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I look'd upon the hill both far and near,
More doleful place did never eye survey;
It seem'd as if the spring-time came not here,
And Nature here were willing to decay.
I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,
When one, who was in shepherd's garb attired,
Came up the hollow :- him did I accost,
And what this place might be I then inquired.
The Shepherd stopp’d, and that same story told
Which in my former rhyme I have rehearsed.
"A jolly place,” said he, “ in times of old!
But something ails it now; the spot is curst.
You see these lifeless stumps of aspen wood, -
Some say that they are beeches, others elms,-
These were the bower; and here a mansion stood,
The finest palace of a hundred realms!
The arbour does its own condition tell;
You see the stones, the fountain, and the stream;
But as to the great Lodge, you might as well
Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.
There's neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that cup of stone ;
And oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.
Some say that here a murder has been done,
And blood cries out for blood : but, for my part,
I've guess’d, when I've been sitting in the sun,
That it was all for that unhappy Hart.
What thoughts must through the creature's brain have
Even from the topmost stone, upon the steep,
Are but three bounds,- and look, Sir, at this last, –
O Master, it has been a cruel leap!
For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race;
And in my simple mind we cannot tell
What cause the Hart might have to love this place,
And come and make his death-bed near the well.
Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lulld by the fountain in the summer-tide;
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wander'd from his mother's side.
In April here beneath the flowering thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing;
And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.
Now, here is neither grass nor pleasant shade;
The Sun on drearier hollow never shone;
So will it be, as I have often said,
Till trees, and stones, and fountain, all are gone."
“Grey-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well;
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine:
This Beast not unobserved by Nature fell;
His death was mourn’d by sympathy divine.
The Being that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves, ,
Maintains a deep and reverential care
For th' unoffending creatures whom He loves.
The pleasure-house is dust: behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom;
But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.
She leaves these objects to a slow decay,
That what we are, and have been, may be known;
But, at the coming of the milder day,
These monuments shall all be overgrown.
One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals;
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.” [1800.
MICHAEL: A PASTORAL POEM.
If from the public way you turn your steps
Up the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll,"
You will suppose that with an upright path
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent 4 In the dialect of Cumberland and Westmoreland, Ghyll is a short, and, for the most part, a steep, narrow valley, with a stream running through it.
The pastoral mountains front you, face to face.
But, courage! for around that boisterous brook
The mountains have all open’d out themselves,
And made a hidden valley of their own.
No habitation can be seen; but they
Who journey thither find themselves alone
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites
That overhead are sailing in the sky.
It is in truth an utter solitude;
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell
But for one object which you might pass by,
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook
Appears a straggling heap of unhewn stones;
And to that simple object appertains
A story, unenrich'd with strange events,
Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside,
Or for the summer shade. It was the first
Of those domestic tales that spake to me
Of Shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men
Whom I already loved; not verily
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills
Where was their occupation and abode.
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy
Careless of books, yet having felt the power
Of Nature, by the gentle agency
Of natural objects led me on to feel
For passions that were not my own, and think
(At random and imperfectly indeed)
On man, the heart of man, and human life.
Therefore, although it be a history
Homely and rude, I will relate the same
For the delight of a few natural hearts;
And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake
Of youthful Poets, who among these hills
Will be my second self when I am gone.
Upon the forest-side in Grasmere Vale
There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name;
An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen,
Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs,
And in his shepherd's calling he was prompt
And watchful more than ordinary men.
Hence had he learn'd the meaning of all winds,
Of blasts of every tone; and oftentimes,
When others heeded not, He heard the South
Make subterraneous music, like the noise
Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills.
The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock
Bethought him, and he to himself would say,
“ The winds are now devising work for me!”
And, truly, at all times, the storm, that drives
The traveller to a shelter, summon’d him
Up to the mountains: he had been alone
Amid the heart of many thousand mists,
That came to him, and left him, on the heights.
So lived he till his eightieth year was past.
And grossly that man errs who should suppose
That the green valleys and the streams and rocks
Were things indifferent to the Shepherd's thoughts.
Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed
The common air; hills, which with vigorous step
He had so often climbed; which had impress’d
So many incidents upon his mind
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear;
Which, like a book, preserved the memory
Of the dumb animals whom he had saved,
Had fed or shelter'd, linking to such acts
The certainty of honourable gain;
Those fields, those hills (what could they less ?) had laid
Strong hold on his affections, were to him
A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
The pleasure which there is in life itself.
His days had not been pass'd in singleness.
His Helpmate was a comely matron, old,
Though younger than himself full twenty years.
She was a woman of a stirring life,
Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had
Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool;
That small, for flax; and if one wheel had rest,
It was because the other was at work.
The Pair had but one inmate in their house,
An only Child, who had been born to them
When Michael, telling o'er his years, began
To deem that he was old, -in shepherd's phrase,
With one foot in the grave. This only Son,
With two brave sheep-dogs tried in many a storm,
The one of an inestimable worth,
Made all their household. I may truly say
That they were as a proverb in the vale
For endless industry. When day was gone,
And from their occupations out of doors
The Son and Father were come home, even then
Their labour did not cease; unless when all
Turn’d to the cleanly supper-board, and there,
Each with a mess of pottage and skimm'd milk,
Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes,
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet, when the meal
Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named)
And his old Father both betook themselves
To such convenient work as might employ
Their hands by the fire-side; perhaps to card
Wool for the Housewife's spindle, or repair
Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe,
Or other implement of house or field.
Down from the ceiling, by the chimney's edge,
That in our ancient uncouth country style
With huge and black projection overbrow'd
Large space beneath, as duly as the light
Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a lamp;
An agèd útensil,' which had perform'd
Service beyond all others of its kind.
Early at evening did it burn, - and late,
Surviving comrade of uncounted hours,
Which, going by from year to year, had found
And left the couple neither gay perhaps
Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes,
Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when Luke had reach'd his eighteenth year,
There by the light of this old lamp they sate,
Father and Son, while far into the night
The Housewife plied her own peculiar work,
Making the cottage through the silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.
This light was famous in its neighbourhood,
And was a public symbol of the life
That thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced,
Their cottage on a plot of rising ground
Stood single, with large prospect, north and south,
High into Easedale, up to Danmail-Raise,
And westward to the village near the lake;
And from this constant light, so regular
And so far seen, the House itself, by all
Who dwelt within the limits of the vale,
Both old and young, was named THE EVENING STAR. 3 The word útensil is commonly pronounced by the English poets with the chief accent on the first syllable. So in The Tempest, iii. 2:.“ He has brave utensils, - for 80 he calls them,” &c. Also in Paradise Reyained, iii. 330: “And wagons, traught with útensils of war.”