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The thunder's greeting:—nor have Nature's laws
Left them ungifted with a power to yield
Music of finer tone; a harmony,
So do I call it; though it be the hand
Of silence, though there be no voice;—the clouds,
The mist, the shadows, light of golden suns,
Motions of moonlight, all come thither—touch,
And have an answer—thither come, and shape
A language not unwelcome to sick hearts
And idle spirits:–there the sun himself,
At the calm close of summer's longest day,
liests his substantial Orb;-between those heights
And on the top of either pinnacle,
More keenly than elsewhere in night's blue vault,
Sparkle the Stars, as of their station proud.
Thoughts are not busier in the mind of man
Than the mute Agents stirring there:—alone
Here do I sit and watch.-->
- A fall of voice,
Regretted like the Nightingale's last note,
Had scarcely closed this high-wrought Rhapsody,
Ere with inviting smile the Wanderer said,
« Now for the Tale with which you threaten'd us!»
* In truth the threat escaped me unawares;
Should the tale tire you, let this challenge stand
For my excuse. Dissever'd from mankind,
As to your eyes and thoughts we must have seem'd
When ye look'd down upon us from the crag,
Islanders of a stormy mountain sea,
We are not so;-perpetually we touch
Upon the vulgar ordinance of the world,
And, he, whom this our Cottage hath to-day
Relinquislid, lived dependent for his bread
Upon the laws of public charity.
The Housewife, tempted by such slender gains
As might from that occasion be distill'd,
Open'd, as she before had done for me,
Her doors to admit this homeless Pensioner;
The portion gave of coarse but wholesome fare
Which appetite required—a blind dull nook
Such as she had—the kennel of his rest!
This, in itself not ill, would yet have been
Ill borne in earlier life, but his was now
The still contentedness of seventy years.
Calm did he sit beneath the wide-spread tree
Of his old age; and yet less calm and meek,
Winningly meek or venerably calm,
Than slow and torpid; paying in this wise
A penalty, if penalty it were,
For spendthrift feats, excesses of his prime.
I loved the Old Man, for I pitied him :
A task it was, I own, to hold discourse
With one so slow in gathering up his thoughts,
But he was a cheap pleasure to my eyes;
Mild, inoffensive, ready in his way,
And helpful to his utmost power: and there
Our Housewife knew full well what she possess'd :
He was her Vassal of all labour, till'd
Her garden, from the pasture fetch'd her Kine;
And, one among the orderly array
Of Hay-makers, beneath the burning sun
Maintain'd his place; or heedfully pursued
His course, on errands bound, to other vales,
Leading sometimes an inexperienced Child,
Too young for any profitable task.
So moved he like a Shadow that perform'd
Substantial service. Mark me now, and learn
For what reward! The Moon her monthly round
Hath not completed since our Dame, the Queen
Of this one cottage and this lonely dale,
Into my little sanctuary rush'd—
Voice to a rueful treble humanized,
And features in deplorable dismay.—
I treat the matter lightly, but, alas!
It is most serions: persevering rain
Had fallen in torrents; all the mountain tops
This had I seen and saw; but, till she spake,
Was wholly ignorant that my ancient Friend,
Who at her bidding, early and alone,
Ilad clomb aloft to delve the moorland turf
For winter fuel, to his noontide meal
Return’d not, and now, haply, on the Heights
Lay at the mercy of this raging storm.
« Inhuman lo–said I, a was an Old Man's life
Not worth the trouble of a thought?—alas!
This notice comes too late.” With joy I saw
Her Husband enter—from a distant Vale.
We sallied forth together; found the tools
Which the neglected Veteran had dropp'd,
Hut through all quarters look'd for him in vain.
We shouted—but no answer Darkness fell
Without remission of the blast or shower,
And fears for our own safety drove us home.
I, who weep little, did, I will confess,
The moment I was seated here alone,
Honour my little Cell with some few tears
Which anger and resentment could not dry.
All night the storm endured; and, soon as help
Had been collected from the neighbouring Vale,
With morning we renew'd our quest: the wind
Was fallen, the rain abated, but the hills
Lay shrouded in impenetrable mist;
And long and hopelessly we sought in vain.
Till, chancing on that lofty ridge to pass
A heap of ruin, almost without walls,
And wholly without roof, (the bleach'd remains
Of a small Chapel, where, in ancient time,
The Peasants of these lonely valleys used
To meet for worship on that central height)—
We there espied the Object of our search,
Lying full three parts buried among tufts
Of heath-plant, under and above him strewn,
To baffle, as he might, the watery storm:
And there we found him breathing peaceably,
Snug as a child that hides itself in sport
"Mid a green hay-cock in a sunny field.
We spake—he made reply, but would not stir
At our entreaty; less from want of power
Than apprehension and bewildering thoughts.
So was he lifted gently from the ground,
Through the dull mist, I following—when a step,
A single step, that freed me from the skirts
of the blind vapour, open'd to my view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
iły waking sense or by the dreaming soul!
The Appearance, instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty City—boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a woud rous depth Far sinking into splendour—without eud!
Were hidden, and black vapours coursed their sides,
And with their freight the Shepherds homeward moved
Lay low beneath my feet; 't was visible—
! saw not, but I felt that it was there.
That which I saw was the reveal’d abode
of spirits in beatitude: my heart
swell d in my breast.— I have been dead, I cried,
‘And now I live! Oh! wherefore do I live?
And with that pang I pray'd to be no more!—
—But I forget our Charge, as utterly
I then forgot him:-there I stood and gazed;
The apparition faded not away,
And I descended.—Having reach'd the House,
I found its rescued Inmate safely lodged,
And in serene possession of himself,
Beside a genial fire; that seem'd to spread
A gleam of comfort o'er his pollid face.
Great show of joy the Housewife made, and truly
was glad to find her conscience set at ease;
And not less glad, for sake of her good name,
That the poor Sufferer had escaped with life.
But, though he seem'd at first to have received
No horm, and uncomplaining as before
went through his usual tasks, a silent change
Soon show'd itself; he linger'd three short weeks;
And from the Cottage hath been borne to-day.
• So ends my dolorous Tale, and glad I am That it is ended.” At these words he turn’d— And, with blithe air of open fellowship, Brought from the Cupboard wine and stouter cheer, Like one who would be merry. Seeing this, My grey-haird Friend said courteously—a Nay, nay, You have regaled us as a Hermit ought; Now let us forth into the sun on-Our Host Rose, though reluctantly, and forth we went
Images in the Valley—Another Recess in it entered and described—Wanderer's sensations—Solitary's excited by the same objects—Contrast between these—Despondency of the Solitary gently reproved—Conversation exhibiting the Solitary's past and present opinions and feelings, till he enters upon his own History at length—His domestic felicity—afflictions —dejection—roused by the French Revolution–Disappointment and disgust—Voyage to America—disappointment and disgust pursue him—his return— His languor and depression of mind, from want of faith in the great truths of Religion, and want of confidence in the virtue of Mankind.
A hUMMING Bee—a little tinkling Rill–
A pair of Falcons, wheeling on the wing,
In clamorous agitation, round the crest
Of a tall rock, their airy Citadel—
By each and all of these the pensive ear
Was greeted, in the silence that ensued,
When through the Cottage-threshold we had pass'd,
And, deep within that lonesome Valley, stood
Once more, beneath the concave of a blue
And cloudless sky.—Anon' exclaimid our Host,
Triumphantly dispersing with the taunt
The shade of discontent which on his brow
Had gather'd,—w Ye have left my cell,—but see
How Nature hems you in with friendly arms!
And by her help ye are my Prisoners still.
But which way shall I lead you —how contrive,
In Spot so parsimoniously endow’d,
That the brief hours, which yet remain, may reap
Some recompense of knowledge or delight on
So saying, round he look d as if perplex'd ;
And, to remove those doubts, my grey-haird Friend
Said—s Shall we take this pathway for our guide –
Upward it winds, as if, in summer heats,
Its line had first been fashion'd by the flock
A place of refuge seeking at the root
Of yon black Yew-tree; whose protruded boughs
Darken the silver bosom of the crag,
Trom which she draws her meagre sustenance.
There in commodious shelter may we rest.
Or let us trace this Streamlet to its source;
Feebly it tinkles with an earthy sound,
And a few steps may bring us to the spot
Where, haply, crown'd with flowerets and green herbs,
The mountain Infant to the sun comes forth,
Like human Life from darkness.”—A quick turn
Through a strait passage of encumber'd ground,
Proved that such hope was vain :-for now we stood
Shut out from prospect of the open Vale,
And saw the water, that composed this Rill,
Descending, disembodied, and diffused
| O'er the smooth surface of an ample Crag,
| Lofty, and steep, and naked as a Tower.
| All further progress here was barr'd:—And who,
| Thought I, if master of a vacant hour,
Here would not linger, willingly detain'd?
Whether to such wild objects he were led
When copious rains have magnified the stream
Into a loud and white-robed Waterfall,
Or introduced at this more quiet time.
Upon a semicirque of turf-clad ground, The hidden nook discover d to our view A mass of rock, resembling, as it lay Right at the foot of that moist precipice, A stranded Ship, with keel upturn'd, that rests Fearless of winds and waves. Three several Stones Stood near, of smaller size, and not unlike To monumental pillars : and, from these Some little space disjoin'd, a pair were seen, That with united shoulders bore aloft A Fragment, like an Altar, flat and smooth; Barren the tablet, yet thereon appeard A tall and shining Holly, that had found A hospitable chink, and stood upright, As if inserted by some human hand In mockery, to wither in the sun, Or lay its beauty flat before a breeze, The first that enterd. But no breeze did now Find entrance;—high, or low, appear'd no trace Of motion, save the Water that descended, Diffused adown that Barrier of steep rock, And softly creeping, like a breath of air, Such as is sometimes seen, and hardly seen, To brush the still breast of a crystal Lake.
• Behold a Cabinet for Sages built, Which Kings might envy!»–Praise to this effect Broke from the happy Old Man's reverend lip; Who to the Solitary turn'd, and said, “In sooth, with love's familiar privilege, You have decried the wealth which is your own. Among these Rocks and Stones, methinks, I see More than the heedless impress that belongs To lonely Nature's casual work : they bear A semblance strange of power intelligent, And of design not wholly worn away. Boldest of plants that ever faced the wind, How gracefully that slender Shrub looks forth From its fantastic birth-place! And I own, Some shadowy intimations haunt me here, That in these shows a chronicle survives Of purposes akin to those of Man, But wrought with mightier arm than now prevails. —Voiceless the stream descends into the gulf With timid lapse;—and lo! while in this Strait I stand—the chasm of sky above my head Is heaven's profoundest azure; no domain For fickle, short-lived clouds to occupy, Or to pass through, but rather an Abyss In which the everlasting Stars abide; And whose soft gloom, and boundless depth, might tempt The curious eye to look for them by day. —Hail Contemplation! from the stately towers, Reard by the industrious hand of human Art To lift thee high above the misty air, And turbulence of murmuring cities vast; From academic groves, that have for thee Been planted, hither come and find a Lodge To which thou mayst resort for holier peace,— From whose calm centre Thou, through height or depth Mayst penetrate, wherever Truth shall lead;
Measuring through all degrees, until the scale
Of Time and conscious Nature disappear,
Lost in unsearchable Eternity's
A pause ensued; and with minuter care
We scann'd the various features of the scene:
And soon the Tenant of that lonely Vale
With courteous voice thus spake—
* I should have grieved
