The Excursion/Book 6
BOOK THE SIXTH.
THE CHURCH-YARD AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.
Hail to the Crown by Freedom shaped—to gird
An English Sovereign's brow! and to the Throne
Whereon he sits! Whose deep foundations lie
In veneration and the People's love,
Whose steps are equity, whose seat is law.
—Hail to the State of England! And conjoin
With this a salutation as devout,
Made to the spiritual Fabric of her Church;
Founded in truth; by blood of Martyrdom
Cemented; by the hands of Wisdom reared
In beauty of Holiness, with order'd pomp,
Decent, and unreproved. The voice, that greets
The majesty of both, shall pray for both;
That, mutually protected and sustained,
They may endure as long as sea surrounds
This favoured Land, or sunshine warms her soil.
—And, O, ye swelling hills, and spacious plains!
Besprent from shore to shore with steeple-towers,
And spires whose "silent finger points to Heaven;"
Nor wanting, at wide intervals, the bulk
Of ancient Minster, lifted above the cloud
Of the dense air, which town or city breeds
To intercept the sun's glad beams—may ne'er
That true succession fail of English Hearts,
That can perceive, not less than heretofore
Our Ancestors did feelingly perceive,
What in those holy Structures ye possess
Of ornamental interest, and the charm
Of pious sentiment diffused afar,
And human charity, and social love.
—Thus never shall the indignities of Time
Approach their reverend graces, unopposed;
Nor shall the Elements be free to hurt
Their fair proportions; nor the blinder rage
Of bigot zeal madly to overturn;
And, if the desolating hand of war
Spare them, they shall continue to bestow—
Upon the thronged abodes of busy Men
(Depraved, and ever prone to fill their minds
Exclusively with transitory things)
An air and mien of dignified pursuit;
Of sweet civility—on rustic wilds.
—The Poet, fostering for his native land
Such hope, entreats that Servants may abound
Of those pure Altars worthy; Ministers
Detached from pleasure, to the love of gain
Superior, insusceptible of pride,
And by ambition's longings undisturbed;
Men, whose delight is where their duty leads
Or fixes them; whose least distinguished day
Shines with some portion of that heavenly lustre
Which makes the Sabbath lovely in the sight
Of blessed Angels, pitying human cares.
—And, as on earth it is the doom of Truth
To be perpetually attacked by foes
Open or covert, be that Priesthood still,
For her defence, replenished with a Band
Of strenuous Champions, in scholastic arts
Thoroughly disciplined; nor (if in course
Of the revolving World's disturbances
Cause should recur, which righteous Heaven avert!
To meet such trial) from their spiritual Sires
Degenerate; who, constrained to wield the sword
Of disputation, shrunk not, though assailed
With hostile din, and combating in sight
Of angry umpires, partial and unjust.
And did, thereafter, bathe their hands in fire,
So to declare the conscience satisfied:
Nor for their bodies would accept release,
But, blessing God and praising him, bequeathed,
With their last breath, from out the smouldering flame,
The faith which they by diligence had earned,
And through illuminating grace received,
For their dear Country-men, and all mankind.
O high example, constancy divine!
Even such a Man (inheriting the zeal
And from the sanctity of elder times
Not deviating,—a Priest, the like of whom,
If multiplied, and in their stations set,
Would o'er the bosom of a joyful Land
Spread true Religion, and her genuine fruits)
Before me stood that day; on holy ground
Fraught with the relics of mortality,
Exalting tender themes, by just degrees
To lofty raised; and to the highest, last;
The head and mighty paramount of truths;
Immortal life, in never-fading worlds,
For mortal Creatures, conquered and secured.
That basis laid, those principles of faith
Announced, as a preparatory act
Of reverence to the spirit of the place;
The Pastor cast his eyes upon the ground,
Not, as before, like one oppressed with awe,
But with a mild and social chearfulness;
Then to the Solitary turned, and spake.
"At morn or eve, in your retired Domain,
Perchance you not unfrequently have marked
A Visitor—intent upon the task
Of prying, low and high, for herbs and flowers:
Too delicate employ, as would appear,
For One, who, though of drooping mien, had yet,
From Nature's kindliness, received a frame
Robust as ever rural labour bred."
The Solitary answered. "Such a Form
Full well I recollect. We often crossed
Each other's path; but, as the Intruder seemed
Fondly to prize the silence which he kept,
And I as willingly did cherish mine,
We met, and passed, like shadows. I have heard,
From my good Host, that he was crazed in brain
By unrequited love; and scaled the rocks,
Dived into caves, and pierced the matted woods,
In hope to find some virtuous herb, of power
To cure his malady!"
The Vicar smiled,
"Alas! before to-morrow's sun goes down
His habitation will be here: for him
That open grave is destined."
"Died he then
Of pain and grief," the Solitary asked,
"Believe it not—oh! never could that be!"
"He loved," the vicar answered, "deeply loved,
Loved fondly, truly, fervently; and pined
When he had told his love, and sued in vain,
—Rejected—yea repelled—and, if with scorn
Upon the haughty maiden's brow, 'tis but
A high-prized plume which female Beauty wears.
That he could brook, and glory in;—but when
The tidings came that she whom he had wooed
Was wedded to another, and his heart
Was forced to rend away its only hope,
Then, Pity could have scarcely found on earth
An Object worthier of regard than he,
In the transition of that bitter hour!
Lost was she, lost; nor could the sufferer say
That in the act of preference he had been
Unjustly dealt with; but the Maid was gone!
She, whose dear name with unregarded sighs
He long had blessed, whose Image was preserved—
Shrined in his breast with fond idolatry,
Had vanished from his prospects and desires;
Not by translation to the heavenly Choir
Who have put off their mortal spoils—ah no!
She lives another's wishes to complete,
"Joy be their lot, and happiness," he cried,
"His lot and hers, as misery is mine!"
Such was that strong concussion; but the Man
Who trembled, trunk and limbs, like some huge Oak
By a fierce tempest shaken, soon resumed
The stedfast quiet natural to a Mind
Of composition gentle and sedate,
And in its movements circumspect and slow.
Of rustic Parents bred, He had been trained,
(So prompted their aspiring wish) to skill
In numbers and the sedentary art
Of penmanship,—with pride professed, and taught
By his endeavours in the mountain dales.
Now, those sad tidings weighing on his heart,
To books, and papers, and the studious desk,
He stoutly readdressed himself—resolved
To quell his pain, and enter on the path
Of old pursuits with keener appetite
And closer industry. Of what ensued,
Within his soul, no outward sign appeared
Till a betraying sickliness was seen
To tinge his cheek; and through his frame it crept
With slow mutation unconcealable;
Such universal change as autumn makes
In the fair body of a leafy grove
Discoloured, then divested. 'Tis affirmed
By Poets skilled in nature's secret ways
That Love will not submit to be controlled
By mastery:—and the good Man lacked not Friends
Who strove to instil this truth into his mind,
A mind in all heart-mysteries unversed.
"Go to the hills," said one, "remit awhile
"This baneful diligence:—at early morn
"Court the fresh air, explore the heaths and woods;
"And, leaving it to others to foretell,
"By calculations sage, the ebb and flow
"Of tides, and when the moon will be eclipsed,
"Do you, for your own benefit, construct
"A calendar of flowers, plucked as they blow
"Where health abides, and chearfulness, and peace."
The attempt was made;—'tis needless to report
How hopelessly:—but Innocence is strong,
And an entire simplicity of mind
A thing most sacred in the eye of Heaven,
That opens, for such Sufferers, relief
Within their souls, a fount of grace divine;
And doth commend their weakness and disease
To Nature's care, assisted in her office
By all the Elements that round her wait
To generate, to preserve, and to restore;
And by her beautiful array of Forms
Shedding sweet influence from above, or pure
Delight exhaling from the ground they tread."
"Impute it not to impatience, if," exclaimed
The Wanderer, "I infer that he was healed
By perseverance in the course prescribed."
"You do not err: the powers, which had been lost
By slow degrees, were gradually regained;
The fluttering nerves composed; the beating heart
In rest established; and the jarring thoughts
To harmony restored.—But yon dark mold
Will cover him; in height of strength—to earth
Hastily smitten, by a fever's force.
Yet not with stroke so sudden as refused
Time to look back with tenderness on her
Whom he had loved in passion,—and to send
Some farewell words; and, with those words, a prayer
That, from his dying hand, she would accept,
Of his possessions, that which most he prized;
A Book, upon the surface of whose leaves
Some chosen plants, disposed with nicest care,
In undecaying beauty were preserved.
Mute register, to him, of time and place,
And various fluctuations in the breast;
To her, a monument of faithful Love
Conquered, and in tranquillity retained!
Close to his destined habitation, lies
One whose Endeavours did at length achieve
A victory less worthy of regard,
Though marvellous in its kind. A Place exists
High in these mountains, that allured a Band
Of keen Adventurers to unite their pains,
In search of treasure there by Nature formed,
And there concealed: but they who tried were foiled,
And all desisted, all, save he alone;
Who taking counsel of his own clear thoughts,
And trusting only to his own weak hands,
Urged unremittingly the stubborn work,
Unseconded, uncountenanc'd; then, as time
Passed on, while still his lonely efforts found
No recompence, derided; and, at length,
By many pitied, as insane of mind;
By others dreaded as the luckless Thrall
Of subterraneous Spirits, feeding hope
By various mockery of sight and sound;
Hope, after hope, encouraged and destroyed.
—But when the Lord of seasons had matured
The fruits of earth through space of twice ten years,
The mountain's entrails offered to the view
Of the Old Man, and to his trembling grasp,
His bright, his long-deferred, his dear reward.
Not with more transport did Columbus greet
A world, his rich discovery! But our Swain,
A very Hero till his point was gained,
Proved all unable to support the weight
Of prosperous fortune. On the fields he looked
With an unsettled liberty of thought,
Of schemes and wishes; in the day-light walked
Giddy and restless; ever and anon
Quaffed in his gratitude immoderate cups;
And truly might be said to die of joy!
—He vanish'd; but conspicuous to this day
The Path remains that linked his Cottage-door
To the Mine's mouth; a long, and slanting track,
Upon the rugged mountain's stony side,
Worn by his daily visits to and from
The darksome centre of a constant hope.
This Vestige, neither force of beating rain,
Nor the vicissitudes of frost and thaw
Shall cause to fade, 'till ages pass away;
And it is named, in memory of the event,
The Path of Perseverance."
"Thou, from whom
Man has his strength," exclaimed the Wanderer, "oh!
Do Thou direct it!—to the Virtuous grant
The penetrative eye which can perceive
In this blind world the guiding vein of hope,
That, like this Labourer, such may dig their way,
"Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified;"
Grant to the Wise his firmness of resolve!"
"That prayer were not superfluous," said the Priest,
"Amid the noblest relics, proudest Dust,
That Westminster, for Britain's glory, holds,
Within the bosom of her awful Pile,
Ambitiously collected. Yet the sigh,
Which wafts that prayer to Heaven, is due to all,
Wherever laid, who living fell below
Their virtues humbler mark; a sigh of pain
If to the opposite extreme they sank.
How would you pity Her who yonder rests;
Him, farther off; the Pair, who here are laid;
But, above all, that mixture of Earth's Mold
Whom sight of this green Hillock to my mind
Recalls.—He lived not till his locks were nipped
By seasonable frost of age; nor died
Before his temples, prematurely forced
To mix the manly brown with silver grey,
Gave obvious instance of the sad effect
Produced, when thoughtless Folly hath usurped
The natural crown which sage Experience wears.
—Gay, volatile, ingenious, quick to learn,
And prompt to exhibit all that he possessed
Or could perform; a zealous actor—hired
Into the troop of mirth, a soldier—sworn
Into the lists of giddy enterprize
Such was he; yet, as if within his frame
Two several Souls alternately had lodged,
Two sets of manners, could the youth put on;
And, fraught with antics as the Indian bird
That writhes and chatters in her wiry cage,
Was graceful, when it pleased him, smooth and still
As the mute Swan that floats adown the stream,
Or, on the waters of the unruffled lake,
Anchors her placid beauty. Not a Leaf,
That flutters on the bough, more light than He;
And not a Flower, that droops in the green shade,
More winningly reserved! If Ye inquire
How such consummate elegance was bred
Amid these wilds; a Composition framed
Of qualities so adverse—to diffuse,
Where'er he moved, diversified delight;
A simple answer may suffice, even this,
'Twas Nature's will; who sometimes undertakes,
For the reproof of human vanity,
Art to outstrip in her peculiar walk.
Hence, for this Favourite, lavishly endowed
With personal gifts, and bright instinctive wit,
While both, embellishing each other, stood
Yet farther recommended by the charm
or fine demeanor, and by dance and song,
And skill in letters, every fancy shaped
Fair expectations; nor, when to the World's
Capacious field forth went the Adventurer, there
Were he and his attainments overlooked,
Or scantily rewarded; but all hopes,
Cherished for him, he suffered to depart,
Like blighted buds; or clouds that mimicked Land
Before the Sailor's eye; or diamond drops
That sparkling decked the morning grass; or aught
That was attractive—and hath ceased to be!
