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But now ye shall be feasted with our best.'
So, with more ardour than an unripe girl
Left one day mistress of her mother's stores,
He went about his hospitable task
My eyes were busy, and my thoughts no less;
And pleased I look'd upon my grey-hair'd friend,
As if to thank him ; he return'd that look,
Cheer'd plainly, and yet serious. What a wreck
We had around us ! scatter'd was the floor,
And, in like sort, chair, window-seat, and shelf,
With books, maps, fossils, wither'd plants and flowers,
And tufts of mountain moss; and here and there,
Lay, intermix'd with these, mechanic tools,
And scraps of paper,- some I could perceive
Scribbled with verse : a broken angling-rod
And shatter'd telescope, together link'd
By cobwebs, stood within a dusty nook;
And instruments of music some half-made,
Some in disgrace, hung dangling from the walls.
But speedily the promise was fulfill'd;
A feast before us, and a courteous host
Inviting us in glee to sit and eat.
In genial mood,
While at our pastoral banquet thus we sate
Fronting the window of that little cell,
I could not ever and anon forbear
To glance an upward look on two huge peaks,
That from some other vale peer'd into this.
'Those lusty twins, on which your eyes are cast,'
Exclaim'd our host, ‘if here you dwelt, would be
Your prized companions. Many are the notes
Which, in his tuneful course, the wind draws forth
From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths, and dashing
And well those lofty brethren bear their part
In the wild concert — chiefly when the storm
Rides high; then all the upper air they fill
With roaring sound, that ceases not to flow
Like smoke along the level of the blast,
In mighty current; theirs, too, is the song
Of stream and headlong flood that seldom fails ;
And, in the grim and breathless hour of noon,
Methinks that I have heard them echo back
The thunder's greeting : nor have Nature's laws
Left them ungifted with a power to yield
Music of finer tone; a harmony,
So do I call it, though it be the hand
Of silence, though there be no voice; the clouds,
The mist, the shadows, light of golden suns,
Motions of moonlight, all come thither — touch,
And have an answer — thither come, and shape
A language not unwelcome to sick heaits
And idle spirits : there the sun himself,
At the calm close of summer's longest day,
Rests his substantial orb; between those heights,
And on the top of either pinnacle,
More keenly than elsewhere in night's blue vault,
Sparkle the stars, as of their station proud.
Thoughts are not busier in the mind of man
Than the mute agents stirring there : — alone
Here do I sit and watch.'
With brightning face The Wanderer heard him speaking thus, and said, 'Now for the tale with which you threaten'd us !! 'In truth the threat escaped me unawares, And was forgotten. Let this challenge stand For my excuse, if what I shall relate Tire your attention.'
Their host, “The Solitary,' or 'Recluse,' as he is styled in
the poem, proceeds to narrate the history of the man whose funeral rites had just been performed. He was a pauper, dependent on parish relief. The housewife, tempted by the receipt of this scanty pittance, and knowing also how to turn his services to account, gave him food and shelter. The old man endured the drudgery thus imposed upon him with the still contentedness of seventy years.' At length, towards the close of a stormy day, when since noon the rain had fallen in torrents, and the mountain tops were hidden, and black vapours coursed their sides, the dame rushed into the Solitary's presence, saying, with rueful voice, that the old man, who, at her bidding, had early climbed the moorland height to delve for turf, had not come down to his noontide meal, and, she feared, lay at the mercy
of the raging storm ! "Inhuman !' said I, 'was an old man's life Not worth the trouble of a thought? Alas! This notice comes too late.' –
At this crisis, however, he observed with joy the return of her husband from a distant vale, and sallying forth together, they found the tools which the neglected veteran had dropped, but looked for him in vain : they shouted, but no answer : darkness fell, and fears for their own safety drove them home. On the following morning, collecting help from the neighbouring vale, the search was renewed, long and hopelessly, until chancing to pass the roofless and bare ruin of a chapel which stood upon a central ridge, they espied, among this wreck of stones, the object of their search, couching in a corner, half-covered with heather which he had gathered. Gently lifting the old man from the ground, the shepherds bore him slowly home. Seeing the sufferer had escaped with life, the wily housewife made great show of joy, no doubt glad to find her good name spared. He lingered, however, scarce a month after this exposure. Such is the story which we have briefly given without interruption, but the narrator pauses before its close to describe, with wealth of eloquent imagery, a wondrous vision which arrested him.
'The shepherds homeward moved Through the dull mist, I following — when a step, A single step, that freed me from the skirts Of the blind vapour, open'd to my view Glory beyond all glory ever seen By waking sense or by the dreaming soul !
Though I am conscious that no power of words
Can body forth, no hues of speech can paint
That gorgeous spectacle — too bright and fair
Even for remembrance ; yet the attempt may give
Collateral interest to this homely tale.
The appearance instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city — boldly say
A wilderness of building - sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a boundless depth,
Far sinking into splendour - without end !
Fabric it seem'd of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes and silver spires;
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright
In avenues disposed ; there, towers begirt
With battlements, that on their restless fronts
Bore stars — illumination of all gems!
By earthly nature had the effect been wrought
Upon the dark materials of the storm
Now pacified ; on them, and on the coves
And mountain-steeps and summits, whereunto
The vapours had receded, taking there
Their station under a cerulean sky.
O, 'twas an unimaginable sight!
Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks, and emerald turf,
Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
Molten together, and composing thus,
Each lost in each, that marvellous array
Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
In fleecy folds voluminous enwrapp'd.
Right in the midst, where interspace appear'd
Of open court, an object like a throne
Under a shining canopy of state
Stood fix'd ; and fix'd resemblances were seen
To implements of ordinary use,
But vast in size, in substance glorified ;
Such as by Hebrew prophets were beheld
In vision — forms uncouth of mightiest power,
For admiration and mysterious awe.
Below me was the earth ; this little vale,
Was low beneath my feet ; 'twas visible --
I saw not, but I felt, that it was there.
That which I saw was the reveal'd abode
Of spirits in beatitude : my heart
Sweli'd in my breast. “I have been dead," I cried,
“And now I live! Oh! wherefore do I live ?
And with that pang I pray'd to be no more !
The third book opens with some charming imaginative
descriptions of natural objects in the valley, which give rise to pleasurable emotions in the minds of the two visitors, but excite despondency in that of the Solitary, who rather contemptuously describes the occupations of the Geologist and Botanist.
"This earnest pair may range from hill to hill,
And, if it please them, speed from clime to clime;
The mind is full — no pain is in their sport.'
'Then,' said I, interposing, 'one is near,
Who cannot but possess in your esteem
Place worthier still of envy. May I name,
Without offence, that fair-faced cottage-boy -
Dame Nature's pupil of the lowest form —
Youngest apprentice in the school of art ?
Him, as we enter'd from the open glen,
You might have noticed, busily erigaged, —
Heart, soul, and hands, — in mending the defects
Left in the fabric of a leaky dam,
Framed for enabling this penurious stream
To turn a slender mill (that new-made plaything)