Imágenes de páginas

To blend with knowledge of the years to come, IIuman, or such as lie beyond the grave.

So was He framed; and such his course of life
Who now, with no Appendage but a Staff
The prized memorial of relinquished toils,
Upon that Cottage bench reposed his limbs,
Screen'd from the sun. Supine the Wanderer lay,
His eyes as if in drowsiness half shut,
The shadows of the breezy elms above
Dappling his face. He had not heard the sound
Of my approaching steps, and in the shade
Unnoticed did I stand, some minutes space.
At length I hail'd him, seeing that his hat
Was moist with water-drops, as if the brim
Had newly scoop'd a running stream. Ile rose,
And cre our lively greeting into peace
Had settled, “'T is,” said I, , a burning day;
My lips are parch'd with thirst, but you, it seems,
Have somewhere found relief.” He, at the word,
Pointing towards a sweet-briar, bade me climb
The sence where that aspiring shrub look'd out
Upon the public way. It was a plot
Of garden-ground run wild, its matted weeds
Mark'd with the steps of those, whom, as they pass'd,
The gooseberry trees that shot in long lank slips,
Or currants, hanging from their leatless stems
In scanty strings, had tempted to o'erleap
The broken wall. I look'd around, and there,
Where two tall hedge-rows of thick alder boughs
Join'd in a cold damp nook, espied a Well
Shrouded with willow-flowers and plumy fern.
My thirst Islaked, and from the cheerless spot
Withdrawing, straightway to the shade return'd
Where sate the Old Man on the Cottage bench;
And, while, beside him, with uncover d head,
I yet was standing, freely to respire,
And cool my temples in the fanning air,
Thus did he speak. “I see around me here
Things which you cannot see: we die, my Friend,
Nor we alone, but that which each man loved
And prized in his peculiar nook of carth
Dies with him, or is changed; and very soon
Even of the good is no memorial left.
—The Poets, in their elegics and songs
Lamenting the departed, call the groves,
They call upon the hills and streams to mourn,
And senseless rocks; nor idly; for they speak,
In these their in vocations, with a voice
Obedient to the strong creative power
Of human passion. Sympathies there are
More tranquil, yet perhaps of kindred birth,
That steal upon the meditative mind,
And grow with thought. Beside yon Spring I stood,
And eyed its waters till we seem'd to feel
One sadness, they and I. For them a bond
of brotherhood is broken time has been
When, every day, the touch of human hand
Dislodged the natural sleep that binds them up
In mortal stillness; and they minister'd
To human comfort. Stooping down to drink,
Upon the slimy foot-stone I espied
The useless fragment of a wooden bowl,
Green with the moss of years, and subject only
To the soft handling of the Elements:

--------------------- ––

There let the relic lie—foud thought—vain words!
Forgive them—never did my steps approach
This lumble door but she who dwelt within
A daughter's welcome gave me, and I loved her
As my own child. Oh, Sir! the good die first,
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
Burn to the socket. Many a Passenger
tlath bless'd poor Margaret for her gentle looks,
When she upheld the cool refreshment drawn
From that forsaken Spring; and no one came
But he was welcome; no one went away
But that it seem'd she loved him. She is dead,
The light extinguish'd of her lonely Hut,
The Hut itself abandon'd to decay,
And She forgotten in the quiet grave!

« I speak,w continued he, “ of One whose stock Of virtues bloomed beneath this lowly roof. She was a Woman of a steady mind, Tender and deep in her excess of love, Not speaking much, pleased rather with the joy Of her own thoughts: by some especial care Her temper had been framed, as if to make A reing—who by adding love to peace Might live on earth a life of happiness. Her wedded Partner lack'd not on his side The humble worth that satisfied her heart: Frugal, affectionate, sober, and withal Keenly industrious. She with pride would tell That he was often seated at his loom, on summer, ere the Mower was abroad Anont; the dewy grass, in early spring, Ere the last Star had vanish'd.—They who pass'd At evening, from behind the garden fence Might hear his busy spade, which he would ply, After his daily work, until the light Had fail'd, and every leaf and flower were lost In the dark hedges. So their days were spent In peace and comfort; and a pretty Boy Was their best hope, next to the God in ileaven.

