Page images

32 When the long-sounding curfew from afar

Loaded with loud lament the lonely gale,
Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star,
Lingering and listening, wander'd down the vale.
There would he dream of graves, and corses pale,
And ghosts that to the charnel-dungeon throng,
And drag a length of clanking chain, and wail,

Till silenced by the owl's terrific song, Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering aisles along. 33 Or, when the setting Moon, in crimson dyed,

Hung o'er the dark and melancholy deep,
To haunted stream, remote from man, he hied,
Where fays of yore their revels wont to keep;
And there let Fancy rove at large, till sleep
A vision brought to his entrancèd sight:
And, first, a wildly murmuring wind 'gan creep

Shrill to his ringing ear; then tapers bright,
With instantaneous gleam, illumed the vault of night.

34 Anon in view a portal's blazon'd arch

Arose; the trumpet bids the valves unfold;
And forth a host of little warriors march,
Grasping the diamond lance, and targe of gold.
Their look was gentle, their demeanour bold,
And green their helms, and green their silk attire;
And here and there, right venerably old,

The long-robed minstrels wake the warbling wire, And some with mellow breath the martial pipe inspire 35 With merriment, and song, and timbrels clear,

A troop of dames from myrtle bowers advance;
The little warriors doff the targe and spear,
And loud enlivening strains provoke the dance:
They meet, they dart away, they wheel askance;
To right, to left, they thread the flying maze;
Now bound aloft with vigorous spring, then glance

Rapid along: with many-colour'd rays
Of tapers, gems, and gold, the echoing forests blaze.
36 The dream is fled. Proud harbinger of day,

Who scar’dst the vision with thy clarion shrill,
Fell chanticleer; who oft hath reft away
My fancied good, and brought substantial ill!
0, to thy cursed scream, discordant still,
Let harmony aye shut her gentle ear:

Thy boastful mirth let jealous rivals spill,

Insult thy crest, and glossy pinions tear,
And ever in thy dreams the ruthless fox appear!
37 Forbear, my Muse. Let Love attune thy line:

Revoke the spell: thine Edwin frets not so.
For how should he at wicked chance repine,
Who feels from every change amusement flow?
Even now his eyes with smiles of rapture glow,
As on be wanders through the scenes of morn,
Where the fresh flowers in living lustre blow,

Where thousand pearls the dewy lawns adorn, A thousand notes of joy in every breeze are borne. 38 But who the melodies of morn can tell ?

The wild brook babbling down the mountain side;
The lowing herd; the sheepfold's simple bell;
The pipe of early shepherd dim descried
In the lone valley; echoing far and wide
The clamorous born along the cliffs above;
The hollow murmur of the ocean-tide;

The hum of bees, the linnet's lay of love,
And the full choir that wakes the universal grove.
39 The cottage curs at early pilgrim bark;

Crown'd with her pail the tripping milkmaid sings;
The whistling ploughman stalks a-field; and, hark!
Down the rough slope the ponderous waggon rings;
Through rustling corn the hare astonish'd springs;
Slow tolls the village clock the drowsy hour;
The partridge bursts away on whirring wings;

Deep mourns the turtle in sequester'd bower,
And shrill lark carols clear from her aërial tower.

40 O Nature, how in every charm supreme!

Whose votaries feast on raptures ever new!
0, for the voice and fire of seraphim,
To sing thy glories with devotion due!
Blest be the day I 'scaped the wrangling crew,
From Pyrrho's maze,' and Epicurus' sty;
And held high converse with the godlike few,

Who to th' enraptured heart, and ear, and eye,
Teach beauty, virtue, truth, and love, and melody.

1 Pyrrho, a native of Elis in Peloponnesus, was the founder of the Sceptical Phi. losophy, which took from him the name of Purrhonism. The system is here called a maze, because its method was to intricate and sophisticate all our knowledge into doubtfulness.

41 Hence! ye, who snare and stupefy the mind,

Sophists! of beauty, virtue, joy, the bane! Greedy and fell, though impotent and blind, Who spread your filthy nets in Truth's fair fane, And ever ply your venom'd fangs amain ! Hence to dark Error's den, whose rankling slime First gave you form! Hence! lest the Muse should deign (Though loth on theme so mean to waste a rhyme) With vengeance to pursue your sacrilegious crime.

42 But hail, ye mighty masters of the lay,

Nature's true sons, the friends of man and truth!
Whose song, sublimely sweet, serenely gay,
Amused my childhood, and inform’d my youth.
O, let your spirit still my bosom soothe,
Inspire my dreams, and my wild wanderings guido;
Your voice each rugged path of life can smooth,

For well I know, wherever ye reside,
There harmony and peace and innocence abide.
43 Ah me! neglected on the lonesome plain,

As yet poor Edwin never knew your lore,
Save when against the Winter's drenching rain,
And driving snow, the cottage shut the door.
Then, as instructed by tradition hoar,
Her legend when the beldame 'gan impart,
Or chant the old heroic ditty o'er,
Wonder and joy ran thrilling to his heart;
Much he the tale admired, but more the tuneful art.
44 Various and strange was the long-winded tale;

And halls and knights and feats of arms display'd;
Or merry swains, who quaff the nut-brown ale,
And sing enamour'd of the Nut-brown Maid ;
The moonlight revel of the fairy glade;
Or hags that suckle an infernal brood,
And ply in caves th' unutterable trade,

'Midst fiends and spectres quench the Moon in blood, Yell in the midnight storm, or ride th' infuriate flood.

[ocr errors]

45 But when to horror his amazement rose,

A gentler strain the beldame would rehearse,
A tale of rural life, a tale of woes,

2. The Nut-Brown Maid is the title of a famous old love-ballad given in Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry. 8 Referring to the doings of the Weird Sisters in Macbeth, iv. 1.

The orphan babes, and guardian uncle fierce.
O cruel! will no pang of pity pierce
That heart, by lust of lucre sear’d to stone ?
For sure, if aught of virtue last, or verse,

To latest times shall tender souls bemoan
Those hopeless orphan babes by thy fell arts undone.

46 Behold, with berries smear'd, with brambles torn,

The babes, now famish’d, lay them down to die:
Amidst the howl of darksome woods forlorn,
Folded in one another's arms they lie;
Nor friend, nor stranger, hears their dying cry:
“ For from the town the man returns no more.
But thou, who Heaven's just vengeance dar’st defy,

This deed with fruitless tears shalt soon deplore,
When Death lays waste thy house, and flames consume thy


47 A stifled smile of stem vindictive joy

Brighten'd one moment Edwin's starting tear,
“But why should gold man's feeble mind decoy,
And innocence thus die by doom severe ?"
O Edwin! while thy heart is yet sincere,
Th' assaults of discontent and doubt repel :
Dark even at noontide is our mortal sphere;

But let us hope; to doubt is to rebel:
Let us exult in hope, that all shall yet be well.

48 Nor be thy generous indignation check'd,

Nor check’d the tender tear to Misery given;
From Guilt's contagious power shall that protect,
This soften and refine the soul for Heaven.
But dreadful is their doom whom doubt has driven
To censure Fate, and pious Hope forego:
Like yonder blasted boughs by lightning riven,

Perfection, beauty, life, they never know,
But frown on all that pass, a monument of woe.

49 Shall he whose birth, maturity, and age

Scarce fill the circle of one summer day,
Shall the poor gnat, with discontent and rage,
Exclaim that Nature hastens to decay,
If but a cloud obstruct the solar ray,
If but a momentary shower descend?

4 Alluding to the choice old ballad of The Children in the Wood; also given in Per. cy's Reliques.

Or shall frail man Heaven's dread decree gainsay,

Which bade the series of events extend Wide through unnumber'd worlds, and ages without end? 50 One part, one little part, we dimly scan

Through the dark medium of life's feverish dream;
Yet dare arraign the whole stupendous plan,
If but that little part incongruous seem.
Nor is that part perhaps what mortals deem:
Oft from apparent ill our blessings rise:
O, then, renounce that impious self-esteem

That aims to trace the secrets of the skies:
For thou art but of dust; be humble, and be wise.
51 Thus Heaven enlarged his soul in riper years:

For Nature gave him strength and fire, to soar
On Fancy's wing above this vale of tears;
Where dărk cold-hearted sceptics, creeping, pore
Through microscope of metaphysic lore;
And much they grope for Truth, but never hit:
For why their powers, inadequate before,

This idle art makes more and more unfit; Yet deem they darkness light, and their vain blunders wit. 52 Nor was this ancient dame a foe to mirth:

Her ballad, jest, and riddle's quaint device
Oft cheer'd the shepherds round their social hearth;
Whom levity or spleen could ne'er entice
To purchase chat or laughter, at the price
Of decency. Nor let it faith exceed,
That Nature forms a rustic taste so nice.

Ah! had they been of court or city breed,
Such delicacy were right marvellous indeed.
53 Oft, when the winter storm had ceased to rave,

He roam'd the snowy waste at even, to view
The cloud stupendous, from th' Atlantic wave
High-towering, sail along th' horizon blue;
Where, 'midst the changeful scenery, ever new,
Fancy a thousand wondrous forms descries,
More wildly great than ever pencil drew,

$ For why is here equivalent to because or inasmuch as. The usage is frequent in the old writers, and occurs repeatedly both in the Psalter and in Shakespeare, but is seldom met with in later writers. It is appropriate here, because the author aimed avowelly to give something of an antique flavour to his style. So in The Two Gentle men of Verona, iii. 1.

“If she do chide, 'tis not to have you gone;

For why the fools are mad if left alone."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »