Page images

Ere Robert come again." Towards the house
Together we return’d, and she inquired
If I had any hope :— but for her babe,
And for her little orphan boy, she said,
She had no wish to live — that she must die
Of sorrow. Yet I saw the idle loom
Still in its place; his Sunday garments hung
Upon the self-same nail ; his very staff
Stood undisturb'd behind the door. And when,
In bleak December, I retraced this way,
She told me that her little babe was dead,
And she was left alone. She now, released
From her maternal cares, had taken up
The employment common through these wilds, and

By spinning hemp a pittance for herself ;
And for this end had hired a neighbour's boy
To give her needful help. That very time
Most willingly she put her work aside
And walk'd with me along the miry road
Heedless how far; and, in such piteous sort
That any heart had ached to hear her, begg'd
That, wheresoe'er I went, I still would ask
For him whom she had lost. We parted then --
Our final parting ; for from that time forth
Did many seasons pass ere I return'd
Into this tract again.

The painful narrative prolongs : the unhappy. Margaret's

sore heart wasting for nine tedious years, during which period she enquires of every passer-by, for news of her husband. Meanwhile neglect and decay increase in and around the miserable hut.

" Yet still
She loved this wretched spot, nor would for worlds
Have parted hence : and still that length of road,
And this rude bench, one torturing hope endear'd,
Fast rooted at her heart : and here, my friend,-
In sickness she remain'd; and here she died,

Last human tenant of these ruin d walls !'

He ceased. Ere long the sun declining shot A slant and mellow radiance, which began To fall upon us, while beneath the trees, We sate on that low bench : and now we felt, Admonish'd thus, the sweet hour coming on. A linnet warbled from those lofty elms, A thrush sang loud, and other melodies, At distance heard, peopled the milder air. The old man rose, and, with a sprightly mien Of hopeful preparation, grasp'd his staff; Together casting then a farewell look Upon those silent walls, we left the shade ; And, ere the stars were visible, had reach'd A village inn,- our evening resting-place.


IN days of yore, how fortunately fared
The minstrel ! wandering on from hall to hall,
Baronial court or royal ; cheer'd with gifts
Munificent, and love, and ladies' praise ;
Now meeting on his road an armed knight,
Now resting with a pilgrim by the side
Of a clear brook; beneath an abbey's roof
One evening sumptuously lodged; the next
Humbly in a religious hospital ;
Or with some merry outlaws of the wood;
Or haply shrouded in a hermit's cell.
Him, sleeping or awake, the robber spared ;
He walk'd protected from the sword of war,

By virtue of that sacred instrument,
His harp, suspended at the traveller's side :
His dear companion wheresoe'er he went,
Opening from land to land an easy way
By melody, and by the charm of verse.
Yet not the noblest of that honour'd race
Drew happier, loftier, more impassion'd thoughts
From his long journeyings and eventful life,
Than this obscure Itinerant (an obscure
But a high-soul'd and tender-hearted man)
Had skill to draw from many a ramble, far
And wide protracted through the tamer ground
Of these our unimaginative days;
Both while he trod the earth in humblest guise
Accoutred with his burthen and his staff ;
And now, when free to move with lighter pace.

What wonder, then, if I, whose favourite school Hath been the field, the roads, and rural lanes, Look'd on this guide with reverential love! Each with the other pleased, we now pursued Our journey — beneath favourable skies. Turn wheresoe'er we would, he was a light Unfailing : not a hamlet could we pass, Rarely a house, which did not yield to him Remembrances ; or from his tongue call forth Some way-beguiling tale. Nor less regard Accompanied those strains of apt discourse, Which Nature's various objects might supply ; And in the silence of his face I read His overflowing spirit.

The wealthy, the luxurious, by the stress Of business roused, or pleasure, ere their time, May roll in chariots, or provoke the hoofs Of the fleet coursers they bestride, to raise From earth the dust of morning, slow to rise ; And they, if blest with health and hearts at ease,

Should lack not their enjoyment: but how faint
Compared with ours, who, pacing side by side,
Could, with an eye of leisure, look on all
That we beheld ; and lend the listening sense
To every grateful sound of earth and air —
Pausing at will ; our spirits braced, our thoughts
Pleasant as roses in the thickets blown,
And pure as dew bathing their crimson leaves.

Attracted by the sound of pipe and tabor, and the sight

of rustic sports, the author proposes to halt and witness the village wakes, but his companion urges their onward journey, promising to introduce him to a friend and fellow-countryman of his, whom they would find living in seclusion in a lonely spot among the moun. tains. He had been an army chaplain, living gaily, more like a soldier among soldiers, than as a pastor with his flock; fortune, however, throwing in his way a fair damsel, rich in mental endowments as in worldly fortune, he relinquished his sacred office and retired with his youthful bride to a rural home. With further account of his fitful career, and other discourse, the way is beguiled as they proceed up a wide vale.

Now, suddenly diverging, he began
To climb, upon its western side, a ridge,
Pathless and smooth, a long and steep ascent;
As if the object of his quest had been
Some secret of the mountains, cavern, fall
Of water, or some boastful eminence
Renown'd for splendid prospect far and wide.
We clomb without a track to guide our steps,
And, on the summit, reach'd a dreary plain,
With a tumultuous waste of huge hill-tops
Before us; savage region ! and I walk'd
In weariness; when, all at once, behold !
Beneath our feet, a little lowly vale,
A lowly vale, and yet uplifted high
Among the mountains; even as if the spot
Had been, from eldest time, by wish of theirs
So placed,- to be shut out from all the world !

Urn-like it was in shape, deep as an urn;
With rocks encompass'd, save that to the south
Was one small opening, where a heath-clad ridge
Supplied a boundary less abrupt and close.
A quiet treeless nook, with two green fields,
A liquid pool, that glitter'd in the sun,
And one bare dwelling; one abode, no more !
It seem'd the home of poverty and toil,
Though not of want : the little fields, made green
By husbandry of many thrifty years,
Paid cheerful tribute to the moorland house.
There crows the cock, single in his domain :
The small birds find in spring no thicket there
To shroud them; only from the neighbouring vales
The cuckoo, straggling up to the hill tops,
Shouteth faint tidings of some gladder place.

"Ah! what a sweet recess,' thought I, 'is here !' Instantly throwing down my limbs at ease Upon a bed of heath — 'full many a spot Of hidden beauty have I chanced tespy Among the mountains ; never one like this ; So lonesome, and so perfectly secure : Not melancholy — no, for it is green, And bright, and fertile, furnish'd in itself With the few needful things that life requires. In rugged arms how soft it seems to lie, How tenderly protected ! Far and near We have an image of the pristine earth, The planet in its nakedness; were this Man's only dwelling, sole appointed seat, First, last, and single, in the breathing world, It could not be more quiet : peace is here Or nowhere ; days unruffled by the gale Of public news or private ; years that pass Forgetfully ; uncall'd upon to pay The common penalties of mortal life, Sickness, or accident, or grief, or pain.'

On these and other kindred thoughts intent,


« PreviousContinue »