Hereafter, not escaping self-reproach, If from my poor Retirement ye had gone Leaving this Nook unvisited : but, in sooth, Your unexpected presence had so roused My spirits, that they were bent on enterprise, And, like an ardent Hunter, I forgot, Or, shall I say?—disdain'd, the game that lurks At my own door. The shapes before our eyes. And their arrangement, doubtless must be deem'd The sport of Nature, aided by blind Chance, Rudely to mock the works of toiling Man. And hence, this upright Shaft of unhewn stone, From Fancy, willing to set off her stores By sounding Titles, hath acquired the name of Pompey's Pillar; that I gravely style My Theban Obelisk; and, there, behold A druid Cromlech'—thus I entertain The antiquarian humour, and am pleased To skim along the surfaces of things, Beguiling harmlessly the listless hours. But, if the spirit be oppress'd by seuse Of instability, revolt, decay, And change, and emptiness, these freaks of Nature And her blind helper Chance, do then suffice To quicken, and to aggravate—to feed Pity and scorn, and inelancholy pride, Not less than that huge Pile (from some abyss Of mortal power unquestionably sprung) Whose hoary Diadem of pendant rocks Confines the shrill-voiced whirlwind, round and roun: Eddying within its vast circumference, On Sarum's naked plain;–than Pyramid Of Egypt, unsubverted, undissolved; Or Syria's marble Ruins towering high Above the sandy Desert, in the light Of sun or moon.—Forgive me, if I say That an appearance, which hath raised your minds To an exalted pitch, (the self-same cause Different effect producing) is for me Fraught rather with depression than delight, Though shame it were, could I not look around, By the reflection of your pleasure, pleased. Yet happier, in my judgment, even than you With your bright transports fairly may be deem d, The wandering Herbalist,--who, clear alike From vain, and, that worse evil, vexing thoughts, Casts, if he ever chance to cnter here, Upon these uncouth Forms a slight regard of transitory interest, and peeps round For some rare Floweret of the hills, or Plant Of craggy fountain; what he hopes for wins. Or learns, at least, that "t is not to be won : Then, keen and eager, as a fine-nosed Hound By soul engrossing instinct driven along Through wood or open field, the harmless Man Departs, intent upon his onward quest' Nor is that Fellow-wanderer, so deem I.
Less to be envied (you may trace him oft
By scars which his activity has left
Beside our roads and pathways, though, thank Heaven!
This covert nook reports not of his hand)
He, who with pocket hammer smites the edge
Of luckless rock or prominent stone, disguised
In weather-stains, or crusted o'er by Nature
With her first growths—detaching by the stroke
A chip, or splinter—to resolve his doubts;
And, with that ready answer satisfied,
The substance classes by some barbarous name,
And hurries on; or from the fragments picks
His specimen, if haply intervein'd
With sparkling mineral, or should crystal cube
Lurk in its cells—and thinks himself enrich'd,
Wealthier, and doubtless wiser, than before!
Intrusted safely—each to his pursuit
Earnest alike, let both from hill to hill
Range; if it please them, speed from clime to clime;
The mind is full–no pain is in their sport.”
• Then,” said I, interposing: “One is near, Who cannot but possess in your esteem Place worthier still of envy. May I name, Without offence, that fair-faced Cottage-boy! Dame Nature's Pupil of the lowest Form, Youngest Apprentice in the School of Art! Ilim, as we enter'd from the open Glen, You might have noticed, busily engaged, Heart, soul, and hands,-in mending the defects Left in the fabric of a leaky dam, Raised for enabling this penurious stream To turn a slender mill (that new-made plaything) For his delight—the happiest he of all!"—
• Far happiest,” answer'd the desponding Man, * If, such as now he is, he might remain! Ah! what avails Imagination high Or Question deep what profits all that Earth, Or Heaven's blue Vault, is suffered to put forth Of impulse or allurement, for the Soul To quit the beaten track of life, and soar Far as she finds a yielding element In past or future; far as she can go Through time or space; if neither in the one, Nor in the other region, nor in aught That Fancy, dreaming o'er the map of things, Hath placed beyond these penetrable bounds, Words of assurance can be heard; if nowhere A habitation, for consummate good, Nor for progressive virtue, by the search C on be attain'd, a better sanctuary From doubt and sorrow, than the senseless gravel»
* Is this,” the grey-haird Wanderer mildly said, • The voice, which we so lately overheard, To that same Child, addressing tenderly The Consolations of a hopeful mind? • His body is at rest, his soul in heaven." These were your words; and, verily, methinks wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop Than when we soar.n
The Other, not displeased,
Promptly replied.— My uotion is the same.
And I, without reluctance, could decine
All act cf inquisition whence we rise,
And what, when breath hath ceased, we may become.
Here are we, in a bright and breathing World—
Our origin, what matters it? In lack
Of worthier explanation, say at once
With the American (a thought which suits
The place where now we stand) that certain Men
Leapt out together from a rocky Cave;
And these were the first Parents of Mankind:
Or, if a different image be recalled
By the warm sunshine, and the jocund voice
Of insects—chirping out their careless lives
On these soft beds of thyme-besprinkled turf,
Chuse, with the gay Athenian, a conceit
As sound-blithe race! whose mantles were bedecked
With golden Grasshoppers, in sign that they
Had sprung, like those bright creatures, from the soil
Whereon their endless generations dwelt.
But stop!—these theoretic fancies jar
On serious minds; then, as the Hindoos draw
Their holy Ganges from a skiey fount,
Even so deduce the Stream of human Life
From seats of power divine; and hope, or trust,
That our Existence winds her stately course
Beneath the Sun, like Ganges, to make part
Of a living Ocean; or, to sink engulfed
Like Niger, in impenetrable sands
And utter darkness: thought which may be faced,
Though comfortless!—Not of myself I speak;
Such acquiescence neither doth imply,
In me, a meekly-bending spirit—soothed
By natural piety; nor a lofty mind,
By plilosophic discipline prepared
For calm subjection to acknowledged law;
Pleased to have been, contented not to be.
Such palms I boast not;-no! to me, who find,
Reviewing my past way, much to condemn,
Little to praise, and nothing to regret
(Save some remembrances of dream-like joys
That scarcely seem to have belonged to me)
If I must take my choice between the pair
That rule alternately the weary hours,
Night is than day more acceptable;—sleep
Doth, in my estimate of good, appear
A better state than waking; death than sleep:
Feelingly sweet is stillness after storm,
Though under covert of the wormy ground!
* Yet be it said, in justice to myself, That in more genial times, when I was free To explore the destiny of human kind, (Not as an intellectual game pursued With curious subtilty, from wish to cheat Irksome sensations; but by love of truth Urged on, or haply by intense delight In feeding thought, wherever thought could feed.) I did not rank with those (too dull or nice, For to my judgment such they then appeared, Or too aspiring, thankless at the best) Who, in this frame of human life, perceive An object whereunto their souls are tied In discontented wedlock; nor did eer, From me, those dark impervious shades, that hang Upon the region whither we are bound, Exclude a power to enjoy the vital beams Of present sunshine.—Deities that float On wings, angelic Spirits, I could muse
O'er what from eldest time we have been told
of your bright forms and glorious faculties,
And with the imagination be content,
Not wishing more; repining not to tread
The little sinuous path of earthly care,
By slowers embellished, and by springs refreshed.
– Blow winds of Autumn'—let your chilling breath
Take the live herbage from the mead, and strip
The shady forest of its green attire,
And let the bursting clouds to fury rouse
The gentle Brooks!—Your desolating sway,
Thus I exclaimed, “no sadness sheds on me,
And no disorder in your rage I find.
what dignity, what beauty, in this change
From mild to angry, and from sad to gay,
Alternate and revolving! How benign,
How rich in animation and delight,
How bountiful these elements--compared
With aught, as more desirable and fair,
Devised by Fancy for the Golden Age;
or the perpetual warbling that prevails
In Arcady, beneath unaltered skies,
through the long Year in constant quiet bound,
Night hushed as night, and day serene as day!
—But why this tedious record?—Age, we know,
Is garrulous; and solitude is apt
to anticipate the privilege of Age.
From far ye come; and surely with a hope
Of better entertainment—let us hence!”
Loth to forsake the spot, and still more loth
To be diverted from our present theme,
I said, “My thoughts agreeing, Sir, with yours,
would push this censure farther ; –sor, if smiles
of scornful pity be the just reward
of Poesy, thus courteously employed
In framing models to improve the scheme
Of Man's existence, and recast the world,
why should not grave Philosophy be styled,
Herself, a Dreamer of a kindred stock,
A Dreamer yet more spiritless and dull:
Yes, shall the fine immunities she boasts
Establish sounder titles of esteem
For Her, who (all too timid and reserved
For onset, for resistance too incrt,
Too weak for suffering, and for hope too tame)
Placed among flowery gardens, curtained round
With world-excluding groves, the Brotherhood
of soft Epicureaus, taught—if they
The ends of being would secure, and win
The crown of wisdom—to yield up their souls
To a voluptuous unconcern, preferring
Tranquility to all things. Or is She,”
I crici, o more worthy of regard, the Power,
Who, for the sake of sterner quiet, closed
The Stoic's heart against the vain approach
Of admiration, and all sense of joy.”
His Countenance gave notice that my zeal Accorded little with his present mind; I ceased, and he resumed.—w Ah! gentle Sir, Slight, if you will, the means; but spare to slight The end of those, who did, by system, rank, As the prime object of a wise \lan's aim, Security from shock of accident, Release from fear; and cherished peaceful days
For their own sakes, as mortal life's chief good,
And only reasonable felicity.
what motive drew, what impulse, I would ask,
Through a long course of later ages, drove
The Hermit to his Cell in forest wide;
Or what detained him, till his closing eyes
Took their last farewell of the sun and stars,
Fast anchored in the desert?—Not alone
Dread of the persecuting sword—remorse,
Wrongs unredressed, or insults unavenged
And unavengeable, defeated pride,
Prosperity subverted, maddening want,
Friendship betrayed, affection unreturned,
Love with despair, or grief in agony:-
Not always from intolerable pangs
He sled; but, compassed round by pleasure, sighed
For independent happiness; craving peace,
The central feeling of all happiness,
Not as a refuge from distress or pain,
A breathing-time, vacation, or a truce,
But for its absolute self; a life of peace,
Stability without regret or fear;
That hath been, is, and shall be evermore!
Such the reward he sought; and wore out Life, o
There, where on few external things his heart
Was set, and those his own; or, if not his,
Subsisting under Nature's steadfast law.
• What other yearning was the master tie Of the monastic Brotherhood; upon Rock Aerial, or in green secluded Vale, One after one, collected from afar, An undissolving Fellowship"—what but this, The universal instinct of repose, The longing for confirmed tranquility, Inward and outward; humble, yet sublime:– The life where hope and memory are as one: Earth quiet and unchanged; the human Soul Consistent in self-rule; and heaven revealed To meditation, in that quietness! Such was their scheme:–thrice happy he who gained The end proposed' And,—though the same were missed By multitudes, perhaps obtained by none,— They, for the attempt, and for the pains employed, Do, in my present censure, stand redeemed From the unqualified disdain, that once Would have been cast upon them, by my voice Delivering its decisions from the seat Of forward Youth:-that scruples not to solve Doubts, and determine questions, by the rules of inexperienced judgment, ever prone To overweening faith; and is inflamed, By courage, to demand from real life The test of act and suffering—to provoke liostility, how dreadful when it comes, Whether affliction be the foe, or guilt!
• A Child of earth, I rested, in that stage Of my past course to which these thoughts advert, Upon earth's native emergies; forgetting That mine was a condition which required Nor energy, nor fortitude—a calm Without vicissitude; which, if the like Had becn presented to my view elsewhere. | I might have even been tempted to despise. | But that which was serene was also bright;