Dreams and Realities (3)
Home Up Biography Hours with the Muses Poetic Rosary Autumn Leaves Miscellaneous Poems Unpublished Poems Miscellanea Main Index Site Search


 

[Previous Page]




THE POWER OF PLEASANT MEMORIES.


Low drooping o'er my toil this afternoon,
    With downward aspect, sombre as the air
    Which slept around me, echoes of despair
Passed through my thoughts and put them out of tune.
Strong hope, of man the blessing and the dower,
    With the calm will to fashion dreams, which rose
    Instinct with mental splendour and repose,
Seemed shorn of their consolatory power.
Thus as I sat with melancholy face,
    Resisting sadness with a faint endeavour,
    "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."
That verse of truthful melody and grace
Flashed through my darkened spirit, like the smile
Of sudden sunlight on a solemn pile.

As from her trance upleaps the joyous spring,
    Like a young virgin on her bridal morn—
    Flushed with expanding glories newly born,
While earth and air with merry greeting ring;
And Nature, strengthened by her rest, is rife
    With fascinating purity and gladness,
    So did my spirit, from its sleep of sadness
Start into active and delighting life.
Straightway I stood amid the classic glooms
    Flung from the lavish pencil of young Keats,
    Realms of immortal shapes, of mingled sweets,
Uncloying music, and unfading blooms;
The shadows of creations, which the boy
Nursed in his soul, and watched with silent joy.

Not one, but Legion, were the forms and places,
    Laughing and lovely, solemn, and serene,
Which came with all their wonders and their graces
    From Memory's treasure-halls, where they had been
Hoarded with miser passion.   Spencer's sheen
    And grandeur of romance; great Shakespear's Muse,
Which holds all human sympathies between
    The foldings of her pinions; Milton's hues
Stolen from the deathless amaranths of Heaven,
    And woven in his own seraphic song;
These to my wakened faculties were given,
    An ever moving, ever pleasing throng,
Until I stood, enraptured and alone,
In a strange world of beauty; boundless, and my own!

 

_______________________

 
NEW YEAR'S DAY ASPRIATIONS.

 

Great God! a mighty multitude of years,
Unnumbered as the Heaven-adorning spheres,
Lit, living, moving, and upheld by Thee—
Are gone to that interminable sea
Which is unknown, unfathomed, and sublime,
The everlasting grave of all the things of Time.
    The first faint dawning of another still,
Born of the sleepless goodness of Thy will,
Breaks newly, sweetly, through the kindling skies,
To which are turned our simultaneous eyes,
Filled with the heart's unbidden tears, which spring
A lowly, but a grateful offering
To Thee, our strength and hope from first to last
For blessings dropped beside our pathway of the past.
    God of the world, and of the human soul
Held in the mystic bonds of Thy control,—
Maker of Virtue, Loveliness, and Truth,
The sister triad of eternal youth—
I glorify Thee, wander though I may;
Blindly or weakly, from Thy peaceful way;
Else why this restless longing to inquire
Into Thy hidden wonders—this desire
To read Thy book of stars, and see Thy power
Of silent working in the Summer flower?
Do I not worship when Thy lightnings break
Through the mid cloud-realm; when Thy thunders speak
With a tremendous eloquence, that thrills
The stony hearts of all the stalwart hills?
And in Thy other voices, which are heard,
From tiny organ of rejoicing bird;
From lapse of waters, twinkling as they run;
From bees assiduous in the sultry sun;
From leaves made tremulous by every breeze,
And the grand choir of stormy winds and seas,
Do I not hear in every sound a tone
Which speaks of Thy transcendent touch alone?
    Thy grandeur, scattered with a goodly hand
O'er the upheaving breast of every land,
Hung in the boundless palace of the skies,
Fleeting or fixed to my enamoured eyes;
Holding an ancient solitary reign
O'er the mysterious empire of the main;
Clothing Thy change of seasons, ever rife
With mute and passive, loud and stirring life—
All glad my eye, and purify my heart
With joy and glory, of Thyself a part,
Till filled and blended with the things I see
I deem them symbols of Thy love and Thee!
    Soul-searcher, Heart-sustainer! humbly now,
With the young year's first breathings on my brow,
With a fresh dawn expanding on my sight,
Melting the morning star's concentred light—
I ask thy holy benison, and pray
That thou wilt watch me from this very day,
As Wisdom watches o'er a wayward child,
Bidding me stand erect and undefiled!
Gird me with high resolves, and such desires
As fill the spirit with serener fires
Which shine upon and warm, but not destroy
The seeds of virtue, and the flowers of joy.
Let not the worldling with insidious power,
Beguile me from Thee for a single hour;
Nor dim the "magic mirror" of my mind,
Hoodwink my judgment, smite my reason blind;
Nor freeze the well of charity, that flows
Freighted with feelings for all human woes;
Nor stir my meaner passions, till I rise
A strange anomaly to good men's' eyes.
But let the lamp, which Thou hast lit within
This frail receptacle of grief and sin,
Fed by the life of Thine enduring love
Burn on, aspiring to its source above—
A pure and steady guiding light to fame,
A sacred altar-fire in honour of Thy name.
And as Thou spar'st me for a little while,
Lend me Thy heart-regenerating smile;
Expunge my countless errors of the past,
Till my life's record, stainless at the last,—
The good acknowledged, and the ill forgiven,
Stand as my passport to Thy blessed Heaven!

 

_______________________

 
TO A YOUNG POETESS.

 

I know thou hast within thee, child of dreams,
    Songs which have not been uttered—veins of thought
    As rich and rare as ever genius wrought,
Brightening thine inmost soul with golden gleams,
Enthusiast of the Muse! thy dark eye beams
    Light intellectual; thy youthful cheek
    Looks tinged with fancies which thou wilt not speak,
And through thy heart affection's current streams.
Vanish thy maiden fears! it well beseems
    A gifted one of Poesy to sing:
    Reanimate thy harp and bid it ring
Loudly, but sweetly, to a thousand themes—
Express the yearnings of thy soul, till fame
Yield thee a wreath of light to crown thy after name.

 

_______________________

 
A STRAY LEAF.

