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For his delight — the happiest he of all !'
Far happiest,' answer'd the desponding man, 'If, such as now he is, he might remain ! Ah! what avails imagination high Or question deep? What profits all that earth, Or heaven's blue vault, is suffer'd to put forth Of impulse or allurement, for the soul To quit the beaten track of life, and soar Far as she finds a yielding element In past or future; far as she can go Through time or space — if neither in the one, Nor in the other region, nor in aught That fancy, dreaning o'er the map of things, Hath placed beyond these penetrable bounds, Words of assurance can be heard — if nowhere A habitation, for consummate good, Or for progressive virtue, by the search Can be attain'd, a better sanctuary From doubt and sorrow, than the senseless grave ?'
'Is this,' the grey-hair'd wanderer mildly said, 'The voice, which we so lately overheard, To that same child, addressing tenderly The consolations of a hopeful mind ? “ His body is at rest, his soul in heaven.” These were your words; and, verily, methinks Wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop Than when we soar.'
The Solitary eloquently replies, but still in a sceptical
and desponding tone : the poem coutinues —
This was the bitter language of the heart;
And saw, were moved. Desirous to divert,
"You never saw, your eyes did never look On the bright form of her whom once I loved : Her silver voice was heard upon the earth, A sound unknown to you ; else, honour'd friend ! Your heart had borne a pitiable share Of what I suffer'd when I wept that loss, And suffer now, not seldom, from the thought That I remember and can weep no more. — Stripp'd as I am of all the golden fruit Of self-esteem; and by the cutting blasts Of self-reproach, familiarly assail'd ; I would not yet be of such wintry bareness, But that some leaf of your regard should hang Upon my naked branches : lively thoughts Give birth, full often, to unguarded words ; I grieve that, in your presence, from my tongue Too much of frailty hath already dropp'd : But that too much demands still more.
“You know, Reverend compatriot; and to you, kind sir (Not to be deem'd a stranger, as you come Following the guidance of these welcome feet To our secluded vale), it may be told, That my demerits did not sue in vain To one, on whose mild radiance many gazed With hope, and all with pleasure. This fair bride
In the devotedness of youthful love,
But in due season Nature interfered, And call’d my partner to resign her share In the pure freedom of that wedded life, Enjoy'd by us in common. To my hope, To my heart's wish, my tender mate became The thankful captive of maternal bonds, And those wild paths were left to me alone; There could I meditate on follies past, And, like a weary voyager escaped From risk and hardship, inwardly retrace A course of vain delights and thoughtless guilt, And self-indulgence — without shame pursued; There, undisturb’d, could think of, and could thank Her — whose submissive spirit was to me Rule and restraint — my guardian ; shall I say That earthly Providence whose guiding love Within a port of rest had lodged me safe ; Safe from temptation, and from danger far? Strains follow'd of acknowledgment address'd To an Authority enthron'd above The reach of sight; from whom, as from their source, Proceed all visible ministers of good That walk the earth — Father of heaven and earth, Father, and King, and Judge, adored and fear'd ! These acts of mind, and memory, and heart, And spirit — interrupted and relieved By observations, transient as the glance Of flying sunbeams, or to th’ outward form Cleaving, with power inherent and intense As the mute insect fix'd upon the plant On whose soft leaves it hangs, and from whose cup Draws imperceptibly its nourishment, Endear'd my wanderings; and the mother's kiss, And infant's smile, awaited my return.
'In privacy we dwelt - a wedded pair, Companions daily, often all day long; Not placed by fortune within easy reach Of various intercourse, nor wishing aught Beyond the allowance of our own fireside, The twain within our happy cottage born Inmates, and heirs of our united love; Graced mutually by difference of sex, By the endearing name of nature bound, And with no wider interval of time Between their several births than served for one To establish something of a leader's sway.
"Seven years of occupation undisturb'd Establish'd seemingly a right to hold That happiness : and use and habit gave To what an alien spirit had acquired A patrimonial sanctity. And thus, With thoughts and wishes bounded to this world, I lived and breathed; most grateful,- if t enjoy Without repining or desire for more, For different lot, or change to higher sphere (Only except some impulses of pride With no determined object, though upheld By theories with suitable support) — Most grateful, if in such wise to enjoy Be proof of gratitude for what we have : Else, I allow, most thankless. But at once From some dark seat of fatal power was urged A claim that shatter'd all. Our blooming girl, Caught in the gripe of death, with such brief time To struggle in as scarcely would allow Her cheek to change its colour, was convey'd From us to regions inaccessible, Where height, or depth, admits not the approach Of living man, though longing to pursue. With even as brief a warning — and how soon With what short interval of time between