* Not twenty years ago, but you I think Can scarcely bear it now in mind, there cane Two blighting seasons, when the fields were left With half a harvest. It pleased Heaven to add A worse aftliction in the plague of war; This happy Land was stricken to the heart : A Wanderer then among the Cottages I, with my freight of winter raiment, saw The hardships of that season; many rich Sank down, as in a dream, among the poor; And of the poor did many cease to be, And their place knew them not. Meanwhile, abridged of daily comforts, gladly reconciled | To numerous self-denials, Margaret | Went struggling on through those calamitous years ! With cheerful hope, until the second autumn, when her life's Ilelpmate on a sick-bed lay, Smitten with perilous fever. In disease

He linger'd long; and when his strength return'd,

!!e found the little he had stored, to meet

The hour of accident or crippling age, Was all consumed. A second Infant now i Was added to the troubles of a time Laden, for them and all of their degree,

With care and sorrow; shoals of Artisans

From ill requited labour turn'd adrift
Sought daily bread from public charity,
They, and their wives and children—happier far
Could they have lived as do the little birds
That peck along the hedge-rows, or the Kite
That makes her dwelling on the mountain Rocks!

• A sad reverse it was for slim who long Tiad fill'd with plenty, and possess'd in peace, This lonely Cottage. At his door he stood, And whistled many a snatch of merry tunes That had no mirth in them; or with his knife Carved uncouth figures on the heads of sticks— Then, not less idly, sought, through every nook In house or garden, any casual work of use or ornament; and with a strange, A musing, yet uneasy novelty, lie blended, where he might, the various tasks Of summer, autumn, winter, and of spring. But this endured not ; his good humour soon Became a weight in which no pleasure was; And poverty brought on a petted mood And a sore temper : day by day he droop'd, And he would leave his work—and to the Town, without an errand, would direct his steps, or wander here and there among the fields. One while he would speak lightly of his Babes, And with a cruel tongue: at other times He toss'd them with a false unnatural joy: And t was a rueful thing to sec the looks Of the poor innocent children. “Every smile, Said Martaret to me, here beneath these trees, Made my heart bleed.”

At this the Wanderer paused; And, looking up to those enormous Elms, Ile said, “ T is now the hour of deepest noon.— At this still season of repose and peace, This hour, when all things which are not at rest Are cheerful , while this multitude of flies !s fillin; all the air with melody; why should a tear be in an Old Man's eye? why should we thus, with an untoward mind, And in the weakness of humanity, i rom natural wisdom turn our hearts away, To natural comfort shut our eyes and ears, And, feeding on disquiet, thus disturb The calm of nature with our restless thoughts?»

its "pake with somewhat of a solemn tone: Hut, when he ended, there was in his face Such easy cheerfulness, a look so mild, I hat for a little time it stole away All recollection, and that simple Tale Pass'd from my mind like a forgotten sound. A while on trivial things we held discourse, To me soon tasteless. In my own despite, I thought of that poor Woman as of one whom I had known and loved. He had rehearsed 11er homely Tale with such familiar power, with such an active countenance, an eye So busy, that the things of which he spake seen I present; and, attention now relax d,

A heart-felt chillness crept along my veins. I rose; and, having left the breezy shade, | Stood drinking comfort from the warmer sun, That had not cheer'd me long-cre, looking round Upon that tranquil Ruin, I return'd, And begg'd of the Old Man that, for my sake, Ile would resume his story.— Ile replied, « It were a wantonness, and would demand Severe reproof, if we were Men whose hearts Could hold vain dalliance with the misery Even of the dead; contented thence to draw A momentary pleasure, never mark'd By reason, barren of all future good. But we have known that there is often found In mournful thoughts, and always might be found, A power to virtue friendly; were 't not so, I am a Dreamer among men, indeed An idle Dreamer ' 'T is a common Tale, An ordinary sorrow of Man's life, A tale of silent suffering, hardly clothed In bodily form.—But, without further bidding, I will proceed. While thus it fared with them, To whom this Cottage, till those hapless years, Ilad been a blessed home, it was my chance To travel in a Country far remote; And when these lofty Elms once more appeard, What pleasant expectations lured me on O'er the flat Common —With quick step I reaclid The threshold, lifted with light hand the latch; But, when I entered, Margaret look'd at me A little while; then turn'd her head away Specchless, and sitting down upon a chair Wept bitterly. I wist not what to do, or how to speak to her. Poor Wretch! at last She rose from off her seat, and them,-0 Sir " I cannot tell how she pronounced my name. — with fervent love, and with a face of trief Unutterably helpless, and a look That seem'd to cling upon me, she inquired ! If I had seen her Husband. As she spake A strange surprise and fear came to my heart, | Nor had Î power to answer ere she told | That he had disappeard–not two months gone. Ile left his Ilouse : two wretched days had pass'd, And on the third, as wistfully she raised Iler head from off her pillow, to look forth, Like one in trouble, for returning light, Within her chamber-casciment she cspied A folded paper, lying as if placed To meet her waking eyes. This tremblingly She open'd—found no writing, but beheld Pieces of money carefully enclosed, Silver and gold.—'I shudder'd at the sight, said Margaret, for I knew it was his hand which placed it there: and ere that day was ended, That long and anxious day! I learned from One Sent hither by my Husband to impart The heavy news, that he had joind a Troop Of Soldiers, going to a distant Land, —He left me thus—he could not gather heart To take a farewell of me; for he scard That I should follow with my Babes, and sink o Teneath the misery of that wandering Life.'

* This Tale did Margaret tell with many tears: And, when she ended, I had little power To give her comfort, and was glad to take Such words of hope from her own mouth as served To cheer us both :—but long we had not talk'd Ere we built up a pile of better thoughts, And with a brighter eye she look d around As if she had been shedding tears of joy. We parted.—T was the time of early spring; I left her busy with her garden tools; And well remember, o'er that fence she look'd, And, while I paced along the foot-way path, Call'd out, and sent a blessing after me, With tender cheerfulness; and with a voice That seem'd the very sound of happy thoughts.

“I roved o'er many a hill and many a dale, With my accustom'd load; in heat and cold, Through many a wood, and many an open ground, In sunshine and in shade, in wet and fair, Drooping or blithe of heart, as might befal; My best companions now the driving winds, And now the « trotting brooks” and whispering trees, And now the music of my own sad steps, With many a short-lived thought that pass'd between, And disappeard.—I journey'd back this way, When, in the warmth of Midsummer, the wheat Was yellow ; and the soft and bladed grass Springing afresh had o'er the hay-field spread Its tender verdure. At the door arrived, I found that she was absent. In the shade, Where now we sit, I waited her return. Her Cottage, then a cheerful Object, wore Its customary look.-only, it seem’d, The loneysuckle, crowding round the porch, Hunt; down in heavier tufts : and that bright weed, The yellow stone-crop, suffer'd to take root Along the window's edge, profusely grew, Blinding the lower panes. I turn’d aside, And stroll'd into her garden. It appeard To lag behind the season, and had lost Its pride of neatness. Daisy-flow'rs and thrift llad broken their trim lines, and straggled o'er The paths they used to deck:-Carnations, once Prized for surpassing beauty, and no less For the peculiar pains they had required, Declined their languid heads, without support. The cum brous bind-weed, with its wreaths and bells, Had twined about her two small rows of pcase, And dragg'd them to the earth.-Ere this an hour was wasted.—Back I turn'd my restless steps; A Stranger pass'd ; and, guessing whom I sought, Ise said that she was used to ramble far.— The sun was sinking in the west; and now I sate with sad impatience. From within sler solitary Infant cried aloud; Then, like a blast that dies away self-still'd, The voice was silent. From the bench I rose; But neither could divert nor soothe my thoughts. The spot, though fair, was very desolate— The longer I remain'd more desolate: And, looking round me, now I first observed The corner stones, on either side the porch, With dull red stains discolour'd, and stuck o'er With tufts and hairs of wool, as if the Sheep, That fed upon the Common, thither came

