Poems Chiefly From Manuscript
Part 2 out of 5
Ye've gave to me a broken heart,
And I'll give nought to you.
Your pride has wronged your own heart's blood;
For she was mine by grace,
And now my lady love is gone
None else shall take her place.
I'll sell my park and sell my hall
And sink my titles too.
Your pride's done wrong enough as now
To leave it more to do.
She owneth none that owned them all
And would have graced them well;
None else shall take the right she missed
Nor in my bosom dwell.--
And then he took and burnt his will
Before his mother's face,
And tore his patents all in two,
While tears fell down apace--
But in his mother's haughty look
Ye nought but frowns might trace.
And then he sat him down to grieve,
But could not sit for pain.
And then he laid him on the bed
And ne'er got up again.
_The Gipsy's Camp_
How oft on Sundays, when I'd time to tramp,
My rambles led me to a gipsy's camp,
Where the real effigy of midnight hags,
With tawny smoked flesh and tattered rags,
Uncouth-brimmed hat, and weather-beaten cloak,
Neath the wild shelter of a knotty oak,
Along the greensward uniformly pricks
Her pliant bending hazel's arching sticks:
While round-topt bush, or briar-entangled hedge,
Where flag-leaves spring beneath, or ramping sedge,
Keeps off the bothering bustle of the wind,
And give the best retreat she hopes to find.
How oft I've bent me oer her fire and smoke,
To hear her gibberish tale so quaintly spoke,
While the old Sybil forged her boding clack,
Twin imps the meanwhile bawling at her back;
Oft on my hand her magic coin's been struck,
And hoping chink, she talked of morts of luck:
And still, as boyish hopes did first agree,
Mingled with fears to drop the fortune's fee,
I never failed to gain the honours sought,
And Squire and Lord were purchased with a groat.
But as man's unbelieving taste came round,
She furious stampt her shoeless foot aground,
Wiped bye her soot-black hair with clenching fist,
While through her yellow teeth the spittle hist,
Swearing by all her lucky powers of fate,
Which like as footboys on her actions wait,
That fortune's scale should to my sorrow turn,
And I one day the rash neglect should mourn;
That good to bad should change, and I should be
Lost to this world and all eternity;
That poor as Job I should remain unblest:--
(Alas, for fourpence how my die is cast!)
Of not a hoarded farthing be possesst,
And when all's done, be shoved to hell at last!
"Where art thou wandering, little child?"
I said to one I met to-day.--
She pushed her bonnet up and smiled,
"I'm going upon the green to play:
Folks tell me that the May's in flower,
That cowslip-peeps are fit to pull,
And I've got leave to spend an hour
To get this little basket full."
--And thou'st got leave to spend an hour!
My heart repeated.--She was gone;
--And thou hast heard the thorn's in flower,
And childhood's bliss is urging on:
Ah, happy child! thou mak'st me sigh,
This once as happy heart of mine,
Would nature with the boon comply,
How gladly would I change for thine.
_The Wood-cutter's Night Song_
Welcome, red and roundy sun,
Dropping lowly in the west;
Now my hard day's work is done,
I'm as happy as the best.
Joyful are the thoughts of home,
Now I'm ready for my chair,
So, till morrow-morning's come,
Bill and mittens, lie ye there!
Though to leave your pretty song,
Little birds, it gives me pain,
Yet to-morrow is not long,
Then I'm with you all again.
If I stop, and stand about,
Well I know how things will be,
Judy will be looking out
Every now-and-then for me.
So fare ye well! and hold your tongues,
Sing no more until I come;
They're not worthy of your songs
That never care to drop a crumb.
All day long I love the oaks,
But, at nights, yon little cot,
Where I see the chimney smokes,
Is by far the prettiest spot.
Wife and children all are there,
To revive with pleasant looks,
Table ready set, and chair,
Supper hanging on the hooks.
Soon as ever I get in,
When my faggot down I fling,
Little prattlers they begin
Teasing me to talk and sing.
Welcome, red and roundy sun,
Dropping lowly in the west;
Now my hard day's work is done,
I'm as happy as the best.
Joyful are the thoughts of home,
Now I'm ready for my chair,
So, till morrow-morning's come,
Bill and mittens, lie ye there!
Soon as the twilight through the distant mist
In silver hemmings skirts the purple east,
Ere yet the sun unveils his smiles to view
And dries the morning's chilly robes of dew,
Young Hodge the horse-boy, with a soodly gait,
Slow climbs the stile, or opes the creaky gate,
With willow switch and halter by his side
Prepared for Dobbin, whom he means to ride;
The only tune he knows still whistling oer,
And humming scraps his father sung before,
As "Wantley Dragon," and the "Magic Rose,"
The whole of music that his village knows,
Which wild remembrance, in each little town,
From mouth to mouth through ages handles down.
Onward he jolls, nor can the minstrel-throngs
Entice him once to listen to their songs;
Nor marks he once a blossom on his way;
A senseless lump of animated clay--
With weather-beaten hat of rusty brown,
Stranger to brinks, and often to a crown;
With slop-frock suiting to the ploughman's taste,
Its greasy skirtings twisted round his waist;
And hardened high-lows clenched with nails around,
Clamping defiance oer the stoney ground,
The deadly foes to many a blossomed sprout
That luckless meets him in his morning's rout.
In hobbling speed he roams the pasture round,
Till hunted Dobbin and the rest are found;
Where some, from frequent meddlings of his whip,
Well know their foe, and often try to slip;
While Dobbin, tamed by age and labour, stands
To meet all trouble from his brutish hands,
And patient goes to gate or knowly brake,
The teasing burden of his foe to take;
Who, soon as mounted, with his switching weals,
Puts Dob's best swiftness in his heavy heels,
The toltering bustle of a blundering trot
Which whips and cudgels neer increased a jot,
Though better speed was urged by the clown--
And thus he snorts and jostles to the town.
And now, when toil and summer's in its prime,
In every vill, at morning's earliest time,
To early-risers many a Hodge is seen,
And many a Dob's heard clattering oer the green.
Now straying beams from day's unclosing eye
In copper-coloured patches flush the sky,
And from night's prison strugglingly encroach,
To bring the summons of warm day's approach,
Till, slowly mounting oer the ridge of clouds
That yet half shows his face, and half enshrouds,
The unfettered sun takes his unbounded reign
And wakes all life to noise and toil again:
And while his opening mellows oer the scenes
Of wood and field their many mingling greens,
Industry's bustling din once more devours
The soothing peace of morning's early hours:
The grunt of hogs freed from their nightly dens
And constant cacklings of new-laying hens,
And ducks and geese that clamorous joys repeat
The splashing comforts of the pond to meet,
And chirping sparrows dropping from the eaves
For offal kernels that the poultry leaves,
Oft signal-calls of danger chittering high
At skulking cats and dogs approaching nigh.
And lowing steers that hollow echoes wake
Around the yard, their nightly fast to break,
As from each barn the lumping flail rebounds
In mingling concert with the rural sounds;
While oer the distant fields more faintly creep
The murmuring bleatings of unfolding sheep,
And ploughman's callings that more hoarse proceed
Where industry still urges labour's speed,
The bellowing of cows with udders full
That wait the welcome halloo of "come mull,"
And rumbling waggons deafening again,
Rousing the dust along the narrow lane,
And cracking whips, and shepherd's hooting cries,
From woodland echoes urging sharp replies.
Hodge, in his waggon, marks the wondrous tongue,
And talks with echo as he drives along;
Still cracks his whip, bawls every horse's name,
And echo still as ready bawls the same:
The puzzling mystery he would gladly cheat,
And fain would utter what it can't repeat,
Till speedless trials prove the doubted elf
As skilled in noise and sounds as Hodge himself;
And, quite convinced with the proofs it gives,
The boy drives on and fancies echo lives,
Like some wood-fiend that frights benighted men,
The troubling spirit of a robber's den.
