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And hither is he come at last,
When he through such a day has gone,
By this dark cave to be distrest
Like a poor bird - her plundered nest
Hovering around with dolorous moan !
Of that intense and piercing cry
The listening Ass conjectures well, Wild as it is he there can read Some intermingled notes that plead With touches irresistible;
But Peter, when he saw the Ass
Not only stop but turn, and change
The cherished tenor of his pace
That lamentable noise to chase,
It wrought in him conviction strange;
A faith that, for the dead man's sake
And this poor slave who loved him well,
Vengeance upon his head will fall,
Some visitation worse than all
Which ever till this night befel.
Meanwhile the Ass, to reach his home,
Is striving stoutly as he may;
But, while he climbs the woody hill,
The cry grows weak—and weaker still,
And now at last it dies away!
So with his freight the Creature turns
Into a gloomy grove of beech,
Along the shade with footstep true
Descending slowly, till the two
The open moonlight reach.
And there, along a narrow dell,
A fair smooth pathway you discern,
A length of green and open road -
As if it from a fountain flowed –
Winding away between the fern. .
The rocks that tower on either side
Build up a wild fantastic scene;
Temples like those among the Hindoos,
And mosques, and spires, and abbey windows,
And castles all with ivy green!
And, while the Ass pursues his way,
Along this solitary dell,
As pensively his steps advance,
The mosques and spires change countenance,
And look at Peter Bell.!
That unintelligible cry
Hath left him high in preparation,
Convinced that he, or soon or late,
This very night, will meet his fate -
And so he sits in expectation !
The verdant pathway, in and out,
Winds upwards like a straggling chain ;
And when two toilsome miles are past,
Up through the rocks it leads at last
Into a high and open plain.
The strenuous Animal hath clomb With the green path, - and now he wends Where, shining like the smoothest sea, In undisturbed immensity The level plain extends.
But whence that faintly-rustling sound
Which, all too long, the pair hath chased !
- A dancing leaf is close behind,
Light plaything for the sportive wind
Upon that solitary waste.
When Peter spies the withered leaf,
It yields no cure to his distress,
“ Where there is not a bush or tree,
The very leaves they follow me
So huge hath been my wickedness!"
To a close lane they now are come, Where, as before, the enduring Ass Moves on without a moment’s stop, Nor once turns round his head to crop A bramble leaf or blade of grass.
Between the hedges as they go
The white dust sleeps upon the lane;
And Peter, ever and anon
Back-looking, sees upon a stone
Or in the dust, a crimson stain,
A stain—as of a drop of blood
By moonlight made more faint and wan-
Ha! why this comfortless despair?
He knows not how the blood comes there,
And Peter is a wicked man.
At length he spies a bleeding wound,
Where he had struck the Ass's head;
He sees the blood, knows what it is, –
A glimpse of sudden joy was his,
But then it quickly fled;
Of him whom sudden death had seized
He thought, of thee, O faithful Ass!
And once again those darting pains,
As meteors shoot through heaven's wide plains,
Pass through his bosom--and repass!