—Yet, when this Prodigal returned, the rites
Of joyful greeting were on him bestowed,
Who, by humiliation undeterred,
Sought for his weariness a place of rest
Within his Father's gates.—Whence came He?—clothed
In tattered garb, from hovels where abides
Necessity, the stationary Host
Of vagrant Poverty; from rifted barns
Where no one dwells but the wide-staring Owl
And the Owl's Prey; none permanently house
But many harbour; from these Haunts, to which
He had descended from the proud Saloon,
He came, the Ghost of beauty and of health,
The Wreck of gaiety! But soon revived
In strength, in power refitted, he renewed
His suit to Fortune; and she smiled again
Upon a fickle Ingrate. Thrice he rose,
Thrice sunk as willingly. For He, whose nerves
Were used to thrill with pleasure, while his voice
Softly accompanied the tuneful harp,
By the nice finger of fair Ladies, touched
In glittering Halls, was able to derive
Not less enjoyment from an abject choice.
Who happier for the moment?—Who more blithe
Than this fallen Spirit; in those dreary Holds
His Talents lending to exalt the freaks
Of merry-making Beggars,—now, provoked
To laughter multiplied in louder peals
By his malicious wit; then, all enchained
With mute astonishment, themselves to see
In their own arts outdone, their fame eclipsed,
As by the very presence of the Fiend
Who dictates and inspires illusive feats,
For knavish purposes! The City, too,
(With shame I speak it) to her guilty bowers
Allured him, sunk so low in self-respect
As there to linger, there to eat his bread,
Hired Minstrel of voluptuous blandishment;
Charming the air with skill of hand or voice,
Listen who would, be wrought upon who might,
Sincerely wretched Hearts, or falsely gay.
—Truths I record to many known, for such
The not unfrequent tenor of his boast
In ears that relished the report;—but all
Was from his Parents happily concealed;
Who saw enough for blame and pitying love.
They also were permitted to receive
His last, repentant breath; and closed his eyes,
No more to open on that irksome world
Where he had long existed in the state
Of a young Fowl beneath one Mother hatched,
Though from another sprung—of different kind:
Where he had lived, and could not cease to live,
Distracted in propensity; content
With neither element of good or ill;
And yet in both rejoicing; man unblest;
Of contradictions infinite the slave,
Till his deliverance, when Mercy made him
One with Himself, and one with those who sleep."
"'Tis strange," observed the Solitary, "strange
It seems, and scarcely less than pitiful
That in a Land where Charity provides
For all who can no longer feed themselves,
A Man like this should choose to bring his shame
To the parental door; and with his sighs
Infect the air which he had freely breathed
In happy infancy. He could not pine,
Whencee'er rejected howsoe'er forlorn,
Through lack of converse, no, he must have found
Abundant exercise for thought and speech
In his dividual Being, self-reviewed,
Self-catechized, self-punished.—Some there are
Who, drawing near their final Home, and much
And daily longing that the same were reached,
Would rather shun than seek the fellowship
Of kindred mold.—Such haply here are laid."
"Yes," said the Priest, "the Genius of our Hills
Who seems, by these stupendous barriers cast
Round his Domain, desirous not alone
To keep his own, but also to exclude
All other progeny, doth sometimes lure,
Even by this studied depth of privacy,
The unhappy Alien hoping to obtain
Concealment, or seduced by wish to find,
In place from outward molestation free,
Helps to internal ease. Of many such
Could I discourse; but as their stay was brief
So their departure only left behind
Fancies, and loose conjectures. Other trace
Survives, for worthy mention, of a Pair
Who, from the pressure of their several fates,
Meeting as Strangers, in a petty Town
Whose blue roofs ornament a distant reach
Of this far-winding Vale, remained as Friends
True to their choice; and gave their bones in trust
To this loved Cemetery, here to lodge
With unescutcheoned privacy interred
Far from the Family-vault.—A Chieftain One
By right of birth; within whose spotless breast
The fire of ancient Caledonia burned.
He, with the foremost whose impatience hailed
The Stuart, landing to resume, by force
Of arms, the crown which Bigotry had lost,
Arouzed his clan; and, fighting at their head,
With his brave sword endeavoured to prevent
Culloden's fatal overthrow.—Escaped
From that disastrous rout, to foreign shores
He fled; and when the lenient hand of Time
Those troubles had appeased, he sought and gained,
For his obscured condition, an obscure
Retreat, within this nook of English ground.
—The Other, born in Britain's southern tract,
Had fixed his milder loyalty, and placed
His gentler sentiments of love and hate,
There, where they placed them who in conscience prized
The new succession, as a line of Kings
Whose oath had virtue to protect the Land
Against the dire assaults of Papacy
And arbitrary Rule. But launch thy Bark
On the distempered flood of public life,
And cause for most rare triumph will be thine
If, spite of keenest eye and steadiest hand,
The Stream, that bears thee forward, prove not, soon
Or late, a perilous Master. He, who oft,
Under the battlements and stately trees
That round his Mansion cast a sober gloom,
Had moralized on this, and other truths
Of kindred import, pleased and satisfied,
Was forced to vent his wisdom with a sigh
Heaved from the heart in fortune's bitterness
When he had crushed a plentiful estate
By ruinous Contest, to obtain a Seat
In Britain's Senate. Fruitless was the attempt:
And while the uproar of that desperate strife
Continued yet to vibrate on his ear,
The vanquished Whig, beneath a borrowed name,
(For the mere sound and echo of his own
Haunted him with sensations of disgust
Which he was glad to lose) slunk from the World
To the deep shade of these untravelled Wilds;
In which the Scottish Laird had long possessed
An undisturbed Abode.—Here, then, they met,
Two doughty Champions; flaming Jacobite
And sullen Hanoverian! You might think
That losses and vexations, less severe
Than those which they had severally sustained,
Would have inclined each to abate his zeal
For his ungrateful cause; no,—I have heard
My reverend Father tell that, mid the calm
Of that small Town encountering thus, they filled,
Daily, its Bowling-green with harmless strife;
Plagued with uncharitable thoughts the Church;
And vexed the Market-place. But in the breasts
Of these Opponents gradually was wrought,
With little change of general sentiment,
Such change towards each other, that their days
By choice were spent in constant fellowship;
And if, at times, they fretted with the yoke,
Those very bickerings made them love it more.
