« PreviousContinue »
RASH JUDGMENT. A Narrow girdle of rough stones and crags, A rude and natural causeway, interposed Hetween the water and a winding slope Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy. And there, myself and two beloved friends, One calm September morning, ere the mist Had altogether yielded to the sun. Sauntered on this retired and difficult way. Ill suits the road with one in haste, but we Played with our time; and, as we strolled along It was our occupation to observe Such objects as the waves had tossed ashore, Feather, or leaf, or weed, or withered bough, Each on the other heaped, along the line Of the dry wreck. And, in our vacant mood, Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft Of dandelion seed or thistle's beard, That skimmed the surface of the dead calm lake, Suddenly halting now—a lifeless stand! And starting off again with freak as sudden; In all its sportive wanderings, all the while, Making report of an invisible breeze That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse, Its playmate, rather say its moving soul. And often, trifling with a privilege Alike indulged to all, we paused, one now, And now the other, to point out, perchance To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair Either to be divided from the place On which it grew, or to be left alone To its own beauty. Many such there are, Fair ferns and flowers, and chiefly that tall fern,
So stately, of the Queen Osmunda named;
Plant lovelier in its own retired abode
On Grasmere's beach, than naiad by the side
Of Grecian brook, or lady of the mere,
Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance.
So fared we that bright morning: from the fields,
Meanwhile, a noise was heard, the busy mirth
Of reapers, men and women, boys and girls.
Delighted much to listen to those sounds,
And feeding thus our fancies, we advanced
Along the indented shore; when suddenly,
Through a thin veil of glittering haze was seen
Before us, on a point of jutting land,
The tall and upright figure of a man
Attired in peasant's garb, who stood alone,
Angling beside the margin of the lake.
Improvident and reckless, we exclaimed,
The man must be, who thus can lose a day
Of the mid-harvest, when the labourer's hire
Is ample, and some little might be stored
Wherewith to cheer him in the winter time.
Thus talking of that peasant, we approached
Close to the spot where with his rod and line
He stood alone; whereat he turned his head
To greet us—and we saw a man worn down
By sickness, gaunt and lean, with sunken cheeks
And wasted limbs, his legs so long and lean *
That for my single self I looked at them,
Forgetful of the body they sustained.
Too weak to labour in the harvest field,
The man was using his best skill to gain
A pittance from the dead unfeeling lake,
That knew not of his wants. I will not say
What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
With alt its lovely images, was changed
To serious musing and to self-reproach-
Nor did we fail to see within ourselves
What need there is to be reserved in speech,
And temper all our thoughts with charity.
Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,
'My friend, myself, and she who then received
The same admonishment, have called the place
Ky a memorial name, uncouth indeed
As e'er by mariner was given to bay
Or foreland, on a new-discovered coast;
And Point Rash Judgment is the name it bears.
Wheee will they stop, those breathing powers,
The spirits of the new-born flowers?
They wander with the breeze, they wind
Where'er the streams a passage find;
Up from their native ground they rise
In mute aerial harmonies;
From humble violet, modest thyme,
Exhaled, the essential odours climb.
As if no space below the sky
Their subtle flight could satisfy:
Heaven will not tax our thoughts with pride
If like ambition be their guide.
Roused by this kindliest of May-showers,
The spirit-quickener of the flowers,
That with moist virtue softly cleaves
The buds, and freshens the young leaves.
The birds pour forth their souls in notes,
Of rapture from a thousand throats,
Here checked by too impetuous haste,
While there the music runs to waste,
With bounty more and more enlarged,
Till the whole air is overcharged;
Give ear, O man! to their appeal,
And thirst for no inferior zeal,
Thou, who canst think, as well as feel.
Mount from the earth ; aspire 1 aspire!
So pleads the town's cathedral choir,
In strains that from their solemn height
Sink, to attain a loftier flight:
While incense from the altar breathes
Rich fragrance in embodied wreaths;
Or, flung from swinging censer, shrouds
The taper lights, and curls in clouds
Around angelic forms, the still
Creation of the painter's skill,
That on the service wait concealed
One moment, and the next revealed.
Cast off your bonds, awake, arise,
And for no transient ecstasies!
What else can mean the visual plea
Of still or moving imagery?
The iterated summons loud,
Not wasted on the attendant crowd,
Nor wholly lost upon the throng
Hurrying the busy streets along?
Alas! the sanctities combined
By art to unsensualise the mind,
Decay and languish ; or, as creeds
And humours change, are spurned like weeds:
The solemn rites, the awful forms,
Founder amid fanatic storms;
The priests are from their altars thrust,
The temples levelled with the dust:
Yet evermore, through years renewed
In undisturbed vicissitude
Of seasons, balancing their flight
On the swift wings of day and night,
Kind Nature keeps a heavenly door
Wide open for the scattered poor.
Where flower-breathed incense to the skies
Is wafted in mute harmonies;
And ground fresh cloven by the plough
Is fragrant with a humbler vow;
Where birds and brooks from leafy dells
Chime forth unwearied canticles,
And vapours magnify and spread
The glory of the sun's bright head;
Still constant in her worship, still
Conforming to the almighty Will,
Whether men sow or reap the fields,
Her admonitions Nature yields;
That not by bread alone we live,
Or what a hand of flesh can give;
That every day should leave some part
Free for a sabbath of the heart;
So shall the seventh be truly blest,
From morn to eve, with hallowed rest.
Calm is the fragrant air, and loth to lose
Day's grateful warmth, though moist with falling dews.
Look for the stars, you'll say that there are none;
Look up a second time, and, one by one,
You mark them twinkling out with silvery light,
And wonder how they could elude the sight.
The birds, of late so noisy in their bowers,
Warbled awhile with faint and fainter powers,