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ON KING ARTHUR'S ROUND-TABLE, AT WINCHESTER.
Where Venta's Norman castle still uprears
Its rafter'd hall, that o'er the grassy foss,
And scatter'd flinty fragments clad in moss,
On yonder steep in naked state appears ;
High-hung remains, the pride of warlike years,
Old Arthur's Board : on the capacious round
Some British pen has sketch'd the names renown'd,
In marks obscure, of his immortal peers.
Though join'd by magic skill, with many a rhyme,
The Druid frame, unhonour'd, falls a prey
To the slow vengeance of the wizard Time,
And fade the British characters away;
Yet Spenser's page, that chaunts in verse sublime
Those chiefs, shall live, unconscious of decay.
Ah! what a weary race my feet have run,
Since first I trod thy banks with alders crown'd,
And thought my way was all through fairy ground,
Beneath thy azure sky and golden sun :
Where first my Muse to lisp her notes begun!
While pensive Memory traces back the round,
Which fills the varied interval between ;
Much pleasure, more of sorrow, marks the scene.
Sweet, native stream, those skies and suns so pure
No more return, to cheer my evening road !
Yet still one joy remains, that not obscure,
Nor useless, all my vacant days have flow'd,
From youth's gay dawn to manhood's prime mature ;
Nor with the Muse's laurel unbestow'd.
When that the fields put on their gay attire,
Thou silent sit’st near brake or river's brim,
Whilst the gay thrush sings loud from covert dim;
But when pale Winter lights the social fire,
And meads with slime are sprent and ways with mire,
Thou charm’st us with thy soft and solemn hymn
From battlement, or barn, or hay-stack trim ;
And now not seldom tun'st, as if for hire,
Thy thrilling pipe to me, waiting to catch
The pittance due to thy well-warbled song :
Sweet bird, sing on! for oft near lonely hatch,
Like thee, Myself have pleas'd the rustic throng,
And oft for entrance, 'neath the peaceful thatch,
Full many a tale have told and ditty long.
As when, to one who long hath watch'd, the Morn
Advancing, slow fore-warns th' approach of day,
(What time the young and flowery-kirtled May
Decks the green hedge and dewy grass unshorn
With cowslips pale and many a whitening thorn ;)
And now the Sun comes forth, with level ray
Gilding the high-wood top and mountain grey ;
And, as he climbs, the meadows ’gins adorn;
The rivers glisten to the dancing beam,
Th' awaken’d birds begin their amorous strain,
And hill and vale with joy and fragrance teem;
Such is the sight of thee; thy wish'd return
To eyes, like mine, that long have wak'd to mourn,
That long have watch'd for light, and wept in vain.
Rings the shrill peal of dawn, gay chanticleer
Thrice warning that the day-star climbs on high,
And pales his beam as Phoebus' car draws nigh.
Now, ere the lawns or distant cribs appear,
Or ere the crows from wattled sheep-cote veer
Their early flight, or wakeful herdsman's eye
Discerns the smoky hamlet, let me ply
My daily task, to guide the labouring steer,
Plant the low shrub, remove th' unsightly mound,
Or nurse the flower, or tend the humming swarms :
Thus ever with the Morn may I be found,
Far from the hunter-band's discordant yell ;
So in my breast Content and Health shall dwell,
And conscious Bliss, and Love of Nature's charms.