Landon in The Literary Gazette 1823/Village Tale

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
For other versions of this work, see A Village Tale.
For works with similar titles, see Poetic Sketches (L. E. L.).

Literary Gazette 6th December 1823, Page 778-779


ORIGINAL POETRY.
POETIC SKETCHES.
Fourth Series.


SKETCH IV.—A VILLAGE TALE.[1]

       _____How the spirit clings
        To that which once it loved, with the same feeling
        That makes the traveller turn from his way
        To look upon some boyish haunt, though dark
        And very desolate grown, no longer like
        That which was dear to him.

It was a low white church: the elm which grew
Beside it shadowed half the roof; the clock
Was placed where full the sun-beams fell;—what deep,
Simple morality spoke in those hands,
Going their way in silence, till a sound,
Solemn and sweet, made their appeal to Time,
And the hour spoke its only warning!—Strange
To note how mute the soft song of the wren,
Whose nest was in that old elm-tree, became
When the clock struck: and when it ceased again,
Its music like a natural anthem breathed.
Lowly the osier'd graves around, wild flowers
Their epitaph, and not one monument
Was there rich with the sculptor's graceful art.—

    There sat one, by a grave whose weeded turf
Shewed more than common care, his face bent down,
A fine and manly brow, though sun and wind
Had darkened it, and that a shade of grief
Seemed natural from long habit; by his side
A little laughing child, with clear blue eyes,
Cheek like a dimpled rose, and sunny curls,
Was gathering blossoms, gathering but to crush,
Till the sod was all colours with the leaves.
Even in childhood's innocence of pleasure
Lives that destroying spirit, which in time
Will waste, then want, the best of happiness.
I marked the boy's companion: he was yet
In life's first summer; and he seemed to watch
With such sad tenderness the child, which came
When tired to nestle in his bosom, sure
That it was welcome. And the grave was kept
So fresh, so green, so covered with sweet flowers,
I deemed 'twas some young widower, whose love
Had pass'd away, or ever it had known
One sting of sorrow or one cloud of care,—
Pass'd in its first delicious confidence
Of vowed affection;—'twas the grave, I thought,
Of his young wife, and that the child was left
A dear memorial of that cherished one.
I read his history wrong. In early youth,
When hopes and pleasures flit like butterflies
Around our pleasant spring, had Edward loved,
And sought in Marion's deep blue eyes his world,—
Loved with the truth, the fervour of first love,
That delicate bloom which can come o'er the soul
But only once. All other thoughts and feelings
The heart may know again, but first love never!
Its hopes, bright as the azure flower that springs
Where'er the radiance of the rainbow falls;
Its fears, soft as the leaves that shade the lily,
Its fairy-land romance, its tenderness,
Its timid, yet so passionate devotion—

These are not annual blooms, that die, then rise
Again into a beautiful existence;[2]
They may live long, and be the life of life,
But, like the rose, when they are once destroyed
They perish utterly. And like that tree,
How sweet a memory too remains! though dead
The green leaves, and decayed the stem, yet still
The spirit of fragrance lingers, loth to leave
Its dear abode. Just so love haunts the heart,
Though withered, and to be revived no more.
Oh, nothing has the memory of love!—
    It was a summer twilight, crimson lights
Played o'er the bridal bowers of the west,
And in the grey horizon the white moon
Was faintly visible, just where the sky
Met the green rolling of the shadowy sea.
Upon a little hill, whose broken ridge
Was covered with the golden furze, and heath
Gay with its small pink blossoms, in a shade
Formed of thick hazels and the graceful sweep
Of the ash boughs, an old beach trunk the seat,
With a sweet canopy of honeysuckle
Mixed with the wild briar-roses, Edward sat,
Happy, for Marion lean'd upon his bosom
In the deep fondness of the parting hour;
One of those partings memory will keep
Among its precious things. The setting sun
Shed such rich colour o'er the cheek, which press'd
Closer and closer, like a rose, that sought
A shelter next his heart; the radiant eyes,
Glorious as though the sky's own light were there,
Yet timid, blue, and tender as the dove's;
The soft arm thrown around his neck; the hair
Falling in such profusion o'er a face
That nestled like a bird upon his breast;
Murmurs, the very breath of happiness;
Low and delighted sighs, and lengthened looks,
As life were looking words inaudible,
Yet full of music; whispers such as are
What love should ever speak in, soft yet deep,
As jealous even that the air should share