And now the blossom of the village view,
With airy hat of straw, and apron blue,
And short-sleeved gown, that half to guess reveals
By fine-turned arms what beauty it conceals;
Whose cheeks health flushes with as sweet a red
As that which stripes the woodbine oer her head;
Deeply she blushes on her morn's employ,
To prove the fondness of some passing boy,
Who, with a smile that thrills her soul to view,
Holds the gate open till she passes through,
While turning nods beck thanks for kindness done,
And looks--if looks could speak-proclaim her won.
With well-scoured buckets on proceeds the maid,
And drives her cows to milk beneath the shade,
Where scarce a sunbeam to molest her steals--
Sweet as the thyme that blossoms where she kneels;
And there oft scares the cooing amorous dove
With her own favoured melodies of love.
Snugly retired in yet dew-laden bowers,
This sweetest specimen of rural flowers
Displays, red glowing in the morning wind,
The powers of health and nature when combined.
Last on the road the cowboy careless swings,
Leading tamed cattle in their tending strings,
With shining tin to keep his dinner warm
Swung at his back, or tucked beneath his arm;
Whose sun-burnt skin, and cheeks chuffed out with fat,
Are dyed as rusty as his napless hat.
And others, driving loose their herds at will,
Are now heard whooping up the pasture-hill;
Peeled sticks they bear of hazel or of ash,
The rib-marked hides of restless cows to thrash.
In sloven garb appears each bawling boy,
As fit and suiting to his rude employ;
His shoes, worn down by many blundering treads,
Oft show the tenants needing safer sheds:
The pithy bunch of unripe nuts to seek,
And crabs sun-reddened with a tempting cheek,
From pasture hedges, daily puts to rack
His tattered clothes, that scarcely screen the back,--
Daubed all about as if besmeared with blood,
Stained with the berries of the brambly wood
That stud the straggling briars as black as jet,
Which, when his cattle lair, he runs to get;
Or smaller kinds, as if beglossed with dew
Shining dim-powdered with a downy blue,
That on weak tendrils lowly creeping grow
Where, choaked in flags and sedges, wandering slow,
The brook purls simmering its declining tide
Down the crooked boundings of the pasture-side.
There they to hunt the luscious fruit delight,
And dabbling keep within their charges' sight;
Oft catching prickly struttles on their rout,
And miller-thumbs and gudgeons driving out,
Hid near the arched brig under many a stone
That from its wall rude passing clowns have thrown.
And while in peace cows eat, and chew their cuds,
Moozing cool sheltered neath the skirting woods,
To double uses they the hours convert,
Turning the toils of labour into sport;
Till morn's long streaking shadows lose their tails,
And cooling winds swoon into faultering gales;
And searching sunbeams warm and sultry creep,
Waking the teazing insects from their sleep;
And dreaded gadflies with their drowsy hum
On the burnt wings of mid-day zephyrs come,--
Urging each lown to leave his sports in fear,
To stop his starting cows that dread the fly;
Droning unwelcome tidings on his ear,
That the sweet peace of rural morn's gone by.
One gloomy eve I roamed about
Neath Oxey's hazel bowers,
While timid hares were darting out,
To crop the dewy flowers;
And soothing was the scene to me,
Right pleased was my soul,
My breast was calm as summer's sea
When waves forget to roll.
But short was even's placid smile,
My startled soul to charm,
When Nelly lightly skipt the stile,
With milk-pail on her arm:
One careless look on me she flung,
As bright as parting day;
And like a hawk from covert sprung,
It pounced my peace away.
_The Cross Roads; or, The Haymaker's Story_
Stopt by the storm, that long in sullen black
From the south-west stained its encroaching track,
Haymakers, hustling from the rain to hide,
Sought the grey willows by the pasture-side;
And there, while big drops bow the grassy stems,
And bleb the withering hay with pearly gems,
Dimple the brook, and patter in the leaves,
The song or tale an hour's restraint relieves.
And while the old dames gossip at their ease,
And pinch the snuff-box empty by degrees,
The young ones join in love's delightful themes,
Truths told by gipsies, and expounded dreams;
And mutter things kept secrets from the rest,
As sweethearts' names, and whom they love the best;
And dazzling ribbons they delight to show,
And last new favours of some veigling beau,
Who with such treachery tries their hearts to move,
And, like the highest, bribes the maidens' love.
The old dames, jealous of their whispered praise,
Throw in their hints of man's deluding ways;
And one, to give her counsels more effect,
And by example illustrate the fact
Of innocence oercome by flattering man,
Thrice tapped her box, and pinched, and thus began.
"Now wenches listen, and let lovers lie,
Ye'll hear a story ye may profit by;
I'm your age treble, with some oddments to't,
And right from wrong can tell, if ye'll but do't:
Ye need not giggle underneath your hat,
Mine's no joke-matter, let me tell you that;
So keep ye quiet till my story's told,
And don't despise your betters cause they're old.
"That grave ye've heard of, where the four roads meet,
Where walks the spirit in a winding-sheet,
Oft seen at night, by strangers passing late,
And tarrying neighbours that at market wait,
Stalking along as white as driven snow,
And long as one's shadow when the sun is low;
The girl that's buried there I knew her well,
And her whole history, if ye'll hark, can tell.
Her name was Jane, and neighbour's children we,
And old companions once, as ye may be;
And like to you, on Sundays often strolled
To gipsies' camps to have our fortunes told;
And oft, God rest her, in the fortune-book
Which we at hay-time in our pockets took,
Our pins at blindfold on the wheel we stuck,
When hers would always prick the worst of luck;
For try, poor thing, as often as she might,
Her point would always on the blank alight;
Which plainly shows the fortune one's to have,
As such like go unwedded to the grave,--
And so it proved.--The next succeeding May,
We both to service went from sports and play,
Though in the village still; as friends and kin
Thought neighbour's service better to begin.
So out we went:--Jane's place was reckoned good,
Though she bout life but little understood,
And had a master wild as wild can be,
And far unfit for such a child as she;
And soon the whisper went about the town,
That Jane's good looks procured her many a gown
From him, whose promise was to every one,
But whose intention was to wive with none.
Twas nought to wonder, though begun by guess;
For Jane was lovely in her Sunday dress,
And all expected such a rosy face
Would be her ruin--as was just the case.
The while the change was easily perceived,
Some months went by, ere I the tales believed;
For there are people nowadays, Lord knows,
Will sooner hatch up lies than mend their clothes;
And when with such-like tattle they begin,
Don't mind whose character they spoil a pin:
But passing neighbours often marked them smile,
And watched him take her milkpail oer a stile;
And many a time, as wandering closer by,
From Jenny's bosom met a heavy sigh;
And often marked her, as discoursing deep,
When doubts might rise to give just cause to weep,
Smothering their notice, by a wished disguise
To slive her apron corner to her eyes.
Such signs were mournful and alarming things,
And far more weighty than conjecture brings;
Though foes made double what they heard of all,
Swore lies as proofs, and prophesied her fall.
Poor thoughtless wench! it seems but Sunday past
Since we went out together for the last,
And plain enough indeed it was to find
She'd something more than common on her mind;
For she was always fond and full of chat,
In passing harmless jokes bout beaus and that,
But nothing then was scarcely talked about,
And what there was, I even forced it out.
A gloomy wanness spoiled her rosy cheek,
And doubts hung there it was not mine to seek;
She neer so much as mentioned things to come,
But sighed oer pleasures ere she left her home;
And now and then a mournful smile would raise
At freaks repeated of our younger days,
Which I brought up, while passing spots of ground
Where we, when children, "hurly-burlied" round,
Or "blindman-buffed" some morts of hours away--
Two games, poor thing, Jane dearly loved to play.
She smiled at these, but shook her head and sighed
When eer she thought my look was turned aside;
Nor turned she round, as was her former way,
To praise the thorn, white over then with May;
Nor stooped once, though thousands round her grew,
To pull a cowslip as she used to do:
For Jane in flowers delighted from a child--
I like the garden, but she loved the wild--
And oft on Sundays young men's gifts declined,
Posies from gardens of the sweetest kind,
And eager scrambled the dog-rose to get,
And woodbine-flowers at every bush she met.
The cowslip blossom, with its ruddy streak,
Would tempt her furlongs from the path to seek;
And gay long purple, with its tufty spike,
She'd wade oer shoes to reach it in the dyke;
And oft, while scratching through the briary woods
For tempting cuckoo-flowers and violet buds,
Poor Jane, I've known her crying sneak to town,
Fearing her mother, when she'd torn her gown.
Ah, these were days her conscience viewed with pain,
Which all are loth to lose, as well as Jane.
And, what I took more odd than all the rest,
Was, that same night she neer a wish exprest
To see the gipsies, so beloved before,
That lay a stone's throw from us on the moor:
I hinted it; she just replied again--
She once believed them, but had doubts since then.
And when we sought our cows, I called, "Come mull!"
But she stood silent, for her heart was full.
She loved dumb things: and ere she had begun
To milk, caressed them more than eer she'd done;
But though her tears stood watering in her eye,
I little took it as her last good-bye;
For she was tender, and I've often known
Her mourn when beetles have been trampled on:
So I neer dreamed from this, what soon befell,
Till the next morning rang her passing-bell.
My story's long, but time's in plenty yet,
Since the black clouds betoken nought but wet;
And I'll een snatch a minute's breath or two,
And take another pinch, to help me through.
"So, as I said, next morn I heard the bell,
And passing neighbours crossed the street, to tell
That my poor partner Jenny had been found
In the old flag-pool, on the pasture, drowned.
God knows my heart! I twittered like a leaf,
And found too late the cause of Sunday's grief;
For every tongue was loosed to gabble oer
The slanderous things that secret passed before:
With truth or lies they need not then be strict,
The one they railed at could not contradict.
Twas now no secret of her being beguiled,
For every mouth knew Jenny died with child;
And though more cautious with a living name,
Each more than guessed her master bore the blame.
That very morning, it affects me still,
Ye know the foot-path sidles down the hill,
Ignorant as babe unborn I passed the pond
To milk as usual in our close beyond,
And cows were drinking at the water's edge,
And horses browsed among the flags and sedge,
And gnats and midges danced the water oer,
Just as I've marked them scores of times before,
And birds sat singing, as in mornings gone,--
While I as unconcerned went soodling on,
But little dreaming, as the wakening wind
Flapped the broad ash-leaves oer the pond reclin'd,
And oer the water crinked the curdled wave,
That Jane was sleeping in her watery grave.
The neatherd boy that used to tend the cows,
While getting whip-sticks from the dangling boughs
Of osiers drooping by the water-side,
Her bonnet floating on the top espied;
He knew it well, and hastened fearful down
To take the terror of his fears to town,--
A melancholy story, far too true;
And soon the village to the pasture flew,
Where, from the deepest hole the pond about,
They dragged poor Jenny's lifeless body out,
And took her home, where scarce an hour gone by
She had been living like to you and I.
I went with more, and kissed her for the last,
And thought with tears on pleasures that were past;
And, the last kindness left me then to do,
I went, at milking, where the blossoms grew,
And handfuls got of rose and lambtoe sweet,
And put them with her in her winding-sheet.
A wilful murder, jury made the crime;
Nor parson 'lowed to pray, nor bell to chime;
On the cross roads, far from her friends and kin,
The usual law for their ungodly sin
Who violent hands upon themselves have laid,
Poor Jane's last bed unchristian-like was made;
And there, like all whose last thoughts turn to heaven,
She sleeps, and doubtless hoped to be forgiven.
But, though I say't, for maids thus veigled in
I think the wicked men deserve the sin;
And sure enough we all at last shall see
The treachery punished as it ought to be.
For ere his wickedness pretended love,
Jane, I'll be bound, was spotless as the dove,
And's good a servant, still old folks allow,
As ever scoured a pail or milked a cow;
And ere he led her into ruin's way,
As gay and buxom as a summer's day:
The birds that ranted in the hedge-row boughs,
As night and morning we have sought our cows,
With yokes and buckets as she bounced along,
Were often deafed to silence with her song.
But now she's gone:--girls, shun deceitful men,
The worst of stumbles ye can fall agen;
Be deaf to them, and then, as twere, ye'll see
Your pleasures safe as under lock and key.
Throw not my words away, as many do;
They're gold in value, though they're cheap to you.
And husseys hearken, and be warned from this,
If ye love mothers, never do amiss:
Jane might love hers, but she forsook the plan
To make her happy, when she thought of man.
Poor tottering dame, it was too plainly known,
Her daughter's dying hastened on her own,
For from the day the tidings reached her door
She took to bed and looked up no more,
And, ere again another year came round,
She, well as Jane, was laid within the ground;
And all were grieved poor Goody's end to see:
No better neighbour entered house than she,
A harmless soul, with no abusive tongue,
Trig as new pins, and tight's the day was long;
And go the week about, nine times in ten
Ye'd find her house as cleanly as her sen.
But, Lord protect us! time such change does bring,
We cannot dream what oer our heads may hing;
The very house she lived in, stick and stone,
Since Goody died, has tumbled down and gone:
And where the marjoram once, and sage, and rue,
And balm, and mint, with curled-leaf parsley grew,
And double marygolds, and silver thyme,
And pumpkins neath the window used to climb;
And where I often when a child for hours
Tried through the pales to get the tempting flowers,
As lady's laces, everlasting peas,
True-love-lies-bleeding, with the hearts-at-ease,
And golden rods, and tansy running high
That oer the pale-tops smiled on passers-by,
Flowers in my time that every one would praise,
Though thrown like weeds from gardens nowadays;
Where these all grew, now henbane stinks and spreads,
And docks and thistles shake their seedy heads,
And yearly keep with nettles smothering oer;--
The house, the dame, the garden known no more:
While, neighbouring nigh, one lonely elder-tree
Is all that's left of what had used to be,
Marking the place, and bringing up with tears
The recollections of one's younger years.
And now I've done, ye're each at once as free
To take your trundle as ye used to be;
To take right ways, as Jenny should have ta'en,
Or headlong run, and be a second Jane;
For by one thoughtless girl that's acted ill
A thousand may be guided if they will:
As oft mong folks to labour bustling on,
We mark the foremost kick against a stone,
Or stumble oer a stile he meant to climb,
While hind ones see and shun the fall in time.
But ye, I will be bound, like far the best
Love's tickling nick-nacks and the laughing jest,
And ten times sooner than be warned by me,
Would each be sitting on some fellow's knee,
Sooner believe the lies wild chaps will tell
Than old dames' cautions, who would wish ye well:
So have your wills."--She pinched her box again,
And ceased her tale, and listened to the rain,
Which still as usual pattered fast around,
And bowed the bent-head loaded to the ground;
While larks, their naked nest by force forsook,
Pruned their wet wings in bushes by the brook.
The maids, impatient now old Goody ceased,
As restless children from the school released,
Right gladly proving, what she'd just foretold,
That young ones' stories were preferred to old,
Turn to the whisperings of their former joy,
That oft deceive, but very rarely cloy.
How sweet to be thus nestling deep in boughs,
Upon an ashen stoven pillowing me;
Faintly are heard the ploughmen at their ploughs,
But not an eye can find its way to see.
The sunbeams scarce molest me with a smile,
So thickly the leafy armies gather round;
And where they do, the breeze blows cool the while,
Their leafy shadows dancing on the ground.
Full many a flower, too, wishing to be seen,
Perks up its head the hiding grass between,--
In mid-wood silence, thus, how sweet to be;
Where all the noises, that on peace intrude,
Come from the chittering cricket, bird, and bee,
Whose songs have charms to sweeten solitude.
What wonder strikes the curious, while he views
The black ant's city, by a rotten tree,
Or woodland bank! In ignorance we muse:
Pausing, annoyed,--we know not what we see,
Such government and thought there seem to be;
Some looking on, and urging some to toil,
Dragging their loads of bent-stalks slavishly:
And what's more wonderful, when big loads foil
One ant or two to carry, quickly then
A swarm flock round to help their fellow-men.
Surely they speak a language whisperingly,
Too fine for us to hear; and sure their ways
Prove they have kings and laws, and that they be
Deformed remnants of the Fairy-days.
_To Anna Three Years Old_
My Anna, summer laughs in mirth,
And we will of the party be,
And leave the crickets in the hearth
For green fields' merry minstrelsy.
I see thee now with little hand
Catch at each object passing bye,
The happiest thing in all the land
Except the bee and butterfly.
* * * * *
And limpid brook that leaps along,
Gilt with the summer's burnished gleam,
Will stop thy little tale or song
To gaze upon its crimping stream.
Thou'lt leave my hand with eager speed
The new discovered things to see--
The old pond with its water weed
And danger-daring willow tree,
Who leans an ancient invalid
Oer spots where deepest waters be.
In sudden shout and wild surprise
I hear thy simple wonderment,
As new things meet thy childish eyes
And wake some innocent intent;
As bird or bee or butterfly
Bounds through the crowd of merry leaves
And starts the rapture of thine eye
To run for what it neer achieves.
But thou art on the bed of pain,
So tells each poor forsaken toy.
Ah, could I see that happy hour
When these shall be thy heart's employ,
And see thee toddle oer the plain,
And stoop for flowers, and shout for joy.
_From "The Parish: A Satire"_
In politics and politicians' lies
The modern farmer waxes wondrous wise;
Opinionates with wisdom all compact,
And een could tell a nation how to act;
Throws light on darkness with excessive skill,
Knows who acts well and whose designs are ill,
Proves half the members nought but bribery's tools,
And calls the past a dull dark age of fools.
As wise as Solomon they read the news,
Not with their blind forefathers' simple views,
Who read of wars, and wished that wars would cease,
And blessed the King, and wished his country peace;
Who marked the weight of each fat sheep and ox,
The price of grain and rise and fall of stocks;
Who thought it learning how to buy and sell,
And him a wise man who could manage well.
No, not with such old-fashioned, idle views
Do these newsmongers traffic with the news.
They read of politics and not of grain,
And speechify and comment and explain,
And know so much of Parliament and state
You'd think they're members when you heard them prate;
And know so little of their farms the while
They can but urge a wiser man to smile.
A thing all consequence here takes the lead,
Reigning knight-errant oer this dirty breed--
A bailiff he, and who so great to brag
Of law and all its terrors as Bumtagg;
Fawning a puppy at his master's side
And frowning like a wolf on all beside;
Who fattens best where sorrow worst appears
And feeds on sad misfortune's bitterest tears?
Such is Bumtagg the bailiff to a hair,
The worshipper and demon of despair,
Who waits and hopes and wishes for success
At every nod and signal of distress,
Happy at heart, when storms begin to boil,
To seek the shipwreck and to share the spoil.
Brave is this Bumtagg, match him if you can;
For there's none like him living--save his man.
As every animal assists his kind
Just so are these in blood and business joined;
Yet both in different colours hide their art,
And each as suits his ends transacts his part.
One keeps the heart-bred villain full in sight,
The other cants and acts the hypocrite,
Smoothing the deed where law sharks set their gin
Like a coy dog to draw misfortune in.
But both will chuckle oer their prisoners' sighs
And are as blest as spiders over flies.
Such is Bumtagg, whose history I resign,
As other knaves wait room to stink and shine;
And, as the meanest knave a dog can brag,
Such is the lurcher that assists Bumtagg.
_Nobody Cometh to Woo_
On Martinmas eve the dogs did bark,
And I opened the window to see,
When every maiden went by with her spark
But neer a one came to me.
And O dear what will become of me?
And O dear what shall I do,
When nobody whispers to marry me--
Nobody cometh to woo?
None's born for such troubles as I be:
If the sun wakens first in the morn
"Lazy hussy" my parents both call me,
And I must abide by their scorn,
For nobody cometh to marry me,
Nobody cometh to woo,
So here in distress must I tarry me--
What can a poor maiden do?
If I sigh through the window when Jerry
The ploughman goes by, I grow bold;
And if I'm disposed to be merry,
My parents do nothing but scold;
And Jerry the clown, and no other,
Eer cometh to marry or woo;
They think me the moral of mother
And judge me a terrible shrew.
For mother she hateth all fellows,
And spinning's my father's desire,
While the old cat growls bass with the bellows
If eer I hitch up to the fire.
I make the whole house out of humour,
I wish nothing else but to please,
Would fortune but bring a new comer
To marry, and make me at ease!
When I've nothing my leisure to hinder
I scarce get as far as the eaves;
Her head's instant out of the window
Calling out like a press after thieves.
The young men all fall to remarking,
And laugh till they're weary to see't,
While the dogs at the noise begin barking,
And I slink in with shame from the street.
My mother's aye jealous of loving,
My father's aye jealous of play,
So what with them both there's no moving,
I'm in durance for life and a day.
O who shall I get for to marry me?
Who will have pity to woo?
Tis death any longer to tarry me,
And what shall a poor maiden do?
What is there in those distant hills
My fancy longs to see,
That many a mood of joy instils?
Say what can fancy be?
Do old oaks thicken all the woods,
With weeds and brakes as here?
Does common water make the floods,
That's common everywhere?
Is grass the green that clothes the ground?
Are springs the common springs?
Daisies and cowslips dropping round,
Are such the flowers she brings?
* * * * *
Are cottages of mud and stone,
By valley wood and glen,
And their calm dwellers little known
Men, and but common men,
That drive afield with carts and ploughs?
Such men are common here,
And pastoral maidens milking cows
Are dwelling everywhere.
If so my fancy idly clings
To notions far away,
And longs to roam for common things
All round her every day,
Right idle would the journey be
To leave one's home so far,
And see the moon I now can see
And every little star.
And have they there a night and day,
And common counted hours?
And do they see so far away
This very moon of ours?
* * * * *
I mark him climb above the trees
With one small [comrade] star,
And think me in my reveries--
He cannot shine so far.
* * * * *
The poets in the tales they tell
And with their happy powers
Have made lands where their fancies dwell
Seem better lands than ours.
Why need I sigh far hills to see
If grass is their array,
While here the little paths go through
The greenest every day?
Such fancies fill the restless mind,
At once to cheat and cheer
With thought and semblance undefined,
Nowhere and everywhere.
MIDDLE PERIOD 1824-1836
When trouble haunts me, need I sigh?
No, rather smile away despair;
For those have been more sad than I,
With burthens more than I could bear;
Aye, gone rejoicing under care
Where I had sunk in black despair.
When pain disturbs my peace and rest,
Am I a hopeless grief to keep,
When some have slept on torture's breast
And smiled as in the sweetest sleep,
Aye, peace on thorns, in faith forgiven,
And pillowed on the hope of heaven?
Though low and poor and broken down,
Am I to think myself distrest?
No, rather laugh where others frown
And think my being truly blest;
For others I can daily see
More worthy riches worse than me.
Aye, once a stranger blest the earth
Who never caused a heart to mourn,
Whose very voice gave sorrow mirth--
And how did earth his worth return?
It spurned him from its lowliest lot,
The meanest station owned him not;
An outcast thrown in sorrow's way,
A fugitive that knew no sin,
Yet in lone places forced to stray--
Men would not take the stranger in.
Yet peace, though much himself he mourned,
Was all to others he returned.
* * * * *
His presence was a peace to all,
He bade the sorrowful rejoice.
Pain turned to pleasure at his call,
Health lived and issued from his voice.
He healed the sick and sent abroad
The dumb rejoicing in the Lord.
The blind met daylight in his eye,
The joys of everlasting day;
The sick found health in his reply;
The cripple threw his crutch away.
Yet he with troubles did remain
And suffered poverty and pain.
Yet none could say of wrong he did,
And scorn was ever standing bye;
Accusers by their conscience chid,
When proof was sought, made no reply.
Yet without sin he suffered more
Than ever sinners did before.
What is song's eternity?
Come and see.
Can it noise and bustle be?
Come and see.
Praises sung or praises said
Can it be?
Wait awhile and these are dead--
Be they high or lowly bred They die.
What is song's eternity?
Come and see.
Melodies of earth and sky,
Here they be.
Song once sung to Adam's ears
Can it be?
Ballads of six thousand years
Songs awaken with the spheres
Mighty songs that miss decay,
What are they?
Crowds and cities pass away
Like a day.
Books are out and books are read;
What are they?
Years will lay them with the dead--
Trifles unto nothing wed,
Dreamers, mark the honey bee;
Mark the tree
Where the blue cap "_tootle tee_"
Sings a glee
Sung to Adam and to Eve
Here they be.
When floods covered every bough,
Heard that ballad singing now;
"_Tootle tootle tootle tee_"--
Can it be
Pride and fame must shadows be?
Come and see--
Every season own her own;
Bird and bee
Sing creation's music on;
Is in every mood and tone
_The Old Cottagers_
The little cottage stood alone, the pride
Of solitude surrounded every side.
Bean fields in blossom almost reached the wall;
A garden with its hawthorn hedge was all
The space between.--Green light did pass
Through one small window, where a looking-glass
Placed in the parlour, richly there revealed
A spacious landscape and a blooming field.
The pasture cows that herded on the moor
Printed their footsteps to the very door,
Where little summer flowers with seasons blow
And scarcely gave the eldern leave to grow.
The cuckoo that one listens far away
Sung in the orchard trees for half the day;
And where the robin lives, the village guest,
In the old weedy hedge the leafy nest
Of the coy nightingale was yearly found,
Safe from all eyes as in the loneliest ground;
And little chats that in bean stalks will lie
A nest with cobwebs there will build, and fly
Upon the kidney bean that twines and towers
Up little poles in wreaths of scarlet flowers.
There a lone couple lived, secluded there
From all the world considers joy or care,
Lived to themselves, a long lone journey trod,
And through their Bible talked aloud to God;
While one small close and cow their wants maintained,
But little needing, and but little gained.
Their neighbour's name was peace, with her they went,
With tottering age, and dignified content,
Through a rich length of years and quiet days,
And filled the neighbouring village with their praise.
The spring is coming by a many signs;
The trays are up, the hedges broken down,
That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines
Like some old antique fragment weathered brown.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two--till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill and wags his tail to meet the yoe,
And then another, sheltered from the wind,
Lies all his length as dead--and lets me go
Close bye and never stirs but baking lies,
With legs stretched out as though he could not rise.
When first we hear the shy-come nightingales,
They seem to mutter oer their songs in fear,
And, climb we eer so soft the spinney rails,
All stops as if no bird was anywhere.
The kindled bushes with the young leaves thin
Let curious eyes to search a long way in,
Until impatience cannot see or hear
The hidden music; gets but little way
Upon the path--when up the songs begin,
Full loud a moment and then low again.
But when a day or two confirms her stay
Boldly she sings and loud for half the day;
And soon the village brings the woodman's tale
Of having heard the newcome nightingale.
The holly bush, a sober lump of green,
Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,
And smiles at winter be it eer so keen
With all the leafy luxury of May.
And O it is delicious, when the day
In winter's loaded garment keenly blows
And turns her back on sudden falling snows,
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of evergreen that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving storm;
And in the bitterest day that ever blew
The walk will find some places still and warm
Where dead leaves rustle sweet and give alarm
To little birds that flirt and start away.
Home furthest off grows dearer from the way;
And when the army in the Indias lay
Friends' letters coming from his native place
Were like old neighbours with their country face.
And every opportunity that came
Opened the sheet to gaze upon the name
Of that loved village where he left his sheep
For more contented peaceful folk to keep;
And friendly faces absent many a year
Would from such letters in his mind appear.
And when his pockets, chafing through the case,
Wore it quite out ere others took the place,
Right loath to be of company bereft
He kept the fragments while a bit was left.
Here morning in the ploughman's songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky,
And twilight in the east, a doubt as yet,
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her bye.
Woke early, I arose and thought that first
In winter time of all the world was I.
The old owls might have hallooed if they durst,
But joy just then was up and whistled bye
A merry tune which I had known full long,
But could not to my memory wake it back,
Until the ploughman changed it to the song.
O happiness, how simple is thy track.
--Tinged like the willow shoots, the east's young brow
Glows red and finds thee singing at the plough.
Where slanting banks are always with the sun
The daisy is in blossom even now;
And where warm patches by the hedges run
The cottager when coming home from plough
Brings home a cowslip root in flower to set.
Thus ere the Christmas goes the spring is met
Setting up little tents about the fields
In sheltered spots.--Primroses when they get
Behind the wood's old roots, where ivy shields
Their crimpled, curdled leaves, will shine and hide.
Cart ruts and horses' footings scarcely yield
A slur for boys, just crizzled and that's all.
Frost shoots his needles by the small dyke side,
And snow in scarce a feather's seen to fall.
_Letter in Verse_
Like boys that run behind the loaded wain
For the mere joy of riding back again,
When summer from the meadow carts the hay
And school hours leave them half a day to play;
So I with leisure on three sides a sheet
Of foolscap dance with poesy's measured feet,
Just to ride post upon the wings of time
And kill a care, to friendship turned in rhyme.
The muse's gallop hurries me in sport
With much to read and little to divert,
And I, amused, with less of wit than will,
Run till I tire.--And so to cheat her still.
Like children running races who shall be
First in to touch the orchard wall or tree,
The last half way behind, by distance vext,
Turns short, determined to be first the next;
So now the muse has run me hard and long--
I'll leave at once her races and her song;
And, turning round, laugh at the letter's close
And beat her out by ending it in prose.
What a night! The wind howls, hisses, and but stops
To howl more loud, while the snow volley keeps
Incessant batter at the window pane,
Making our comfort feel as sweet again;
And in the morning, when the tempest drops,
At every cottage door mountainous heaps
Of snow lie drifted, that all entrance stops
Untill the beesom and the shovel gain
The path, and leave a wall on either side.
The shepherd rambling valleys white and wide
With new sensations his old memory fills,
When hedges left at night, no more descried,
Are turned to one white sweep of curving hills,
And trees turned bushes half their bodies hide.
The boy that goes to fodder with surprise
Walks oer the gate he opened yesternight.
The hedges all have vanished from his eyes;
Een some tree tops the sheep could reach to bite.
The novel scene emboldens new delight,
And, though with cautious steps his sports begin,
He bolder shuffles the huge hills of snow,
Till down he drops and plunges to the chin,
And struggles much and oft escape to win--
Then turns and laughs but dare not further go;
For deep the grass and bushes lie below,
Where little birds that soon at eve went in
With heads tucked in their wings now pine for day
And little feel boys oer their heads can stray.
The fir trees taper into twigs and wear
The rich blue green of summer all the year,
Softening the roughest tempest almost calm
And offering shelter ever still and warm
To the small path that towels underneath,
Where loudest winds--almost as summer's breath--
Scarce fan the weed that lingers green below
When others out of doors are lost in frost and snow.
And sweet the music trembles on the ear
As the wind suthers through each tiny spear,
Makeshifts for leaves; and yet, so rich they show,
Winter is almost summer where they grow.
Grasshoppers go in many a thumming spring
And now to stalks of tasseled sow-grass cling,
That shakes and swees awhile, but still keeps straight;
While arching oxeye doubles with his weight.
Next on the cat-tail-grass with farther bound
He springs, that bends until they touch the ground.
The beams in blossom with their spots of jet
Smelt sweet as gardens wheresoever met;
The level meadow grass was in the swath;
The hedge briar rose hung right across the path,
White over with its flowers--the grass that lay
Bleaching beneath the twittering heat to hay
Smelt so deliciously, the puzzled bee
Went wondering where the honey sweets could be;
And passer-bye along the level rows
Stoopt down and whipt a bit beneath his nose.
Dear brother robin this comes from us all
With our kind love and could Gip write and all
Though but a dog he'd have his love to spare
For still he knows and by your corner chair
The moment he comes in he lyes him down
and seems to fancy you are in the town.
This leaves us well in health thank God for that
For old acquaintance Sue has kept your hat
Which mother brushes ere she lays it bye
and every sunday goes upstairs to cry
Jane still is yours till you come back agen
and neer so much as dances with the men
and ned the woodman every week comes in
and asks about you kindly as our kin
and he with this and goody Thompson sends
Remembrances with those of all our friends
Father with us sends love untill he hears
and mother she has nothing but her tears
Yet wishes you like us in health the same
and longs to see a letter with your name
So loving brother don't forget to write
Old Gip lies on the hearth stone every night
Mother can't bear to turn him out of doors
and never noises now of dirty floors
Father will laugh but lets her have her way
and Gip for kindness get a double pay
So Robin write and let us quickly see
You don't forget old friends no more than we
Nor let my mother have so much to blame
To go three journeys ere your letter came.
Supper removed, the mother sits,
And tells her tales by starts and fits.
Not willing to lose time or toil,
She knits or sews, and talks the while
Something, that may be warnings found
To the young listeners gaping round--
Of boys who in her early day
Strolled to the meadow-lake to play,
Where willows, oer the bank inclined
Sheltered the water from the wind,
And left it scarcely crizzled oer--
When one sank in, to rise no more!
And how, upon a market-night,
When not a star bestowed its light,
A farmer's shepherd, oer his glass,
Forgot that he had woods to pass:
And having sold his master's sheep,
Was overta'en by darkness deep.
How, coming with his startled horse,
To where two roads a hollow cross;
Where, lone guide when a stranger strays,
A white post points four different ways,
Beside the woodride's lonely gate
A murdering robber lay in wait.
The frightened horse, with broken rein,
Stood at the stable-door again;
But none came home to fill his rack,
Or take the saddle from his back;
The saddle--it was all he bore--
The man was seen alive no more!--
In her young days, beside the wood,
The gibbet in its terror stood:
Though now decayed, tis not forgot,
But dreaded as a haunted spot.--
She from her memory oft repeats
Witches' dread powers and fairy feats:
How one has oft been known to prance
In cowcribs, like a coach, to France,
And ride on sheep-trays from the fold
A race-horse speed to Burton-hold;
To join the midnight mystery's rout,
Where witches meet the yews about:
And how, when met with unawares,
They turn at once to cats or hares,
And race along with hellish flight,
Now here, now there, now out of sight!--
And how the other tiny things
Will leave their moonlight meadow-rings,
And, unperceived, through key-holes creep,
When all around have sunk to sleep,
To feast on what the cotter leaves,--
Mice are not reckoned greater thieves.
They take away, as well as eat,
And still the housewife's eye they cheat,
In spite of all the folks that swarm
In cottage small and larger farm;
They through each key-hole pop and pop,
Like wasps into a grocer's shop,
With all the things that they can win
From chance to put their plunder in;--
As shells of walnuts, split in two
By crows, who with the kernels flew;
Or acorn-cups, by stock-doves plucked,
Or egg-shells by a cuckoo sucked;
With broad leaves of the sycamore
They clothe their stolen dainties oer:
And when in cellar they regale,
Bring hazel-nuts to hold their ale;
With bung-holes bored by squirrels well,
To get the kernel from the shell;
Or maggots a way out to win,
When all is gone that grew within;
And be the key-holes eer so high,
Rush poles a ladder's help supply.
Where soft the climbers fearless tread,
On spindles made of spiders' thread.
And foul, or fair, or dark the night,
Their wild-fire lamps are burning bright:
For which full many a daring crime
Is acted in the summer-time;--
When glow-worm found in lanes remote
Is murdered for its shining coat,
And put in flowers, that nature weaves
With hollow shapes and silken leaves,
Such as the Canterbury bell,
Serving for lamp or lantern well;
Or, following with unwearied watch
The flight of one they cannot match,
As silence sliveth upon sleep,
Or thieves by dozing watch-dogs creep,
They steal from Jack-a-Lantern's tails
A light, whose guidance never fails
To aid them in the darkest night
And guide their plundering steps aright.
Rattling away in printless tracks,
Some, housed on beetles' glossy backs,
Go whisking on--and others hie
As fast as loaded moths can fly:
Some urge, the morning cock to shun,
The hardest gallop mice can run,
In chariots, lolling at their ease,
Made of whateer their fancies please;--
Things that in childhood's memory dwell--
Scooped crow-pot-stone, or cockle-shell,
With wheels at hand of mallow seeds,
Where childish sport was stringing beads;
And thus equipped, they softly pass
Like shadows on the summer-grass,
And glide away in troops together
Just as the Spring-wind drives a feather.
As light as happy dreams they creep,
Nor break the feeblest link of sleep:
A midge, if in their road a-bed,
Feels not the wheels run oer his head,
But sleeps till sunrise calls him up,
Unconscious of the passing troop,--
Thus dame the winter-night regales
With wonder's never-ceasing tales;
While in a corner, ill at ease,
Or crushing tween their father's knees,
The children--silent all the while--
And een repressed the laugh or smile--
Quake with the ague chills of fear,
And tremble though they love to hear;
Starting, while they the tales recall,
At their own shadows on the wall:
Till the old clock, that strikes unseen
Behind the picture-pasted screen
Where Eve and Adam still agree
To rob Life's fatal apple-tree,
Counts over bed-time's hour of rest,
And bids each be sleep's fearful guest.
She then her half-told tales will leave
To finish on to-morrow's eve;--
The children steal away to bed,
And up the ladder softly tread;
Scarce daring--from their fearful joys--
To look behind or make a noise;
Nor speak a word! but still as sleep
They secret to their pillows creep,
And whisper oer, in terror's way,
The prayers they dare no louder say;
Then hide their heads beneath the clothes,
And try in vain to seek repose:
While yet, to fancy's sleepless eye,
Witches on sheep-trays gallop by,
And fairies, like a rising spark,
Swarm twittering round them in the dark;
Till sleep creeps nigh to ease their cares,
And drops upon them unawares.
The landscape sleeps in mist from morn till noon;
And, if the sun looks through, tis with a face
Beamless and pale and round, as if the moon,
When done the journey of her nightly race,
Had found him sleeping, and supplied his place.
For days the shepherds in the fields may be,
Nor mark a patch of sky--blindfold they trace,
The plains, that seem without a bush or tree,
Whistling aloud by guess, to flocks they cannot see.
The timid hare seems half its fears to lose,
Crouching and sleeping neath its grassy lair,
And scarcely startles, though the shepherd goes
Close by its home, and dogs are barking there;
The wild colt only turns around to stare
At passer by, then knaps his hide again;
And moody crows beside the road forbear
To fly, though pelted by the passing swain;
Thus day seems turned to night, and tries to wake in vain.
The owlet leaves her hiding-place at noon,
And flaps her grey wings in the doubling light;
The hoarse jay screams to see her out so soon,
And small birds chirp and startle with affright;
Much doth it scare the superstitious wight,
Who dreams of sorry luck, and sore dismay;
While cow-boys think the day a dream of night,
And oft grow fearful on their lonely way,
Fancying that ghosts may wake, and leave their graves by day.
Yet but awhile the slumbering weather flings
Its murky prison round--then winds wake loud;
With sudden stir the startled forest sings
Winter's returning song-cloud races cloud.
And the horizon throws away its shroud,
Sweeping a stretching circle from the eye;
Storms upon storms in quick succession crowd,
And oer the sameness of the purple sky
Heaven paints, with hurried hand, wild hues of every dye.
At length it comes among the forest oaks,
With sobbing ebbs, and uproar gathering high;
The scared, hoarse raven on its cradle croaks,
And stockdove-flocks in hurried terrors fly,
While the blue hawk hangs oer them in the sky.--
The hedger hastens from the storm begun,
To seek a shelter that may keep him dry;
And foresters low bent, the wind to shun,
Scarce hear amid the strife the poacher's muttering gun.
The ploughman hears its humming rage begin,
And hies for shelter from his naked toil;
Buttoning his doublet closer to his chin,
He bends and scampers oer the elting soil,
While clouds above him in wild fury boil,
And winds drive heavily the beating rain;
He turns his back to catch his breath awhile,
Then ekes his speed and faces it again,
To seek the shepherd's hut beside the rushy plain.
The boy, that scareth from the spiry wheat
The melancholy crow--in hurry weaves,
Beneath an ivied tree, his sheltering seat,
Of rushy flags and sedges tied in sheaves,
Or from the field a shock of stubble thieves.
There he doth dithering sit, and entertain
His eyes with marking the storm-driven leaves;
Oft spying nests where he spring eggs had ta'en,
And wishing in his heart twas summer-time again.
Thus wears the month along, in checkered moods,
Sunshine and shadows, tempests loud, and calms;
One hour dies silent oer the sleepy woods,
The next wakes loud with unexpected storms;
A dreary nakedness the field deforms--
Yet many a rural sound, and rural sight,
Lives in the village still about the farms,
Where toil's rude uproar hums from morn till night
Noises, in which the ears of industry delight.
At length the stir of rural labour's still,
And industry her care awhile foregoes;
When winter comes in earnest to fulfil
His yearly task, at bleak November's close,
And stops the plough, and hides the field in snows;
When frost locks up the stream in chill delay
And mellows on the hedge the jetty sloes,
For little birds--then toil hath time for play,
And nought but threshers' flails awake the dreary day.
Wandering by the river's edge,
I love to rustle through the sedge
And through the woods of reed to tear
Almost as high as bushes are.
Yet, turning quick with shudder chill,
As danger ever does from ill,
Fear's moment ague quakes the blood,
While plop the snake coils in the flood
And, hissing with a forked tongue,
Across the river winds along.
In coat of orange, green, and blue
Now on a willow branch I view,
Grey waving to the sunny gleam,
Kingfishers watch the ripple stream
For little fish that nimble bye
And in the gravel shallows lie.
Eddies run before the boats,
Gurgling where the fisher floats,
Who takes advantage of the gale
And hoists his handkerchief for sail
On osier twigs that form a mast--
While idly lies, nor wanted more,
The spirit that pushed him on before.
There's not a hill in all the view,
Save that a forked cloud or two
Upon the verge of distance lies
And into mountains cheats the eyes.
And as to trees the willows wear
Lopped heads as high as bushes are;
Some taller things the distance shrouds
That may be trees or stacks or clouds
Or may be nothing; still they wear
A semblance where there's nought to spare.
Among the tawny tasselled reed
The ducks and ducklings float and feed.
With head oft dabbing in the flood
They fish all day the weedy mud,
And tumbler-like are bobbing there,
Heels topsy turvy in the air.
The geese in troops come droving up,
Nibble the weeds, and take a sup;
And, closely puzzled to agree,
Chatter like gossips over tea.
The gander with his scarlet nose
When strife's at height will interpose;
And, stretching neck to that and this,
With now a mutter, now a hiss,
A nibble at the feathers too,
A sort of "pray be quiet do,"
And turning as the matter mends,
He stills them into mutual friends;
Then in a sort of triumph sings
And throws the water oer his wings.
Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A puddock riding in the sky
Above the oaks with easy sail
On stilly wings and forked tail,
Or meet a heath of furze in flower,
I might enjoy a quiet hour,
Sit down at rest, and walk at ease,
And find a many things to please.
But here my fancy's moods admire
The naked levels till they tire,
Nor een a molehill cushion meet
To rest on when I want a seat.
Here's little save the river scene
And grounds of oats in rustling green
And crowded growth of wheat and beans,
That with the hope of plenty leans
And cheers the farmer's gazing brow,
Who lives and triumphs in the plough--
One sometimes meets a pleasant sward
Of swarthy grass; and quickly marred
The plough soon turns it into brown,
And, when again one rambles down
The path, small hillocks burning lie
And smoke beneath a burning sky.
Green paddocks have but little charms
With gain the merchandise of farms;
And, muse and marvel where we may,
Gain mars the landscape every day--
The meadow grass turned up and copt,
The trees to stumpy dotterels lopt,
The hearth with fuel to supply
For rest to smoke and chatter bye;
Giving the joy of home delights,
The warmest mirth on coldest nights.
And so for gain, that joy's repay,
Change cheats the landscape every day,
Nor trees nor bush about it grows
That from the hatchet can repose,
And the horizon stooping smiles
Oer treeless fens of many miles.
Spring comes and goes and comes again
And all is nakedness and fen.
Where the broad sheepwalk bare and brown
[Yields] scant grass pining after showers,
And winds go fanning up and down
The little strawy bents and nodding flowers,
There the huge thistle, spurred with many thorns,
The suncrackt upland's russet swells adorns.
Not undevoid of beauty there they come,
Armed warriors, waiting neither suns nor showers,
Guarding the little clover plots to bloom
While sheep nor oxen dare not crop their flowers
Unsheathing their own knobs of tawny flowers
When summer cometh in her hottest hours.
The pewit, swopping up and down
And screaming round the passer bye,
Or running oer the herbage brown
With copple crown uplifted high,
Loves in its clumps to make a home
Where danger seldom cares to come.
The yellowhammer, often prest
For spot to build and be unseen,
Will in its shelter trust her nest
When fields and meadows glow with green;
And larks, though paths go closely bye,
Will in its shade securely lie.
The partridge too, that scarce can trust
The open downs to be at rest,
Will in its clumps lie down, and dust
And prune its horseshoe-circled breast,
And oft in shining fields of green
Will lay and raise its brood unseen.
The sheep when hunger presses sore
May nip the clover round its nest;
But soon the thistle wounding sore
Relieves it from each brushing guest,
That leaves a bit of wool behind,
The yellowhammer loves to find.
The horse will set his foot and bite
Close to the ground lark's guarded nest
And snort to meet the prickly sight;
He fans the feathers of her breast--
Yet thistles prick so deep that he
Turns back and leaves her dwelling free.
Its prickly knobs the dews of morn
Doth bead with dressing rich to see,
When threads doth hang from thorn to thorn
Like the small spinner's tapestry;
And from the flowers a sultry smell
Comes that agrees with summer well.
The bee will make its bloom a bed,
The humble bee in tawny brown;
And one in jacket fringed with red
Will rest upon its velvet down
When overtaken in the rain,
And wait till sunshine comes again.
And there are times when travel goes
Along the sheep tracks' beaten ways,
Then pleasure many a praise bestows
Upon its blossoms' pointed rays,
When other things are parched beside
And hot day leaves it in its pride.
I would not wish the burning blaze
Of fame around a restless world,
The thunder and the storm of praise
In crowded tumults heard and hurled.
I would not be a flower to stand
The stare of every passer-bye;
But in some nook of fairyland,
Seen in the praise of beauty's eye.
O take this world away from me;
Its strife I cannot bear to see,
Its very praises hurt me more
Than een its coldness did before,
Its hollow ways torment me now
And start a cold sweat on my brow,
Its noise I cannot bear to hear,
Its joy is trouble to my ear,
Its ways I cannot bear to see,
Its crowds are solitudes to me.
O, how I long to be agen
That poor and independent man,
With labour's lot from morn to night
And books to read at candle light;
That followed labour in the field
From light to dark when toil could yield
Real happiness with little gain,
Rich thoughtless health unknown to pain:
Though, leaning on my spade to rest,
I've thought how richer folks were blest
And knew not quiet was the best.
Go with your tauntings, go;
Neer think to hurt me so;
I'll scoff at your disdain.
Cold though the winter blow,
When hills are free from snow
It will be spring again.
So go, and fare thee well,
Nor think ye'll have to tell
Of wounded hearts from me,
Locked up in your hearts cell.
Mine still at home doth dwell
In its first liberty.
Bees sip not at one flower,
Spring comes not with one shower,
Nor shines the sun alone
Upon one favoured hour,
But with unstinted power
Makes every day his own.
And for my freedom's sake
With such I'll pattern take,
And rove and revel on.
Your gall shall never make
Me honied paths forsake;
So prythee get thee gone.
And when my toil is blest
And I find a maid possest
Of truth that's not in thee,
Like bird that finds its nest
I'll stop and take my rest;
And love as she loves me.
_Farewell and Defiance to Love_
Love and thy vain employs, away
From this too oft deluded breast!
No longer will I court thy stay,
To be my bosom's teazing guest.
Thou treacherous medicine, reckoned pure,
Thou quackery of the harassed heart,
That kills what it pretends to cure,
Life's mountebank thou art.
With nostrums vain of boasted powers,
That, ta'en, a worse disorder leave;
An asp hid in a group of flowers,
That bites and stings when few perceive;
Thou mock-truce to the troubled mind,
Leading it more in sorrow's way,
Freedom, that leaves us more confined,
I bid thee hence away.
Dost taunt, and deem thy power beyond
The resolution reason gave?
Tut! Falsity hath snapt each bond,
That kept me once thy quiet slave,
And made thy snare a spider's thread,
Which een my breath can break in twain;
Nor will I be, like Sampson, led
To trust thy wiles again.
I took thee as my staff to guide
Me on the road I did pursue,
And when my weakness most relied
Upon its strength it broke in two.
I took thee as my friendly host
That counsel might in dangers show,
But when I needed thee the most
I found thou wert my foe.
Tempt me no more with rosy cheeks,
Nor daze my reason with bright eyes;
I'm wearied with thy painted freaks,
And sicken at such vanities:
Be roses fine as eer they will,
They, with the meanest, fade and die,
And eyes, though thronged with darts to kill,
Share like mortality.
Feed the young bard, that madly sips
His nectar-draughts from folly's flowers,
Bright eyes, fair cheeks, and ruby lips,
Till muses melt to honey showers;
Lure him to thrum thy empty lays,
While flattery listens to the chimes,
Till words themselves grow sick with praise
And stop for want of rhymes.
Let such be still thy paramours,
And chaunt love's old and idle tune,
Robbing the spring of all its flowers,
And heaven of all her stars and moon,
To gild with dazzling similes
Blind folly's vain and empty lay:
I'm sobered from such phantasies,
So get thee hence away.
Nor bid me sigh for mine own cost,
Nor count its loss, for mine annoy,
Nor say my stubbornness hath lost
A paradise of dainty joy:
I'll not believe thee, till I know
That sober reason turns an ape,
And acts the harlequin, to show
That cares in every shape,
Heart-achings, sighs, and grief-wrung tears,
Shame-blushes at betrayed distress,
Dissembled smiles, and jealous fears,
Are nought but real happiness:
Then will I mourn what now I brave,
And suffer Celia's quirks to be
(Like a poor fate-bewilder'd slave,)
The rulers of my destiny.
I'll weep and sigh wheneer she wills
To frown, and when she deigns to smile
It shall be cure for all my ills,
And, foolish still, I'll laugh the while;
But till that comes, I'll bless the rules
Experience taught, and deem it wise
To hold thee as the game of fools,
And all thy tricks despise.
_To John Milton_
_"From his honoured friend, William Davenant"_
Poet of mighty power, I fain
Would court the muse that honoured thee,
And, like Elisha's spirit, gain
A part of thy intensity;
And share the mantle which she flung
Around thee, when thy lyre was strung.
Though faction's scorn at first did shun
With coldness thy inspired song,
Though clouds of malice passed thy sun,
They could not hide it long;
Its brightness soon exhaled away
Dank night, and gained eternal day.
The critics' wrath did darkly frown
Upon thy muse's mighty lay;
But blasts that break the blossom down
Do only stir the bay;
And thine shall flourish, green and long,
With the eternity of song.
Thy genius saw, in quiet mood,
Gilt fashion's follies pass thee by,
And, like the monarch of the wood,
Towered oer it to the sky,
Where thou couldst sing of other spheres,
And feel the fame of future years.
Though bitter sneers and stinging scorns
Did throng the muse's dangerous way,
Thy powers were past such little thorns,
They gave thee no dismay;
The scoffer's insult passed thee by,
Thou smild'st and mad'st him no reply.
Envy will gnaw its heart away
To see thy genius gather root;
And as its flowers their sweets display
Scorn's malice shall be mute;
Hornets that summer warmed to fly,
Shall at the death of summer die.
Though friendly praise hath but its hour.
And little praise with thee hath been;
The bay may lose its summer flower,
But still its leaves are green;
And thine, whose buds are on the shoot,
Shall only fade to change to fruit.
Fame lives not in the breath of words,
In public praises' hue and cry;
The music of these summer birds
Is silent in a winter sky,
When thine shall live and flourish on,
Oer wrecks where crowds of fames are gone.
The ivy shuns the city wall,
When busy clamorous crowds intrude,
And climbs the desolated hall
In silent solitude;
The time-worn arch, the fallen dome,
Are roots for its eternal home.
The bard his glory neer receives
Where summer's common flowers are seen,
But winter finds it when she leaves
The laurel only green;
And time from that eternal tree,
Shall weave a wreath to honour thee;
A sunny wreath for poets meet,
From Helicon's immortal soil,
Where sacred Time with pilgrim feet
Walks forth to worship, not to spoil,
A wreath which Fame creates and bears,
And deathless genius only heirs.
Nought but thy ashes shall expire;
Thy genius, at thy obsequies,
Shall kindle up its living fire
And light the muse's skies;
Ay, it shall rise, and shine, and be
A sun in song's posterity.
_The Vanities of Life_
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.--_Solomon_
What are life's joys and gains?
What pleasures crowd its ways,
That man should take such pains
To seek them all his days?
Sift this untoward strife
On which thy mind is bent:
See if this chaff of life
Is worth the trouble spent.
Is pride thy heart's desire?
Is power thy climbing aim?
Is love thy folly's fire?
Is wealth thy restless game?
Pride, power, love, wealth, and all
Time's touchstone shall destroy,
And, like base coin, prove all
Vain substitutes for joy.
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