A favourite boundary to their lengthened walks
This Church-yard was. And, whether they had come
Treading their path in sympathy and linked
In social converse, or by some short space
Discreetly parted to preserve the peace,
One Spirit seldom failed to extend its sway
Over both minds, when they awhile had marked
The visible quiet of this holy ground
And breathed its soothing air;—the Spirit of hope
And saintly magnanimity; that, spurning
The field of selfish difference and dispute,
And every care which transitory things,
Earth, and the kingdoms of the earth, create,
Doth, by a rapture of forgetfulness,
Preclude forgiveness, from the praise debarred,
Which else the Christian Virtue might have claimed.
—There live who yet remember here to have seen
Their courtly Figures,—seated on the stump
Of an old Yew, their favourite resting-place.
But, as the Remnant of the long-lived Tree
Was disappearing by a swift decay,
They, with joint care, determined to erect,
Upon its site, a Dial, which should stand
For public use; and also might survive
As their own private monument; for this
Was the particular spot, in which they wished,
(And Heaven was pleased to accomplish the desire)
That, undivided, their Remains should lie.
So, where the mouldered Tree had stood, was raised
Yon Structure, framing, with the ascent of steps
That to the decorated Pillar lead,
A work of art, more sumptuous, as might seem,
Than suits this Place; yet built in no proud scorn
Of rustic homeliness; they only aimed
To ensure for it respectful guardianship.
Around the margin of the Plate, whereon
The Shadow falls, to note the stealthy hours
Winds an inscriptive Legend"—At these words
Thither we turned; and, gathered, as we read,
The appropriate sense, in Latin numbers couched.
"Time flies; it is his melancholy task
"To bring, and bear away, delusive hopes,
"And re-produce the troubles he destroys.
"But, while his blindness thus is occupied,
"Discerning Mortal! do thou serve the will
"Of Time's eternal Master, and that peace,
"Which the World wants, shall be for Thee confirmed."
"Smooth verse, inspired by no unlettered Muse,"
Exclaimed the Sceptic, "and the strain of thought
Accords with Nature's language;—the soft voice
Of yon white torrent falling down the rocks
Speaks, less distinctly, to the same effect.
If, then, their blended influence be not lost
Upon our hearts, not wholly lost, I grant,
Even upon mine, the more are we required
To feel for those, among our fellow men,
Who, offering no obeisance to the world,
Are yet made desperate by "too quick a sense
Of constant infelicity"—cut off
From peace like Exiles on some barren rock,
Their life's appointed prison; not more free
Than Centinels, between two armies, set,
With nothing better, in the chill night air,
Than their own thoughts to comfort them.—Say why
That ancient story of Prometheus chained?
The Vulture—the inexhaustible repast
Drawn from his vitals! Say what meant the woes
By Tantalus entailed upon his race,
And the dark sorrows of the line of Thebes?
Fictions in form, but in their substance truths,
Tremendous truths! familiar to the men
Of long-past times; nor obsolete in ours.
—Exchange the Shepherd's frock of native grey
For robes with regal purple tinged; convert
The crook into a sceptre;—give the pomp
Of circumstance, and here the tragic Muse
Shall find apt subjects for her highest art.
—Amid the groves, beneath the shadowy hills
The generations are prepared; the pangs,
The internal pangs are ready; the dread strife
Of poor humanity's afflicted will
Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny."
"Though," said the Priest in answer, "these be terms
Which a divine philosophy rejects,
We, whose established and unfailing trust
Is in controuling Providence, admit
That through all stations human life abounds
With mysteries,—for if Faith were left untried
How could the might—that lurks within her—then
Be shewn? her glorious excellence—that ranks
Among the first of Powers and Virtues—proved?
Our system is not fashioned to preclude
That sympathy which you for others ask;
And I could tell, not travelling for my theme
Beyond the limits of these humble graves,
Of strange disasters; but I pass them by,
Loth to disturb what heaven hath hushed in peace."
—Still less, far less am I inclined to treat
Of Man degraded in his Maker's sight
By the deformities of brutish vice:
For, though from these materials might be framed
Harsh portraiture, in which a vulgar face
And a coarse outside of repulsive life
And unaffecting manners may at once
Be recognized by all"—"Ah! do not think,"
The Wanderer somewhat eagerly exclaimed,
"Wish could be ours that you, for such poor gain,
(Gain shall I call it?—gain of what?—for whom?)
Should breathe a word tending to violate
Your own pure spirit. Not a step we look for
In slight of that forbearance and reserve
Which common human-heartedness inspire,
And mortal ignorance and frailty claim,
Upon this sacred ground, if no where else."
"True," said the Solitary, "be it far
From us to infringe the laws of charity.
Let judgment here in mercy be pronounced;
This, self-respecting Nature prompts, and this
Wisdom enjoins; but, if the thing we seek
Be genuine knowledge, bear we then in mind
How, from his lofty throne, the Sun can fling
Colours as bright on exhalations bred
By weedy pool or pestilential swamp,
As by the rivulet sparkling where it runs,
Or the pellucid Lake."
"Small risk," said I,
"Of such illusion do we here incur;
Temptation here is none to exceed the truth;
No evidence appears that they, who rest
Within this ground, were covetous of praise,
Or of remembrance even, deserved or not.
Green is the Church-yard, beautiful and green;
Ridge rising gently by the side of ridge:
A heaving surface—almost wholly free
From interruption of sepulchral stones,
And mantled o'er with aboriginal turf
And everlasting flowers. These Dalesmen trust
The lingering gleam of their departed Lives
To oral records and the silent heart;
Depository faithful, and more kind
Than fondest Epitaphs: for, if it fail,
What boots the sculptured Tomb? And who can blame,
Who rather would not envy, men that feel
This mutual confidence; if from such source
The practice flow,—if thence, or from a deep
And general humility in death?
Nor should I much condemn it, if it spring
From disregard of Time's destructive power,
As only capable to prey on things
Of earth, and human nature's mortal part.
Yet—in less simple districts, where we see
Stone lift its forehead emulous of stone
In courting notice, and the ground all paved
With commendations of departed worth,
Reading, where'er we turn, of innocent lives,
Of each domestic charity fulfilled
And sufferings meekly borne—I, for my part,
Though with the silence pleased which here prevails,
Among those fair recitals also range
Soothed by the natural spirit which they breathe.
And, in the centre of a world whose soil
Is rank with all unkindness, compassed round
With such Memorials, I have sometimes felt
That 'twas no momentary happiness
To have one enclosure where the voice that speaks
In envy or detraction is not heard;
Which malice may not enter; where the traces
Of evil inclinations are unknown;
Where love and pity tenderly unite
With resignation; and no jarring tone
Intrudes, the peaceful concert to disturb
Of amity and gratitude."
The Pastor said, "I willingly confine
My narratives to subjects that excite
Feelings with these accordant; love, esteem
And admiration; lifting up a veil,
A sun-beam introducing among hearts
Retired and covert; so that ye shall have
Clear Images before your gladdened eyes
Of Nature's unambitious underwood,
And flowers that prosper in the shade. And when
I speak of such among my flock as swerved
Or fell, those only will I single out
Upon whose lapse, or error, something more
Than brotherly forgiveness may attend:
To such will we restrict our notice, else
Better my tongue were mute. And yet there are,
I feel, good reasons why we should not leave
Wholly untraced a more forbidding way.
For strength to persevere and to support,
And energy to conquer and repel,
These elements of virtue, that declare
The native grandeur of the human Soul,
Are oft-times not unprofitably shewn
In the perverseness of a selfish course:
Truth every day exemplified, no less
In the grey cottage by the murmuring stream
Than the fantastic Conqueror's roving camp,
Or in the factious Senate, unappalled
While merciless proscription ebbs and flows.
—There," said the Vicar pointing as he spake,
"A woman rests in peace; surpassed by few
In power of mind, and eloquent discourse.
Tall was her stature; her complexion dark
And saturnine; her port erect, her head
Not absolutely raised, as if to hold
Converse with heaven, nor yet depressed tow'rds earth,
But in projection carried, as she walked
For ever musing. Sunken were her eyes;
Wrinkled and furrowed with habitual thought
Was her broad forehead; like the brow of One
Whose visual nerve shrinks from a painful glare
Of overpowering light.—While yet a Child,
She, mid the humble Flowerets of the vale,
Towered like the imperial Thistle, not unfurnished
With its appropriate grace, yet rather framed
To be admired, than coveted and loved.
Even at that age, she ruled as sovereign Queen
Among her Play-mates; else their simple sports
Had wanted power to occupy a mind
Held in subjection by a strong controul
Of studious application, self-imposed.
Books were her creditors; to them she paid,
With pleasing, anxious eagerness, the hours
Which they exacted; were it time allowed,
Or seized upon by stealth, or fairly won,
By stretch of industry, from other tasks.
—Oh! pang of sorrowful regret for them
Whom, in their youth, sweet study has enthralled,
That they have lived for harsher servitude,
Whether in soul, in body, or estate!
Such doom was hers; yet nothing could subdue
Her keen desire of knowledge; or efface
Those brighter images—by books impressed
Upon her memory; faithfully as stars
That occupy their places,—and, though oft
Hidden by clouds, and oft bedimmed by haze,
Are not to be extinguished, or impaired.
Two passions, both degenerate, for they both
Began in honour, gradually obtained
Rule over her, and vexed her daily life;
An unrelenting, avaricious thrift;
And a strange thraldom of maternal love,
That held her spirit, in its own despite,
Bound by vexation, and regret, and scorn.
Constrained forgiveness, and relenting vows,
And tears, in pride suppressed, in shame concealed,
To a poor dissolute Son, her only Child.
—Her wedded days had opened with mishap,
Whence dire dependance.—What could she perform
To shake the burthen off? Ah! there she felt,
Indignantly, the weakness of her sex,
The injustice of her low estate.—She mused;
Resolved, adhered to her resolve; her heart
Closed by degrees to charity; and, thence
Expecting not Heaven's blessing, placed her trust
In ceaseless pains and parsimonious care,
Which got, and sternly hoarded each day's gain.
Thus all was re-established, and a pile
Constructed, that sufficed for every end,
Save the contentment of the Builder's mind;
A mind by nature indisposed to aught
So placid, so inactive, as content;
A Mind intolerant of lasting peace,
And cherishing the pang which it deplored.
Dread life of conflict! which I oft compared
To the agitation of a brook that runs
Down rocky mountains—buried now and lost
In silent pools, unfathomably deep;—
Now, in a moment, starting forth again
With violence, and proud of its escape;—
Until it sink once more, by slow degrees,
Or instantly, into as dark repose.
A sudden illness seized her in the strength
Of life's autumnal season.—Shall I tell
How on her bed of death the Matron lay,
To Providence submissive, so she thought;
But fretted, vexed, and wrought upon—almost
To anger, by the malady, that griped
Her prostrate frame with unrelaxing power,
As the fierce Eagle fastens on the Lamb.
She prayed, she moaned—her Husband's Sister watched
Her dreary pillow, waited on her needs;
And yet the very sound of that kind foot
Was anguish to her ears!—"And must she rule,"
This was the dying Woman heard to say
In bitterness, "and must she rule and reign,
"Sole Mistress of this house, when I am gone?
"Sit by my fire—possess what I possessed—
"Tend what I tended—calling it her own!"
Enough;—I fear, too much.—Of nobler feeling
Take this example.—One autumnal evening,
While she was yet in prime of health and strength,
I well remember, while I passed her door,
Musing with loitering step, and upward eye
Turned tow'rds the planet Jupiter, that hung
Above the centre of the Vale, a voice
Roused me, her voice; it said, "That glorious Star
"In its untroubled element will shine
"As now it shines, when we are laid in earth
"And safe from all our sorrows."—She is safe,
And her uncharitable acts, I trust,
And harsh unkindnesses, are all forgiven;
Though, in this Vale, remembered with deep awe!"
The Vicar paused; and tow'rds a seat advanced,
A long stone-seat, framed in the Church-yard wall;
Part under shady sycamore, and part
Offering a place of rest in pleasant sunshine,
Even as may suit the comers old or young
Who seek the House of worship, while the Bells
Yet ring with all their voices, or before
The last hath ceased its solitary knoll.
To this commodious resting-place he led;
Where, by his side, we all sate down; and there
His office, uninvited, he resumed.
"As, on a sunny bank, a tender Lamb
Lurks in safe shelter from the winds of March,
Screened by its Parent, so that little mound
Lies guarded by its neighbour; the small heap
Speaks for itself;—an Infant there doth rest,
The sheltering Hillock is the Mother's grave.
If mild discourse, and manners that conferred
A natural dignity on humblest rank;
If gladsome spirits, and benignant looks,
That for a face not beautiful did more
Than beauty for the fairest face can do;
And if religious tenderness of heart,
Grieving for sin, and penitential tears
Shed when the clouds had gathered and distained
The spotless ether of a maiden life;
If these may make a hallowed spot of earth
More holy in the sight of God or Man;
Then, on that mold, a sanctity shall brood,
Till the stars sicken at the day of doom.
