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Yet your churchyard
Seems, if such freedom may be used with you,
To say that you are heedless of the past:
An orphan could not find his mother's grave:
Here's neither head nor footstone, plate of brass,
Cross-bones nor skull-type of our earthly state,
Nor emblem of our hopes: the dead man's home
Is but a fellow to that pasture field.
Priest. Why, there, sir, is a thought that's new to me!
The stone-cutters, 'tis true, might beg their bread
If every English churchyard were like ours;
Yet your conclusion wanders from the truth;
We have no need of names and epitaphs;
We talk about the dead by our firesides.
And then, for our immortal part! we want
No symbols, sir, to tell us that plain tale:
The thought of death sits easy on the man
Who has been born and dies among the mountains.
Leon. Your dalesmen, then, do in each other's thoughts Possess a kind of second life: no doubt You, sir, could help me to the history Of half these graves ?
Priest. For eight-score winters past, With what I've witnessed, and with what I've heard, Perhaps I might; and, on a winter evening, If you were seated at my chimney's nook, By turning o'er these hillocks one by one, We two could travel, sir, through a strange round; Yet all in the broad highway of the world. Now there's a grave---your foot is half upon itIt looks just like the rest ; and yet that man Died broken-hearted. Leonard.
'Tis a common case. We'll take another: who is he that lies Beneath yon ridge, the last of those three graves ?
It touches on that piece of native rock
Left in the churchyard wall.
That's Walter Ewbank.
He had as white a head and fresh a cheek
As ever were produced by youth and age
Engendering in the blood of hale fourscore.
Through five long generations had the heart
Of Walter's forefathers o'erflowed the bounds
Of their inheritance, that single cottage-
You see it yonder-and those few green fields.
They toiled and wrought, and still, from sire to son,
Each struggled, and each yielded as before
A little-yet a little—and old Walter,
They left to him the family heart, and land
With other burthens than the crop it bore.
Year after year the old man still kept up
A cheerful mind, and buffeted with bond,
Interest, and mortgages ; at last he sank,
And went into his grave before his time.
Poor Walter ! whether it was care that spurred him
God only knows; but to the very last
He had the lightest foot in Ennerdale:
His pace was never that of an old man :
I almost see him tripping down the path
With his two grandsons after him: but you,
Unless our landlord be your host to-night,
Have far to travel, and on these rough paths
Even in the longest day of midsummer-
Leonard But those two orphans !
Priest. Orphans ! Such they wereYet not while Walter lived; for, though their parents Lay buried side by side as now they lie, The old man was a father to the boys, Two fathers in one father; and if tears, Shed when he talked of them where they were not,
And hauntings from the infirmity of love,
Are aught of what makes up a mother's heart,
This old man, in the day of his old age,
Was half a mother to them. If you weep, sir,
To hear a stranger talking about strangers,
Heaven bless you when you are among your kindred!
Ay, you may turn that way—it is a grave
Which will bear looking at.
These boys—I hope
They loved this good old man ?
They did--and truly:
But that was what we almost overlooked,
They were such darlings of each other. For,
Though from their cradles they had lived with Walter,
The only kinsman near them, and though he
Inclined to them by reason of his age,
With a more fond, familiar tenderness;
They, notwithstanding, had much love to spare,
And it all went into each other's hearts.
Leonard, the elder by just eighteen months,
Was two years taller: 'twas a joy to see,
To hear, to meet them! From their house the school
Is distant three short miles—and in the time
Of storm and thaw, when every water-course
And unbridged stream, such as you may have noticed
Crossing our roads at every hundred steps,
Was swoll'n into a noisy rivulet,
Would Leonard then, when elder boys perhaps
Remained at home, go staggering through the fords
Bearing his brother on his back. I've seen him,
On windy days, in one of those stray brooks,
Ay, more than once I've seen him, mid-leg deep,
Their two books lying both on a dry stone
Upon the hither side : and once I said,
As I remember, looking round these rocks
And hills on which we all of us were born,
That God who made the great book of the world
Would bless such piety-
It may be then-
Priest. Never did worthier lads break English bread;
The finest Sunday that the autumn saw,
With all its mealy clusters of ripe nuts,
Could never keep these boys away from church,
Or tempt them to an hour of Sabbath breach.
Leonard and James ! I warrant every corner
Among these rocks, and every hollow place
Where foot could come, to one or both of them
Was known as well as to the flowers that grow there.
Like roebucks they went bounding o'er the hills;
They played like two young ravens on the crags :
Then they could write, ay, and speak too, as well
As many of their betters and for Leonard !
The very night before he went away,
In my own house I put into his hand
A Bible, and I'd wager house and field
That if he is alive, he has it yet.
Leonard. It seems these brothers have not lived to be
A comfort to each other-
That they might
Live to such end is what both old and young
In this our valley all of us have wished,
And what for my part I have often prayed :
Leonard. Then James still is left among you?
Priest. 'Tis of the elder brother I am speaking:
They had an uncle: he was at that time
A thriving man, and trafficked on the seas:
And, but for that same uncle, to this hour
Leonard had never handled rope or shroud,
For the boy loved the life which we lead here;
And though of unripe years, a stripling only,
His soul was knit to this his native soil.
But, as I said, old Walter was too weak
To strive with such a torrent; when he died,
The estate and house were sold; and all their shecp,
A pretty flock, and which, for aught I know,
Had clothed the Ewbanks for a thousand years :
Well-all was gone, and they were destitute,
And Leonard, chiefly for his brother's sake,
Resolved to try his fortune on the seas.
Twelve years are passed since we had tidings from him.
If there were one among us who had heard
That Leonard Ewbank was come home again,
From the great Gavel, down by Leeza's banks,
And down the Enna, far as Egremont,
The day would be a very festival ;
And those two bells of ours, which there you see-
Hanging in the open air-but, oh, good sir !
This is sad talk-they'll never sound for him-
Living or dead. When last we heard of him
He was in slavery among the Moors
Upon the Barbary coast. 'Twas not a little
That would bring down his spirit; and no doubt,
Before it ended in his death, the youth
Was sadly crossed-Poor Leonard ! when we parted.
He took me by the hand, and said to me,
If ever the day came when he was rich,
He would return, and on his father's land
He would grow old among us.
If that day
Should come, 'twould needs be a glad day for him ;
He would himself, no doubt, be happy then
As any that should meet him
Leonard. You said his kindred all were in their graves