 

    I am a commercial clerk, and a bachelor, on the shady slope of forty, doubtful concerning the advantages of single blessedness, but decidedly confirmed in my attachment to books and brown studies.  Undisturbed by conjugal claims, cares, and responsibilities; holding myself aloof from the stir and turmoil of the volatile or vexed world, I give myself up to the indulgence of such quiet enjoyments as nature and the productions of great minds cheaply and abundantly afford me.  Politics I instinctively eschew; poetry, in all her forms, has exhaustless treasures and attractions for me.  One is, to me, as the whirl and confusion of the maelstrom; the other the tranquillizing lapse and music of a summer stream.  Such being my predilections, my evening hours are generally spent sweetly and profitably with my pen, my books, my music, and the delicious reveries they superinduce.  I forget for a time the hard, matter of fact monotonies of the ledger, for the loftier meanings of diviner pages, and deep, and solemn, and consolatory are my communings with my own soul, and the deathless legacies of genius that lie about me.  Nor does the slowly burning incense of my friendly pipe—vulgar and prosaic as many deem such an indulgence—deaden or deteriorate my mental recreations.  On the contrary, it disposes me to a calm, reflective, and benevolent frame of mind, it re-awakes the dormant memory, and loosens far a wider flight the impatient wings of imagination.  Many a graceful vision have I seen coming dimly out from its undulating clouds.  Under its soothing influence many a gorgeous castle have I built; many a fairy region have I conjured up in the glowing cinders of my evening fire.  Many a bright picture of the future has hope created for me; many a glad and gloomy resurrection of past things has memory brought vividly before me—things which visit us like dreams, and which are not without their mission, could we but feel them aright, and be encouraged to good, restrained from evil, by their silent and mysterious counsels.  At such times, and under such moods, it has often occurred to me that such flitting fancies, such involuntary reminiscences, it immediately seized and recorded, might be rendered interesting, not only to ourselves, to whom they would be as connecting links in our life's history, but to others whose modes of thought and feeling were more or less in harmony with our own.  Acting upon this idea, I have, at uncertain intervals, filled a goodly volume with miscellaneous memoranda, fancies, and recollections, of which the following may be taken as "A Stray Leaf."

 
THE WELL SPRING.


    "In what does the beauty of an English landscape consist?" says Lord Jeffrey, "not in the mere mixture of colours and forms, but in the picture of human happiness that is presented to our imaginations and affections, and in the visible and unequivocal signs of comfort, and peaceful and cheerful enjoyment, and of that secure and successful industry which insures its continuance, and of the piety by which it is exalted, and by the simplicity by which it is contrasted with the guilt and the fever of a city life—in the images of health, and temperance, and plenty, which it exhibits to every eye,—and in the glimpses which it affords to warmer imaginations of those primitive or fabulous times, when man was not corrupted by luxury and ambition,—and of those humble retreats in which we delight to imagine that love and philosophy may find an unpolluted asylum."

    This passage contains much beauty and truth.  All that pertains to the country; its external features, its legends and customs, its hardy and unsophisticated people, all have an irresistible and indefinable charm sought after and relished by every rank and condition of life, from first childhood of four years to second childhood of four score ; from the rich and refined to the rough, ignorant, and lowly born; from the lofty in intellect and scholarly acquirements to the poor and helpless idiot, who suns himself by the way-side. "God made the country," says our English-hearted Cowper, and what a multitude of delicious, nay holy, associations are awakened by the words!  Yes, every object of the fresh, unpolluted country, however grand or minute, is a text upon which a man of genius and feeling might expatiate most largely and eloquently.  Nor have our Poets or Essayists left them untouched and unembellished; if that which is essentially beautiful from the hand of God need embellishment from the meaner hand of man.  The field-paths and forest-paths, time out of mind the poor man's privileges and possessions, how few would like to see prohibited or destroyed!  Old stiles are rife with recollections to which childhood, and even dawning manhood, cling with constant faithfulness and delight.  An old dusty mill with its wheel, seeming almost coeval with the stream that propels it, is always a peaceful and picturesque feature in a quiet landscape.  A cottage, "garden-girt and ivy-crowned," is not less so.  Lovely is a pasture with kine; a meadow with its mowers; a corn-field with its sun-embrowned reapers and gleaners; vineyards, orchards, and hop-grounds; with their merry fruit gatherers of both sexes.  Sublime with its many waters is a mountain pass, and a thunder-storm here does not belie the grandeur of its name and character.  Magnificent is a rainbow, flinging its bridge of braided splendours over a broad valley, while every object with its span stands out in clear relief, as in a colossal frame of emerald and gold.  Glorious is a stretch of billowy woodland, slumbering in leafy quiet, and serene its sylvan accessories of stream and dingle, glade, and thicket, thronged with the free denizens of nature.  Sweet, with all its litter, and not unmusical, is a farm-yard on a summer's evening.  Breezy in homely beauty is a village green; melodious, from association and otherwise, are village bells; venerable, without gloom, is a village church; solemn, without being repulsive, is a village grave-yard; and is not a village child the very type of hardy freedom and sturdy joy?  And a village maiden, if not spoiled by adventitious circumstances, a specimen of glowing health and inartificial grace?  Pleasant to the eye is an old gate (the more rickety the better); a rustic bridge, with a brook slipping musically beneath it; and pleasant to many senses is an old moss lined, fern-fringed, and hawthorn-shaded Spring Well!

    Aye, the Spring Well!  From time immemorial has it been an object of interest.  How often does its sweet name occur in Sacred Writ.  In imagination I behold Jacob, weary, athirst, and reflective, sit down by the Well of Haran; and I see approaching, for the purpose of drawing water, a graceful, dignified, and dark-eyed maiden.  She hesitates at sight of the stranger; it is but for a moment.  With the instinctive kindness and courtesy of a true woman, she draws near, and the stranger, rising and approaching her, salutes her with a frank but respectful kiss.  He then takes her vessel, plunges it into the pure lymph, and bears it, cool and brimming, to her panting flock, while her large oriental eyes gaze after him as he performs the kindly office.  By the feeling awakened in her heart at beholding this simple action of good nature has Rachael unconsciously plighted herself to her future husband, and Jacob has, as unconsciously reciprocated it, as with a smile of earnest admiration he reads the blushing face of the damsel.

    Perhaps you are not travelled, dear reader: no more am I; but let us fancy a Well, and bow immeasurably welcome it must be, in the Desert.  The laden and promiscuously assembled caravan has held its toilsome nay over the burning and trackless waste, beneath the blaze of a blistering sun, for many days, and without water. The terrible simoom has crossed them, darkening the sky, breathing death, and leaving many a beast of burden, many a human being, festering in the hot sands, as evidences of its wrath. The shattered remnant of adventurers toil on, till the horses and camels scent water afar off, and are difficult to be restrained. They near the well, they see it, they reach it, and having satisfied the impatient cravings of nature, they encamp around it for the night. In the midst of a little oasis bubbles up the well, whose superfluous waters keep fresh and green a rood's breadth of otherwise arid ground. Perhaps a solitary palm spires up beside it, and with the shadow of its broad plumes keeps cool the pellucid blessing. Here the travellers gather in picturesque groups; and some who but an hour ago felt it pain to talk, and were startled at the sound of their own voices, are grown suddenly loquacious. The tale of past adventure is recounted, the song of hope and home is sung, the prayer, different in form as in faith, is offered up, and each betakes himself to slumber or contemplation,—with, oh ! what dreams and memories!—while the placid stars, shining more and more intensely as the night sets deeply in, bestrew the heavens, a wilderness of splendour—more splendid because in contrast to the dark and sterile vastness of the wilderness beneath. With the first glimpse of the returning sun comes busy preparation, for the caravan, knowing that "Cairo sickens at the long delay," is mustering for the march. Another keen draught is taken from the precious spring, vessels are replenished, baggage is replaced and buckled on, the word for departure is given, and with many a wistful look behind, the Desert Wanderers slowly proceed on their perilous and dreary journey. But suppose that the Well had been found dry—choked up with drifting sands—a not infrequent occurrence in these desolate regions, who may paint the horror, the helplessness, the despair, the utter abandonment of exertion, consequent upon so deplorable a disappointment? Imagination droops before the picture she has drawn, and forbears description.

    But my business is chiefly with English Well Springs.  Is there an English heart so dead to nature and memory as not to thrill with pleasure at the name?  The English Well is to be found in green lanes and bosky nooks, on hill sides, and even on mountain tops.  In a fit of poetical enthusiasm I made the ascent of Snowdon, in 1842.  It was in the middle of June; the day was gloriously clear, but intensely overpowering.  The ascent was long and toilsome, and with a want of foresight which cannot be laid to the charge of mountain tourists generally, I had not provided myself with refreshment, wherewith to sustain myself by the way.  Neither scrip nor flask dangled from my shoulders.  Completely exhausted and burning with thirst I reached the summit, with the pleasant reflection, that two or three mortal hours must intervene ere I could gratify my unconquerable craving for drink.  Notwithstanding this, I felt the full beauty and grandeur of the scene; yet the lakes in the hollows of the hills, with a most tantalizing freshness and placidity, seemed to beckon me afar off.  Sauntering about in a mood of abstraction, I observed a line of moisture, stealing along, and greening in its course the scanty heath.  Following this to its source, I came upon a tiny well, "Scarce broader than a maiden's looking glass," which bubbled up with a clearness and coolness delicious in the extreme.  Need I say how it was enjoyed, and how the little Naiad that presided over it was thanked from my inmost heart?  And what a sublime locality for a Spring Well—placed amid utter solitude and silence more than three thousand feet above the ordinary level of the earth!  How calmly it lies among the wildest scenes and operations of nature!  The winds sing mournfully around it; the lightening quivers on its tranquil face; thunders shake it into ripples; the clouds sit softly down upon it; the rail, beats it into a thousand dimples; the snow-flake melts into its limpid bosom; the frost turns it into a transparent petrifaction, a solid mirror for the stars, which crowd it with half a hemisphere of eternal splendours; the lordly eagle makes it his drinking cup; the lonely sheep dip their patient noses in it; and, oh! superlative bathos! the well-conditioned cockney tourist draws therefrom a qualification for the too ardent fire of his brandy-flask, and owns that, next to the view from Greenwich Hill, the scene is "chawming."  Poor, narrow, muddy, pigmy souls! how came ye here?

    One of the saddest and sweetest recollections of my early life is associated with a spring well, which I have not seen these twenty-five years but which is indelibly impressed upon my memory.  It is, or was, situated on the borders of an old forest, in a secluded nook, which the peasantry of that romantic region knew by the sweet name of "Bluebell Hollow," from the lavish number of that graceful flower that grew there, and tinged with sleepy azure the neighbouring slopes.  I was then a stripling on a summer visit to the family of an uncle I had not before seen.  I was received with a most cordial welcome by the whole family, among which was a fair-haired, blue-eyed, and sunny-spirited female cousin, about my own age.  She attached me immediately, by a new, delicious, and mysterious sympathy, which I took no pains to inquire into or control.  I became in a few days as one of the household, taking part in their labours, hopes, joys, and pastimes.  I was a favourite and familiar with all; but my sweetest, happiest, and most romantic hours, were spent with my bewitching cousin, Fanny Franklin.  It was her evening custom to repair to the fountain of "Bluebell Hollow" for water, and it became my custom, and my pleasure too, to bear her company.  How we toyed by the way; how we lingered at the well in confidential chat, till the twilight set in, or the unwelcome presence of gossiping villagers sent us away,—how I insisted upon relieving her of her burden, and chose the smoothest paths for her, and helped her over the styles, and opened the crazy gates for her, and kicked the obstructing stones from beneath her footsteps, and how she with a bewitching and provoking coquetry opposed my wishes, and laughed at my anxiety till the startled woods rang again—matters little to my readers.  Let it suffice that my soul was immersed in the fullness and freshness of a pure, unselfish, and unreasoning first love.

    Alas! just, when my hopes of securing her love began to brighten—just, as I fondly imagined that she inclined a more serious ear to my awkward but earnest wooing; when the meadows were in the fullness of their call when the mowers were looking up and sharpening their scythes for be harvest, and when I anticipated sharing with her the delightful labours of the sweet and sunny fields,—poor Fanny was seized with a malignant fever, which almost cost her life.

    With skilful aid and excellent nursing, in which I was ever ready to take a devoted part, she passed the doubtful crisis of the disease, and hope once more beamed on our anxious faces.  One bright afternoon, when she no longer needed constant attendance, and while the family were busy removing and housing the remains of the harvest, I stole up into her little chamber—a snug dormitory, and a fitting sanctuary for so fair a thing.  Through the small open lattice, bedecked with snowy curtains, came the mingled odours of the woodbine and the hayfield, and a stray bee hummed to and fro a low and drowsy song.  Fanny lay musingly awake, pale but beautiful—languid, but exceeding lovely.  She lifted up her eyes, and murmured as she recognized me,—"Ah! dear Cousin; is that you?  I have been making pictures with my eyes shut; I have been looking in at 'Bluebell Hollow,' and fancying how delicious a draught of water would be, fresh from the well.  I really believe it would do me good."  "And if you believe so," I said eagerly, "you shall have it.  Be patient for fifteen minutes—and not a word of my purpose."  I slid out of the house with a pitcher, took the nearest and shadiest way, filled my vessel at the spring, covered it with broad fern leaves, and wreathed it about with bunches of bluebells, hurried back, and reached the little sick room, undiscovered by the family.  I raised the dear invalid, and held the brimming and odorous vessel to her parched lips.  She drank eagerly and deeply, repaying me with a glance of such grateful and eloquent meaning that I was overpowered with joy.  From that moment she recovered rapidly, and ere another fortnight elapsed, I led her leaning on my arm once more to "Bluebell Hollow," where I spent an hour with her of such pure, tranquil, and unmixed happiness as has not since fallen to my lot.  Yet this golden opportunity failed to inspire me with the courage to declare my love.  I too fondly flattered myself that my impassioned looks, tender but vague words, and delicate attentions, could not but be correctly interpreted in my favour; and when shortly afterwards I was compelled to return home, when I had taken her by the hand, and uttered the sad word "Farewell," she looked wistfully and sorrowfully in my face, as if she expected me to say more—something more warm than the ordinary words of parting friends.  Alas! the feelings which were tumultuous in my heart were too big for speech, and kissing her pale cheek I hurried away, catching a brief glance at her drooping figure as an abrupt turn in the road shut her out from my view.

    The crowd and turmoil of our mighty town brought a temporary relief to my regretful spirit; but as I settled down to my every day avocations, the sweet vision of Fanny Franklin, leaning on the well side in "Bluebell Hollow," rose frequently before me, and blotted out the objects that were actually around me.  Even amid the bustle of the busy street I beheld it, and on my pillow I took a melancholy pleasure in contemplating it, till it gradually melted into my sleep, and coloured all my dreams.  Months passed, and my passion still haunted me, more intense, more powerful if possible, than at first; but with my usual timidity and procrastination I forbore to acquaint the dear object of it with the real state of my feelings.  At length, however, I made a desperate effort, wrote a long letter, glowing and explicit, and despatched it at once, with the secret triumph of one confident of success.  It was too late.  I received for answer that another had offered and been accepted, and that preparations were even then making for the wedding, at which I was invited, but not strongly urged, to be present.  I was laid prostrate for a time, but not being destined to die of the heartache, I survived the shock, and became utterly indifferent to the whole sex.  I did not shun their society; on the contrary, I took a pleasure in it—but I was invulnerable to love; my first passion for woman had budded, bloomed, was withered, and buried in my heart, and there was no room far a second.  Like a young and imaginative reader, who had revelled in, and just finished, a new and wondrous book, I had reached the end of my romance; but unlike that reader, I dared not open another, lest the delightful impressions of one should be obliterated by the cold common places of an inferior volume.  I resumed my constitution gravity and tranquillity, but the brief light which gave warmth and colour to my inner existence was gone, and nothing might replace it.

    Seven years flew over my head, and I was settling down into a sedate bachelor, when one holiday, busied with the quietest but most eloquent companions—my books, a visitor was announced, and ere I could well rise from my chair, I was met by the goodly presence of a plump, rosy woman, followed by a man of rough, stalwart proportions, holding by the hand two bonny boisterous children.  Could it be?  Yes, it was—cousin Fanny, my quondam idol, but how different!  I left her a very sylph—airy, delicate, and gleesome as Ariel; I found her fair, fat, and not "forty," but twenty-six, a matronly, comfortable-looking, and rattle-pated, pleasant woman, but divested of the poetry with which my memory and imagination had delighted to encircle her.  I was surprised to see her, and, considering our old acquaintance, confused and awkward at receiving her.  She soon put me to rights, however, by her cordial off-hand manner, introduced her husband, evidently a worthy but prosaic fellow, and her children, one of which she had named after myself, in consideration, as she said, of our early friendship.  Friendship! too light and cold a word for my own young feelings; whether for her's or not she alone could tell.   After a few days I parted with "cousin Fanny" with kindly feelings, but with perfect unconcern, for I could not, somehow, identify her with my youthful passion, but "cousin Fanny" as she was, enshrined in the shadow and greenery of "Bluebell Hollow," is still a pleasant memory, a poetic reminiscence of my early days.

    Another recollection of a Spring Well remains to be told.  Two miles from my native town was a little woody dingle, named Barley-brook Wood.  It was my favourite resort between my childhood and boyhood.  Many a happy afternoon stolen from school have I passed in that shadowy retreat.  There, with some glorious book, such as the Arabian Nights, the Seven Champions of Christendom, or Robinson Crusoe, have I revelled in the mysteries and splendours of poetry and romance.  At the bottom of the dingle ran a brooklet ever clear and musical.  Near to the brook was a well, ancient, mossy, and constantly brimful.  What delicious draughts have I imbibed therefrom, during the sultry days of summer!  In what delicious reveries have I plunged my spirit as I sat quiet and absorbed on its dripping brink, while bird, bee, brook, and breeze soothed my ear and heart with their mingled and harmonious sounds.  Close to the well was an enormous stone, at least a ton in weight, smoothed and rounded by the winds and rains of countless seasons.  How it came their nobody could tell.  There were no rocky eminences from which it could have fallen; there were no other stones about it larger than the common pebbles of the brook; it bore no marks of the hand of man; it did not appear as if it had been hewn from the quarry.  As far as my memory serves me it was a vast boulder, standing alone, and remarkable for its singularity.  There was a tradition or saying, among the simple of the neighbouring hamlets that this Fairy Stone, as it was usually called, when it heard the curfew bell of the distant town, turned round thrice, and settled in its original position.  I had never an opportunity of witnessing with my own eyes the evening gyrations of this wonderful stone, yet with the ready credulity of childhood I implicitly believed in its ascribed mysterious powers of motion.  As my thinking faculties expanded I discovered a lurking, artful evasiveness in the words "when it heard" the sound of the bell, and the romantic spell was dissolved.  But the well: how many picturesque groups have I seen about it!  Many a slim waist have I seen encircled, many a rosy lip impressed there.  Many a soul-sent laugh, many a sad old ballad have I beard wakening the echoes of the dingle.  To many an artless confession of love; to many a tale of village scandal have I been the unheeded listener by that old well.  Many a time as the summer twilight fell upon it, and deepened the umbrage of its neighbouring trees, have I sauntered home, careless of the chiding or the chastisement that awaited me for my wandering propensities, wrapt in the fancies that indicated the incipient poetry in my soul, fancies which have since found a voice, feeble perchance, but such as has not been wholly unheard and unappreciated.

    I left this romantic locality while yet a boy, while there was yet "a splendour in the grass, a glory in the flower."   But the "boy was father of the man," and after twenty years of toil, sorrow, and shifting about, I revisited the spot,—now, alas, how changed!  No, well, no trees, no Fairy Stone, presented themselves to my bewildered view.  The brook was there, but foul and steaming with the gas and refuse of an adjacent manufactory.  The dingle could be traced, but it was being gradually filled and blackened with the rubbish of a profitable coal mine beneath.  Hugh chimneys poured blackness on the eye, and defiled all the landscape, while the whirr of wheels, the clang of hammers, the boom of gigantic engines, smote the ear, and confused the imagination.  Science and Enterprise had invaded the ground; Nature had succumbed, thrown off her external charms, and rendered up the secrets of her bosom to the indomitable energy of man.  Silence, and beauty, and poetry, had retreated to remoter places, perhaps to be again disturbed by the ever-advancing footsteps of that spirit of change and progress which is the prevailing characteristic of our stirring times. Disappointed, but not despairing, I left the spot, and my thoughts and feelings, taking the shape of verse, found inadequate utterance in the following poem, which brings to a conclusion a few of my recollections and associations of Spring Wells, and thus ends one of my " Stray Leaves."

 

_______________________

 
THE WOODLAND WELL.

 

I shall ever remember that morning of May
When I wandered to watch the first footsteps of day;
When I made a green path through the silvery dew,
And trampled the feather-like fern where it grew.
Untutored, but thoughtful, I then was a child,
In love with the silence that reigned in the wild,
And thus by the power of invisible spell,
I was led to the brink of the bright Woodland Well!
    Sweet shadowy place of my musing, thy spring
Seemed ever a buoyant and beautiful thing,
As its waters leapt up from the depths of the ground
With a flash and a sparkle, a bubble and bound:
They sang in the shade, and they laughed in the light,
As blythe as the birds in their first summer flight,—
Then onward they went with a low pleasant voice,
Like bees in the sunshine let loose to rejoice,
Through banks sloping down from the green twilight bowers
On—on was their march through a legion of flowers,
Which, shaking their bells as the waters passed by,
Paid homage in many an odorous sigh;
Let fancy pursue them for many a mile,
Through forests that frown, and through meadows that smile,
Through many a valley, and corn-field, and lea,
Till they mingle with rivers that rush to the sea.
    Come back to the woodland, come back to the well,
That musical mirror of Barley-wood dell,—
That treasure of crystal, to memory dear,
Exhaustless and restless for many a year.
When the rose folded up at the close of the day,
And the rich hues of sunset waned slowly away,
The light-footed maiden would step o'er the stile,
To replenish her pitcher, and tarry awhile,
Till her lover would steal through the shadowy bower
To snatch from existence one rapturous hour;
They would talk and caress, they would laugh, they would sing,
Till the bird in the bough, with a tremulous wing,
Would start from its slumber, and wheel round its nest,
Till silence restored brought it back to its rest.
Could that fountain have told all the secrets that fell
From the lips of the loving that met in the dell,
What a story of truthfulness, sorrow, or gladness,
Of moments of ecstacy, followed by sadness,
Of vows that were uttered too soon to be broken,
Of hearts that were won by the words that were spoken.
Some lovely and lost one might thither repair,
And drop in its waters the tears of despair;
Perchance e'en the faithful, the tender, the true,
Might return to the spot former joys to renew,
And allude to the past, with no wish to forget
The enchantment that hung round the place where they met.
In gloomy December, or glorious June, "
    That fountain unceasingly mirror'd the skies;
The meteor, the sun, and the silver-bowed moon,
    The stars, with their numberless magical eyes;
The vapour-built cloud, with its protean form,
Whether pausing in calm, or pursued by the storm.
All—all in their turn o'er its surface would pass,
Like dreams over Fancy's mysterious glass;
Those visions of splendour and darkness that creep
Through the brain of the Bard in the season of sleep.
    Such—such was the well that I knew as a child,
In its green nook of quietness never defiled;
But, alas! after twenty long winters of strife
In the crowded arena of many-hued life,
I flew to revisit with feelings of joy
The scene which had made my romance when a boy,
And found it, not what I had left it, a spot
Where quiet, and beauty, and pleasure were not;
For the bold foot of Mammon had dared to intrude
On the sylvan recesses of Barley-brook Wood.
The trees were uprooted, the fern and the flowers
No longer grew gay in the sunlight and showers;
The well was laid bare, and its waters conveyed
To be tortured and tossed in the uses of Trade;
And the scene which was once my retreat and delight
Lay withered, and blackened, and bleak to my sight.
No longer the voice of the maiden was heard,
Nor the lisp of the leaf, nor the song of the bird,
Nor the lapse of the rill, nor the musical moan
Of the stream, as it danced over pebble and stone;
But sounds of rude clangour invaded the ear,
Which changed into discord the wild echoes near;
Like a pilgrim returned to the home of his birth,
When all that he loved has departed from earth,
I linger'd awhile in the thraldom of thought,
To mourn o'er the ruin that Mammon had brought,
Then turned me away from the desolate scene,
As though, save in fancy, it never had been.
    But still in my moments of grief and of gloom,
It comes, like a picture, in beauty and bloom,
As green and as silent, as fresh and as bright,
As when I first found it by May's morning light,
And though I look back with a sigh of regret,
The Well and the Woodland remain with me yet.

 

_______________________

 
JANUARY.

A FRAGMENT.

 

He cometh!—the elder-born child of the year,
With a turbulent voice, and a visage austere;
But his cold callous hand, and his boreal breath,
Prepare for new life the lorn relics of death!
To-day he is sullen, and solemn, and wild,—
To-morrow, as calm as a slumbering child.
To-day he is weeping a black, chilly dew,—
To-morrow, he smileth the weary waste through.
To-day he enrobes him in hues of the night,—
To-morrow in garments resplendently white.
A changeling in temper, but ever sublime,
Is this moody, mad offspring of stern winter time.
    'Tis eventide.   Roof'd and shut in from the storm,
How dear is the hearthstone, so laughing and warm!
Where my cat sits composing her puritan face,
And my dog at my feet has his privileged place;
While a friend I have tried, and a wife that is true,
And a sweet child of promise, all smile in my view!
With the blessing of books, and a spirit to feel
The glory and goodness their pages reveal,
I cling to the gods of my household—and hark!
Like a sorrowful outcast, that roams in the dark:
The wind waileth by, and the fierce falling rain
Knocketh loud at my window, but knocketh in vain.
With the time-cherished legend, the heart-waking song,
With the prattle of childhood that never seems wrong;
With the voice of my friend in good humoured debate,
And the smile of my wife, as she listens sedate.
I feel the infusion of Heavenly things
As the hours hurry past on invisible wings:
Then a shake of the hand, and a look at the sky
Where the stars through a cloud-rift are winking on high.
And I turn with a satisfied calmness of breast
Unto sleep, and the dream-life that covers my rest.
    We sleep!   But the Giver of sleep is awake,
For the snow, with its frost-fashioned, feathery flake,
Floats earthward, and falls on the bosom of night
With as silent a touch as the pulses of light.
Behold! through the mist of the dubious morn,—
His round, ruddy face of its bright tresses shorn,
The sun, like a reveller stealing to bed,
Affords but a glimpse of his comfortless head;
But he freshens, and lo! like a fame-eaten scroll
Back—back from its beamings the fog-billow's roll,
And we mark with delight on our dim lattice pane,
But yesterday dull'd with a deluge of rain—
Quaint pictures of wavelet, and tendril, and curl,
Arrayed in the moon-coloured tints of the pearl;
And woodland and waterfall, temple and tree,
And shapes of the coralline depths of the sea
In dainty confusion most cunningly tossed
By the fanciful pencil of frolicsome Frost.
    I am out.   (Who would prison his senses by walls,
When health-holy nature so lovingly calls ?)
I am out—and my veins and my vision are rife
With a positive feeling of glorious life:
For my step is a triumph, my breathing a joy,
My thoughts a sweet madness unmixed with alloy.
I am out in the country, and who will gainsay
That pleasure and profit await me to-day?
    I am pacing the fields, where a rabble-rout crew
With foot-ball and snow-ball their pastime subdue.
I have passed the rude hamlet, all lonely and still,
Overtop'd by the fir-feathered crest of the hill:
I am walking the woodlands, whose tribe of old trees,
Erect in adversity, baffle the breeze;
Where the many-armed, weather-warped, long-honoured oak
Seemeth bent with the weight of his white winter cloak;
Where berries, like ruby drops, nestle between
The leaves of the holly bough, glossy and green;
Where the pool hath no ripple, the river no sound,
And the petrified rill hangs aloof from the ground;
Where the sociable robin, alone on the spray,
Saluteth my ear with his querulous lay,
And shaketh to earth by the stir of his wings
Such jewels as deck not the ermine of kings!
Where the scene hath a beauty no words can disclose,
As it lies in a solemn, but splendid repose,
And the whole realm of majesty, silence, and light,
In the trance of mid-winter, appears to my sight
Like the worship of mute and inanimate things,
Overshadowed and hushed by Omnipotent wings:
And my soul, in accordance with nature lies bare.
Overburthened with wordless, but eloquent prayer!

 

_______________________

 
APRIL.

 

Sighing, storming, singing, smiling,
With her many moods beguiling,
    April walks the wakening earth;
Wherosoe'er she looks and lingers,
Wheresoe'er she lays her fingers,
    Some new charm starts into birth.

Fitful clouds about her sweeping—
Coming, going, frowning, weeping—
    Melt in fertile blessings round;
Frequent rainbows that embrace her,
And with gorgeous girdles grace her,
    Drop in flowers upon the ground.

Gay and green the fields beneath her,
Blue the broad unfathomed ether
    Bending o'er her bright domain;
Full the buds her hands are wreathing,
Fresh the breezes round her breathing.
    Fair her footprints on the plain.

Daisies sprinkle mead and mountain,
Violets by the mossy fountain
    Ope their velvet vesture wide;
Cowslips bloom in open splendour,
But the primrose, pale and tender,
    In lone places doth abide.

Nature now hath many voices—
Every living thing rejoices
    In the spirit of the time;
Winds with leaves in whispers dally,
Streams run singing down the valley,
    In the gladness of the prime.

Larks have long been up and chanting,
And the woodland is not wanting
    In the sounds we love to hear;
For the thrush calls long and loudly,
And quaint echo answers proudly
    From romantic hollows near.

Now the cuckoo, "blythe new comer,"
Faithful seeker of the summer
    Wheresoe'er its footsteps be,
Sits in places calm and lonely
And, in measured cadence only,
    Sends wild music o'er the lea.

Who doth not delight to hear her?
Children's careless eyes grow clearer
    As they look and listen long;
Manhood pauses on his travel,
Age endeavours to unravel
    Old thoughts waking at her song.

Unbeliever, wan and wasted,
If the cup which thou hast tasted
    Turns to poison as it flows,
Come, while gentler spirits call thee,
Let her summons disenthrall thee
    Of thy weakness and thy woes.

With the world if thou art weary,
If with doubt thy soul be dreary—
    Crushed thy generous heart with care—
There is hope and there is healing,
Purer fancy, nobler feeling,
    In this free, untainted air.

Mark this flowret, sweetly peeping
From the sod, where safe and sleeping
    It hath lain the winter through—
How it opens with soft seeming,
To the breeze, and to the beaming
    Of the sun-shower and the dew.

God hath made it, fed it, trained it
Into beauty, and maintained it
    For thy use and solace, man;
Can such Guardian be forgetful
Of the selfish, sinful, fretful
    Human portion of his plan?

All is gladness, all is beauty—
Nature with instinctive duty
    Lifts her joyous homage high;—
Why should'st thou, with gloom ungrateful,
Turn on goodly things a hateful
    Thankless heart, a scornful eye?

Wayward, wilful though thou seemest,
Dark and doubtful though thou deemest
    The Eternal's glory, power, and name;
Nature, true to her designing,
Goeth on without repining,
    Ever changing, yet the same.

All thy thoughts are full of error;
Disappointment, strife, and terror
    Make thy journey sad and rough;
Nature never can deceive thee,
But of half thy cares relieve thee,
    If thou have but faith enough:

Faith to feel that all her wonders,
Stars, flowers, seasons, calms, and thunders,
    Seas that rave, and streams that roll,
Are God's every day revealings—
Mute and many-toned appealings
    To thine apathetic soul.

Come and woo her—she will bless thee;
Let her fresh free winds caress thee—
    Let her smiles thy love repay:
Come while she is proudly wearing
Bridal garments, and preparing
    For the festival of May.

 

_______________________

 
JULY.

 

Proudly, lovely, and serenely,
    Power and passion in her eye,
With an aspect calm and queenly,
    Comes the summer nymph, July—
Crowned with azure, clothed with splendour,
    Gorgeous as an eastern bride,
While the glowing hours attend her
    O'er the languid landscape wide,

Now the mantle of Aurora
    Streams along the morning skies,
But the bridal wreath of Flora
    Loses half its sweets and dyes.
Fierce the noontide glory gushes,
    From the fountains of the sun,
And a thousand stains and flushes
    Strew the heavens when day is done.

Then the heavy dew-pearls glisten
    In the twilight pure and pale,
And the drooping roses listen
    To the love-lorn nightingale:
While the stars come out and cluster
    With a dim and dreamy light,
And the moon's pervading lustre
    Takes the sternness from the night.

Scarce the weary lark betakes him
    To his ground-nest on the plain,
Than returning day-spring wakes him
    Into gladsome voice again;
Scarce the dew hath wet the grasses,
    Or the wild flower's curvèd cup,
Than the thirsty sunbeam passes,
    Drinking all its nectar up.

Now the lurid lightning breaketh
    Through the dull and lingering rack,
And the solemn thunder speaketh
    From its cloud-throne bronzed and black.
Gleaming in the fitful flashes,
    Swathing all the welkin round,
Rain, smit earthward, dances, dashes,
    With a quick, tumultuous sound,

As the lightening, rain, and thunder,
    Vanish with the cloven gloom,
All the breadth of nature under
    Wakes to beauty and perfume.
Birds again essay their voices;
    Bees renew their devious toil;
Man with grateful heart rejoices
    O'er the promise of the soil.

Now the harvest-gathered meadows
    With a second green are gay;
Now the wood's enwoven shadows
    Lure us from the dusty way;
More than wont the streams delight us,
    As they run their pleasant race—
And the lucid pools invite us
    To their calm and cool embrace.

Shall I not, as here I wander,
    Soul, and sense, and footstep free,
Where the fretful streams meander,
    With a music dear to me—
Shall I not remember sadly
    Those who have nor hope nor rest,—
Those who cannot know how gladly
    Nature welcomes every guest?

Would the dwellers of the alleys,
    In the city's stony heart,
Could behold these blythesome valleys,
    From their wants and cares apart.
Would the pale and patient maiden,
    Martyred at the shrine of Wealth,
Could but feel these breezes, laden
    With the priceless blessing, health.

Would the tiny toiling creatures
    In the noisome mine and mill,
On whose withered hearts and features
    Moral mischief works its will;
Would that they might lift their faces
    In this liberal light and air,
And perceive the nameless graces
    Of a scene so passing fair.

Let me homeward by the river,
    As the golden sunset glows,
Where the corn-fields swell and shiver
    To the blandest wind that blows.
By the woodland brooks that darkle
    Through the tangles of the glade;
By the mossy wells that sparkle
    In the hawthorn's chequered shade.

Through the dingle deep and bowery
    Up the pasture paths above,
Through the silent lane and flowery,
    Sacred to the vows of love.
Homeward, yet I pause, exploring
    All thy burning breadth of shy,
While my spirit sings, adoring
    Him, thy God and mine, July.

 

_______________________

 
OCTOBER.