Ah! what a warning for a thoughtless Man,
Could field or grove, or any spot of earth,
Shew to his eye an image of the pangs
Which it hath witnessed, render back an echo
Of the sad steps by which it hath been trod!
There, by her innocent Baby's precious grave,
Yea, doubtless, on the turf that roofs her own,
The Mother oft was seen to stand, or kneel
In the broad day, a weeping Magdalene.
Now she is not; the swelling turf reports
Of the fresh shower, but of poor Ellen's tears
Is silent; nor is any vestige left
Upon the pathway, of her mournful tread;
Nor of that pace with which she once had moved
In virgin fearlessness, a step that seemed
Caught from the pressure of elastic turf
Upon the mountains wet with morning dew,
In the prime hour of sweetest scents and airs.
—Serious and thoughtful was her mind; and yet,
By reconcilement exquisite and rare,
The form, port, motions of this Cottage-girl
Were such as might have quickened and inspired
A Titian's hand, addressed to picture forth
Oread or Dryad glancing through the shade
When first the Hunter's startling horn is heard
Upon the golden hills. A spreading Elm
Stands in our Valley, called The joyful Tree;
An Elm distinguished by that festive name,
From dateless usage which our Peasants hold
Of giving welcome to the first of May
By dances round its trunk.—And if the sky
Permit, like honours, dance and song, are paid
To the Twelfth Night; beneath the frosty Stars
Or the clear Moon. The Queen of these gay sports,
If not in beauty yet in sprightly air,
Was hapless Ellen.—No one touched the ground
So deftly, and the nicest Maiden's locks
Less gracefully were braided;—but this praise,
Methinks, would better suit another place.
She loved,—and fondly deemed herself beloved.
The road is dim, the current unperceived,
The weakness painful and most pitiful,
By which a virtuous Woman, in pure youth,
May be delivered to distress and shame.
Such fate was hers.—The last time Ellen danced,
Among her Equals, round the joyful Tree,
She bore a secret burthen; and full soon
Was left to tremble for a breaking vow,—
Then, to bewail a sternly-broken vow,
Alone, within her widowed Mother's house.
It was the season sweet, of budding leaves,
Of days advancing tow'rds their utmost length,
And small birds singing to their happy mates.
Wild is the music of the autumnal wind
Among the faded woods; but these blithe notes
Strike the deserted to the heart;—I speak
Of what I know, and what we feel within.
—Beside the Cottage in which Ellen dwelt
Stands a tall ash-tree; to whose topmost twig
A Thrush resorts, and annually chaunts,
At morn and evening, from that naked perch,
While all the undergrove is thick with leaves,
A time-beguiling ditty, for delight
Of his fond partner, silent in the nest.
—"Ah why," said Ellen, sighing to herself,
"Why do not words, and kiss, and solemn pledge;
"And nature that is kind in Woman's breast,
"And reason that in Man is wise and good,
"And fear of him who is a righteous Judge,
"Why do not these prevail for human life,
"To keep two Hearts together, that began
"Their spring-time with one love, and that have need
"Of mutual pity and forgiveness, sweet
"To grant, or be received, while that poor Bird,
"—O come and hear him! Thou who hast to me
"Been faithless, hear him, though a lowly Creature,
"One of God's simple children that yet know not
"The universal Parent, how he sings
"As if he wished, the firmament of Heaven
"Should listen, and give back to him the voice
"Of his triumphant constancy and love;
"The proclamation that he makes, how far
"His darkness doth transcend our fickle light!"
Such was the tender passage, not by me
Repeated without loss of simple phrase,
Which I perused, even as the words had been
Committed by forsaken Ellen's hand
To the blank margin of a Valentine,
Bedropped with tears. 'Twill please you to be told
That, studiously withdrawing from the eye
Of all companionship, the Sufferer yet
In lonely reading found a meek resource.
How thankful for the warmth of summer days,
And their long twilight!—friendly to that stealth
With which she slipped into the Cottage-barn,
And found a secret oratory there;
Or, in the garden, pored upon her book
By the last lingering help of open sky,
Till the dark night dismissed her to her bed.
Thus did a waking Fancy sometimes lose
The unconquerable pang of despised love.
A kindlier passion opened on her soul
When that poor Child was born. Upon its face
She looked as on a pure and spotless gift
Of unexpected promise, where a grief
Or dread was all that had been thought of—joy
Far sweeter than bewildered Traveller feels
Upon a perilous waste, where all night long
Through darkness he hath toiled and fearful storm,
When he beholds the first pale speck serene
Of day-spring—in the gloomy east revealed,
And greets it with thanksgiving. "Till this hour,"
Thus in her Mother's hearing Ellen spake,
"There was a stony region in my heart;
"But he, at whose command the parched rock
"Was smitten, and poured forth a quenching stream,
"Hath softened that obduracy, and made
"Unlooked-for gladness in the desart place,
"To save the perishing; and, henceforth, I look
"Upon the light with cheerfulness, for thee
"My Infant; and for that good Mother dear,
"Who bore me,—and hath prayed for me in vain;—
"Yet not in vain, it shall not be in vain."
She spake, nor was the assurance unfulfilled,
And if heart-rending thoughts would oft return
They stayed not long.—The blameless Infant grew;
The Child whom Ellen and her Mother loved
They soon were proud of: tended it and nursed,
A soothing comforter, although forlorn;
Like a poor singing-bird from distant lands;
Or a choice shrub, which he, who passes by
With vacant mind, not seldom may observe
Fair-flowering in a thinly-peopled house,
Whose window, somewhat sadly, it adorns.
—Through four months' space the Infant drew its food
From the maternal breast; then scruples rose;
Thoughts, which the rich are free from, came and crossed
The sweet affection. She no more could bear
By her offence to lay a twofold weight
On a kind parent willing to forget
Their slender means, so, to that parent's care
Trusting her child, she left their common home,
And with contented spirit undertook
A Foster-Mother's office.
Unknown to you that in these simple Vales
The natural feeling of equality
Is by domestic service unimpaired;
Yet, though such service be, with us, removed
From sense of degradation, not the less
The ungentle mind can easily find means
To impose severe restraints and laws unjust:
Which hapless Ellen now was doomed to feel.
In selfish blindness, for I will not say
In naked and deliberate cruelty,
The Pair, whose Infant she was bound to nurse,
Forbad her all communion with her own.
They argued that such meeting would disturb
The Mother's mind, distract her thoughts, and thus
Unfit her for her duty—in which dread,
Week after week, the mandate was enforced.
—So near!—yet not allowed, upon that sight
To fix her eyes—alas! 'twas hard to bear!
But worse affliction must be borne—far worse;
For 'tis Heaven's will—that, after a disease
Begun and ended within three days' space,
Her Child should die; as Ellen now exclaimed,
Her own—deserted Child!—Once, only once,
She saw it in that mortal malady:
And, on the burial day, could scarcely gain
Permission to attend its obsequies.
She reached the house—last of the funeral train;
And some One, as she entered, having chanced
To urge unthinkingly their prompt departure,
"Nay," said she, with commanding look, a spirit
Of anger never seen in her before,
"Nay ye must wait my time! and down she sate,
And by the unclosed coffin kept her seat
Weeping and looking, looking on and weeping
Upon the last sweet slumber of her Child,
Until at length her soul was satisfied.
You see the Infant's Grave;—and to this Spot,
The Mother, oft as she was sent abroad
And whatsoe'er the errand, urged her steps:
Hither she came; and here she stood, or knelt
In the broad day—a rueful Magdalene!
So call her; for not only she bewailed
A Mother's loss, but mourned in bitterness
Her own transgression; Penitent sincere
As ever raised to Heaven a streaming eye.
—At length the Parents of the Foster-child
Noting that in despite of their commands
She still renewed, and could not but renew,
Those visitations, ceased to send her forth;
Or, to the garden's narrow bounds, confined.
I failed not to remind them that they erred:
For holy Nature might not thus be crossed,
Thus wronged in woman's breast: in vain I pleaded:
But the green stalk of Ellen's life was snapped
And the flower drooped; as every eye could see,
It hung its head in mortal languishment.
—Aided by this appearance I at length
Prevailed; and, from those bonds released, she went
Home to her mother's house. The Youth was fled;
The rash Betrayer could not face the shame
Or sorrow which his senseless guilt had caused;
And little would his presence, or proof given
Of a relenting soul, have now availed;
For, like a shadow, he was passed away
From Ellen's thoughts; had perished to her mind
For all concerns of fear, or hope, or love,
Save only those which to their common shame,
And to his moral being appertained:
Hope from that quarter would, I know, have brought
A heavenly comfort; there she recognised
An unrelaxing bond, a mutual need;
There, and, as seemed, there only.—She had raised,
Her fond maternal Heart had built a Nest
In blindness all too near the river's edge;
That Work a summer flood with hasty swell
Had swept away; and now her Spirit longed
For its last flight to Heaven's security.
—The bodily frame was wasted day by day;
Meanwhile, relinquishing all other cares,
Her mind she strictly tutored to find peace
And pleasure in endurance. Much she thought,
And much she read; and brooded feelingly
Upon her own unworthiness.—To me,
As to a spiritual comforter and friend,
Her heart she opened; and no pains were spared
To mitigate, as gently as I could,
The sting of self-reproach, with healing words.
—Meek Saint! through patience glorified on earth!
In whom, as by her lonely hearth she sate,
The ghastly face of cold decay put on
A sun-like beauty, and appeared divine!
May I not mention—that, within these walls,
In due observance of her pious wish,
The Congregation joined with me in prayer
For her Soul's good? Nor was that office vain.
—Much did she suffer: but, if any Friend,
Beholding her condition, at the sight
Gave way to words of pity or complaint,
She stilled them with a prompt reproof, and said,
"He who afflicts me knows what I can bear;
"And, when I fail, and can endure no more,
"Will mercifully take me to himself."
So, through the cloud of death, her Spirit passed
Into that pure and unknown world of love,
Where injury cannot come:—and here is laid
The mortal Body by her Infant's side."
The Vicar ceased; and downcast looks made known
That Each had listened with his inmost heart.
For me, the emotion scarcely was less strong
Or less benign than that which I had felt
When, seated near my venerable Friend,
Beneath those shady elms, from him I heard
The story that retraced the slow decline
Of Margaret sinking on the lonely Heath,
With the neglected House in which she dwelt.
—I noted that the Solitary's cheek
Confessed the power of nature.—Pleased though sad,
More pleased than sad, the grey-haired Wanderer sate;
Thanks to his pure imaginative soul
Capacious and serene, his blameless life,
His knowledge, wisdom, love of truth, and love
Of human kind! He was it who first broke
The pensive silence, saying, "Blest are they
Whose sorrow rather is to suffer wrong
Than to do wrong, although themselves have erred.
This Tale gives proof that Heaven most gently deals
With such, in their affliction.—Ellen's fate,
Her tender spirit, and her contrite heart,
Call to my mind dark hints which I have heard
Of One who died within this Vale, by doom
Heavier, as his offence was heavier far.
Where, Sir, I pray you, where are laid the bones
Of Wilfred Armathwaite?"—The Vicar answered,
"In that green nook, close by the Church-yard wall,
Beneath yon hawthorn, planted by myself
In memory and for warning, and in sign
Of sweetness where dire anguish had been known,
Of reconcilement after deep offence,
There doth he lie.—In this his native Vale
He owned and tilled a little plot of land;
Here, with his Consort and his Children, saw
Days—that were seldom crossed by petty strife,
Years—safe from large misfortune; and maintained
That course which minds, of insight not too keen,
Might look on with entire complacency.
Yet, in himself and near him, there were faults
At work to undermine his happy state
By sure, though tardy progress. Active, prompt,
And lively was the Housewife; in the Vale
None more industrious; but her industry,
Ill-judged, full oft, and specious, tended more
To splendid neatness; to a shewy, trim,
And overlaboured purity of house;
Than to substantial thrift. He, on his part,
Generous and easy-minded, was not free
From carelessness; and thus, in lapse of time,
These joint infirmities induced decay
Of worldly substance; and distress of mind,
That to a thoughtful Man was hard to shun,
And which he could not cure. A blooming Girl
Served in the house, a Favourite that had grown
Beneath his eye, encouraged by his care.
Poor now in tranquil pleasure he gave way
To thoughts of troubled pleasure; he became
A lawless Suitor to the Maid; and she
Yielded unworthily.—Unhappy Man!
That which he had been weak enough to do
Was misery in remembrance; he was stung,
Stung by his inward thoughts, and by the smiles
Of Wife and Children stung to agony.
Wretched at home he gained no peace abroad;
Ranged though the mountains, slept upon the earth,
Asked comfort of the open air, and found
No quiet in the darkness of the night,
No pleasure in the beauty of the day.