Familiarly ; and found a couching-place -
Even at her threshold. Deeper shadows fell .
From these tall elms;—the Cottage-clock struck eight-
I turn'd, and saw her distant a few steps.
Iler face was pale and thin, her figure too
Was changed. As she unlock'd the door, she said,
‘It grieves me you have waited here so long,
But, in good truth, I've wander'd much of late,
And, sometimes—to my shame I speak—have need
Of my best prayers to bring me back again.'
While on the board she spread our evening meal,
She told me—interruptint; not the work
Which tave employment to her listless hands—
That she had parted with her elder Child;
To a kind master on a distant farm
Now happily apprenticed.—‘l perceive
You look at me, and you have cause ; to-day
I have been travelling far; and many days
About the fields I wander, knowing this
Only, that what I seek I cannot find;
Aid so I waste my time : for I am changed;
And to myself, said she, “have done much wrong
And to his helpless Infant. I have slept
Weeping, and weeping have I waked; my tears
Ilave slow'd as if my body were not such
As others are; and I could never die.
sout I am now in mind and in my heart
More easy; and I hope, said she, that Heaven
Will give me patience to endure the things
Which I behold at home. It would have grieved
Your very soul to see her; Sir, I feel
The story linger in my heart; I fear
'T is long and tedious; but my spirit clings
To that poor Woman —so familiarly
Do I perceive her manner, and her look,
And presence, and so deeply do I feel
Her goodness, that, not seldom, in my walks
A momentary trance comes over me;
And to myself I seem to muse on One
ily sorrow laid asleep —or borne away,
A human being destined to awake
†o human life, or something very near
To human life, when he shall come again
For whom she suffer'd. Yes, it would have grieved
Your very soul to see her : evermore
Her eyelids droop d, her eyes were downward cast;
And, when she at her table gave me food,
She did not look at me. IIer voice was low,
Her body was subducd. In every act
Pertaining to her house affairs, appeard
The careless stillness of a thinking mind
Self-occupied: to which all outward things
Are like an idle matter. Still she sigh'd,
But yet no motion of the breast was seen,
No heaving of the heart, while by the fire
We sate together, sighs came on my ear,
I knew not how, and hardly whence they caume.

* Ere my departure, to her care I gave, For her Son's use, some tokens of regard, Which with a look of welcome she received; And I exhorted her to place her trust In God's good love, and seek his help by prayer. I took my staff, and when I kiss'd her babe The tears stood in har eyes. I left her then | With the best hope and comfort I could give;

She thank'd me for my wish;-but for my hope
Methought she did not thank me.
I return'd,
And took my rounds along this road again
Ere on its sunny bank the primrose flower
Peep'd forth, to tive an earnest of the Spring.
l found her sad and drooping; she had learn'd
No tidings of her Hu-band; if he lived,
She knew not that he lived ; if he were dead,
She knew not he was dead. She seem'd the same
In person and appearance; but her House
Bespake a sleepy hand of negligence;
The floor was neither dry nor neat, the hearth
was comfortless, and her small lot of books,
which, in the Cottage window, heretofore
Had been piled up against the corner panes
In seemly order, now, with straggling leaves
Lay scattered here and there, open or shut,
As they had chanced to fall. Her infant Babe
Had from its Mother caught the trick of grief,
And sigh'd among its playthings. Once again
I turned towards the garden gate, and saw,
More plainly still, that poverty and grief
were now come nearer to her : weeds defaced
The harden'd soil, and knots of withered grass:
No ridges there appeard of clear black mold,
No winter greenness; of her herbs and flowers,
It seem'd the better part were gnaw'd away
or trampled into earth; a chain of straw,
which had been twined about the slender stem
of a young apple-tree, lay at its root,
The bark was nibbled round by truant Sheep.
—Margaret stood near, her Infant in her arms,
And, noting that my eye was on the tree,
She said, ‘ I fear it will be dead and gone
Ere Robert come again.' Towards the House
Together we return d, and she inquired
If I had any hope:–but for her Babe
And for her little orphan Boy, she said,
She had no wish to live, that she must die
Of sorrow. Yet I saw the idle loom
Still in its place; his Sunday garments hung
Upon the self-same nail; his very staff
Stood undisturb’d behind the door. And when,
In bleak December, I retraced this way,
She told me that her little Babe was dead,
And she was left alone. She now, released
From her maternal cares, had taken up
The employment common through these Wilds,andgain'd
By spinning hemp a pittance for herself;
And for this end had hired a neighbour's Boy
To give her needful help. That very time
Most willingly she put her work aside,
And walk'd with me along the miry road,
Ileedless how far; and in such piteous sort
That any heart had ached to hear her, begg'd
Thai, wheresoe'er I went, I still would ask
For him whom she had lost. We parted then—
Our final parting; for from that time forth
Did many seasons pass cre I return d
Into this tract again.
Nine tedious years;
From their first separation, nine long years,
She lingerd in unquiet widowhood;
A Wife and Widow. Needs must it have been
A sore heart-wasting ! I have heard, my Friend,

That in yon arbour oftentimes she sate Alone, through half the vacant Sabbath-day; And, if a dog pass'd by, she still would quit The shade, and look abroad. On this old Bench For hours she sate; and evermore her eye Was busy in the distance, shaping things | That made her heart beat quick. You see that path, Now faint, the grass has crept o'er its grey line; There, to and fro, she paced through many a day | Of the warm summer, from a belt of hemp That girt her waist, spinning the long drawn thread With backward steps. Yet ever as there pass'd A man whose garments shew'd the Soldier's red, Or crippled Mendicant in Sailor's garb, The little Child who sate to turn the wheel Ceased from his task; and she with faltering voice Made many a fond inquiry; and when they, Whose presence gave no comfort, were gone by, Her heart was still more sad. And by yon gate, That bars the Traveller's road, she often stood, And when a stranger Horseman came, the latch Would lift, and in his face look wistfully: Most happy, if, from aught discover'd there of tender feeling, she might dare repeat The same sad question. Meanwhile her poor Hut Sank to decay: for he was gone, whose hand, At the first nipping of October frost, Closed up each chink, and with fresh bands of straw Chequer'd the green-grown thatch. And so she lived Through the long winter, reckless and alone; Until her House by frost, and thaw, and rain, Was sapp'd; and while she slept the nightly damps Did chill her breast; and in the stormy day Her tatter'd clothes were rufiled by the wind; Even at the side of her own fire. Yet still She loved this wretched spot, nor would for worlds Have parted hence; and still that length of road, And this rude bench, one torturing hope endeard, Fast rooted at her heart: and here, my Friend, In sickness she remain'd; and here she died, Last human Tenant of these ruined Walls.”

The Old Man ceased : he saw that I was moved; From that low Bench, rising instinctively ! turned aside in weakness, nor had power To thank him for the Tale which he had told. I stood, and leaning o'er the Garden wall, Review'd that Woman's sufferings; and it seem'd To comfort me while with a Brother's love 1 bless'd her—in the impotence of grief. At length towards the Cottage I return'd Fondly,–and traced, with interest more mild, That secret spirit of humanity Which, inid the calm oblivious tendencies Of nature, mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers, And silent overgrowings, still survived. The old Man, noting this, resumed, and said, • My Friend! enough to sorrow you have given, The purposes of wisdom ask no more; Be wise and cheerful; and no longer read The forms of things with an unworthy eye. She sleeps in the calm earth, and peace is here. I well remember that those very plumes, Those weeds, and the high spear-grass on that wall, i ty mist and silent rain-drops silverd o'er, As once I pass'd, did to my heart convey

So still an image of tranquillity,
So calm and still, and look d so beautiful
Amid the uneasy thoughts which fill'd my mind,
That what we feel of sorrow and despair
From ruin and from change, and all the grief
The passing shows of Being leave behind,
Appeard an idle dream, that could not live
where meditation was. I turn'd away,
And walk'd along my road in happiness.”

He ceased. Ere long the sun declining shot A slant and mellow radiance, which began To fall upon us, while, beneath the trees, We sate on that low Bench: and now we felt, Admonish'd thus, the sweet hour coming on. A linnet warbled from those lofty elms, A thrush sang loud, and other melodies, At distance heard, peopled the milder air. The Old Man rose, and, with a sprightly mien Of hopeful preparation, grasp'd his Staff: Together casting then a farewell look Upon those silent walls, we left the Shade; And, ere the Stars were visible, had reach'd A Village Inn, our Evening resting-place.

[merged small][ocr errors]

The Author describes his travels with the Wanderer, whose character is further illustrated — Morning scene, and view of a Village Wake — Wanderer's account of a Friend whom he purposes to visit — View, from an eminence, of the Valley which his Friend had chosen for his retreat — feelings of the Author at the sight of it — Sound of singing from below — a funeral procession — Descent into the Walley—Observations drawn from the Wanderer at sight of a Book accidentally discovered in a recess in the Valley–Meeting with the Wanderer's friend, the Solitary — Wanderer's description of the mode of burial in this mountainous district—-Solitary contrasts with this, that of the Individual carried a few minutes before from the Cottage — Brief conversation — The Cottage entered — description of the Solitary's apartment — repast there—View from the Window of two mountain summits—and the Solitary's description of the Companionship they afford him — account of

the departed Inmate of the Cottage — description of . a grand spectacle upon the mountains, with its effect

upon the Solitary's mind – Quit the Ilouse.


In days of yore how fortunately fared The Minstrel! wandering on from IIall to Hall, Ilaronial Court or Royal ; cheerd with gifts Munificent, and love, and Ladies' praise; Now meeting on his road an armed Knight, Now resting with a Pilgrim by the side of a clear brook; —beneath an Abbey's roof One evening sumptuously lodged; the next Humbly, in a religious Hospital; Or with some merry Outlaws of the wood;

Or haply shrouded in a tiermit's cell.
Him, sleeping or awake, the Robber spared;
He walk d-protected from the sword of war
By virtue of that sacred Instrument
Ilis Ilarp, suspended at the Traveller's side;
His dear Companion wheresoe'er he went
Opening from Land to Land an easy way
By melody, and by the charm of verse.
Yet not the noblest of that honourd Race
Drew happier, loftier, more impassion'd thoughts
From his long journeyings and eventful life,
Than this obscure Itinerant had skill
To gather, ranging through the tamer ground
Of these our unimaginative days;
Both while he trod the earth in humblest guise
Accoutred with his burthen and his staff;
And now, when free to move with lighter pace.

What wonder, then, if I, whose favourite School [lath been the fields, the roads, and rural lanes, Look'd on this Guide with reverential love? Each with the other pleased, we now pursued Our journey—beneath favourable skies. Turn wheresoe'er we would, he was a light Unfailing: not a Hamlet could we pass, Rarely a House, that did not yield to him Remembrances; or from his tongue call forth Some way bebuiling tale. Nor less regard Accompanied those strains of apt discourse, Which Nature's various objects might inspire; And in the silence of his face I read i His overflowing spirit. Birds and beasts, And the mute fish that glances in the stream, And harmless reptile coiling in the sun, And gorgeous insect hovering in the air. The fowl domestic, and the household dog, In his capacious mind—he loved them all: Their rights acknowledging, he felt for all. Oft was occasion given me to perceive Ilow the calm pleasures of the pasturing Herd To happy contemplation soothed his walk; How the poor Brute's condition, forced to run Its course of suffer, ag in the public road, Sad contrast! all too often smote his heart With unavailing pity. Rich in love

And sweet humanity, he was, himself,

To the degree that he desired, beloved. —Greetings and smiles we met with all day long From faces that he knew; we took our seats By many a cottage hearth, where he received The welcome of an lumate come from far. —Nor was he loth to enter ragged Huts, sluts where his charity was blest; his voice Hoard as the voice of an experienced Friend. | And, sometimes, where the Poor Man held dispute With his own mind, unable to subdue impatience through inaptness to perceive General distress in his particular lot; Orcherishing resentment, or in vain | Struggling against it, with a soul perplex'd, And finding in herself no steady power i To draw the line of comfort that divides Calamity, the chastisement of Heaven, | From the injustice of our brother men; | To Ilim appeal was made as to a judge; Who, with an understanding heart, all y’d

« AnteriorContinuar »