« PreviousContinue »
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 otherPriest.
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 : But Leonard
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 sheep,
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.
Should come, 'twould needs be a glad day for him ;
He would himself, no doubt, be happy then
As any that should meet him-
Happy! SirLeonard. You said his kindred all were in their graves
And that he had one brother-
That is but
A fellow tale of sorrow. From his youth
James, though not sickly, yet was delicate ;
And Leonard being always by his side
Had done so many offices about him,
That, though he was not of a timid nature,
Yet still the spirit of a mountain-boy
In him was somewhat checked ; and when his brother
Was gone to sea, and he was left alone,
The little colour that he had was soon
Stolen from his cheek; he drooped,and pined, and pined--
Leon. But these are all the graves of full-grown men !
Priest. Ay, sir, that passed away: we took him to us :
He was the child of all the dale--he lived
Three months with one and six months with another;
And wanted neither food, nor clothes, nor love :
And many, many happy days were his.
But whether blithe or sad, 'tis my belief
His absent brother still was at his heart.
And when he dwelt beneath our roof, we found
(A practice till this time unknown to him)
That often, rising from his bed at night,
He in his sleep would walk about, and sleeping
He sought his brother Leonard. You are moved !
Forgive me, sir : before I spoke to you,
I judged you most unkindly.
But this youth,
How did he die at last ?
One sweet May morning,
(It will be twelve years since when spring returns)
He had gone forth among the new-dropped lambs,
With two or three companions, whom their course
Of occupation led from height to height
Under a cloudless sun, till he at length,
Through weariness, or, haply, to indulge
The humour of the moment, lagged behind.
You see yon precipice ; it wears the shape
Of a vast building made of many crags;
And in the midst is one particular rock
That rises like a column from the vale,
Whence by our shepherds it is called THE PILLAR.
Upon its airy summit crowned with heath,
The loiterer, not unnoticed by his comrades,
Lay stretched at ease; but, passing by the place
On their return, they found that he was gone.
No ill was feared ; but one of them by chance
Entering, when evening was far spent, the house
Which at that time was James's home, there learned
That nobody had seen him all that day :
The morning came, and still he was unheard of:
The neighbours were alarmed, and to the brook
Some hastened, some towards the lake: ere noon
They found him at the foot of that same rock-
Dead, and with mangled limbs. The third day after
I buried him, poor youth, and there he lies !
Leon. And that then is his grave! Before his death You say that he saw many happy years?
Priest. Ay, that he did -
Leonard. And all went well with him?
Priest. If he had one, the youth had twenty homes.
Leon. And you believe, then, that his mind was easy!
Priest. Yes, long before he died, he found that time
Is a true friend to sorrow; and unless
His thoughts were turned on Leonard's luckless fortune,
He talked about him with a cheerful love.
Leonard. He could not come to an unhallowed end!
Priest. Nay, God forbid ! You recollect I mentioned A habit which disquietude and grief Had brought upon him; and we all conjectured
That, as the day was warm, he had lain down
Upon the grass, and waiting for his comrades,
He there had fallen asleep ; that in his sleep
He to the margin of the precipice
Had walked, and from the summit had fallen headlong.
And so, no doubt, he perished ; at the time,
We guess, that in his hands he must have held
His shepherd's staff; for midway in the cliff
It had been caught; and there for many years
It hung, and mouldered there.
The priest here ended-
The stranger would have thanked him, but he felt
A gushing from his heart, that took away
The power of speech. Both left the spot in silence;
And Leonard, when they reached the churchyard gate,
As the priest lifted up the latch, turned round,-
And looking at the grave, he said, “My Brother!'
The vicar did not hear the words: and now,
Pointing towards the cottage, he entreated
That Leonard would partake his homely fare:
The other thanked him with a fervent voice;
But added that, the evening being calm,
He would pursue his journey. So they parted.
It was not long ere Leonard reached a grove
That overhung the road: he there stopped short,
And sitting down beneath the trees, reviewed
All that the priest had said : his early years
Were with him in his heart: his cherished hopes,
And thoughts which had been his an hour before,
All pressed on him with such a weight, that now
This vale, where he had been so happy, seemed
A place in which he could not bear to live:
So he relinquished all his purposes.
He travelled on to Egremont; and thence,
That night he wrote a letter to the priest,