His flock he slighted: his paternal fields
Became a clog to him, whose spirit wished
To fly, but whither? And this gracious Church,
That wears a look so full of peace, and hope,
And love, benignant Mother of the Vale,
How fair amid her brood of Cottages!
She was to him a sickness and reproach.
Much to the last remained unknown; but this
Is sure, that through remorse and grief he died;
Though pitied among Men, absolved by God,
He could not find forgiveness in himself;
Nor could endure the weight of his own shame.
Here rests a Mother. But from her I turn
And from her Grave.—Behold—upon that Ridge,
Which, stretching boldly from the mountain side,
Carries into the centre of the Vale
Its rocks and woods—the Cottage where she dwelt;
And where yet dwells her faithful Partner, left
(Full eight years past) the solitary prop
Of many helpless Children. I begin
With words which might be prelude to a Tale
Of sorrow and dejection; but I feel
No sadness, when I think of what mine eyes
See daily in that happy Family.
—Bright Garland form they for the pensive brow
Of their undrooping Father's widowhood,
Those six fair Daughters, budding yet—not one,
Not one of all the band, a full blown Flower!
Depressed, and desolate of soul, as once
That Father was, and filled with anxious fear,
Now by experience taught, he stands assured,
That God, who takes away, yet takes not half
Of what he seems to take; or gives it back,
Not to our prayer, but far beyond our prayer;
He gives it—the boon produce of a soil
Which our endeavours have refused to till,
And Hope hath never watered. The Abode,
Whose grateful Owner can attest these truths,
Even were the object nearer to our sight
Would seem in no distinction to surpass
The rudest habitations. Ye might think
That it had sprung self-raised from earth, or grown
Out of the living rock, to be adorned
By Nature only; but, if thither led,
Ye would discover, then, a studious work
Of many fancies, prompting many hands.
—Brought from the woods the honeysuckle twines
Around the porch, and seems, in that trim place,
A Plant no longer wild; the cultured rose
There blossoms, strong in health, and will be soon
Roof-high; the wild pink crowns the garden wall,
And with the flowers are intermingled stones
Sparry and bright, the scatterings of the hills.
These ornaments, that fade not with the year,
A hardy Girl continues to provide;
Who, mounting fearlessly the rocky heights,
Her Father's prompt Attendant, does for him
All that a Boy could do; but with delight
More keen and prouder daring: yet hath she,
Within the garden, like the rest, a bed
For her own flowers and favourite herbs—a space,
By sacred charter, holden for her use.
—These, and whatever else the garden bears
Of fruit or flower, permission asked or not,
I freely gather; and my leisure draws
A not unfrequent pastime from the sight
Of the Bees murmuring round their sheltered hives
In that Enclosure; while the mountain rill,
That sparkling thrids the rocks, attunes his voice
To the pure course of human life, which there
Flows on in solitude from year to year.
—But at the closing-in of night, then most
This Dwelling charms me. Covered by the gloom,
Then, in my walks, I oftentimes stop short,
(Who could refrain?) and feed by stealth my sight
With prospect of the Company within,
Laid open through the blazing window:—there
I see the eldest Daughter at her wheel
Spinning amain, as if to overtake
The never-halting time; or, in her turn,
Teaching some Novice of the Sisterhood
That skill in this, or other household work;
Which, from her Father's honoured hand, herself
While she was yet a little One, had learned.
—Mild Man! he is not gay, but they are gay;
And the whole House seems filled with gaiety.
—Thrice happy, then, the Mother may be deemed,
The Wife, who rests beneath that turf, from which
I turned, that ye in mind might witness where,
And how her Spirit yet survives on Earth.
The next three Ridges—those upon the left—
By close connexion with our present thoughts
Tempt me to add, in praise of humble worth,
Their brief and unobtrusive history.
—One Hillock, ye may note, is small and low,
Sunk almost to a level with the plain
By weight of time; the Others, undepressed,
Are bold and swelling. There a Husband sleeps,
Deposited, in pious confidence
Of glorious resurrection with the just,
Near the loved Partner of his early days;
And, in the bosom of that family mold,
A second Wife is gathered to his side;
The approved Assistant of an arduous course
From his mid noon of manhood to old age!
He also of his Mate deprived, was left
Alone—'mid many Children; One a Babe
Orphaned as soon as born. Alas! 'tis not
In course of nature that a Father's wing
Should warm these Little-ones; and can he feed?
That was a thought of agony more keen.
For, hand in hand with Death, by strange mishap
And chance-encounter on their diverse road,
The ghastlier shape of Poverty had entered
Into that House, unfeared and unforeseen.
He had stepped forth, in time of urgent need,
The generous Surety of a Friend: and now
The widowed Father found that all his rights
In his paternal fields were undermined.
Landless he was and pennyless.—The dews
Of night and morn that wet the mountain sides,
The bright stars twinkling on their dusky tops,
Were conscious of the pain that drove him forth
From his own door, he knew not when—to range
He knew not where; distracted was his brain,
His heart was cloven; and full oft he prayed,
In blind despair, that God would take them all.
—But suddenly, as if in one kind moment
To encourage and reprove, a gleam of light
Broke from the very bosom of that cloud
Which darkened the whole prospect of his days.
For He, who now possessed the joyless right
To force the Bondsman from his house and lands,
In pity, and by admiration urged
Of his unmurmuring and considerate mind
Meekly submissive to the law's decree,
Lightened the penalty with liberal hand.
—The desolate Father raised his head, and looked
On the wide world in hope. Within these walls,
In course of time was solemnized the vow
Whereby a virtuous Woman, of grave years
And of prudential habits, undertook
The sacred office of a wife to him,
Of Mother to his helpless family.
—Nor did she fail, in nothing did she fail,
Through various exercise of twice ten years,
Save in some partial fondness for that Child
Which at the birth she had received, the Babe
Whose heart had known no Mother but herself.
—By mutual efforts; by united hopes;
By daily-growing help of boy and girl,
Trained early to participate that zeal
Of industry, which runs before the day
And lingers after it; by strong restraint
Of an economy which did not check
The heart's more generous motions tow'rds themselves
Or to their neighbours; and by trust in God;
This Pair insensibly subdued the fears
And troubles that beset their life: and thus
Did the good Father and his second Mate
Redeem at length their plot of smiling fields.
These, at this day, the eldest Son retains:
The younger Offspring, through the busy world,
Have all been scattered wide, by various fates;
But each departed from the native Vale,
In beauty flourishing, and moral worth."
END OF THE SIXTH BOOK.