LYRICAL BALLADS, WITH A FEW OTHER POEMS.
PRINTED FOR J. & A. ARCH, GRACECHURCH-STREET.
It is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves.
The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and aukwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to enquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favourable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision.
Readers of superior judgment may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed it must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended, that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.
An accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by severe thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned not with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced reader from judging for himself; but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgment may be erroneous, and that in many cases it necessarily will be so.
The tale of Goody Blake and Harry Gill is founded on a well-authenticated fact which happened in Warwickshire. Of the other poems in the collection, it may be proper to say that they are either absolute inventions of the author, or facts which took place within his personal observation or that of his friends. The poem of the Thorn, as the reader will soon discover, is not supposed to be spoken in the author's own person: the character of the loquacious narrator will sufficiently shew itself in the course of the story. The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere was professedly written in imitation of the style, as well as of the spirit of the elder poets; but with a few exceptions, the Author believes that the language adopted in it has been equally intelligible for these three last centuries. The lines entitled Expostulation and Reply, and those which follow, arose out of conversation with a friend who was somewhat unreasonably attached to modern books of moral philosophy.
The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere
The Foster-Mother's Tale
Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite
The Nightingale, a Conversational Poem
The Female Vagrant
Goody Blake and Harry Gill
Lines written at a small distance from my House, and sent by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed
Simon Lee, the old Huntsman
Anecdote for Fathers
We are seven
Lines written in early spring
The last of the Flock
The Mad Mother
The Idiot Boy
Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at Evening
Expostulation and Reply
The Tables turned; an Evening Scene, on the same subject
Old Man travelling
The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman
Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey
THE RIME OF THE ANCYENT MARINERE, IN SEVEN PARTS.
How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by Storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country.
It is an ancyent Marinere, And he stoppeth one of three: "By thy long grey beard and thy glittering eye "Now wherefore stoppest me?
"The Bridegroom's doors are open'd wide "And I am next of kin; "The Guests are met, the Feast is set,— "May'st hear the merry din.—
But still he holds the wedding-guest— There was a Ship, quoth he— "Nay, if thou'st got a laughsome tale, "Marinere! come with me."
He holds him with his skinny hand, Quoth he, there was a Ship— "Now get thee hence, thou grey-beard Loon! "Or my Staff shall make thee skip."
He holds him with his glittering eye— The wedding guest stood still And listens like a three year's child; The Marinere hath his will.
The wedding-guest sate on a stone, He cannot chuse but hear: And thus spake on that ancyent man, The bright-eyed Marinere.
The Ship was cheer'd, the Harbour clear'd— Merrily did we drop Below the Kirk, below the Hill, Below the Light-house top.
The Sun came up upon the left, Out of the Sea came he: And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the Sea.
Higher and higher every day, Till over the mast at noon— The wedding-guest here beat his breast, For he heard the loud bassoon.
The Bride hath pac'd into the Hall, Red as a rose is she; Nodding their heads before her goes The merry Minstralsy.
The wedding-guest he beat his breast, Yet he cannot chuse but hear: And thus spake on that ancyent Man, The bright-eyed Marinere.
Listen, Stranger! Storm and Wind, A Wind and Tempest strong! For days and weeks it play'd us freaks— Like Chaff we drove along.
Listen, Stranger! Mist and Snow, And it grew wond'rous cauld: And Ice mast-high came floating by As green as Emerauld.
And thro' the drifts the snowy clifts Did send a dismal sheen; Ne shapes of men ne beasts we ken— The Ice was all between.
The Ice was here, the Ice was there, The Ice was all around: It crack'd and growl'd, and roar'd and howl'd— Like noises of a swound.
At length did cross an Albatross, Thorough the Fog it came; And an it were a Christian Soul, We hail'd it in God's name.
The Marineres gave it biscuit-worms, And round and round it flew: The Ice did split with a Thunder-fit; The Helmsman steer'd us thro'.
And a good south wind sprung up behind, The Albatross did follow; And every day for food or play Came to the Marinere's hollo!
In mist or cloud on mast or shroud It perch'd for vespers nine, Whiles all the night thro' fog-smoke white Glimmer'd the white moon-shine.
"God save thee, ancyent Marinere! "From the fiends that plague thee thus— "Why look'st thou so?"—with my cross bow I shot the Albatross.
The Sun came up upon the right, Out of the Sea came he; And broad as a weft upon the left Went down into the Sea.
And the good south wind still blew behind, But no sweet Bird did follow Ne any day for food or play Came to the Marinere's hollo!
And I had done an hellish thing And it would work 'em woe: For all averr'd, I had kill'd the Bird That made the Breeze to blow.
Ne dim ne red, like God's own head, The glorious Sun uprist: Then all averr'd, I had kill'd the Bird That brought the fog and mist. 'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay That bring the fog and mist.
The breezes blew, the white foam flew, The furrow follow'd free: We were the first that ever burst Into that silent Sea.
Down dropt the breeze, the Sails dropt down, 'Twas sad as sad could be And we did speak only to break The silence of the Sea.
All in a hot and copper sky The bloody sun at noon, Right up above the mast did stand, No bigger than the moon.
Day after day, day after day, We stuck, ne breath ne motion, As idle as a painted Ship Upon a painted Ocean.
Water, water, every where And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Ne any drop to drink.
The very deeps did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy Sea.
About, about, in reel and rout The Death-fires danc'd at night; The water, like a witch's oils, Burnt green and blue and white.
And some in dreams assured were Of the Spirit that plagued us so: Nine fathom deep he had follow'd us From the Land of Mist and Snow.
And every tongue thro' utter drouth Was wither'd at the root; We could not speak no more than if We had been choked with soot.
Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks Had I from old and young; Instead of the Cross the Albatross About my neck was hung.
I saw a something in the Sky No bigger than my fist; At first it seem'd a little speck And then it seem'd a mist: It mov'd and mov'd, and took at last A certain shape, I wist.
A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist! And still it ner'd and ner'd; And, an it dodg'd a water-sprite, It plung'd and tack'd and veer'd.
With throat unslack'd, with black lips bak'd Ne could we laugh, ne wail: Then while thro' drouth all dumb they stood I bit my arm and suck'd the blood And cry'd, A sail! a sail!
With throat unslack'd, with black lips bak'd Agape they hear'd me call: Gramercy! they for joy did grin And all at once their breath drew in As they were drinking all.
She doth not tack from side to side— Hither to work us weal Withouten wind, withouten tide She steddies with upright keel.
The western wave was all a flame, The day was well nigh done! Almost upon the western wave Rested the broad bright Sun; When that strange shape drove suddenly Betwixt us and the Sun.
And strait the Sun was fleck'd with bars (Heaven's mother send us grace) As if thro' a dungeon grate he peer'd With broad and burning face.
Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud) How fast she neres and neres! Are those her Sails that glance in the Sun Like restless gossameres?
Are these her naked ribs, which fleck'd The sun that did behind them peer? And are these two all, all the crew, That woman and her fleshless Pheere?
His bones were black with many a crack, All black and bare, I ween; Jet-black and bare, save where with rust Of mouldy damps and charnel crust They're patch'd with purple and green.
Her lips are red, her looks are free, Her locks are yellow as gold: Her skin is as white as leprosy, And she is far liker Death than he; Her flesh makes the still air cold.
The naked Hulk alongside came And the Twain were playing dice; "The Game is done! I've won, I've won!" Quoth she, and whistled thrice.
A gust of wind sterte up behind And whistled thro' his bones; Thro' the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth Half-whistles and half-groans.
With never a whisper in the Sea Off darts the Spectre-ship; While clombe above the Eastern bar The horned Moon, with one bright Star Almost atween the tips.
One after one by the horned Moon (Listen, O Stranger! to me) Each turn'd his face with a ghastly pang And curs'd me with his ee.
Four times fifty living men, With never a sigh or groan, With heavy thump, a lifeless lump They dropp'd down one by one.
Their souls did from their bodies fly,— They fled to bliss or woe; And every soul it pass'd me by, Like the whiz of my Cross-bow.
"I fear thee, ancyent Marinere! "I fear thy skinny hand; "And thou art long and lank and brown "As is the ribb'd Sea-sand.
"I fear thee and thy glittering eye "And thy skinny hand so brown"— Fear not, fear not, thou wedding guest! This body dropt not down.
Alone, alone, all all alone Alone on the wide wide Sea; And Christ would take no pity on My soul in agony.
The many men so beautiful, And they all dead did lie! And a million million slimy things Liv'd on—and so did I.
I look'd upon the rotting Sea, And drew my eyes away; I look'd upon the eldritch deck, And there the dead men lay.
I look'd to Heaven, and try'd to pray; But or ever a prayer had gusht, A wicked whisper came and made My heart as dry as dust.
I clos'd my lids and kept them close, Till the balls like pulses beat; For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky Lay like a load on my weary eye, And the dead were at my feet.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs, Ne rot, ne reek did they; The look with which they look'd on me, Had never pass'd away.
An orphan's curse would drag to Hell A spirit from on high: But O! more horrible than that Is the curse in a dead man's eye! Seven days, seven nights I saw that curse And yet I could not die.
The moving Moon went up the sky And no where did abide: Softly she was going up And a star or two beside—
Her beams bemock'd the sultry main Like morning frosts yspread; But where the ship's huge shadow lay, The charmed water burnt alway A still and awful red.
Beyond the shadow of the ship I watch'd the water-snakes: They mov'd in tracks of shining white; And when they rear'd, the elfish light Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship I watch'd their rich attire: Blue, glossy green, and velvet black They coil'd and swam; and every track Was a flash of golden fire.
O happy living things! no tongue Their beauty might declare: A spring of love gusht from my heart, And I bless'd them unaware! Sure my kind saint took pity on me, And I bless'd them unaware.
The self-same moment I could pray; And from my neck so free The Albatross fell off, and sank Like lead into the sea.
O sleep, it is a gentle thing Belov'd from pole to pole! To Mary-queen the praise be yeven She sent the gentle sleep from heaven That slid into my soul.
The silly buckets on the deck That had so long remain'd, I dreamt that they were fill'd with dew And when I awoke it rain'd.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold, My garments all were dank; Sure I had drunken in my dreams And still my body drank.
I mov'd and could not feel my limbs, I was so light, almost I thought that I had died in sleep, And was a blessed Ghost.
The roaring wind! it roar'd far off, It did not come anear; But with its sound it shook the sails That were so thin and sere.
The upper air bursts into life, And a hundred fire-flags sheen To and fro they are hurried about; And to and fro, and in and out The stars dance on between.
The coming wind doth roar more loud; The sails do sigh, like sedge: The rain pours down from one black cloud And the Moon is at its edge.
Hark! hark! the thick black cloud is cleft, And the Moon is at its side: Like waters shot from some high crag, The lightning falls with never a jag A river steep and wide.
The strong wind reach'd the ship: it roar'd And dropp'd down, like a stone! Beneath the lightning and the moon The dead men gave a groan.
They groan'd, they stirr'd, they all uprose, Ne spake, ne mov'd their eyes: It had been strange, even in a dream To have seen those dead men rise.
The helmsman steerd, the ship mov'd on; Yet never a breeze up-blew; The Marineres all 'gan work the ropes, Where they were wont to do:
They rais'd their limbs like lifeless tools— We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother's son Stood by me knee to knee: The body and I pull'd at one rope, But he said nought to me— And I quak'd to think of my own voice How frightful it would be!
The day-light dawn'd—they dropp'd their arms, And cluster'd round the mast: Sweet sounds rose slowly thro' their mouths And from their bodies pass'd.
Around, around, flew each sweet sound, Then darted to the sun: Slowly the sounds came back again Now mix'd, now one by one.
Sometimes a dropping from the sky I heard the Lavrock sing; Sometimes all little birds that are How they seem'd to fill the sea and air With their sweet jargoning,
And now 'twas like all instruments, Now like a lonely flute; And now it is an angel's song That makes the heavens be mute.
It ceas'd: yet still the sails made on A pleasant noise till noon, A noise like of a hidden brook In the leafy month of June, That to the sleeping woods all night Singeth a quiet tune.
Listen, O listen, thou Wedding-guest! "Marinere! thou hast thy will: "For that, which comes out of thine eye, doth make "My body and soul to be still."
Never sadder tale was told To a man of woman born: Sadder and wiser thou wedding-guest! Thou'lt rise to morrow morn.
Never sadder tale was heard By a man of woman born: The Marineres all return'd to work As silent as beforne.
The Marineres all 'gan pull the ropes, But look at me they n'old: Thought I, I am as thin as air— They cannot me behold.
Till moon we silently sail'd on Yet never a breeze did breathe: Slowly and smoothly went the ship Mov'd onward from beneath.
Under the keel nine fathom deep From the land of mist and snow The spirit slid: and it was He That made the Ship to go. The sails at noon left off their tune And the Ship stood still also.
The sun right up above the mast Had fix'd her to the ocean: But in a minute she 'gan stir With a short uneasy motion— Backwards and forwards half her length With a short uneasy motion.
Then, like a pawing horse let go, She made a sudden bound: It flung the blood into my head, And I fell into a swound.
How long in that same fit I lay, I have not to declare; But ere my living life return'd, I heard and in my soul discern'd Two voices in the air,
"Is it he?" quoth one, "Is this the man? "By him who died on cross, "With his cruel bow he lay'd full low "The harmless Albatross.
"The spirit who 'bideth by himself "In the land of mist and snow, "He lov'd the bird that lov'd the man "Who shot him with his bow."
The other was a softer voice, As soft as honey-dew: Quoth he the man hath penance done, And penance more will do.
FIRST VOICE. "But tell me, tell me! speak again, "Thy soft response renewing— "What makes that ship drive on so fast? "What is the Ocean doing?"
SECOND VOICE. "Still as a Slave before his Lord, "The Ocean hath no blast: "His great bright eye most silently "Up to the moon is cast—
"If he may know which way to go, "For she guides him smooth or grim. "See, brother, see! how graciously "She looketh down on him."
FIRST VOICE. "But why drives on that ship so fast "Withouten wave or wind?" SECOND VOICE. "The air is cut away before, "And closes from behind.
"Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high, "Or we shall be belated: "For slow and slow that ship will go, "When the Marinere's trance is abated."
I woke, and we were sailing on As in a gentle weather: 'Twas night, calm night, the moon was high; The dead men stood together.
All stood together on the deck, For a charnel-dungeon fitter: All fix'd on me their stony eyes That in the moon did glitter.
The pang, the curse, with which they died, Had never pass'd away: I could not draw my een from theirs Ne turn them up to pray.
And in its time the spell was snapt, And I could move my een: I look'd far-forth, but little saw Of what might else be seen.
Like one, that on a lonely road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turn'd round, walks on And turns no more his head: Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.
But soon there breath'd a wind on me, Ne sound ne motion made: Its path was not upon the sea In ripple or in shade.
It rais'd my hair, it fann'd my cheek, Like a meadow-gale of spring— It mingled strangely with my fears, Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship, Yet she sail'd softly too: Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze— On me alone it blew.
O dream of joy! is this indeed The light-house top I see? Is this the Hill? Is this the Kirk? Is this mine own countree?
We drifted o'er the Harbour-bar, And I with sobs did pray— "O let me be awake, my God! "Or let me sleep alway!"
The harbour-bay was clear as glass, So smoothly it was strewn! And on the bay the moon light lay, And the shadow of the moon.
The moonlight bay was white all o'er, Till rising from the same, Full many shapes, that shadows were, Like as of torches came.
A little distance from the prow Those dark-red shadows were; But soon I saw that my own flesh Was red as in a glare.
I turn'd my head in fear and dread, And by the holy rood, The bodies had advanc'd, and now Before the mast they stood.
They lifted up their stiff right arms, They held them strait and tight; And each right-arm burnt like a torch, A torch that's borne upright. Their stony eye-balls glitter'd on In the red and smoky light.
I pray'd and turn'd my head away Forth looking as before. There was no breeze upon the bay, No wave against the shore.
The rock shone bright, the kirk no less That stands above the rock: The moonlight steep'd in silentness The steady weathercock.
And the bay was white with silent light, Till rising from the same Full many shapes, that shadows were, In crimson colours came.
A little distance from the prow Those crimson shadows were: I turn'd my eyes upon the deck— O Christ! what saw I there?
Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat; And by the Holy rood A man all light, a seraph-man, On every corse there stood.
This seraph-band, each wav'd his hand: It was a heavenly sight: They stood as signals to the land, Each one a lovely light:
This seraph-band, each wav'd his hand, No voice did they impart— No voice; but O! the silence sank, Like music on my heart.
Eftsones I heard the dash of oars, I heard the pilot's cheer: My head was turn'd perforce away And I saw a boat appear.
Then vanish'd all the lovely lights; The bodies rose anew: With silent pace, each to his place, Came back the ghastly crew. The wind, that shade nor motion made, On me alone it blew.
The pilot, and the pilot's boy I heard them coming fast: Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy, The dead men could not blast.
I saw a third—I heard his voice: It is the Hermit good! He singeth loud his godly hymns That he makes in the wood. He'll shrieve my soul, he'll wash away The Albatross's blood.
This Hermit good lives in that wood Which slopes down to the Sea. How loudly his sweet voice he rears! He loves to talk with Marineres That come from a far Contree.
He kneels at morn and noon and eve— He hath a cushion plump: It is the moss, that wholly hides The rotted old Oak-stump.
The Skiff-boat ne'rd: I heard them talk, "Why, this is strange, I trow! "Where are those lights so many and fair "That signal made but now?
"Strange, by my faith!" the Hermit said— "And they answer'd not our cheer. "The planks look warp'd, and see those sails "How thin they are and sere! "I never saw aught like to them "Unless perchance it were
"The skeletons of leaves that lag "My forest brook along: "When the Ivy-tod is heavy with snow, "And the Owlet whoops to the wolf below "That eats the she-wolf's young.
"Dear Lord! it has a fiendish look"— (The Pilot made reply) "I am a-fear'd.—"Push on, push on!" Said the Hermit cheerily.
The Boat came closer to the Ship, But I ne spake ne stirr'd! The Boat came close beneath the Ship, And strait a sound was heard!
Under the water it rumbled on, Still louder and more dread: It reach'd the Ship, it split the bay; The Ship went down like lead.
Stunn'd by that loud and dreadful sound, Which sky and ocean smote: Like one that hath been seven days drown'd My body lay afloat: But, swift as dreams, myself I found Within the Pilot's boat.
Upon the whirl, where sank the Ship, The boat spun round and round: And all was still, save that the hill Was telling of the sound.
I mov'd my lips: the Pilot shriek'd And fell down in a fit. The Holy Hermit rais'd his eyes And pray'd where he did sit.
I took the oars: the Pilot's boy, Who now doth crazy go, Laugh'd loud and long, and all the while His eyes went to and fro, "Ha! ha!" quoth he—"full plain I see, "The devil knows how to row."
And now all in mine own Countree I stood on the firm land! The Hermit stepp'd forth from the boat, And scarcely he could stand.
"O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy Man!" The Hermit cross'd his brow— "Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say "What manner man art thou?"
Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench'd With a woeful agony, Which forc'd me to begin my tale And then it left me free.
Since then at an uncertain hour, Now oftimes and now fewer, That anguish comes and makes me tell My ghastly aventure.
I pass, like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; The moment that his face I see I know the man that must hear me; To him my tale I teach.
What loud uproar bursts from that door! The Wedding-guests are there; But in the Garden-bower the Bride And Bride-maids singing are: And hark the little Vesper-bell Which biddeth me to prayer.
O Wedding-guest! this soul hath been Alone on a wide wide sea: So lonely 'twas, that God himself Scarce seemed there to be.
O sweeter than the Marriage-feast, 'Tis sweeter far to me To walk together to the Kirk With a goodly company.
To walk together to the Kirk And all together pray, While each to his great father bends, Old men, and babes, and loving friends, And Youths, and Maidens gay.
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell To thee, thou wedding-guest! He prayeth well who loveth well Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best, All things both great and small: For the dear God, who loveth us, He made and loveth all.
The Marinere, whose eye is bright, Whose beard with age is hoar, Is gone; and now the wedding-guest Turn'd from the bridegroom's door.
He went, like one that hath been stunn'd And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man He rose the morrow morn.
THE FOSTER-MOTHER'S TALE, A DRAMATIC FRAGMENT.
FOSTER-MOTHER. I never saw the man whom you describe.
MARIA. 'Tis strange! he spake of you familiarly As mine and Albert's common Foster-mother.
FOSTER-MOTHER. Now blessings on the man, whoe'er he be, That joined your names with mine! O my sweet lady, As often as I think of those dear times When you two little ones would stand at eve On each side of my chair, and make me learn All you had learnt in the day; and how to talk In gentle phrase, then bid me sing to you— 'Tis more like heaven to come than what has been.
MARIA. O my dear Mother! this strange man has left me Troubled with wilder fancies, than the moon Breeds in the love-sick maid who gazes at it, Till lost in inward vision, with wet eye She gazes idly!—But that entrance, Mother!
FOSTER-MOTHER. Can no one hear? It is a perilous tale!
MARIA. No one.
FOSTER-MOTHER My husband's father told it me, Poor old Leoni!—Angels rest his soul! He was a woodman, and could fell and saw With lusty arm. You know that huge round beam Which props the hanging wall of the old chapel? Beneath that tree, while yet it was a tree He found a baby wrapt in mosses, lined With thistle-beards, and such small locks of wool As hang on brambles. Well, he brought him home, And reared him at the then Lord Velez' cost. And so the babe grew up a pretty boy, A pretty boy, but most unteachable— And never learnt a prayer, nor told a bead, But knew the names of birds, and mocked their notes, And whistled, as he were a bird himself: And all the autumn 'twas his only play To get the seeds of wild flowers, and to plant them With earth and water, on the stumps of trees. A Friar, who gathered simples in the wood, A grey-haired man—he loved this little boy, The boy loved him—and, when the Friar taught him, He soon could write with the pen: and from that time, Lived chiefly at the Convent or the Castle. So he became a very learned youth. But Oh! poor wretch!—he read, and read, and read, 'Till his brain turned—and ere his twentieth year, He had unlawful thoughts of many things: And though he prayed, he never loved to pray With holy men, nor in a holy place— But yet his speech, it was so soft and sweet, The late Lord Velez ne'er was wearied with him. And once, as by the north side of the Chapel They stood together, chained in deep discourse, The earth heaved under them with such a groan, That the wall tottered, and had well-nigh fallen Right on their heads. My Lord was sorely frightened; A fever seized him, and he made confession Of all the heretical and lawless talk Which brought this judgment: so the youth was seized And cast into that hole. My husband's father Sobbed like a child—it almost broke his heart: And once as he was working in the cellar, He heard a voice distinctly; 'twas the youth's, Who sung a doleful song about green fields, How sweet it were on lake or wild savannah, To hunt for food, and be a naked man, And wander up and down at liberty. He always doted on the youth, and now His love grew desperate; and defying death, He made that cunning entrance I described: And the young man escaped.
MARIA. 'Tis a sweet tale: Such as would lull a listening child to sleep, His rosy face besoiled with unwiped tears.— And what became of him?
FOSTER-MOTHER. He went on ship-board With those bold voyagers, who made discovery Of golden lands. Leoni's younger brother Went likewise, and when he returned to Spain, He told Leoni, that the poor mad youth, Soon after they arrived in that new world, In spite of his dissuasion, seized a boat, And all alone, set sail by silent moonlight Up a great river, great as any sea, And ne'er was heard of more: but 'tis supposed, He lived and died among the savage men.
LINES LEFT UPON A SEAT IN A YEW-TREE WHICH STANDS NEAR THE LAKE OF ESTHWAITE, ON A DESOLATE PART OF THE SHORE, YET COMMANDING A BEAUTIFUL PROSPECT.
—Nay, Traveller! rest. This lonely yew-tree stands Far from all human dwelling: what if here No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb; What if these barren boughs the bee not loves; Yet, if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves, That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind By one soft impulse saved from vacancy.
—Who he was That piled these stones, and with the mossy sod First covered o'er, and taught this aged tree, Now wild, to bend its arms in circling shade, I well remember.—He was one who own'd No common soul. In youth, by genius nurs'd, And big with lofty views, he to the world Went forth, pure in his heart, against the taint Of dissolute tongues, 'gainst jealousy, and hate, And scorn, against all enemies prepared, All but neglect: and so, his spirit damped At once, with rash disdain he turned away, And with the food of pride sustained his soul In solitude.—Stranger! these gloomy boughs Had charms for him; and here he loved to sit, His only visitants a straggling sheep, The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper; And on these barren rocks, with juniper, And heath, and thistle, thinly sprinkled o'er, Fixing his downward eye, he many an hour A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here An emblem of his own unfruitful life: And lifting up his head, he then would gaze On the more distant scene; how lovely 'tis Thou seest, and he would gaze till it became Far lovelier, and his heart could not sustain The beauty still more beauteous. Nor, that time, Would he forget those beings, to whose minds, Warm from the labours of benevolence, The world, and man himself, appeared a scene Of kindred loveliness: then he would sigh With mournful joy, to think that others felt What he must never feel: and so, lost man! On visionary views would fancy feed, Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale He died, this seat his only monument.
If thou be one whose heart the holy forms Of young imagination have kept pure, Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know, that pride, Howe'er disguised in its own majesty, Is littleness; that he, who feels contempt For any living thing, hath faculties Which he has never used; that thought with him Is in its infancy. The man, whose eye Is ever on himself, doth look on one, The least of nature's works, one who might move The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds Unlawful, ever. O, be wiser thou! Instructed that true knowledge leads to love, True dignity abides with him alone Who, in the silent hour of inward thought, Can still suspect, and still revere himself, In lowliness of heart.
A CONVERSATIONAL POEM, WRITTEN IN APRIL, 1798.
No cloud, no relique of the sunken day Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip Of sullen Light, no obscure trembling hues. Come, we will rest on this old mossy Bridge! You see the glimmer of the stream beneath, But hear no murmuring: it flows silently O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still, A balmy night! and tho' the stars be dim, Yet let us think upon the vernal showers That gladden the green earth, and we shall find A pleasure in the dimness of the stars. And hark! the Nightingale begins its song, "Most musical, most melancholy" Bird! A melancholy Bird? O idle thought! In nature there is nothing melancholy. —But some night-wandering Man, whose heart was pierc'd With the remembrance of a grievous wrong, Or slow distemper or neglected love, (And so, poor Wretch! fill'd all things with himself And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale Of his own sorrows) he and such as he First nam'd these notes a melancholy strain; And many a poet echoes the conceit, Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme When he had better far have stretch'd his limbs Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell By sun or moonlight, to the influxes Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song And of his fame forgetful! so his fame Should share in nature's immortality, A venerable thing! and so his song Should make all nature lovelier, and itself Be lov'd, like nature!—But 'twill not be so; And youths and maidens most poetical Who lose the deep'ning twilights of the spring In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs O'er Philomela's pity-pleading strains. My Friend, and my Friend's Sister! we have learnt A different lore: we may not thus profane Nature's sweet voices always full of love And joyance! 'Tis the merry Nightingale That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates With fast thick warble his delicious notes, As he were fearful, that an April night Would be too short for him to utter forth His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul Of all its music! And I know a grove Of large extent, hard by a castle huge Which the great lord inhabits not: and so This grove is wild with tangling underwood, And the trim walks are broken up, and grass, Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths. But never elsewhere in one place I knew So many Nightingales: and far and near In wood and thicket over the wide grove They answer and provoke each other's songs— With skirmish and capricious passagings, And murmurs musical and swift jug jug And one low piping sound more sweet than all— Stirring the air with such an harmony, That should you close your eyes, you might almost Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes, Whose dewy leafits are but half disclos'd, You may perchance behold them on the twigs, Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and full, Glistning, while many a glow-worm in the shade Lights up her love-torch.
A most gentle maid Who dwelleth in her hospitable home Hard by the Castle, and at latest eve, (Even like a Lady vow'd and dedicate To something more than nature in the grove) Glides thro' the pathways; she knows all their notes, That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment's space, What time the moon was lost behind a cloud, Hath heard a pause of silence: till the Moon Emerging, hath awaken'd earth and sky With one sensation, and those wakeful Birds Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy, As if one quick and sudden Gale had swept An hundred airy harps! And she hath watch'd Many a Nightingale perch giddily On blosmy twig still swinging from the breeze, And to that motion tune his wanton song, Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.
Farewell, O Warbler! till to-morrow eve, And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell! We have been loitering long and pleasantly, And now for our dear homes.—That strain again! Full fain it would delay me!—My dear Babe, Who, capable of no articulate sound, Mars all things with his imitative lisp, How he would place his hand beside his ear, His little hand, the small forefinger up, And bid us listen! And I deem it wise To make him Nature's playmate. He knows well The evening star: and once when he awoke In most distressful mood (some inward pain Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream) I hurried with him to our orchard plot, And he beholds the moon, and hush'd at once Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently, While his fair eyes that swam with undropt tears Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well— It is a father's tale. But if that Heaven Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up Familiar with these songs, that with the night He may associate Joy! Once more farewell, Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.
 "Most musical, most melancholy." This passage in Milton possesses an excellence far superior to that of mere description: it is spoken in the character of the melancholy Man, and has therefore a dramatic propriety. The Author makes this remark, to rescue himself from the charge of having alluded with levity to a line in Milton: a charge than which none could be more painful to him, except perhaps that of having ridiculed his Bible.
THE FEMALE VAGRANT.
By Derwent's side my Father's cottage stood, (The Woman thus her artless story told) One field, a flock, and what the neighbouring flood Supplied, to him were more than mines of gold. Light was my sleep; my days in transport roll'd: With thoughtless joy I stretch'd along the shore My father's nets, or watched, when from the fold High o'er the cliffs I led my fleecy store, A dizzy depth below! his boat and twinkling oar.
My father was a good and pious man, An honest man by honest parents bred, And I believe that, soon as I began To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed, And in his hearing there my prayers I said: And afterwards, by my good father taught, I read, and loved the books in which I read; For books in every neighbouring house I sought, And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.
Can I forget what charms did once adorn My garden, stored with pease, and mint, and thyme, And rose and lilly for the sabbath morn? The sabbath bells, and their delightful chime; The gambols and wild freaks at shearing time; My hen's rich nest through long grass scarce espied; The cowslip-gathering at May's dewy prime; The swans, that, when I sought the water-side, From far to meet me came, spreading their snowy pride.
The staff I yet remember which upbore The bending body of my active sire; His seat beneath the honeyed sycamore When the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire; When market-morning came, the neat attire With which, though bent on haste, myself I deck'd; My watchful dog, whose starts of furious ire, When stranger passed, so often I have check'd; The red-breast known for years, which at my casement peck'd.
The suns of twenty summers danced along,— Ah! little marked, how fast they rolled away: Then rose a mansion proud our woods among, And cottage after cottage owned its sway, No joy to see a neighbouring house, or stray Through pastures not his own, the master took; My Father dared his greedy wish gainsay; He loved his old hereditary nook, And ill could I the thought of such sad parting brook.
But, when he had refused the proffered gold, To cruel injuries he became a prey, Sore traversed in whate'er he bought and sold: His troubles grew upon him day by day, Till all his substance fell into decay. His little range of water was denied; All but the bed where his old body lay, All, all was seized, and weeping, side by side, We sought a home where we uninjured might abide.
Can I forget that miserable hour, When from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed, Peering above the trees, the steeple tower, That on his marriage-day sweet music made? Till then he hoped his bones might there be laid, Close by my mother in their native bowers: Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed,— I could not pray:—through tears that fell in showers, Glimmer'd our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!
There was a youth whom I had loved so long, That when I loved him not I cannot say. 'Mid the green mountains many and many a song We two had sung, like little birds in May. When we began to tire of childish play We seemed still more and more to prize each other: We talked of marriage and our marriage day; And I in truth did love him like a brother, For never could I hope to meet with such another.
His father said, that to a distant town He must repair, to ply the artist's trade. What tears of bitter grief till then unknown! What tender vows our last sad kiss delayed! To him we turned:—we had no other aid. Like one revived, upon his neck I wept, And her whom he had loved in joy, he said He well could love in grief: his faith he kept; And in a quiet home once more my father slept.
Four years each day with daily bread was blest, By constant toil and constant prayer supplied. Three lovely infants lay upon my breast; And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed, And knew not why. My happy father died When sad distress reduced the children's meal: Thrice happy! that from him the grave did hide The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel, And tears that flowed for ills which patience could not heal.
'Twas a hard change, an evil time was come; We had no hope, and no relief could gain. But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum Beat round, to sweep the streets of want and pain. My husband's arms now only served to strain Me and his children hungering in his view: In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain: To join those miserable men he flew; And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.
There foul neglect for months and months we bore, Nor yet the crowded fleet its anchor stirred. Green fields before us and our native shore, By fever, from polluted air incurred, Ravage was made, for which no knell was heard. Fondly we wished, and wished away, nor knew, 'Mid that long sickness, and those hopes deferr'd, That happier days we never more must view: The parting signal streamed, at last the land withdrew,
But from delay the summer calms were past. On as we drove, the equinoctial deep Ran mountains—high before the howling blaft. We gazed with terror on the gloomy sleep Of them that perished in the whirlwind's sweep, Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue, Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap, That we the mercy of the waves should rue. We reached the western world, a poor, devoted crew.
Oh! dreadful price of being to resign All that is dear in being! better far In Want's most lonely cave till death to pine, Unseen, unheard, unwatched by any star; Or in the streets and walks where proud men are, Better our dying bodies to obtrude, Than dog-like, wading at the heels of war, Protract a curst existence, with the brood That lap (their very nourishment!) their brother's blood.
The pains and plagues that on our heads came down, Disease and famine, agony and fear, In wood or wilderness, in camp or town, It would thy brain unsettle even to hear. All perished—all, in one remorseless year, Husband and children! one by one, by sword And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored.
Peaceful as some immeasurable plain By the first beams of dawning light impress'd, In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main. The very ocean has its hour of rest, That comes not to the human mourner's breast. Remote from man, and storms of mortal care, A heavenly silence did the waves invest; I looked and looked along the silent air, Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.
Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps! And groans, that rage of racking famine spoke, Where looks inhuman dwelt on festering heaps! The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke! The shriek that from the distant battle broke! The mine's dire earthquake, and the pallid host Driven by the bomb's incessant thunder-stroke To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish toss'd, Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!
Yet does that burst of woe congeal my frame, When the dark streets appeared to heave and gape, While like a sea the storming army came, And Fire from Hell reared his gigantic shape, And Murder, by the ghastly gleam, and Rape Seized their joint prey, the mother and the child! But from these crazing thoughts my brain, escape! —For weeks the balmy air breathed soft and mild, And on the gliding vessel Heaven and Ocean smiled.
Some mighty gulph of separation past, I seemed transported to another world:— A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast The impatient mariner the sail unfurl'd, And whistling, called the wind that hardly curled The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home, And from all hope I was forever hurled. For me—farthest from earthly port to roam Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.
And oft, robb'd of my perfect mind, I thought At last my feet a resting-place had found: Here will I weep in peace, (so fancy wrought,) Roaming the illimitable waters round; Here watch, of every human friend disowned, All day, my ready tomb the ocean-flood— To break my dream the vessel reached its bound: And homeless near a thousand homes I stood, And near a thousand tables pined, and wanted food.
By grief enfeebled was I turned adrift, Helpless as sailor cast on desart rock; Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift, Nor dared my hand at any door to knock. I lay, where with his drowsy mates, the cock From the cross timber of an out-house hung; How dismal tolled, that night, the city clock! At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung, Nor to the beggar's language could I frame my tongue.
So passed another day, and so the third: Then did I try, in vain, the crowd's resort, In deep despair by frightful wishes stirr'd, Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort: There, pains which nature could no more support, With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall; Dizzy my brain, with interruption short Of hideous sense; I sunk, nor step could crawl, And thence was borne away to neighbouring hospital.
Recovery came with food: but still, my brain Was weak, nor of the past had memory. I heard my neighbours, in their beds, complain Of many things which never troubled me; Of feet still bustling round with busy glee, Of looks where common kindness had no part, Of service done with careless cruelty, Fretting the fever round the languid heart, And groans, which, as they said, would make a dead man start.
These things just served to stir the torpid sense, Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised. Memory, though slow, returned with strength; and thence Dismissed, again on open day I gazed, At houses, men, and common light, amazed. The lanes I sought, and as the sun retired, Came, where beneath the trees a faggot blazed; The wild brood saw me weep, my fate enquired, And gave me food, and rest, more welcome, more desired.
My heart is touched to think that men like these, The rude earth's tenants, were my first relief: How kindly did they paint their vagrant ease! And their long holiday that feared not grief, For all belonged to all, and each was chief. No plough their sinews strained; on grating road No wain they drove, and yet, the yellow sheaf In every vale for their delight was stowed: For them, in nature's meads, the milky udder flowed.
Semblance, with straw and pauniered ass, they made Of potters wandering on from door to door: But life of happier sort to me pourtrayed, And other joys my fancy to allure; The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor In barn uplighted, and companions boon Well met from far with revelry secure, In depth of forest glade, when jocund June Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.
But ill it suited me, in journey dark O'er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch; To charm the surly house-dog's faithful bark. Or hang on tiptoe at the lifted latch; The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match, The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill, And ear still busy on its nightly watch, Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill; Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.
What could I do, unaided and unblest? Poor Father! gone was every friend of thine: And kindred of dead husband are at best Small help, and, after marriage such as mine, With little kindness would to me incline. Ill was I then for toil or service fit: With tears whose course no effort could confine, By high-way side forgetful would I sit Whole hours, my idle arms in moping sorrow knit.
I lived upon the mercy of the fields, And oft of cruelty the sky accused; On hazard, or what general bounty yields, Now coldly given, now utterly refused, The fields I for my bed have often used: But, what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth Is, that I have my inner self abused, Foregone the home delight of constant truth, And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.
Three years a wanderer, often have I view'd, In tears, the sun towards that country tend Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude: And now across this moor my steps I bend— Oh! tell me whither—for no earthly friend Have I.—She ceased, and weeping turned away, As if because her tale was at an end She wept;—because she had no more to say Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.
 Several of the Lakes in the north of England are let out to different Fishermen, in parcels marked out by imaginary lines drawn from rock to rock.
GOODY BLAKE, AND HARRY GILL, A TRUE STORY.
Oh! what's the matter? what's the matter? What is't that ails young Harry Gill? That evermore his teeth they chatter, Chatter, chatter, chatter still. Of waistcoats Harry has no lack, Good duffle grey, and flannel fine; He has a blanket on his back, And coats enough to smother nine.
In March, December, and in July, "Tis all the same with Harry Gill; The neighbours tell, and tell you truly, His teeth they chatter, chatter still. At night, at morning, and at noon, 'Tis all the same with Harry Gill; Beneath the sun, beneath the moon, His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
Young Harry was a lusty drover, And who so stout of limb as he? His cheeks were red as ruddy clover, His voice was like the voice of three. Auld Goody Blake was old and poor, Ill fedd she was, and thinly clad; And any man who pass'd her door, Might see how poor a hut she had.
All day she spun in her poor dwelling, And then her three hours' work at night! Alas! 'twas hardly worth the telling, It would not pay for candle-light. —This woman dwelt in Dorsetshire, Her hut was on a cold hill-side, And in that country coals are dear, For they come far by wind and tide.
By the same fire to boil their pottage, Two poor old dames, as I have known, Will often live in one small cottage, But she, poor woman, dwelt alone. 'Twas well enough when summer came, The long, warm, lightsome summer-day, Then at her door the canty dame Would sit, as any linnet gay.
But when the ice our streams did fetter, Oh! then how her old bones would shake! You would have said, if you had met her, 'Twas a hard time for Goody Blake. Her evenings then were dull and dead; Sad case it was, as you may think, For very cold to go to bed, And then for cold not sleep a wink.
Oh joy for her! when e'er in winter The winds at night had made a rout, And scatter'd many a lusty splinter, And many a rotten bough about. Yet never had she, well or sick, As every man who knew her says, A pile before-hand, wood or stick, Enough to warm her for three days.
Now, when the frost was past enduring, And made her poor old bones to ache, Could any thing be more alluring, Than an old hedge to Goody Blake? And now and then, it must be said, When her old bones were cold and chill, She left her fire, or left her bed, To seek the hedge of Harry Gill.
Now Harry he had long suspected This trespass of old Goody Blake, And vow'd that she should be detected, And he on her would vengeance take. And oft from his warm fire he'd go, And to the fields his road would take, And there, at night, in frost and snow, He watch'd to seize old Goody Blake.
And once, behind a rick of barley, Thus looking out did Harry stand; The moon was full and shining clearly, And crisp with frost the stubble-land. —He hears a noise—he's all awake— Again?—on tip-toe down the hill He softly creeps—'Tis Goody Blake, She's at the hedge of Harry Gill.
Right glad was he when he beheld her: Stick after stick did Goody pull, He stood behind a bush of elder, Till she had filled her apron full. When with her load she turned about, The bye-road back again to take, He started forward with a shout, And sprang upon poor Goody Blake.
And fiercely by the arm he took her, And by the arm he held her fast, And fiercely by the arm he shook her, And cried, "I've caught you then at last!" Then Goody, who had nothing said, Her bundle from her lap let fall; And kneeling on the sticks, she pray'd To God that is the judge of all.
She pray'd, her wither'd hand uprearing, While Harry held her by the arm— "God! who art never out of hearing, "O may he never more be warm!" The cold, cold moon above her head, Thus on her knees did Goody pray, Young Harry heard what she had said, And icy-cold he turned away.
He went complaining all the morrow That he was cold and very chill: His face was gloom, his heart was sorrow, Alas! that day for Harry Gill! That day he wore a riding-coat, But not a whit the warmer he: Another was on Thursday brought, And ere the Sabbath he had three.
'Twas all in vain, a useless matter, And blankets were about him pinn'd; Yet still his jaws and teeth they clatter, Like a loose casement in the wind. And Harry's flesh it fell away; And all who see him say 'tis plain, That, live as long as live he may, He never will be warm again.
No word to any man he utters, A-bed or up, to young or old; But ever to himself he mutters, "Poor Harry Gill is very cold." A-bed or up, by night or day; His teeth they chatter, chatter still. Now think, ye farmers all, I pray, Of Goody Blake and Harry Gill.
LINES WRITTEN AT A SMALL DISTANCE FROM MY HOUSE, AND SENT BY MY LITTLE BOY TO THE PERSON TO WHOM THEY ARE ADDRESSED.
It is the first mild day of March: Each minute sweeter than before, The red-breast sings from the tall larch That stands beside our door.
There is a blessing in the air, Which seems a sense of joy to yield To the bare trees, and mountains bare, And grass in the green field.
My Sister! ('tis a wish of mine) Now that our morning meal is done, Make haste, your morning task resign; Come forth and feel the sun.
Edward will come with you, and pray, Put on with speed your woodland dress, And bring no book, for this one day We'll give to idleness.
No joyless forms shall regulate Our living Calendar: We from to-day, my friend, will date The opening of the year.
Love, now an universal birth. From heart to heart is stealing, From earth to man, from man to earth, —It is the hour of feeling.
One moment now may give us more Than fifty years of reason; Our minds shall drink at every pore The spirit of the season.
Some silent laws our hearts may make, Which they shall long obey; We for the year to come may take Our temper from to-day.
And from the blessed power that rolls About, below, above; We'll frame the measure of our souls, They shall be tuned to love.
Then come, my sister! come, I pray, With speed put on your woodland dress, And bring no book; for this one day We'll give to idleness.
SIMON LEE, THE OLD HUNTSMAN, WITH AN INCIDENT IN WHICH HE WAS CONCERNED.
In the sweet shire of Cardigan, Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall, An old man dwells, a little man, I've heard he once was tall. Of years he has upon his back, No doubt, a burthen weighty; He says he is three score and ten, But others say he's eighty.
A long blue livery-coat has he, That's fair behind, and fair before; Yet, meet him where you will, you see At once that he is poor. Full five and twenty years he lived A running huntsman merry; And, though he has but one eye left, His cheek is like a cherry.
No man like him the horn could sound. And no man was so full of glee; To say the least, four counties round Had heard of Simon Lee; His master's dead, and no one now Dwells in the hall of Ivor; Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead; He is the sole survivor.
His hunting feats have him bereft Of his right eye, as you may see: And then, what limbs those feats have left To poor old Simon Lee! He has no son, he has no child, His wife, an aged woman, Lives with him, near the waterfall, Upon the village common.
And he is lean and he is sick, His little body's half awry His ancles they are swoln and thick His legs are thin and dry. When he was young he little knew Of husbandry or tillage; And now he's forced to work, though weak, —The weakest in the village.
He all the country could outrun, Could leave both man and horse behind; And often, ere the race was done, He reeled and was stone-blind. And still there's something in the world At which his heart rejoices; For when the chiming hounds are out, He dearly loves their voices!
Old Ruth works out of doors with him, And does what Simon cannot do; For she, not over stout of limb, Is stouter of the two. And though you with your utmost skill From labour could not wean them, Alas! 'tis very little, all Which they can do between them.
Beside their moss-grown hut of clay, Not twenty paces from the door, A scrap of land they have, but they Are poorest of the poor. This scrap of land he from the heath Enclosed when he was stronger; But what avails the land to them, Which they can till no longer?
Few months of life has he in store, As he to you will tell, For still, the more he works, the more His poor old ancles swell. My gentle reader, I perceive How patiently you've waited, And I'm afraid that you expect Some tale will be related.
O reader! had you in your mind Such stores as silent thought can bring, O gentle reader! you would find A tale in every thing. What more I have to say is short, I hope you'll kindly take it; It is no tale; but should you think, Perhaps a tale you'll make it.
One summer-day I chanced to see This old man doing all he could About the root of an old tree, A stump of rotten wood. The mattock totter'd in his hand; So vain was his endeavour That at the root of the old tree He might have worked for ever.
"You're overtasked, good Simon Lee, Give me your tool" to him I said; And at the word right gladly he Received my proffer'd aid. I struck, and with a single blow The tangled root I sever'd, At which the poor old man so long And vainly had endeavour'd.
The tears into his eyes were brought, And thanks and praises seemed to run So fast out of his heart, I thought They never would have done. —I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds With coldness still returning. Alas! the gratitude of men Has oftner left me mourning.
ANECDOTE FOR FATHERS SHEWING HOW THE ART OF LYING MAY BE TAUGHT.
I have a boy of five years old, His face is fair and fresh to see; His limbs are cast in beauty's mould, And dearly he loves me.
One morn we stroll'd on our dry walk, Our quiet house all full in view, And held such intermitted talk As we are wont to do.
My thoughts on former pleasures ran; I thought of Kilve's delightful shore, My pleasant home, when spring began, A long, long year before.
A day it was when I could bear To think, and think, and think again; With so much happiness to spare, I could not feel a pain.
My boy was by my side, so slim And graceful in his rustic dress! And oftentimes I talked to him, In very idleness.
The young lambs ran a pretty race; The morning sun shone bright and warm; "Kilve," said I, "was a pleasant place, "And so is Liswyn farm.
"My little boy, which like you more," I said and took him by the arm— "Our home by Kilve's delightful shore, "Or here at Liswyn farm?"
"And tell me, had you rather be," I said and held him by the arm, "At Kilve's smooth shore by the green sea, "Or here at Liswyn farm?"
In careless mood he looked at me, While still I held him by the arm, And said, "At Kilve I'd rather be "Than here at Liswyn farm."
"Now, little Edward, say why so; My little Edward, tell me why;" "I cannot tell, I do not know," "Why this is strange," said I.
"For, here are woods and green-hills warm; "There surely must some reason be "Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm "For Kilve by the green sea."
At this, my boy, so fair and slim, Hung down his head, nor made reply; And five times did I say to him, "Why? Edward, tell me why?"
His head he raised—there was in sight, It caught his eye, he saw it plain— Upon the house-top, glittering bright, A broad and gilded vane.
Then did the boy his tongue unlock, And thus to me he made reply; "At Kilve there was no weather-cock, "And that's the reason why."
Oh dearest, dearest boy! my heart For better lore would seldom yearn, Could I but teach the hundredth part Of what from thee I learn.
WE ARE SEVEN.
A simple child, dear brother Jim, That lightly draws its breath, And feels its life in every limb, What should it know of death?
I met a little cottage girl, She was eight years old, she said; Her hair was thick with many a curl That cluster'd round her head.
She had a rustic, woodland air, And she was wildly clad; Her eyes were fair, and very fair, —Her beauty made me glad.
"Sisters and brothers, little maid, "How many may you be?" "How many? seven in all," she said, And wondering looked at me.
"And where are they, I pray you tell?" She answered, "Seven are we, "And two of us at Conway dwell, "And two are gone to sea.
"Two of us in the church-yard lie, "My sister and my brother, "And in the church-yard cottage, I "Dwell near them with my mother."
"You say that two at Conway dwell, "And two are gone to sea, "Yet you are seven; I pray you tell "Sweet Maid, how this may be?"
Then did the little Maid reply, "Seven boys and girls are we; "Two of us in the church-yard lie, "Beneath the church-yard tree."
"You run about, my little maid, "Your limbs they are alive; "If two are in the church-yard laid, "Then ye are only five."
"Their graves are green, they may be seen," The little Maid replied, "Twelve steps or more from my mother's door, "And they are side by side.
"My stockings there I often knit, "My 'kerchief there I hem; "And there upon the ground I sit— "I sit and sing to them.
"And often after sunset, Sir, "When it is light and fair, "I take my little porringer, "And eat my supper there.
"The first that died was little Jane; "In bed she moaning lay, "Till God released her of her pain, "And then she went away.
"So in the church-yard she was laid, "And all the summer dry, "Together round her grave we played, "My brother John and I.
"And when the ground was white with snow, "And I could run and slide, "My brother John was forced to go, "And he lies by her side."
"How many are you then," said I, "If they two are in Heaven?" The little Maiden did reply, "O Master! we are seven."
"But they are dead; those two are dead! "Their spirits are in heaven!" 'Twas throwing words away; for still The little Maid would have her will, And said, "Nay, we are seven!"
LINES WRITTEN IN EARLY SPRING.
I heard a thousand blended notes, While in a grove I sate reclined, In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did nature link The human soul that through me ran; And much it griev'd my heart to think What man has made of man.
Through primrose-tufts, in that sweet bower, The periwinkle trail'd its wreathes; And 'tis my faith that every flower Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopp'd and play'd: Their thoughts I cannot measure, But the least motion which they made, It seem'd a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan, To catch the breezy air; And I must think, do all I can, That there was pleasure there.
If I these thoughts may not prevent, If such be of my creed the plan, Have I not reason to lament What man has made of man?
There is a thorn; it looks so old, In truth you'd find it hard to say, How it could ever have been young, It looks so old and grey. Not higher than a two-years' child, It stands erect this aged thorn; No leaves it has, no thorny points; It is a mass of knotted joints, A wretched thing forlorn. It stands erect, and like a stone With lichens it is overgrown.
Like rock or stone, it is o'ergrown With lichens to the very top, And hung with heavy tufts of moss, A melancholy crop: Up from the earth these mosses creep, And this poor thorn they clasp it round So close, you'd say that they were bent With plain and manifest intent, To drag it to the ground; And all had joined in one endeavour To bury this poor thorn for ever.
High on a mountain's highest ridge, Where oft the stormy winter gale Cuts like a scythe, while through the clouds It sweeps from vale to vale; Not five yards from the mountain-path, This thorn you on your left espy; And to the left, three yards beyond, You see a little muddy pond Of water, never dry; I've measured it from side to side: 'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.
And close beside this aged thorn, There is a fresh and lovely sight, A beauteous heap, a hill of moss, Just half a foot in height. All lovely colours there you see, All colours that were ever seen, And mossy network too is there, As if by hand of lady fair The work had woven been, And cups, the darlings of the eye, So deep is their vermilion dye.
Ah me! what lovely tints are there! Of olive-green and scarlet bright, In spikes, in branches, and in stars, Green, red, and pearly white. This heap of earth o'ergrown with moss Which close beside the thorn you see, So fresh in all its beauteous dyes, Is like an infant's grave in size As like as like can be: But never, never any where, An infant's grave was half so fair.
Now would you see this aged thorn, This pond and beauteous hill of moss, You must take care and chuse your time The mountain when to cross. For oft there sits, between the heap That's like an infant's grave in size, And that same pond of which I spoke, A woman in a scarlet cloak, And to herself she cries, "Oh misery! oh misery! "Oh woe is me! oh misery!"
At all times of the day and night This wretched woman thither goes, And she is known to every star, And every wind that blows; And there beside the thorn she sits When the blue day-light's in the skies, And when the whirlwind's on the hill, Or frosty air is keen and still, And to herself she cries, "Oh misery! oh misery! "Oh woe is me! oh misery!"
"Now wherefore thus, by day and night, "In rain, in tempest, and in snow, "Thus to the dreary mountain-top "Does this poor woman go? "And why sits she beside the thorn "When the blue day-light's in the sky, "Or when the whirlwind's on the hill, "Or frosty air is keen and still, "And wherefore does she cry?— "Oh wherefore? wherefore? tell me why "Does she repeat that doleful cry?"
I cannot tell; I wish I could; For the true reason no one knows, But if you'd gladly view the spot, The spot to which she goes; The heap that's like an infant's grave, The pond—and thorn, so old and grey, Pass by her door—'tis seldom shut— And if you see her in her hut, Then to the spot away!— I never heard of such as dare Approach the spot when she is there.
"But wherefore to the mountain-top "Can this unhappy woman go, "Whatever star is in the skies, "Whatever wind may blow?" Nay rack your brain—'tis all in vain, I'll tell you every thing I know; But to the thorn, and to the pond Which is a little step beyond, I wish that you would go: Perhaps when you are at the place You something of her tale may trace.
I'll give you the best help I can: Before you up the mountain go, Up to the dreary mountain-top, I'll tell you all I know. Tis now some two and twenty years, Since she (her name is Martha Ray) Gave with a maiden's true good will Her company to Stephen Hill; And she was blithe and gay, And she was happy, happy still Whene'er she thought of Stephen Hill.
And they had fix'd the wedding-day, The morning that must wed them both; But Stephen to another maid Had sworn another oath; And with this other maid to church Unthinking Stephen went— Poor Martha! on that woful day A cruel, cruel fire, they say, Into her bones was sent: It dried her body like a cinder, And almost turn'd her brain to tinder.
They say, full six months after this, While yet the summer-leaves were green, She to the mountain-top would go, And there was often seen. 'Tis said, a child was in her womb, As now to any eye was plain; She was with child, and she was mad, Yet often she was sober sad From her exceeding pain. Oh me! ten thousand times I'd rather That he had died, that cruel father!
Sad case for such a brain to hold Communion with a stirring child! Sad case, as you may think, for one Who had a brain so wild! Last Christmas when we talked of this, Old Farmer Simpson did maintain, That in her womb the infant wrought About its mother's heart, and brought Her senses back again: And when at last her time drew near, Her looks were calm, her senses clear.
No more I know, I wish I did, And I would tell it all to you; For what became of this poor child There's none that ever knew: And if a child was born or no, There's no one that could ever tell; And if 'twas born alive or dead, There's no one knows, as I have said, But some remember well, That Martha Ray about this time Would up the mountain often climb.
And all that winter, when at night The wind blew from the mountain-peak, 'Twas worth your while, though in the dark, The church-yard path to seek: For many a time and oft were heard Cries coming from the mountain-head, Some plainly living voices were, And others, I've heard many swear, Were voices of the dead: I cannot think, whate'er they say, They had to do with Martha Ray.
But that she goes to this old thorn, The thorn which I've described to you, And there sits in a scarlet cloak, I will be sworn is true. For one day with my telescope, To view the ocean wide and bright, When to this country first I came, Ere I had heard of Martha's name, I climbed the mountain's height: A storm came on, and I could see No object higher than my knee.
'Twas mist and rain, and storm and rain, No screen, no fence could I discover, And then the wind! in faith, it was A wind full ten times over. I looked around, I thought I saw A jutting crag, and oft' I ran, Head-foremost, through the driving rain, The shelter of the crag to gain, And, as I am a man, Instead of jutting crag, I found A woman seated on the ground.
I did not speak—I saw her face, Her face it was enough for me; I turned about and heard her cry, "O misery! O misery!" And there she sits, until the moon Through half the clear blue sky will go, And when the little breezes make The waters of the pond to shake, As all the country know, She shudders and you hear her cry, "Oh misery! oh misery!
"But what's the thorn? and what's the pond? "And what's the hill of moss to her? "And what's the creeping breeze that comes "The little pond to stir?" I cannot tell; but some will say She hanged her baby on the tree, Some say she drowned it in the pond, Which is a little step beyond, But all and each agree, The little babe was buried there, Beneath that hill of moss so fair.
I've heard the scarlet moss is red With drops of that poor infant's blood; But kill a new-born infant thus! I do not think she could. Some say, if to the pond you go, And fix on it a steady view, The shadow of a babe you trace, A baby and a baby's face, And that it looks at you; Whene'er you look on it, 'tis plain The baby looks at you again.
And some had sworn an oath that she Should be to public justice brought; And for the little infant's bones With spades they would have sought. But then the beauteous hill of moss Before their eyes began to stir; And for full fifty yards around, The grass it shook upon the ground; But all do still aver The little babe is buried there, Beneath that hill of moss so fair.
I cannot tell how this may be, But plain it is, the thorn is bound With heavy tufts of moss, that strive To drag it to the ground. And this I know, full many a time, When she was on the mountain high, By day, and in the silent night, When all the stars shone clear and bright, That I have heard her cry, "Oh misery! oh misery! "O woe is me! oh misery!"
THE LAST OF THE FLOCK.
In distant countries I have been, And yet I have not often seen A healthy man, a man full grown Weep in the public roads alone. But such a one, on English ground, And in the broad high-way, I met; Along the broad high-way he came, His cheeks with tears were wet. Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad; And in his arms a lamb he had.
He saw me, and he turned aside, As if he wished himself to hide: Then with his coat he made essay To wipe those briny tears away. I follow'd him, and said, "My friend "What ails you? wherefore weep you so?" —"Shame on me, Sir! this lusty lamb, He makes my tears to flow. To-day I fetched him from the rock; He is the last of all my flock.
When I was young, a single man. And after youthful follies ran, Though little given to care and thought, Yet, so it was, a ewe I bought; And other sheep from her I raised, As healthy sheep as you might see, And then I married, and was rich As I could wish to be; Of sheep I number'd a full score, And every year encreas'd my store.
Year after year my stock it grew, And from this one, this single ewe, Full fifty comely sheep I raised, As sweet a flock as ever grazed! Upon the mountain did they feed; They throve, and we at home did thrive. —This lusty lamb of all my store Is all that is alive: And now I care not if we die, And perish all of poverty.
Ten children, Sir! had I to feed, Hard labour in a time of need! My pride was tamed, and in our grief, I of the parish ask'd relief. They said I was a wealthy man; My sheep upon the mountain fed, And it was fit that thence I took Whereof to buy us bread:" "Do this; how can we give to you," They cried, "what to the poor is due?"
I sold a sheep as they had said, And bought my little children bread, And they were healthy with their food; For me it never did me good. A woeful time it was for me, To see the end of all my gains, The pretty flock which I had reared With all my care and pains, To see it melt like snow away! For me it was a woeful day.
Another still! and still another! A little lamb, and then its mother! It was a vein that never stopp'd, Like blood-drops from my heart they dropp'd. Till thirty were not left alive They dwindled, dwindled, one by one, And I may say that many a time I wished they all were gone: They dwindled one by one away; For me it was a woeful day.
To wicked deeds I was inclined, And wicked fancies cross'd my mind, And every man I chanc'd to see, I thought he knew some ill of me No peace, no comfort could I find, No ease, within doors or without, And crazily, and wearily, I went my work about. Oft-times I thought to run away; For me it was a woeful day.
Sir! 'twas a precious flock to me, As dear as my own children be; For daily with my growing store I loved my children more and more. Alas! it was an evil time; God cursed me in my sore distress, I prayed, yet every day I thought I loved my children less; And every week, and every day, My flock, it seemed to melt away.
They dwindled, Sir, sad sight to see! From ten to five, from five to three, A lamb, a weather, and a ewe; And then at last, from three to two; And of my fifty, yesterday I had but only one, And here it lies upon my arm, Alas! and I have none; To-day I fetched it from the rock; It is the last of all my flock."
And this place our forefathers made for man! This is the process of our love and wisdom, To each poor brother who offends against us— Most innocent, perhaps—and what if guilty? Is this the only cure? Merciful God? Each pore and natural outlet shrivell'd up By ignorance and parching poverty, His energies roll back upon his heart, And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison, They break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot; Then we call in our pamper'd mountebanks— And this is their best cure! uncomforted And friendless solitude, groaning and tears, And savage faces, at the clanking hour, Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon, By the lamp's dismal twilight! So he lies Circled with evil, till his very soul Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed By sights of ever more deformity!
With other ministrations thou, O nature! Healest thy wandering and distempered child: Thou pourest on him thy soft influences, Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets, Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters, Till he relent, and can no more endure To be a jarring and a dissonant thing, Amid this general dance and minstrelsy; But, bursting into tears, wins back his way, His angry spirit healed and harmonized By the benignant touch of love and beauty.
THE MAD MOTHER.
Her eyes are wild, her head is bare, The sun has burnt her coal-black hair, Her eye-brows have a rusty stain, And she came far from over the main. She has a baby on her arm, Or else she were alone; And underneath the hay-stack warm, And on the green-wood stone, She talked and sung the woods among; And it was in the English tongue.
"Sweet babe! they say that I am mad, But nay, my heart is far too glad; And I am happy when I sing Full many a sad and doleful thing: Then, lovely baby, do not fear! I pray thee have no fear of me, But, safe as in a cradle, here My lovely baby! thou shalt be, To thee I know too much I owe; I cannot work thee any woe.
A fire was once within my brain; And in my head a dull, dull pain; And fiendish faces one, two, three, Hung at my breasts, and pulled at me. But then there came a sight of joy; It came at once to do me good; I waked, and saw my little boy, My little boy of flesh and blood; Oh joy for me that sight to see! For he was here, and only he.
Suck, little babe, oh suck again! It cools my blood; it cools my brain; Thy lips I feel them, baby! they Draw from my heart the pain away. Oh! press me with thy little hand; It loosens something at my chest; About that tight and deadly band I feel thy little fingers press'd. The breeze I see is in the tree; It comes to cool my babe and me.
Oh! love me, love me, little boy! Thou art thy mother's only joy; And do not dread the waves below, When o'er the sea-rock's edge we go; The high crag cannot work me harm, Nor leaping torrents when they howl; The babe I carry on my arm, He saves for me my precious soul; Then happy lie, for blest am I; Without me my sweet babe would die.
Then do not fear, my boy! for thee Bold as a lion I will be; And I will always be thy guide, Through hollow snows and rivers wide. I'll build an Indian bower; I know The leaves that make the softest bed: And if from me thou wilt not go, But still be true 'till I am dead, My pretty thing! then thou shalt sing, As merry as the birds in spring.
Thy father cares not for my breast, 'Tis thine, sweet baby, there to rest: 'Tis all thine own! and if its hue Be changed, that was so fair to view, 'Tis fair enough for thee, my dove! My beauty, little child, is flown; But thou wilt live with me in love, And what if my poor cheek be brown? 'Tis well for me; thou canst not see How pale and wan it else would be.
Dread not their taunts, my little life! I am thy father's wedded wife; And underneath the spreading tree We two will live in honesty. If his sweet boy he could forsake, With me he never would have stay'd: From him no harm my babe can take, But he, poor man! is wretched made, And every day we two will pray For him that's gone and far away.
I'll teach my boy the sweetest things; I'll teach him how the owlet sings. My little babe! thy lips are still, And thou hast almost suck'd thy fill. —Where art thou gone my own dear child? What wicked looks are those I see? Alas! alas! that look so wild, It never, never came from me: If thou art mad, my pretty lad, Then I must be for ever sad.
Oh! smile on me, my little lamb! For I thy own dear mother am. My love for thee has well been tried: I've sought thy father far and wide. I know the poisons of the shade, I know the earth-nuts fit for food; Then, pretty dear, be not afraid; We'll find thy father in the wood. Now laugh and be gay, to the woods away! And there, my babe; we'll live for aye.
THE IDIOT BOY.
Tis eight o'clock,—a clear March night, The moon is up—the sky is blue, The owlet in the moonlight air, He shouts from nobody knows where; He lengthens out his lonely shout, Halloo! halloo! a long halloo!
—Why bustle thus about your door, What means this bustle, Betty Foy? Why are you in this mighty fret? And why on horseback have you set Him whom you love, your idiot boy?
Beneath the moon that shines so bright, Till she is tired, let Betty Foy With girt and stirrup fiddle-faddle; But wherefore set upon a saddle Him whom she loves, her idiot boy?
There's scarce a soul that's out of bed; Good Betty! put him down again; His lips with joy they burr at you, But, Betty! what has he to do With stirrup, saddle, or with rein?
The world will say 'tis very idle, Bethink you of the time of night; There's not a mother, no not one, But when she hears what you have done, Oh! Betty she'll be in a fright.
But Betty's bent on her intent, For her good neighbour, Susan Gale, Old Susan, she who dwells alone, Is sick, and makes a piteous moan, As if her very life would fail.
There's not a house within a mile. No hand to help them in distress: Old Susan lies a bed in pain, And sorely puzzled are the twain, For what she ails they cannot guess.
And Betty's husband's at the wood, Where by the week he doth abide, A woodman in the distant vale; There's none to help poor Susan Gale, What must be done? what will betide?
And Betty from the lane has fetched Her pony, that is mild and good, Whether he be in joy or pain, Feeding at will along the lane, Or bringing faggots from the wood.
And he is all in travelling trim, And by the moonlight, Betty Foy Has up upon the saddle set, The like was never heard of yet, Him whom she loves, her idiot boy.
And he must post without delay Across the bridge that's in the dale, And by the church, and o'er the down, To bring a doctor from the town, Or she will die, old Susan Gale.
There is no need of boot or spur, There is no need of whip or wand, For Johnny has his holly-bough, And with a hurly-burly now He shakes the green bough in his hand.
And Betty o'er and o'er has told The boy who is her best delight, Both what to follow, what to shun, What do, and what to leave undone, How turn to left, and how to right.
And Betty's most especial charge, Was, "Johnny! Johnny! mind that you "Come home again, nor stop at all, "Come home again, whate'er befal, "My Johnny do, I pray you do."
To this did Johnny answer make, Both with his head, and with his hand, And proudly shook the bridle too, And then! his words were not a few, Which Betty well could understand.
And now that Johnny is just going, Though Betty's in a mighty flurry, She gently pats the pony's side, On which her idiot boy must ride, And seems no longer in a hurry.
But when the pony moved his legs, Oh! then for the poor idiot boy! For joy he cannot hold the bridle, For joy his head and heels are idle, He's idle all for very joy.
And while the pony moves his legs, In Johnny's left-hand you may see, The green bough's motionless and dead; The moon that shines above his head Is not more still and mute than he.
His heart it was so full of glee, That till full fifty yards were gone, He quite forgot his holly whip, And all his skill in horsemanship, Oh! happy, happy, happy John.
And Betty's standing at the door, And Betty's face with joy o'erflows, Proud of herself, and proud of him, She sees him in his travelling trim; How quietly her Johnny goes.
The silence of her idiot boy, What hopes it sends to Betty's heart! He's at the guide-post—he turns right, She watches till he's out of sight, And Betty will not then depart.
Burr, burr—now Johnny's lips they burr, As loud as any mill, or near it, Meek as a lamb the pony moves, And Johnny makes the noise he loves, And Betty listens, glad to hear it.
Away she hies to Susan Gale: And Johnny's in a merry tune, The owlets hoot, the owlets curr, And Johnny's lips they burr, burr, burr, And on he goes beneath the moon.
His steed and he right well agree, For of this pony there's a rumour, That should he lose his eyes and ears, And should he live a thousand years, He never will be out of humour.
But then he is a horse that thinks! And when he thinks his pace is slack; Now, though he knows poor Johnny well, Yet for his life he cannot tell What he has got upon his back.
So through the moonlight lanes they go, And far into the moonlight dale, And by the church, and o'er the down, To bring a doctor from the town, To comfort poor old Susan Gale.
And Betty, now at Susan's side, Is in the middle of her story, What comfort Johnny soon will bring, With many a most diverting thing, Of Johnny's wit and Johnny's glory.
And Betty's still at Susan's side: By this time she's not quite so flurried; Demure with porringer and plate She sits, as if in Susan's fate Her life and soul were buried.
But Betty, poor good woman! she, You plainly in her face may read it, Could lend out of that moment's store Five years of happiness or more, To any that might need it.
But yet I guess that now and then With Betty all was not so well, And to the road she turns her ears, And thence full many a sound she hears, Which she to Susan will not tell.
Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans, "As sure as there's a moon in heaven," Cries Betty, "he'll be back again; "They'll both be here, 'tis almost ten, "They'll both be here before eleven."
Poor Susan moans, poor Susan groans, The clock gives warning for eleven; 'Tis on the stroke—"If Johnny's near," Quoth Betty "he will soon be here, "As sure as there's a moon in heaven."
The clock is on the stroke of twelve, And Johnny is not yet in sight, The moon's in heaven, as Betty sees, But Betty is not quite at ease; And Susan has a dreadful night.
And Betty, half an hour ago, On Johnny vile reflections cast; "A little idle sauntering thing!" With other names, an endless string, But now that time is gone and past.
And Betty's drooping at the heart, That happy time all past and gone, "How can it be he is so late? "The doctor he has made him wait, "Susan! they'll both be here anon."
And Susan's growing worse and worse, And Betty's in a sad quandary; And then there's nobody to say If she must go or she must stay: —She's in a sad quandary.
The clock is on the stroke of one; But neither Doctor nor his guide Appear along the moonlight road, There's neither horse nor man abroad, And Betty's still at Susan's side.
And Susan she begins to fear Of sad mischances not a few, That Johnny may perhaps be drown'd, Or lost perhaps, and never found; Which they must both for ever rue.
She prefaced half a hint of this With, "God forbid it should be true!" At the first word that Susan said Cried Betty, rising from the bed, "Susan, I'd gladly stay with you.
"I must be gone, I must away, "Consider, Johnny's but half-wise; "Susan, we must take care of him, "If he is hurt in life or limb"— "Oh God forbid!" poor Susan cries.
"What can I do?" says Betty, going, "What can I do to ease your pain? "Good Susan tell me, and I'll stay; "I fear you're in a dreadful way, "But I shall soon be back again."
"Good Betty go, good Betty go, "There's nothing that can ease my pain." Then off she hies, but with a prayer That God poor Susan's life would spare, Till she comes back again.
So, through the moonlight lane she goes, And far into the moonlight dale; And how she ran, and how she walked, And all that to herself she talked, Would surely be a tedious tale.
In high and low, above, below, In great and small, in round and square, In tree and tower was Johnny seen, In bush and brake, in black and green, 'Twas Johnny, Johnny, every where.
She's past the bridge that's in the dale, And now the thought torments her sore, Johnny perhaps his horse forsook, To hunt the moon that's in the brook, And never will be heard of more.
And now she's high upon the down, Alone amid a prospect wide; There's neither Johnny nor his horse, Among the fern or in the gorse; There's neither doctor nor his guide.
"Oh saints! what is become of him? "Perhaps he's climbed into an oak, "Where he will stay till he is dead; "Or sadly he has been misled, "And joined the wandering gypsey-folk.
"Or him that wicked pony's carried "To the dark cave, the goblins' hall, "Or in the castle he's pursuing, "Among the ghosts, his own undoing; "Or playing with the waterfall."
At poor old Susan then she railed, While to the town she posts away; "If Susan had not been so ill, "Alas! I should have had him still, "My Johnny, till my dying day."
Poor Betty! in this sad distemper, The doctor's self would hardly spare, Unworthy things she talked and wild, Even he, of cattle the most mild, The pony had his share.
And now she's got into the town, And to the doctor's door she hies; Tis silence all on every side; The town so long, the town so wide, Is silent as the skies.
And now she's at the doctor's door, She lifts the knocker, rap, rap, rap, The doctor at the casement shews, His glimmering eyes that peep and doze; And one hand rubs his old night-cap.
"Oh Doctor! Doctor! where's my Johnny?" "I'm here, what is't you want with me?" "Oh Sir! you know I'm Betty Foy, "And I have lost my poor dear boy, "You know him—him you often see;
"He's not so wise as some folks be," "The devil take his wisdom!" said The Doctor, looking somewhat grim, "What, woman! should I know of him?" And, grumbling, he went back to bed.
"O woe is me! O woe is me! "Here will I die; here will I die; "I thought to find my Johnny here, "But he is neither far nor near, "Oh! what a wretched mother I!"
She stops, she stands, she looks about, Which way to turn she cannot tell. Poor Betty! it would ease her pain If she had heart to knock again; —The clock strikes three—a dismal knell!
Then up along the town she hies, No wonder if her senses fail, This piteous news so much it shock'd her, She quite forgot to send the Doctor, To comfort poor old Susan Gale.
And now she's high upon the down, And she can see a mile of road, "Oh cruel! I'm almost three-score; "Such night as this was ne'er before, "There's not a single soul abroad."
She listens, but she cannot hear The foot of horse, the voice of man; The streams with softest sound are flowing, The grass you almost hear it growing, You hear it now if e'er you can.
The owlets through the long blue night Are shouting to each other still: Fond lovers, yet not quite hob nob, They lengthen out the tremulous sob, That echoes far from hill to hill.
Poor Betty now has lost all hope, Her thoughts are bent on deadly sin; A green-grown pond she just has pass'd, And from the brink she hurries fast, Lest she should drown herself therein.
And now she sits her down and weeps; Such tears she never shed before; "Oh dear, dear pony! my sweet joy! "Oh carry back my idiot boy! "And we will ne'er o'erload thee more."
A thought is come into her head; "The pony he is mild and good, "And we have always used him well; "Perhaps he's gone along the dell, "And carried Johnny to the wood."
Then up she springs as if on wings; She thinks no more of deadly sin; If Betty fifty ponds should see, The last of all her thoughts would be, To drown herself therein.
Oh reader! now that I might tell What Johnny and his horse are doing! What they've been doing all this time, Oh could I put it into rhyme, A most delightful tale pursuing!
Perhaps, and no unlikely thought! He with his pony now doth roam The cliffs and peaks so high that are, To lay his hands upon a star, And in his pocket bring it home.
Perhaps he's turned himself about, His face unto his horse's tail, And still and mute, in wonder lost, All like a silent horseman-ghost, He travels on along the vale.
And now, perhaps, he's hunting sheep, A fierce and dreadful hunter he! Yon valley, that's so trim and green, In five months' time, should he be seen, A desart wilderness will be.