PASTORAL AND LOCAL POETRY.
By ROBERT BLOOMFIELD Author of "The Farmer's Boy" and "Rural Tales".
LONDON: Printed for Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, Poultry; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row.
WRIGHT, Printer, No. 32, St. John's Square, Clerkenwall.
A man of the first eminence, in whose day (fortunately perhaps for me) I was not destined to appear before the public, or to abide the Herculean crab-tree of his criticism, Dr. Johnson, has said, in his preface to Shakspeare, that—"Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general nature." My representations of nature, whatever may be said of their justness, are not general, unless we admit, what I suspect to be the case, that nature in a village is very much like nature every where else. It will be observed that all my pictures are from humble life, and most of my heroines servant maids. Such I would have them: being fully persuaded that, in no other way would my endeavours, either to please or to instruct, have an equal chance of success.
The path I have thus taken, from necessity, as well as from choice, is well understood and approved by hundreds, who are capable of ranging in the higher walks of literature.—But with due deference to their superior claim, I confess, that no recompense has been half so grateful or half so agreeable to me as female approbation. To be readily and generally understood, to have my simple Tales almost instinctively relished by those who have so decided an influence over the lives, hearts, and manners of us all, is the utmost stretch of my ambition.
I here venture, before the public eye, a selection from the various pieces which have been the source of much pleasure, and the solace of my leisure hours during the last four years, and since the publication of the "Rural Tales." Perhaps, in some of them, more of mirth is intermingled than many who know me would expect, or than the severe will be inclined to approve. But surely what I can say, or can be expected to say, on subjects of country life, would gain little by the seriousness of a preacher, or by exhibiting fallacious representations of what has long been termed Rural Innocence.
The Poem of "Good Tidings" is partially known to the world, but, as it was originally intended to assume its present appearance and size, I have gladly availed myself of an endeavour to improve it; and, from its present extended circulation, I trust it will be new to thousands.
I anticipate some approbation from such readers as have been pleased with the "Rural Tales;" yet, though I will not falsify my own feelings by assuming a diffidence which I do not conceive to be either manly or becoming, the conviction that some reputation is hazarded in "a third attempt," is impressed deeply on my mind.
With such sentiments, and with a lively sense of the high honour, and a hope of the bright recompence, of applause from the good, when heightened by the self-approving voice of my own conscience, I commit the book to its fate.
TO MY ONLY SON.
MY DEAR BOY,
In thus addressing myself to you, and in expressing my regard for your person, my anxiety for your health, and my devotion to your welfare, I enjoy an advantage over those dedicators who indulge in adulation;—I shall at least be believed.
Should you arrive at that period when reason shall be mature, and affection or curiosity induce you to look back on your father's poetical progress through life, you may conclude that he had many to boast as friends, whose names, in a dedication, would have honoured both him and his children; but you must also reflect, that to particularize such friends was a point of peculiar delicacy. The earliest patron of my unprotected strains has the warm thanks which are his due, for the introduction of blessings which have been diffused through our whole family, and nothing will ever change this sentiment. But amidst a general feeling of gratitude, which those who know me will never dispute, I feel for you, Charles, what none but parents can conceive; and on your account, my dear boy, there can be no harm in telling the world that I hope these "Wild Flowers" will be productive of sweets of the worldly kind; for your unfortunate lameness (should it never be removed) may preclude you from the means of procuring comforts and advantages which might otherwise have fallen to your share.
What a lasting, what an unspeakable satisfaction would it be to know that the Ballads, the Plowman Stories, and the "Broken Crutch" of your father would eventually contribute to lighten your steps to manhood, and make your own crutch, through life, rather a memorial of affection than an object of sorrow.
With a parent's feelings, and a parent's cares and hopes,
I am, Charles, yours,
Abner and the Widow Jones, a Familiar Ballad To My Old Oak Table The Horkey, a Provincial Ballad The Broken Crutch, a Tale Shooter's Hill A Visit to Ranelagh Love of the Country The Woodland Hallo Barnham Water Mary's Evening Sigh Good Tidings; or, News from the Farm
ABNER AND THE WIDOW JONES,
A Familiar Ballad.
Well! I'm determin'd; that's enough:— Gee, Bayard! move your poor old bones, I'll take to-morrow, smooth or rough, To go and court the Widow Jones.
Our master talks of stable-room, And younger horses on his grounds; 'Tis easy to foresee thy doom, Bayard, thou'lt go to feed the hounds.
The first Determination.
But could I win the widow's hand, I'd make a truce 'twixt death and thee; For thou upon the best of land Should'st feed, and live, and die with me.
And must the pole-axe lay thee low? And will they pick thy poor old bones? No—hang me if it shall be so,— If I can win the Widow Jones.
Twirl went his stick; his curly pate A bran-new hat uplifted bore; And Abner, as he leapt the gate, Had never look'd so gay before.
Old Love revived.
And every spark of love reviv'd That had perplex'd him long ago, When busy folks and fools contriv'd To make his Mary answer—no.
But whether, freed from recent vows, Her heart had back to Abner flown, And mark'd him for a second spouse, In truth is not exactly known.
Howbeit, as he came in sight, She turn'd her from the garden stile, And downward look'd with pure delight, With half a sigh and half a smile.
She heard his sounding step behind, The blush of joy crept up her cheek, As cheerly floated on the wind, "Hoi! Mary Jones—what wont you speak?"
Then, with a look that ne'er deceives, She turn'd, but found her courage fled; And scolding sparrows from the eaves Peep'd forth upon the stranger's head.
Down Abner sat, with glowing heart, Resolv'd, whatever might betide, To speak his mind, no other art He ever knew, or ever tried.
A clear Question.
And gently twitching Mary's hand, The bench had ample room for two, His first word made her understand The plowman's errand was to woo.
"My Mary—may I call thee so? For many a happy day we've seen, And if not mine, aye, years ago, Whose was the fault? you might have been!
"All that's gone by: but I've been musing, And vow'd, and hope to keep it true, That she shall be my own heart's choosing Whom I call wife.—Hey, what say you?
Past Thoughts stated.
"And as I drove my plough along, And felt the strength that's in my arm, Ten years, thought I, amidst my song, I've been head-man at Harewood farm.
"And now, my own dear Mary's free, Whom I have lov'd this many a day, Who knows but she may think on me? I'll go hear what she has to say.
"Perhaps that little stock of land She holds, but knows not how to till, Will suffer in the widow's hand, And make poor Mary poorer still
"That scrap of land, with one like her, How we might live! and be so blest! And who should Mary Jones prefer? Why, surely, him who loves her best!
"Therefore I'm come to-night, sweet wench, I would not idly thus intrude,"— Mary look'd downward on the bench, O'erpower'd by love and gratitude.
And lean'd her head against the vine, With quick'ning sobs of silent bliss, Till Abner cried, "You must be mine, You must,"—and seal'd it with a kiss.
The Interest of an old Horse asserted.
She talk'd of shame, and wip'd her check, But what had shame with them to do, Who nothing meant but truth to speak, And downright honour to pursue?
His eloquence improv'd apace, As manly pity fill'd his mind; "You know poor Bayard; here's the case,— He's past his labour, old, and blind:
"If you and I should but agree To settle here for good and all, Could you give all your heart to me, And grudge that poor old rogue a stall?
"I'll buy him, for the dogs shall never Set tooth upon a friend so true; He'll not live long, but I for ever Shall know I gave the beast his due.
"'Mongst all I've known of plows and carts, And ever since I learn'd to drive, He was not match'd in all these parts; There was not such a horse alive!
"Ready, as birds to meet the morn, Were all his efforts at the plough; Then, the mill-brook with hay or corn, Good creature! how he'd spatter through!
"He was a horse of mighty pow'r, Compact in frame, and strong of limb; Went with a chirp from hour to hour; Whip-cord! 'twas never made for him.
"I left him in the shafts behind, His fellows all unhook'd and gone, He neigh'd, and deem'd the thing unkind. Then, starting, drew the load alone!
"But I might talk till pitch-dark night, And then have something left to say; But, Mary, am I wrong or right, Or, do I throw my words away?
Something like Consent.
"Leave me, or take me and my horse; I've told thee truth, and all I know: Truth should breed truth; that comes of course; If I sow wheat, why wheat will grow."
"Yes, Abner, but thus soon to yield, Neighbours would fleer, and look behind 'em; Though, with a husband in the field, Perhaps, indeed, I should not mind 'em.
"I've known your generous nature well, My first denial cost me dear; How this may end we cannot tell, But, as for Bayard, bring him here."
Parting of the Lovers.—Sad News.
"Bless thee for that," the plowman cried, At once both starting from the seat, He stood a guardian by her side, But talk'd of home,—'twas growing late.
Then step for step within his arm, She cheer'd him down the dewy way; And no two birds upon the farm E'er prated with more joy than they.
What news at home? The smile he wore One little sentence turn'd to sorrow; An order met him at the door. "Take Bayard to the dogs to-morrow."
The Journey renewed.
Yes, yes, thought he; and heav'd a sigh, Die when he will he's not your debtor: I must obey, and he must die,— That's if I can't contrive it better.
He left his Mary late at night, And had succeeded in the main, No sooner peep'd the morning light But he was on the road again!
Suppose she should refuse her hand? Such thoughts will come, I know not why; Shall I, without a wife or land, Want an old horse? then wherefore buy?
From bush to bush, from stile to stile, Perplex'd he trod the fallow ground, And told his money all the while And weigh'd the matter round and round.
"I'll borrow," that's the best thought yet; Mary shall save the horse's life.— Kind-hearted wench! what, run in debt Before I know she'll be my wife?
These women wo'nt speak plain and free.— Well, well, I'll keep my service still; She has not said she'd marry me, But yet I dare to say she will.
A fresh Thought—Turns back.
But while I take this shay brain'd course, And like a fool run to and fro, Master, perhaps, may sell the horse! Therefore this instant home I'll go.
The nightly rains had drench'd the grove, He plung'd right on with headlong pace; A man but half as much in love Perhaps had found a cleaner place.
The day rose fair; with team a-field, He watch'd the farmer's cheerful brow; And in a lucky hour reveal'd His secret at his post, the plough.
Coming to the Point—Generosity
And there without a whine began, "Master, you'll give me your advice; I'm going to marry—if I can— And want old Bayard; what's his price!
"For Mary Jones last night agreed, Or near upon't, to be my wife: The horse's value I don't heed, I only want to save his life."
"Buy him, hey! Abner! trust me I Have not the thought of gain in view; Bayard's best days we've seen go by; He shall be cheap enough to you."
Symptoms of good Feelings.
The wages paid, the horse brought out, The hour of separation come; The farmer turn'd his chair about, "Good fellow, take him, take him home.
"You're welcome, Abner, to the beast, For you're a faithful servant been; They'll thrive I doubt not in the least, Who know what work and service mean."
The maids at parting, one and all, From different windows different tones; Bade him farewel with many a bawl, And sent their love to Mary Jones.
He wav'd his hat, and turn'd away, When loud the cry of children rose; "Abner, good bye!" they stopt their play; "There goes poor Bayard! there he goes!"
Half choak'd with joy, with love, and pride, He now with dainty clover fed him, Now took a short triumphant ride, And then again got down and led him.
And hobbling onward up the hill, The widow's house was full in sight, He pull'd the bridle harder still, "Come on, we shan't be there to-night."
She met them with a smile so sweet, The stable-door was open thrown; The blind horse lifted high his feet, And loudly snorting, laid him down.
O Victory! from that stock of laurels You keep so snug for camps and thrones, Spare us one twig from all their quarrels For Abner and the Widow Jones.
TO MY OLD OAK TABLE.
Friend of my peaceful days! substantial friend, Whom wealth can never change, nor int'rest bend, I love thee like a child. Thou wert to me The dumb companion of my misery, And oftner of my joys;—then as I spoke, I shar'd thy sympathy, Old Heart of Oak! For surely when my labour ceas'd at night, With trembling, feverish hands, and aching sight, The draught that cheer'd me and subdu'd my care, On thy broad shoulders thou wert proud to bear O'er thee, with expectation's fire elate, I've sat and ponder'd on my future fate: On thee, with winter muffins for thy store, I've lean'd, and quite forgot that I was poor.
Where dropp'd the acorn that gave birth to thee? Can'st thou trace back thy line of ancestry? We're match'd, old friend, and let us not repine, Darkness o'erhangs thy origin and mine; Both may be truly honourable: yet, We'll date our honours from the day we met; When, of my worldly wealth the parent stock, Right welcome up the Thames from Woolwich Dock Thou cam'st, when hopes ran high and love was young; But soon our olive-branches round thee sprung; Soon came the days that tried a faithful wife, The noise of children, and the cares of life. Then, midst the threat'nings of a wintry sky, That cough which blights the bud of infancy, The dread of parents, Rest's inveterate foe, Came like a plague, and turn'd my songs to woe.
Rest! without thee what strength can long survive, What spirit keep the flame of Hope alive? The midnight murmur of the cradle gave Sounds of despair; and chilly as the grave. We felt its undulating blast arise, Midst whisper'd sorrows and ten thousand sighs. Expiring embers warn'd us each to sleep, By turns to watch alone, by turns to weep, By turns to hear, and keep from starting wild, The sad, faint wailings of a dying child. But Death, obedient to Heav'n's high command, Withdrew his jav'lin, and unclench'd his hand; The little sufferers triumph'd over pain, Their mother smil'd, and bade me hope again. Yet Care gain'd ground, Exertion triumph'd less, Thick fell the gathering terrors of Distress; Anxiety, and Griefs without a name, Had made their dreadful inroads on my frame; The creeping Dropsy, cold as cold could be, Unnerv'd my arm, and bow'd my head to thee. Thou to thy trust, old friend, hast not been true; These eyes the bitterest tears they ever knew Let fall upon thee; now all wip'd away; But what from memory shall wipe out that day? The great, the wealthy of my native land, To whom a guinea is a grain of sand, I thought upon them, for my thoughts were free, But all unknown were then my woes and me.
Still, Resignation was my dearest friend, And Reason pointed to a glorious end; With anxious sighs, a parent's hopes and pride, I wish'd to live—I trust I could have died! But winter's clouds pursu'd their stormy way, And March brought sunshine with the length'ning day, And bade my heart arise, that morn and night Now throbb'd with irresistible delight. Delightful 'twas to leave disease behind, And feel the renovation of the mind! To lead abroad upborne on Pleasure's wing, Our children, midst the glories of the spring; Our fellow sufferers, our only wealth, To gather daisies in the breeze of health!
'Twas then, too, when our prospects grew so fair, And Sabbath bells announc'd the morning pray'r; Beneath that vast gigantic dome we bow'd, That lifts its flaming cross above the cloud; Had gain'd the centre of the checquer'd floor;— That instant, with reverberating roar Burst forth the pealing organ——mute we stood;— The strong sensation boiling through my blood, Rose in a storm of joy, allied to pain, I wept, and worshipp'd GOD, and wept again; And felt, amidst the fervor of my praise, The sweet assurances of better days.
In that gay season, honest friend of mine, I mark'd the brilliant sun upon thee shine; Imagination took her flights so free, Home was delicious with my book and thee, The purchas'd nosegay, or brown ears of corn, Were thy gay plumes upon a summer's morn, Awakening memory, that disdains control, They spoke the darling language of my soul: They whisper'd tales of joy, of peace, of truth, And conjur'd back the sunshine of my youth: Fancy presided at the joyful birth, I pour'd the torrent of my feelings forth; Conscious of truth in Nature's humble track, And wrote "The Farmer's Boy" upon thy back! Enough, old friend:—thou'rt mine; and shalt partake, While I have pen to write, or tongue to speak, Whatever fortune deals me.—Part with thee! No, not till death shall set my spirit free; For know, should plenty crown my life's decline, A most important duty may be thine: Then, guard me from Temptation's base control, From apathy and littleness of soul The sight of thy old frame, so rough, so rode, Shall twitch the sleeve of nodding Gratitude; Shall teach me but to venerate the more Honest Oak Tables and their guests—the poor: Teach me unjust distinctions to deride, And falsehoods gender'd in the brain of Pride; Shall give to Fancy still the cheerful hour, To Intellect, its freedom and its power; To Hospitality's enchanting ring A charm, which nothing but thyself can bring. The man who would not look with honest pride On the tight bark that stemm'd the roaring tide, And bore him, when he bow'd the trembling knee, Home, through the mighty perils of the sea, I love him not.—He ne'er shall be my guest; Nor sip my cup, nor witness how I'm blest; Nor lean, to bring my honest friend to shame, A sacrilegious elbow on thy frame; But thou through life a monitor shalt prove, Sacred to Truth, to Poetry, and Love.
THE HORKEY. A Provincial Ballad.
In the descriptive ballad which follows, it will be evident that I have endeavoured to preserve the style of a gossip, and to transmit the memorial of a custom, the extent or antiquity of which I am not acquainted with, and pretend not to enquire.
In Suffolk husbandry the man who, (whether by merit or by sufferance I know not) goes foremost through the harvest with the scythe or the sickle, is honoured with the title of "Lord," and at the Horkey, or harvest-home feast, collects what he can, for himself and brethren, from the farmers and visitors, to make a "frolick" afterwards, called "the largess spending." By way of returning thanks, though perhaps formerly of much more, or of different signification, they immediately leave the seat of festivity, and with a very long and repeated shout of "a largess," the number of shouts being regulated by the sums given, seem to wish to make themselves heard by the people of the surrounding farms. And before they rejoin the company within, the pranks and the jollity I have endeavoured to describe, usually take place. These customs, I believe, are going fast out of use; which is one great reason for my trying to tell the rising race of mankind that such were the customs when I was a boy.
I have annexed a glossary of such words as may be found by general readers to require explanation. And will add a short extract from Sir Thomas Brown, of Norwich, M. D. who was born three years before Milton, and outlived him eight years.
"It were not impossible to make an original reduction of many words of no general reception in England, but of common use in Norfolk, or peculiar to the East-Angle counties; as, Bawnd, Bunny, Thurck, Enemis, Matchly, Sainmodithee, Mawther, Kedge, Seele, Straft, Clever, Dere, Nicked, Stingy, Noneare, Fett, Thepes, Gosgood, Kamp, Sibrit, Fangast, Sap, Cothish, Thokish, Bide-owe, Paxwax. Of these, and some others, of no easy originals, when time will permit, the resolution shall be attempted; which to effect, the Danish language, new, and more ancient, may prove of good advantage: which nation remained here fifty years upon agreement, and have left many families in it, and the language of these parts had surely been more commixed and perplex, if the fleet of Hugo de Bones had not been cast away, wherein three-score thousand souldiers, out of Britany and Flanders, were to be wafted over, and were, by King John's appointment, to have a settled habitation in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk." Tract the viii. on Languages, particularly the Saxon. Folio, 1686, page 48.
A Provincial Ballad.
What gossips prattled in the sun, Who talk'd him fairly down, Up, memory! tell; 'tis Suffolk fun, And lingo of their own.
Ah! Judie Twitchet![A] though thou'rt dead, With thee the tale begins; For still seems thrumming in my head The rattling of thy pins.
[Footnote A: Judie Twitchet was a real person, who lived many years with my mother's cousin Bannock, at Honnington.]
Thou Queen of knitters! for a ball Of worsted was thy pride; With dangling stockings great and small, And world of clack beside!
"We did so laugh; the moon shone bright; "More fun you never knew; "'Twas Farmer Cheerum's Horkey night, "And I, and Grace, and Sue——
"But bring a stool, sit round about, "And boys, be quiet, pray; "And let me tell my story out; "'Twas sitch a merry day!
"The butcher whistled at the door, "And brought a load of meat; "Boys rubb'd their hands, and cried, 'there's more,' "Dogs wagg'd their tails to see't.
"On went the boilers till the hake[Footnote: A sliding pot-hook] "Had much ado to bear 'em; "The magpie talk'd for talking sake, "Birds sung;—but who could hear 'em?
"Creak went the jack; the cats were scar'd, "We had not time to heed 'em, "The owd hins cackled in the yard, "For we forgot to feed 'em!
"Yet 'twas not I, as I may say, "Because as how, d'ye see; "I only help'd there for the day; "They cou'dn't lay't to me.
"Now Mrs. Cheerum's best lace cap "Was mounted on her head; "Guests at the door began to rap, "And now the cloth was spread.
"Then clatter went the earthen plates— "'Mind Judie,' was the cry; "I could have cop't[Footnote: Thrown] them at their pates; "'Trenchers for me,' said I.
"'That look so clean upon the ledge, "'And never mind a fall; "'Nor never turn a sharp knife's edge;— "'But fashion rules us all.'
"Home came the jovial Horkey load, "Last of the whole year's crop; "And Grace amongst the green boughs rode "Right plump upon the top.
"This way and that the waggon reel'd, "And never queen rode higher; "Her cheeks were colour'd in the field, "And ours before the fire.
"The laughing harvest-folks, and John, "Came in and look'd askew; "'Twas my red face that set them on, "And then they leer'd at Sue.
"And Farmer Cheerum went, good man, "And broach'd the Horkey beer; "And sitch a mort[Footnote: Such a number.] of folks began "To eat up our good cheer.
"Says he, 'Thank God for what's before us; "'That thus we meet agen,' "The mingling voices, like a chorus, "Join'd cheerfully, 'Amen.'—
"Welcome and plenty, there they found 'em, "The ribs of beef grew light; "And puddings—till the boys got round 'em, "And then they vanish'd quite!
"Now all the guests, with Farmer Crouder, "Began to prate of corn; "And we found out they talk'd the louder, "The oftner pass'd the Horn.
"Out came the nuts; we set a cracking; "The ale came round our way; "By gom we women fell a clacking "As loud again as they.
"John sung 'Old Benbow' loud and strong, "And I, 'The Constant Swain,' "'Cheer up my Lads,' was Simon's song, "'We'll conquer them again.'
"Now twelve o'clock was drawing nigh, "And all in merry cue; "I knock'd the cask, 'O, ho!' said I, "'We've almost conquer'd you.'
"My Lord[Footnote: The leader of the reapers.] begg'd round, and held his hat, "Says Farmer Gruff, says he, "There's many a Lord, Sam, I know that, "Has begg'd as well as thee.'
"Bump in his hat the shillings tumbl'd "All round among the folks; "'Laugh if you wool,' said Sam, and mumbl'd, "'You pay for all your jokes.'
"Joint stock you know among the men, "To drink at their own charges; "So up they got full drive, and then "Went out to halloo largess.[Footnote: See advertisement.]
"And sure enough the noise they made!!— —"But let me mind my tale; "We follow'd them, we wor'nt afraid, "We'ad all been drinking ale.
"As they stood hallooing back to back, "We, lightly as a feather, "Went sideling round, and in a crack "Had pinn'd their coats together.
"'Twas near upon't as light as noon; "'A largess,' on the hill, "They shouted to the full round moon, "I think I hear 'em still!
"But when they found the trick, my stars! "They well knew who to blame, "Our giggles turn'd to ha, ha, ha's, "And arter us they came.
"Grace by the tumbril made a squat, "Then ran as Sam came by, "They said she could not run for fat; "I know she did not try.
"Sue round the neathouse[Footnote: Cow-house.] squalling ran, "Where Simon scarcely dare; "He stopt,—for he's a fearful man— "'By gom there's suffen[Footnote: Something.] there!'
"And off set John, with all his might, "To chase me down the yard, "Till I was nearly gran'd[Footnote: Strangled.] outright; "He hugg'd so woundly hard.
"Still they kept up the race and laugh, "And round the house we flew; "But hark ye! the best fun by half "Was Simon arter Sue.
"She car'd not, dark nor light, not she, "So, near the dairy door "She pass'd a clean white hog, you see, "They'd kilt the day before.
"High on the spirket [Footnote: An iron hook.] there it hung,— "'Now Susie—what can save ye?' "Round the cold pig his arms he flung, "And cried, 'Ah! here I have ye!'
"The farmers heard what Simon said, "And what a noise! good lack! "Some almost laugh'd themselves to dead, "And others clapt his back.
"We all at once began to tell "What fun we had abroad; "But Simon stood our jeers right well; —"He fell asleep and snor'd.
"Then in his button-hole upright, "Did Farmer Crouder put, "A slip of paper twisted tight, "And held the candle to't.
"It smok'd, and smok'd, beneath his nose, "The harmless blaze crept higher; "Till with a vengeance up he rose, "Grace, Judie, Sue! fire, fire!
"The clock struck one—some talk'd of parting, "Some said it was a sin, "And kilch'd their chairs;—but those for starting "Now let the moonlight in.
"Owd women, loitering for the nonce,[Footnote: For the purpose.] "Stood praising the fine weather; "The menfolks took the hint at once "To kiss them altogether.
"And out ran every soul beside, "A shanny-pated[Footnote: Giddy, thoughtless.] crew; "Owd folks could neither run nor hide, "So some ketch'd one, some tew.
"They skriggl'd[Footnote: To struggle quick.] and began to scold. "But laughing got the master; "Some quack'ling[Footnote: Choaking.] cried, 'let go your hold;' "The farmers held the faster.
"All innocent, that I'll be sworn, "There wor'nt a bit of sorrow, "And women, if their gowns are torn, "Can mend them on the morrow.
"Our shadows helter skelter danc'd "About the moonlight ground; "The wondering sheep, as on we pranc'd, "Got up and gaz'd around,
"And well they might—till Farmer Chcerum, "Now with a hearty glee, "Bade all good morn as he came near 'em, "And then to bed went he.
"Then off we stroll'd this way and that, "With merry voices ringing; "And Echo answered us right pat, "As home we rambl'd singing.
"For, when we laugh'd, it laugh'd again, "And to our own doors follow'd! "'Yo, ho!' we cried; 'Yo, ho!' so plain "The misty meadow halloo'd.
"That's all my tale, and all the fun, "Come, turn your wheels about; "My worsted, see!—that's nicely done, "Just held my story out!!"
Poor Judie!—Thus Time knits or spins The worsted from Life's ball! Death stopt thy tales, and stopt thy pins, —And so he'll serve us all.
THE BROKEN CRUTCH.
"I tell you, Peggy," said a voice behind A hawthorn hedge, with wild briars thick entwin'd, Where unseen trav'llers down a shady way Journey'd beside the swaths of new-mown hay, "I tell you, Peggy, 'tis a time to prove Your fortitude, your virtue, and your love. From honest poverty our lineage sprung, Your mother was a servant quite as young;— You weep; perhaps she wept at leaving home, Courage, my girl, nor fear the days to come. Go still to church, my Peggy, plainly drest, And keep a living conscience in your breast; Look to yourself, my lass, the maid's best fame, Beware, nor bring the Meldrums into shame: Be modest, to the voice of age attend, Be honest, and you'll always find a friend: Your uncle Gilbert, stronger far than I, Will see you safe; on him you must rely; I've walk'd too far; this lameness, oh! the pain; Heav'n bless thee, child! I'll halt me back again; But when your first fair holiday may be, Rise with the lark, and spend your hours with me."
Young Herbert Brooks, in strength and manhood bold, Who, round the meads, his own possessions, stroll'd, O'erheard the charge, and with a heart so gay, Whistled his spaniel and pursu'd his way.
A Hint for a Libertine.
Soon cross'd his path, and short obeisance paid, Stout Gilbert Meldrum and a country maid; A box upon his shoulder held full well Her worldly riches, but the truth to tell She bore the chief herself; that nobler part. That beauteous gem, an uncorrupted heart. And then that native loveliness! that cheek! It bore the very tints her betters seek; At such a sight the libertine would glow, With all the warmth that he can ever know; Would send his thoughts abroad without control, The glimmering moon-shine of his little soul. "Above the reach of justice I shall soar, Her friends may weep, not punish; they're too poor: That very thought the rapture will enhance, Poor, young, and friendless; what a glorious chance!
A few spare guineas may the conquest make,— I love the treachery for treachery's sake,— And when her wounded honour jealous grows, I'll cut away ten thousand oaths and vows, And tell my comrades, with a manly stride, How I, a girl out-witten and out-lied." Such was not Herbert—he had never known Love's genuine smiles, nor suffer'd from his frown; And as to that most honourable part Of planting daggers in a parent's heart, A novice quite:—he past his hours away, Free as a bird and buxom as the day; Yet, should a lovely girl by chance arise, Think not that Herbert Brooks would shut his eyes.
On thy calm joys with what delight I dream, Thou dear green valley of my native stream!
Regret for Devastation by Enclosures.
Fancy o'er thee still waves th' enchanting wand, And every nook of thine is fairy land, And ever will be, though the axe should smite In Gain's rude service, and in Pity's spite, Thy clustering alders, and at length invade The last, last poplars, that compose thy shade: Thy stream shall then in native freedom stray, And undermine the willows in its way, These, nearly worthless, may survive this storm, This scythe of desolation call'd "Reform." No army past that way! yet are they fled, The boughs that, when a school-boy, screen'd my head: I hate the murderous axe; estranging more The winding vale from what it was of yore, Than e'en mortality in all its rage, And all the change of faces in an age.
The Tale pursued.
"Warmth," will they term it, that I speak so free? They strip thy shades,—thy shades so dear to me! In Herbert's days woods cloth'd both hill and dale; But peace, Remembrance! let us tell the tale.
His home was in the valley, elms grew round His moated mansion, and the pleasant sound Of woodland birds that loud at day-break sing, With the first cuckoos that proclaim the spring, Flock'd round his dwelling; and his kitchen smoke, That from the towering rookery upward broke, Of joyful import to the poor hard by, Stream'd a glad sign of hospitality; So fancy pictures; but its day is o'er; The moat remains, the dwelling is no more! Its name denotes its melancholy fall, For village children call the spot "Burnt-Hall."
But where's the maid, who in the meadow-way Met Herbert Brooks amongst the new-mown hay?
Th' adventure charm'd him, and next morning rose The Sabbath, with its silence and repose, The bells ceas'd chiming, and the broad blue sky Smil'd on his peace, and met his tranquil eye Inverted, from the foot-bridge on his way To that still house where all his fathers lay; There in his seat, each neighbour's face he knew— The stranger girl was just before his pew! He saw her kneel, with meek, but cheerful air, And whisper the response to every prayer; And, when the humble roof with praises rung, He caught the Hallelujah from her tongue, Rememb'ring with delight the tears that fell When the poor father bade his child farewell;
Love strengthened by Reflection.
And now, by kindling tenderness beguil'd, He blest the prompt obedience of that child, And link'd his fate with hers:—for, from that day, Whether the weeks past cheerily away, Or deep revolving doubts procur'd him pain, The same bells chim'd—and there she was again! What could be done? they came not there to woo, On holy ground,—though love is holy too.
They met upon the foot-bridge one clear morn, She in the garb by village lasses worn; He, with unbutton'd frock that careless flew, And buskin'd to resist the morning dew; With downcast look she courtsied to the ground, Just in his path—no room to sidle round.
"Well, pretty girl, this early rising yields The best enjoyment of the groves and fields, And makes the heart susceptible and meek, And keeps alive that rose upon your cheek. I long'd to meet you, Peggy, though so shy, I've watch'd your steps and learn'd your history; You love your poor lame father, let that be A happy presage of your love for me. Come then, I'll stroll these meadows by your side, I've seen enough to wish you for my bride, And plainly tell you so.—Nay, let me hold This guiltless hand, I prize it more than gold; Of that I have my share, but now pursue Such lasting wealth as I behold in you. My lands are fruitful and my gardens gay, My houshold cheerful as the summer's day; One blessing more will crown my happy life, Like Adam, pretty girl, I want a wife."
Frequent Meetings.—Family Pride.
Need it be told his suit was not denied, With youth, and wealth, and candour on his side Honour took charge of love so well began, And accidental meetings, one by one, Increas'd so fast midst time's unheeded flight, That village rumour married them outright; Though wiser matrons, doubtful in debate, Pitied deluded Peggy's hapless fate. Friends took th' alarm, "And will he then disgrace "The name of Brooks with this plebeian race?" Others, more lax in virtue, not in pride, Sported the wink of cunning on one side; "He'll buy, no doubt, what Peggy has to sell, A little gallantry becomes him well." Meanwhile the youth with self-determin'd aim, Disdaining fraud, and pride's unfeeling claim,
Above control pursued his generous way, And talk'd to Peggy of the marriage day. Poor girl! she heard, with anguish and with doubt, What her too knowing neighbours preach'd about, That Herbert would some nobler match prefer, And surely never, never marry her; Yet, with what trembling and delight she bore The kiss, and heard the vow, "I'll doubt no more;" "Protect me Herbert, for your honour's sake You will," she cried, "nor leave my heart to break." Then wrote to uncle Gilbert, joys, and fears, And hope, and trust, and sprinkled all with tears.
Rous'd was the dormant spirit of the brave, E'en lameness rose to succour and to save; For, though they both rever'd young Herbert's name, And knew his unexceptionable fame;
And though the girl had honestly declar'd Love's first approaches, and their counsel shar'd, Yet, that he truly meant to take for life The poor and lowly Peggy for a wife; Or, that she was not doom'd to be deceiv'd, Was out of bounds:—it could not be believ'd. "Go, Gilbert; save her; I, you know, am lame; Go, brother, go; and save my child from shame. Haste, and I'll pray for your success the while, Go, go;"—then bang'd his crutch upon the stile:— It snapt.—E'en Gilbert trembled while he smote, Then whipt the broken end beneath his coat; "Aye, aye, I'll settle them; I'll let them see Who's to be conqu'ror this time, I or he!"
Gilbert on the Road!—An Adventure.
Then off he set, and with enormous strides, Rebellious mutterings and oaths besides, O'er clover-field and fallow, bank and brier, Pursu'd the nearest cut, and fann'd the fire That burnt within him.—Soon the Hall he spied, And the grey willows by the water side; Nature cried "halt!" nor could he well refuse; Stop, Gilbert, breathe awhile, and ask the news. "News?" cried a stooping grandame of the vale, Aye, rare news too; I'll tell you such a tale; But let me rest; this bank is dry and warm; Do you know Peggy Meldrum at the farm? Young Herbert's girl? He'as cloath'd her all in white. You never saw so beautiful a sight! Ah! he's a fine young man, and such a face! I knew his grandfather and all his race; He rode a tall white horse, and look'd so big, But how shall I describe his hat and wig?"
A promising Story cut short.
"Plague take his wig," cried Gilbert, "and his hat, Where's Peggy Meldrum? can you tell me that?" "Aye; but have patience man, you'll hear anon, For I shall come to her as I go on, So hark 'ye friend; his grandfather I say,"— "Poh, poh,"—cried Gilbert, as he turn'd away. Her eyes were fix'd, her story at a stand, The snuff-box lay half open'd in her hand; "You great ill-manner'd clown! but I must bear it; You oaf; to ask the news, and then won't hear it!" But Gilbert had gain'd forty paces clear, When the reproof came murmuring on his ear.
Again he ask'd the first that past him by; A cow-boy stopt his whistle to reply. "Why, I've a mistress coming home, that's all, They're playing Meg's diversion at the Hall;
A Cow-Boy's Bravery
"For master's gone, with Peggy, and his cousin, And all the lady folks, about a dozen, To church, down there; he'll marry one no doubt, For that it seems is what they're gone about; I know it by their laughing and their jokes, Tho' they wor'nt ask'd at church like other folks."
Gilbert kept on, and at the Hall-door found The winking servants, where the jest went round: All expectation; aye, and so was he, But not with heart so merry and so free. The kitchen table, never clear from beef, Where hunger found its solace and relief, Free to all strangers, had no charms for him, For agitation worried every limb; Ale he partook, but appetite had none, And grey-hounds watch'd in vain to catch the bone.
Sitting upon Thorns.
All sounds alarm'd him, and all thoughts perplex'd, With dogs, and beef, himself, and all things vex'd, Till with one mingled caw above his head, Their gliding shadows o'er the court-yard spread, The rooks by thousands rose: the bells struck up; He guess'd the cause, and down he set the cup, And listening, heard, amidst the general hum, A joyful exclamation, "Here they come!"— Soon Herbert's cheerful voice was heard above, Amidst the rustling hand-maids of his love, And Gilbert follow'd without thought or dread, The broad oak stair-case thundr'd with his tread; Light tript the party, gay as gay could be, Amidst their bridal dresses—there came he! And with a look that guilt could ne'er withstand, Approach'd his niece and caught her by the hand,
"Now are you married, Peggy, yes or no? Tell me at once, before I let you go!" Abrupt he spoke, and gave her arm a swing, But the same moment felt the wedding ring, And stood confus'd.—She wip'd th' empassion'd tear, "I am, I am; but is my father here?" Herbert stood by, and sharing with his bride, That perturbation which she strove to hide; "Come, honest Gilbert, you're too rough this time, Indeed here's not the shadow of a crime; But where's your brother? When did you arrive? We waited long, for Nathan went at five!"
All this was Greek to Gilbert, downright Greek: He knew not what to think, nor how to speak. The case was this; that Nathan with a cart To fetch them both at day-break was to start,
And so he did—but ere he could proceed, He suck'd a charming portion with a reed, Of that same wedding-ale, which was that day To make the hearts of all the village gay; Brim full of glee he trundled from the Hall, And as for sky-larks, he out-sung them all; Till growing giddy with his morning cup. He, stretch'd beneath a hedge, the reins gave up; The horse graz'd soberly without mishap, And Nathan had a most delightful nap For three good hours—Then, doubting, when he woke, Whether his conduct would be deem'd a joke, With double haste perform'd just half his part, And brought the lame John Meldrum in his cart: And at the moment Gilbert's wrath was high, And while young Herbert waited his reply,
A general Meeting.
The sound of rattling wheels was at the door; "There's my dear father now,"—they heard no more, The bridegroom glided like an arrow down, And Gilbert ran, though something of a clown, With his best step; and cheer'd with smiles and pray'rs They bore old John in triumph up the stairs: Poor Peggy, who her joy no more could check, Clung like a dewy woodbine round his neck, And all stood silent—Gilbert, off his guard, And marvelling at virtue's rich reward, Loos'd the one loop that held his coat before, Down thumpt the broken crutch upon the floor! They started, half alarm'd, scarce knowing why, But through the glist'ning rapture of his eye The bridegroom smil'd, then chid their simple fears, And rous'd the blushing Peggy from her tears;
Gilbert put upon his Defense.
Around the uncle in a ring they came, And mark'd his look of mingled pride and shame. "Now honestly, good Gilbert, tell us true What meant this cudgel? What was it to do? I know your heart suspected me of wrong, And that most true affection urg'd along Your feelings and your wrath; you were beside Till now the rightful guardian of the bride. But why this cudgel?"—"Guardian! that's the case, Or else to day you had not seen my face, But John about the girl was so perplex'd, And I, to tell the truth, so mortal vex'd, That when he broke this crutch, and stampt and cried, For John and Peggy, Sir, I could have died, I know I could; for she was such a child, So tractable, so sensible, and mild,
The plain Truth.
That if between you roguery had grown, (Begging your pardon,) 'twould have been your own; She would not hurt a fly.—So off I came And had you only sought to blast her fame, Been base enough to act as hundreds would, And ruin a poor maid—because you could, With this same cudgel, (you may smile or frown) An' please you, Sir, I meant to knock you down."
A burst of laughter rang throughout the hall, And Peggy's tongue, though overborne by all, Pour'd its warm blessings, for, without control The sweet unbridled transport of her soul Was obviously seen, till Herbert's kiss Stole, as it were, the eloquence of bliss.
Mirth and Reconciliation.
"Welcome, my friends; good Gilbert, here's my hand; Eat, drink, or rest, they're all at your command: And whatsoever pranks the rest may play, Still you shall be the hero of to-day, Doubts might torment, and blunders may have teaz'd, But ale can cure them; let us all be pleas'd. Thou, venerable man, let me defend The father of my new dear bosom friend; You broke your crutch, well, well, worse luck might be, I'll be your crutch, John Meldrum, lean on me, And when your lovely daughter shall complain, Send Gilbert's wooden argument again. If still you wonder that I take a wife From the unpolish'd walks of humble life, I'll tell you on what ground my love began, And let the wise confute it if they can. I saw a girl, with nature's untaught grace, Turn from my gaze a most engaging face;
I saw her drop the tear, I knew full well She felt for you much more than she could tell. I found her understanding, bright as day, Through all impediments still forc'd its way; On that foundation shall my soul rely, The rock of genuine humility. Call'd as she is to act a nobler part, To rule my houshold, and to share my heart, I trust her prudence, confident to prove Days of delight, and still unfading love; For, while her inborn tenderness survives, That heav'nly charm of mothers and of wives, I'll look for joy:—Here come the neighbours all; Broach the old barrel, feast them great and small, For I'm determin'd while the sun's so bright, That this shall be a wedding-day outright:
John Meldrum's wish.—Conclusion.
How cheerly sound the bells! my charmer, come, Expand your heart, and know yourself at home. Sit down, good John;"—"I will," the old man cried, "And let me drink to you, Sir, and the bride; My blessing on you: I am lame and old, I can't make speeches, and I wo'nt be bold; But from my soul I wish, and wish with pain, That brave good gentlemen would not disdain The poor, because they're poor: for, if they live Midst crimes that parents never can forgive, If, like the forest beast they wander wild, To rob a father, or to crush a child, Nature will speak, aye, just as Nature feels, And wish—a Gilbert Meldrum at their heels."
SHOOTER'S HILL. [Footnote: Sickness may be often an incentive to poetical composition; I found it so; and I esteem the following lines only because they remind me of past feelings which I would not willingly forget.]
Health! I seek thee;—dost thou love The mountain top or quiet vale, Or deign o'er humbler hills to rove On showery June's dark south-west gale? If so, I'll meet all blasts that blow, With silent step, but not forlorn; Though, goddess, at thy shrine I bow, And woo thee each returning morn.
I seek thee where, with all his might, The joyous bird his rapture tells, Amidst the half-excluded light, That gilds the fox-glove's pendant bells; Where, cheerly up this bold hill's side The deep'ning groves triumphant climb; In groves Delight and Peace abide, And Wisdom marks the lapse of time.
To hide me from the public eye, To keep the throne of Reason clear, Amidst fresh air to breathe or die, I took my staff and wander'd here. Suppressing every sigh that heaves, And coveting no wealth but thee, I nestle in the honied leaves, And hug my stolen liberty.
O'er eastward uplands, gay or rude, Along to Erith's ivied spire, I start, with strength and hope renew'd, And cherish life's rekindling fire. Now measure vales with straining eyes, Now trace the church-yard's humble names: Or, climb brown heaths, abrupt that rise, And overlook the winding Thames.
I love to mark the flow'ret's eye, To rest where pebbles form my bed, Where shapes and colours scatter'd lie In varying millions round my head. The soul rejoices when alone, And feels her glorious empire free; Sees GOD in every shining stone, And revels in variety.
Ah me! perhaps within my sight, Deep in the smiling dales below, Gigantic talents, Heav'n's pure light, And all the rays of genius glow In some lone soul, whom no one sees With power and will to say "Arise," Or chase away the slow disease, And Want's foul picture from his eyes.
A worthier man by far than I, With more of industry and fire, Shall see fair Virtue's meed pass by, Without one spark of fame expire! Bleed not my heart, it will be so. The throb of care was thine full long; Rise, like the Psalmist from his woe, And pour abroad the joyful song.
Sweet Health, I seek thee! hither bring Thy balm that softens human ills; Come, on the long drawn clouds that fling Their shadows o'er the Surry-Hills. Yon green-topt hills, and far away Where late as now I freedom stole, And spent one dear delicious day On thy wild banks, romantic Mole.
Aye, there's the scene! beyond the sweep Of London's congregated cloud, The dark-brow'd wood, the headlong steep, And valley-paths without a crowd! Here, Thames, I watch thy flowing tides, Thy thousand sails am proud to see; But where the Mole all silent glides Dwells Peace—and Peace is wealth to me.
[Footnote 1: Box-Hill, and the beautiful neighbourhood of Dorking, in Surry.]
Of Cambrian mountains still I dream, And mouldering vestiges of war; By time-worn cliff or classic stream Would rove,—but prudence holds a bar. Conic then, O Health, I'll strive to bound My wishes to this airy stand; 'Tis not for me to trace around The wonders of my native land.
Yet, the loud torrent's dark retreat, Yet Grampian hills shall Fancy give, And, towering in her giddy scat, Amidst her own creation live, Live, if thou'lt urge my climbing feet, Give strength of nerve and vigorous breath, If not, with dauntless soul I meet The deep solemnity of death.
This far-seen monumental tower Records th' achievements of the brave, And Angria's subjugated power, Who plunder'd on the eastern wave. I would not that such turrets rise To point out where my bones arc laid; Save that some wandering bard might prize The comforts of its broad cool shade.
O Vanity! since thou'rt decreed Companion of our lives to be, I'll seek the moral songster's meed, An earthly immortality; Most vain!—O let me, from the past Remembering what to man is given, Lay Virtue's broad foundations fast, Whose glorious turrets reach to Heav'n:
A VISIT TO RENELAGH
To Ranelagh, once in my life, By good-natur'd force I was driv'n; The nations had ceas'd their long strife, And PEACE beam'd her radiance from Heav'n. What wonders-were there to be found That a clown might enjoy or disdain? First we trac'd the gay ring all around, Aye—and then we went round it again.
[Footnote 1: A grand Fete, in honour of the peace of 1802.]
A thousand feet rustled on mats, A carpet that once had been green; Men bow'd with their outlandish hats, With corners so fearfully keen! Fair maids, who at home in their haste Had left all clothing else but a train, Swept the floor clean, as slowly they pac'd, And then—walk'd round and swept it again.
The music was truly enchanting! Right glad was I when I came near it; But in fashion I found I was wanting:— 'Twas the fashion to walk and not hear it! A fine youth, as beauty beset him, Look'd smilingly round on the train; "The king's nephew," they cried, as they met him; Then—we went round and met him again.
Huge paintings of Heroes and Peace Seem'd to smile at the sound of the fiddle, Proud to fill up each tall shining space Round the lanthorn that stood in the middle. And GEORGE'S head too; Heav'n screen him! May he finish in peace his long reign! And what did we when we had seen him? Why—went round and saw him again.
[Footnote 1: The intervals between the pillars in the centre of the Rotunda were filled up by transparent paintings]
A bell rang, announcing new pleasures, A crowd in an instant prest hard, Feathers nodded, perfumes shed their treasures. Round a door that led into the yard. 'Twas peopled all o'er in a minute, As a white flock would cover a plain! We had seen every soul that was in it, Then we went round and saw them again.
But now came a scene worth the showing, The fireworks! midst langhs and huzzas, With explosions the sky was all glowing, Then down stream'd a million of stars; With a rush the bright rockets ascended, Wheels spurted blue fires like a rain; We turn'd with regret when 'twas ended, Then—star'd at each other again.
There thousands of gay lamps aspir'd To the tops of the trees and beyond; And, what was most hugely admir'd, They look'd all up-side-down in a pond! The blaze scarce an eagle could bear; And an owl had most surely been slain; We return'd to the circle, and there— And there we went round it again.
'Tis not wisdom to love without reason, Or to censure without knowing why: I had witness'd no crime, nor no treason, "O Life, 'tis thy picture," said I. 'Tis just thus we saunter along, Months and years bring their pleasures or pain; We sigh midst the right and the wrong; —And then we go round them again!
LOVE OF THE COUNTRY.
Written At Clare-Hall, Herts. June 1804.
Welcome silence! welcome peace! O most welcome, holy shade! Thus I prove as years increase, My heart and soul for quiet made. Thus I fix my firm belief While rapture's gushing tears descend; That every flower and every leaf Is moral Truth's unerring friend.
I would not for a world of gold That Nature's lovely face should tire; Fountain of blessings yet untold; Pure source of intellectual fire! Fancy's fair buds, the germs of song, Unquicken'd midst the world's rude strife, Shall sweet retirement render strong, And morning silence bring to life.
Then tell me not that I shall grow Forlorn, that fields and woods will cloy; From Nature and her changes flow An everlasting tide of joy. I grant that summer heats will burn, That keen will come the frosty night; But both shall please: and each in turn Yield Reason's most supreme delight.
Build me a shrine, and I could kneel To Rural Gods, or prostrate fall; Did I not see, did I not feel, That one GREAT SPIRIT governs all. O heav'n permit that I may lie Where o'er my corse green branches ware; And those who from life's tumult fly With kindred feelings press my grave.
THE WOODLAND HALLO.
(Perhaps) adapted for Music.
In our cottage, that peeps from the skirts of the wood, I am mistress, no mother have I; Yet blithe are my days, for my father is good, And kind is my lover hard by; They both work together beneath the green shade, Both woodmen, my father and Joe. Where I've listen'd whole hours to the echo that made So much of a laugh or—Hallo.
From my basket at noon they expect their supply, And with joy from my threshold I spring; For the woodlands I love, and the oaks waring high, And Echo that sings as I sing. Though deep shades delight me, yet love is my food, As I call the dear name of my Joe; His musical shout is the pride of the wood, And my heart leaps to hear the—Hallo.
Simple flowers of the grove, little birds live at ease, I wish not to wander from you; I'll still dwell beneath the deep roar of your trees, For I know that my Joe will be true. The trill of the robin, the coo of the dove, Are charms that I'll never forego; But resting through life on the bosom of love, Will remember the Woodland Hallo.
Fresh from the Hall of Bounty sprung, With glowing heart and ardent eye, With song and rhyme upon my tongue, And fairy visions dancing by, The mid-day sun in all his pow'r The backward valley painted gay; Mine was a road without a flower, Where one small streamlet cross'd the way.
[Footnote 1: On a sultry afternoon, late in the summer of 1802, Euston-Hall lay in my way to Thetford, which place I did not reach until the evening, on a visit to my sister: the lines lose much of their interest except they could be read on the spot, or at least at a coresponding season of the year.]
What was it rous'd my soul to love? What made the simple brook so dear? It glided like the weary dove, And never brook seem'd half so clear. Cool pass'd the current o'er my feet, Its shelving brink for rest was made, But every charm was incomplete, For Barnham Water wants a shade.
There, faint beneath the fervid sun, I gaz'd in ruminating mood; For who can see the current run And snatch no feast of mental food? "Keep pure thy soul," it seem'd to say, "Keep that fair path by wisdom trod, "That thou may'st hope to wind thy way "To fame worth boasting, and to God."
Long and delightful was the dream, A waking dream that Fancy yields, Till with regret I left the stream And plung'd across the barren fields; To where of old rich abbeys smil'd In all the pomp of gothic taste, By fond tradition proudly styl'd, The mighty "City in the East."
Near, on a slope of burning sand, The shepherd boys had met to play, To hold the plains at their command, And mark the trav'ller's leatless way. The trav'ller with a cheerful look Would every pining thought forbear, If boughs but shelter'd Barnham brook He'd stop and leave his blessing there.
The Danish mounds of partial green, Still, as each mouldering tower decays, Far o'er the bleak unwooded scene Proclaim their wond'rous length of days. My burning feet, my aching sight, Demanded rest,—why did I weep? The moon arose, and such a night! Good Heav'n! it was a sin to sleep.
All rushing came thy hallow'd sighs, Sweet Melancholy, from my breast; "'Tis here that eastern greatness lies, "That Might, Renown, and Wisdom rest! "Here funeral rites the priesthood gave "To chiefs who sway'd prodigious powers, "The Bigods and the Mowbrays brave, "From Framlingham's imperial towers.
Full of the mighty deeds of yore, I bade good night the trembling beam; Fancy e'en heard the battle's roar, Of what but slaughter could I dream? Bless'd be that night, that trembling beam, Peaceful excursions Fancy made; All night I heard the bubbling stream, Yet, Barnham Water wants a shade.
Whatever hurts my country's fame, When wits and mountaineers deride, To me grows serious, for I name My native plains and streams with pride. No mountain charms have I to sing, No loftier minstrel's rights invade; From trifles oft my raptures spring; —Sweet Barnham Water wants a shade
MARY'S EVENING SIGH
How bright with pearl the western sky! How glorious far and wide, Yon lines of golden clouds that lie So peaceful side by side! Their deep'ning tints, the arch of light, All eyes with rapture see; E'en while I sigh I bless the sight That lures my love from me.
Green hill, that shad'st the valley here, Thou bear'st upon thy brow The only wealth to Mary dear, And all she'll ever know. There, in the crimson light I see, Above thy summit rise, My Edward's form, he looks to me A statue in the skies.
Descend my love, the hour is come, Why linger on the hill? The sun hath left my quiet home, But thou canst see him still; Yet why a lonely wanderer stray, Alone the joy pursue? The glories of the closing day Can charm thy Mary too.
Dear Edward, when we stroll'd along Beneath the waving corn, And both confess'd the power of song, And bless'd the dewy morn; Your eye o'erflow'd, "How sweet," you cried. (My presence then could move) "How sweet, with Mary by my side, "To gaze and talk of love"
Thou art not false! that cannot be; Yet I my rivals deem Each woodland charm, the moss, the tree, The silence, and the stream; Whate'er my love, detains thee now, I'll yet forgive thy stay; But with to-morrow's dawn come thou, We'll brush the dews away.
GOOD TIDINGS OR, NEWS FROM THE FARM.
How vain this tribute; vain, this lowly lay; Yet nought is vain which gratitude inspires! The Muse, besides, her duty thus approves To virtue, to her country, to mankind! Thomson.
To the few who know that I have employed my thoughts on the importance of Dr. Jenners's discovery, it has generally and almost unexceptionably appeared a subject of little promise; peculiarly unfit indeed for poetry. My method of treating it has endeared it to myself, for it indulges in domestic anecdote. The account given of my infancy and of my father's burial, is not only poetically, but strictly true, and with me it has its weight accordingly. I have witnessed the destruction described in my brother's family: and I have, in my own, insured the lives of four children by Vaccine Inoculation, who, I trust, are destined to look back upon the Small-pox of the scourge of days gone by.—My hopes are high, and my prayers sincere, for its universal adoption.
The few notes subjoined are chiefly from "Woodville on Inoculation;" and if I may escape the appearance of affectation of research, or a scientific treatment of the subject, I think the egotism, so conspicuous in the poem, (as facts give force to argument,) ought to be forgiven.
NEWS FROM THE FARM.
Where's the Blind Child, so admirably fair, With guileless dimples, and with flaxen hair That waves in ev'ry breeze? he's often seen Beside yon cottage wall, or on the green, With others match'd in spirit and in size, Health on their cheeks and rapture in their eyes; That full expanse of voice, to childhood dear, Soul of their sports, is duly cherish'd here: And, hark! that laugh is his, that jovial cry; He hears the ball and trundling hoop brush by, And runs the giddy course with all his might, A very child in every thing but sight; With circumscrib'd but not abated pow'rs,— Play! the great object of his infant hours;— In many a game he takes a noisy part, And shows the native gladness of his heart; But soon he hears, on pleasure all intent, The new suggestion and the quick assent; The grove invites, delight thrills every breast— To leap the ditch and seek the downy nest Away they start, leave balls and hoops behind, And one companion leave——the boy is blind!
His fancy paints their distant paths so gay, That childish fortitude awhile gives way, He feels his dreadful loss—yet short the pain, Soon he resumes his cheerfulness again; Pond'ring how best his moments to employ, He sings his little songs of nameless joy, Creeps on the warm green turf for many an hour, And plucks by chance the white and yellow flow'r; Smoothing their stems, while resting on his knees, He binds a nosegay which he never sees; Along the homeward path then feels his way, Lifting his brow against the shining day, And, with a playful rapture round his eyes, Presents a sighing parent with the prize.
She blest that day, which he remembers too, When he could gaze on heav'n's ethereal blue, See the green Spring, and Summer's countless dies, And all the colours of the morning rise.— 'When was this work of bitterness begun? How came the blindness of your only son?' Thus pity prompts full many a tongue to say, But never, till she slowly wipes away Th' obtruding tear that trembles in her eye. This dagger of a question meets reply:— "My boy was healthy, and my rest was sound, When last year's corn was green upon the ground From yonder town infection found its way; Around me putrid dead and dying lay, I trembled for his fate: but all my care Avail'd not, for he breath'd the tainted air; Sickness ensu'd—in terror and dismay I nurs'd him in my arms both night and day, When his soft skin from head to foot became One swelling purple sore, unfit to name: Hour after hour, when all was still beside, When the pale night-light in its socket died, Alone I sat; the thought still sooths my heart, That surely I perform'd a mother's part, Watching with such anxiety and pain Till he might smile and look on me again; But that was not to be—ask me no more: GOD keep small-pox and blindness from your door!"
Now, ye who think, whose souls abroad take wing, And trace out human troubles to their spring, Say, should Heav'n grant us, in some hallow'd hour, Means to divest this demon of his power, To loose his horrid grasp from early worth, To spread a saving conquest round the earth, Till ev'ry land shall bow the grateful knee, Would it not be a glorious day to see?— That day is come! my soul, in strength arise, Invoke no muse, no power below the skies; To Heav'n the energies of verse belong, Truth is the theme, and truth shall be the song; Arm with conviction ev'ry joyful line, Source of all mercies, for the praise is thine! Sweet beam'd the star of peace upon those days When Virtue watch'd my childhood's quiet ways, Whence a warm spark of Nature's holy flame Gave the farm-yard an honourable name, But left one theme unsung: then, who had seen In herds that feast upon the vernal green, Or dreamt that in the blood of kine there ran Blessings beyond the sustenance of man? We tread the meadow, and we scent the thorn, We hail the day-spring of a summer's morn Nor mead at dawning day, nor thymy heath, Transcends the fragrance of the heifer's breath: May that dear fragrance, as it floats along O'er ev'ry flow'r that lives in rustic song; May all the sweets of meadows and of kine Embalm, O Health! this offering at thy shrine.
Dear must that moment be when first the mind, Ranging the paths of science unconfin'd, Strikes a new light; when, obvious to the sense, Springs the fresh spark of bright intelligence. So felt the towering soul of MONTAGU, Her sex's glory, and her country's too; Who gave the spotted plague one deadly blow, And bade its mitigated poison flow With half its terrors; yet, with loathing still, We hous'd a visitant with pow'r to kill. Then when the healthful blood, though often tried, Foil'd the keen lancet by the Severn side, Resisting, uncontaminated still, The purple pest and unremitting skill; When the plain truth tradition seem'd to know, By simply pointing to the harmless Cow, Though wise distrust to reason might appeal; What, when hope triumph'd, what did JENNER feel! Where even hope itself could scarcely rise To scan the vast, inestimable prize? Perhaps supreme, alone, triumphant stood The great, the conscious power of doing good, The power to will, and wishes to embrace Th' emancipation of the human race; A joy that must all mortal praise outlive, A wealth that grateful nations cannot give. Forth sped the truth immediate from his hand, And confirmations sprung in ev'ry land; In ev'ry land, on beauty's lily arm, On infant softness, like a magic charm, Appear'd the gift that conquers as it goes; The dairy's boast, the simple, saving Rose! Momentous triumph—fiend! thy reign is o'er; Thou, whose blind rage hath ravag'd ev'ry shore, Whose name denotes destruction, whose foul breath For ever hov'ring round the dart of death, Fells, mercilessly fells, the brave and base, Through all the kindreds of the human race.
Who has not heard, in warm, poetic tales, Of eastern fragrance and Arabian gales? Bowers of delight, of languor, and repose, Where beauty triumph'd as the song arose? Fancy may revel, fiction boldly dare, But truth shall not forget that thou wert there, Scourge of the world! who, borne on ev'ry wind, From bow'rs of roses  sprang to curse mankind. [Footnote 1: The first medical account of the small-pox is given by the Arabian physicians, and is traced no farther back than the siege of Alexandria, about the year of Christ, 640.—Woodville.]
The Indian palm thy devastation knows: Thou sweep'st the regions of eternal snows : [Footnote 2: First introduced into Greenland in 1733, and almost depopulated the country.—Ibid.]
Climbing the mighty period of his years, The British oak his giant bulk uprears; He, in his strength, while toll'd the passing bell, Rejoic'd whole centuries as thy victims fell: Armies have bled, and shouts of vict'ry rung, Fame crown'd their deaths, thy deaths are all unsung: 'Twas thine, while victories claim'd th' immortal lay, Through private life to cut thy desperate way; And when full power the wondrous magnet gave Ambition's sons to dare the ocean wave, Thee, in their train of horrid ills, they drew Beneath the blessed sunshine of Peru . [Footnote 3: In 1520, says Mr. Woodville, when the small-pox visited New Spain, it proved fatal to one half of the people in the provinces to which the infection extended; being carried thither by a negro slave, who attended Narvaez in his expedition against Cortes. He adds, about fifty years after the discovery of Peru, The small-pox was carried over from Europe to America by way of Carthagena, when it overran the Continent of the New World, and destroyed upwards of 100,000 Indians in the single province of Quito.—Hist. of Inoculation.]
But why unskill'd th' historic page explore? Why thus pursue thee to a foreign shore? A homely narrative of days gone by, Familiar griefs, and kindred's tender sigh Shall still survive; for thou on ev'ry mind Hast left some traces of thy wrath behind. There dwelt, beside a brook that creeps along Midst infant hills and meads unknown to song, One to whom poverty and faith were giv'n, Calm village silence, and the hope of heav'n: Alone she dwelt; and while each morn brought peace And health was smiling on her years' increase, Sudden and fearful, rushing through her frame, Unusual pains and feverish symptoms came. Then, when debilitated, faint, and poor, How sweet to hear a footstep at her door! To see a neighbour watch life's silent sand, To hear the sigh, and feel the helping hand! Soon woe o'erspread the interdicted ground, And consternation seiz'd the hamlets round: Uprose the pest—its widow'd victim died; And foul contagion spread on ev'ryside; The helping neighbour for her kind regard, Bore home that dreadful tribute of reward, Home, where six children, yielding to its pow'r, Gave hope and patience a most trying hour; One at her breast still drew the living stream, And, sense of danger never marr'd his dream; Yet all exclaim'd, and with a pitying eye, "Whoe'er survives the shock, that child will die!" But vain the fiat,—Heav'n restor'd them all, And destin'd one of riper years to fall. Midnight beheld the close of all his pain, His grave was clos'd when midnight came again; No bell was heard to toll, no funeral pray'r, No kindred bow'd, no wife, no children there; Its horrid nature could inspire a dread That cut the bonds of custom like a thread The humble church-tow'r higher seem'd to shew, Illumin'd by their trembling light below; The solemn night-breeze struck each shiv'ring check; Religious reverence forbade to speak: The starting Sexton his short sorrow chid When the earth murmur'd on the coffin lid, And falling bones and sighs of holy dread Sounded a requiem to the silent dead!
'Why tell us tales of woe, thou who didst give Thy soul to rural themes, and bade them live? What means this zeal of thine, this kindling fire? The rescu'd infant and the dying sire.' Kind heart, who o'er the pictur'd Seasons glow'd, When smiles approv'd the verse, or tears have flow'd, Was then the lowly minstrel dear to thee? Himself appeals—What, if that child were HE!
What, if those midnight sighs a farewel gave, While hands, all trembling, clos'd his father's grave! Though love enjoin'd not infant eyes to weep, In manhood's zenith shall his feelings sleep? Sleep not my soul! indulge a nobler flame; Still the destroyer persecutes thy name. Seven winter's cannot pluck from memory's store That mark'd affliction which a brother bore; That storm of trouble bursting on his head, When the fiend came, and left two children dead! Yet, still superior to domestic woes, The native vigour of his mind arose, And, as new summers teem'd with brighter views, He trac'd the wand'rings of his darling Muse, And all was joy—this instant all is pain, The foe implacable returns again, And claims a sacrifice; the deed is done— Another child has fall'n, another son ! [Footnote 4: I had proceeded thus far with the Poem, when the above fact became a powerfull stimulus to my feelings, and to the earnestness of my exhortations.]
His young cheek even now is scarcely cold, And shall his early doom remain untold? No! let the tide of passion roll along, Truth will be heard, and GOD will bless the song Indignant Reason, Pity, Joy, arise, And speak in thunder to the heart that sighs: Speak loud to parents;—knew ye not the time When age itself, and manhood's hardy prime, With horror saw their short-liv'd friendships end. Yet dar'd not visit e'en the dying friend? Contagion, a foul serpent lurking near, Mock'd Nature's sigh and Friendship's holy tear. Love ye your children?—let that love arise, Pronounce the sentence, and the serpent dies; Bid welcome a mild stranger at your door, Distress shall cease, those terrors reign no more. Love ye your neighbours?—let that love be shown; Risk not their children while you guard your own; Give not a foe dominion o'er your blood, Plant not a poison, e'en to bring forth good; For, woo the pest discreetly as you will, Deadly infection must attend him still. Then, let the serpent die! this glorious prize Sets more than life and health before our eyes, For beauty triumphs too! Beauty! sweet name, The mother's feelings kindling into flame! For, where dwells she, who, while the virtues grow. With cold indifference marks the arching brow? Or, with a lifeless heart and recreant blood, Sighs not for daughters fair as well as good? That sigh is nature, and cannot decay, 'Tis universal as the beams of day; Man knows and feels its truth; for, Beauty's call Rouses the coldest mortal of us all; A glance warms age itself, and gives the boy The pulse of rapture and the sigh of joy. And is it then no conquest to insure Our lilies spotless and our roses pure? Is it no triumph that the lovely face Inherits every line of Nature's grace? That the sweet precincts of the laughing eye Dread no rude scars, no foul deformity? Our boast, old Time himself shall not impair. Of British maids pre-eminently fair; But, as he rolls his years on years along, Shall keep the record of immortal song; For song shall rise with ampler power to speak The new-born influence of Beauty's cheek, Shall catch new fires in every sacred grove, Fresh inspiration from the lips of Love, And write for ever on the rising mind— DEAD IS ONE MORTAL FOE OF HUMAN KIND!
Yes, we have conquer'd! and the thought should raise A spirit in our prayers as well as praise, For who will say, in Nature's wide domain There lurk not remedies for every pain? Who will assert, where Turkish banners fly, Woe still shall reign—the plague shall never die? Or who predict, with bosom all unblest, An everlasting fever in the West? Forbid it Heav'n!—Hope cheers us with a smile, The sun of Mercy's risen on our isle: Its beams already, o'er th' Atlantic wave, Pierce the dark forests of the suffering brave: There, e'en th' abandon'd sick imbib'd a glow, When warrior nations, resting on the bow, Astonish'd heard the joyful rumour rise, And call'd the council of their great and wise: The truth by female pray'rs was urg'd along, Youth ceas'd the chorus of the warrior song, And present ills bade present feelings press With all the eloquence of deep distress; Till forth their chiefs [A] o'er dying thousands trod To seek the white man and his bounteous God: [Footnote A: The chiefs of the Cherokee Indians, in North America, have applied to the government of the United States for information on the subject of Vaccine Inoculation, and have spread the practice in the Woods.]
Well sped their errand; with a patriot zeal They spread the blessing for their country's weal.
Where India's swarthy millions crowd the strand, And round that isle, which crowns their pointed land, Speeds the good angel with the balmy breath, And checks the dreadful tyranny of death: Whate'er we hear to hurt the peace of life, Of Candian treachery and British strife, The sword of commerce, nations bought and sold, They owe to England more than mines of gold; England has sent a balm for private woe; England strikes down the nations' bitterest foe.
Europe, amidst the clangor of her arms, While life was threaten'd with a thousand harms, And Charity was freezing to its source, Still saw fair Science keep her steady course; And, while whole legions fell, by friends deplor'd, New germs of life sprung up beneath the sword, And spread amain.—Then, in our bosoms, why Must exultation mingle with a sigh?
Thought takes the retrospect of years just fled, And, conjuring up the spirits of the dead, Whispers each dear and venerated name Of the last victims ere the blessing came, Worthies, who through the lands that gave them birth Breath'd the strong evidence of growing worth; Parents, cut down in life's meridian day, And childhood's thousand thousand swept away; Life's luckless mariners! ye, we deplore Who sunk within a boat's length of the shore [A]. [Footnote A: So lately as the year 1793, the small-pox was carried to the Isle of France by a Dutch ship, and there destroyed five thousand four hundred persons in six weeks.—Woodville.]
A stranger youth, from his meridian sky, Buoyant with hopes, came here but came to die! O'er his sad fate I've ponder'd hours away, It suits the languor of a gloomy day: He left his bamboo groves, his pleasant shore, He left his friends to hear new oceans roar, All confident, ingenuous, and bold, He heard the wonders by the white men told; With firm assurance trod the rolling deck, And saw his isle diminish to a speck, Plough'd the rough waves, and gain'd our northern clime, In manhood's ripening sense and nature's prime. Oh! had the fiend been vanquished ere he came, The gen'rous youth had spread my country's fame. Had known that honour dwells among the brave, And England had not prov'd the stranger's grave: Then, ere his waning sand of life had run, Poor ABBA THULE might hare seen his son! [A] [Footnote A: Lee Boo, second son of the King of the Pelew Islands, was brought to England by Capt. Wilson, and died of the Small-pox at Rotherhithe, in 1784.]
Rise, exultation! spirit, louder speak! Pity, dislodge thy dewdrops from my cheek: Sleep sound, forefathers; sleep, brave stranger boy, While truth impels the current of my joy: To all mankind, to all the earth 'tis giv'n, Conviction travels like the light of heav'n: Go, blessing, from thy birth-place still expand, For that dear birth-place is my native land! A nation consecrates th' auspicious day, And wealth, and rank, and talents lead the way! Time, with triumphant hand, shall truth diffuse, Nor ask the unbought efforts of the Muse. Mothers! the pledges of your loves caress, And heave no sighs but sighs of tenderness. Fathers, be firm! keep down the fallen foe, And on the memory of domestic woe Build resolution,—Victory shall increase Th' incalculable wealth of private peace; And such a victory, unstain'd with gore, That strews its laurels at the cottage door, Sprung from the farm, and from the yellow mead, Should be the glory of the pastoral reed. In village paths, hence, may we never find Their youth on crutches, and their children blind; Nor, when the milk-maid, early from her bed, Beneath the may bush that embow'rs her head, Sings like a bird, e'er grieve to meet again The fair cheek injur'd by the scars of pain; Pure, in her morning path, where'er she treads, Like April sunshine and the flow'rs it feeds, She'll boast new conquests; Love, new shafts to fling; And Life, an uncontaminated spring. In pure delight didst thou, my soul, pursue A task to conscience and to kindred due, And, true to feeling and to Nature, deem The dairy's boast thy own appropriate theme; Hail now the meed of pleasurable hours, And, at the foot of Science, strew thy flow'rs!