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He took me by the hand, and said to me,
If e'er he should grow rich, he would return,
To live in peace upon his father's land,
And lay his bones among us.
If that day
Should come, 'twould needs be a glad day for him;
He would himself, no doubt, be happy then
As any that should meet him, -
Happy! Sir, Leon. You said his kindred all were in their graves,
And that he had one Brother,
That is but
A fellow-tale of sorrow. From his youth
James, though not sickly, yet was delicate;
And Leonard being always by his side
Had done so many offices about him,
That, though he was not of a timid nature,
Yet still the spirit of a mountain-boy
In him was somewhat check’d; and, when his Brother
Was gone to sea, and he was left alone,
The little colour that he had was soon
Stol'n from his check; he droop'd, and pined, and pined, -Leon. But these are all the graves of full-grown men! Priest. Ay, Sir, that pass'd away: we took him to us;
He was the child of all the dale; he lived
Three months with one, and six months with another;
And wanted neither food, nor clothes, nor love:
And many, many happy days were his.
But, whether blithe or sad," 'tis my belief
His absent Brother still was at his heart.
And, when he dwelt beneath our roof, we found
(A practice till this time unknown to him)
That often, rising from his bed at night,
He in his sleep would walk about, and sleeping
He sought his brother Leonard. — You are moved!
Forgive me, Sir: before I spoke to you,
I judged you most unkindly.
But this Youth,
How did he die at last?
One sweet May-morning,
(It will be twelve years since when Spring returns,)
He had gone forth among the new-dropp'd lambs,
With two or three companions, whom their course
Of occupation led from height to height
Under a cloudless Sun, till he at length
Through weariness, or, haply, to indulge
The humour of the moment, lagg'd behind.
You see yon precipice; it wears the shape
Of a vasť building made of many crags;
And in the midst is one particular rock
That rises like a column from the vale,
Whence by our shepherds it is call'd THE PILLAR.
U pon its aëry summit crown'd with heath,
The loiterer, not unnoticed by his comrades,
Lay stretch'd at ease; but, passing by the place
On their return, they found that he was gone.
No ill was fear’d; tiil one of them by chance
Entering, when evening was far spent, the house
Which at that time was James's home, there learn'd
That nobody had seen him all that day:
The morning came, and still he was unheard of:
The neighbours were aların’d, and to the brook
Some hasten’d; some ran to the lake: ere noon
They found him at the foot of that same rock
Dead, and with mangled limbs. The third day after
I buried him, poor Youth, and there he lies!
Leon. And that, then, is his grave!-- Before his death
that he saw many happy years? Priest. Ay, that he did. Leon.
And all went well with him? Priest. If he had one, the youth had twenty homes. Leon. And you believe, then, that his mind was easy? Priest. Yes, long before he died, he found that time
Is a true friend to sorrow; and, unless
His thoughts were turn'd on Leonard's luckless fortune,
He talk'd about him with a cheerful love.
Leon. He could not come to an unhallow'd end!
Priest. Nay, God forbid! You recollect I mention’d
A habit which disquietude and grief
Had brought upon him; and we all conjectured
That, as the day was warm, he had lain down
On the soft heath; and, waiting for his comrades,
He there had fall'n asleep; that in his sleep
He to the margin of the precipice
Had walk'd, and from the summit had fall’n headlong:
And so no doubt he perish'd. When the Youth
Fell, in his hand he must have grasp'd, we think,
His shepherd's staff; for on that Pillar of rock
It had been caught midway;7 and there for years
It hung; and mouldered there.
The Priest here ended.
The Stranger would have thank'd him, but he felt
A gushing from his heart, that took away
The power of speech. Both left the spot in silence;
And Leonard, when they reach'd the church-yard gate,
As the Priest lifted up the latch, turn'd round,
And, looking at the grave, he said, “My Brother!”
The Vicar did not hear the words; and now
He pointed towards his dwelling-place, entreating
That Leonard would partake his homely fare:
The other thank'd him with an earnest voice;
But added that, the evening being calm,
He would pursue his journey. So they parted.
It was not long ere Leonard reach'd a grove
That overhung the road: he there stopp'd short,
And, sitting down beneath the trees, review'd
All that the Priest had said: his early years
Were with him: his long absence, cherish'd hopes,
And thoughts which had been his an hour before,
All press'd on him with such a weight, that now
This vale, where he had been so happy, seem'd
A place in which he could not bear to live:
So he relinquish'd all his purposes.
He travell’d back to Egremont: and thence,
That night, he wrote a letter to the Priest,
Reminding him of what had pass'd between them;
And adding, with a hope to be forgiven,
That it was from the weakness of his heart
He had not dared to tell him who he was.
This done, he went on shipboard, and is now
A Seaman, a grey-headed Mariner.
THE OLD CUMBERLAND BEGGAR.
The class of Beggars, to which the Old Man here described belongs, will probably soon be extinct. It consisted of poor, and, mostly, old and intirm persons, who confined themselves to a stated round in their neighbourhood, and had certain fixed days, on which, at different houses, they regularly received alms, sometimes in money, but mostly in provisions.
I saw an agèd Beggar in my walk;8
And he was seated, by the highway side,
Or a low structure of rude masonry
Built at the foot of a huge hill, that they 8 Observed, and with great benefit to my own heart, when I was a child. The political economists were about that time beginning their war upon mendicity in all its forms, and by implication, if not directly, on alms-giving also. This heartless
Who lead their horses down the steep rough road
May thence remount at ease. The aged Man
Had placed his staff across the broad smooth stone
That overlays the pile; and from a bag
All white with flour, the dole of village dames,
He drew his scraps and fragments, one by one;
And scann'd them with a fix'd and serious look
Of idle computation. In the sun,
Upon the second step of that small pile,
Surrounded by those wild unpeopled hills,
He sat, and ate his food in solitude:
And ever, scatter'd from his palsied hand,
That, still attempting to prevent the waste,
Was baffled still, the crumbs in little showers
Fell on the ground; and the small mountain birds,
Not venturing yet to peck their destined meal,
Approaclı’d within the length of half his staff.
Him from my childhood have I known; and then
He was so old, he seems not older now:
He travels on, a solitary Man,
So helpless in appearance, that for him
The sauntering Horseman throws not with a slack
And careless hand his alms upon the ground,
But stops, that he may safely lodge the coin
Within the old Man's hat; nor quits him so,
But still, when he has given his horse the rein,
Watches the agèd Beggar with a look
Sidelong, and half-reverted. She who tends
The toll-gate, when in Summer at her door
She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees
The aged beggar coming, quits her work,
And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.
The post-boy, when his rattling wheels o'ertake
The agèd Beggar in the woody lane,
Shouts to him from behind; and, if thus warn'd
The old man does not change his course, the boy
Turns with less noisy wheels to the roadside,
And passes gently by, without a curse
Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.
He travels on, a solitary Man;
His age has no companion. On the ground
His eyes are turn’d, and, as he moves along,
They move along the ground; and evermore, process has been carried as far as it can ĝo, by the amended poor-law bill, though the in humanity that prevails in this measure is somewhat disguised by the profession that one of its objects is to throw the poor upon the voluntary donations of heir neighbours. — The Author's Notes.
Instead of common and habitual sight
Of fields with rural works, of hill and dale,
And the blue sky, one little span of earth
Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day,
Bow-bent, his eyes for ever on the ground,
He plies his weary journey; seeing still,
And seldom knowing that he sees, some straw,
Some scatter'd leaf, or marks which, in one track,
The nails of cart or chariot-wheel have left
Impress’d on the white road, — in the same line,
At distance still the same. Poor Traveller!
His staff trails with him; scarcely do his feet
Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
Ere he has pass’d the door, will turn away,
Weary of barking at him. Boys and girls,
The vacant and the busy, maids and youths,
And urchins newly breech'd, -all pass him by:
Him even the slow-paced waggon leaves behind.
But deem not this Man useless.--- Statesmen! ye
Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye
Who have a broom still ready in your hands
To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud,
Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate
Your talents, power, or wisdom, deem him not
A burthen of the Earth! "Tis Nature's law
That none, the meanest of
ated things, Of forms created the most vile and brute, The dullest or most noxious, should exist Divorced from good, - a spirit and pulse of good, A life and soul, to every mode of being Inseparably link'd. Then be assured That least of all can aught—that ever own'd The heaven-regarding eye and front sublime Which man is born to — sink, howe'er depressid, So low as to be scorn'd without a sin; Without offence to God cast out of view; Like the dry remnant of a garden-flower Whose seeds are shed, or as an implement Worn out and worthless. While from door to door This old man creeps, the villagers in him Behold a record which together binds Past deeds and offices of charity, Else unremember'd, and so keeps alive The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years, And that half-wisdom half-experience gives,