 

October, a blithe and benevolent fellow,
    Is here with his tresses enwreathed with the vine;
His broad visage glowing with purple and yellow,
    As if he had quaffed of his own barley-wine.

His cloud-car of shifting and shadowy whiteness,
    Up caught in mid air through the welkin careers;
His shield is the harvest moon, blest in her brightness
    His sword a light sickle, untarnished with tears.

His crown is a corn-sheaf—magnificent, truly!
    Which whispers of peace as it waves to and fro;
His mantle of forest leaves, shaken down newly,
    Is clasped with a belt of ripe apple and sloe.

'Tis a time for thanksgiving, oh let us be grateful
    For beauties and bounties the season hath brought
The heart of that being is woeful or hateful
    Who can not, or will not, rejoice as he ought,

The grain in the garner, the grape in the presses,
    Give earnest of plenty, and promise of joy;
And the soul, in the language of silence, confesses
    His goodness, whose mandate can make or destroy,

Come, walk we the landscape, and cheerfully follow
    The beck of our free-footed fancies to-day,—
By wild-wood and river-path, hill-side and hollow,
    From shadows and sounds of the city away;

For children are out on their devious ramble,
    (Sweet childhood! I cling to thy memories yet)
Who rifle the hazle-bough, halt by the bramble,
    And stain laughing lips with its fruitage of jet.

How golden the garment of sunlight that covers
    Earth's manifold features of glory and grace!
How teeming with silver the cloud-fleece that hovers
    Above, in the measureless marvel of space!

The solemn old woods how they sadden! and slumber
    In gorgeous tranquility, fading though fair,
As if some rich sunset of hues, without number,
    Had fallen, and rested in permanence there,

The cuckoo is gone, and the swallow prepareth
    To wing his broad passage to far distant bowers;
Some region of splendours and spices, that weareth
    The freshly-born beauties of bright summer hours.

Now turn we our steps, for the lusty sun lieth,
    O'erhung with his banners of flame, in the west;
The rook to his cloud-gazing citadel flyeth,
    The hind to his homestead, the steer to his rest.

Let us feast upon nature, for silence and sadness
    Will fling their stern fetters about her, ere long;
But the heart that is wont to partake of her gladness
    Will find her, still living and blooming, in song.

High thought! that the soul of our mould is immortal!
    Unwithered, unwasted, by season or time;
That a springtide eternal may open its portal,
    And beckon us in to a happier clime!

 

_______________________

 
AUTUMN.

 

"Sweet is the quiet prime of Autumn time!"
    A voice, like happy boyhood's, seemed to sing,
As half unconscious of the idle rhyme,
    He carroled gaily, like a thoughtless thing.
"Sweet Autumn time! though jocund Spring be gone,
And Summer's fuller glories, one by one,—
Spring, with her lavish wealth of early flowers,
And early music in her festal bowers;
Her brief, resplendent rainbows, and her breeze
Rich with the breath of blossom-bearing trees,
Which drink the genial sunlight, as 'twere wine
Poured from a golden chalice half divine!
Summer, with languishing yet ardent looks
That stilled the fretful brawling of the brooks,
Till lightnings, born of many a labouring cloud,
Elanced their fires, and thunders, low or loud,—
Shook to the grateful earth the loosened rain,
And woke the waters into voice again.
When unmown meadow-lands were full and fair,
When slumbrous sounds were in the stirless air
Of bee that wavered on its sunny way,
Or weary song-birds' half forgotten lay;
When pleasure dimpled on the shadowy pool,
And tangled wood-haunts, still, remote, and cool,
Seemed full of sylvan visions, quaint and wild,
The dainty dream-life of the poet-child,—
Though these are gone, Autumnal season, thou
Wilt be my teacher and companion now.
    Thy fields all golden with the "embattled" grain;
Thy woods that glow with many a gorgeous stain;
Thy homestead orchards with fair fruit that blush;
Thy jet-bright berries on the bramble bush;
Thy rough, ripe, clustering nuts, that hang between
The lowly umbrage of the hazel green;
Thy shifting shadows on the silent waste;
Thy lightsome, lonely, lofty clouds that haste
Athwart the ethereal wilderness, and stray
Like wild flocks scattered on a trackless way!
These, and thy buoyant winds that come and go,
While corn, fruit, foliage, waver to and fro;—
These, while the sturdy swain with skilful ease
Reaps the proud produce of the fertile leas,
Flinging his merry harvest songs around
With the unstinted tribute of the ground,—
These can delight, can thrill with nameless joy
The restless spirit of the roving boy.

________________


"A generous, joyous prime hath Autumn time,"
    A voice, like hardy manhood's, seemed to cry,
Breathing a loud, heart-uttered, earnest rhyme,
    Which rang beneath the mellow morning sky!
"Glad Autumn time! how leaps the expectant heart
At thy blythe coming, laden as thou art
With wine to cheer, with bread to feed the frame,—
Autumn, there's hope and promise in thy name!
Mothers and maids, young men and elders, see
What blest abundance clothes the quiet lea,
Bring forth the sickle,—bare the encumbered brow,
And nerve the lusty arm to labour now!
Behold how droops the heavy harvest down,
A graceful plume for Plenty's golden crown!
There, let us bind the prostrate sheaves, the while
The noontide sun looks on with kindly smile,
And leave the poor man's progeny to glean
The scattered wheat-ears that we drop between!
'Tis done: and now the strong and ample wain
Receives its load of life-sustaining grain.
Uppiled, a trembling pyramid of gold,
It moves through stubble, pasture field, and fold,—
Through woodland shades, by old romantic ways,
Beneath the low broad moon's unclouded gaze,
Until we store it, warm and weather proof,
Beneath the granary's capacious roof;
And anxious neighbours, unforbidden, come,
To share the triumph of our harvest home.
    The cup is filled, the liberal board is set,
But ere we banquet, let us not forget
To lift the heart's best homage unto God
Who breathed His blessing on the pregnant sod!
Nor let us slight the unexampled few,
True to themselves, to natural justice true,
Who crushed the mighty error, and the power
That crippled commerce and withheld her dower;
That laid its selfish hands upon the soil,
Nor sought, nor soothed the home—the heart of toil.
That wrong is swept away, and other wrongs,
Seared by the eloquence of truthful tongues,—
Awed by the press, and perilled by the pen,
Shall cease to lord it o'er enlightened men!
Drink we in temperate draughts of generous ale—
God speed the plough, the sickle, and the flail!
Ye vintage gatherers, a lowly band,
Ye tillers of the ground in every land;
Men at the spindle, women at the loom,—
Poor sempstress, pining in the sunless room,
Workers that weary in the perilous mine,
Ye toilers, tossed upon the stormy brine;
Smith at the anvil, grinder at the wheel,
Lone fisher leaning on thy venturous heel;
Hewers of stone, and builders of the wall,
Craftsmen that labour at the bench and stall;—
May health, hope, freedom, plenty, peace, prepare
To bless your toils, and make your future fair!
Help is at hand, the darkness breaks away
From the quick dawning of serener day,
When ye shall sing in many a grateful rhyme
The gifts and glories of the Autumn time."