In the delicious feeling. And around,
All seemed the home and atmosphere of love:
The air sweet with the woodbine and the rose;
The rich red light of evening; the far sea,
So still, so calm; the vale, with its cornfields
Shooting their green spears 'mid the scarlet banners
Of the wild poppies; meadows with the hay
Scattered in fragrance, clover yet uncut;
And in the distance a small wood, where oaks
And elms threw giant shadows; and a river
Winding, now hidden and now visible,
Till close beside their bower it held its course,
And fed a little waterfall, the harp
That answered to the woodlark's twilight hymn
Their last, last evening. Ah, the many vows
That Edward and his Marion pledged! She took
A golden ring and broke it, hid one half
Next her own heart, then cut a shining curl,
As bright as the bright gift, and round his neck
Fastened the silken braid, and bade him keep
The ring and hair for Marion's sake. They talked
Of pleasant hopes, of Edward's quick return
With treasure gathered on the stormy deep,
And how they then would build a little cot;
They chose the very place; and the bright moon
Shone in her midnight, ere their schemes
Were half complete. They parted. The next morn
With the day-blush had Marion sought that bower
Alone, and watched upon the distant sea
A ship just visible to those long looks
With which love gazes. - - - How most sweet it is
To bare one lonely treasure, which the heart
Can feed upon in secret, which can be
A star in sorrow, and a flower in joy;
A thought to which all other thoughts refer;
A hope, from whence all other hopes arise,
Nurs'd in the solitude of happiness!
Love, passionate young Love, how sweet it is
To have the bosom made a paradise
By thee, life lighted by thy rainbow smile!—

    Edward lived in one feeling, one that made
Care, toil, and suffering pleasant; and he hailed
England, dear England, happy in success,
In hope, and love. It was a summer morn—
The very season he had left that vale—
When he returned. How cheerfully the fields,
Spread in their green luxuriance of corn,
The purple clover, and the new cut hay,
Loading the air with fragrance! the soft river,
Winding so gently! there seemed nothing changed,
And Edward's heart was filled with gladness: all,
He fancied, looked as if they welcomed him.
His eyes filled with sweet tears, and hasty words
Of love and thankfulness came to his lips.
His path lay through the churchyard, and the bells
Were ringing for a wedding. What fond thoughts
They wakened, of how merrily their round
Would peal for him and Marion! He kissed
The broken ring, the braid of golden hair,
And bounded, with light step and lighter heart,
Across the churchyard; from it he could see
The cottage where his own true Maiden dwelt.
Just then the bridal party left the church,
And, half unconsciously, young Edward looked
Upon the bride—that bride was Marion!—
He stopped not in the village,—spoke to none,—
But went again to sea; and never smile
Lighted the settled darkness in his eyes:
His cheek grew pale, his hair turned grey, his voice
Became so sad and low. He once had loved
To look upon the sunset, as that hour
Brought pleasant memories, such as feed sweet hopes;
Now ever gazed he on it with the look
Of the young widow over her fair child,
Her only child, in the death agony.
His heart was withered. Yet, although so false,
He never parted with his Marion's gift:
Still the soft curl and the bright ring were kept,
Like treasures, in his bosom. Years passed by,

And he grew tired of wandering; back he came
To his own village, as a place of rest.
'Twas a drear autumn morning, and the trees
Were bare, or covered but with yellow leaves;
The fields lay fallow, and a drizzling rain
Fell gloomily: it seemed as all was changed,
Even as he himself was changed; the bell
Of the old church was tolling dolefully
The farewell of the living to the dead.
The grave was scant, the holy words were said
Hurriedly, coldly: but for a poor child,
That begged the pit to give him back his mother,
There had not been one single tear. The Boy
Kept on his wail; but all his prayers were made
To the dark tomb, as conscious those around
Would chide if he asked them; and when they threw
The last earth on the coffin, down he laid
His little head, and sobbed most bitterly.
And Edward took him in his arms, and kissed
His wet pale cheeks; while the child clung to him,
Not with the shyness of one petted, loved,
And careless of a stranger's fond caress,
But like one knowing well what kindness was,
But knew not where to seek it, as he pined
Beneath neglect, and harshness, fear and want.
'Twas strange, this mingling of their destinies:
That boy was Marion's—it was Marion's grave!
She had died young, and poor, and broken-hearted.
Her husband had deserted her; one child
Was buried with its mother, one was left
An orphan unto chance; but Edward took
The boy unto him even as his own.
He buried the remembrance of his wrongs,
Only recalling that he once had loved,
And that his Love was dead.L. E. L.

  1. This poem appears in The Vow of the Peacock and Other Poems (1835)
  2. The Vow if the Peacock version has 'into another summer world.' here.