The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Isle of Palms, and Other Poems

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Title: The Isle of Palms, and Other Poems

Author: John Wilson

Release date: February 2, 2012 [eBook #38741]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Josephine Paolucci and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at







Where lies the land to which yon Ship must go?
Festively she puts forth in trim array,
And vigorous, at a lark at break of day,——
——Is she for summer suns, or polar snow?
















[Pg vii]




Canto I. 1

Canto II. 41

Canto III. 75

Canto IV. 139

Angler's Tent 181


Hermitage 223

Lines on Reading the Memoirs of Miss Smith 234

Hymn to Spring 246

Melrose Abbey 257

Extract from the "Hearth" 264

The French Exile 269

The Three Seasons of Love 277

To a Sleeping Child 280

My Cottage 290

[Pg viii]Lines written on the Banks of Windermere, after Recovery from a dangerous Illness 304

Apology for the little Naval Temple on Storrs' Point, Windermere 312

Picture of a Blind Man 317

Troutbeck Chapel 323

Peace and Innocence 329

Loughrig Tarn 333

Mary 340

Lines written at a little Well by the Roadside, Langdale 345

Lines written on seeing a Picture by Berghem, of an Ass in a Storm-Shower 351

On Reading Mr. Clarkson's History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade 357

The Fallen Oak 362

Nature Outraged 366

Lines written by Moonlight at Sea 378

The Nameless Stream 380

Art and Nature 385

Sonnet I.—Written on the Banks of Wastwater, during a Storm 388

Sonnet II.—Written on the Banks of Wastwater, during a Calm 389

Sonnet III.—Written at Midnight, on Helm-Crag 390

Sonnet IV.—The Voice of the Mountains 391

Sonnet V.—The Evening-Cloud 392

[Pg ix]Sonnet VI.—Written on the Sabbath-Day 393

Sonnet VII.—Written on Skiddaw, during a Tempest 394

Sonnet VIII. 395

Sonnet IX.—Written on the Evening I heard of the Death of my Friend, William Dunlop 396

Lines sacred to the Memory of The Rev. James Grahame, Author of "The Sabbath," &c. 397

[Pg 1]


[Pg 3]


It is the midnight hour:—the beauteous Sea,
Calm as the cloudless heaven, the heaven discloses,
While many a sparkling star, in quiet glee,
Far down within the watery sky reposes.
As if the Ocean's heart were stirr'd
With inward life, a sound is heard,
Like that of dreamer murmuring in his sleep;
'Tis partly the billow, and partly the air,
That lies like a garment floating fair
Above the happy Deep.
The sea, I ween, cannot be fann'd
By evening freshness from the land,
[Pg 4] For the land it is far away;
But God hath will'd that the sky-born breeze
In the centre of the loneliest seas
Should ever sport and play.
The mighty Moon she sits above,
Encircled with a zone of love,
A zone of dim and tender light
That makes her wakeful eye more bright:
She seems to shine with a sunny ray,
And the night looks like a mellow'd day!
The gracious Mistress of the Main
Hath now an undisturbed reign,
And from her silent throne looks down,
As upon children of her own,
On the waves that lend their gentle breast
In gladness for her couch of rest!
My spirit sleeps amid the calm
The sleep of a new delight;
And hopes that she ne'er may awake again,
But for ever hang o'er the lovely main,
[Pg 5] And adore the lovely night.
Scarce conscious of an earthly frame,
She glides away like a lambent flame,
And in her bliss she sings;
Now touching softly the Ocean's breast,
Now mid the stars she lies at rest,
As if she sail'd on wings!
Now bold as the brightest star that glows
More brightly since at first it rose,
Looks down on the far-off flood,
And there all breathless and alone,
As the sky where she soars were a world of her own,
She mocketh the gentle Mighty One
As he lies in his quiet mood.
"Art thou," she breathes, "the Tyrant grim
That scoffs at human prayers,
Answering with prouder roaring the while,
As it rises from some lonely isle,
Through groans raised wild, the hopeless hymn
Of shipwreck'd mariners?
[Pg 6] Oh! Thou art harmless as a child
Weary with joy, and reconciled
For sleep to change its play;
And now that night hath stay'd thy race,
Smiles wander o'er thy placid face
As if thy dreams were gay."—
And can it be that for me alone
The Main and Heavens are spread?
Oh! whither, in this holy hour,
Have those fair creatures fled,
To whom the ocean-plains are given
As clouds possess their native heaven?
The tiniest boat, that ever sail'd
Upon an inland lake,
Might through this sea without a fear
Her silent journey take,
Though the helmsman slept as if on land,
And the oar had dropp'd from the rower's hand.
How like a monarch would she glide,
While the husht billow kiss'd her side
[Pg 7] With low and lulling tone,
Some stately Ship, that from afar
Shone sudden, like a rising star,
With all her bravery on!
List! how in murmurs of delight
The blessed airs of Heaven invite
The joyous bark to pass one night
Within their still domain!
O grief! that yonder gentle Moon,
Whose smiles for ever fade so soon,
Should waste such smiles in vain.
Haste! haste! before the moonshine dies,
Dissolved amid the morning skies,
While yet the silvery glory lies
Above the sparkling foam;
Bright mid surrounding brightness, Thou,
Scattering fresh beauty from thy prow,
In pomp and splendour come!
And lo! upon the murmuring waves
A glorious Shape appearing!
[Pg 8] A broad-wing'd Vessel, through the shower
Of glimmering lustre steering!
As if the beauteous ship enjoy'd
The beauty of the sea,
She lifteth up her stately head
And saileth joyfully.
A lovely path before her lies,
A lovely path behind;
She sails amid the loveliness
Like a thing with heart and mind.
Fit pilgrim through a scene so fair,
Slowly she beareth on;
A glorious phantom of the deep,
Risen up to meet the Moon.
The Moon bids her tenderest radiance fall
On her wavy streamer and snow-white wings,
And the quiet voice of the rocking sea
To cheer the gliding vision sings.
Oh! ne'er did sky and water blend
In such a holy sleep,
[Pg 9] Or bathe in brighter quietude
A roamer of the deep.
So far the peaceful soul of Heaven
Hath settled on the sea,
It seems as if this weight of calm
Were from eternity.
O World of Waters! the stedfast earth
Ne er lay entranced like Thee!
Is she a vision wild and bright,
That sails amid the still moon-light
At the dreaming soul's command?
A vessel borne by magic gales,
All rigg'd with gossamery sails,
And bound for Fairy-land?
Ah! no!—an earthly freight she bears,
Of joys and sorrows, hopes and fears;
And lonely as she seems to be,
Thus left by herself on the moonlight sea
In loneliness that rolls,
[Pg 10] She hath a constant company,
In sleep, or waking revelry,
Five hundred human souls!
Since first she sail'd from fair England,
Three moons her path have cheer'd;
And another stands right over her masts
Since the Cape hath disappear'd.
For an Indian Isle she shapes her way
With constant mind both night and day:
She seems to hold her home in view,
And sails, as if the path she knew;
So calm and stately is her motion
Across th' unfathom'd trackless ocean.
And well, glad Vessel! mayst thou stem
The tide with lofty breast,
And lift thy queen-like diadem
O'er these thy realms of rest:
For a thousand beings, now far away,
Behold thee in their sleep,
[Pg 11] And hush their beating hearts to pray
That a calm may clothe the deep.
When dimly descending behind the sea
From the Mountain Isle of Liberty,
Oh! many a sigh pursued thy vanish'd sail;
And oft an eager crowd will stand
With straining gaze on the Indian strand,
Thy wonted gleam to hail.
For thou art laden with Beauty and Youth,
With Honour bold, and spotless Truth,
With fathers, who have left in a home of rest
Their infants smiling at the breast,
With children, who have bade their parents farewell,
Or who go to the land where their parents dwell.
God speed thy course, thou gleam of delight!
From rock and tempest clear;
Till signal gun from friendly height
Proclaim, with thundering cheer,
To joyful groupes on the harbour bright,
That the good ship Hope is near!
[Pg 12]
Is no one on the silent deck
Save the helmsman who sings for a breeze,
And the sailors who pace their midnight watch,
Still as the slumbering seas?
Yes! side by side, and hand in hand,
Close to the prow two figures stand,
Their shadows never stir,
And fondly as the Moon doth rest
Upon the Ocean's gentle breast,
So fond they look on her.
They gaze and gaze till the beauteous orb
Seems made for them alone:
They feel as if their home were Heaven,
And the earth a dream that hath flown.
Softly they lean on each other's breast,
In holy bliss reposing,
Like two fair clouds to the vernal air
In folds of beauty closing.
The tear down their glad faces rolls,
And a silent prayer is in their souls,
[Pg 13] While the voice of awaken'd memory,
Like a low and plaintive melody,
Sings in their hearts,—a mystic voice,
That bids them tremble and rejoice.
And Faith, who oft had lost her power
In the darkness of the midnight hour
When the planets had roll'd afar,
Now stirs in their soul with a joyful strife,
Embued with a genial spirit of life
By the Moon and the Morning-Star.
A lovelier vision in the moonlight stands,
Than Bard e'er woo'd in fairy lands,
Or Faith with tranced eye adored,
Floating around our dying Lord.
Her silent face is saintly-pale,
And sadness shades it like a veil:
A consecrated nun she seems,
Whose waking thoughts are deep as dreams,
And in her hush'd and dim abode
For ever dwell upon her God,
[Pg 14] Though the still fount of tears and sighs
And human sensibilities!
Well may the Moon delight to shed
Her softest radiance round that head,
And mellow the cool ocean-air
That lifts by fits her sable hair.
These mild and melancholy eyes
Are dear unto the starry skies,
As the dim effusion of their rays
Blends with the glimmering light that plays
O'er the blue heavens, and snowy clouds,
The cloud-like sails, and radiant shrouds.
Fair creature! Thou dost seem to be
Some wandering spirit of the sea,
That dearly loves the gleam of sails,
And o'er them breathes propitious gales.
Hither thou comest, for one wild hour,
With him thy sinless paramour,
To gaze, while the wearied sailors sleep,
On this beautiful phantom of the deep,
[Pg 15] That seem'd to rise with the rising Moon.
—But the Queen of Night will be sinking soon,
Then will you, like two breaking waves,
Sink softly to your coral caves,
Or, noiseless as the falling dew,
Melt into Heaven's delicious blue.
Nay! wrong her not, that Virgin bright!
Her face is bathed in lovelier light
Than ever flow'd from eyes
Of Ocean Nymph, or Sylph of Air!
The tearful gleam, that trembles there,
From human dreams must rise.
Let the Mermaid rest in her sparry cell,
Her sea-green ringlets braiding!
The Sylph in viewless ether dwell,
In clouds her beauty shading!
My soul devotes her music wild
To one who is an earthly child,
But who, wandering through the midnight hour,
Far from the shade of earthly bower,
[Pg 16] Bestows a tenderer loveliness,
A deeper, holier quietness,
On the moonlight Heaven, and Ocean hoar,
So quiet and so fair before.
Yet why does a helpless maiden roam,
Mid stranger souls, and far from home,
Across the faithless deep?
Oh! fitter far that her gentle mind
In some sweet inland vale should find
An undisturbed sleep!
So was it once. Her childish years
Like clouds pass'd o'er her head,
When life is all one rosy smile, or tears
Of natural grief, forgotten soon as shed.
O'er her own mountains, like a bird
Glad wandering from its nest,
When the glossy hues of the sunny spring
Are dancing on its breast,
With a winged glide this maiden would rove,
An innocent phantom of beauty and love.
[Pg 17] Far from the haunts of men she grew
By the side of a lonesome tower,
Like some solitary mountain-flower,
Whose veil of wiry dew
Is only touch'd by the gales that breathe
O'er the blossoms of the fragrant heath,
And in its silence melts away
With those sweet things too pure for earthly day.
Blest was the lore that Nature taught
The infant's happy mind,
Even when each light and happy thought
Pass'd onwards like the wind,
Nor longer seem'd to linger there
Than the whispering sound in her raven-hair.
Well was she known to each mountain-stream,
As its own voice, or the fond moon-beam
That o'er its music play'd:
The loneliest caves her footsteps heard,
In lake and tarn oft nightly stirr'd
The Maiden's ghost-like shade.
[Pg 18] But she hath bidden a last farewell
To lake and mountain, stream and dell,
And fresh have blown the gales
For many a mournful night and day,
Wafting the tall Ship far away
From her dear native Wales.
And must these eyes,—so soft and mild,
As angel's bright, as fairy's wild,
Swimming in lustrous dew,
Now sparkling lively, gay, and glad,
And now their spirit melting sad
In smiles of gentlest blue,—
Oh! must these eyes be steep'd in tears,
Bedimm'd with dreams of future years,
Of what may yet betide
An Orphan-Maid!—for in the night
She oft hath started with affright,
To find herself a bride;
A bride oppress'd with fear and shame,
And bearing not Fitz-Owen's name.
[Pg 19] This fearful dream oft haunts her bed.
For she hath heard of maidens sold,
In the innocence of thoughtless youth,
To Guilt and Age for gold;
Of English maids who pined away
Beyond the Eastern Main,
Who smiled, when first they trod that shore,
But never smiled again.
In dreams is she the wretched Maid,
An Orphan,—helpless,—sold,—betray'd,—
And, when the dream hath fled,
In waking thought she still retains
The memory of these wildering pains,
In strange mysterious dread.
Yet oft will happier dreams arise
Before her charmed view,
And the powerful beauty of the skies
Makes her believe them true.
For who, when nought is heard around,
But the great Ocean's solemn sound,
[Pg 20] Feels not as if the Eternal God
Were speaking in that dread abode?
An answering voice seems kindly given
From the multitude of stars in Heaven:
And oft a smile of moonlight fair,
To perfect peace hath changed despair.
Low as we are, we blend our fate
With things so beautifully great,
And though opprest with heaviest grief,
From Nature's bliss we draw relief,
Assured that God's most gracious eye
Beholds us in our misery,
And sends mild sound and lovely sight,
To change that misery to delight.—
Such is thy faith, O sainted Maid!
Pensive and pale, but not afraid
Of Ocean or of Sky,
Though thou ne'er mayst see the land again,
And though awful be the lonely Main,
No fears hast thou to die.
[Pg 21] Whate'er betide of weal or wo,
When the waves are asleep, or the tempests blow,
Thou wilt bear with calm devotion;
For duly every night and morn,
Sweeter than Mermaid's strains are borne
Thy hymns along the Ocean.
And who is He, that fondly presses
Close to his heart the silken tresses
That hide her soften'd eyes,
Whose heart her heaving bosom meets,
And through the midnight silence beats
To feel her rising sighs?
Worthy the Youth, I ween, to rest
On the fair swellings of her breast,
Worthy to hush her inmost fears,
And kiss away her struggling tears:
For never grovelling spirit stole
A woman's unpolluted soul!
To her the vestal fire is given;
And only fire drawn pure from Heaven
[Pg 22] Can on Love's holy shrine descend,
And there in clouds of fragrance blend.
Well do I know that stately Youth!
The broad day-light of cloudless truth
Like a sun-beam bathes his face;
Though silent, still a gracious smile,
That rests upon his eyes the while,
Bestows a speaking grace.
That smile hath might of magic art,
To sway at will the stoniest heart,
As a ship obeys the gale;
And when his silver voice is heard;
The coldest blood is warmly stirr'd,
As at some glorious tale.
The loftiest spirit never saw
This Youth without a sudden awe;
But vain the transient feeling strove
Against the stealing power of love.
Soon as they felt the tremor cease,
He seem'd the very heart of peace.
[Pg 23] Majestic to the bold and high,
Yet calm and beauteous to a woman's eye!
To him, a mountain Youth, was known
The wailing tempest's dreariest tone.
He knew the shriek of wizard caves,
And the trampling fierce of howling waves.
The mystic voice of the lonely night,
He had often drunk with a strange delight,
And look'd on the clouds as they roll'd on high,
Till with them he sail'd on the sailing sky.
And thus hath he learn'd to wake the lyre,
With something of a bardlike fire;
Can tell in high empassion'd song,
Of worlds that to the Bard belong,
And, till they feel his kindling breath,
To others still and dark as death.
Yet oft, I ween, in gentler mood
A human kindness hush'd his blood,
And sweetly blended earth-born sighs
With the Bard's romantic extacies.
[Pg 24] The living world was dear to him,
And in his waking hours more bright it seem'd,
More touching far, than when his fancy dream'd
Of heavenly bowers, th' abode of Seraphim:
And gladly from her wild sojourn
Mid haunts dim-shadow'd in the realms of mind,
Even like a wearied dove that flies for rest
Back o'er long fields of air unto her nest,
His longing spirit homewards would return
To meet once more the smile of human kind.
And when at last a human soul he found,
Pure as the thought of purity,—more mild
Than in its slumber seems a dreaming child;
When on his spirit stole the mystic sound,
The voice, whose music sad no mortal ear
But his can rightly understand and hear,
When a subduing smile like moonlight shone
On him for ever, and for him alone,
Why should he seek this lower world to leave!
For, whether now he love to joy or grieve,
[Pg 25] A friend he hath for sorrow or delight,
Who lends fresh beauty to the morning light,
The tender stars in tenderer dimness shrouds,
And glorifies the Moon among her clouds.
How would he gaze with reverent eye
Upon that meek and pensive maid,
Then fix his looks upon the sky
With moving lips as if he pray'd!
Unto his sight bedimm'd with tears,
How beautiful the saint appears,—
Oh! all unlike a creature form'd of clay,
The blessed angels with delight
Might hail her "Sister!" She is bright
And innocent as they.
Scarce dared he then that form to love!
A solemn impulse from above
All earthly hopes forbade,
And with a pure and holy flame,
As if in truth from Heaven she came,
He gazed upon the maid.
[Pg 26] His beating heart, thus fill'd with awe,
In her the guardian spirit saw
Of all his future years;
And, when he listened to her breath
So spiritual, nor pain nor death
Seem'd longer worth his fears.
She loved him! She, the Child of Heaven!
And God would surely make
The soul to whom that love was given
More perfect for her sake.
Each look, each word, of one so good
Devoutly he obey'd,
And trusted that a gracious eye
Would ever guide his destiny,
For whom in holy solitude
So sweet an Angel pray'd.
Those days of tranquil joy are fled,
And tears of deep distress
From night to morn hath Mary shed:
And, say! when sorrow bow'd her head
[Pg 27] Did he then love her less?
Ah no! more touching beauty rose
Through the dim paleness of her woes,
Than when her cheek did bloom
With joy's own lustre: something there,
A saint-like calm, a deep repose,
Made her look like a spirit fair
New risen from the tomb.
For ever in his heart shall dwell
The voice with which she said farewell
To the fading English shore;
It dropp'd like dew upon his ear,
And for the while he ceased to hear
The sea-wind's freshening roar.
"To thee I trust my sinless child:
"And therefore am I reconciled
"To bear my lonely lot,
"The Gracious One, who loves the good,
"For her will smooth the Ocean wild,
"Nor in her aged solitude
"A parent be forgot."
[Pg 28] The last words these her Mother spake,
Sobbing as if her heart would break
Beside the cold sea-shore,
When onwards with the favouring gale,
Glad to be free, in pride of sail
Th' impatient Vessel bore.
Oh! could she now in magic glass
Behold the winged glory pass
With a slow and cloud-like motion,
While, as they melted on her eye,
She scarce should ken the peaceful sky
From the still more peaceful Ocean!
And it may be such dreams are given
In mercy by indulgent Heaven,
To solace them that mourn:
The absent bless our longing sight,
The future shows than truth more bright,
And phantoms of expir'd delight
Most passing sweet return.
[Pg 29] Mother! behold thy Child: How still
Her upward face! She thinks on thee:
Oh, thou canst never gaze thy fill!
How beautiful such piety!
There in her lover's guardian arms
She rests: and all the wild alarms
Of waves or winds are hush'd, no more to rise.
Of thee, and thee alone, she thinks:
See! on her knees thy daughter sinks:
Sure God will bless the prayer that lights such eyes!
Didst thou e'er think thy child so fair?
The rapture of her granted prayer
Hath breathed that awful beauty through her face:
Once more upon the deck she stands,
Slowly unclasps her pious hands,
And brightening smiles, assured of heavenly grace.
Oh, blessed pair! and, while I gaze,
As beautiful as blest!
Emblem of all your future days
Seems now the Ocean's rest!
[Pg 30] Beyond the blue depths of the sky,
The Tempests sleep;—and there must lie,
Like baleful spirits barr'd from realms of bliss.
But singing airs, and gleams of light,
And birds of calm, all-glancing bright,
Must hither in their gladness come.
—Where shall they find a fitter home
Than a night-scene fair as this?
And when, her fairy voyage past,
The happy Ship is moor'd at last
In the loved haven of her Indian Isle,
How dear to you will be the beams
Of the silent Moon! What touching dreams
Your musing hearts beguile!
Though haply then her radiance fall
On some low mansion's flowery wall,
Far up an inland vale,
Yet then the sheeted mast will tower,
Her shrouds all rustling like a shower,
And, melting as wild music's power,
Low pipe the sea-born gale.
[Pg 31] Each star will speak the tenderest things,
And when the clouds expand their wings,
All parting like a fleet,
Your own beloved Ship, I ween,
Will foremost in the van be seen,
And, rising loud and sweet,
The sailor's joyful shouts be heard,
Such as the midnight silence stirr'd
When the wish'd-for breezes blew,
And, instant as the loud commands,
Sent upwards from a hundred hands
The broad sails rose unto the sky,
And from her slumbers suddenly
The Ship like lightning flew!
But list! a low and moaning sound
At distance heard, like a spirit's song,
And now it reigns above, around,
As if it call'd the Ship along.
The Moon is sunk; and a clouded grey
Declares that her course is run,
[Pg 32] And like a God who brings the day,
Up mounts the glorious Sun.
Soon as his light has warm'd the seas,
From the parting cloud fresh blows the Breeze;
And that is the spirit whose well-known song
Makes the vessel to sail in joy along.
No fears hath she;—Her giant-form
O'er wrathful surge, through blackening storm,
Majestically calm, would go
Mid the deep darkness white as snow!
But gently now the small waves glide
Like playful lambs o'er a mountain's side.
So stately her bearing, so proud her array,
The Main she will traverse for ever and aye.
Many ports will exult at the gleam of her mast!
—Hush! hush! thou vain dreamer! this hour is her last.
Five hundred souls in one instant of dread
Are hurried o'er the deck;
And fast the miserable Ship
Becomes a lifeless wreck.
[Pg 33] Her keel hath struck on a hidden rock,
Her planks are torn asunder,
And down come her masts with a reeling shock,
And a hideous crash like thunder.
Her sails are draggled in the brine
That gladdened late the skies,
And her pendant that kiss'd the fair moonshine
Down many a fathom lies.
Her beauteous sides, whose rainbow hues
Gleam'd softly from below,
And flung a warm and sunny flush
O'er the wreaths of murmuring snow,
To the coral rocks are hurrying down
To sleep amid colours as bright as their own.
Oh! many a dream was in the Ship
An hour before her death;
And sights of home with sighs disturb'd
The sleepers' long-drawn breath.
Instead of the murmur of the sea
[Pg 34] The sailor heard the humming tree
Alive through all its leaves,
The hum of the spreading sycamore
That grows before his cottage-door,
And the swallow's song in the eaves.
His arms inclosed a blooming boy,
Who listen'd with tears of sorrow and joy
To the dangers his father had pass'd;
And his wife—by turns she wept and smiled,
As she look'd on the father of her child
Return'd to her heart at last.
—He wakes at the vessel's sudden roll,
And the rush of waters is in his soul.
Astounded the reeling deck he paces,
Mid hurrying forms and ghastly faces;—
The whole Ship's crew are there.
Wailings around and overhead,
Brave spirits stupefied or dead,
And madness and despair.
[Pg 35]
Leave not the wreck, thou cruel Boat,
While yet 'tis thine to save,
And angel-hands will bid thee float
Uninjured o'er the wave,
Though whirlpools yawn across thy way,
And storms, impatient for their prey,
Around thee fiercely rave!
Vain all the prayers of pleading eyes,
Of outcry loud, and humble sighs,
Hands clasp'd, or wildly toss'd on high
To bless or curse in agony!
Despair and resignation vain!
Away like a strong-wing'd bird she flies,
That heeds not human miseries,
And far off in the sunshine dies
Like a wave of the restless main.
Hush! hush! Ye wretches left behind!
Silence becomes the brave, resign'd
To unexpected doom.
How quiet the once noisy crowd!
[Pg 36] The sails now serve them for a shroud,
And the sea-cave is their tomb.
And where is that loveliest Being gone?
Hope not that she is saved alone,
Immortal though such beauty seem'd to be.
She, and the Youth that loved her too,
Went down with the ship and her gallant crew—
No favourites hath the sea.
Now is the Ocean's bosom bare,
Unbroken as the floating air;
The Ship hath melted quite away,
Like a struggling dream at break of day.
No image meets my wandering eye
But the new-risen sun, and the sunny sky.
Though the night-shades are gone, yet a vapour dull
Bedims the waves so beautiful;
While a low and melancholy moan
Mourns for the glory that hath flown.
Oh! that the wild and wailing strain
Were a dream that murmurs in my brain!
[Pg 37] What happiness would then be mine,
When my eyes, as they felt the morning shine,
Instead of the unfathom'd Ocean-grave
Should behold Winander's peaceful wave,
And the Isles that love her loving breast,
Each brooding like a Halcyon's nest.
It may not be:—too well I know
The real doom from fancied woe,
The black and dismal hue.
Yea, many a visage wan and pale
Will hang at midnight o'er my tale,
And weep that it is true.

[Pg 41]



O Heavenly Queen! by Mariners beloved!
Refulgent Moon! when in the cruel sea
Down sank yon fair Ship to her coral grave,
Where didst thou linger then? Sure it behoved
A Spirit strong and pitiful like thee
At that dread hour thy worshippers to save;
Nor let the glory where thy tenderest light,
Forsaking even the clouds, with pleasure lay,
Pass, like a cloud which none deplores, away,
No more to bless the empire of the Night.
How oft to thee have home-sick sailors pour'd
Upon their midnight-watch, no longer dull
[Pg 42] When thou didst smile, hymns wild and beautiful,
Worthy the radiant Angel they adored!
And are such hymnings breathed to thee in vain?
Gleam'st thou, as if delighted with the strain,
And won by it the pious bark to keep
In joy for ever?—till at once behind
A cloud thou sailest,—and a roaring wind
Hath sunk her in the deep!
Or, though the zephyr scarcely blow,
Down to the bottom must she go
With all who wake or sleep,
Ere the slumberer from his dream can start,
Or the hymn hath left the singer's heart!
Oh! sure, if ever mortal prayer
Were heard where thou and thy sweet stars abide,
So many gallant spirits had not died
Thus mournfully in beauty and in prime!
But from the sky had shone an arm sublime,
To bless the worship of that Virgin fair,
And, only seen by Faith's uplifted eye,
The wretched vessel gently drifted by
[Pg 43] The fatal rock, and to the crowded shore
In triumph and in pride th' expected glory bore.
Oh vain belief! most beauteous as thou art,
Thy heavenly visage hides a cruel heart.
When Death and Danger, Terror and Dismay,
Are madly struggling on the dismal Ocean,
With heedless smile and calm unalter'd motion,
Onward thou glidest through the milky way,
Nor, in thy own immortal beauty blest,
Hear'st dying mortals rave themselves to rest.
Yet when this night thou mount'st thy starry throne,
Brightening to sun-like glory in thy bliss,
Wilt thou not then thy once-loved Vessel miss,
And wish her happy, now that she is gone?
But then, sad Moon! too late thy grief will be,
Fair as thou art, thou canst not move the sea.
—Dear God! Was that wild sound a human cry,
The voice of one more loath to die
Than they who round him sleep?
[Pg 44] Or of a Spirit in the sky,
A Demon in the deep?
No sea-bird, through the darkness sailing,
E'er utter'd such a doleful wailing,
Foreboding the near blast:
If from a living thing it came,
It sure must have a spectral frame,
And soon its soul must part:—
That groan broke from a bursting heart,
The bitterest and the last.
The Figure moves! It is alive!
None but its wretched self survive,
Yea! drown'd are all the crew!
Ghosts are they underneath the wave,
And he, whom Ocean deign'd to save,
Stands there most ghost-like too.
Alone upon a rock he stands
Amid the waves, and wrings his hands,
And lifts to Heaven his steadfast eye,
With a wild upbraiding agony.
[Pg 45] He sends his soul through the lonesome air
To God:—but God hears not his prayer;
For, soon as his words from the wretch depart,
Cold they return on his baffled heart.
He flings himself down on his rocky tomb,
And madly laughs at his horrible doom.
With smiles the Main is overspread,
As if in mockery of the dead;
And upward when he turns his sight,
The unfeeling Sun is shining bright,
And strikes him with a sickening light.
While a fainting-fit his soul bedims,
He thinks that a Ship before him swims,
A gallant Ship, all fill'd with gales,
One radiant gleam of snowy sails—
His senses return, and he looks in vain
O'er the empty silence of the Main!
No Ship is there, with radiant gleam,
Whose shadow sail'd throughout his dream:
Not even one rueful plank is seen
To tell that a vessel hath ever been
[Pg 46] Beneath these lonely skies:
But sea-birds he oft had seen before
Following the ship in hush or roar,
The loss of their resting-mast deplore
With wild and dreary cries.
What brought him here he cannot tell;
Doubt and confusion darken all his soul,
While glimmering truth more dreadful makes the gloom:
Why hath the Ocean that black hideous swell?
And in his ears why doth that dismal toll
For ever sound,—as if a city-bell
Wail'd for a funeral passing to the tomb?
Some one hath died, and buried is this day;
A hoary-headed man, or stripling gay,
Or haply some sweet maid, who was a bride,
And, ere her head upon his bosom lay
Who deem'd her all his own,—the Virgin died!
Why starts the wilder'd dreamer at the sound,
And casts his haggard eyes around?
[Pg 47] The utter agony hath seized him now,
For Memory drives him, like a slave, to know
What Madness would conceal:—His own dear Maid,
She, who he thought could never die, is dead.
"Drown'd!"—still the breaking billows mutter,—"drown'd!"
With anguish loud was her death-bed!
Nor e'er,—wild wish of utmost woe!
Shall her sweet corse be found.
Oft had he sworn with faithless breath,
That his love for the Maid was strong as death,
By the holy Sun he sware;
The Sun upon the Ocean smiles,
And, with a sudden gleam, reviles
His vows as light as air.
Yet soon he flings, with a sudden start,
That gnawing phrenzy from his heart,
For long in sooth he strove,
When the waters were booming in his brain,
And his life was clogg'd with a sickening pain,
To save his lady-love.
[Pg 48]
How long it seems since that dear night,
When gazing on the wan moonlight
He and his own betrothed stood,
Nor fear'd the harmless ocean-flood!
He feels as if many and many a day,
Since that bright hour, had pass'd away;
The dim remembrance of some joy
In which he revell'd when a boy.
The crew's dumb misery and his own,
When lingeringly the ship went down,
Even like some mournful tale appears,
By wandering sailor told in other years.
Yet still he knows that this is all delusion,
For how could he for months and years have lain
A wretched thing upon the cruel Main,
Calm though it seem to be? Would gracious Heaven
Set free his spirit from this dread confusion,
Oh, how devoutly would his thanks be given
To Jesus ere he died! But tortured so
He dare not pray beneath his weight of wo,
[Pg 49] Lest he should feel, when about to die,
By God deserted utterly.
He cannot die: Though he longs for death,
Stronger and stronger grows his breath,
And hopeless woe the spring of being feeds;
He faints not, though his knell seems rung,
But lives, as if to life he clung,
And stronger as he bleeds.
He calls upon the grisly Power,
And every moment, every hour,
His sable banners wave;
But he comes not in his mortal wrath,
And long and dreary is the path
Of anguish to the grave.
His heart it will not cease to beat,
His blood runs free and warm;
And thoughts of more composed despair,
Incessant as the waves that bathe his feet,
Yet comfortless as the empty air,
[Pg 50] Through all his spirit swarm.
But the weariness of wasting grief
Hath brought to him its own relief:
Each sense is dull'd! He lies at last
As if the parting shock were past.
He sleeps!—Prolong his haunted rest,
O God!—for now the wretch is blest.
A fair romantic Island, crown'd
With a glow of blossom'd trees,
And underneath bestrewn with flowers,
The happy dreamer sees.
A stream comes dancing from a mount,
Down its fresh and lustrous side,
Then, tamed into a quiet pool,
Is scarcely seen to glide.
Like fairy sprites, a thousand birds
Glance by on golden wing,
Birds lovelier than the lovely hues
Of the bloom wherein they sing.
Upward he lifts his wondering eyes,
Nor yet believes that even the skies
[Pg 51] So passing fair can be.
And lo! yon gleam of emerald light,
For human gaze too dazzling bright,
Is that indeed the sea?
Adorn'd with all her pomp and pride,
Long-fluttering flags, and pendants wide,
He sees a stately vessel ride
At anchor in a bay,
Where never waves by storm were driven,
Shaped like the Moon when she is young in heaven,
Or melting in a cloud that stops her way.
Her masts tower nobly from the rocking deep,
Tall as the palm trees on the steep,
And, burning mid their crests so darkly green,
Her meteor-glories all abroad are seen,
Wakening the forests from their solemn sleep;
While suddenly the cannon's sound
Rolls through the cavern'd glens, and groves profound,
And never-dying echoes roar around.
Shaded with branching palm, the sign of peace,
[Pg 52] Canoes and skiffs like lightning shoot along,
Countless as waves there sporting on the seas;
While still from those that lead the van, a song,
Whose chorus rends the inland cliffs afar,
Tells that advance before that unarm'd throng,
Princes and chieftains, with a fearless smile,
And outstretch'd arms, to welcome to their Isle
That gallant Ship of War.
And glad are they who therein sail,
Once more to breathe the balmy gale,
To kiss the steadfast strand:
They round the world are voyaging,
And who can tell their suffering
Since last they saw the land?
But that bright pageant will not stay:
Palms, plumes, and ensigns melt away,
Island, and ship!—Though utter be the change
(For on a rock he seems to lie
All naked to the burning sky)
He doth not think it strange.
[Pg 53] While in his memory faint recallings swim,
He fain would think it is a dream
That thus distracts his view,
Until some unimagined pain
Shoots shivering through his troubled brain;
—Though dreadful, all is true.
But what to him is anguish now,
Though it burn in his blood, and his heart, and his brow,
For ever from morn to night?
For lo! an Angel shape descends,
As soft and silent as moonlight,
And o'er the dreamer bends.
She cannot be an earthly child,
Yet, when the Vision sweetly smiled,
The light that there did play
Reminded him, he knew not why,
Of one beloved in infancy,
But now far, far away.
[Pg 54]
Disturb'd by fluttering joy, he wakes,
And feels a death-like shock;
For, harder even than in his dream,
His bed is a lonely rock.
Poor wretch! he dares not open his eye,
For he dreads the beauty of the sky,
And the useless unavailing breeze
That he hears upon the happy seas.
A voice glides sweetly through his heart,
The voice of one that mourns;
Yet it hath a gladsome melody—
Dear God! the dream returns!
A gentle kiss breathes o'er his cheek,
A kiss of murmuring sighs,
It wanders o'er his brow, and falls
Like light upon his eyes.
Through that long kiss he dimly sees,
All bathed in smiles and tears,
A well-known face; and from those lips
A well-known voice he hears.
With a doubtful look he scans the Maid,
[Pg 55] As if half-delighted, half-afraid,
Then bows his wilder'd head,
And with deep groans, he strives to pray
That Heaven would drive the fiend away,
That haunts his dying bed.
Again he dares to view the air:
The beauteous ghost yet lingers there,
Veil'd in a spotless shroud:
Breathing in tones subdued and low,
Bent o'er him like Heaven's radiant bow,
And still as evening-cloud.
"Art thou a phantom of the brain?"
He cries, "a mermaid from the main?
A seraph from the sky?
Or art thou a fiend with a seraph's smile,
Come here to mock, on this horrid Isle,
My dying agony?"—
Had he but seen what touching sadness fell
On that fair creature's cheek while thus he spoke,
Had heard the stifled sigh that slowly broke
[Pg 56] From her untainted bosom's lab'ring swell,
He scarce had hoped, that at the throne of grace
Such cruel words could e'er have been forgiven,
The impious sin of doubting such a face,
Of speaking thus of Heaven.
Weeping, she wrings his dripping hair
That hangs across his cheek;
And leaves a hundred kisses there,
But not one word can speak.
In bliss she listens to his breath:
Ne'er murmur'd so the breast of death!
Alas! sweet one! what joy can give
Fond-cherish'd thoughts like these!
For how mayst thou and thy lover live
In the centre of the seas?
Or vainly to your sorrows seek for rest,
On a rock where never verdure grew,
Too wild even for the wild sea-mew
To build her slender nest!
[Pg 57]
Sublime is the faith of a lonely soul,
In pain and trouble cherish'd;
Sublime the spirit of hope that lives,
When earthly hope has perish'd.
And where doth that blest faith abide?
O! not in Man's stern nature: human pride
Inhabits there, and oft by virtue led,
Pride though it be, it doth a glory shed,
That makes the world we mortal beings tread,
In chosen spots, resplendent as the Heaven!
But to yon gentle Maiden turn,
Who never for herself doth mourn,
And own that faith's undying urn
Is but to woman given.
Now that the shade of sorrow falls
Across her life, and duty calls,
Her spirit burns with a fervent glow,
And stately through the gloom of woe
Behold her alter'd form arise,
Like a priestess at a sacrifice.
[Pg 58] The touch of earth hath left no taint
Of weakness in the fearless saint.
Like clouds, all human passions roll,
At the breath of devotion, from her soul,
And God looks down with a gleam of grace,
On the stillness of her heavenward face,
Just paler in her grief.
While, hark! like one who God adores,
Such words she o'er her lover pours,
As give herself relief.
"Oh! look again on her who speaks
To thee, and bathes thy sallow cheeks
With many a human tear!
No cruel thing beside thee leans,
Thou knowest what thy Mary means,
Thy own true love is here.
Open thine eyes! thy beauteous eyes!
For mercy smile on me!
Speak!—but one word! one little word!
'Tis all I ask of thee.
[Pg 59] If these eyes would give one transient gleam,
To chear this dark and dreadful dream,
If, while I kiss thy cheek,
These dear, dear lips, alas! so pale,
Before their parting spirit fail,
One low farewell would speak,—
This rock so hard would be a bed
Of down unto thy Mary's head,
And gently would we glide away,
Fitz-Owen! to that purer day
Of which thou once didst sing;
Like birds, that, rising from the foam,
Seek on some lofty cliff their home,
On storm-despising wing.
Yes! that thou hear'st thy Mary's voice,
That lovely smile declares!
Here let us in each other's arms
Dissolve our life in prayers.
I see in that uplifted eye,
That thou art not afraid to die;
For ever brave wert thou.
[Pg 60] Oh! press me closer to thy soul,
And, while yet we hear the Ocean roll,
Breathe deep the marriage vow!
We hoped far other days to see;
But the will of God be done!
My husband! behold yon pile of clouds
Like a city, round the Sun:
Beyond these clouds, ere the phantoms part,
Thou wilt lean in bliss on my loving heart."—
Sweet seraph! lovely was thy form,
When, shrouded in the misty storm
That swept o'er Snowden's side,
The Cambrian shepherd, through the gloom,
Like a spirit rising from the tomb,
With awe beheld thee glide;
And lovely wert thou, Child of Light!
When, gazing on the starry night
Within Llanberris Lake,
Thy spirit felt, in a hush like death,
The fading earth's last whisper'd breath
[Pg 61] The holy scene forsake.
Oh! lovelier still, when thy noiseless tread
Around thy aged mother's bed
Fell soft as snow on snow,
When thy heart, from love, repress'd its sighs,
And from thy never-closing eyes
Forbade the tears to flow.
But now unto thy looks are given
The beauty and the power of Heaven:
The sternness of this dismal Isle
Is soften'd by thy saintly smile,
And he, who lay like a madman, bound
In fetters of anguish to the ground,
And heard and saw, in fearful strife,
The sounds and the sights of unearthly life,
Now opens his eyes, that glisten mild
Like the gladsome eyes of a waken'd child,
For the hideous trance is fled;
And his soul is fill'd with the glory bright,
That plays like a wreath of halo-light
Around his Mary's head.
[Pg 62]
Most awful is the perfect rest
That sits within her eye,
Awful her pallid face imprest
With the seal of victory.
Triumphant o'er the ghastly dreams
That haunt the parting soul,
She looks like a bird of calm, that floats
Unmoved when thunders roll,
And gives to the storm as gentle notes
As e'er through sunshine stole.
Her lover leans on her saviour breast,
And his heart like hers is still:
Ne'er martyr'd saints more meekly bow'd
To their Creator's will.
As calm they sit, as they had steer'd
To some little favourite Isle,
To mark upon the peaceful waves
The parting sunbeams smile;
As if the lightly feather'd oar
In an hour could take them to the shore,
Where friends and parents dwell:—
[Pg 63] But far, alas! from such shore are they,
And of friends, who for their safety pray,
Have ta'en a last farewell.
But why thus gleams Fitz-Owen's eye?
Why bursts his eager speech?
Lo! as if brought by angel hands
Uninjur'd on the beach,
With oars and sails a vessel lies:
Salvation from the gracious skies!
He fears it is a dream; that woe
Hath surely crazed his brain:
He drives the phantom from his gaze,
But the boat appears again.
It is the same that used to glide
When the wind had fallen low,
Like a child along its parent's side,
Around the guardian prow
Of the mighty Ship whose shadow lay
Unmoved upon the watery way.
[Pg 64] In the madness of that dismal hour,
When the shrieking Ship went down,
This little boat to the rocky Isle
Hath drifted all alone.
And there she lies! the oars are laid
As by the hand of pleasure,
Preparing on the quiet tide
To beat a gladsome measure.
The dripping sail is careless tied
Around the painted mast,
And a gaudy flag with purple glows,
Hung up in sportive joy by those
Whose sports and joys are past.
So lightly doth this little boat
Upon the scarce-touch'd billows float,
So careless doth she seem to be
Thus left by herself on the homeless sea,
That, while the happy lovers gaze
On her, the hope of happier days
[Pg 65] Steals unawares, like Heaven's own breath
O'er souls that were prepared for death.
They gaze on her, till she appears
To understand their grateful tears;
To lie there with her idle sail
Till Heaven should send some gracious gale,
Some gentle spirit of the deep,
With motion soft and swift as sleep,
To waft them to some pleasant cave
In the unknown gardens of the wave,
That, hid from every human eye,
Are happy in the smiling sky,
And in their beauty win the love
Of every orb that shines above.
Fitz-Owen from his dream awakes,
And gently in his arms he takes
His gentle Maid, as a shepherd kind
Brings from the killing mountain wind
A snow-white lamb, and lets it rest
In sleep and beauty on his breast.
[Pg 66] And now the gentle fearless Maid
Within the boat at rest is laid:
Her limbs recline as if in sleep,
Though almost resting on the deep;
On his dear bosom leans her head,
And through her long hair, wildly spread
O'er all her face, her melting eyes
Are lifted upwards to the skies,
As if she pray'd that Heaven would save
The arms that fold her, from the grave.
The boat hath left the lonesome rock,
And tries the wave again,
And on she glides without a fear,
So beauteous is the Main.
Her little sail beneath the sun
Gleams radiant as the snow,
And o'er the gently-heaving swell
Bounds like a mountain-roe.
In that frail bark the Lovers sit,
With steadfast face and silent breath,
[Pg 67] Following the guiding hope of life,
Yet reconciled to death.
His arm is round her tender side,
That moves beneath the press,
With a mingled beat of solemn awe
And virgin tenderness.
They speak not:—but the inward flow
Of faith and dread, and joy and wo,
Each from the other hears:
Long, long they gaze with meeting eyes,
Then lift them slowly to the skies
Steep'd in imploring tears.
And ever, as the rock recedes,
They feel their spirits rise;
And half forget that the smiling sea
Caused all their miseries.
Yet safe to them is the trackless brine
As some well-known and rural road
Paced in their childhood;—for they love
Each other, and believe in God.
[Pg 68]
And well might the refulgent day
These Ocean Pilgrims chear,
And make them feel as if the glades
Of home itself were near.
For a living sentiment of joy,
Such as doth sleep on hill and vale
When the friendly sun comes from his clouds
The vernal bloom to hail,—
Plays on the Ocean's sparkling breast,
That, half in motion, half at rest,
Like a happy thing doth lie;
Breathing that fresh and fragrant air,
And seeming in that slumber fair
The Brother of the Sky.
Hues brighter than the ruby-stone
With radiance gem his wavy zone,
A million hues, I ween:
Long dazzling lines of snowy white,
Fantastic wreath'd with purple light,
Or bathed in richest green.
[Pg 69] The flying fish, on wings of gold,
Skims through the sunny ray,
Then, like the rainbow's dying gleam,
In the clear wave melts away.
And all the beauteous joy seems made
For that dauntless Youth and sainted Maid,
Whom God and Angels love:
Comfort is in the helm, the sail,
The light, the clouds, the sea, the gale,
Around, below, above.
And thus they sail, and sail along,
Without one thought of fear;
As calm as if the boatman's song
Awoke an echoing chear,
O'er the hills that stretch in sylvan pride
On the Bala Lake's romantic side.
And lo! beneath the mellowing light,
That trembles between day and night
Before the Sun's decline,
[Pg 70] As to the touch of fairy-hand
Upstarting dim the nameless land
Extends its mountain line.
It is no cloud that steadfast lies
Between the Ocean and the Skies;
No image of a cloud, that flings
Across the deep its shadowy wings;
Such as oft cheats with visions fair
The heart of home-sick mariner.
It is the living Earth! They see
From the shore a smile of amity
That gently draws them on,
Such a smile as o'er all Nature glows
At a summer evening's fragrant close,
When the winds and rain are gone.
The self-moved boat appears to seek
With gladsome glide a home-like creek,
In the centre of a bay,
Which the calm and quiet hills surround,
And touch'd by waves without a sound,
Almost as calm as they.
[Pg 71]
And, what if here fierce savage men
Glare on them from some darksome den?—
What would become of this most helpless Maid?
Fitz-Owen thinks:—but in her eye
So calmly bright, he can descry
That she is not afraid
Of savage men, or monsters wild,
But is sublimely reconciled
To meet and bear her destiny.
A gentle ripling on the sand—
One stroke of the dexterous oar—
The sail is furl'd: the boat is moor'd:
And the Lovers walk the shore.
To them it is an awful thought,
From the wild world of waters brought
By God's protecting hand,
When every Christian soul was lost,
On that unknown, but beauteous coast,
As in a dream to stand.
While their spirits with devotion burn,
Their faces to the sea they turn,
[Pg 72] That lately seem'd their grave;
And bless, in murmurs soft and low,
The beautiful, the halcyon glow,
That bathes the evening wave.
Before the setting sun they kneel,
And through the silent air,
To Him who dwells on that throne of light
They pour their souls in prayer.
Their thoughts are floating, like the clouds
That seek the beauteous West,
Their gentleness, their peace the same,
The same their home of rest.
Now Night hath come with the cooling breeze,
And these Lovers still are on their knees.

[Pg 75]



Oh! many are the beauteous isles
Unknown to human eye,
That, sleeping 'mid the Ocean-smiles,
In happy silence lie.
The Ship may pass them in the night,
Nor the sailors know what a lovely sight
Is resting on the Main;
Some wandering Ship who hath lost her way,
And never, or by night or day,
Shall pass these isles again.
There, groves that bloom in endless spring
Are rustling to the radiant wing
[Pg 76] Of birds, in various plumage bright
As rainbow-hues, or dawning light.
Soft-falling showers of blossoms fair
Float ever on the fragrant air,
Like showers of vernal snow,
And from the fruit-tree, spreading tall,
The richly ripen'd clusters fall
Oft as sea-breezes blow.
The sun and clouds alone possess
The joy of all that loveliness;
And sweetly to each other smile
The live-long day—sun, cloud, and isle.
How silent lies each shelter'd bay!
No other visitors have they
To their shores of silvery sand,
Than the waves that, murmuring in their glee,
All hurrying in a joyful band
Come dancing from the sea.
How did I love to sigh and weep
For those that sailed upon the deep,
[Pg 77] When, yet a wondering child,
I sat alone at dead of night,
Hanging all breathless with delight
O'er their adventures wild!
Trembling I heard of dizzy shrouds,
Where up among the raving clouds
The sailor-boy must go;
Thunder and lightning o'er his head!
And, should he fall—O thought of dread!
Waves mountain-high below.
How leapt my heart with wildering fears,
Gazing on savage islanders
Ranged fierce in long canoe,
Their poison'd spears, their war-attire,
And plumes twined bright, like wreaths of fire,
Round brows of dusky hue!
What tears would fill my wakeful eyes
When some delicious paradise
(As if a cloud had roll'd
On a sudden from the bursting sun)
[Pg 78] Freshening the Ocean where it shone,
Flung wide its groves of gold!
No more the pining Mariner
In feverish anguish raves,
For like an angel, kind and fair,
That smiles, and smiling saves,
The glory charms away distress,
Serene in silent loveliness
Amid the dash of waves.
And wouldst thou think it hard to dwell
Alone within some sylvan cell,
Some fragrant arch of flowers,
Raised like a queen with gracious smile
In the midst of this her subject isle,
This labyrinth of bowers?
Could the fair earth, and fairer skies,
Clouds, breezes, fountains, groves,
To banish from thy heart suffice,
All thought of deeper loves?
[Pg 79] Or wouldst thou pine thy life away,
To kiss once more the blessed ray
That shines in human eyes?
What though the clustering roses came
Like restless gleams of magic flame,
As if they loved thy feet,
To win thee like a summer sprite,
With purest touches of delight,
To the Fairy Queen's retreat!
Oh! they would bloom and wither too,
And melt their pearls of radiant dew,
Without one look from thee:
What pleasure could that beauty give,
Which, of all mortal things that live,
None but thyself may see?
And where are the birds that cheer'd thine eyes
With wings and crests of rainbow dyes,
That wont for aye to glide
Like sun-beams through the shady bowers,
Charming away the happy hours
With songs of love or pride?
[Pg 80] Soon, soon thou hatest this Paradise;
It seems the soul hath fled
That made it fairer than the skies,
And a joyful beauty shed
O'er the tremor of the circling wave,
That now with restless moans and sighs,
Sounds like the dirge-song of the dead,
Dim breaking round a grave.
But she thou lovest is at thy side,
The Island Queen becomes thy bride,
And God and Nature sanctify the vow;
Air, Earth, and Ocean smile once more,
And along the forest-fringed shore,
What mirth and music now!
What warm and heavenly tints illume
The land that lately seem'd a tomb
Where thou wert left to die!
So bathed in joy this earth appears
To him, who, blind for lingering years,
At last beholds the sky.
[Pg 81] Thy heart was like an untouch'd lyre,
Silent as death—Let the trembling wire
The hand that knows its spirit feel;
And list! What melting murmurs steal
Like incense to the realms above,
Such sounds as parted souls might love.
And now if a home-bound vessel lay
At anchor in yon beauteous bay,
'Till the land-breeze her canvass wings should swell,
From the sweet Isle thou scarce would'st part,
But, when thou didst, thy lingering heart
Would sadly say, "Farewell!"
In such a fairy Isle now pray'd
Fitz-Owen and his darling Maid.
The setting sun, with a pensive glow,
Had bathed their foreheads bending low,
Nor ceased their voice, or the breath of their prayer,
Till the moonlight lay on the mellow'd air.
[Pg 82] Then from the leaves they calmly rose,
As after a night of calm repose,
And Mary lean'd her face
With a sob of joy on her Lover's breast,
Who with kind tones the Maiden press'd
In a holy pure embrace.
And gently he kiss'd her tearful eyes,
And bade her heart lie still,
For there was a power in the gracious skies,
To shield their saints from ill.
Then, guided by the moon-light pale,
They walk'd into a sylvan vale,
Soft, silent, warm, and deep;
And there beneath her languid head,
The silken wither'd leaves he spread,
That she might sweetly sleep.
Then down he sat by her tender side,
And, as she lay, with soft touch dried
The stealing tears she could not hide;
Till sleep, like a faint shadow, fell
O'er the husht face he loved so well,
[Pg 83] And smiling dreams were given
To cheer her heart; then down he laid
His limbs beside the sleeping Maid,
In the face of the starry Heaven.
Sleep fell upon their wearied souls
With a power as deep as death,
Scarce trembled Mary's floating hair
In her Lover's tranquil breath.
In that still trance did sweet thoughts come
From the brook, and the glade, and the sky, of home,
And the gentle sound of her mother's voice
Bade Mary's slumbering soul rejoice.
For she in dreams to Wales hath flown,
And sits in a cottage of her own,
Beneath its sheltering tree:
Fitz-Owen's eye is fix'd on hers,
While with a bashful smile she stirs
Beside her mother's knee.
But the rising sun hath pour'd his beams
Into her heart, and broke her dreams;
[Pg 84] Slowly she lifts her eyes,
And, wondering at the change, looks round,
Upon that wild enchanted ground,
And these delightful skies.
Over her Lover's breast she breathes
A blessing and a prayer,
And gently they stir his sleeping soul,
Like the voice of the morning-air.
Soon as the first surprise is past,
They rise from their leafy bed,
As cheerful as the new-woke birds
That sing above their head.
And trusting in the merciful power
That saved them in that dismal hour
When the ship sank in the sea,
Cheering their souls with many a smile,
They walk through the woods of this nameless Isle
In undisturb'd tranquillity.
Well might they deem that wizard's wand
Had set them down in Fairy-land,
[Pg 85] Or that their souls some beauteous dream obey'd:
They know not where to look or listen,
For pools and streams of crystal glisten
Above, around,—embracing like the air
The soft-reflected trees; while every where
From shady nook, clear hill, and sunny glade,
The ever-varying soul of music play'd;
As if, at some capricious thing's command,
Indulging every momentary mood,
With voice and instrument, a fairy band
Beneath some echoing precipice now stood,
Now on steep mountain's rocky battlement,
Or from the clouds their blended chorus sent,
With jocund din to mock the solitude.
They gaze with never-sated eyes
On lengthening lines of flowery dyes,
That through the woods, and up the mountains run:
Not richer radiance robes the Even,
When she ascends her throne in Heaven,
Beside the setting sun.
[Pg 86] Scattering the blossomy gems away,
Like the white shower of the Ocean spray,
Across their path for ever glide or shoot
Birds of such beauty, as might lead
The soul to think that magic power decreed
Spirits to dwell therein; nor are they mute,
But each doth chaunt his own beloved strain,
For ever trembling on a natural tune,
The heart's emotions seeming so to suit,
That the rapt Lovers are desiring soon,
That silence never may return again.
A chearful welcome these bright creatures sing;
And as the Lovers roam from glade to glade,
That shine with sunlight, and with music ring,
Seems but for them the enchanted island made.
So strong the influence of the fairy scene,
That soon they feel as if for many a year
In love and rapture they had linger'd here,
While with the beauteous things that once have been,
[Pg 87] Long, long ago, or only in the mind
By Fancy imaged, lies their native Wales,
Its dim-seen hills, and all its streamy vales:
Sounds in their souls its rushing mountain-wind,
Like music heard in youth, remembered well,
But when or where it rose they cannot tell.
Delightful woods, and many a cloudless sky,
Are in their memory strangely floating by,
But the faint pageant slowly melts away,
And to the living earth they yield
Their willing hearts, as if reveal'd
In all its glory on this mystic day.
Like fire, strange flowers around them flame,
Sweet, harmless fire, breathed from some magic urn,
The silky gossamer that may not burn,
Too wildly beautiful to bear a name.
And when the Ocean sends a breeze,
To wake the music sleeping in the trees,
Trees scarce they seem to be; for many a flower,
Radiant as dew, or ruby polish'd bright,
Glances on every spray, that bending light
[Pg 88] Around the stem, in variegated bows,
Appear like some awakened fountain-shower,
That with the colour of the evening glows.
And towering o'er these beauteous woods,
Gigantic rocks were ever dimly seen,
Breaking with solemn grey the tremulous green,
And frowning far in castellated pride;
While, hastening to the Ocean, hoary floods
Sent up a thin and radiant mist between,
Softening the beauty that it could not hide.
Lo! higher still the stately Palm-trees rise,
Checquering the clouds with their unbending stems,
And o'er the clouds amid the dark-blue skies,
Lifting their rich unfading diadems.
How calm and placidly they rest
Upon the Heaven's indulgent breast,
As if their branches never breeze had known!
Light bathes them aye in glancing showers,
And Silence mid their lofty bowers
Sits on her moveless throne.
[Pg 89] Entranced there the Lovers gaze,
Till every human fear decays,
And bliss steals slowly through their quiet souls;
Though ever lost to human kind
And all they love, they are resign'd:
While with a scarce-heard murmur rolls,
Like the waves that break along the shore,
The sound of the world they must see no more.
List! Mary is the first to speak,
Her tender voice still tenderer in her bliss;
And breathing o'er her silent husband's cheek,
As from an infant's lip, a timid kiss,
Whose touch at once all lingering sorrow calms,
Says, "God to us in love hath given
A home on earth, most like to Heaven,
Our own sweet Isle of Palms."
And where shall these happy lovers dwell?
Shall they seek in the cliffs for some mossy cell?
Some wilder haunt than ever hermit knew?
[Pg 90] Where they may shun the mid-day heat,
And slumber in a safe retreat,
When evening sheds her dew;
Or shall they build a leafy nest,
Where they like birds may sport and rest,
By clustering bloom preserved from sun and rain,
Upon some little radiant mound
Within reach of the freshening sound
That murmurs from the Main?
No farther need their footsteps roam:
Ev'n where they stand, a sylvan home
Steals like a thought upon their startled sight;
For Nature's breath with playful power
Hath framed an undecaying bower,
With colours heavenly bright.
Beyond a green and level lawn,
Its porch and roof of roses dawn
Through arching trees that lend a mellowing shade.
How gleams the bower with countless dyes!
Unwearied spring fresh bloom supplies,
Still brightening where they fade.
[Pg 91] Two noble Palms, the forest's pride,
Guarding the bower on either side,
Their straight majestic stems to Heaven uprear:
There Beauty sleeps in Grandeur's arms,
And sheltered there from all alarms,
Hath nought on earth to fear.
The Dwellers in that lovely bower,
If mortal shape may breathe such blessed air,
Might gaze on it from morn till evening-hour,
Nor wish for other sight more touching fair.
Why look abroad? All things are here
Delightful to the eye and ear,
And fragrance pure as light floats all around.
But if they look—those mystic gleams,
The glory we adore in dreams,
May here in truth be found.
Fronting the bower, eternal woods,
Darkening the mountain solitudes,
With awe the soul oppress:
[Pg 92] There dwells, with shadowy glories crown'd,
Rejoicing in the gloom profound,
The Spirit of the Wilderness.
Lo! stretching inward on the right,
A winding vale eludes the sight,
But where it dies the happy soul must dream:
Oh! never sure beneath the sun,
Along such lovely banks did run
So musical a stream.
But who shall dare in thought to paint
Yon fairy waterfall?
Still moistened by the misty showers,
From fiery-red, to yellow soft and faint,
Fantastic bands of fearless flowers
Sport o'er the rocky wall;
And ever, through the shrouding spray,
Whose diamonds glance as bright as they,
Float birds of graceful form, and gorgeous plumes,
Or dazzling white as snow;
While, as the passing sun illumes
[Pg 93] The river's bed, in silent pride
Spanning the cataract roaring wide,
Unnumbered rainbows glow.
But turn around, if thou hast power
To leave a scene so fair,
And looking left-wards from the bower,
What glory meets thee there!
For lo! the heaven-encircled Sea
Outspreads his dazzling pageantry,
As if the whole creation were his own,
And the Isle, on which thy feet now stand,
In beauty rose at his command,
And for his joy alone.
Beyond his billows rolling bright,
The Spirit dares not wing her flight;
For where, upon the boundless deep,
Should she, if wearied, sink to sleep?
Back to the beauteous Isle of Palms
Glad she returns; there constant calms
The bays, that sleep like inland lakes, invest:
[Pg 94] Delightful all!—but to your eyes,
O blessed Pair! one circlet lies
More fair than all the rest.
At evening, through that silent bay
With beating hearts ye steer'd your way,
Yet trusting in the guiding love of Heaven;
And there, upon your bended knees,
To the unseen Pilot of the Seas
Your speechless prayers were given.
From your bower-porch the skiff behold
That to this Eden bore
Your almost hopeless souls:—how bold
It seems to lie, all danger o'er,
A speck amid the fluid gold
That burns along the shore!
Five cloudless days have, from the placid deep,
In glory risen o'er this refulgent Isle,
And still the sun retired to rest too soon;
And each night with more gracious smile,
[Pg 95] Guarding the lovers when they sleep,
Hath watch'd the holy Moon.
Through many a dim and dazzling glade,
They in their restless joy have stray'd,
In many a grot repos'd, and twilight cave;
Have wander'd round each ocean bay,
And gazed where inland waters lay
Serene as night, and bright as day,
Untouch'd by wind or wave.
Happy their doom, though strange and wild,
And soon their souls are reconciled
For ever here to live, and here to die.
Why should they grieve? a constant mirth
With music fills the air and earth,
And beautifies the sky.
High on the rocks the wild-flowers shine
In beauty bathed, and joy divine:
In their dark nooks to them are given
The sunshine and the dews of Heaven.
The fish that dart like silver gleams
Are happy in their rock-bound streams,
[Pg 96] Happy as they that roam the Ocean's breast;
Though far away on sounding wings
Yon bird could fly, content he sings
Around his secret nest.
And shall the Monarchs of this Isle
Lament, when one unclouded smile
Hangs like perpetual spring on every wood?
And often in their listening souls
By a delightful awe subdued,
God's voice, like mellow thunder, rolls
All through the silent solitude.
Five days have fled!—The sun again,
Like an angel, o'er the brightening Main
Uplifts his radiant head;
And full upon yon dewy bower,
The warm tints of the dawning hour
Mid warmer still are shed.
The sun pours not his light in vain
On them who therein dwell:—a strain
[Pg 97] Of pious music, through the morning calm
Wakening unwonted echoes, wildly rings,
And kneeling there to Mercy's fane,
While flowers supply their incense-balm,
At the foot of yon majestic Palm
The Maid her matins sings.
It is the Sabbath morn:—since last
From Heaven it shone, what awful things have past!
In their beloved vessel as it roll'd
In pride and beauty o'er the waves of gold,
Then were they sailing free from all alarms,
Rejoicing in her scarce-felt motion
When the ship flew, or slumbering Ocean
Detain'd her in his arms.
Beneath the sail's expanded shade,
They and the thoughtless crew together pray'd,
And sweet their voices rose above the wave;
Nor seem'd it woeful as a strain
That never was to rise again,
And chaunted o'er the grave.
[Pg 98]
Ne'er seem'd before the Isle so bright;
And when their hymns were ended,
Oh! ne'er in such intense delight
Had their rapt souls been blended.
Some natural tears they surely owed
To those who wept for them, and fast they flow'd,
And oft will flow amid their happiest hours;
But not less fair the summer day,
Though glittering through the sunny ray
Are seen descending showers.
But how could Sorrow, Grief, or Pain,
The glory of that morn sustain?
Alone amid the Wilderness
More touching seem'd the holiness
Of that mysterious day of soul-felt rest:
They are the first that e'er adored
On this wild spot their Heavenly Lord,
Or gentle Jesus bless'd.
"O Son of God!"—How sweetly came
Into their souls that blessed name!
[Pg 99] Even like health's hope-reviving breath
To one upon the bed of death.
"Our Saviour!"—What angelic grace
Stole with dim smiles o'er Mary's face,
While through the solitude profound
With love and awe she breath'd that holy sound!
Yes! He will save! a still small voice
To Mary's fervent prayer replied;
Beneath his tender care rejoice,
On earth who for his children died.
Her Lover saw that, while she pray'd,
Communion with her God was given
Unto her sinless spirit:—nought he said;
But gazing on her with a fearful love,
Such as saints feel for sister-souls above,
Her cheek upon his bosom gently laid,
And dreamt with her of Heaven.
Pure were their souls, as infant's breath,
Who in its cradle guiltless sinks in death.
[Pg 100] No place for human frailty this,
Despondency or fears,
Too beautiful the wild appears
Almost for human bliss.
Was love like theirs then given in vain?
And must they, trembling, shrink from pure delight?
Or shall that God, who on the main
Hath bound them with a billowy chain,
Approve the holy rite,
That, by their pious souls alone
Perform'd before his silent throne
In innocence and joy,
Here, and in realms beyond the grave,
Unites those whom the cruel wave
Could not for grief destroy?
No fears felt they of guilt or sin,
For sure they heard a voice within
That set their hearts at rest;
They pass'd the day in peaceful prayer,
And when beneath the evening air
They sought again their arbour fair,
[Pg 101] A smiling angel met them there,
And bade their couch be blest.
Nor veil'd the Moon her virgin-light,
But, clear and cloudless all the night,
Hung o'er the flowers where love and beauty lay;
And, loth to leave that holy bower,
With lingering pace obey'd the power
Of bright-returning day.
And say! what wanteth now the Isle of Palms,
To make it happy as those Isles of rest
(When eve the sky becalms
Like a subsiding sea)
That hang resplendent mid the gorgeous west,
All brightly imaged, mountain, grove, and tree,
The setting sun's last lingering pageantry!
Hath Fancy ever dreamt of seraph-Powers
Walking in beauty through these cloud-framed bowers,
Light as the mist that wraps their dazzling feet?
And hath she ever paused to hear,
By moonlight brought unto her ear,
[Pg 102] Their hymnings wild and sweet?
Lo! human creatures meet her view
As happy, and as beauteous too,
As those aërial phantoms!—in their mien,
Where'er they move, a graceful calm is seen
All foreign to this utter solitude,
Yet blended with such wild and fairy glide,
As erst in Grecian Isle had beautified
The guardian Deities of Grove and Flood.
Are these fair creatures earth-born and alive,
And mortal like the flowers that round them smile?
Or if into the Ocean sank their Isle
A thousand fathoms deep—would they survive,—
Like sudden rainbows spread their arching wings,
And while, to chear their airy voyage, sings
With joy the charmed sea, the Heavens give way,
That in the spirits, who had sojourn'd long
On earth, might glide, then re-assume their sway,
And from the gratulating throng
Of kindred spirits, drink the inexpressive song?
[Pg 103]
Oh! fairer now these blessed Lovers seem,
Gliding like spirits through o'er-arching trees,
Their beauty mellowing in the checquered light,
Than, years ago, on that resplendent night,
When yielded up to an unearthly dream,
In their sweet ship they sail'd upon the seas.
Aye! years ago!—for in this temperate clime,
Fleet, passing fleet, the noiseless plumes of time
Float through the fragrance of the sunny air;
One little month seems scarcely gone,
Since in a vessel of their own
At eve they landed there.
Their bower is now a stately bower,
For, on its roof, the loftiest flower
To bloom so lowly grieves,
And up like an ambitious thing
That feareth nought, behold it spring
Till it meet the high Palm-leaves!
The porch is opening seen no more,
But folded up with blossoms hoar,
And leaves green as the sea,
[Pg 104] And, when the wind hath found them out,
The merry waves that dancing rout
May not surpass in glee.
About their home so little art,
They seem to live in Nature's heart,
A sylvan court to hold
In a palace framed of lustre green,
More rare than to the bright Flower Queen
Was ever built of old.
Where are they in the hours of day?
—The birds are happy on the spray,
The dolphins on the deep,
Whether they wanton full of life,
Or, wearied with their playful strife,
Amid the sunshine sleep.
And are these things by Nature blest
In sport, in labour, and in rest,—
And yet the Sovereigns of the Isle opprest
With languor or with pain?
[Pg 105] No! with light glide, and chearful song,
Through flowers and fruit they dance along,
And still fresh joys, uncall'd for, throng
Through their romantic reign.
The wild-deer bounds along the rock,
But let him not yon hunter mock,
Though strong, and fierce, and fleet;
For he will trace his mountain-path,
Or else his antler's threatening wrath
In some dark winding meet.
Vaunt not, gay bird! thy gorgeous plume,
Though on yon leafy tree it bloom
Like a flower both rich and fair:
Vain thy loud song and scarlet glow,
To save from his unerring bow;
The arrow finds thee there.
Dark are the caverns of the wave,
Yet those, that sport there, cannot save,
Though hidden from the day,
With silvery sides bedropt with gold,
[Pg 106] Struggling they on the beach are roll'd
O'er shells as bright as they.
Their pastimes these, and labours too,
From day to day unwearied they renew,
In garments floating with a woodland grace:
Oh! lovelier far than fabled sprites,
They glide along through new delights,
Like health and beauty vying in the race.
Yet hours of soberer bliss they know,
Their spirits in more solemn flow
At day-fall oft will run,
When from his throne, with kingly motion,
Into the loving arms of Ocean
Descends the setting Sun.
"Oh! beauteous are thy rocky vales,
Land of my birth, forsaken Wales!
Towering from continent or sea,
Where is the Mountain like to thee?—
The eagle's darling, and the tempest's pride,—
Thou! on whose ever-varying side
[Pg 107] The shadows and the sun-beams glide
In still or stormy weather.
Oh Snowdon! may I breathe thy name?
And thine too, of gigantic frame,
Cader-Idris? 'neath the solar flame,
Oh! proud ye stand together!
And thou, sweet Lake!"—but from its wave
She turn'd her inward eye,
For near these banks, within her grave,
Her Mother sure must lie:
Weak were her limbs, long, long ago,
And grief, ere this, hath laid them low.
Yet soon Fitz-Owen's eye and voice
From these sad dreams recal
His weeping wife; and deeply chear'd
She soon forgets them all.
Or, haply, through delighted tears,
Her mother's smiling shade appears,
And, her most duteous child caressing,
Bestows on her a parent's blessing,
[Pg 108] And tells that o'er these holy groves
Oft hangs the parent whom she loves.
How beauteous both in hours like these!
Prest in each other's arms, or on their knees,
They think of things for which no words are found;
They need not speak: their looks express
More life-pervading tenderness
Than music's sweetest sound.
He thinks upon the dove-like rest
That broods within her pious breast;
The holy calm, the hush divine,
Where pensive, night-like glories shine;
Even as the mighty Ocean deep,
Yet clear and waveless as the sleep
Of some lone heaven-reflecting lake,
When evening-airs its gleam forsake.
She thinks upon his love for her,
His wild, empassion'd character,
To whom a look, a kiss, a smile,
Rewards for danger and for toil!
[Pg 109] His power of spirit unsubdued,
His fearlessness,—his fortitude,—
The radiance of his gifted soul
Where never mists or darkness roll:
A poet's soul that flows for ever,
Right onwards like a noble river,
Refulgent still, or by its native woods
Shaded, and rolling on through sunless solitudes.
In love and mercy, sure on him had God
The sacred power that stirs the soul bestow'd;
Nor fell his hymns on Mary's ear in vain;
With brightening smiles the Vision hung
O'er the rapt poet while he sung,
More beauteous from the strain.
The songs he pour'd were sad and wild,
And while they would have sooth'd a child,
Who soon bestows his tears,
A deeper pathos in them lay
That would have moved a hermit gray,
Bow'd down with holy years.
[Pg 110] One song he had about a Ship
That perish'd on the Main,
So woeful, that his Mary pray'd,
At one most touching pause he made,
To cease the hearse-like strain:
And yet, in spite of all her pain,
Implored him, soon as he obey'd,
To sing it once again.
With faultering voice then would he sing
Of many a well-known far-off thing,
Towers, castles, lakes, and rills;
Their names he gave not—could not give—
But happy ye, he thought, who live
Among the Cambrian hills.
Then of their own sweet Isle of Palms,
Full many a lovely lay
He sung;—and of two happy sprites
Who live and revel in delights
For ever, night and day.
And who, even of immortal birth,
[Pg 111] Or that for Heaven have left this earth,
Were e'er more blest than they?
But shall that bliss endure for ever?
And shall these consecrated groves
Behold and cherish their immortal loves?
Or must it come, the hour that is to sever
Those whom the Ocean in his wrath did spare?
Awful that thought, and, like unto despair,
Oft to their hearts it sends an icy chill;
Pain, death they fear not, come they when they will,
But the same fate together let them share;
For how could either hope to die resign'd,
If God should say, "One must remain behind!"
Yet wisely doth the spirit shrink
From thought, when it is death to think;
Or haply, a kind being turns
To brighter hopes the soul that mourns
In killing woe; else many an eye,
Now glad, would weep its destiny.
[Pg 112] Even so it fares with them: they wish to live
Long on this island, lonely though it be.
Old age itself to them would pleasure give,
For lo! a sight, which it is heaven to see,
Down yonder hill comes glancing beauteously,
And with a silver voice most wildly sweet,
Flings herself, laughing, down before her parents' feet.
Are they in truth her parents?—Was her birth
Not drawn from heavenly sire, and from the breast
Of some fair spirit, whose sinless nature glow'd
With purest flames, enamour'd of a God,
And gave this child to light in realms of rest;
Then sent her to adorn these island bowers,
To sport and play with the delighted hours,
Till call'd again to dwell among the blest?
Sweet are such fancies:—but that kindling smile
Dissolves them all!—Her native isle
This sure must be: If she in Heaven were born,
[Pg 113] What breath'd into her face
That winning human grace,
Now dim, now dazzling like the break of morn?
For, like the timid light of infant day,
That oft, when dawning, seems to die away,
The gleam of rapture from her visage flies,
Then fades, as if afraid, into her tender eyes.
Open thy lips, thou blessed thing, again!
And let thy parents live upon the sound;
No other music wish they till they die.
For never yet disease, or grief, or pain,
Within thy breast the living lyre hath found,
Whose chords send forth that touching melody.
Sing on! Sing on! It is a lovely air.
Well could thy mother sing it when a maid:
Yet strange it is in this wild Indian glade,
To list a tune that breathes of nothing there,
A tune that by his mountain springs,
Beside his slumbering lambkins fair,
The Cambrian shepherd sings.
[Pg 114]
The air on her sweet lips hath died,
And as a harper, when his tune is play'd,
Pathetic though it be, with smiling brow
Haply doth careless fling his harp aside,
Even so regardlessly upstarteth now,
With playful frolic, the light-hearted maid,
As if, with a capricious gladness,
She strove to mock the soul of sadness,
Then mourning through the glade.
Light as a falling leaf that springs
Away before the zephyr's wings,
Amid the verdure seems to lie
Of motion reft, then suddenly
With bird-like fluttering mounts on high,
Up yon steep hill's unbroken side,
Behold the little Fairy glide.
Though free her breath, untired her limb,
For through the air she seems to swim,
Yet oft she stops to look behind
On them below;—till with the wind
[Pg 115] She flies again, and on the hill-top far
Shines like the spirit of the evening star.
Nor lingers long: as if a sight
Half-fear, half-wonder, urged her flight,
In rapid motion, winding still
To break the steepness of the hill,
With leaps, and springs, and outstretch'd arms,
More graceful in her vain alarms,
The child outstrips the Ocean gale,
In haste to tell her wondrous tale.
Her parents' joyful hearts admire,
Of peacock's plumes her glancing tire,
All bright with tiny suns,
And the gleamings of the feathery gold,
That play along each wavy fold
Of her mantle as she runs.
"What ails my child?" her mother cries,
Seeing the wildness in her eyes,
The wonder on her cheek;
[Pg 116] But fearfully she beckons still,
Up to her watch-tower on the hill,
Ere one word can she speak.
"My Father! Mother! quickly fly
Up to the green-hill top with me,
And tell me what you there descry;
For a cloud hath fallen from the sky,
And is sailing on the sea."
They wait not to hear that word again:
The steep seems level as the plain,
And up they glide with ease:
They stand one moment on the height
In agony, then bless the sight,
And drop upon their knees.
"A Ship!"—no more can Mary say,
"A blessed Ship!" and faints away.—
Not so the happy sight subdues
Fitz-Owen's heart;—he calmly views
The gallant vessel toss
Her prow superbly up and down,
As if she wore the Ocean Crown;
[Pg 117] And now, exulting in the breeze,
With new-woke English pride he sees
St George's blessed Cross.
Behold them now, the happy three,
Hang up a signal o'er the sea,
And shout with echoing sound,
While, gladden'd by her parents' bliss,
The child prints many a playful kiss
Upon their hands, or, mad with glee,
Is dancing round and round.
Scarce doth the thoughtless infant know
Why thus their tears like rain should flow,
Yet she must also weep;
Such tears as innocence doth shed
Upon its undisturbed bed,
When dreaming in its sleep.
And oft, and oft, her father presses
Her breast to his, and bathes her tresses,
Her sweet eyes, and fair brow.
[Pg 118] "How beautiful upon the wave
The vessel sails, who comes to save!
Fitting it was that first she shone
Before the wondering eyes of one,
So beautiful as thou.
See how before the wind she goes,
Scattering the waves like melting snows!
Her course with glory fills
The sea for many a league!—Descending,
She stoopeth now into the vale,
Now, as more freshly blows the gale,
She mounts in triumph o'er the watery hills.
Oh! whither is she tending?
She holds in sight yon shelter'd bay;
As for her crew, how blest are they!
See! how she veers around!
Back whirl the waves with louder sound;
And now her prow points to the land:
For the Ship, at her glad lord's command,
Doth well her helm obey."
[Pg 119]
They cast their eyes around the isle:
But what a change is there!
For ever fled that lonely smile
That lay on earth and air,
That made its haunts so still and holy,
Almost for bliss too melancholy,
For life too wildly fair.
Gone—gone is all its loneliness,
And with it much of loveliness.
Into each deep glen's dark recess,
The day-shine pours like rain,
So strong and sudden is the light
Reflected from that wonder bright,
Now tilting o'er the Main.
Soon as the thundering cannon spoke,
The voice of the evening-gun,
The spell of the enchantment broke,
Like dew beneath the sun.
Soon shall they hear th' unwonted cheers
Of these delighted mariners,
[Pg 120] And the loud sound of the oar,
As bending back away they pull,
With measured pause, most beautiful,
Approaching to the shore.
For her yards are bare of man and sail,
Nor moves the giant to the gale;
But, on the Ocean's breast,
With storm-proof cables, stretching far,
There lies the stately Ship of War;
And glad is she of rest.
Ungrateful ye! and will ye sail away,
And leave your bower to flourish and decay,
Without one parting tear?
Where you have slept, and loved, and pray'd,
And with your smiling infant play'd
For many a blessed year!
No! not in vain that bower hath shed
Its blossoms o'er your marriage-bed,
Nor the sweet Moon look'd down in vain,
Forgetful of her heavenly reign,
[Pg 121] On them whose pure and holy bliss
Even beautified that wilderness.
To every rock, and glade, and dell,
You now breathe forth a sad farewell.
"Say! wilt thou ever murmur on
With that same voice when we are gone,
Beloved stream!—Ye birds of light!
And in your joy as musical as bright,
Still will you pour that thrilling strain,
Unheard by us who sail the distant main?
We leave our nuptial bower to you:
There still your harmless loves renew,
And there, as they who left it, blest,
The loveliest ever build your nest.
Farewell once more—for now and ever!
Yet, though unhoped-for mercy sever
Our lives from thee, where grief might come at last;
Yet whether chain'd in tropic calms,
Or driven before the blast,
[Pg 122] Most surely shall our spirits never
Forget the Isle of Palms."
"What means the Ship?" Fitz-Owen cries,
And scarce can trust his startled eyes,
"While safely she at anchor swings,
Why doth she thus expand her wings?
She will not surely leave the bay,
Where sweetly smiles the closing day,
As if it tempted her to stay.
O cruel Ship! 'tis even so:
No sooner come than in haste to go.
Angel of bliss! and fiend of wo!"—
—"Oh! let that God who brought her here,
My husband's wounded spirit chear!
Mayhap the ship for months and years
Hath been among the storms, and fears
Yon lowering cloud, that on the wave
Flings down the shadow of a grave;
For well thou know'st the bold can be
By shadows daunted, when they sail the sea.
[Pg 123] Think, in our own lost Ship, when o'er our head
Walk'd the sweet Moon in unobscured light,
How oft the sailors gazed with causeless dread
On her, the glory of the innocent night,
As if in those still hours of heavenly joy,
They saw a spirit smiling to destroy.
Trust that, when morning brings her light,
The sun will shew a glorious sight,
This very Ship in joy returning
With outspread sails and ensigns burning,
To quench in bliss our causeless mourning."
—"O Father! look with kinder eyes
On me,"—the Fairy-infant cries.
"Though oft thy face hath look'd most sad,
At times when I was gay and glad,
These are not like thy other sighs.
But that I saw my Father grieve,
Most happy when yon thing did leave
Our shores, was I:—Mid waves and wind,
Where, Father! could we ever find
So sweet an island as our own?
[Pg 124] And so we all would think, I well believe,
Lamenting, when we look'd behind,
That the Isle of Palms was gone."
Oh blessed child! each artless tone
Of that sweet voice, thus plaintively
Breathing of comfort to thyself unknown,
Who feelest not how beautiful thou art,
Sinks like an anthem's pious melody
Into thy father's agitated heart,
And makes it calm and tranquil as thy own.
A shower of kisses bathes thy smiling face,
And thou, rejoicing once again to hear
The voice of love so pleasant to thine ear,
Thorough the brake, and o'er the lawn,
Bounding along like a sportive fawn,
With laugh and song renew'st thy devious race;
Or round them, like a guardian sprite,
Dancing with more than mortal grace,
Steepest their gazing souls in still delight.
[Pg 125] For how could they, thy parents, see
Thy innocent and fearless glee,
And not forget, but one short hour ago,
When the Ship sail'd away, how bitter was their woe?
—Most like a dream it doth appear,
When she, the vanish'd Ship, was here:—
A glimpse of joy, that, while it shone,
Was surely passing-sweet:—now it is gone,
Not worth one single tear.

[Pg 139]



A summer Night descends in balm
On the orange-bloom, and the stately Palm,
Of that romantic steep,
Where, silent as the silent hour,
'Mid the soft leaves of their Indian bower,
Three happy spirits sleep.
And we will leave them to themselves,
To the moon and the stars, these happy elves,
To the murmuring wave, and the zephyr's wing,
That dreams of gentlest joyance bring
To bathe their slumbering eyes;
[Pg 140] And on the moving clouds of night,
High o'er the main will take our flight,
Where beauteous Albion lies.
Wondrous, and strange, and fair, I ween,
The sounds, the forms, the hues have been
Of these delightful groves;
And mournful as the melting sky,
Or a faint-remember'd melody,
The story of their loves.
Yet though they sleep, those breathings wild,
That told of the Fay-like sylvan child,
And of them who live in lonely bliss,
Like bright flowers of the wilderness,
Happy and beauteous as the sky
That views them with a loving eye,
Another tale I have to sing,
Whose low and plaintive murmuring
May well thy heart beguile,
And when thou weep'st along with me,
Through tears no longer mayst thou see
That fairy Indian Isle.
[Pg 141]
Among the Cambrian hills we stand!
By dear compulsion chain'd unto the strand
Of a still Lake, yet sleeping in the mist,
The thin blue mist that beautifies the morning:
Old Snowdon's gloomy brow the sun hath kiss'd,
Till, rising like a giant from his bed,
High o'er the mountainous sea he lifts his head,
The loneliness of Nature's reign adorning
With a calm majesty and pleasing dread.
A spirit is singing from the coves
Yet dim and dark; that spirit loves
To sing unto the Dawn,
When first he sees the shadowy veil,
As if by some slow-stealing gale,
From her fair face withdrawn.
How the Lake brightens while we gaze!
Impatient for the flood of rays
That soon will bathe its breast:
Where rock, and hill, and cloud, and sky,
Even like its peaceful self, will lie
Ere long in perfect rest.
[Pg 142] The dawn hath brighten'd into day:
Blessings be on yon crescent-bay
Beloved in former years!
Dolbardan! at this silent hour,
More solemn far thy lonely tower
Unto my soul appears,
Than when, in days of roaming youth,
I saw thee first, and scarce could tell
If thou wert frowning there in truth,
Or only raised by Fancy's spell,
An airy tower 'mid an unearthly dell.
O! wildest Bridge, by human hand e'er framed!
If so thou mayst be named:
Thou! who for many a year hast stood
Cloth'd with the deep-green moss of age,
As if thy tremulous length were living wood,
Sprung from the bank on either side,
Despising, with a careless pride,
The tumults of the wintry flood,
And hill-born tempest's rage.
[Pg 143] Each flower upon thy moss I know,
Or think I know; like things they seem
Fair and unchanged of a returning dream!
While underneath, the peaceful flow
Of the smooth river to my heart
Brings back the thoughts that long ago
I felt, when forced to part
From the deep calm of Nature's reign,
To walk the world's loud scenes again.
And let us with that river glide
Around yon hillock's verdant side;
And lo! a gleam of sweet surprise,
Like sudden sunshine, warms thine eyes.
White as the spring's unmelted snow,
That lives though winter storms be o'er,
A cot beneath the mountain's brow
Smiles through its shading sycamore.
The silence of the morning air
Persuades our hearts to enter there.
In dreams all quiet things we love;
And sure no star that lies above
[Pg 144] Cradled in clouds, that also sleep,
Enjoys a calm more husht and deep
Than doth this slumbering cell:
Yea! like a star it looketh down
In pleasure from its mountain-throne,
On its own little dell.
A lovelier form now meets mine eye,
Than the loveliest cloud that sails the sky;
And human feelings blend
With the pleasure born of the glistening air,
As in our dreams uprises fair
The face of a dear friend.
A vision glides before my brain,
Like her who lives beyond the Main!
Breathing delight, the beauteous flower
That Heaven had raised to grace this bower.
To me this field is holy ground!
Her voice is speaking in the sound
That cheers the streamlet's bed.
[Pg 145] Sweet Maiden!—side by side we stand,
While gently moves beneath my hand
Her soft and silky head.
A moment's pause!—and as I look
On the silent cot, and the idle brook,
And the face of the quiet day,
I know from all that many a year
Hath slowly past in sorrow here,
Since Mary went away.
But that wreath of smoke now melting thin,
Tells that some being dwells within;
And the balmy breath that stole
From the rose-tree, and jasmin, clustering wide,
O'er all the dwelling's blooming side,
Tells that whoe'er doth there abide,
Must have a gentle soul.
Then gently breathe, and softly tread,
As if thy steps were o'er the dead!
Break not the slumber of the air,
Even by the whisper of a prayer,
[Pg 146] But in thy spirit let there be
A silent "Benedicite!"
Thine eye falls on the vision bright,
As she sits amid the lonely light
That gleams from her cottage-hearth:
O! fear not to gaze on her with love!
For, though these looks are from above,
She is a form of earth.
In the silence of her long distress,
She sits with pious stateliness;
As if she felt the eye of God
Were on her childless lone abode.
While her lips move with silent vows,
With saintly grace the phantom bows
Over a Book spread open on her knee.
O blessed Book! such thoughts to wake!
It tells of Him who for our sake
Died on the cross,—Our Saviour's History.
How beauteously hath sorrow shed
Its mildness round her aged head!
[Pg 147] How beauteously her sorrow lies
In the solemn light of her faded eyes!
And lo! a faint and feeble trace
Of hope yet lingers on her face,
That she may yet embrace again
Her child, returning from the Main;
For the brooding dove shall leave her nest,
Sooner than hope a mother's breast.
Her long-lost child may still survive!
That thought hath kept her wasted heart alive;
And often, to herself unknown,
Hath mingled with the midnight sigh,
When she breathed, in a voice of agony,
"Now every hope is gone!"
'Twas this that gave her strength to look
On the mossy banks of the singing brook,
Where Mary oft had play'd;
And duly, at one stated hour,
To go in calmness to the bower
Built in her favourite glade.
[Pg 148] 'Twas this that made her, every morn,
As she bless'd it, bathe the ancient thorn
With water from the spring;
And gently tend each flowret's stalk,
For she call'd to mind who loved to walk
Through their fragrant blossoming.
Yea! the voice of hope oft touch'd her ear
From the hymn of the lark that caroll'd clear,
Through the heart of the silent sky.
"Oh, such was my Mary's joyful strain!
And such she may haply sing again
Before her Mother die."
Thus hath she lived for seven long years,
With gleams of comfort through her tears;
Thus hath that beauty to her face been given!
And thus, though silver-grey her hair,
And pale her cheek, yet is she fair
As any Child of Heaven.
Yet, though she thus in calmness sit,
Full many a dim and ghastly fit
[Pg 149] Across her brain hath roll'd:
Oft hath she swoon'd away from pain;
And when her senses came again,
Her heart was icy-cold.
Hard hath it been for her to bear
The dreadful silence of the air
At night, around her bed;
When her waking thoughts through the darkness grew
Hideous as dreams, and for truth she knew
That her dear child was dead.
Things loved before seem alter'd quite,
The sun himself yields no delight,
She hears not the neighbouring waterfall,
Or, if she hear, the tones recal
The thought of her, who once did sing
So sweetly to its murmuring.
No summer-gale, no winter-blast,
By day or night o'er her cottage pass'd,
If her restless soul did wake,
[Pg 150] That brought not a Ship before her eyes;
Yea! often dying shrieks and cries
Sail'd o'er Llanberris Lake,
Though, far as the charm'd eye could view,
Upon the quiet earth it lay,
Like the Moon amid the heavenly way,
As bright and silent too.
Hath she no friend whose heart may share
With her the burthen of despair,
And by her earnest, soothing voice,
Bring back the image of departed joys
So vividly, that reconciled
To the drear silence of her cot,
At times she scarcely miss her child?
Or, the wild raving of the sea forgot,
Hear nought amid the calm profound,
Save Mary's voice, a soft and silver sound?
No! seldom human footsteps come
Unto her childless widow'd home;
[Pg 151] No friend like this e'er sits beside her fire:
For still doth selfish happiness
Keep far away from real distress,
Loth to approach, and eager to retire.
The vales are wide, the torrents deep,
Dark are the nights, the mountains steep,
And many a cause, without a name,
Will from our spirits hide the blame,
When, thinking of ourselves, we cease
To think upon another's peace;
Though one short hour to sorrow given,
Would chear the gloom, and win the applause of Heaven.
Yet, when by chance they meet her on the hill,
Or lonely wandering by the sullen rill,
By its wild voice to dim seclusion led,
The shepherds linger on their way,
And unto God in silence pray,
To bless her hoary head.
In church-yard on the sabbath-day
They all make room for her, even they
[Pg 152] Whose tears are falling down in showers
Upon the fading funeral flowers,
Which they have planted o'er their children's clay.
And though her faded cheeks be dry,
Her breast unmoved by groan or sigh,
More piteous is one single smile
Of hers, than many a tear;
For she is wishing all the while
That her head were lying here;
Since her dear daughter is no more,
Drown'd in the sea, or buried on the shore.
A sudden thought her brain hath cross'd;
And in that thought all woes are lost,
Though sad and wild it be:
Why must she still, from year to year,
In lonely anguish linger here?
Let her go, ere she die, unto the coast,
And dwell beside the sea;
The sea that tore her child away,
When glad would she have been to stay.
[Pg 153] An awful comfort to her soul
To hear the sleepless Ocean roll!
To dream, that on his boundless breast,
Somewhere her long-wept child might rest;
On some far island wreck'd, yet blest
Even as the sunny wave.
Or, if indeed her child is drown'd,
For ever let her drink the sound
That day and night still murmurs round
Her Mary's distant grave.
—She will not stay another hour;
Her feeble limbs with youthful power
Now feel endow'd; she hath ta'en farewell
Of her native stream, and hill and dell;
And with a solemn tone
Upon the bower implores a blessing,
Where often she had sate caressing
Her who, she deems, is now a saint in Heaven.
Upon her hearth the fire is dead,
The smoke in air hath vanished;
The last long lingering look is given,
[Pg 154] The shuddering start,—the inward groan,—
And the Pilgrim on her way hath gone.
Behold her on the lone sea-shore,
Listening unto the hollow roar
That with eternal thunder, far and wide,
Clothes the black-heaving Main! she stands
Upon the cold and moisten'd sands,
Nor in that deep trance sees the quickly-flowing tide.
She feels it is a dreadful noise,
That in her bowed soul destroys
A Mother's hope, though blended with her life;
But surely she hath lost her child,
For how could one so weak and mild
Endure the Ocean's strife,
Who, at this moment of dismay,
Howls like a monster o'er his prey!
But the tide is rippling at her feet,
And the murmuring sound, so wildly sweet,
Dispels these torturing dreams:
[Pg 155] Oh! once again the sea behold,
O'er all its wavy fields of gold,
The playful sun-light gleams.
These little harmless waves so fair,
Speak not of sorrow or despair;
How soft the zephyr's breath!
It sings like joy's own chosen sound;
While life and pleasure dance around,
Why must thou muse on death?
Here even the timid child might come,
To dip her small feet in the foam;
And, laughing as she view'd
The billows racing to the shore,
Lament when their short course was o'er,
Pursuing and pursued.
How calmly floats the white sea-mew
Amid the billows' verdant hue!
How calmly mounts into the air,
As if the breezes blew her there!
[Pg 156] How calmly on the sand alighting,
To dress her silken plumes delighting!
See! how these tiny vessels glide
With all sails set, in mimic pride,
As they were ships of war.
All leave the idle port to-day,
And with oar and sheet the sunny bay
Is glancing bright and far.
She sees the joy, but feels it not:
If e'er her child should be forgot
For one short moment of oblivious sleep,
It seems a wrong to one so kind,
Whose mother, left on earth behind,
Hath nought to do but weep.
For, wandering in her solitude,
Tears seem to her the natural food
Of widow'd childless age;
And bitter though these tears must be,
Which falling there is none to see,
Her anguish they assuage.
[Pg 157] A calm succeeds the storm of grief,
A settled calm, that brings relief,
And half partakes of pleasure, soft and mild;
For the spirit, that is sore distrest,
At length, when wearied into rest,
Will slumber like a child.
And then, in spite of all her woe,
The bliss, that charm'd her long ago,
Bursts on her like the day.
Her child, she feels, is living still,
By God and angels kept from ill
On some isle far away.
It is not doom'd that she must mourn
For ever;—One may yet return
Who soon will dry her tears:
And now that seven long years are flown,
Though spent in anguish and alone,
How short the time appears!
She looks upon the billowy Main,
And the parting-day returns again;
[Pg 158] Each breaking wave she knows;
And when she listens to the tide,
Her child seems standing by her side;
So like the past it flows.
She starts to hear the city-bell;
So toll'd it when they wept farewell!
She thinks the self-same smoke and cloud
The city domes and turrets shroud;
The same keen flash of ruddy fire
Is burning on the lofty spire;
The grove of masts is standing there
Unchanged, with all their ensigns fair;
The same, the stir, the tumult, and the hum,
As from the city to the shore they come.
Day after day, along the beach she roams,
And evening finds her there, when to their homes
All living things have gone.
No terrors hath the surge or storm
For her;—on glides the aged form,
Still restless and alone.
[Pg 159] Familiar unto every eye
She long hath been: her low deep sigh
Hath touch'd with pity many a thoughtless breast:
And prayers, unheard by her, are given,
That in its mercy watchful Heaven
Would send the aged rest.
As on the smooth and harden'd sand,
In many a gay and rosy band,
Gathering rare shells, delighted children stray,
With pitying gaze they pass along,
And hush at once the shout and song,
When they chance to cross her way.
The strangers, as they idly pace
Along the beach, if her they meet,
No more regard the sea: her face
Attracts them by its solemn grace,
So mournful, yet so sweet.
The boisterous sailor passes by
With softer step, and o'er his eye
A haze will pass most like unto a tear;
[Pg 160] For he hath heard, that, broken-hearted,
Long, long ago, that mother parted
With her lost daughter here.
Such kindness soothes her soul, I ween,
As through the harbour's busy scene,
She passes weak and slow.
A comfort sad it brings to see
That others pity her, though free
Themselves from care or woe.
The playful voice of streams and rills,
The echo of the cavern'd hills,
The murmur of the trees,
The bleat of sheep, the song of bird,
Within her soul no more are heard;
There, sound for aye the seas.
Seldom she hears the ceaseless din
That stirs the busy port. Within
A murmur dwells, that drowns all other sound:
And oft, when dreaming of her child,
Her tearful eyes are wandering wild,
[Pg 161] Yet nought behold around.
But hear and see she must this day;
Her sickening spirit must obey
The flashing and the roar
That burst from fort, and ship, and tower,
While clouds of gloomy splendour lower
O'er city, sea, and shore.
The pier-head, with a restless crowd,
Seems all alive; there, voices loud
Oft raise the thundrous cheer,
While, from on board the ships of war,
The music bands both near and far,
Are playing, faint or clear.
The bells ring quick a joyous peal,
Till the very spires appear to feel
The joy that stirs throughout their tapering height:
Ten thousand flags and pendants fly
Abroad, like meteors in the sky,
So beautiful and bright.
And, while the storm of pleasure raves
Through each tumultuous street,
[Pg 162] Still strikes the ear one darling tune,
Sung hoarse, or warbled sweet;
Well doth it suit the First of June,
"Britannia rule the Waves!"
What Ship is she that rises slow
Above the horizon?—White as snow,
And cover'd as she sails
By the bright sunshine, fondly woo'd
In her calm beauty, and pursued
By all the Ocean gales?
Well doth she know this glorious morn,
And by her subject waves is borne,
As in triumphal pride:
And now the gazing crowd descry,
Distinctly floating on the sky,
Her pendants long and wide.
The outward forts she now hath pass'd;
Loftier and loftier towers her mast;
You almost hear the sound
[Pg 163] Of the billows rushing past her sides,
As giant-like she calmly glides
Through the dwindled ships around.
Saluting thunders rend the Main!
Short silence!—and they roar again,
And veil her in a cloud:
Then up leap all her fearless crew,
And cheer till shore, and city too,
With echoes answer loud.
In peace and friendship doth she come,
Rejoicing to approach her home,
After absence long and far:
Yet with like calmness would she go,
Exulting to behold the foe,
And break the line of war.
While all the noble Ship admire,
Why doth One from the crowd retire,
Nor bless the stranger bright?
So look'd the Ship that bore away
Her weeping child! She dares not stay,
[Pg 164] Death-sickening at the sight.
Like a ghost, she wanders up and down
Throughout the still deserted town,
Wondering, if in that noisy throng,
Amid the shout, the dance, the song,
One wretched heart there may not be,
That hates its own mad revelry!
One mother, who hath lost her child,
Yet in her grief is reconciled
To such unmeaning sounds as these!
Yet this may be the mere disease
Of grief with her: for why destroy
The few short hours of human joy,
Though Reason own them not?—"Shout on," she cries,
"Ye thoughtless, happy souls! A mother's sighs
Must not your bliss profane.
Yet blind must be that mother's heart
Who loves thee, beauteous as thou art,
Thou Glory of the Main!"
[Pg 165]
Towards the church-yard see the Matron turn!
There surely she in solitude may mourn,
Tormented not by such distracting noise.
But there seems no peace for her this day,
For a crowd advances on her way,
As if no spot were sacred from their joys.
—Fly not that crowd! for Heaven is there!
It breathes around thee in the air,
Even now, when unto dim despair
Thy heart was sinking fast:
A cruel lot hath long been thine;
But now let thy face with rapture shine,
For bliss awaiteth thee divine,
And all thy woes are past.
Dark words she hears among the crowd,
Of a ship that hath on board
Three Christian souls, who on the coast
Of some wild land were wreck'd long years ago,
When all but they were in a tempest lost,
And now by Heaven are rescued from their woe,
And to their country wondrously restored.
[Pg 166] The name, the blessed name, she hears,
Of that beloved Youth,
Whom once she called her son; but fears
To listen more, for it appears
Too heavenly for the truth.
And they are speaking of a child,
Who looks more beautifully wild
Than pictured fairy in Arabian tale;
Wondrous her foreign garb, they say,
Adorn'd with starry plumage gay,
While round her head tall feathers play,
And dance with every gale.
Breathless upon the beach she stands,
And lifts to Heaven her clasped hands,
And scarcely dares to turn her eye
On yon gay barge fast-rushing by.
The dashing oar disturbs her brain
With hope, that sickens into pain.
The boat appears so wondrous fair,
Her daughter must be sitting there!
[Pg 167] And as her gilded prow is dancing
Through the land-swell, and gaily glancing
Beneath the sunny gleams,
Her heart must own, so sweet a sight,
So form'd to yield a strange delight,
She ne'er felt even in dreams.
Silent the music of the oar!
The eager sailors leap on shore,
And look, and gaze around,
If 'mid the crowd they may descry
A wife's, a child's, a kinsman's eye,
Or hear one family sound.
—No sailor, he, so fondly pressing
Yon fair child in his arms,
Her eyes, her brow, her bosom kissing,
And bidding her with many a blessing
To hush her vain alarms.
How fair that creature by his side,
Who smiles with languid glee,
Slow-kindling from a mother's pride!
Oh! Thou alone may'st be
[Pg 168] The mother of that fairy-child:
These tresses dark, these eyes so wild,
That face with spirit beautified,
She owes them all to thee.
Silent and still the sailors stand,
To see the meeting strange that now befel.
Unwilling sighs their manly bosoms swell,
And o'er their eyes they draw the sun-burnt hand,
To hide the tears that grace their cheeks so well.
They lift the aged Matron from her swoon,
And not one idle foot is stirring there;
For unto pity melts the sailor soon,
And chief when helpless woman needs his care.
She wakes at last, and with a placid smile,
Such as a saint might on her death-bed give,
Speechless she gazes on her child awhile,
Content to die since that dear one doth live.
And much they fear that she indeed will die!
So cold and pale her cheek, so dim her eye;—
[Pg 169] And when her voice returns, so like the breath
It sounds, the low and tremulous tones of death.
Mark her distracted daughter seize
Her clay-cold hands, and on her knees
Implore that God would spare her hoary head;
For sure, through these last lingering years,
By one so good, enough of tears
Hath long ere now been shed.
The Fairy-child is weeping too;
For though her happy heart can slightly know
What she hath never felt, the pang of woe,
Yet to the holy power of Nature true,
From her big heart the tears of pity flow,
As infant morning sheds the purest dew.
Nought doth Fitz-Owen speak: he takes
His reverend mother on his filial breast,
Nor fears that, when her worn-out soul finds rest
In the new sleep of undisturbed love,
The gracious God who sees them from above,
Will save the parent for her children's sakes.
[Pg 170]
Nor vain his pious hope: the strife
Of rapture ends, and she returns to life,
With added beauty smiling in the lines
By age and sorrow left upon her face.
Her eye, even now bedimm'd with anguish, shines
With brightening glory, and a holy sense
In her husht soul of heavenly providence,
Breathes o'er her bending frame a loftier grace.
—Her Mary tells in simple phrase,
Of wildest perils past in former days,
Of shipwreck scarce remember'd by herself:
Then will she speak of that delightful isle
Where long they lived in love, and to the elf
Now fondly clinging to her grandam's knee,
In all the love of quick-won infancy,
Point with the triumph of a mother's smile.
The sweet child then will tell her tale
Of her own blossom'd bower, and palmy vale,
And birds with golden plumes, that sweetly sing
Tunes of their own, or borrow'd from her voice;
And, as she speaks, lo! flits with gorgeous wing
[Pg 171] Upon her outstretch'd arm, a fearless bird,
Her eye obeying, ere the call was heard,
And wildly warbles there the music of its joys.
Unto the blessed matron's eye
How changed seem now town, sea, and sky!
She feels as if to youth restored,
Such fresh and beauteous joy is pour'd
O'er the green dancing waves, and shelly sand.
The crowded masts within the harbour stand,
Emblems of rest: and yon ships far away,
Brightening the entrance of the Crescent-bay,
Seem things the tempest never can destroy,
To longing spirits harbingers of joy.
How sweet the music o'er the waves is borne,
In celebration of this glorious morn!
Ring on, ye bells! most pleasant is your chime;
And the quick flash that bursts along the shore,
The volumed smoke, and city-shaking roar,
Her happy soul now feels to be sublime.
[Pg 172] How fair upon the human face appears
A kindling smile! how idle all our tears!
Short-sighted still the moisten'd eyes of sorrow:
To-day our woes can never end,
Think we!—returns a long-lost friend,
And we are blest to-morrow.
Her anguish, and her wish to die,
Now seem like worst impiety,
For many a year she hopeth now to live;
And God, who sees the inmost breast,
The vain repining of the sore-distrest,
In mercy will forgive.
How oft, how long, and solemnly,
Fitz-Owen and his Mary gaze
On her pale cheek, and sunken eye!
Much alter'd since those happy days,
When scarcely could themselves behold
One symptom faint that she was waxing old.
That evening of her life how bright!
But now seems falling fast the night.
[Pg 173] Yet the Welch air will breathe like balm
Through all her wasted heart, the heavenly calm
That mid her native mountains sleeps for ever,
In the deep vales,—even when the storms are roaring,
High up among the cliffs: and that sweet river
That round the white walls of her cottage flows,
With gliding motion most like to repose,
A quicker current to her blood restoring,
Will cheer her long before her eye-lids close.
And yonder cheek of rosy light,
Dark-clustering hair, and star-like eyes,
And Fairy-form, that wing'd with rapture flies,
And voice more wild than songstress of the night
E'er pour'd unto the listening skies;
Yon spirit, who, with her angel smile,
Shed Heaven around the lonely isle,
With Nature, and with Nature's art,
Will twine herself about the heart
Of her who hoped not for a grand-child's kiss!
These looks will scare disease and pain,
[Pg 174] Till in her wasted heart again
Life grow with new-born bliss.
Far is the city left behind,
And faintly-smiling through the soft-blue skies,
Like castled clouds the Cambrian hills arise:
Sweet the first welcome of the mountain-wind!
And ever nearer as they come,
Beneath the hastening shades of silent Even,
Some old familiar object meets their sight,
Thrilling their hearts with sorrowful delight,
Until through tears they hail their blessed home,
Bathed in the mist, confusing earth with heaven.
With solemn gaze the aged matron sees
The green roof laughing beneath greener trees;
And thinks how happy she will live and die
Within that cot at last, beneath the eye
Of them long wept as perish'd in the seas.
And what feel they? with dizzy brain they look
On cot, field, mountain, garden, tree, and brook,
[Pg 175] With none contented, although loving all;
While deep-delighted memory,
By faint degrees, and silently,
Doth all their names recall.
And looking in her mother's face,
With smiles of most bewitching grace,
In a wild voice that wondering pleasure calms,
Exclaims the child, "Is this home ours?
Ah me! how like these lovely flowers
To those I train'd upon the bowers
Of our own Isle of Palms!"
Husht now these island-bowers as death!
And ne'er may human foot or breath,
Their dew disturb again: but not more still
Stand they, o'er-shadowed by their palmy hill,
Than this deserted cottage! O'er the green,
Once smooth before the porch, rank weeds are seen,
Choking the feebler flowers: with blossoms hoar,
And verdant leaves, the unpruned eglantine
In wanton beauty foldeth up the door.
[Pg 176] And through the clustering roses that entwine
The lattice-window, neat and trim before,
The setting sun's slant beams no longer shine.
The hive stands on the ivied tree,
But murmurs not one single bee;
Frail looks the osier-seat, and grey,
None hath sat there for many a day;
And the dial, hid in weeds and flowers,
Hath told, by none beheld, the solitary hours.
No birds that love the haunts of men,
Hop here, or through the garden sing;
From the thick-matted hedge, the lonely wren
Flits rapid by on timid wing,
Even like a leaf by wandering zephyr moved.
But long it is since that sweet bird,
That twitters 'neath the cottage eaves,
Was here by listening morning heard:
For she, the summer-songstress, leaves
The roof by laughter never stirr'd,
Still loving human life, and by it still beloved.
[Pg 177]
O! wildest cottage of the wild!
I see thee waking from thy breathless sleep!
Scarcely distinguish'd from the rocky steep,
High o'er thy roof in forms fantastic piled.
More beauteous art thou than of yore,
With joy all glistering after sorrow's gloom;
And they who in that paradise abide,
By sadness and misfortune beautified,
There brighter walk than o'er yon island-shore,
As loveliness wakes lovelier from the tomb.
Long mayst thou stand in sun and dew,
And spring thy faded flowers renew,
Unharm'd by frost or blight!
Without, the wonder of each eye,
Within, as happy as the sky,
Encompass'd with delight.
—May thy old-age be calm and bright,
Thou grey-hair'd one!—like some sweet night
Of winter, cold, but clear, and shining far
Through mists, with many a melancholy star.
[Pg 178] —O fairy child! what can I wish for thee?
Like a perennial flow'ret mayst thou be,
That spends its life in beauty and in bliss!
Soft on thee fall the breath of time,
And still retain in heavenly clime
The bloom that charm'd in this!
O, happy Parents of so sweet a child,
Your share of grief already have you known;
But long as that fair spirit is your own,
To either lot you must be reconciled.
Dear was she in yon palmy grove,
When fear and sorrow mingled with your love,
And oft you wished that she had ne'er been born;
While, in the most delightful air
Th' angelic infant sang, at times her voice,
That seem'd to make even lifeless things rejoice,
Woke, on a sudden, dreams of dim despair,
As if it breathed, "For me, an Orphan, mourn!"
Now can they listen when she sings
With mournful voice of mournful things,
[Pg 179] Almost too sad to hear;
And when she chaunts her evening-hymn,
Glad smile their eyes, even as they swim
With many a gushing tear.
Each day she seems to them more bright
And beautiful,—a gleam of light
That plays and dances o'er the shadowy earth!
It fadeth not in gloom or storm,—
For Nature charter'd that aërial form
In yonder fair Isle when she bless'd her birth!
The Isle of Palms! whose forests tower again,
Darkening with solemn shade the face of heaven.
Now far away they like the clouds are driven,
And as the passing night-wind dies my strain!


[Pg 181]


The moving accident is not my trade,
To curl the blood I have no ready arts;
'Tis my delight alone in summer-shade,
To pipe a simple song to thinking hearts.
[Pg 183]


The following Poem is the narrative of one day, the pleasantest of many pleasant ones, of a little Angling-excursion made three summers ago among the mountains of Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland. A tent, large panniers filled with its furniture, with provisions, &c. were loaded upon horses, and while the anglers, who separated every morning, pursued each his own sport up the torrents, were carried over the mountains to the appointed place by some lake or stream, where they were to meet again in the evening.

In this manner they visited all the wildest and most secluded scenes of the country. On the first Sunday they passed among the hills, their tent was pitched on the banks of Wast-Water, at the head of that wild and solitary lake, which they had reached by the mountain-path that passes Barn-Moor Tarn from Eskdale. Towards evening the inhabitants of the valley, not exceeding half a dozen families, with some too from the neighbouring glens, drawn by the unusual appearance, came to visit the strangers in their tent. Without, the evening was calm and beautiful; within, were the gaiety and kindness of simple mirth. At a late hour, their guests departed under a most refulgent moon that lighted[Pg 184] them up the surrounding mountains, on which they turned to hail with long-continued shouts and songs the blazing of a huge fire, that was hastily kindled at the door of the tent to bid them a distant farewell.

The images and feelings of these few happy days, and above all, of that delightful evening, the author wished to preserve in poetry. What he has written, while it serves to himself and his friends as a record of past happiness, may, he hopes, without impropriety be offered to the public, since, if at all faithful to its subject, it will have some interest to those who delight in the wilder scenes of Nature, and who have studied with respect and love the character of their simple inhabitants.

[Pg 185]


The hush of bliss was on the sunny hills,
The clouds were sleeping on the silent sky,
We travelled in the midst of melody
Warbled around us from the mountain-rills.
The voice was like the glad voice of a friend
Murmuring a welcome to his happy home;
We felt its kindness with our spirits blend,
And said, "This day no farther will we roam!"
The coldest heart that ever looked on heaven,
Had surely felt the beauty of that day,
And, as he paused, a gentle blessing given
To the sweet scene that tempted him to stay.
But we, who travelled through that region bright,
Were joyful pilgrims under Nature's care,
From youth had loved the dreams of pure delight,
[Pg 186] Descending on us through the lonely air,
When Heaven is clothed with smiles, and Earth as Heaven is fair!
Seven lovely days had like a happy dream
Died in our spirits silently away,
Since Grassmere, waking to the morning ray,
Met our last lingering look with farewell gleam.
I may not tell what joy our beings filled,
Wand'ring like shadows over plain and steep,
What beauteous visions lonely souls can build
When 'mid the mountain solitude they sleep.
I may not tell how the deep power of sound
Can back to life long-faded dreams recall,
When lying mid the noise that lives around
Through the hush'd spirit flows a waterfall.
To thee, my Wordsworth![1] whose inspired song
Comes forth in pomp from Nature's inner shrine,
To thee by birth-right such high themes belong,
[Pg 187] The unseen grandeur of the earth is thine!
One lowlier simple strain of human love be mine.
How leapt our hearts, when from an airy height,
On which we paused for a sweet fountain's sake,
With green fields fading in a peaceful lake,
A deep-sunk vale burst sudden on our sight!
We felt as if at home; a magic sound,
As from a spirit whom we must obey,
Bade us descend into the vale profound,
And in its silence pass the Sabbath-day.
The placid lake that rested far below,
Softly embosoming another sky,
Still as we gazed assumed a lovelier glow,
And seem'd to send us looks of amity.
Our hearts were open to the gracious love
Of Nature, smiling like a happy bride;
So following the still impulse from above,
Down the green slope we wind with airy glide,
And pitch our snowy tent on that fair water's side.
[Pg 188]
Ah me! even now I see before me stand,
Among the verdant holly-boughs half hid,
The little radiant airy pyramid,
Like some wild dwelling built in Fairy land.
As silently as gathering cloud it rose,
And seems a cloud descended on the earth,
Disturbing not the Sabbath-day's repose,
Yet gently stirring at the quiet birth
Of every short-lived breeze: the sun-beams greet
The beauteous stranger in the lonely bay;
Close to its shading tree two streamlets meet,
With gentle glide, as weary of their play.
And in the liquid lustre of the lake
Its image sleeps, reflected far below;
Such image as the clouds of summer make,
Clear seen amid the waveless water's glow,
As slumbering infant still, and pure as April snow.
Wild though the dwelling seem, thus rising fair,
A sudden stranger 'mid the sylvan scene,
[Pg 189] One spot of radiance on surrounding green,
Human it is—and human souls are there!
Look through that opening in the canvass wall,
Through which by fits the scarce-felt breezes play,
—Upon three happy souls thine eyes will fall,
The summer lambs are not more blest than they!
On the green turf all motionless they lie,
In dreams romantic as the dreams of sleep,
The filmy air slow-glimmering on their eye,
And in their ear the murmur of the deep.
Or haply now by some wild winding brook,
Deep, silent pool, or waters rushing loud,
In thought they visit many a fairy nook
That rising mists in rainbow colours shroud,
And ply the Angler's sport involved in mountain-cloud!
Yes! dear to us that solitary trade,
'Mid vernal peace in peacefulness pursued,
Through rocky glen, wild moor, and hanging wood,
White-flowering meadow, and romantic glade!
[Pg 190] The sweetest visions of our boyish years
Come to our spirits with a murmuring tone
Of running waters,—and one stream appears,
Remember'd all, tree, willow, bank, and stone!
How glad were we, when after sunny showers
Its voice came to us issuing from the school!
How fled the vacant, solitary hours,
By dancing rivulet, or silent pool!
And still our souls retain in manhood's prime
The love of joys our childish years that blest;
So now encircled by these hills sublime,
We Anglers, wandering with a tranquil breast,
Build in this happy vale a fairy bower of rest!
Within that bower are strewn in careless guise,
Idle one day, the angler's simple gear;
Lines that, as fine as floating gossamer,
Dropt softly on the stream the silken flies;
The limber rod that shook its trembling length,
Almost as airy as the line it threw,
[Pg 191] Yet often bending in an arch of strength
When the tired salmon rose at last to view,
Now lightly leans across the rushy bed,
On which at night we dream of sports by day;
And, empty now, beside it close is laid
The goodly pannier framed of osiers gray;
And, maple bowl in which we wont to bring
The limpid water from the morning wave,
Or from some mossy and sequester'd spring
To which dark rocks a grateful coolness gave,
Such as might Hermit use in solitary cave!
And ne'er did Hermit, with a purer breast,
Amid the depths of sylvan silence pray,
Than prayed we friends on that mild quiet day,
By God and man beloved, the day of rest!
All passions in our souls were lull'd to sleep,
Ev'n by the power of Nature's holy bliss;
While Innocence her watch in peace did keep
Over the spirit's thoughtful happiness!
[Pg 192] We view'd the green earth with a loving look,
Like us rejoicing in the gracious sky;
A voice came to us from the running brook
That seem'd to breathe a grateful melody.
Then all things seem'd embued with life and sense,
And as from dreams with kindling smiles to wake,
Happy in beauty and in innocence;
While, pleased our inward quiet to partake,
Lay hush'd, as in a trance, the scarcely-breathing lake.
Yet think not, in this wild and fairy spot,
This mingled happiness of earth and heaven,
Which to our hearts this Sabbath-day was given,
Think not, that far-off friends were quite forgot.
Helm-crag arose before our half-closed eyes
With colours brighter than the brightening dove;
Beneath that guardian mount a [2]cottage lies
Encircled by the halo breathed from Love!
[Pg 193] And sweet that dwelling[3] rests upon the brow
(Beneath its sycamore) of Orest-hill,
As if it smiled on Windermere below,
Her green recesses and her islands still!
Thus, gently-blended many a human thought
With those that peace and solitude supplied,
Till in our hearts the moving kindness wrought
With gradual influence, like a flowing tide,
And for the lovely sound of human voice we sigh'd.
And hark! a laugh, with voices blended, stole
Across the water, echoing from the shore!
And during pauses short, the beating oar
Brings the glad music closer to the soul.
We leave our tent; and lo! a lovely sight
Glides like a living creature through the air,
For air the water seems thus passing bright,
A living creature beautiful and fair!
[Pg 194] Nearer it glides; and now the radiant glow
That on its radiant shadow seems to float,
Turns to a virgin band, a glorious shew,
Rowing with happy smiles a little boat.
Towards the tent their lingering course they steer,
And cheerful now upon the shore they stand,
In maiden bashfulness, yet free from fear,
And by our side, gay-moving hand in hand,
Into our tent they go, a beauteous sister-band!
Scarce from our hearts had gone the sweet surprise,
Which this glad troop of rural maids awoke;
Scarce had a more familiar kindness broke
From the mild lustre of their smiling eyes,
Ere the tent seem'd encircled by the sound
Of many voices; in an instant stood
Men, women, children, all the circle round,
And with a friendly joy the strangers view'd,
Strange was it to behold this gladsome crowd
Our late so solitary dwelling fill;
[Pg 195] And strange to hear their greetings mingling loud
Where all before was undisturb'd and still.
Yet was the stir delightful to our ear,
And moved to happiness our inmost blood,
The sudden change, the unexpected cheer,
Breaking like sunshine on a pensive mood,
This breath and voice of life in seeming solitude!
Hard task it was, in our small tent to find
Seats for our quickly-gather'd company;
But in them all was such a mirthful glee,
I ween they soon were seated to their mind!
Some viewing with a hesitating look
The panniers that contained our travelling fare,
On them at last their humble station took,
Pleased at the thought, and with a smiling air.
Some on our low-framed beds then chose their seat,
Each maid the youth that loved her best beside,
While many a gentle look, and whisper sweet,
Brought to the stripling's face a gladsome pride.
[Pg 196] The playful children on the velvet green,
Soon as the first-felt bashfulness was fled,
Smiled to each other at the wondrous scene,
And whisper'd words they to each other said,
And raised in sportive fit the shining, golden head!
Then did we learn that this our stranger tent,
Seen by the lake-side gleaming like a sail,
Had quickly spread o'er mountain and o'er vale
A gentle shock of pleased astonishment.
The lonely dwellers by the lofty rills,
Gazed in surprise upon th' unwonted sight,
The wandering shepherds saw it from the hills,
And quick descended from their airy height.
Soon as the voice of simple song and prayer
Ceased in the little chapel of the dell,
The congregation did in peace repair
To the lake-side, to view our wondrous cell.
While leaving, for one noon, both young and old,
Their cluster'd hamlets in this deep recess,
All join the throng, in conscious good-will bold,
[Pg 197] Elate and smiling in their Sabbath-dress,
A mingled various groupe of homely happiness!
And thus our tent a joyous scene became,
Where loving hearts from distant vales did meet
As at some rural festival, and greet
Each other with glad voice and kindly name.
Here a pleased daughter to her father smiled,
With fresh affection in her soften'd eyes;
He in return look'd back upon his child
With gentle start and tone of mild surprise:
And on his little grand-child, at her breast,
An old man's blessing and a kiss bestow'd,
Or to his cheek the lisping baby prest,
Light'ning the mother of her darling load;
While comely matrons, all sedately ranged
Close to their husbands' or their children's side,
A neighbour's friendly greeting interchanged,
And each her own with frequent glances eyed,
And raised her head in all a mother's harmless pride.
[Pg 198] Happy were we among such happy hearts!
And to inspire with kindliness and love
Our simple guests, ambitiously we strove,
With novel converse and endearing arts!
We talk'd to them, and much they loved to hear,
Of those sweet vales from which we late had come;
For though these vales are to each other near,
Seldom do dalesmen leave their own dear home:
Then would we speak of many a wondrous sight
Seen in great cities,—temple, tower, and spire,
And winding streets at night-fall blazing bright
With many a star-like lamp of glimmering fire.
The gray-hair'd men with deep attention heard,
Viewing the speaker with a solemn face,
While round our feet the playful children stirr'd,
And near their parents took their silent place,
Listening with looks where wonder breathed a glowing grace.
And much they gazed with never-tired delight
On varnish'd rod, with joints that shone like gold,
[Pg 199] And silken line on glittering reel enroll'd,
To infant anglers a most wondrous sight!
Scarce could their chiding parents then controul
Their little hearts in harmless malice gay,
But still one, bolder than his fellows, stole
To touch the tempting treasures where they lay.
What rapture glistened in their eager eyes,
When, with kind voice, we bade these children take
A precious store of well-dissembled flies,
To use with caution for the strangers' sake!
The unlook'd-for gift we graciously bestow
With sudden joy the leaping heart o'erpowers;
They grasp the lines, while all their faces glow
Bright as spring-blossoms after sunny showers,
And wear them in their hats like wreaths of valley-flowers!
Nor could they check their joyance and surprise,
When the clear crystal and the silver bowl
Gleamed with a novel beauty on their soul,
And the wine mantled with its rosy dies.
[Pg 200] For all our pomp we shew'd with mickle glee,
And choicest viands, fitly to regale,
On such a day of rare festivity,
Our guests thus wondering at their native vale.
And oft we pledged them, nor could they decline
The social cup we did our best to press,
But mingled wishes with the joyful wine,
Warm wishes for our health and happiness.
And all the while, a low, delightful sound
Of voice, soft-answering voice, with music fill'd
Our fairy palace's enchanted ground,
Such tones as seem from blooming tree distill'd,
Where unseen bees repair their waxen cells to build.
Lost as we were in that most blessed mood
Which Nature's sons alone can deeply prove,
We lavish'd with free heart our kindest love
On all who breath'd,—one common brotherhood.
Three faithful servants, men of low degree,
Were with us, as we roamed the wilds among,
[Pg 201] And well it pleased their simple hearts to see
Their masters mingling with the rural throng.
Oft to our guests they sought to speak aside,
And, in the genial flow of gladness, told
That we were free from haughtiness or pride,
Though scholars all, and rich in lands and gold.
We smiled to hear our praise thus rudely sung,
(Well might such praise our modesty offend)
Yet, we all strove, at once with eye and tongue
To speak, as if invited by a friend,
And with our casual talk instruction's voice to blend.
Rumours of wars had reached this peaceful vale,
And of the Wicked King, whom guilt hath driven
On earth to wage a warfare against Heaven,
These sinless shepherds had heard many a tale.
Encircled as we were with smiles and joy,
In quietness to Quiet's dwelling brought,
To think of him whose bliss is to destroy,
At such a season was an awful thought!
[Pg 202] We felt the eternal power of happiness
And virtue's power; we felt with holy awe
That in this world, in spite of chance distress,
Such is the Almighty Spirit's ruling law.
And joyfully did we these shepherds tell
To hear all rumours with a tranquil mind,
For, in the end, that all would yet be well,
Nor this bad Monarch leave one trace behind,
More than o'er yonder hills the idly-raving wind.
Then gravely smiled, in all the power of age,
A hoary-headed, venerable man,
Like the mild chieftain of a peaceful clan,
'Mid simple spirits looked on as a sage.
Much did he praise the holy faith we held,
Which God, he said, to chear the soul had given,
For even the very angels that rebelled,
By sin performed the blessed work of Heaven.
The Wicked King, of whom we justly spake,
Was but an instrument in God's wise hand,
[Pg 203] And though the kingdoms of the earth might quake,
Peace would revisit every ravaged land.
Even as the earthquake, in some former time,
Scatter'd yon rugged mountain far and wide,
Till years of winter's snow and summer's prime,
To naked cliffs fresh verdure have supplied,
—Now troops of playful lambs are bounding on its side.
Pleased were the simple groupe to hear the sire
Thus able to converse with men from far,
And much did they of vaguely-rumour'd war,
That long had raged in distant lands, enquire.
Scarce could their hearts, at peace with all mankind,
Believe what bloody deeds on earth are done,
That man of woman born should be so blind
As walk in guilt beneath the blessed sun;
And one, with thoughtful countenance, exprest
A fear lest on some dark disastrous day,
[Pg 204] Across the sea might come that noisome pest,
And make fair England's happy vales his prey.
Short lived that fear!—soon firmer thoughts arise:
Well could these dalesmen wield the patriot's sword,
And stretch the foe beneath the smiling skies;
In innocence they trust, and in the Lord,
Whom they, that very morn, in gladness had adored!
But soon such thoughts to lighter speech give way;
We in our turn a willing ear did lend
To tale of sports, that made them blythely spend
The winter-evening and the summer-day.
Smiling they told us of the harmless glee
That bids the echoes of the mountains wake,
When at the stated festival they see
Their new-wash'd flocks come snow-white from the lake;
And joyful dance at neighbouring village fair,
Where lads and lasses, in their best attire,
Go to enjoy that playful pastime rare,
And careful statesmen shepherds new to hire!
[Pg 205] Or they would tell, how, at some neighbour's cot,
When nights are long, and winter on the earth,
All cares are in the dance and song forgot,
And round the fire quick flies the circling mirth,
When nuptial vows are pledged, or at an infant's birth!
Well did the roses blooming on their cheek,
And eyes of laughing light, that glisten'd fair
Beneath the artless ringlets of their hair,
Each maiden's health and purity bespeak.
Following the impulse of their simple will,
No thought had they to give or take offence;
Glad were their bosoms, yet sedate and still,
And fearless in the strength of innocence.
Oft as, in accents mild, we strangers spoke
To these sweet maidens, an unconscious smile
Like sudden sunshine o'er their faces broke,
And with it struggling blushes mix'd the while.
And oft as mirth and glee went laughing round,
Breath'd in this maiden's ear some harmless jest
Would make her, for one moment, on the ground
[Pg 206] Her eyes let fall, as wishing from the rest
To hide the sudden throb that beat within her breast.
Oh! not in vain have purest poets told,
In elegies and hymns that ne'er shall die,
How, in the fields of famous Arcady,
Lived simple shepherds in the age of gold!
They fabled not, in peopling rural shades
With all most beautiful in heart and frame;
Where without guile swains woo'd their happy maids,
And love was friendship with a gentler name.
Such songs in truth and nature had their birth,
Their source was lofty and their aim was pure,
And still, in many a favour'd spot of earth,
The virtues that awoke their voice endure!
Bear witness thou! O, wild and beauteous dell,
To whom my gladden'd heart devotes this strain;
—O! long may all who in thy bosom dwell
Nature's primeval innocence retain,
Nor e'er may lawless foot thy sanctity profane!
Sweet Maids! my wandering heart returns to you;
[Pg 207] And well the blush of joy, the courteous air,
Words unrestrained, and open looks declare
That fancy's day-dreams have not been untrue.
It was indeed a beauteous thing, to see
The virgin, while her bashful visage smiled,
As if she were a mother, on her knee
Take up, with many a kiss, the asking child.
And well, I ween, she play'd the mother's part;
For as she bended o'er the infant fair,
A mystic joy seem'd stirring at her heart,
A yearning fondness, and a silent prayer.
Nor did such gentle maiden long refuse
To cheer our spirits with some favourite strain,
Some simple ballad, framed by rustic muse,
Of one who died for love, or, led by gain,
Sail'd in a mighty ship to lands beyond the main.
And must we close this scene of merriment?
—Lo! in the lake soft burns the star of eve,
And the night-hawk hath warn'd our guests to leave,
Ere darker shades descend, our happy tent.
[Pg 208] The Moon's bright edge is seen above the hill;
She comes to light them on their homeward way;
And every heart, I ween, now lies as still
As on yon fleecy cloud her new-born ray.
Kindly by young and old our hands are press'd,
And kindly we the gentle touch return;
Each face declares that deep in every breast
Peace, virtue, friendship, and affection burn.
At last beneath the silent air we part,
And promise make that shall not be in vain,
A promise asked and given warm from the heart,
That we will visit all, on hill and plain,
If e'er it be our lot to see this land again!
Backward they gazed, as slowly they withdrew,
With step reluctant, from the water-side;
And oft, with waving hand, at distance tried
Through the dun light to send a last adieu!
One lovely groupe still linger'd on the green,
The first to come, the last to go away;
[Pg 209] While steep'd in stillness of the moonlight scene,
Moor'd to a rock their little pinnace lay.
These laughing damsels climb its humble side,
Like fairy elves that love the starry sea;
Nor e'er did billows with more graceful glide
'Mid the wild main enjoy their liberty.
Their faces brightening in triumphant hue,
Close to each maid their joyful lovers stand;
One gives the signal,—all the jovial crew
Let go, with tender press, the yielding hand;
—Down drop the oars at once,—away they push from land.
The boat hath left the silent bank, the tone
Of the retiring oar escapes the mind;
Like mariners some ship hath left behind,
We feel, thus standing speechless and alone.
One moment lives that melancholy trance—
The mountains ring: Oh! what a joy is there!
As hurries o'er their heights, in circling dance,
Cave-loving Echo, Daughter of the Air.
[Pg 210] Is it some spirit of night that wakes the shout,
As o'er the cliffs, with headlong speed, she ranges?
Is it, on plain and steep, some fairy rout
Answering each other in tumultuous changes?
There seems amid the hills a playful war;
Trumpet and clarion join the mystic noise;
Now growing on the ear, now dying far!
Great Gabel from his summit sends a voice,
And the remotest depths of Ennerdale rejoice!
Oh! well I know what means this din of mirth!
No spirits are they, who, trooping through the sky,
In chorus swell that mountain-melody;
—It comes from mortal children of the earth!
These are the voices that so late did chear
Our tent with laughter; from the hills they come
With friendly sound unto our listening ear,
A jocund farewell to our glimmering home.
Loth are our guests, though they have linger'd long,
That our sweet tent at last should leave their sight;
So with one voice they sing a parting song,
[Pg 211] Ere they descend behind the clouds of night.
Nor are we mute; an answering shout we wake,
At each short pause of the long, lengthening sound,
Till all is silent as the silent Lake,
And every noise above, below, around,
Seems in the brooding night-sky's depth of slumber drown'd!
Soon from that calm our spirits start again
With blyther vigour; nought around we see,
Save lively images of mirth and glee,
And playful fancies hurry through our brain.
Shine not, sweet Moon! with such a haughty light;
Ye stars! behind your veil of clouds retire;
For we shall kindle on the earth, this night,
To drown your feeble rays, a joyous fire.
Bring the leaves withering in the holly-shade,
The oaken branches sapless now and hoar,
The fern no longer green, and whins that fade
'Mid the thin sand that strews the rocky shore.
[Pg 212] Heap them above that new-awaken'd spark;
Soon shall a pyramid of flame arise;
Now the first rustling of the vapour, hark!
The kindling spirit from its prison flies,
And in an instant mounts in glory to the skies!
Far gleams the Lake, as in the light of day,
Or when, from mountain-top, the setting sun,
Ere yet his earth-delighting course is run,
Sheds on the slumbering wave a purple ray.
A bright'ning verdure runs o'er every field,
As if by potent necromancer shed,
And a dark wood is suddenly reveal'd,
A glory resting on its ancient head.
And oh! what radiant beauty doth invest
Our tent that seems to feel a conscious pride,
Whiter by far than any cygnet's breast,
Or cygnet's shadow floating with the tide.
A warmer flush unto the moonlight cold,
Winning its lovely way, is softly given,
A silvery radiance tinged with vivid gold;
[Pg 213] While thousand mimic stars are gayly driven
Through the bright-glistening air, scarce known from those in Heaven.
Amid the flame our lurid figures stand,
Or, through the shrouding vapour dimly view'd,
To fancy seem, in that strange solitude,
Like the wild brethren of some lawless band.
One, snatching from the heap a blazing bough,
Would, like lone maniac, from the rest retire,
And, as he waved it, mutter deep a vow,
His head encircled with a wreath of fire.
Others, with rushing haste, and eager voice,
Would drag new victims to the insatiate power,
That like a savage idol did rejoice
Whate'er his suppliants offer'd to devour.
And aye strange murmurs o'er the mountains roll'd,
As if from sprite immured in cavern lone,
While higher rose pale Luna to behold
Our mystic orgies, where no light had shone,
For many and many a year of silence—but her own.
[Pg 214]
O! gracious Goddess! not in vain did shine
Thy spirit o'er the heavens; with reverent eye
We hail'd thee floating through the happy sky;
No smiles to us are half so dear as thine!
Silent we stood beside our dying flame,
In pensive sadness, born of wild delight,
And gazing heavenward, many a gentle name
Bestow'd on her who beautifies the night.
Then, with one heart, like men who inly mourn'd,
Slowly we paced towards our fairy cell,
And e'er we enter'd, for one moment turn'd,
And bade the silent majesty farewell!
Our rushy beds invite us to repose;
And while our spirits breathe a grateful prayer,
In balmy slumbers soon our eyelids close,
While, in our dreams, the Moon, serenely fair,
Still bathes in light divine the visionary air!
Methinks, next night, I see her mount her throne,
Intent with loving smile once more to hail
[Pg 215] The deep, deep peace of this her loneliest vale,
—But where hath now the magic dwelling flown?
Oh! it hath melted like a dream away,
A dream by far too beautiful for earth;
Or like a cloud that hath no certain stay,
But ever changing, like a different birth.
The aged holly trees more silently,
Now we are gone, stand on the silent ground;
I seem to hear the streamlet floating by
With a complaining, melancholy sound.
Hush'd are the echoes in each mountain's breast,
No traces there of former mirth remain;
They all in friendly grandeur lie at rest
And silent, save where Nature's endless strain,
From cataract and cave, delights her lonely reign.
Yet, though the strangers and their tent have past
Away, like snow that leaves no mark behind,
Their image lives in many a guiltless mind,
And long within the shepherd's cot shall last.
Oft when, on winter night, the crowded seat
[Pg 216] Is closely wheel'd before the blazing fire,
Then will he love with grave voice to repeat
(He, the gray-headed venerable sire,)
The conversation he with us did hold
On moral subjects, he had studied long;
And some will jibe the maid who was so bold
As sing to strangers readily a song.
Then they unto each other will recal
Each little incident of that strange night,
And give their kind opinion of us all:
God bless their faces smiling in the light
Of their own cottage-hearth! O, fair subduing sight!
Friends of my heart! who shared that purest joy,
And oft will read these lines with soften'd soul,
Go where we will, let years of absence roll,
Nought shall our sacred amity destroy.
We walk'd together through the mountain-calm,
In open confidence, and perfect trust;
And pleasure, falling through our breasts like balm,
Told that the yearnings that we felt were just.
[Pg 217] No slighting tone, no chilling look e'er marr'd
The happiness in which our thoughts reposed,
No words save those of gentleness were heard,
The eye spoke kindly when the lip was closed.
But chief, on that blest day that wakes my song,
Our hearts eternal truth in silence swore;
The holy oath is planted deep and strong
Within our spirits,—in their inmost core,—
And it shall blossom fair till life shall be no more!
Most hallow'd day! scarce can my heart sustain
Your tender light by memory made more mild;
Tears could I shed even like unto a child,
And sighs within my spirit hush the strain.
Too many clouds have dimm'd my youthful life,
These wakeful eyes too many vigils kept;
Mine hath it been to toss in mental strife,
When in the moonlight breathing Nature slept.
But I forget my cares, in bliss forget,
When, peaceful Valley! I remember thee;
[Pg 218] I seem to breathe the air of joy, and yet
Thy bright'ning hues with moisten'd eyes I see.
So will it be, till life itself doth close,
Roam though I may o'er many a distant clime;
Happy, or pining in unnoticed woes,
Oft shall my soul recal that blessed time,
And in her depths adore the beauteous and sublime!
Time that my rural reed at last should cease
Its willing numbers; not in vain hath flow'd
The strain that on my singing heart bestow'd
The holy boon of undisturbed peace.
O gentlest Lady! Sister of my friend,
This simple strain I consecrate to thee;
Haply its music with thy soul may blend,
Albeit well used to loftier minstrelsy.
Nor, may thy quiet spirit read the lay
With cold regard, thou wife and mother blest!
For he was with me on that Sabbath-day,
Whose heart lies buried in thy inmost breast.
[Pg 219] Then go my innocent and blameless tale,
In gladness go, and free from every fear,
To yon sweet dwelling above Grassmere vale,
And be to them I long have held so dear,
One of their fire-side songs, still fresh from year to year!


[1] Mr Wordsworth accompanied the author on this excursion.

[2] At that time the residence of Mr Wordsworth's family.

[3] The author's cottage on the banks of Windermere.

[Pg 220]


Oh! Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that Power who form'd thee and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand.

[Pg 223]


Stranger! this lonely glen in ancient times
Was named the glen of blood; nor Christian feet
By night or day, from these o'er-arching cliffs
That haply now have to thy joyful shouts
Return'd a mellow music, ever brought
One trembling sound to break the depth of silence.
The village maiden, in this little stream,
Though then, as now, most clearly beautiful,
Ne'er steeped her simple garments, while she sang
Some native air of sadness or of mirth.
In these cold, shady pools, the fearless trout
Ne'er saw the shadow, but of sailing cloud,
Or kite that wheeling eyed the far-off lamb;
[Pg 224] And on yon hazel bowers the ripen'd fruit
Hung clustering, moved but by the frequent swing
Of playful squirrel,—for no school-boy here
With crook and angle light on holiday
Came nutting, or to snare the sportive fry.
Even bolder spirits shunn'd the glen of blood!
These rocks, the abode of echo, never mock'd
In sportive din the huntsman's bugle horn;
And as the shepherd from the mountain-fold
Homewards return'd beneath the silent Moon,
A low unconscious prayer would agitate
His breathless heart, for here in unblest grave
Lay one for whom ne'er toll'd the passing-bell!
And thus was Nature by the impious guilt
Of one who scorn'd her gracious solitude,
Defrauded of her worshippers: though pure
This glen, as consecrated house of God,
Fit haunt of heaven-aspiring piety,
Or in whose dripping cells the poet's ear
[Pg 225] Might list unearthly music, this sweet glen
With all its tender tints and pensive sounds,
Its balmy fragrance and romantic forms,
Lay lonely and unvisited, yea worse,
Peopled with fancied demons, and the brood
At enmity with man.
So was it once:
But now far other creed hath sanctified
This dim seclusion, and all human hearts
Unto its spirit deeply reconciled.
'Tis said, and I in truth believe the tale,
That many years ago an aged man,
Of a divine aspect and stately form,
Came to this glen, and took up his abode
In one of those wild caves so numerous
Among the hanging cliffs, though hid from view
By trailing ivy, or thick holly-bush,
Through the whole year so deeply, brightly green.
With evil eye the simple villagers
First look'd on him, and scarcely dared to tell
[Pg 226] Each other, what dim fears were in their souls.
But there is something in the voice and eye
Of beautiful old age, with angel power
That charms away suspicion, and compels
The unwilling soul to reverence and love.
So was it with this mystical old man!
When first he came into the glen, the spring
Had just begun to tinge the sullen rocks
With transient smiles, and ere the leafy bowers
Of summer rustled, many a visitant
Had sat within his hospitable cave,
From his maple bowl the unpolluted spring
Drunk fearless, and with him partook the bread
That his pale lips most reverently had bless'd
With words becoming such a holy man!
Oft was he seen surrounded by a groupe
Of happy children, unto whom he spake
With more than a paternal tenderness;
And they who once had gazed with trembling fear
On the wild dweller in th' unholy glen,
[Pg 227] At last with airy trip and gladsome song
Would seek him there, and listen on his knee
To mournful ditties, and most touching tales!
One only book was in this hermit's cell,
The Book of Life; and when from it he read
With solemn voice devoutly musical,
His thoughtful eye still brightening as the words,
The words of Jesus, in that peaceful cave
Sounded more holily,—and his grey hair,
Betokening that e'er long in Jesus' breast
Would be his blessed sleep,—on his calm brows
Spread quietly, like thin and snowy clouds
On the husht evening sky:—While thus he sate,
Ev'n like the Apostle whom our Saviour loved,
In his old age, in Patmos' lonely isle
Musing on him that he had served in youth,—
Oh! then, I ween, the awe-struck villagers
Could scarce sustain his tones so deeply charged
With hope, and faith, and gratitude, and joy.
[Pg 228] But when they gazed!—in the mild lineaments
Of his majestic visage, they beheld
How beautiful is holiness, and deem'd
That sure he was some spirit sent by God
To teach the way to Heaven!
And yet his voice
Was oft times sadder, than as they conceived
An Angel's voice would be, and though to sooth
The sorrows of all others ever seem'd
His only end in life, perhaps he had
Griefs of his own of which he nothing spake;
Else were his locks more grey, more pale his cheek,
Than one had thought who only saw his form
So stately and so tall.—
Once did they speak
To him of that most miserable man
Who here himself had slain,—and then his eye
Was glazed with stern compassion, and a tear,—
[Pg 229] It was the first they e'er had seen him shed,
Though mercy was the attribute he loved
Dearest in God's own Son,—bedimm'd its light
For a short moment; yea, that hermit old
Wept,—and his sadden'd face angelical
Veil'd with his wither'd hands,—then on their knees
He bade his children (so he loved to call
The villagers) kneel down; and unto God
Pray for his brother's soul.—
Amid the dust
The hermit long hath slept,—and every one
That listen'd to the saint's delightful voice.
In yonder church-yard, near the eastern porch,
Close to the altar-wall, a little mound
As if by nature shaped, and strewn by her
With every tender flower that sorrow loves,
Tradition calls his grave. On Sabbath-day,
The hind oft hears the legendary tale
Rehearsed by village moralist austere
With many a pious phrase; and not a child,
[Pg 230] Whose trembling feet have scarcely learnt to walk,
But will conduct thee to the hallow'd spot
And lisp the hermit's name.
Nor did the cave
That he long time from Nature tenanted
Remain unhonour'd.—Duly every spring,
Upon the day he died, thither repair'd
Many a pure spirit, to his memory
Chaunting a choral hymn, composed by one
Who on his death-bed sat and closed his eyes.
"I am the resurrection and the life,"
Some old man then would, with a solemn voice,
Read from that Bible that so oft had blest
The Hermit's solitude with heavenly chear.
This Book, sole relic of the sinless man,
Was from the dust kept sacred, and even now
Lies in yon box of undecaying yew,
And may it never fade!—
[Pg 231]
Stranger unknown!
Thou breath'st, at present, in the very cave
Where on the Hermit death most gently fell
Like a long wish'd-for slumber. The great Lord,
Whose castle stands amid the music wild
Breathed from the bosom of an hundred glens,
In youth by nature taught to venerate
Things truly venerable, hither came
One year to view the fair solemnity:
And that the forest-weeds might not obstruct
The entrance of the cave, or worm defile
The soft green beauty of its mossy walls,
This massive door was from a fallen oak
Shaped rudely, but all other ornament,
That porch of living rock with woodbines wreathed,
And outer roof with many a pensile shrub
Most delicate, he with wise feeling left
To Nature, and her patient servant, Time!
Stranger! I know thee not: yet since thy feet
Have wandered here, I deem that thou art one
[Pg 232] Whose heart doth love in silent communings
To walk with Nature and from scenes like these
Of solemn sadness, to sublime thy soul
To high endurance of all earthly pains
Of mind or body; so that thou connect
With Nature's lovely and more lofty forms,
Congenial thoughts of grandeur or of grace
In moral being. All creation takes
The spirit of its character from him
Who looks thereon; and to a blameless heart,
Earth, air, and ocean, howsoe'er beheld,
Are pregnant with delight, while even the clouds,
Embath'd in dying sunshine, to the base
Possess no glory, and to the wicked lower
As with avenging thunder.
This sweet glen,
How sweet it is thou feel'st, with sylvan rocks
Excluding all but one blue glimpse of sky
Above, and from the world that lies around
All but the faint remembrance, tempted once
[Pg 233] To most unnatural murder, once sublimed
To the high temper of the seraphim:
And thus, though its mild character remain'd
Immutable,—with pious dread was shunn'd
As an unholy spot, or visited
With reverence, as a consecrated shrine.
Farewell! and grave this moral on thy heart,
"That Nature smiles for ever on the good,—
But that all beauty dies with innocence!"

[Pg 234]


Peace to the dead! the voice of Nature cries,
Even o'er the grave where guilt or frailty lies;
Compassion drives each sterner thought away,
And all seem good when mouldering in the clay.
For who amid the dim religious gloom,
The solemn sabbath brooding o'er the tomb,
The holy stillness that suspends our breath
When the soul rests within the shade of death,
What heart could then with-hold the pensive sigh
Reflection pays to poor mortality,
Nor sunk in pity near allied to love,
E'en bless the being we could ne'er approve!
[Pg 235] The headstrong will with innocence at strife,
The restless passions that deform'd his life,
Desires that spurn'd at reason's weak controul,
And dimm'd the native lustre of the soul,
The look repulsive that like ice repress'd
The friendly warmth that play'd within the breast,
The slighting word, through heedlessness severe,
Wounding the spirit that it ought to chear,
Lie buried in the grave! or if they live,
Remembrance only wakes them to forgive;
While vice and error steal a soft relief
From the still twilight of a mellowing grief.
And oh! how lovely do the tints return
Of every virtue sleeping in the urn!
Each grace that fleeted unobserved away,
Starts into life when those it deck'd decay;
Regret fresh beauty on the corse bestows,
And self-reproach is mingled with our woes.
But nobler sorrows lift the musing mind,
When soaring spirits leave their frames behind,
[Pg 236] Who walked the world in Nature's generous pride,
And, like a sun-beam, lighten'd as they died!
Hope, resignation, the sad soul beguile,
And Grief's tear drops 'mid Faith's celestial smile:
Then burns our being with a holy mirth
That owns no kindred with this mortal earth;
For hymning angels in blest vision wave
Their wings' bright glory o'er the seraph's grave!
Oh thou! whose soul unmoved by earthly strife,
Led by the pole-star of eternal life,
Own'd no emotion stain'd by touch of clay,
No thought that angels might not pleased survey;
Thou! whose calm course through Virtue's fields was run
From youth's fair morning to thy setting sun,
Nor vice e'er dared one little cloud to roll
O'er the bright beauty of thy spotless soul;
Thou! who secure in good works strong to save,
Resign'd and happy, eyed'st the opening grave,
[Pg 237] And in the blooming summer of thy years
Scarce felt'st regret to leave this vale of tears;
Oh! from thy throne amid the starry skies,
List to my words thus interwove with sighs,
And if the high resolves, the cherish'd pain
That prompt the weak but reverential strain,
If love of virtue ardent and sincere
Can win to mortal verse a cherub's ear,
Bend from thy radiant throne thy form divine,
And make the adoring spirit pure as thine!
When my heart muses o'er the long review
Of all thy bosom felt, thy reason knew,
O'er boundless learning free from boastful pride,
And patience humble though severely tried,
Judgment unclouded, passions thrice refined,
A heaven-aspiring loftiness of mind,
And, rare perfection! calm and sober sense
Combined with fancy's wild magnificence;
Struck with the pomp of Nature's wondrous plan,
I hail with joy the dignity of man,
[Pg 238] And soaring high above life's roaring sea,
Spring to the dwelling of my God and Thee.
Short here thy stay! for souls of holiest birth
Dwell but a moment with the sons of earth;
To this dim sphere by God's indulgence given,
Their friends are angels, and their home is heaven.
The fairest rose in shortest time decays;
The sun, when brightest, soon withdraws his rays;
The dew that gleams like diamonds on the thorn,
Melts instantaneous at the breath of morn;
Too soon a rolling shade of darkness shrouds
The star that smiles amid the evening clouds;
And sounds that come so sweetly on the ear,
That the soul wishes every sense could hear,
Are as the Light's unwearied pinions fleet,
As scarce as beauteous, and as short as sweet.
Yet, though the unpolluted soul requires
Airs born in Heaven to fan her sacred fires,
[Pg 239] And mounts to God, exulting to be free
From fleshly chain that binds mortality,
The world is hallow'd by her blest sojourn,
And glory dwells for ever round her urn!
Her skirts of beauty sanctify the air
That felt her breathings, and that heard her prayer;
Vice dies where'er the radiant vision trod,
And there e'en Atheists must believe in God!
Such the proud triumphs that the good achieve!
Such the blest gift that sinless spirits leave!
The parted soul in God-given strength sublime,
Streams undimm'd splendour o'er unmeasured time;
Still on the earth the sainted hues survive,
Dead in the tomb, but in the heart alive.
In vain the tide of ages strives to roll
A bar to check the intercourse of soul;
The hovering spirits of the good and great
With fond remembrance own their former state,
And musing virtue often can behold
In vision high their plumes of wavy gold,
[Pg 240] And drink with tranced ear the silver sound
Of seraphs hymning on their nightly round.
By death untaught, our range of thought is small,
Bound by the attraction of this earthly ball.
Our sorrows and our joys, our hopes and fears,
Ignobly pent within a few short years;
But when our hearts have read Fate's mystic book,
On Heaven's gemm'd sphere we lift a joyful look,
Hope turns to Faith, Faith glorifies the gloom,
And life springs forth exulting from the tomb!
Oh, blest Eliza! though to me unknown,
Thine eye's mild lustre and thy melting tone;
Though on this earth apart our lives were led,
Nor my love found thee till thy soul was fled;
Yet, can affection kiss thy silent clay,
And rend the glimmering veil of death away:
Fancy beholds with fixed, delighted eye,
Thy white-robed spirit gently gliding by;
Deep sinks thy smile into my quiet breast,
As moonlight steeps the ocean-wave in rest!
[Pg 241] While thus, bright shade! thine eyes of mercy dwell
On that fair land thou loved'st of old so well,
What holy raptures through thy being flow,
To see thy memory blessing all below,
Virtue re-kindle at thy grave her fires,
And vice repentant shun his low desires!
This the true Christian's heaven! on earth to see
The sovereign power of immortality
At war with sin, and in triumphant pride
Spreading the empire of the crucified.—
Oft 'mid the calm of mountain solitude,
Where Nature's loveliness thy spirit woo'd;
Where lonely cataracts with sullen roar
To thy hush'd heart a fearful rapture bore,
And caverns moaning with the voice of night,
Steep'd through the ear thy mind in strange delight,
I feel thy influence on my heart descend
Like words of comfort whispered by a friend,
And every cloud in lovelier figures roll,
Shaped by the power of thy presiding soul!
[Pg 242] And when, slow-sinking in a blaze of light,
The sun in glory bathes each radiant height,
Amid the glow thy form seraphic seems
To float refulgent with unborrow'd beams;
For thou, like him, hadst still thy course pursued,
From thy own blessedness dispensing good;
Brightly thy soul in life's fair morn arose,
And burn'd like him, more glorious at its close.
But now, I feel my pensive spirit turn,
Where parents, brothers, sisters, o'er thee mourn.
For though to all unconscious time supplies
A strength of soul that stifles useless sighs;
And in our loneliest hours of grief is given
To our dim gaze a nearer glimpse of heaven,
Yet, human frailty pines in deep distress,
Even when a friend has soar'd to happiness,
And sorrow, selfish from excess of love,
Would glad recal the seraph from above!
And, chief, to thee! on whose delighted breast,
While, yet a babe, she play'd herself to rest,
[Pg 243] Who rock'd her cradle with requited care,
And bless'd her sleeping with a silent prayer;
To thee, who first beheld, with watchful eye,
From her flush'd cheek health's natural radiance fly,
And, though by fate denied the power to save,
Smooth'd with kind care her passage to the grave,
When slow consumption led with fatal bloom
A rosy spectre smiling to the tomb;
The strain of comfort first to thee would flow,
But thou hast comforts man could ne'er bestow;
And e'en misfortune's long and gloomy roll
Wakes dreams of glory in thy stately soul.
For reason whispers, and religion proves,
That God by sorrow chasteneth whom he loves;
And suffering virtue smiles at misery's gloom,
Chear'd by the light that burns beyond the tomb.
All Nature speaks of thy departed child,
The flowery meadow, and the mountain wild;
Of her the lark 'mid sun-shine oft will sing,
And torrents flow with dirge-like murmuring!
[Pg 244] The lake, that smiles to heaven a watery gleam,
Shows in the vivid beauty of a dream
Her, whose fine touch in mellowing hues array'd
The misty summit and the woodland glade,
The sparkling depth that slept in waveless rest,
And verdant isles reflected on its breast.
As down the vale thy lonely footsteps stray,
While eve steals dimly on retiring day,
And the pale light that nameless calm supplies,
That holds communion with the promised skies,
When Nature's beauty overpowers distress,
And stars soft-burning kindle holiness,
Thy lips in passive resignation move,
And peace broods o'er thee on the wings of love.
The languid mien, the cheek of hectic die,
The mournful beauty of the radiant eye,
The placid smile, the light and easy breath
Of nature blooming on the brink of death,
When the fair phantom breathed in twilight balm
A dying vigour and deceitful calm,
[Pg 245] The tremulous voice that ever loved to tell
Thy fearful heart, that all would soon be well,
Steal on thy memory, and though tears will fall
O'er scenes gone by that thou would'st fain recal,
Yet oft has faith with deeper bliss beguiled
A parent weeping her departed child,
Than love maternal, when her baby lay
Hush'd at her breast, or smiling in its play,
And, as some glimpse of infant fancy came,
Murmuring in scarce-heard lisp some broken name.
Thou feel'st no more grief's palpitating start,
Nor the drear night hangs heavy on thy heart.
Though sky and star may yet awhile divide
Thy mortal being from thy bosom's pride,
Your spirits mingle—while to thine is given
A loftier nature from the touch of heaven.

[Pg 246]


How beautiful the pastime of the Spring!
Lo! newly waking from her wintry dream,
She, like a smiling infant, timid plays
On the green margin of this sunny lake,
Fearing, by starts, the little breaking waves
(If riplings rather known by sound than sight
May haply so be named) that in the grass
Soon fade in murmuring mirth; now seeming proud
To venture round the edge of yon far point,
That from an eminence softly sinking down,
Doth from the wide and homeless waters shape
A scene of tender, delicate repose,
Fit haunt for thee, in thy first hours of joy,
[Pg 247] Delightful Spring!—nor less an emblem fair,
Like thee, of beauty, innocence, and youth.
On such a day, 'mid such a scene as this,
Methinks the poets who in lovely hymns
Have sung thy reign, sweet Power, and wished it long,
In their warm hearts conceived those eulogies,
That, lending to the world inanimate
A pulse and spirit of life, for aye preserve
The sanctity of Nature, and embalm
Her fleeting spectacles in memory's cell
In spite of time's mutations. Onwards roll
The circling seasons, and as each gives birth
To dreams peculiar, yea destructive oft
Of former feelings, in oblivion's shade
Sleep the fair visions of forgotten hours.
But Nature calls the poet to her aid,
And in his lays beholds her glory live
For ever. Thus, in winter's deepest gloom,
When all is dim before the outward eye,
[Pg 248] Nor the ear catches one delightful sound,
They who have wander'd in their musing walks
With the great poets, in their spirits feel
No change on earth, but see the unalter'd woods
Laden with beauty, and inhale the song
Of birds, airs, echoes, and of vernal showers.
So hath it been with me, delightful Spring!
And now I hail thee as a friend who pays
An annual visit, yet whose image lives
From parting to return, and who is blest
Each time with blessings warmer than before.
Oh! gracious Power! for thy beloved approach
The expecting earth lay wrapt in kindling smiles,
Struggling with tears, and often overcome.
A blessing sent before thee from the heavens,
A balmy spirit breathing tenderness,
Prepared thy way, and all created things
Felt that the angel of delight was near.
[Pg 249] Thou camest at last, and such a heavenly smile
Shone round thee, as beseem'd the eldest-born
Of Nature's guardian spirits. The great Sun,
Scattering the clouds with a resistless smile,
Came forth to do thee homage; a sweet hymn
Was by the low Winds chaunted in the sky;
And when thy feet descended on the earth,
Scarce could they move amid the clustering flowers
By Nature strewn o'er valley, hill, and field,
To hail her blest deliverer!—Ye fair Trees,
How are ye changed, and changing while I gaze!
It seems as if some gleam of verdant light
Fell on you from a rainbow; but it lives
Amid your tendrils, brightening every hour
Into a deeper radiance. Ye sweet Birds,
Were you asleep through all the wintry hours,
Beneath the waters, or in mossy caves?
There are, 'tis said, birds that pursue the spring,
Where'er she flies, or else in death-like sleep
Abide her annual reign, when forth they come
With freshen'd plumage and enraptured song,
[Pg 250] As ye do now, unwearied choristers,
Till the land ring with joy. Yet are ye not,
Sporting in tree and air, more beautiful
Than the young lambs, that from the valley-side
Send a soft bleating like an infant's voice,
Half happy, half afraid! O blessed things!
At sight of this your perfect innocence,
The sterner thoughts of manhood melt away
Into a mood as mild as woman's dreams.
The strife of working intellect, the stir
Of hopes ambitious; the disturbing sound
Of fame, and all that worshipp'd pageantry
That ardent spirits burn, for in their pride,
Fly like disparting clouds, and leave the soul
Pure and serene as the blue depths of heaven.
Now, is the time in some meek solitude
To hold communion with those innocent thoughts
That bless'd our earlier days;—to list the voice
Of Conscience murmuring from her inmost shrine,
And learn if still she sing the quiet tune
[Pg 251] That fill'd the ear of youth. If then we feel,
That 'mid the powers, the passions, and desires
Of riper age, we still have kept our hearts
Free from pollution, and 'mid tempting scenes
Walk'd on with pure and unreproved steps,
Fearless of guilt, as if we knew it not;
Ah me! with what a new sublimity
Will the green hills lift up their sunny heads,
Ourselves as stately: Smiling will we gaze
On the clouds whose happy home is in the heavens;
Nor envy the clear streamlet that pursues
His course 'mid flowers and music to the sea.
But dread the beauty of a vernal day,
Thou trembler before memory! To the saint
What sight so lovely as the angel form
That smiles upon his sleep! The sinner veils
His face ashamed,—unable to endure
The upbraiding silence of the seraph's eyes!—
[Pg 252]
Yet awful must it be, even to the best
And wisest man, when he beholds the sun
Prepared once more to run his annual round
Of glory and of love, and thinks that God
To him, though sojourning in earthly shades,
Hath also given an orbit, whence his light
May glad the nations, or at least diffuse
Peace and contentment over those he loves!
His soul expanded by the breath of Spring,
With holy confidence the thoughtful man
Renews his vows to virtue,—vows that bind
To purest motives and most useful deeds.
Thus solemnly doth pass the vernal day,
In abstinence severe from worldly thoughts;
Lofty disdainings of all trivial joys
Or sorrows; meditations long and deep
On objects fit for the immortal love
Of souls immortal; weeping penitence
For duties (plain though highest duties be)
Despised or violated; humblest vows,
[Pg 253] Though humble strong as death, henceforth to walk
Elate in innocence; and, holier still,
Warm gushings of his spirit unto God
For all his past existence, whether bright,
As the spring landscape sleeping in the sun,
Or dim and desolate like a wintry sea
Stormy and boding storms! Oh! such will be
Frequent and long his musings, till he feels
As all the stir subsides, like busy day
Soft-melting into eve's tranquillity,
How blest is peace when born within the soul.
And therefore do I sing these pensive hymns,
O Spring! to thee, though thou by some art call'd
Parent of mirth and rapture, worshipp'd best
With festive dances and a choral song.
No melancholy man am I, sweet Spring!
Who, filling all things with his own poor griefs,
Sees nought but sadness in the character
Of universal Nature, and who weaves
Most doleful ditties in the midst of joy.
[Pg 254] Yet knowing something, dimly though it be,
And therefore still more awful, of that strange
And most tumultuous thing, the heart of man,
It chanceth oft, that mix'd with Nature's smiles
My soul beholds a solemn quietness
That almost looks like grief, as if on earth
There were no perfect joy, and happiness
Still trembled on the brink of misery!
Yea! mournful thoughts like these even now arise,
While Spring, like Nature's smiling infancy,
Sports round me, and all images of peace
Seem native to this earth, nor other home
Desire or know. Yet doth a mystic chain
Link in our hearts foreboding fears of death
With every loveliest thing that seems to us
Most deeply fraught with life. Is there a child
More beauteous than its playmates, even more pure
Than they? while gazing on its face, we think
That one so fair most surely soon will die!
Such are the fears now beating at my heart.
[Pg 255] Ere long, sweet Spring! amid forgotten things
Thou and thy smiles must sleep: thy little lambs
Dead, or their nature changed; thy hymning birds
Mute;—faded every flower so beautiful;—
And all fair symptoms of incipient life
To fulness swollen, or sunk into decay!
Such are the melancholy dreams that filled
In the elder time the songs of tenderest bards,
Whene'er they named the Spring. Thence, doubts and fears
Of what might be the final doom of man;
Till all things spoke to their perplexed souls
The language of despair; and, mournful sight!
Even hope lay prostrate upon beauty's grave!—
Vain fears of death! breath'd forth in deathless lays!
O foolish bards, immortal in your works,
Yet trustless of your immortality!
Not now are they whom Nature calls her bards
Thus daunted by the image of decay.
They have their tears, and oft they shed them too,
[Pg 256] By reason unreproach'd; but on the pale
Cold cheek of death, they see a spirit smile,
Bright and still brightening, even like thee, O Spring!
Stealing in beauty through the winter-snow!—
Season, beloved of Heaven! my hymn is closed!
And thou, sweet Lake! on whose retired banks
I have so long reposed, yet in the depth
Of meditation scarcely seen thy waves,
Farewell!—the voice of worship and of praise
Dies on my lips, yet shall my heart preserve
Inviolate the spirit whence it sprung!
Even as a harp, when some wild plaintive strain
Goes with the hand that touch'd it, still retains
The soul of music sleeping in its strings.

[Pg 257]


It was not when the Sun through the glittering sky,
In summer's joyful majesty,
Look'd from his cloudless height;—
It was not when the Sun was sinking down,
And tinging the ruin's mossy brown
With gleams of ruddy light;—
Nor yet when the Moon, like a pilgrim fair,
'Mid star and planet journeyed slow,
And, mellowing the stillness of the air,
Smiled on the world below;—
That, Melrose! 'mid thy mouldering pride,
All breathless and alone,
[Pg 258] I grasped the dreams to day denied,
High dreams of ages gone!—
Had unshrieved guilt for one moment been there,
His heart had turn'd to stone!
For oft, though felt no moving gale,
Like restless ghost in glimmering shroud,
Through lofty Oriel opening pale
Was seen the hurrying cloud;
And, at doubtful distance, each broken wall
Frown'd black as bier's mysterious pall
From mountain-cave beheld by ghastly seer;
It seem'd as if sound had ceased to be;
Nor dust from arch, nor leaf from tree,
Relieved the noiseless ear.
The owl had sailed from her silent tower,
Tweed hush'd his weary wave,
The time was midnight's moonless hour,
My seat a dreaded Douglas' grave!
My being was sublimed by joy,
My heart was big, yet I could not weep;
[Pg 259] I felt that God would ne'er destroy
The mighty in their tranced sleep.
Within the pile no common dead
Lay blended with their kindred mould;
Theirs were the hearts that pray'd, or bled,
In cloister dim, on death-plain red,
The pious and the bold.
There slept the saint whose holy strains
Brought seraphs round the dying bed;
And there the warrior, who to chains
Ne'er stoop'd his crested head.
I felt my spirit sink or swell
With patriot rage or lowly fear,
As battle-trump, or convent-bell,
Rung in my tranced ear.
But dreams prevail'd of loftier mood,
When stern beneath the chancel high
My country's spectre-monarch stood,
All sheath'd in glittering panoply;
Then I thought with pride what noble blood
Had flow'd for the hills of liberty.
[Pg 260]
High the resolves that fill the brain
With transports trembling upon pain,
When the veil of time is rent in twain,
That hides the glory past!
The scene may fade that gave them birth,
But they perish not with the perishing earth,
For ever shall they last.
And higher, I ween, is that mystic might
That comes to the soul from the silent night,
When she walks, like a disembodied spirit,
Through realms her sister shades inherit,
And soft as the breath of those blessed flowers
That smile in Heaven's unfading bowers,
With love and awe, a voice she hears
Murmuring assurance of immortal years.
In hours of loneliness and woe
Which even the best and wisest know,
How leaps the lighten'd heart to seize
On the bliss that comes with dreams like these!
As fair before the mental eye
The pomp and beauty of the dream return,
[Pg 261] Dejected virtue calms her sigh,
And leans resign'd on memory's urn.
She feels how weak is mortal pain,
When each thought that starts to life again,
Tells that she hath not lived in vain.
For Solitude, by Wisdom woo'd,
Is ever mistress of delight,
And even in gloom or tumult view'd,
She sanctifies their living blood
Who learn her lore aright.
The dreams her awful face imparts,
Unhallowed mirth destroy;
Her griefs bestow on noble hearts
A nobler power of joy.
While hope and faith the soul thus fill,
We smile at chance distress,
And drink the cup of human ill
In stately happiness.
Thus even where death his empire keeps
Life holds the pageant vain,
[Pg 262] And where the lofty spirit sleeps,
There lofty visions reign.
Yea, often to night-wandering man
A pow'r fate's dim decrees to scan,
In lonely trance by bliss is given;
And midnight's starless silence rolls
A giant vigour through our souls,
That stamps us sons of Heaven.
Then, Melrose! Tomb of heroes old!
Blest be the hour I dwelt with thee;
The visions that can ne'er be told
That only poets in their joy can see,
The glory born above the sky
The deep-felt weight of sanctity!
Thy massy towers I view no more
Through brooding darkness rising hoar,
Like a broad line of light dim seen
Some sable mountain-cleft between!
Since that dread hour, hath human thought
A thousand gay creations brought
[Pg 263] Before my earthly eye;
I to the world have lent an ear,
Delighted all the while to hear
The voice of poor mortality.
Yet, not the less doth there abide
Deep in my soul a holy pride,
That knows by whom it was bestowed,
Lofty to man, but low to God;
Such pride as hymning angels cherish,
Blest in the blaze where man would perish.

[Pg 264]


My soul, behold the beauty of his home!
The very heavens look down with gracious smiles
Upon its holy rest. How bright a green
Sleeps round the dwelling of two loving hearts!
The air lies hush'd above the peaceful roof,
As if it felt the sanctity within.
On glides the river with a tranquil flow,
Delighting in his music, as he bathes
The happy bounds where happiness doth stray.
—I see them sitting by each other's side,
In the heart's silent secrecy! I hear
The breath of meditation from their souls.
[Pg 265] They speak: a soft, subduing tenderness,
Born of devotion, innocence and bliss,
Steals from their bosoms in a silver voice
That makes a pious hymning melody.
They look: a gleam of light as sadly sweet
As if they listen'd to some mournful tale,
Swims in their eyes that almost melt to tears.
They smile: oh! never did such languor steal
From lustre of two early-risen stars
When all the silent heavens appear their own.
And lo! an infant shews his gladsome face!
His beautiful and shining golden head
Lies on his mother's bosom, like a rose
Fallen on a lilied bank. A dewy light
Meets the soft smiling of his upward eye,
As in the playful restlessness of joy
He clings around her neck, and fondly strives
To reach the kisses mantling from her soul.
—And now, the baby in his cradle sleeps,
Hush'd by his mother's prayer! How soft her tread
Falls, like a snow-flake, on the noiseless floor!
[Pg 266] She almost fears to breathe too fond a sigh
Towards the father of her darling child.
—Sleep broods o'er all the house: the mother's heart,
Beating within her husband's folding arms,
Dreams of sweet looks of waking happiness,
Unceasing greetings of congenial thought,
Deep blendings of existence; till awoke
By the long stirring of delightful dreams,
She with a silent prayer of thankfulness
Leans gently-breathing on the breast of love!
Can guilt or misery ever enter here?
Ah! no; the spirit of domestic peace,
Though calm and gentle as the brooding dove,
And ever murmuring forth a quiet song,
Guards, powerful as the sword of cherubim,
The hallow'd porch. She hath a heavenly smile
That sinks into the sullen soul of vice,
And wins him o'er to virtue, so transforms
The purpose of his heart, that sudden shame
Smothers the curses struggling into birth,
[Pg 267] And makes him turn an eye of kindliness
Even on the blessings that he came to blast.
It is a lofty thought, O guardian love!
To think that he who lives beneath thine eye
Can never be polluted. Pestilence,
The dire, contagious pestilence of sin
May walk abroad, and lay its victims low;
But they, whose upright spirits worship thee,
Breathe not the tainted air—they live apart
Unharm'd, as Israel's heaven-protected sons,
When the exterminating angel pass'd
With steps of blood o'er Egypt's groaning land.
Then ever keep unbroken and unstained
The sabbath-sanctity of home; the shrine
Where spirit in its rapture worships God.
By Heaven beloved for ever are the walls
That duly every morn and evening hear
Our whisper'd hymns! Eternity broods there.
Yea! like a father smiling on a band
Of happy children, the Almighty One
[Pg 268] Dwells in the midst of us, appearing oft
In visible glory, while our filial souls,
Made pure beneath the watching of his eye,
Walk stately in the conscious praise of Heaven!

[Pg 269]


My Mary! wipe those tears away
That dim thy lovely eyes,
Nor, on that wild, romantic lay,
That leads through fairy worlds astray,
Waste all thy human sighs.
Come hither on the lightsome wing
Of innocence, and with thee bring
Thy smiles that warmly fall
Into the heart with sunny glow;
When once he tunes his harp to sing,
Thou wilt not be in haste to go.—
—The Minstrel's in the Hall!
[Pg 270] Quickly she started from her seat,
With blushing, virgin-grace;
Her long hair floating like a stream,
While through it shone with tender gleam
Her calm and pensive face!
Soon as she heard the Minstrel's name,
Across her silent cheek there came
A blythe yet pitying ray;
For often had she heard me tell
Of the French Exile, blind and lame,
Who sung and touched the harp so well—
—Old Louis Fontenaye.
Silent he sat his harp beside,
Upon an antique chair;
And something of his country's pride
Did, exiled though he was, reside
Throughout his foreign air!
A snow-white dog of Gascon breed,
With ribbands deck'd, was there to lead
His dark steps,—and secure
[Pg 271] The paltry alms that traveller threw,
Alms that in truth he much did need,
For every child that saw him, knew
That he was wretched poor.
His harp with figures quaint and rare
Was deck'd, and strange device;
There, you beheld the mermaid fair
In mirror braid her sea-green hair,
In wild and sportive guise.
There, on the imitated swell
The Tritons blew the wreathed shell
Around some fairy isle;
—He framed it, when almost a child,
Long ere he left his native dell:
Who saw the antic carving wild
Could scarce forbear to smile.
With silver voice, the lady said,
She knew how well he sung!—
[Pg 272] —Starting, he raised his hoary head,
To hear from that kind-hearted maid
His own dear native tongue.
He seem'd as if restored to sight,
So suddenly his eyes grew bright
When that music touch'd his ear;
The lilied fields of France, I ween,
Before him swam in softened light,
And the sweet waters of the Seine
They all are murmuring near.
Even now, his voice was humbly sad,
Subdued by woe and want;
So crush'd his heart, no wish he had
To feel for one short moment glad,
That hopeless Emigrant!
—The aged man is young again,
And cheerily chaunts a playful strain
While his face with rapture shines;—
How rapidly his fingers glance
O'er the glad strings! his giddy brain
[Pg 273] Drinks in the chorus and the dance,
Beneath his clustering vines.
We saw it was a darling tune
With his old heart,—a chear
That made all pains forgotten soon;—
Gay look'd he as a bird in June
That loves itself to hear.
Nor undelightful were the lays
That warm and flowery sung the praise
Of France's lovely queen,
When with the ladies of her court,
Like Flora and her train of fays,
She came at summer-eve to sport
Along the banks of Seine.
But fades the sportive roundelay;
Both harp and voice are still;
The dear delusion will not stay,
The murmuring Seine flows far away,
Sink cot and vine-clad hill!
[Pg 274] Though his cheated soul is wounded sore,
His aged visage dimm'd once more,
The smile will not depart;
But struggles 'mid the wrinkles there,
For he clings unto the parting shore,
And the morn of life so melting-fair,
Still lingers in his heart.
Ah me! what touching silentness
Slept o'er the face divine
Of my dear maid! methought each tress
Hung 'mid the light of tenderness,
Like clouds in soft moonshine.
With artful innocence she tried
In languid smiles from me to hide
Her tears that fell like rain;—
But when she felt I must perceive
The drops of heavenly pity glide,
She own'd she could not chuse but grieve,
So gladsome was the strain!
[Pg 275]
If when his griefs once more began,
His eyes had been restored,
And met her face so still and wan,
How had that aged, exiled man
The pitying saint adored!
Yet though the angel light that play'd
Around her face, pierced not the shade
That veil'd his eyeballs dim,—
Yet to his ear her murmurs stole,
And, with a faultering voice, he said
That he felt them sink into his soul
Like the blessed Virgin's hymn!
He pray'd that Heaven its flowers would strew
On both our heads through life,
With such a tone, as told he knew
She was a virgin fond and true,
Mine own betrothed wife!
And something too he strove to say
In praise of our green isle,—how they
Her generous children, though at war
[Pg 276] With France, and both on field and wave
Encountering oft in fierce array,
Would not from home or quiet grave
Her exiled sons debar!
Long was the aged Harper gone
Ere Mary well could speak,—
So I cheer'd her soul with loving tone,
And, happy that she was my own,
I kiss'd her dewy cheek.
And, when once more I saw the ray
Of mild-returning pleasure play
Within her glistening eyes,
I bade the gentle maiden go
And read again that Fairy lay,
Since she could weep, 'mid fancied woe,
O'er real miseries.

[Pg 277]


With laughter swimming in thine eye,
That told youth's heartfelt revelry;
And motion changeful as the wing
Of swallow waken'd by the spring;
With accents blythe as voice of May
Chaunting glad Nature's roundelay;
Circled by joy like planet bright
That smiles 'mid wreathes of dewy light,—
Thy image such, in former time,
When thou, just entering on thy prime,
And woman's sense in thee combined
Gently with childhood's simplest mind,
First taught'st my sighing soul to move
With hope towards the heaven of love!
[Pg 278] Now years have given my Mary's face
A thoughtful and a quiet grace:—
Though happy still,—yet chance distress
Hath left a pensive loveliness;
Fancy has tamed her fairy gleams,
And thy heart broods o'er home-born dreams!
Thy smiles, slow-kindling now and mild,
Shower blessings on a darling child;
Thy motion slow, and soft thy tread,
As if round thy husht infant's bed!—
And when thou speak'st, thy melting tone,
That tells thy heart is all my own,
Sounds sweeter, from the lapse of years,
With the wife's love, the mother's fears!
By thy glad youth, and tranquil prime
Assured, I smile at hoary time!
For thou art doom'd in age to know
The calm that wisdom steals from woe;
The holy pride of high intent,
The glory of a life well-spent.
[Pg 279] When, earth's affections nearly o'er,
With Peace behind, and Faith before,
Thou render'st up again to God,
Untarnish'd by its frail abode,
Thy lustrous soul,—then harp and hymn,
From bands of sister seraphim,
Asleep will lay thee, till thine eye
Open in Immortality.

[Pg 280]


Art thou a thing of mortal birth,
Whose happy home is on our earth?
Does human blood with life embue
Those wandering veins of heavenly blue,
That stray along thy forehead fair,
Lost 'mid a gleam of golden hair?
Oh! can that light and airy breath
Steal from a being doom'd to death;
Those features to the grave be sent
In sleep thus mutely eloquent;
Or, art thou, what thy form would seem,
The phantom of a blessed dream?
[Pg 281] A human shape I feel thou art,
I feel it, at my beating heart,
Those tremors both of soul and sense
Awoke by infant innocence!
Though dear the forms by fancy wove,
We love them with a transient love;
Thoughts from the living world intrude
Even on her deepest solitude:
But, lovely child! thy magic stole
At once into my inmost soul,
With feelings as thy beauty fair,
And left no other vision there.
To me thy parents are unknown;
Glad would they be their child to own!
And well they must have loved before,
If since thy birth they loved not more.
Thou art a branch of noble stem,
And, seeing thee, I figure them.
What many a childless one would give,
If thou in their still home wouldst live!
[Pg 282] Though in thy face no family-line
Might sweetly say, "This babe is mine!"
In time thou would'st become the same
As their own child,—all but the name!
How happy must thy parents be
Who daily live in sight of thee!
Whose hearts no greater pleasure seek
Than see thee smile, and hear thee speak,
And feel all natural griefs beguiled
By thee, their fond, their duteous child.
What joy must in their souls have stirr'd
When thy first broken words were heard,
Words, that, inspired by Heaven, express'd
The transports dancing in thy breast!
As for thy smile!—thy lip, cheek, brow,
Even while I gaze, are kindling now.
I called thee duteous: am I wrong?
No! truth, I feel, is in my song:
[Pg 283] Duteous thy heart's still beatings move
To God, to Nature, and to Love!
To God!—for thou a harmless child
Hast kept his temple undefiled:
To Nature!—for thy tears and sighs
Obey alone her mysteries:
To Love!—for fiends of hate might see
Thou dwell'st in love, and love in thee!
What wonder then, though in thy dreams
Thy face with mystic meaning beams!
Oh! that my spirit's eye could see
Whence burst those gleams of extacy!
That light of dreaming soul appears
To play from thoughts above thy years.
Thou smil'st as if thy soul were soaring
To Heaven, and Heaven's God adoring!
And who can tell what visions high
May bless an infant's sleeping eye?
[Pg 284] What brighter throne can brightness find
To reign on than an infant's mind,
Ere sin destroy, or error dim,
The glory of the Seraphim?
But now thy changing smiles express
Intelligible happiness.
I feel my soul thy soul partake.
What grief! if thou should'st now awake!
With infants happy as thyself
I see thee bound, a playful elf:
I see thou art a darling child
Among thy playmates, bold and wild.
They love thee well; thou art the queen
Of all their sports, in bower or green;
And if thou livest to woman's height,
In thee will friendship, love delight.
And live thou surely must; thy life
Is far too spiritual for the strife
[Pg 285] Of mortal pain, nor could disease
Find heart to prey on smiles like these.
Oh! thou wilt be an angel bright!
To those thou lovest, a saving light!
The staff of age, the help sublime
Of erring youth, and stubborn prime;
And when thou goest to Heaven again,
Thy vanishing be like the strain
Of airy harp, so soft the tone
The ear scarce knows when it is gone!
Thrice blessed he! whose stars design
His spirit pure to lean on thine;
And watchful share, for days and years,
Thy sorrows, joys, sighs, smiles, and tears!
For good and guiltless as thou art,
Some transient griefs will touch thy heart,
Griefs that along thy alter'd face
Will breathe a more subduing grace,
Than ev'n those looks of joy that lie
On the soft cheek of infancy.
[Pg 286] Though looks, God knows, are cradled there
That guilt might cleanse, or sooth despair.
Oh! vision fair! that I could be
Again, as young, as pure as thee!
Vain wish! the rainbow's radiant form
May view, but cannot brave the storm;
Years can bedim the gorgeous dies
That paint the bird of paradise,
And years, so fate hath order'd, roll
Clouds o'er the summer of the soul.
Yet, sometimes, sudden sights of grace,
Such as the gladness of thy face,
O sinless babe! by God are given
To charm the wanderer back to Heaven.
No common impulse hath me led
To this green spot, thy quiet bed,
Where, by mere gladness overcome,
In sleep thou dreamest of thy home.
[Pg 287] When to the lake I would have gone,
A wondrous beauty drew me on,
Such beauty as the spirit sees
In glittering fields, and moveless trees,
After a warm and silent shower,
Ere falls on earth the twilight hour.
What led me hither, all can say,
Who, knowing God, his will obey.
Thy slumbers now cannot be long:
Thy little dreams become too strong
For sleep,—too like realities:
Soon shall I see those hidden eyes!
Thou wakest, and, starting from the ground,
In dear amazement look'st around;
Like one who, little given to roam,
Wonders to find herself from home!
But, when a stranger meets thy view,
Glistens thine eye with wilder hue.
A moment's thought who I may be,
Blends with thy smiles of courtesy.
[Pg 288] Fair was that face as break of dawn,
When o'er its beauty sleep was drawn
Like a thin veil that half-conceal'd
The light of soul, and half-reveal'd.
While thy hush'd heart with visions wrought,
Each trembling eye-lash moved with thought,
And things we dream, but ne'er can speak,
Like clouds came floating o'er thy cheek,
Such summer-clouds as travel light,
When the soul's heaven lies calm and bright;
Till thou awok'st,—then to thine eye
Thy whole heart leapt in extacy!
And lovely is that heart of thine,
Or sure these eyes could never shine
With such a wild, yet bashful glee,
Gay, half-o'ercome timidity!
Nature has breath'd into thy face
A spirit of unconscious grace;
A spirit that lies never still,
And makes thee joyous 'gainst thy will.
[Pg 289] As, sometimes o'er a sleeping lake
Soft airs a gentle ripling make,
Till, ere we know, the strangers fly,
And water blends again with sky.
Oh! happy sprite! didst thou but know
What pleasures through my being flow
From thy soft eyes, a holier feeling
From their blue light could ne'er be stealing,
But thou would'st be more loth to part,
And give me more of that glad heart!
Oh! gone thou art! and bearest hence
The glory of thy innocence.
But with deep joy I breathe the air
That kiss'd thy cheek, and fann'd thy hair,
And feel though fate our lives must sever,
Yet shall thy image live for ever!

[Pg 290]


One small spot
Where my tired mind may rest and call it home.
There is a magic in that little word;
It is a mystic circle that surrounds
Comforts and virtues never known beyond
The hallowed limit.
Southey's Hymn to the Penates.
Here have I found at last a home of peace
To hide me from the world; far from its noise,
To feed that spirit, which, though sprung from earth
And link'd to human beings by the bond
Of earthly love, hath yet a loftier aim
Than perishable joy, and through the calm
That sleeps amid the mountain-solitude,
Can hear the billows of eternity,
And hear delighted.
[Pg 291]
Many a mystic gleam,
Lovely though faint, of imaged happiness
Fell on my youthful heart, as oft her light
Smiles on a wandering cloud, ere the fair Moon
Hath risen in the sky. And oh! Ye dreams
That to such spiritual happiness could shape
The lonely reveries of my boyish days,
Are ye at last fulfill'd? Ye fairy scenes,
That to the doubting gaze of prophecy
Rose lovely, with your fields of sunny green,
Your sparkling rivulets and hanging groves
Of more than rainbow lustre, where the swing
Of woods primeval darken'd the still depth
Of lakes bold-sweeping round their guardian hills,
Even like the arms of Ocean, where the roar
Sullen and far from mountain cataract
Was heard amid the silence, like a thought
Of solemn mood that tames the dancing soul
When swarming with delight;—Ye fairy scenes!
Fancied no more, but bursting on my heart
[Pg 292] In living beauty, with adoring song
I bid you hail! and with as holy love
As ever beautified the eye of saint
Hymning his midnight orisons, to you
I consecrate my life,—till the dim stain
Left by those worldly and unhallow'd thoughts
That taint the purest soul, by bliss destroyed,
My spirit travel like a summer sun,
Itself all glory, and its path all joy.
Nor will the musing penance of the soul,
Perform'd by moonlight, or the setting sun,
To hymn of swinging oak, or the wild flow
Of mountain-torrent, ever lead her on
To virtue, but through peace. For Nature speaks
A parent's language, and, in tones as mild
As e'er hush'd infant on its mother's breast,
Wins us to learn her lore. Yea! even to guilt,
Though in her image something terrible
Weigh down his being with a load of awe,
[Pg 293] Love mingles with her wrath, like tender light
Stream'd o'er a dying storm. And thus where'er
Man feels as man, the earth is beautiful.
His blessings sanctify even senseless things,
And the wide world in cheerful loveliness
Returns to him its joy. The summer air,
Whose glittering stillness sleeps within his soul,
Stirs with its own delight: The verdant earth,
Like beauty waking from a happy dream,
Lies smiling: Each fair cloud to him appears
A pilgrim travelling to the shrine of peace;
And the wild wave, that wantons on the sea,
A gay though homeless stranger. Ever blest
The man who thus beholds the golden chain
Linking his soul to outward Nature fair,
Full of the living God!
And where, ye haunts
Of grandeur and of beauty! shall the heart,
That yearns for high communion with its God,
Abide, if e'er its dreams have been of you?
[Pg 294] The loveliest sounds, forms, hues, of all the earth
Linger delighted here: Here guilt might come,
With sullen soul abhorring Nature's joy,
And in a moment be restored to Heaven.
Here sorrow, with a dimness o'er his face,
Might be beguiled to smiles,—almost forget
His sufferings, and, in Nature's living book,
Read characters so lovely, that his heart
Would, as it bless'd them, feel a rising swell
Almost like joy!—O earthly paradise!
Of many a secret anguish hast thou healed
Him, who now greets thee with a joyful strain.
And oh! if in those elevated hopes
That lean on virtue,—in those high resolves
That bring the future close upon the soul,
And nobly dare its dangers;—if in joy
Whose vital spring is more than innocence,
Yea! Faith and Adoration!—if the soul
Of man may trust to these,—and they are strong,
Strong as the prayer of dying penitent,—
[Pg 295] My being shall be bliss. For witness, Thou!
Oh Mighty One! whose saving love has stolen
On the deep peace of moon-beams to my heart,—
Thou! who with looks of mercy oft hast cheer'd
The starry silence, when, at noon of night,
On some wild mountain thou hast not declined
The homage of thy lonely worshipper,—
Bear witness Thou! that, both in joy and grief,
The love of nature long hath been with me
The love of virtue:—that the solitude
Of the remotest hills to me hath been
Thy temple:—that the fountain's happy voice
Hath sung thy goodness, and thy power has stunn'd
My spirit in the roaring cataract!
Such solitude to me! Yet are there hearts,—
Worthy of good men's love, nor unadorn'd
With sense of moral beauty,—to the joy
That dwells within the Almighty's outward shrine,
Senseless and cold. Aye, there are men who see
[Pg 296] The broad sun sinking in a blaze of light,
Nor feel their disembodied spirits hail
With adoration the departing God;
Who on the night-sky, when a cloudless moon
Glides in still beauty through unnumber'd stars,
Can turn the eye unmoved, as if a wall
Of darkness screen'd the glory from their souls.
With humble pride I bless the Holy One
For sights to these denied. And oh! how oft
In seasons of depression,—when the lamp
Of life burn'd dim, and all unpleasant thoughts
Subdued the proud aspirings of the soul,—
When doubts and fears with-held the timid eye
From scanning scenes to come, and a deep sense
Of human frailty turn'd the past to pain,
How oft have I remember'd that a world
Of glory lay around me, that a source
Of lofty solace lay in every star,
And that no being need behold the sun,
And grieve, that knew Who hung him in the sky.
[Pg 297] Thus unperceived I woke from heavy grief
To airy joy: and seeing that the mind
Of man, though still the image of his God,
Lean'd by his will on various happiness,
I felt that all was good; that faculties,
Though low, might constitute, if rightly used,
True wisdom; and when man hath here attain'd
The purpose of his being, he will sit
Near Mercy's throne, whether his course hath been
Prone on the earth's dim sphere, or, as with wing
Of viewless eagle, round the central blaze.
Then ever shall the day that led me here
Be held in blest remembrance. I shall see,
Even at my dying hour, the glorious sun
That made Winander one wide wave of gold,
When first in transport from the mountain-top
I hail'd the heavenly vision! Not a cloud,
Whose wreaths lay smiling in the lap of light,
Not one of all those sister-isles that sleep
[Pg 298] Together, like a happy family
Of beauty and of love, but will arise
To chear my parting spirit, and to tell
That Nature gently leads unto the grave
All who have read her heart, and kept their own
In kindred holiness.
But ere that hour
Of awful triumph, I do hope that years
Await me, when the unconscious power of joy
Creating wisdom, the bright dreams of soul
Will humanize the heart, and I shall be
More worthy to be loved by those whose love
Is highest praise:—that by the living light
That burns for ever in affection's breast,
I shall behold how fair and beautiful
A human form may be.—Oh, there are thoughts
That slumber in the soul, like sweetest sounds
Amid the harp's loose strings, till airs from Heaven
On earth, at dewy night-fall, visitant,
[Pg 299] Awake the sleeping melody! Such thoughts,
My gentle Mary, I have owed to thee.
And if thy voice e'er melt into my soul
With a dear home-toned whisper,—if thy face
E'er brighten in the unsteady gleams of light
From our own cottage-hearth;—O Mary! then
My overpowered spirit will recline
Upon thy inmost heart, till it become,
O sinless seraph! almost worthy thee.
Then will the earth,—that oft-times to the eye
Of solitary lover seems o'erhung
With too severe a shade, and faintly smiles
With ineffectual beauty on his heart,—
Be clothed with everlasting joy; like land
Of blooming faëry, or of boyhood's dreams
Ere life's first flush is o'er. Oft shall I turn
My vision from the glories of the scene
To read them in thine eyes; and hidden grace,
That slumbers in the crimson clouds of Even,
[Pg 300] Will reach my spirit through their varying light,
Though viewless in the sky. Wandering with thee,
A thousand beauties never seen before
Will glide with sweet surprise into my soul,
Even in those fields where each particular tree
Was look'd on as a friend,—where I had been
Frequent, for years, among the lonely glens.
Nor, 'mid the quiet of reflecting bliss,
Will the faint image of the distant world
Ne'er float before us:—Cities will arise
Among the clouds that circle round the sun,
Gorgeous with tower and temple. The night-voice
Of flood and mountain to our ear will seem
Like life's loud stir:—And, as the dream dissolves,
With burning spirit we will smile to see
Only the Moon rejoicing in the sky,
And the still grandeur of the eternal hills.
Yet, though the fulness of domestic joy
Bless our united beings, and the home
[Pg 301] Be ever happy where thy smiles are seen,
Though human voice might never touch our ear
From lip of friend or brother;—yet, oh! think
What pure benevolence will warm our hearts,
When with the undelaying steps of love
Through you o'ershadowing wood we dimly see
A coming friend, far distant then believed,
And all unlook'd-for. When the short distrust
Of unexpected joy no more constrains,
And the eye's welcome brings him to our arms,
With gladden'd spirit he will quickly own
That true love ne'er was selfish, and that man
Ne'er knew the whole affection of his heart
Till resting on another's. If from scenes
Of noisy life he come, and in his soul
The love of Nature, like a long-past dream,
If e'er it stir, yield but a dim delight,
Oh! we shall lead him where the genial power
Of beauty, working by the wavy green
Of hill-ascending wood, the misty gleam
Of lakes reposing in their peaceful vales,
[Pg 302] And, lovelier than the loveliness below,
The moonlight Heaven, shall to his blood restore
An undisturbed flow, such as he felt
Pervade his being, morning, noon, and night,
When youth's bright years pass'd happily away,
Among his native hills, and all he knew
Of crowded cities, was from passing tale
Of traveller, half-believed, and soon forgotten.
And fear not, Mary! that, when winter comes,
These solitary mountains will resign
The beauty that pervades their mighty frames,
Even like a living soul. The gleams of light
Hurrying in joyful tumult o'er the cliffs,
And giving to our musings many a burst
Of sudden grandeur, even as if the eye
Of God were wandering o'er the lovely wild,
Pleased with his own creation;—the still joy
Of cloudless skies; and the delighted voice
Of hymning fountains,—these will leave awhile
The altered earth:—But other attributes
[Pg 303] Of Nature's heart will rule, and in the storm
We shall behold the same prevailing Power
That slumbers in the calm, and sanctify,
With adoration, the delight of love.
I lift my eyes upon the radiant Moon,
That long unnoticed o'er my head has held
Her solitary walk, and as her light
Recals my wandering soul, I start to feel
That all has been a dream. Alone I stand
Amid the silence. Onward rolls the stream
Of time, while to my ear its waters sound
With a strange rushing music. O my soul!
Whate'er betide, for aye remember thou
These mystic warnings, for they are of Heaven.

[Pg 304]



Once more, dear Lake! along thy banks I rove,
And bless thee in my heart that flows with love.
Methinks, as life's awakening embers burn,
Nature rejoices in her son's return;
And, like a parent after absence long,
Sings from her heart of hearts a chearful song.
Oh! that fresh breeze through all my being stole,
And made sweet music in my gladden'd soul!
To me just rescued from the opening grave,
How bright the radiance of the dancing wave!
A gleam of joy, a soft endearing smile,
Plays 'mid the greenness of each sylvan isle,
[Pg 305] And, in the bounty of affection, showers
A loving welcome o'er these blissful bowers.
Quick glides the hymning streamlet, to partake
The deep enjoyment of the happy lake;
The pebbles, sparkling through the yellow brook,
Seem to my gaze to wear a livelier look;
And little wild-flowers, that in careless health
Lay round my path in unregarded wealth,
In laughing beauty court my eyes again,
Like friends unchanged by coldness or disdain.
Now life and joy are one:—to Earth, Air, Heaven,
An undisturbed jubilee is given;
While, happy as in dreams, I seem to fly,
Skimming the ground, or soaring through the sky,
And feel, with sudden life-pervading glee,
As if this rapture all were made for me.
And well the glory to my soul is known;
For mystic visions stamped it as my own.
While sickness lay, like ice, upon my breath,
With eye prophetic, through the shades of death
[Pg 306] That brooded o'er me like a dreary night,
This beauteous scene I saw in living light.
No friend was near me: and a heavy gloom
Lay in deep silence o'er the lonely room;
Even hope had fled; and as in parting strife
My soul stood trembling on the brink of life,—
When lo! sweet sounds, like those that now I hear,
Of stream and zephyr stole into my ear.
Far through my heart the mingled music ran,
Like tones of mercy to a dying man.
Rejoicing in the rosy morning's birth,
Like new-waked beauty lay the dewy earth;
The mighty sun I saw, as now I see,
And my soul shone with kindred majesty:
Calm smiled the Lake; and from that smile arose
Faith, hope, and trust, oblivion of my woes:
I felt that I should live; nor could despair
Bedim a scene so glorious, and so fair.
Now is the vision truth. Disease hath flown,
And in the midst of joy I stand alone.
[Pg 307] The eye of God is on me: the wide sky
Is sanctified with present Deity,
And, at his bidding, Nature's aspect mild
Pours healing influence on her wasted child.
My eye now brightens with the brightening scene,
Chear'd with the hues of kind restoring green;
As with a lulling sound the fountain flows,
My tingling ear is filled with still repose;
The summer silence, sleeping on the plain,
Sends settled quiet to my dizzy brain;
And the moist freshness of the glittering wood
Cools with a heart-felt dew my feverish blood.
O blessed Lake! thy sparkling waters roll
Health to my frame, and rapture to my soul.
Emblem of peace, of innocence, and love!
Sleeping in beauty given thee from above:
This earth delighting in thy gentle breast,
And the glad heavens attending on thy rest!
Can he e'er turn from virtue's quiet bowers,
All fragrant dropping with immortal flowers,
[Pg 308] Whose inward eye, as with a magic art,
Beholds thy glory imaged in his heart?
No! he shall live, from guilt and vice afar,
As in the silent Heavens some lonely star.
A light shall be around him to defend
The holy head of Nature's bosom friend.
And if the mists of error e'er should come
To that bright sphere where virtue holds her home,
She has a charm to scare the intruder thence;
Or, powerful in her spotless innocence,
With one calm look her spirit will transform
To a fair cloud the heralds of the storm.
Nor less, Winander! to thy power I owe
Rays of delight amid the gloom of woe.
Yes! oft, when self-tormenting fancy framed
Forms of dim fear that grief has never named;
When the whole world seem'd void of mental cheer,
Nor spring nor summer in the joyless year,
Oft has thy image of upbraiding love,
Seen on a sudden through some opening grove,
[Pg 309] Even like the tender unexpected smile
Of some dear friend I had forgot the while,
In silence said, "My son, why not partake
"The peace now brooding o'er thy darling lake?
"Oh! why in sullen discontent destroy
"The law of Nature, Universal Joy?"
Sweet Lake! I listen to thy guardian voice:
I look abroad; and, looking, I rejoice.
My home is here; ah! never shall we part,
Till life's last pulse hath left my wasted heart.
True that another land first gave me birth,
And other lakes beheld my infant mirth:
Far from these skies dear friendships have I known,
And still in memory lives their soften'd tone;
Yet though the image of my earlier years
'Mid Scotland's mountains dim my eyes with tears,
And the heart's day-dreams oft will lingering dwell
On that wild region which she loves so well,—
Think not, sweet Lake! before my years are told
My love for thee and thine can e'er grow cold:
[Pg 310] For here hath Hope fix'd her last earthly bound,
And where Hope rests in peace, is hallow'd ground.
And oh! if e'er that happy time shall come,
When she I love sits smiling in my home,
And, oft as chance may bid us meet or part,
Speaks the soft word that slides into the heart,
Then fair as now thou art, yea! passing fair,
Thy scarce-seen waters melting into air,
Far lovelier gleams will dance upon thy breast,
And thine isles bend their trees in deeper rest.
Then will my joy-enlighten'd soul descry
All that is beautiful on land or sky;
For, when the heart is calm with pure delight,
Revels the soul 'mid many a glorious sight.
The earth then kindles with a vernal grace,
Glad as the laugh upon an infant-face:
The sun himself is clothed with vaster light,
And showers of gentler sadness bathe the night.
[Pg 311]
Dreams of delight! while thus I fondly weave
Your fairy-folds, Oh! can ye e'er deceive?
Are ye in vain to cheated mortals given,
Lovely impostors in the garb of Heaven?
Fears, hopes, doubts, wishes, hush my pensive shell,
Fount of them all, dear Lake! farewell! farewell!

[Pg 312]



Nay! Stranger! smile not at this little dome,
Albeit quaint, and with no nice regard
To highest rules of grace and symmetry,
Plaything of art, it venture thus to stand
'Mid the great forms of Nature. Doth it seem
A vain intruder in the quiet heart
Of this majestic Lake, that like an arm
Of Ocean, or some Indian river vast,
In beauty floats amid its guardian hills?
Haply it may: yet in this humble tower,
The mimicry of loftier edifice,
There lives a silent spirit, that confers
[Pg 313] A lasting charter on its sportive wreath
Of battlements, amid the mountain-calm
To stand as proudly, as you giant rock
That with his shadow dims the dazzling lake!
Then blame it not: for know 'twas planted here,
In mingled mood of seriousness and mirth,
By one[4] who meant to Nature's sanctity
No cold unmeaning outrage. He was one
Who often in adventurous youth had sail'd
O'er the great waters, and he dearly loved
Their music wild; nor less the gallant souls
Whose home is on the Ocean:—so he framed
This jutting mole, that like a natural cape
Meets the soft-breaking waves, and on its point,
Bethinking him of some sea-structure huge,
Watch-tower or light-house, rear'd this mimic dome,
Seen up and down the lake, a monument
Sacred to images of former days.
[Pg 314]
See! in the playfulness of English zeal
Its low walls are emblazon'd! there thou read'st
Howe, Duncan, Vincent, and that mightier name
Whom death has made immortal.—Not misplaced
On temple rising from an inland sea
Such venerable names, though ne'er was heard
The sound of cannon o'er these tranquil shores,
Save when it peal'd to waken in her cave
The mountain echo: yet this chronicle,
Speaking of war amid the depths of peace,
Wastes not its meaning on the heedless air.
It hath its worshippers: it sends a voice,
A voice creating elevated thoughts,
Into the hearts of our bold peasantry
Following the plough along these fertile vales,
Or up among the misty solitude
Beside the wild sheep-fold. The fishermen,
Who on the clear wave ply their silent trade,
Oft passing lean upon their dripping oars,
And bless the heroes: Idling in the joy
[Pg 315] Of summer sunshine, as in light canoe
The stranger glides among these lovely isles,
This little temple to his startled soul
Oft sends a gorgeous vision, gallant crews
In fierce joy cheering as they onwards bear
To break the line of battle, meteor-like
Long ensigns brightening on the towery mast,
And sails in awful silence o'er the main
Lowering like thunder-clouds!—
Then, stranger! give
A blessing on this temple, and admire
The gaudy pendant round the painted staff
Wreathed in still splendour, or in wanton folds,
Even like a serpent bright and beautiful,
Streaming its burnished glory on the air.
And whether silence sleep upon the stones
Of this small edifice, or from within
Steal the glad voice of laughter and of song,
Pass on with alter'd thoughts, and gently own
[Pg 316] That Windermere, with all her radiant isles
Serenely floating on her azure breast,
Like stars in heaven, with kindest smiles may robe
This monument, to heroes dedicate,
Nor Nature feel her holy reign profaned
By work of art, though framed in humblest guise,
When a high spirit prompts the builder's soul.


[4] The late Sir John Legard, Bart.

[Pg 317]


Why sits so long beside you cottage-door
That aged man with tresses thin and hoar?
Fix'd are his eyes in one continued gaze,
Nor seem to feel the sun's meridian blaze;
Yet are the orbs with youth-like colours bright,
As o'er the Iris falls the trembling light.
Changeless his mien; not even one flitting trace
Of spirit wanders o'er his furrow'd face;
No feeling moves his venerable head:
—He sitteth there—an emblem of the dead!
The staff of age lies near him on the seat,
His faithful dog is slumbering at his feet,
[Pg 318] And you fair child, who steals an hour for play
While thus her father rests upon his way,
Her sport will leave, nor cast one look behind,
Soon as she hears his voice,—for he is blind!
List! as in tones through deep affection mild
He speaks by name to the delighted child!
Then, bending mute in dreams of painful bliss,
Breathes o'er her neck a father's tenderest kiss,
And with light hand upon her forehead fair
Smooths the stray ringlets of her silky hair!
A beauteous phantom rises through the night
For ever brooding o'er his darken'd sight,
So clearly imaged both in form and limb,
He scarce remembers that his eyes are dim,
But thinks he sees in truth the vernal wreath
His gentle infant wove, that it might breathe
A sweet restoring fragrance through his breast,
Chosen from the wild-flowers that he loves the best.
In that sweet trance he sees the sparkling glee
That sanctifies the face of infancy;
[Pg 319] The dimpled cheek where playful fondness lies,
And the blue softness of her smiling eyes;
The spirit's temple unprofaned by tears,
Where God's unclouded loveliness appears;
Those gleams of soul to every feature given,
When youth walks guiltless by the light of heaven!
And oh! what pleasures through his spirit burn,
When to the gate his homeward steps return;
When fancy's eye the curling smoke surveys,
And his own hearth is gaily heard to blaze!
How beams his sightless visage! when the press
Of Love's known hand, with cheerful tenderness,
Falls on his arm, and leads with guardian care
His helpless footsteps to the accustomed chair;
When that dear voice he joy'd from youth to hear
With kind enquiry comes unto his ear,
And tremulous tells how lovely still must be
Those fading beauties that he ne'er must see!
[Pg 320]
Though ne'er by him his cottage-home be seen,
Where to the wild brook slopes the daisied green;
Though the bee, slowly borne on laden wing,
To him be known but by its murmuring;
And the long leaf that trembles in the breeze
Be all that tells him of his native trees;
Yet dear to him each viewless object round
Familiar to his soul from touch or sound.
The stream, 'mid banks of osier winding near,
Lulls his calm spirit through the listening ear:
Deeply his soul enjoys the loving strife
When the warm summer air is fill'd with life;
And as his limbs in quiet dreams are laid,
Blest is the oak's contemporary shade.
Happy old Man! no vain regrets intrude
On the still hour of sightless solitude.
Though deepest shades o'er outward Nature roll,
Her cloudless beauty lives within thy soul
—Oft to you rising mount thy steps ascend,
As to the spot where dwelt a former friend;
[Pg 321] From whose green summit thou could'st once behold
Mountains far-off in dim confusion roll'd,
Lakes of blue mist, where gleam'd the whitening sail,
And many a woodland interposing vale.
Thou seest them still: and oh! how soft a shade
Does memory breathe o'er mountain, wood, and glade!
Each craggy pass, where oft in sportive scorn
Had sprung thy limbs in life's exulting morn;
Each misty cataract, and torrent-flood,
Where thou a silent angler oft hast stood;
Each shelter'd creek where through the roughest day
Floated thy bark without the anchor's stay;
Each nameless field by nameless thought endear'd;
Each little hedge-row that thy childhood rear'd,
That seems unalter'd yet in form and size,
Though fled the clouds of fifty summer skies,
Rise on thy soul,—on high devotion springs
Through Nature's beauty borne on Fancy's wings,
[Pg 322] And while the blissful vision floats around,
Of loveliest form, fair hue, and melting sound,
Thou carest not, though blindness may not roam,—
For Heaven's own glory smiles around thy home.

[Pg 323]


How sweet and solemn at the close of day,
After a long and lonely pilgrimage
Among the mountains, where our spirits held
With wildering fancy and her kindred powers
High converse, to descend as from the clouds
Into a quiet valley, fill'd with trees
By Nature planted, crowding round the brink
Of an oft-hidden rivulet, or hung
A beauteous shelter o'er the humble roof
Of many a moss-grown cottage!
In that hour
Of pensive happiness, the wandering man
Looks for some spot of still profounder rest,
[Pg 324] Where nought may break the solemn images
Sent by the setting sun into his soul.
Up to you simple edifice he walks,
That seems beneath its sable grove of pines
More silent than the home where living thing
Abides, yea, even than desolated tower
Wrapt in its ivy-shroud.
I know it well,—
The village-chapel: many a year ago,
That little dome to God was dedicate;
And ever since, hath undisturbed peace
Sat on it, moveless as the brooding dove
That must not leave her nest. A mossy wall,
Bathed though in ruins with a flush of flowers,
(A lovely emblem of that promised life
That springs from death) doth placidly enclose
The bed of rest, where with their fathers sleep
The children of the vale, and the calm stream
That murmurs onward with the self-same tone
For ever, by the mystic power of sound
[Pg 325] Binding the present with the past, pervades
The holy hush as if with God's own voice,
Filling the listening heart with piety.
Oh! ne'er shall I forget the hour, when first
Thy little chapel stole upon my heart,
Secluded Troutbeck! 'Twas the Sabbath-morn,
And up the rocky banks of thy wild stream
I wound my path, full oft I ween delay'd
By sounding waterfall, that 'mid the calm
Awoke such solemn thoughts as suited well
The day of peace; till all at once I came
Out of the shady glen, and with fresh joy
Walk'd on encircled by green pastoral hills.
Before me suddenly thy chapel rose
As if it were an image: even then
The noise of thunder roll'd along the sky,
And darkness veil'd the heights,—a summer-storm
Of short forewarning and of transient power.
Ah me! how beautifully silent thou
[Pg 326] Didst smile amid the tempest! O'er thy roof
Arch'd a fair rainbow, that to me appear'd
A holy shelter to thee in the storm,
And made thee shine amid the brooding gloom,
Bright as the morning star. Between the fits
Of the loud thunder, rose the voice of Psalms,
A most soul-moving sound. There unappall'd,
A choir of youths and maidens hymned their God,
With tones that robb'd the thunder of its dread,
Bidding it rave in vain.
Out came the sun
In glory from his clouded tabernacle;
And, waken'd by the splendour, up the lark
Rose with a loud and yet a louder song,
Chaunting to heaven the hymn of gratitude.
The service closed; and o'er the church-yard spread
The happy flock who in that peaceful fold
Had worshipp'd Jesus, carrying to their homes
The comfort of a faith that cannot die,
[Pg 327] That to the young supplies a guiding light,
Steadier than reason's, and far brighter too,
And to the aged sanctifies the grass
That grows upon the grave.
O happy lot,
Methought, to tend a little flock like this,
Loving them all, and by them all beloved!
So felt their shepherd on that Sabbath-morn
Returning their kind smiles;—a pious man,
Content in this lone vale to teach the truths
Our Saviour taught, nor wishing other praise
Than of his great task-master. Yet his youth
Not unadorn'd with science, nor the lore
Becoming in their prime accomplish'd men,
Told that among the worldly eminent
Might lie his shining way:—but, wiser far,
He to the shades of solitude retired,
The birth-place of his fathers, and there vow'd
His talents and his virtues, rarest both,
[Pg 328] To God who gave them, rendering by his voice
This beauteous chapel still more beautiful,
And the blameless dwellers in this quiet dale
Happier in life and death.

[Pg 329]


The lingering lustre of a vernal day
From the dim landscape slowly steals away;
One lovely hour!—and then the stars of Even
Will sparkling hail the apparent Queen of Heaven;
For the tired Sun, now softly sinking down,
To his fair daughter leaves his silent throne.
Almost could I believe with life embued,
And hush'd in dreams, this gentle solitude.
Look where I may, a tranquillizing soul
Breathes forth a life-like pleasure o'er the whole.
The shadows settling on the mountain's breast
Recline, as conscious of the hour of rest;
Stedfast as objects in a peaceful dream,
The sleepy trees are bending o'er the stream;
[Pg 330] The stream, half veil'd in snowy vapour, flows
With sound like silence, motion like repose.
My heart obeys the power of earth and sky,
And 'mid the quiet slumbers quietly!
A wreath of smoke, that feels no breath of air,
Melts amid you fair clouds, itself as fair,
And seems to link in beauteousness and love
That earthly cottage to the domes above.
There my heart rests,—as if by magic bound:
Blessings be on that plat of orchard-ground!
Wreathed round the dwelling like a fairy ring,
Its green leaves lost in richest blossoming.
Within that ring no creature seems alive;
The bees have ceased to hum around the hive;
On the tall ash the rooks have roosted long,
And the fond dove hath coo'd his latest song;
Now, shrouded close beneath the holly-bush,
Sits on her low-built nest the sleeping thrush.
[Pg 331]
All do not sleep: behold a spotless lamb
Looks bleating round, as if it sought its dam.
Its restless motion and its piteous moan
Tell that it fears all night to rest alone,
Though heaven's most gracious dew descends in peace
Softly as snow-flakes on its radiant fleece.
That mournful bleat hath touch'd the watchful ear
Of one to whom the little lamb is dear,
As innocent and lovely as itself!
See where with springs she comes, the smiling elf!
Well does the lamb her infant guardian know:
Joy brightening dances o'er her breast of snow,
And light as flying leaf, with sudden glide,
Fondly she presses to the maiden's side.
With kindness quieting its late alarms,
The sweet child folds it in her nursing arms;
And calling it by every gentle name
That happy innocence through love can frame,
With tenderest kisses lavish'd on its head,
Conducts it frisking to its shelter'd bed.
[Pg 332]
Kind hearted infant! be thy slumbers bland!
Dream that thy sportive lambkin licks thy hand,
Or, wearied out by races short and fleet,
Basks in the sunshine, resting on thy feet;
That waking from repose, unbroken, deep,
Thou scarce shalt know that thou hast been asleep!
With eye-lids trembling through thy golden hair,
I hear thee lisping low thy nightly prayer.
O sweetest voice! what beauty breathes therein!
Ne'er hath its music been impaired by sin.
In all its depths my soul shall carry hence
The air serene born of thy innocence.
To me most awful is thy hour of rest,
For little children sleep in Jesus' breast!

[Pg 333]


Thou guardian Naiad of this little Lake,
Whose banks in unprofaned Nature sleep,
(And that in waters lone and beautiful
Dwell spirits radiant as the homes they love,
Have poets still believed) O surely blest
Beyond all genii or of wood or wave,
Or sylphs that in the shooting sunbeams dwell,
Art thou! yea, happier even than summer-cloud
Beloved by air and sky, and floating slow
O'er the still bosom of upholding heaven.
Beauteous as blest, O Naiad, thou must be!
For, since thy birth, have all delightful things,
Of form and hue, of silence and of sound,
[Pg 334] Circled thy spirit, as the crowding stars
Shine round the placid Moon. Lov'st thou to sink
Into thy cell of sleep? The water parts
With dimpling smiles around thee, and below,
The unsunn'd verdure, soft as cygnet's down,
Meets thy descending feet without a sound.
Lov'st thou to sport upon the watery gleam?
Lucid as air around thy head it lies
Bathing thy sable locks in pearly light,
While, all around, the water lilies strive
To shower their blossoms o'er the virgin queen.
Or doth the shore allure thee?—well it may:
How soft these fields of pastoral beauty melt
In the clear water! neither sand nor stone
Bars herb or wild-flower from the dewy sound,
Like Spring's own voice now rippling round the Tarn.
There oft thou liest 'mid the echoing bleat
Of lambs, that race amid the sunny gleams;
Or bee's wide murmur as it fills the broom
That yellows round thy bed. O gentle glades,
Amid the tremulous verdure of the woods,
[Pg 335] In stedfast smiles of more essential light,
Lying, like azure streaks of placid sky
Amid the moving clouds, the Naiad loves
Your glimmering alleys, and your rustling bowers;
For there, in peace reclined, her half-closed eye
Through the long vista sees her darling Lake,
Even like herself, diffused in fair repose.
Not undelightful to the quiet breast
Such solitary dreams as now have fill'd
My busy fancy; dreams that rise in peace,
And thither lead, partaking in their flight
Of human interests and earthly joys.
Imagination fondly leans on truth,
And sober scenes of dim reality
To her seem lovely as the western sky,
To the rapt Persian worshipping the sun.
Methinks this little lake, to whom my heart
Assigned a guardian spirit, renders back
To me, in tenderest gleams of gratitude,
Profounder beauty to reward my hymn.
[Pg 336]
Long hast thou been a darling haunt of mine,
And still warm blessings gush'd into my heart,
Meeting or parting with thy smiles of peace.
But now, thy mild and gentle character,
More deeply felt than ever, seems to blend
Its essence pure with mine, like some sweet tune
Oft heard before with pleasure, but at last,
In one high moment of inspired bliss,
Borne through the spirit like an angel's song.
This is the solitude that reason loves!
Even he who yearns for human sympathies,
And hears a music in the breath of man,
Dearer than voice of mountain or of flood,
Might live a hermit here, and mark the sun
Rising or setting 'mid the beauteous calm,
Devoutly blending in his happy soul
Thoughts both of earth and heaven!—Yon mountain-side,
Rejoicing in its clustering cottages,
Appears to me a paradise preserved
[Pg 337] From guilt by Nature's hand, and every wreath
Of smoke, that from these hamlets mounts to heaven,
In its straight silence holy as a spire
Rear'd o'er the house of God.
Thy sanctity
Time yet hath reverenced; and I deeply feel
That innocence her shrine shall here preserve
For ever.—The wild vale that lies beyond,
Circled by mountains trod but by the feet
Of venturous shepherd, from all visitants,
Save the free tempests and the fowls of heaven,
Guards thee;—and wooded knolls fantastical
Seclude thy image from the gentler dale,
That by the Brathay's often-varied voice
Chear'd as it winds along, in beauty fades
'Mid the green banks of joyful Windermere!
O gentlest Lake! from all unhallow'd things
By grandeur guarded in thy loveliness,
Ne'er may thy poet with unwelcome feet
[Pg 338] Press thy soft moss embathed in flowery dies,
And shadow'd in thy stillness like the heavens.
May innocence for ever lead me here,
To form amid the silence high resolves
For future life; resolves, that, born in peace,
Shall live 'mid tumult, and though haply mild
As infants in their play, when brought to bear
On the world's business, shall assert their power
And majesty—and lead me boldly on
Like giants conquering in a noble cause.
This is a holy faith, and full of chear
To all who worship Nature, that the hours,
Past tranquilly with her, fade not away
For ever like the clouds, but in the soul
Possess a secret silent dwelling-place,
Where with a smiling visage memory sits,
And startles oft the virtuous, with a shew
Of unsuspected treasures. Yea, sweet Lake!
Oft hast thou borne into my grateful heart
Thy lovely presence, with a thousand dreams
[Pg 339] Dancing and brightening o'er thy sunny wave,
Though many a dreary mile of mist and snow
Between us interposed. And even now,
When you bright star hath risen to warn me home,
I bid thee farewell in the certain hope,
That thou, this night, wilt o'er my sleeping eyes
Shed chearing visions, and with freshest joy
Make me salute the dawn. Nor may the hymn
Now sung by me unto thy listening woods,
Be wholly vain,—but haply it may yield
A gentle pleasure to some gentle heart,
Who blessing, at its close, the unknown bard,
May, for his sake, upon thy quiet banks
Frame visions of his own, and other songs
More beautiful, to Nature and to Thee!

[Pg 340]


Three days before my Mary's death,
We walk'd by Grassmere shore;
"Sweet Lake!" she said with faultering breath,
"I ne'er shall see thee more!"
Then turning round her languid head,
She look'd me in the face;
And whisper'd, "When thy friend is dead,
Remember this lone place."
Vainly I struggled at a smile,
That did my fears betray;
It seem'd that on our darling isle
Foreboding darkness lay.
[Pg 341]
My Mary's words were words of truth;
None now behold the Maid;
Amid the tears of age and youth,
She in her grave was laid.
Long days, long nights, I ween, were past
Ere ceased her funeral knell;
But to the spot I went at last
Where she had breath'd "farewell!"
Methought, I saw the phantom stand
Beside the peaceful wave;
I felt the pressure of her hand—
—Then look'd towards her grave.
Fair, fair beneath the evening sky
The quiet churchyard lay:
The tall pine-grove most solemnly
Hung mute above her clay.
[Pg 342]
Dearly she loved their arching spread,
Their music wild and sweet,
And, as she wished on her death-bed,
Was buried at their feet.
Around her grave a beauteous fence
Of wild flowers shed their breath,
Smiling like infant innocence
Within the gloom of death.
Such flowers from bank of mountain-brook
At eve we wont to bring,
When every little mossy nook
Betray'd returning Spring.
Oft had I fixed the simple wreath
Upon her virgin breast;
But now such flowers as form'd it, breathe
Around her bed of rest.
[Pg 343]
Yet all within my silent soul,
As the hush'd air was calm;
The natural tears that slowly stole,
Assuaged my grief like balm.
The air that seem'd so thick and dull
For months unto my eye;
Ah me! how bright and beautiful
It floated on the sky!
A trance of high and solemn bliss
From purest ether came;
'Mid such a heavenly scene as this,
Death is an empty name!
The memory of the past return'd
Like music to my heart,—
It seem'd that causelessly I mourn'd,
When we were told to part.
[Pg 344]
"God's mercy, to myself I said,
To both our souls is given—
To me, sojourning on earth's shade,
To her—a Saint in Heaven!"

[Pg 345]



Thou lonely spring of waters undefiled!
Silently slumbering in thy mossy cell,
Yea, moveless as the hillock's verdant side
From whom thou hast thy birth, I bless thy gleam
Of clearest coldness, with as deep-felt love
As pilgrim kneeling at his far-sought shrine;
And as I bow to bathe my freshen'd heart
In thy restoring radiance, from my lips
A breathing prayer sheds o'er thy glassy sleep
A gentle tremor!
Nor must I forget
A benison for the departed soul
[Pg 346] Of him, who, many a year ago, first shaped
This little Font,—emprisoning the spring
Not wishing to be free, with smooth slate-stone,
Now in the beauteous colouring of age
Scarcely distinguished from the natural rock.
In blessed hour the solitary man
Laid the first stone,—and in his native vale
It serves him for a peaceful monument,
'Mid the hill-silence.
Renovated life
Now flows through all my veins:—old dreams revive;
And while an airy pleasure in my brain
Dances unbidden, I have time to gaze,
Even with a happy lover's kindest looks,
On Thee, delicious Fountain!
Thou dost shed
(Though sultry stillness fill the summer air
And parch the yellow hills,) all round thy cave,
A smile of beauty lovely as the Spring
[Pg 347] Breathes with his April showers. The narrow lane
On either hand ridged with low shelving rocks,
That from the road-side gently lead the eye
Up to thy bed,—Ah me! how rich a green,
Still brightening, wantons o'er its moisten'd grass!
With what a sweet sensation doth my gaze,
Now that my thirsty soul is gratified,
Live on the little cell! The water there,
Variously dappled by the wreathed sand
That sleeps below in many an antic shape,
Like the mild plumage of the pheasant-hen
Soothes the beholder's eye. The ceaseless drip
From the moss-fretted roof, by Nature's hand
Vaulted most beautiful, even like a pulse
Tells of the living principle within,—
A pulse but seldom heard amid the wild.
Yea, seldom heard: there is but one lone cot
Beyond this well:—it is inhabited
By an old shepherd during summer months,
[Pg 348] And haply he may drink of the pure spring,
To Langdale Chapel on the Sabbath-morn
Going to pray,—or as he home returns
At silent eve: or traveller such as I,
Following his fancies o'er these lonely hills,
Thankfully here may slake his burning thirst
Once in a season. Other visitants
It hath not; save perchance the mountain-crow,
When ice hath lock'd the rills, or wandering colt
Leaving its pasture for the shady lane.
Methinks, in such a solitary cave,
The fairy forms belated peasant sees,
Oft nightly dancing in a glittering ring,
On the smooth mountain sward, might here retire
To lead their noon-tide revels, or to bathe
Their tiny limbs in this transparent well.
A fitter spot there is not: flowers are here
Of loveliest colours and of sweetest smell,
Native to these our hills, and ever seen
A fairest family by the happy side
[Pg 349] Of their own parent spring;—and others too,
Of foreign birth, the cultured garden's joy,
Planted by that old shepherd in his mirth,
Here smile like strangers in a novel scene.
Lo! a tall rose-tree with its clustering bloom,
Brightening the mossy wall on which it leans
Its arching beauty, to my gladsome heart
Seems, with its smiles of lonely loveliness,
Like some fair virgin at the humble door
Of her dear mountain-cot, standing to greet
The way-bewildered traveller.
But my soul
Long pleased to linger by this silent cave,
Nursing its wild and playful fantasies,
Pants for a loftier pleasure,—and forsakes,
Though surely with no cold ingratitude,
The flowers and verdure round the sparkling well.
A voice calls on me from the mountain-depths,
And it must be obey'd: Yon ledge of rocks,
Like a wild staircase over Hardknot's brow,
[Pg 350] Is ready for my footsteps, and even now,
Wast-water blackens far beneath my feet,
She the storm-loving Lake.
Sweet Fount!—Farewell!

[Pg 351]



Poor wretch! that blasted leafless tree,
More frail and death-like even than thee,
Can yield no shelter to thy shivering form;
The sleet, the rain, the wind of Heaven,
Full in thy face are coldly driven,
As if thou wert alone the object of the storm.
Yet, chill'd with cold, and drench'd with rain,
Mild creature, thou dost not complain
By sound or look of these ungracious skies;
Calmly as if in friendly shed,
[Pg 352] There stand'st thou, with unmoving head,
And a grave, patient meekness in thy half-closed eyes.
Long could my thoughtful spirit gaze
On thee; nor am I loth to praise
Him who in moral mood this image drew;
And yet, methinks, that I could frame
An image different, yet the same,
More pleasing to the heart, and yet to Nature true.
Behold a lane retired and green,
Winding amid a forest-scene
With blooming furze in many a radiant heap;
There is a browsing ass espied
One colt is frisking by her side,
And one among her feet is safely stretch'd in sleep.
And lo! a little maiden stands,
With thistles in her tender hands,
Tempting with kindly words the colt to eat;
Or gently down before him lays,
[Pg 353] With words of solace and of praise,
Pluck'd from th' untrodden turf the herbage soft and sweet.
The summer sun is sinking down,
And the peasants from the market town
With chearful hearts are to their homes returning;
Groupes of gay children too are there,
Stirring with mirth the silent air,
O'er all their eager eyes the light of laughter burning.
The ass hath got his burthen still!
The merry elves the panniers fill;
Delighted there from side to side they swing.
The creature heeds nor shout nor call,
But jogs on careless of them all,
Whether in harmless sport they gaily strike or sing.
A gipsey-groupe! the secret wood
Stirs through its leafy solitude,
[Pg 354] As wheels the dance to many a jocund tune;
Th' unpannier'd ass slowly retires
From the brown tents, and sparkling fires,
And silently feeds on beneath the silent moon.
The Moon sits o'er the huge oak tree,
More pensive 'mid this scene of glee
That mocks the hour of beauty and of rest;
The soul of all her softest rays
On yonder placid creature plays,
As if she wish'd to cheer the hardships of the opprest.
But now the silver moonbeams fade,
And, peeping through a flowery glade,
Hush'd as a wild-bird's nest, a cottage lies:
An ass stands meek and patient there,
And by her side a spectre fair,
To drink the balmy cup once more before she dies.
With tenderest care the pitying dame
Supports the dying maiden's frame,
[Pg 355] And strives with laughing looks her heart to chear;
While playful children crowd around
To catch her eye by smile or sound,
Unconscious of the doom that waits their lady dear!
I feel this mournful dream impart
A holier image to my heart,
For oft doth grief to thoughts sublime give birth:—
Blest creature! through the solemn night,
I see thee bath'd in heavenly light,
Shed from that wond'rous child—The Saviour of the Earth.
When, flying Herod's murd'rous rage,
Thou on that wretched pilgrimage
Didst gently near the virgin-mother lie;
On thee the humble Jesus sate,
When thousands rush'd to Salem's gate
To see 'mid holy hymns the sinless man pass by.
[Pg 356]
Happy thou wert,—nor low thy praise,
In peaceful patriarchal days,
When countless tents slow passed from land to land
Like clouds o'er heaven:—the gentle race
Such quiet scene did meetly grace,—
Circling the pastoral camp in many a stately band.
Poor wretch!—my musing dream is o'er;
Thy shivering form I view once more,
And all the pains thy race is doom'd to prove.
But they whose thoughtful spirits see
The truth of life, will pause with me,
And bless thee in a voice of gentleness and love!

[Pg 357]



'Mid the august and never-dying light
Of constellated spirits, who have gain'd
A throne in heaven, by power of heavenly acts,
And leave their names immortal and unchanged
On earth, even as the names of Sun and Moon,
See'st thou, my soul! 'mid all that radiant host
One worthier of thy love and reverence,
Than He, the fearless spirit, who went forth,
Mail'd in the armour of invincible faith,
And bearing in his grasp the spear of truth,
Fit to destroy and save,—went forth to wage,
[Pg 358] Against the fierce array of bloody men,
Avarice and ignorance, cruelty and hate,
A holy warfare! Deep within his soul,
The groans of anguish, and the clank of chains,
Dwelt ceaseless as a cataract, and fill'd
The secret haunts of meditative prayer.
Encircled by the silence of the hearth,
The evening-silence of a happy home;
Upon his midnight bed, when working soul
Turns inward, and the steady flow of thought
Is all we feel of life; in crowded rooms,
Where mere sensation oft takes place of mind,
And all time seems the present; in the sun,
The joyful splendour of a summer-day;
Or 'neath the moon, the calm and gentle night;
Where'er he moved, one vision ever fill'd
His restless spirit. 'Twas a vision bright
With colours born in Heaven, yet oh! bedimm'd
With breath of sorrow, sighs, and tears, and blood!
Before him lay a quarter of the world,
[Pg 359] A Mighty Land, wash'd by unnumber'd floods,
Born in her bosom,—floods that to the sea
Roll ocean-like, or in the central wilds
Fade like the dim day melting into night;
A land all teeming with the gorgeous shew
Of Nature in profuse magnificence!
Vallies and groves, where untamed herds have ranged
Without a master since the birth of time!
Fountains and caves fill'd with the hidden light
Of diamond and of ruby, only view'd
With admiration by the unenvying sun!
Millions of beings like himself he sees
In stature and in soul,—the sons of God,
Destined to do him homage, and to lift
Their fearless brows unto the burning sky,
Stamp'd with his holy image! Noble shapes,
Kings of the desert, men whose stately tread
Brings from the dust the sound of liberty!
The vision fades not here; he sees the gloom
That lies upon these kingdoms of the sun,
[Pg 360] And makes them darker than the dreary realms,
Scarce-moving at the pole.—A sluggish flow
Attends those floods so great and beautiful,
Rolling in majesty that none adores!
And lo! the faces of those stately men,
Silent as death, or changed to ghastly shapes
By madness and despair! His ears are torn
By shrieks and ravings, loud, and long, and wild,
Or the deep-mutter'd curse of sullen hearts,
Scorning in bitter woe their gnawing chains!
He sees, and shuddering feels the vision true,
A pale-faced band, who in his mother-isle
First look'd upon the day, beneath its light
Dare to be tyrants, and with coward deeds
Sullying the glory of the Queen of Waves!
He sees that famous Isle, whose very winds
Dissolve like icicles the tyrant's chains,
On Afric bind them firm as adamant,
Yet boast, with false and hollow gratitude,
Of all the troubled nations of the earth
That she alone is free! The awful sight
[Pg 361] Appals not him; he draws his lonely breath
Without a tremor; for a voice is heard
Breathed by no human lips,—heard by his soul,—
That he by Heaven is chosen to restore
Mercy on earth, a mighty conqueror
Over the sins and miseries of man.
The work is done! the Niger's sullen waves
Have heard the tidings,—and the orient Sun
Beholds them rolling on to meet his light
In joyful beauty.—Tombût's spiry towers
Are bright without the brightness of the day,
And Houssa wakening from his age-long trance
Of woe, amid the desert, smiles to hear
The last faint echo of the blissful sound.—

[Pg 362]



Beneath the shadow of an ancient oak,
Dreaming I lay, far 'mid a solemn wood,
When a noise like thunder stirr'd the solitude,
And from that trance I suddenly awoke!
A noble tree came crashing to the ground,
Through the dark forest opening out a glade;
While all its hundred branches stretching round,
Crush'd the tall hazles in its ample shade.
[Pg 363] Methought, the vanquish'd monarch as he died
Utter'd a groan: while loud and taunting chears
The woodmen raised o'er him whose stubborn pride
Had braved the seasons for an hundred years.
It seem'd a savage shout, a senseless scorn,
Nor long prevail'd amid the awful gloom;
Sad look'd the forest of her glory shorn,
Reverend with age, yet bright in vigour's bloom,
Slain in his hour of strength, a giant in his tomb.
I closed mine eyes, nor could I brook to gaze
On the wild havoc in one moment done;
Hateful to me shone forth the blessed sun,
As through the new form'd void he pour'd his rays.
Then rose a dream before my sleeping soul!
A wood-nymph tearing her dishevell'd hair,
And wailing loud, from a long vista stole,
And eyed the ruin with a fixed despair.
The velvet moss, that bath'd its roots in green,
For many a happy day had been her seat;
[Pg 364] Than valley wide more dear this secret scene;
—She asked no music but the rustling sweet
Of the rejoicing leaves; now, all is gone,
That touch'd the Dryad's heart with pure delight.
Soon shall the axe destroy her fallen throne,
Its leaves of gold, its bark so glossy bright—
—But now she hastes away,—death-sickening at the sight!
A nobler shape supplied the Dryad's place;
Soon as I saw the spirit in her eye,
I knew the mountain-goddess, Liberty,
And in adoring reverence veil'd my face.
Smiling she stood beside the prostrate oak,
While a stern pleasure swell'd her lofty breast,
And thus, methought, in thrilling accents spoke—
"Not long, my darling Tree! must be thy rest!
Glorious thou wert, when towering through the skies
In winter-storms, or summer's balmy breath;
[Pg 365] And thou, my Tree! shalt gloriously arise,
In life majestic, terrible in death!
For thou shalt float above the roaring wave,
Where flags, denouncing battle, stream afar;—
Thou wert, from birth, devoted to the brave,
And thou shalt sail on like a blazing star,
Bearing victorious Nelson through the storms of war!"

[Pg 366]



Once, on the very gentlest stillest day
That ever Spring did in her gladness breathe
O'er this delightful earth, I left my home
With a beloved friend, who ne'er before
Had been among these mountains,—but whose heart,
Led by the famous poets, through the air
Serene of Nature oft had voyaged,
On fancy's wing, and in her magic bowers
Reposed, by wildest music sung to sleep:—
So that, enamour'd of the imaged forms
Of beauty in his soul, with holiest zeal
[Pg 367] He longed to hail the fair original,
And do her spiritual homage.
That his love
Might, consonant to Nature's dictate wise,
From quiet impulse grow, and to the power
Of meditation and connecting thought,
Rather than startling glories of the eye,
Owe its enthronement in his inmost heart,
I led him to behold a little lake,
Which I so often in my lonely walks
Had visited, but never yet had seen
One human being on its banks, that I
Thought it mine own almost, so thither took
My friend, assured he could not chuse but love
A scene so loved by me!
Before we reached
The dell wherein this little lake doth sleep,
Into involuntary praise of all
[Pg 368] Its pensive loveliness, my happy heart
Would frequent burst, and from those lyric songs,
That, sweetly warbling round the pastoral banks
Of Grassmere, on its silver waves have shed
The undying sunshine of a poet's soul,
I breathed such touching strains as suited well
The mild spring-day, and that secluded scene,
Towards which, in full assurance of delight,
We two then walked in peace.
On the green slope
Of a romantic glade, we sat us down,
Amid the fragrance of the yellow broom,
While o'er our heads the weeping birch-tree stream'd
Its branches arching like a fountain-shower,
Then look'd towards the lake,—with hearts prepared
For the warm reception of all lovely forms
Enrobed in loveliest radiance, such as oft
Had steep'd my spirit in a holy calm,
And made it by the touch of purest joy
Still as an infant's dream.
[Pg 369]
But where had fled
The paradise beloved in former days!
I look'd upon the countenance of my friend,
Who, lost in strange and sorrowful surprise,
Could scarce forbear to smile. Is this, he cried,
The lone retreat, where from the secret top
Of Helicon, the wild-eyed muse descends
To bless thy slumbers? this the virgin scene
Where beauty smiles in undisturbed peace?
I look'd again: but ne'er did lover gaze,
At last returning from some foreign clime,
With more affectionate sorrow on the face
That he left fair in youth, than I did gaze
On the alter'd features of my darling vale,
That, 'mid the barbarous outrages of art,
Retained, I ween, a heavenly character
That nothing could destroy. Yet much was lost
Of its original brightness: Much was there,
Marring the spirit I remembered once
[Pg 370] Perfectly beautiful. The meadow field,
That with its rich and placid verdure lay
Even like a sister-lake, with nought to break
The smoothness of its bosom, save the swing
Of the hoar Canna, or, more snowy white,
The young lamb frisking in the joy of life,—
Oh! grief! a garden, all unlike, I ween,
To that where bloom'd the fair Hesperides,
Usurped the seat of Nature, while a wall
Of most bedazzling splendour, o'er whose height,
The little birds, content to flit along
From bush to bush, could never dare to fly,
Preserved from those who knew no ill intent,
Fruit-trees exotic, and flowers passing rare,
Less lovely far than many a one that bloom'd
Unnoticed in the woods.
And lo! a house,
An elegant villa! in the Grecian style!
Doubtless contrived by some great architect
[Pg 371] Who had an Attic soul; and in the shade
Of Academe or the Lyceum walk'd,
Forming conceptions fair and beautiful.
Blessed for ever be the sculptor's art!
It hath created guardian deities
To shield the holy building,—heathen gods
And goddesses, at which the peasant stares
With most perplexing wonder; and light Fauns,
That the good owner's unpoetic soul
Could not, among the umbrage of the groves,
Imagine, here, for ever in his sight,
In one unwearied posture frisk in stone.
My friend, quoth I, forgive these words of mine,
That haply seem more sportive than becomes
A soul that feels for Nature's sanctity
Thus blindly outraged; but when evil work
Admits no remedy, we then are glad
Even from ourselves to hide, in mirth constrain'd,
An unavailing sorrow. Oh! my friend,
[Pg 372] Had'st thou beheld, as I, the glorious rock
By that audacious mansion hid for ever,
—Glorious I well might call it, with bright bands
Of flowers, and weeds as beautiful as flowers,
Refulgent,—crown'd, as with a diadem,
With oaks that loved their birth-place, and alive
With the wild tones of echo, bird, and bee,—
Thou couldst have wept to think that paltry Art
Could so prevail o'er Nature, and weak man
Thus stand between thee and the works of God.
Well might the Naiad of that stream complain!
The glare of day hath driven her from her haunts,
Shady no more: The woodman's ax hath clear'd
The useless hazels where the linnet hung
Her secret nest; and you hoar waterfall,
Whose misty spray rose through the freshen'd leaves
To heaven, like Nature's incense, and whose sound
Came deaden'd through the multitude of boughs,
Like a wild anthem by some spirit sung,
Now looks as cheerless as the late-left snow
[Pg 373] Upon the mountain's breast, and sends a voice,
From the bare rocks, of dreariness and woe!
See! farther down the streamlet, art hath framed
A delicate cascade! The channel stones
Hollow'd by rushing waters, and more green
Even than the thought of greenness in the soul,
Are gone; and pebbles, carefully arranged
By size and colour, at the bottom lie
Imprison'd; while a smooth and shaven lawn,
With graceful gravel walks most serpentine,
Surrounds the noisy wonder, and sends up
A smile of scorn unto the rocky fells,
Where, 'mid the rough fern, bleat the shelter'd sheep.
Oft hath the poet's eye on these wild fells
Beheld entrancing visions;—but the cliffs,
In unscaled majesty, must frown no more;
No more the coves profound draw down the soul
Into their stern dominion: even the clouds,
Floating or settling on the mountain's breast,
[Pg 374] Must be adored no more:—far other forms
Delight his gaze, to whom, alas, belongs
This luckless vale!—On every eminence,
Smiles some gay image of the builder's soul,
Watch-tower or summer-house, where oft, at eve,
He meditates to go, with book in hand,
And read in solitude; or weather-cock,
To tell which way the wind doth blow; or fort,
Commanding every station in the vale
Where enemy might encamp, and from whose height
A gaudy flag might flutter, when he hears
With a true British pride of Frenchmen slain,
Ten thousand in one battle, lying grim
By the brave English, their dead conquerors!
Such was the spirit of the words I used
On witnessing such sacrilege. We turned
Homewards in silence, even as from the grave
Of one in early youth untimely slain,
And all that to my pensive friend I said
[Pg 375] Upon our walk, were some few words of grief,
That thoughtlessness and folly, in one day,
Could render vain the mystic processes
Of Nature, working for a thousand years
The work of love and beauty; so that Heaven
Might shed its gracious dews upon the earth,
Its sunshine and its rain, till living flowers
Rose up in myriads to attest its power,
But, in the midst of this glad jubilee,
A blinded mortal come, and with a nod,
Thus rendering ignorance worse than wickedness,
Bid his base servants "tear from Nature's book
A blissful leaf with worst impiety."
If thou, whose heart has listen'd to my song,
From Nature hold'st some fair inheritance
Like that whose mournful ruins I deplore,
Remember that thy birth-right doth impose
High duties on thee, that must be perform'd,
Else thou canst not be happy. Thou must watch
[Pg 376] With holy zeal o'er Nature while she sleeps,
That nought may break her rest; her waking smiles
Thou must preserve and worship; and the gloom
That sometimes lies like night upon her face,
Creating awful thoughts, that gloom must hush
The beatings of thy heart, as if it lay
Like the dread shadow of eternity.
Beauteous thy home upon this beauteous earth,
And God hath given it to thee: therefore, learn
The laws by which the Eternal doth sublime
And sanctify his works, that thou mayest see
The hidden glory veiled from vulgar eyes,
And by the homage of enlighten'd love,
Repay the power that blest thee. Thou should'st stand
Oft-times amid thy dwelling-place, with awe
Stronger than love, even like a pious man
Who in some great cathedral, while the chaunt
Of hymns is in his soul, no more beholds
The pillars rise august and beautiful,
[Pg 377] Nor the dim grandeur of the roof that hangs
Far, far above his head, but only sees
The opening heaven-gates, and the white-robed bands
Of spirits prostrate in adoring praise.
So shalt thou to thy death-hour find a friend,
A gracious friend in Nature, and thy name,
As the rapt traveller through thy fair domains
Oft-lingering journeys, shall with gentle voice
Be breathed amid the solitude, and link'd
With those enlighten'd spirits that promote
The happiness of others by their own,
The consummation of all earthly joy.

[Pg 378]


Ah me! in dreams of struggling dread,
Let foolish tears no more be shed,
Tears wept on bended knee,
Though years of absence slowly roll
Between us and some darling soul
Who lives upon the sea!
Weep, weep not for the mariner,
Though distant far he roam,
And have no lovely resting-place
That he can call his home.
Friends hath he in the wilderness,
And with those friends he lives in bliss
Without one pining sigh!
[Pg 379] The waves that round his vessel crowd,
The guiding star, the breezy cloud,
The music of the sky.
And, dearer even than Heaven's sweet light,
He gazes on that wonder bright,
When sporting with the gales,
Or lying in a beauteous sleep
Above her shadow in the deep,
—The ship in which he sails.
Then weep not for the mariner!
He needeth not thy tears;
From his soul the Ocean's midnight voice
Dispels all mortal fears.
Quietly slumber shepherd-men
In the silence of some inland glen,
Lull'd by the gentlest sounds of air and earth;
Yet as quietly rests the mariner,
Nor wants for dreams as melting fair
Amid the Ocean's mirth.

[Pg 380]


Gentle as dew, a summer shower
In beauty bathed tree, herb, and flower,
And told the stream to murmur on
With quicker dance and livelier tone.
The mist lay steady on the fell,
While lustre steeped each smiling dell,
Such wild and fairy contrast made
The magic power of light and shade.
Through trees a little bridge was seen,
Glittering with yellow, red, and green,
As o'er the moss with playful glide
The sunbeam danced from side to side,
And made the ancient arch to glow
Various as Heaven's reflected bow.
[Pg 381] Within the dripping grove was heard
Rustle or song of joyful bird;
The stir of rapture fill'd the air
From unseen myriads mingling there;
Life lay entranced in sinless mirth,
And Nature's hymn swam o'er the earth!
In this sweet hour of peace and love,
I chanced from restless joy to move,
When by my side a being stood
Fairer than Naiad of the flood,
Or her who ruled the forest scene
In days of yore, the Huntress Queen.
Wildness, subdued by quiet grace,
Played o'er the vision's radiant face,
Radiant with spirit fit to steer
Her flight around the starry sphere,
Yet, willing to sink down in rest
Upon a guardian mortal breast.
Her eyes were rather soft than bright,
And, when a smile half-closed their light,
[Pg 382] They seem'd amid the gleam divine
Like stars scarce seen through fair moonshine!
While ever, as, with sportive air,
She lightly waved her clustering hair,
A thousand gleams the motion made,
Danced o'er the auburn's darker shade.
O Mary! I had known thee long,
Amid the gay, the thoughtless throng,
Where mien leaves modesty behind,
And manner takes the place of mind;
Where woman, though delightful still,
Quits Nature's ease for Fashion's skill,
Hides, by the gaudy gloss of art,
The simple beauty of her heart,
And, born to lift our souls to heaven,
Strives for the gaze despised when given,
Forgets her being's godlike power
To shine the wonder of an hour.
Oft had I sigh'd to think that thou,
An angel fair, could stoop so low;
[Pg 383] And as with light and airy pride,
'Mid worldly souls I saw thee glide,
Wasting those smiles that love with tears
Might live on, all his blessed years,
Regret rose from thy causeless mirth,
That Heaven could thus be stain'd by Earth.
O vain regret! I should have known,
Thy soul was strung to loftier tone,
That wisdom bade thee joyful range
Through worldly paths thou could'st not change,
And look with glad and sparkling eye
Even on life's cureless vanity.
—But now, thy being's inmost blood
Felt the deep power of solitude.
From Heaven a sudden glory broke,
And all thy angel soul awoke.
I hail'd the impulse from above,
And friendship was sublimed to love.
[Pg 384] Fair are the vales that peaceful sleep
'Mid mountain-silence, lone and deep,
Sweet narrow lines of fertile earth,
'Mid frowns of horror, smiles of mirth!
Fair too the fix'd and floating cloud,
The light obscure by eve bestowed,
The sky's blue stillness, and the breast
Of lakes, with all that stillness blest.
But dearer to my heart and eye,
Than valley, mountain, lake, or sky,
One nameless stream, whose happy flow
Blue as the heavens, or white as snow,
And gently-swelling sylvan side,
By Mary's presence beautified,
Tell ever of expected years,
The wish that sighs, the bliss that fears,
Till taught at last no more to roam,
I worship the bright Star of Home.

[Pg 385]


Sylph-like, and with a graceful pride,
I saw the wild Louisa glide
Along the dance's glittering row,
With footsteps soft as falling snow.
On all around her smiles she pour'd,
And though by all admired, adored,
She seem'd to hold the homage light,
And careless claim'd it as her right.
With syren voice the Lady sung:
Love on her tones enraptured hung,
While timid awe and fond desire
Came blended from her witching lyre.
While thus, with unresisted art,
The Enchantress melted every heart,
[Pg 386] Amid the glance, the sigh, the smile,
Herself, unmoved and cold the while,
With inward pity eyed the scene,
Where all were subjects—she a Queen!
Again, I saw that Lady fair:
Oh! what a beauteous change was there!
In a sweet cottage of her own
She sat, and she was all alone,
Save a young child she sung to rest
On its soft bed, her fragrant breast.
With happy smiles and happy sighs,
She kiss'd the infant's closing eyes,
Then, o'er him in the cradle laid,
Moved her dear lips as if she pray'd.
She bless'd him in his father's name:
Lo! to her side that father came,
And, in a voice subdued and mild,
He bless'd the mother and her child!
[Pg 387] I thought upon the proud saloon,
And that Enchantress Queen; but soon,
Far-off Art's fading pageant stole,
And Nature fill'd my thoughtful soul!

[Pg 388]



There is a lake hid far among the hills,
That raves around the throne of solitude,
Not fed by gentle streams, or playful rills,
But headlong cataract and rushing flood.
There, gleam no lovely hues of hanging wood,
No spot of sunshine lights her sullen side;
For horror shaped the wild in wrathful mood,
And o'er the tempest heaved the mountain's pride.
If thou art one, in dark presumption blind,
Who vainly deem'st no spirit like to thine,
That lofty genius deifies thy mind,
Fall prostrate here at Nature's stormy shrine,
And as the thunderous scene disturbs thy heart,
Lift thy changed eye, and own how low thou art.

[Pg 389]



Is this the Lake, the cradle of the storms,
Where silence never tames the mountain-roar,
Where poets fear their self-created forms,
Or, sunk in trance severe, their God adore?
Is this the Lake, for ever dark and loud
With wave and tempest, cataract and cloud?
Wondrous, O Nature! is thy sovereign power,
That gives to horror hours of peaceful mirth:
For here might beauty build her summer-bower!
Lo! where you rainbow spans the smiling earth,
And, clothed in glory, through a silent shower
The mighty Sun comes forth, a godlike birth;
While, 'neath his loving eye, the gentle Lake
Lies like a sleeping child too blest to wake!

[Pg 390]



Go up among the mountains, when the storm
Of midnight howls, but go in that wild mood,
When the soul loves tumultuous solitude,
And through the haunted air, each giant form
Of swinging pine, black rock, or ghostly cloud,
That veils some fearful cataract tumbling loud,
Seems to thy breathless heart with life embued.
'Mid those gaunt, shapeless things thou art alone!
The mind exists, thinks, trembles through the ear,
The memory of the human world is gone,
And time and space seem living only here.
Oh! worship thou the visions then made known,
While sable glooms round Nature's temple roll,
And her dread anthem peals into thy soul.

[Pg 391]



List! while I tell what forms the mountain's voice!
—The storms are up; and from you sable cloud
Down rush the rains; while 'mid the thunder loud
The viewless eagles in wild screams rejoice.
The echoes answer to the unearthly noise
Of hurling rocks, that, plunged into the Lake,
Send up a sullen groan: from clefts and caves,
As of half-murder'd wretch, hark! yells awake,
Or red-eyed phrensy as in chains he raves.
These form the mountain's voice; these, heard at night,
Distant from human being's known abode,
To earth some spirits bow in cold affright,
But some they lift to glory and to God.

[Pg 392]



A cloud lay cradled near the setting sun,
A gleam of crimson tinged its braided snow:
Long had I watched the glory moving on
O'er the still radiance of the Lake below.
Tranquil its spirit seem'd, and floated slow!
Even in its very motion, there was rest:
While every breath of eve that chanced to blow,
Wafted the traveller to the beauteous West.
Emblem, methought, of the departed soul!
To whose white robe the gleam of bliss is given;
And by the breath of mercy made to roll
Right onwards to the golden gates of Heaven,
Where, to the eye of Faith, it peaceful lies,
And tells to man his glorious destinies.

[Pg 393]



When by God's inward light, a happy child,
I walk'd in joy, as in the open air,
It seem'd to my young thought the Sabbath smiled
With glory and with love. So still, so fair,
The Heavens look'd ever on that hallow'd morn,
That, without aid of memory, something there
Had surely told me of its glad return.
How did my little heart at evening burn,
When, fondly seated on my father's knee,
Taught by the lip of love, I breathed the prayer,
Warm from the fount of infant piety!
Much is my spirit changed; for years have brought
Intenser feeling and expanded thought;
—Yet, must I envy every child I see!

[Pg 394]



It was a dreadful day, when late I pass'd
O'er thy dim vastness, Skiddaw!—Mist and cloud
Each subject Fell obscured, and rushing blast
To thee made darling music, wild and loud,
Thou Mountain-Monarch! Rain in torrents play'd,
As when at sea a wave is borne to Heaven,
A watery spire, then on the crew dismay'd
Of reeling ship with downward wrath is driven.
I could have thought that every living form
Had fled, or perished in that savage storm,
So desolate the day. To me were given
Peace, calmness, joy: then, to myself I said,
Can grief, time, chance, or elements controul
Man's charter'd pride, the Liberty of Soul?

[Pg 395]


I wander'd lonely, like a pilgrim sad,
O'er mountains known but to the eagle's gaze;
Yet, my hush'd heart, with Nature's beauty glad,
Slept in the shade, or gloried in the blaze.
Romantic vales stole winding to my eye
In gradual loveliness, like rising dreams;
Fair, nameless tarns, that seem to blend with sky
Rocks of wild majesty, and elfin streams.
How strange, methought, I should have lived so near,
Nor ever worshipp'd Nature's altar here!
Strange! say not so—hid from the world and thee,
Though in the midst of life their spirits move,
Thousands enjoy in holy liberty
The silent Eden of unenvied Love!

[Pg 396]



A golden cloud came floating o'er my head,
With kindred glories round the sun to blend!
Though fair the scene, my dreams were of the dead;
—Since dawn of morning I had lost a friend.
I felt as if my sorrow ne'er could end:
A cold, pale phantom on a breathless bed,
The beauty of the crimson west subdued,
And sighs that seem'd my very life to rend,
The silent happiness of eve renew'd.
Grief, fear, regret, a self-tormenting brood
Dwelt on my spirit, like a ceaseless noise;
But, oh! what tranquil holiness ensued,
When, from that cloud, exclaimed a well-known voice,
—God sent me here, to bid my friend rejoice!

[Pg 397]



Two Editions of this little Poem have been already published; and its reception among those whom the author most wished to please, has induced him to include it in this volume.

With tearless eyes and undisturbed heart,
O Bard! of sinless life and holiest song,
I muse upon thy death-bed and thy grave;
Though round that grave the trodden grass still lies
Besmeared with clay; for many feet were there,
Fast-rooted to the spot, when slowly sank
Thy coffin, Grahame! into the quiet cell.
Yet, well I loved thee, even as one might love
An elder brother, imaged in the soul
[Pg 398] With solemn features, half-creating awe,
But smiling still with gentleness and peace.
Tears have I shed when thy most mournful voice
Did tremblingly breathe forth that touching air,
By Scottish shepherd haply framed of old,
Amid the silence of his pastoral hills,
Weeping the flowers on Flodden-field that died.
Wept, too, have I, when thou didst simply read
From thine own lays so simply beautiful
Some short pathetic tale of human grief,
Or orison or hymn of deeper love,
That might have won the sceptic's sullen heart
To gradual adoration, and belief
Of Him who died for us upon the cross.
Yea! oft when thou wert well, and in the calm
Of thy most Christian spirit blessing all
Who look'd upon thee, with those gentlest smiles
That never lay on human face but thine;
Even when thy serious eyes were lighted up
With kindling mirth, and from thy lips distill'd
[Pg 399] Words soft as dew, and cheerful as the dawn,
Then, too, I could have wept, for on thy face,
Eye, voice, and smile, nor less thy bending frame,
By other cause impair'd than length of years,
Lay something that still turn'd the thoughtful heart
To melancholy dreams, dreams of decay,
Of death and burial, and the silent tomb.
And of the tomb thou art an inmate now!
Methinks I see thy name upon the stone
Placed at thy head, and yet my cheeks are dry.
Tears could I give thee, when thou wert alive,
The mournful tears of deep foreboding love
That might not be restrain'd; but now they seem
Most idle all! thy worldly course is o'er,
And leaves such sweet remembrance in my soul
As some delightful music heard in youth,
Sad, but not painful, even more spirit-like
Than when it murmur'd through the shades of earth.
[Pg 400]
Short time wert thou allow'd to guide thy flock
Through the green pastures, where in quiet glides
The Siloah of the soul! Scarce was thy voice
Familiar to their hearts, who felt that heaven
Did therein speak, when suddenly it fell
Mute, and for ever! Empty now and still
The holy house which thou didst meekly grace,
When with uplifted hand, and eye devout,
Thy soul was breathed to Jesus, or explained
The words that lead unto eternal life.
From infancy thy heart was vow'd to God:
And aye the hope that one day thou might'st keep
A little fold, from all the storms of sin
Safe-shelter'd, and by reason of thy prayers
Warm'd by the sunshine of approving Heaven,
Upheld thy spirit, destined for a while
To walk far other paths, and with the crowd
Of worldly men to mingle. Yet even then,
Thy life was ever such as well became
One whose pure soul was fixed upon the cross!
[Pg 401] And when with simple fervent eloquence,
Grahame pled the poor man's cause, the listner oft
Thought how becoming would his visage smile
Across the house of God, how beauteously
That man would teach the saving words of Heaven!
How well he taught them, many a one will feel
Unto their dying day; and when they lie
On the grave's brink, unfearing and composed,
Their speechless souls will bless the holy man
Whose voice exhorted, and whose footsteps led
Unto the paths of life; nor sweeter hope,
Next to the gracious look of Christ, have they
Than to behold his face who saved their souls.
But closed on earth thy blessed ministry!
And while thy native Scotland mourns her son
Untimely reft from her maternal breast,
Weeps the fair sister-land, with whom ere while
The stranger sojourn'd, stranger but in birth,
For well she loved thee, as thou wert her own.
[Pg 402]
On a most clear and noiseless Sabbath-night
I heard that thou wert gone, from the soft voice
Of one who knew thee not, but deeply loved
Thy spirit meekly shining in thy song.
At such an hour the death of one like thee
Gave no rude shock, nor by a sudden grief
Destroy'd the visions from the starry sky
Then settling in my soul. The moonlight slept
With a diviner sadness on the air;
The tender dimness of the night appeared
Darkening to deeper sorrow, and the voice
Of the far torrent from the silent hills
Flow'd, as I listen'd, like a funeral strain
Breath'd by some mourning solitary thing.
Yet Nature in her pensiveness still wore
A blissful smile, as if she sympathized
With those who grieved that her own Bard was dead,
And yet was happy that his spirit dwelt
At last within her holiest sanctuary,
'Mid long expecting angels.
[Pg 403]
And if e'er
Faith, fearless faith, in the eternal bliss
Of a departed brother, may be held
By beings blind as we, that faith should dry
All eyes that weep for Grahame; or through their tears
Shew where he sits august and beautiful
On the right hand of Jesus, 'mid the saints
Whose glory he on earth so sweetly sang.
No fears have we when some delightful child
Falls from its innocence into the grave!
Soon as we know its little breath is gone,
We see it lying in its Saviour's breast,
A heavenly flower there fed with heavenly dew.
Childlike in all that makes a child so dear
To God and man, and ever consecrates
Its cradle and its grave, my Grahame, wert thou!
And had'st thou died upon thy mother's breast
Ere thou could'st lisp her name, more fit for heaven
Thou scarce had'st been, than when thy honour'd head
[Pg 404] Was laid into the dust, and Scotland wept
O'er hill and valley for her darling Bard.
How beautiful is genius when combined
With holiness! Oh, how divinely sweet
The tones of earthly harp, whose chords are touch'd
By the soft hand of Piety, and hung
Upon Religion's shrine, there vibrating
With solemn music in the ear of God.
And must the Bard from sacred themes refrain?
Sweet were the hymns in patriarchal days,
That, kneeling in the silence of his tent,
Or on some moonlight hill, the shepherd pour'd
Unto his heavenly Father. Strains survive
Erst chaunted to the lyre of Israel,
More touching far than ever poet breathed
Amid the Grecian isles, or later times
Have heard in Albion, land of every lay.
Why therefore are ye silent, ye who know
The trance of adoration, and behold
[Pg 405] Upon your bended knees the throne of Heaven,
And him who sits thereon? Believe it not,
That Poetry, in purer days the nurse,
Yea! parent oft of blissful piety,
Should silent keep from service of her God,
Nor with her summons, loud but silver-toned,
Startle the guilty dreamer from his sleep,
Bidding him gaze with rapture or with dread
On regions where the sky for ever lies
Bright as the sun himself, and trembling all
With ravishing music, or where darkness broods
O'er ghastly shapes, and sounds not to be borne.
Such glory, Grahame! is thine: Thou didst despise
To win the ear of this degenerate age
By gorgeous epithets, all idly heap'd
On theme of earthly state, or, idler still,
By tinkling measures and unchasten'd lays,
Warbled to pleasure and her syren-train,
[Pg 406] Profaning the best name of poesy.
With loftier aspirations, and an aim
More worthy man's immortal nature, Thou
That holiest spirit that still loves to dwell
In the upright heart and pure, at noon of night
Didst fervently invoke, and, led by her
Above the Aonian mount, send from the stars
Of heaven such soul-subduing melody
As Bethlehem-shepherds heard when Christ was born.
It is the Sabbath-day: Creation sleeps
Cradled within the arms of heavenly love!
The mystic day, when from the vanquish'd grave
The world's Redeemer rose, and hail'd the light
Of God's forgiving smile. Obscured and pale
Were then the plumes of prostrate seraphim,
Then hush'd the universe her sphere-born strain,
When from his throne, Paternal Deity
Declared the Saviour not in vain had shed
His martyr'd glory round the accursed cross,
[Pg 407] That fallen man might sit in Paradise,
And earth to heaven ascend in jubilee.
O blessed day, by God and man beloved!
With more surpassing glory breaks thy dawn
Upon my soul, remembering the sweet hymns
That he, whom nations evermore shall name
The Sabbath-Bard, in gratulation high
Breathed forth to thee, as from the golden urn
That holds the incense of immortal song.
That Poem, so divinely melancholy
Throughout its reigning spirit, yet withal
Bathing in hues of winning gentleness
The pure religion that alone can save,
Full many a wanderer to the paths of peace
Ere now hath made return, and he who framed
Its hallow'd numbers, in the realms of bliss
Hath met and known the smiles of seraph-souls,
By his delightful genius saved from death.
Oft when the soul is lost in thoughtless guilt,
[Pg 408] And seeming deaf unto the still small voice
Of conscience and of God, some simple phrase
Of beauty or sublimity will break
The spell that link'd us to the bands of sin,
And all at once, as waking from a dream,
We shudder at the past, and bless the light
That breaks upon us like the new-born day.
Even so it fares with them, who to this world
Have yielded up their spirits, and, impure
In thought and act, have lived without a sense
Of God, who counts the beatings of their hearts.
But men there are of a sublimer mould,
Who dedicate with no unworthy zeal
To human Science, up the toilsome steep
Where she in darkness dwells, with pilgrim-feet
By night and day unwearied strive to climb,
Pride their conductor, glory their reward.
Too oft, alas! even in the search of truth
They pass her on the way, although she speak
With loving voice, and cast on them her eyes
[Pg 409] So beautifully innocent and pure.
To such, O Grahame! thy voice cries from the tomb!
Thy worth they loved, thy talents they admired,
And when they think how peaceful was thy life,
Thy death far more than peaceful, though thou sought'st,
Above all other knowledge, that of God
And his redeeming Son; when o'er the page
Where thy mild soul for ever sits enshrined,
They hang with soften'd hearts, faith may descend
Upon them as they muse, or hope that leads
The way to faith, even as the morning-star
Shines brightly, heralding approaching day.
But happier visions still now bless my soul.
While lonely wandering o'er the hills and dales
Of my dear native country, with such love
As they may guess, who, from their father's home
Sojourning long and far, fall down and kiss
The grass and flowers of Scotland, in I go,
[Pg 410] Not doubting a warm welcome from the eyes
Of woman, man, and child, into a cot
Upon a green hill-side, and almost touch'd
By its own nameless stream that bathes the roots
Of the old ash tree swinging o'er the roof.
Most pleasant, Grahame! unto thine eye and heart
Such humble home! there often hast thou sat
'Mid the glad family listening to thy voice
So silently, the ear might then have caught
Without the rustle of the falling leaf.
And who so sweetly ever sang as thou,
The joys and sorrows of the poor man's life.
Not fancifully drawn, that one might weep,
Or smile, he knew not why, but with the hues
Of truth all brightly glistening, to the heart
Cheering, as earth's soft verdure to the eye,
Yet still and mournful as the evening light.
More powerful in the sanctity of death,
There reigns thy spirit over those it loved!
Some chosen books by pious men composed,
[Pg 411] Kept from the dust, in every cottage lie
Through the wild loneliness of Scotia's vales,
Beside the Bible, by whose well-known truths
All human thoughts are by the peasant tried.
O blessed privilege of Nature's Bard!
To cheer the house of virtuous poverty,
With gleams of light more beautiful than oft
Play o'er the splendours of the palace wall.
Methinks I see a fair and lovely child
Sitting composed upon his mother's knee,
And reading with a low and lisping voice
Some passage from the Sabbath, while the tears
Stand in his little eyes so softly blue,
Till, quite o'ercome with pity, his white arms
He twines around her neck, and hides his sighs
Most infantine, within her gladden'd breast,
Like a sweet lamb, half sportive, half afraid,
Nestling one moment 'neath its bleating dam.
And now the happy mother kisses oft
The tender-hearted child, lays down the book,
[Pg 412] And asks him if he doth remember still
The stranger who once gave him, long ago,
A parting kiss, and blest his laughing eyes!
His sobs speak fond remembrance, and he weeps
To think so kind and good a man should die.
Though dead on earth, yet he from heaven looks down
On thee, sweet child! and others pure like thee!
Made happier, though an angel, by the sight
Of happiness, and virtue by himself
Created or preserved; and oft his soul
Leaves for a while her amaranthine bowers,
And dimly hears the choral symphonies
Of spirits singing round the Saviour's throne,
Delighted with a glimpse of Scotland's vales
Winding round hills where once his pious hymns
Were meditated in his silent heart,
Or with those human beings here beloved,
Whether they smile, as virtue ever smiles,
With sunny countenance gentle and benign.
[Pg 413] Or a slight shade of sadness seems to say,
That they are thinking of the sainted soul
That looks from heaven on them!—
A holy creed
It is, and most delightful unto all
Who feel how deeply human sympathies
Blend with our hopes of heaven, which holds that death
Divideth not, as by a roaring sea,
Departed spirits from this lower sphere.
How could the virtuous even in heaven be blest,
Unless they saw the lovers and the friends,
Whom soon they hope to greet! A placid lake
Between Time floateth and Eternity,
Across whose sleeping waters murmur oft
The voices of the immortal, hither brought
Soft as the thought of music in the soul.
Deep, deep the love we bear unto the dead!
The adoring reverence that we humbly pay
To one who is a spirit, still partakes
[Pg 414] Of that affectionate tenderness we own'd
Towards a being, once, perhaps, as frail
And human as ourselves, and in the shape
Celestial, and angelic lineaments,
Shines a fair likeness of the form and face
That won in former days our earthly love.
O Grahame! even I in midnight dreams behold
Thy placid aspect, more serenely fair
Than the sweet moon that calms the autumnal heaven.
Thy voice steals, 'mid the pauses of the wind,
Unto my listening soul more touchingly
Than the pathetic tones of airy harp
That sound at evening like a spirit's song.
Yet, many are there dearer to thy shade,
Yea, dearer far than I; and when their tears
They dry at last (and wisdom bids them weep,
If long and oft, O sure not bitterly)
Then wilt thou stand before their raptured eyes
As beautiful as kneeling saint e'er deem'd
In his bright cell Messiah's vision'd form.
[Pg 415] I may not think upon her blissful dreams
Who bears thy name on earth, and in it feels
A Christian glory and a pious pride,
That must illume the widow's lonely path
With never dying sunshine.—To her soul
Soft sound the strains now flowing fast from mine!
And in those tranquil hours when she withdraws
From loftier consolations, may the tears,
(For tears will fall, most idle though they be,)
Now shed by me to her but little known,
Yield comfort to her, as a certain pledge
That many a one, though silent and unseen,
Thinks of her and the children at her knees,
Blest for the father's and the husband's sake.



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