________________


"A sweet, yet solemn prime hath Autumn time!"
    A pensive voice, like Age's, seemed to say,—
"Each of its warnings hath a tone sublime,
    Each feature tells of splendour in decay!''
Sad Autumn time! sweet symbol of repose,
Can I behold thy rich harmonious close,—
All duties done, all promises fulfilled,
As an unerring Providence hath willed,
Nor feel, as Christian ought, a calm desire
Like thee in finished glory to expire?
I hear thy sere leaves, reft by every breeze
From the forsaken branches of the trees.
Shiver in air, and fall upon the ground
With a mysterious eloquence of sound!
I hear thy winds with mournful music sing
O'er naked fields that wait another spring;
Through woods that answer with a fitful moan
That make their solitudes seem doubly lone;
But there's a language in thy tone, a power
That arms my spirit for the final hour;—
A language of high teaching, rich and rife
With happy promise of immortal life.
These trees shall bud again—these shades rejoice
With a full concert of melodious voice;
These fields shall smile, these sombre waters play
In the glad light of renovated day;
These skies shall put a gayer garment on
When needful Winter and his storms are gone:
But I must lay me in the quiet sod,
My faith unshaken in the love of God,
To re-awake in that celestial clime
Where perfect beauty reigns and knows no fading time.

 

_______________________

 
NORTH WALES.

ADDRESSED TO A POET-FRIEND.

 

These records of thy wanderings awake
    Dear memories of that bold romantic land,
    That mingling of the beautiful and grand
By God in nature moulded; where the lake
Sleeps in gigantic shadows; and the tower,
(Which, crumbling, yet outlives the human power
That raised it) of the past records a troublous hour.

Make holiday once more; thou hast not seen
Cloud-girdled Snowdon's majesty of mien,
With all his rock-realm, wonderful and wide,
Where stern Llanberris lifts on either side
Twin lakes, his storm-rent citadels of stone,
Dark, splintered, inaccessible, and lone!

Then hast not travelled up the sinuous length
Of pastoral Conway; nor beheld the strength
And beauty of its waters, as they boom
And flash, down leaping, in their glens of gloom,
Thou hast not fettered fancy with a spell
In grey Carnarvon, stalwart in decay,
Which calmly looks upon the busy bay
    With all its chambers desolate and cold,
A gaunt "romance in stone," which seems to tell
    A wild, strange story of the days of old.

Thou hast not trod with pilgrim foot the ground
    Where sleeps the canine martyr of distrust,
Poor Gelert, famed in song, as brave a hound
        As ever guarded homestead, hut, or hall,
        Or leapt exulting at the hunter's call;
    As ever grateful man consigned to dust.

Enthusiast as thou art, thou hast not heard,
    In fair Llangollen's wilderness of charms,
    (Aloof from city vices and alarms.)
The bleat of many flocks; the voice of bird
Sweet issuing from the sylvan depths of green
Which clothe the quiet slopes of that secluded scene,

Thou hast not passed the threshold of those homes,
    Peaceful and far apart, o'er vale and hill—
        Where those of ancient tongue, a simple race,
Cherish such virtues as in lordly halls
        Die of neglect, and with glad heart and face
    Perform harsh duties with a strenuous will.

Thou hast not listened by their evening fires
To lore, descended unto sons from sires,
    Of ghastly legend and of oral song
        By Cadwallador and Taleisen made,
    Recording deeds of struggle, storm, and wrong,
        When from the Roman's red resistless blade
They fled amazed, in peril's bloodiest hour,
And in their mountain land withstood the invader's
            power.

Would we could go together, and explore,
    With ready means, and minds of kindred mood,
Each quiet place that slumbers by the shore,
    And all the inner haunts of solitude;
The cloud-crowned mountain, and the cloven glen,
    Through which the fretful river leaps and flows;
Swart moors far stretching from the homes of men
    In sullen silence, savage in repose;
Remnants of feudal pride and monkish power,
    By the tenacious ivy clothed and graced,
And shepherd-peopled hamlets, grey and wild,
    By circling hills and crowding woods embraced,
Where clustering graves, and consecrated tower,
Mementos of a hopeful creed and mild,
Stand solemnly apart, for feelings undefiled.

Lakes gathered in stern hollows of the land,
    Swept by the winds in their sublimest might—
Our eyes should gaze upon, and we should stand
    Wrapt in tumultuous, but mute delight,
In presence of fierce waters, drinking in,
Till sense and soul were filled, their grandeur and their
            din.

And we would wander pensively along
    The yellow beach, communing with the ocean,
Or sit and listen to the fisher's song,
    Our hearts expanding with a sweet emotion,
Till sunset's magical and mingling hues
    Had burned and faded, one by one, away,
Leaving the tender twilight to diffuse
    A silent softness, a transparent grey
O'er sky and wave; till o'er the mountain's rim
The moon and her one vassal-star should swim,
    In the deep ether, with a dreamy light,
    And call forth other stars to beautify the night.
Then for an hour or two we would abide
By the snug hostel's ample chimney-side;
Exult o'er toils o'ercome, recount our pleasures,
And linger fondly over memory's treasures;
Old times, old rhymes, old bards, old books, old places,
New dreams, new hopes, new knowledge, and new faces.

And we would visit (curious to behold
    The moods, the manners, and the homely life
Of Cambria's hardy children, fair and bold,
    The sire, the son, the husband, and the wife.)
Quaint towns on festival and market days,
    See bargains made, see purse and pannier laden;
Admire the lusty dance, and in its maze
    Take hands ourselves, with some blythe pleasant
            maiden;
Exchange the courteous cup, and join the song,
(Well as we could in so uncouth a tongue)
Snatch joy from the occasion, and increase
Our love of social unity and peace;
Or, when the Sabbath bell with morning chime
Broke on the holy stillness of the time—
To village churches quietly repair,
And offer up the heart's best homage there,
Rejoicing to behold good seed take birth
In such remote recesses of the earth;
And we would linger by the graves to know
How lived, how died, the occupant below,
Learn how the living sorrowed at the loss,
Yet leaned for strength and comfort on the cross.

So would we move and meditate awhile
In this, the loveliest corner of our isle;
Deep in its glooms and glories would we roam,
Till duty and affection called us home.
Here to admiring listeners we would tell
Of mountain cleft, rough cataract, and dell,
That stayed us on our pilgrimage; of nooks
Peopled and peaceful—all untold in books;
Or, left to silence and our thoughts, recall
From out the dimness of our cottage wall,
Shapes of stern grandeur, looming into light
And spots of beauty, soothing to the sight,
Transmissions of the memory to drown
The common-places of our crowded town:
From such warm solace what warm soul can sever?
"A thing of Beauty is a Joy for ever!"


[Next Page]
 

 



[Home] [Up] [Biography] [Hours with the Muses] [Poetic Rosary] [Autumn Leaves] [Miscellaneous Poems] [Unpublished Poems] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk