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And the flower droop'd; as every eye coul:l sec,
It hung its head in mortal languishment.
Aided by this appearance, I at length
Prevail'd; and, from those bonds released, she went
Home to her mother's house.
The Youth was ficd;
The rash betrayer could not face the shame
Or sorrow which his senseless guilt had caused;
And little would his presence, or proof given
Of a relenting soul, have now avail'd;
For, like a shadow, he was pass'd away
From Ellen's thoughts; had perish'd to her mind
For all concerns of fear, or hope, or love,
Save only those which to their common shame,
And to his moral being appertain'd:
Hope from that quarter would, I know, have brought
A heavenly comfort; there she recognised
An unrelaxing bond, a mutual need;
There, and, as seem'd, there only.
She had built,
Her fond maternal heart had built, a nest
In blindness all too near the river's edge:
That work a summer flood with hasty swell
Had swept away; and now her Spirit long'd
For its last flight to Heaven's security.
The bodily frame wasted from day to day;
Meanwhile, relinquishing all other cares,
Her mind she strictly tutord to find peace
And pleasure in endurance. Much she thonight,
And much she read; and brooded feelingly
Upon her own unworthiness.
As to a spiritual comforter and friend,
Her heart she open’d; and no pains were spared
To mitigate, as gently as I could,
The sting of self-reproach, with healing words.
Meek Saint! through patience glorified on Earth!
In whom, as by her lonely hearth she sate,
The ghastly face of cold decay put'on
A sun-like beauty, and appear'd divine!
May I not mention that, within those walls,
In due observance of her pious wish,
The congregation join'd with me in prayer
For her soul's good? Nor was that office rain.-
Mach did she suffer: but, if any friend,
Beholding her condition, at the sight
Gave way to words of pity or complaint,
She still’d them with a prompt reproof, and said,
• He who afflicts me knows what I can bear;
And, when I fail, and can endure no more,
Will mercifully take me to Himself.'
So, through the cloud of death, her Spirit pass’d
Into that pure and unknown world of love
Where injury cannot come:— and here is laid
The mortal Body by her Infant's side."
The Vicar ceased; and downcast looks made known
That each had listen'd with his inmost heart.
For me, th' emotion scarcely was less strong
Or less benign than that which I had felt
When, seated near my venerable Friend
Under those shady elms, from him I heard
The story that retraced the slow decline
Of Margaret, sinking on the lonely heath,
With the neglected house to which she clung. —
I noted that the Solitary's cheek
Confess'd the power of nature. Pleased though sad, ,
More pleased than sad, the grey-hair'd Wanderer sate;
Thanks to his pure imaginative soul
Capacious and serene; his blameless life,
His knowledge, wisdom, love of truth, and love
Of human kind! He was it who first broke
The pensive silence, saying:
6 Blest are they Whose sorrow rather is to suffer wrong Than to do wrong, albeit themselves have err’d. This tale gives proof that Heaven most gently deals With such, in their affliction. Ellen's fate, Her tender spirit, and her contrite heart, Call to my mind dark hints which I have heard Of one who died within this vale, by doom Heavier, as his offence was heavier far. Where, Sir, I pray you, where are laid the bones Of Wilfred Armathwaite?”
The Vicar answer'd, · “In that green nook, close by the Church-yard wall, Beneath yon hawthorn, planted by myself In memory and for warning, and in sign Of sweetness where dire anguish had been known, Of reconcilement after deep offence, There doth he rest. No theme his fate supplies For the smooth glozings of th' indulgent world; Nor need the windings of his devious course Be here retraced; - enough that, by mishap
And venial error, robb'd of competence,
And her obsequious shadow, peace of mind,
He craved a substitute in troubled joy;
Against his conscience rose in arms, and, braving
Divine displeasure, broke the marriage-row.
That which he had been weak enough to do
Was misery in remembrance; he was stung,
Stung by his inward thoughts, and by the smiles
Of wife and children stung to agony.
Wretched at home, he gain’d no peace abroad;
Ranged through the mountains, slept upon the earth
Ask'd comfort of the open air, and found
No quiet in the darkness of the night,
No pleasure in the beauty of the day.
His flock he slighted: his paternal fields
Became a clog to him, whose spirit wish'd
To fly, - but whither? . And this gracious Church,
That wears a look so full of peace and hope
And love, benignant mother of the vale,
How fair amid
her brood of cottages !
She was to him a sickness and reproach.
Much to the last remain’d unknown: but this
Is sure, that through remorse and grief he died;
Though pitied among men, absolved by God,
He could not find forgiveness in himself;
Nor could endure the weight of his own shame.
Here rests a Mother. But from her I turn
And from her grave.
- upon that ridge That, stretching boldly from the niountain side, Carries into the centre of the vale Its rocks and woods — the Cottage where she dwelt; And where yet dwells her faithful Partner, left (Full eight years past) the solitary prop Of many helpless Children. I begin With words that might be prelude to a tale Of sorrow and dejection ; but I feel No sadness, when I think of what mine eyes See daily in that happy family.Bright garland form they for the pensive brow Of their undrooping Father's widowhood, Those six fair Daughters, budding yet, - not one, Not one of all the band, a full-blown flower. Deprest, and desolate of soul, as once That Father was, and fill'd with anxious fear, Now, by experience taught, he stands assured That God, who takes away, yet takes not half
Of what He seems to take; or gives it back,
Not to our prayer, but far beyond our prayer;
He gives it — the boon produce of a soil
Which our endeavours have refused to till,
And hope hath never water'd. The Abode
Whose grateful owner can attest these truths,
Even were the object nearer to our sight,
Would seem in no distinction to surpass
The rudest habitations. Ye might think
That it had sprung self-raised from earth, or grown
Out of the living rock, to be adorn'd
By Nature only; but, if thither led,
Ye would discover, then, a studious work
Of many fancies prompting many bands.
Brought from the woods the honeysuckle twines
Around the porch, and seems, in that trim place,
A plant no longer wild; the cultured rose
There blossoms, strong in health, and will be soon
Roof-high; the wild pink crowns the garden-wall;
And with the flowers are intermingled stones.
Sparry and bright, rough scatterings of the hills.
These ornaments, that fade not with the year,
A bardy Girl continues to provide ;
Who, mounting fearlessly the rocky heights,
Her Father's prompt attendant, does for him
All that a boy could do, but with delight
More keen and prouder daring; yet hath she,
Within the garden, like the rest, a bed
For her own flowers and favourite herbs, a space,
By sacred charter, holden for her use.
These, and whatever else the garden bears
Of fruit or flower, permission ask'd or not,
I freely gather; and my leisure draws
A not unfrequent pastime from the hum
Of bees around their range of shelter'd hives
Busy in that enclosure; while the rill
That sparkling thrids the rocks attunes his voice
To the pure course of human life which there
Flows on in solitude. But, when the gloom
Of night is falling round my steps, then most
This Dwelling charms me; often I stop short,
(Who could refrain ?) arid feed by stealth my sight
With prospect of the company within,
Laid open through the blazing window:- there
I see the eldest Daughter at her wheel
Spinning amain as if to overtake
The never-halting time; or, in her turn,
Teaching some Novice of the sisterhood
That skill in this or other household work
Which, from her Father's honour'd hand, herself,
While she was yet a little one, had learn'd.
Mild Man! he is not gay, but they are gay;
And the whole house seems fill'd with gaiety.
Thrice happy, then, the Mother may be deem'd,
The Wife, from whose consolatory grave
I turn'd, that ye in mind might witness where,
And how, her Spirit yet survives on Earth!”
THE CHURCH-YARD AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.
WHILE thus from theme to theme th' Historian pass’d,
The words he utter'd, and the scene that lay
Before our eyes, awaken’d in my mind
Vivid remembrance of those long-past hours,
When, in the hollow of some shadowy vale,
(What time the splendour of the setting Sun
Lay beautiful on Snowdon's sovereign brow,
On Cader Idris, or huge Penmanmaur,)
A wandering Youth, I listen'd with delight
To pastoral melody or warlike air,
Drawn from the chords of th' ancient British harp,
By some accomplish'd Master, while he sate
Amid the quiet of the green recess,
And there did inexhaustibly dispense
An interchange of soft or solemn tunes,
Tender or blithe; now, as the varying mood
Of his own spirit urged,
- now, as a voice
From youth or maiden, or some honour'd chief
Of his compatriot villagers, (that hung
Around him, drinking in th’ impassion'd notes
Of the time-hallow'd minstrelsy,) required
For the heart's ease or pleasure.8 Strains of power 8 In his longer poems, Wordsworth quite too often well-nigh strangles the proper effect of his workmanship with an unfortunate prolixity both of language and of thought; gathering.in point after point that were better left out, and running his sentences into intricacy and obscurity. Here is an apt instance of the fault. Much of clearness, without any loss of poetry, would, I think, be gained in this passage, if about half the lines were stricken out. His many prosaic passages I do not complain of, for Milton has many such also, and so have all great poets; for the great poet and the little poet differ especially in this, that the former, if he has a prosaic thing to say, is content to say it prosaically, whereas the latter must trick it out in the fineries of “poetic diction."