family around, The frequent cottage peeping thro' the trees Shows its white front. Thence onward to the west, E'en at the extremity of this brown heath, Direct thy sight to Manstey's stately wood. Proud of his variegated robe he stands, Tissue of thousand colours, richly wove;
And the bright lustre that the sun behind
Throws o'er his tufted plumes, illumined gold ;
There, in close covert of immuring shades,
Lies the fell ruffian, ready to assail
Wayfaring men, by friendless night o’erta’en ;
Trade like to theirs, who in the Levant seas,
Under a forked promontory or rock,
Lurk, with intent to seize some vessel bound
For the Sicilian or Iberian shore,
Freighted with costly stuffs and tapestry.
Hard by the russet copse, that skirts the wood,
Stands one, the servant of pale Penury,
In tatter'd weeds and ill-composed attire,
Who burns the gather'd heap of fern; her shape
Bespeaks her of the miserable race,
Whose cabins, northward of yon fir-clad point,
Tenant the barren hills !-ill-fated men !
Denied the sound of holy bell, and care
Of sacred pastor, therefore easier prey
To such as, with their doctrines mischievous,
Of virtue unnecessary, and saving faith,
Catch the misdeeming herd ; sole traffic theirs
From moorlands far remote,—the potter's seat,
In affectation vain of Roman lore
Misnam'd Etruria,- to drive back their wares,
Laden on patient ass or stubborn mule ;
Journeying from town to town, as chance directs,
And, when grey evening spreads her quiet wing,
Under the canopy of hawthorn shade,
Or woollen rug outspread, if winds blow keen,
Courting the balmy sleep ; mistaken oft
By passing traveller for the vagrant tribe
Of sun-inured complexion and arch looks,
Who deal in palmistry and hidden arts.
Borne by the rising breeze, the voice of joy Resounds from distant valley ; 'tis the song Of husbandman carousing in full cups For his rich garners stored with grain. Fond man, Whene'er a little brief prosperity Gleams o'er his days, rejoices with loose heart, Thoughtless how near upon the track of Mirth
Tread Care, and Pain, and unavailing Grief,--
gay sunshine comes the storm. Nor you I blame, ye harmless revellers, Praising boon Nature for her gifts ; but those, Who, after harvest done of tyrannous war, Cities o’erthrown and desolated lands, Triumph, as if some glorious act achieved, And, with their idle pomp mocking the heavens, Salute in impious hymns the King of Peace.
This goodly earth, of frame design'd so fair, Mountains and woods and seas, and overhead Hung like a gorgeous temple with bright lamps, Was not created to be made the spoil Of sacrilegious robbers ; nor high man, Who bears the stamp of Godhead in his face, To crouch and tremble at a brother's frown.
Who shall avenge thy cause, thou injured Pole,
On that fell She-wolf of the North, whose fang,
Ravenous and keen as the wide scythe of Death,
Gores the fair bosom of thy land ? For thee,
Thou dauntless hero, though with storm beset,
And darkness, yet the form of Liberty,
A glist’ning angel, hovers o'er thy head,
And shows thee as a beacon from afar
To Europe, lost in clouds of deep dismay.
So when dim twilight gathers round the sea,
If chance a parting gleam, shot from the west,
Light on the mast of vessel under sail,
The canvas, for a rising wind outspread,
Burns, and a sheet of fire glorious it seems
To those who wond'ring from the coast behold.
The sun descends, a globe of flaming red,
As if in anger of a guilty world ;
And the gay-colour'd clouds, that shone so late
Attendant on his fiery chariot-wheels,
Put on their palmer's weeds of amice grey,
To meet the silent step of evening star.
The mist, slow gathering in reluctant folds, Covers the distant mountains, rampart high, Rear'd thus by Liberty round Gwyneth's realm, To guard her warlike forefathers of old,
Hail, land of ancient heroes ! oft I tread
With reverential foot thy sacred haunts,
The mountains hear, thro' which the silver Dee
Rolls o'er his stony bed with ceaseless roar,
The pebbly meer of Bala, mantled round
With the light drapery of verdant hills,
And o'er the yawning chasm and loud wave thrown
Pont Aberglaslyn, work of wizard hand ;
Thence further on, Festiniog's various view,
Torrent, and cliff, and shade, and the blue vein
Of water, that indents the pleasant vale,
And Cäernarvon's rocks and Meinai's stream
Hung with the shaggy boughs of Druid oak.
Here fabling Fancy placed her elfin knights,
Fair damsels, necromancers too, and dwarfs,
Castles, and forests, and enchanted caves,
With all the gorgeous dreams of chivalry ;
Tales that the listning infancy beguile,
Of credit easy won, while Nature yet
Wears her fresh gloss of novelty unsoil'd,
And from the lively fiction early learn'd
In the aspiring soul young hopes are born,
Fair courtesy, and love of gallant deeds,
And fortitude, and high heroic worth.
But vanish the gay forms ; since village bell,
Observant of the Norman's institute,
Harsh or tyrannic falsely deem’d, calls home,
And warns us of the keen and bitter air,
That Evening sheds from her unwholesome breath.
Happy the lover at this silent hour,
Who, from the dull society of men
Escaping, sighs with folded arms alone,
And thro’ the yellow wood descries the tower,
Like precious casket folding up his wealth,
The saintly shrine to which his vows are bent.
Happy the sage, who after spare repast
Trims now his lamp ’gainst midnight hour, to ply
Deep labour in research of secret means
That Nature at her wondrous work employs,
Whether in earth or air, or ocean's depth,
And hence for use of human kind to draw
Discovery, of invention new and strange.
But, happier than them all, the lab’rer swain,
Repairing with sweet sleep his weary limbs,
As in a bath by luxury prepared ;
Thence with to-morrow's earliest dawn to rise,
Jocund, and with fresh spirit to pursue
His lot of daily labour unreproved.
Peace to his slumbers ! and grant thou, kind Heaven,
That at the audit of the dread account
My course may prove like his, unblamed and free
From blemish of neglect or foul misdeed !
If in performance of the task enjoin'd
By my Great Master, I too oft relapse,
In pleasure or remissness, spare not thou
The hand of stern Affliction, teacher best
Of wisdom and self-knowledge, to draw back
My erring steps to track of holier path.
On the 14th of January, 1794, my father was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and to that of Master on the 23rd of November, 1796.
His college course being thus completed, the next question that presented itself was as to the choice of a profession. His father thought him best fitted for the church; he himself was desirous of entering the army, certainly from no military ardour, but, as I have heard him say, from a desire to visit foreign countries, and extend his acquaintance with modern languages. As a middle course, the bar was proposed; but the great expense of a legal education, and the very distant prospect of earning a sufficient maintenance in that profession were great obstacles to this latter plan ; this difficulty would be over