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The perturbation: listen’d to the plea; Resolved the dubious point; and sentence gave So grounded, so applied, that it was heard with soften’d spirit—even when it condemn'd.
Such intercourse I witness'd, while we roved, Now as his choice directed, now as mine; or both, with equal readiness of will, our course submitting to the changeful breeze of accident. But when the rising sun Ilad three times call'd us to renew our walk, My Fellow traveller claim'd with earnest voice, As if the thought were but a moment old, An absolute dominion for the day. we started—and he led towards the hills; top through an ample vale, with higher hills Before us, mountains stern and desolate; But, in the majesty of distance, now Set off, and to our ken appearing fair of aspect, with aerial softness clad, And beautified with morning's purple beams.
The wealthy, the Luxurious, by the stress Of business roused, or pleasure, ere their time, May roll in chariots, or provoke the hoofs of the fleet coursers they bestride, to raise From earth the dust of morning, slow to rise; And They, if blest with health and hearts at ease, Shall lack not their enjoyment:-but how faint Compared with ours! who, pacing side by side, Could, with an eye of leisure, look on all That we beheld; and lend the listening sense To every grateful sound of earth and air; Pausing at will—our spirits braced, our thoughts Pleasant as roses in the thickets blown, And pure as dew bathing their crimson leaves.
Said I, , the music and the sprightly scene |
Among yon mountain fastnesses conceal’d,
“Though now sojourning there, he, like myself, Sprang from a stock of lowly parentage Among the wilds of Scotland, in a tract Where many a shelter'd and well-tended plant, I}ears, on the humblest ground of social life, Blossoms of piety and innocence. Such grateful promises his youth display'd: And, having shown in study forward zeal, He to the Ministry was duly calid; And straight incited by a curious mind Fill'd with vague hopes, he undertook the charge of Chaplain to a Military Troop Cheer'd by the Ilighland Bagpipe, as they march'd In plaided vest,-his Fellow-countrymen. This office filling, yet by native power And force of native inclination, made An intellectual Ruler in the haunts of social vanity—he walk d the World, Gay, and affecting graceful gaiety; Lax, buoyant—less a Pastor with his Flock Than a Soldier amout; Soldiers—lived and roam'd Where Fortune led:—and Fortune, who oft proves The careless wandercr's Friend, to him made known A blooming Lady—a conspicuous Flower, Admired for beauty, for her sweetness praised; whom he had sensibility to love, Ambition to attempt, and skill to win.
• For this fair Bride, most rich in gifts of mind, Nor sparingly endow’d with worldly wealth, His Office he relinquish'd; and retired From the world's notice to a rural Home. i Youth's season yet with him was searcely past, And she was in youth's prime. How full their joy. | Ilow free their love! nor did that love decay, Nor joy abate, till, pitiable doom! in the short course of one undreaded year
Death blasted all.—Death suddenly o'erthrew
“That righteous Cause (such power hath Freedom) bound,
For one hostility, in friendly league
| Spread like a halo round a misty moon, | Widening its circle as the storms advance.
* Ilis sacred function was at length renounced; And every day and every place enjoyd The unshackled Layman's natural liberty; Speech, manners, morals, all without disguise. I do not wish to wrong him;-though the course of private life licentiously displayd Unhallow'd actions—planted like a crown Upon the insolent aspiring brow Of spurious notions—worn as open signs Of prejudice subdued—he still retain d, "Mid such abasement, what he load received From nature—an intense and glowing mind. Wherefore, when humbled Liberty grew weak, And mortal sickness on her face appeard, Ile colour'd objects to his own desire As with a Lover's passion. Yet his moods Of pain were keen as those of better men, Nay keener—as his fortitude was less. And he continued, when worse days were come, To deal about his sparkling eloquence, Struggling against the strange reverse with oral That show'd like happiness; but, in despite Of all this outside bravery, within, He neither felt encouragement nor hope. For moral dignity, and strength of mind, Were wanting; and simplicity of Life; And reverence for himself; and, last and best, Confiding thoughts, through love and fear of Him Before whose sight the troubles othis world Are vain as billows in a tossing sea.
“The glory of the times fading away, The splendour, which had given a festal air To self-importance, hallow'd it, and veil'd From his own sight, this gone, he forfeited All joy in human nature; was consumed, And vex'd, and chafed, by levity and scorn, And fruitless indignation ; tail'd by pride; Made desperate by contempt of Men who throve Before his sight in power or fame, and won, Without desert, what he desired; weak men, Too weak even for his envy or his hate! Tormented thus, after a wandering course Of discontent, and inwardly opprest With malady—in part, I fear, provoked By weariness of life, he fixd his Home, Or, rather say, sate down by very chance, Among these rugged hills; where now he dwells, And wastes the sad remainder of his hours In self-indulging spleen, that doth not want Its own voluptuousness; on this resolved, With this content, that he will live and die Fort;otten, at safe distance from a “world Not moving to his mind.”
These serious words
Closed the preparatory notices
we scaled, without a track to ease our steps, A steep ascent; and reach'd a dreary plain, with a tumultuous waste of huge hill tops Refore us; savage region' which I paced Dispirited : when, all at once, behold! Beneath our feet, a little lowly Vale, A lowly Vale, and yet uplifted high Among the mountains; even as if the spot liad been, from eldest time by wish of theirs, So placed,—to be shut out from all the world! torn-like it was in shape, deep as an Urn; with rocks encompass'd, save that to the South Was one small opening, where a heath-clad ridge Supplied a boundary less abrupt and close; A quiet treeless nook, with two green fields, A liquid pool that glitter'd in the sun, And one bare Dwelling; one Abode, no more! It seem'd the home of poverty and toil, Though not of want: the little fields, made green ity husbandry of many thrifty years, 1’aid cheerful tribute to the moorland House. —There crows the Cock, single in his domain : The small birds find in spring no thicket there To shroud them; only from the neighbouring Wales The Cuckoo, strattling up to the hill tops, Shouteth faint tidings of some toladder place.
Ah! what a sweet Recess, thought I, is here! Instantly throwing down my limbs at ease Upon a bed of heath;-full many a spot Of hidden beauty have I chanced to espy Among the mountains; never one like this, So lonesome, and so perfectly secure : Not melancholy—no, for it is green, And bright, and fertile, furnish'd in itself with the few needful things that life requires. —in rugged arms how soft it seems to lie, How tenderly protected' Far and near we have an image of the pristine earth, The planet in its nakedness; were this Man's only dwelling, sole appointed seat, First, last, and single in the breathing world, It could not be more quiet: peace is here or nowhere; days unruffled by the gale of public news or private; years that pass Forgetfully; uncall d upon to pay The common penalties of mortal life, Sickness, or accident, or grief, or pain.
This scarcely spoken, and those holy strains Not ceasing, forth appeard in view a band Of rustic Persons, from behind the hut [learing a Coffin in the midst, with which They shaped their course along the sloping side Of that small Valley; singing as they moved; A sober company and few, the Men Bare-headed, and all decently attired! Some steps when they had thus advanced, the dirge Ended; and, from the stillness that ensued Recovering, to my Friend I said, “You spake, Methought, with apprehension that these rites Are paid to Him upon whose shy retreat This day we purposed to intrude.”—“I did so, But let us hence, that we may learn the truth: Perhaps it is not he but some One else For whom this pious service is perform'd; Some other Tenant of the Solitude.”
So, to a steep and difficult descent Trusting ourselves, we wound from crag to crag, where passage could be won; and, as the last Of the mute train, upon the heatly top Of that off-sloping Outlet, disappeard, I, more impatient in my downward course, ilad landed upon easy ground; and there Stood waiting for my comrade. When behold An object that enticed my steps aside! A narrow, winding Entry opened out Into a platform—that lay, sheepfold-wise, Enclosed between an upright mass of rock And one old moss-grown wall;-a cool Recess, And fanciful! For, where the rock and wall Met in an angle, hunt; a penthouse, framed by thrusting two rude staves into the wall And overlaying them with mountain sods; To weather-fend a little turf-built seat whereon a full-grown man might rest, nor dread The burning sunshine, or a transient shower; But the whole plainly wrought by Children's hands' whose skill had throng'd the floor with a proud show Of baby-houses, curiously arranged; Nor wanting ornament of walks between, with mimic trees inserted in the turf, And gardens interposed. Pleased with the sight, I could not chuse but beckon to my Guide, who, entering, round him threw a careless glance, Impatient to pass on, when I exclaimid, a Lo what is here?" and stooping down, drew forth A Book, that, in the midst of stones and moss, And wreck of party-coloured earthen-ware, Aptly disposed, had lent its help to raise One of those petty structures. “Gracious leaven!” The wanderer cried, “it cannot but be his, And he is gone!" The Book, which in my land liad opened of itself, (for it was swoln with searching damp, and seemingly had lain To the injurious elements exposed From week to week.) I found to be a work In the French Tongue, a Novel of Voltaire, His famous Optimist. " Unhappy Man.'" Exclaimed my Friend: where then has been to him Retreat within retreat, a shelterint; place within how deep a shelter! He had sits, Even to the last, of genuine tenderness,
And loved the haunts of children: here, no doubt,
& Me,” said I, a most doth it surprise, to find Such book in such a place!» « A Book it is,” He answered, a to the Person suited well, Though little suited to surrounding things; T is strange, I grant; and stranger still had been To see the Man who own'd it, dwelling here, with one poor Shepherd, far from all the world! Now, if our errand hath been thrown away, As from these intimations I forebode, Grieved shall I be—less for my sake than yours; And least of all for Him who is no more.”
by this, the Book was in the Old Man's hand; And he continued, glancing on the leaves An eye of scorn; «The Lover,” said he, “doom'd To love when hope hath fail'd him—whom no depth Of privacy is deep enough to hide, Hath yet his bracelet or his lock of hair, And that is joy to him. When change of times Hath summoned Kings to scaffolds, do but give The faithful Servant, who must hide his head Henceforth in whatsoever nook he may, A kerchief sprinkled with his Master's blood, And he too hath his comforter. How poor, Beyond all poverty how destitute, Must that Man have been left, who, hither driven, Flying or seeking, could yet bring with him No dearer relique, and no better stay, Than this dull product of a Scoffer's pen,
Impure conceits discharging from a heart
Harden'd by impious pride!—I did not fear
So speaking, on he went, and at the word I follow'd, till he made a sudden stand: For full in view, approaching through a gate That open'd from the enclosure of green fields Into the rough uncultivated ground, Behold the Man whom he had fancied dead! I knew, from his deportment, mien, and dress, That it could be no other; a pale face, A tall and meagre person, in a garb Not rustic, dull and faded like himself! He saw us not, though distant but few steps; For he was busy, dealing, from a store Upon a broad leaf carried, choicest strings of red ripe currants; gift by which he strove, With intermixture of endearing words, To soothe a Child, who walk'd beside him, weeping, As if disconsolate.—“They to the Grave Are bearing him, my little One,” he said, « To the dark pit; but he will feel no pain; His body is at rest, his soul in Heaven.”
More might have follow’d—but my honour’d Friend Broke in upon the Speaker with a frank And cordial greeting.—Vivid was the light That flash'd and sparkled from the Other's eyes; He was all fire: the sickness from his face Pass'd like a fancy that is swept away; Hands join'd he with his Visitant, a grasp, An eager grasp; and, many moments' space, When the first glow of pleasure was no more, And much of what had vanish'd was return d, An amicable smile retain'd the life Which it had unexpectedly received, Upon his hollow cheek. “How kind on he said, « Nor could your coming have been better timed; For this, you see, is in our narrow world A day of sorrow. I have here a charge PAnd, speaking thus, he patted tenderly The sun-burnt forehead of the weeping Child– “A little Mourner, whom it is my task To comfort;-but how came Yen-if yon track (Which doth at once befriend us and betray) Conducted hither your most welcome feet, Ye could not miss the Funeral Train—they yet slave scarcely disappeard.” “This blooming Child,Said the Old Man, w is of an age to weep At any grave or solemn spectacle, Inly distress'd, or overpower'd with awe, He knows not why;-but he, perchance, this day, Is shedding Orphan's tears; and you yourself Must have sustain’d a loss.”—“The hand of Death,” He answerd, a has been here; but could not weli Have fallen more lightly, if it had not fallen Upon myself.”—The Other left these words Unnoticed, thus continuing.—
• From von Crag, Down whose steep sides we dropp'd into the Vale, We heard the hymn they sang—a solemn sound Heard any where, but in a place like this 'T is more than human! Many precious rites And customs of our rural ancestry Are gone, or stealing from us; this, I hope, Will last for ever. Often have I stopp'd, So much I felt the awfulness of Life, In that one moment when the Corse is lifted In silence, with a hush of decency, Then from the threshold moves with song of peace, And confidential yearnings, to its home, Its final home in earth. What traveller—who— (How far soc'er a Stranger) does not own The bond of brotherhood, when he sees them so, A mute Procession on the houseless road; Or passing by some single tenement Or cluster'd dwellings, where again they raise The monitory voice? But most of all It touches, it confirms, and elevates, Then, when the Body, soon to be consign'd Ashes to ashes, dust bequeath'd to dust, Is raised from the church-aisle, and forward borne Upon the shoulders of the next in love, The nearest in affection or in blood; Yea, by the very Mourners who had knelt Beside the Coffin, resting on its lid In silent grief their unuplifted heads, And heard meanwhile the Psalmist's mournful plaint, And that most awful scripture which declares
We shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed!
By him for such array of fortitude.
That mood, or undermine my first resolve."—
Then, speaking in like careless sort, he said
We had look'd down upon it. All within,
In genial mood,