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To a kind master on a distant farm
Now happily apprenticed. — I 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;
And so I waste my time: for I am changed;
And to myself,' said she, ' have done much wrong
And to this helpless infant. I have slept
Weeping, and weeping have I waked; my tears
Have flow'd as if my body were not such
As others are; and I could never die.
But I am now in mind and in my heart
More easy; and I hope,' said she, that God
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
'Tis 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
By sorrow laid asleep; or borne away,
A human being destined to awake
To 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 downward were cast;
And, when she at her table gave me food,
She did not look at me. Her voice was low,
Her body was subdued. In every act,
Pertaining to her house-affairs, appear'd
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 came.

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 her eyes. I left her then
With the best hope and comfort I could give:
She thank'd me for my wish; but for my hopo
It seem'd she did not thank me.

I return'd,
And took my rounds along this road again
When on its sunny bank the primrose flower
Peep'd forth, to give an earnest of the Spring.
I found her sad and drooping: she had learn'd
No tidings of her husband; 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 scatter'd 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. I withdrew,
And once again entering the garden saw,
More plainly still, that poverty and grief
Were now come nearer to her: weeds defaced
The harden'd soil, and knots of wither'd grass :
No ridges there appear'd of clear black mould,
No winter greenness; of her herbs and flowers,
It seemed 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. When to the House
We had return’d together, 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
Th' employment common through these wilds, and gain'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,
Heedless how far; and, in such piteous sort
That any heart had ached to hear her, begg'd
That, 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 ere I return'd
Into this tract again.

Nine tedious years;
From their first separation, nine long years,
She linger'd 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 show'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 ruffled 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 endear'd,
Fast rooted at her heart: and here, my Friend,
In sickness she remain'd; and here she died;
Last human tenant of these ruin'd walls!”

The old Man ceased; he saw that I was moved ;
From that low bench, rising instinctively
I turn'd 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
I bless'd her in the impotence of grief.
Then towards the cottage I return'd; and traced
Fondly, though with an interest more mild,
That secret spirit of humanity
Which, 'mid 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 sor ow you have given,
The purposes of wisdom ask no more:
Nor more would she have craved as due to One
Who, in her worst distress, had oft times felt
Th' unbounded might of prayer; and learn'd, with soul
Fix'd on the Cross, that consolation springs
From sources deeper far than deepest pain,
For the meek Sufferer. Why then should we 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,
By mist and silent rain-drops silver'd o'er,
As once I pass'd, into my heart convey'd
So still an image of tranquillity,
So calm and still, and look'd so beautiful
Amid th' uneasy thoughts which filld my mind,
That what we feel of sorrow and despair
From ruin and from change, and all the grief
That passing shows of Being leave behind,
Appear'd an idle dream, that could maintain,
Nowhere, dominion o'er th' enlighten'd spirit
Whose meditative sympathies repose
Upon the breast of Faith. 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'a 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.

BOOK SECOND.

THE SOLITARY..

In days of yore how fortunately fared

Minstrel! wandering on from ball to hall,
Baronial court or royal ; cheer'd with gifts
Munificent, and love, and ladies' praise ;
Now meeting on his road an armèd knight,
Now resting with a pilgrim by the side

Of a clear brook; beneath an abbey's roof 9 Now for the Solitary. Not long after we took up our abode at Grasmere, came to reside there a Scotchman, a little past the middle of life, who had for many years

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