Page images
PDF
EPUB

Which the great lord inhabits not; and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many nightingales; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,
They answer and provoke each other's song,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,

And one low piping sound more sweet than all-
Stirring the air with such a harmony,

FROST AT MIDNIGHT.

THE frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelp'd by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud-and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange

That should you close your eyes, you might al- And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,

most

Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes,
Whose dewy leaflets are but half-disclosed,
You may perchance behold them on the twigs,
Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright
and full,

Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade
Lights up her love-torch.

A most gentle maid, Who dwelleth in her hospitable home Hard by the castle, and at latest eve, (E'en like a lady vow'd and dedicate To something more than nature in the grove,) Glides through the pathways: she knows all their notes,

That gentle maid! and oft a moment's space,
What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,
Hath heard a pause of silence; till the moon
Emerging, hath awaken'd earth and sky
With one sensation, and these wakeful birds
Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,
As if some sudden gale had swept at once
A hundred airy harps! And she hath watch'd
Many a nightingale perch'd giddily

On blossomy twig still swinging from the breeze,
And to that motion tune his wanton song
Like tipsy joy that reels with tossing head.

Farewell, O warbler! till to-morrow eve,
And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
We have been loitering long and pleasantly,
And now for our dear homes.-The strain again?
Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe,
Who, capable of no articulate sound,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
His little hand, the small forefinger up,
And bid us listen! And I deem it wise
To make him nature's playmate. He knows well
The evening star; and once, when he awoke
In most distressful mood, (some inward pain
Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream,)
I hurried with him to our orchard-plot,
And he beheld the moon, and, hush'd at once,
Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,
While his fair eyes, that swam with undropp'd

tears

Did glitter in the yellow moonbeam! Well!-
It is a father's tale: but if that Heaven
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Familiar with these songs, that with the night
He may associate joy! Once more, farewell,
Sweet nightingale! Once more, my friends! fare-

well.

This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which flutter'd on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,

Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling spirit
By its own moods interprets, everywhere
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,

And makes a toy of thought.

But O! how oft,

How oft, at school, with most believing mind
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt

Of my sweet birthplace, and the old church tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirr'd and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things I dreamt,
Lull'd me to sleep, and sleep prolong'd my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fix'd with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half-open'd, and I snatch'd
A hasty glance, and still my heart leap'd up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My playmate when we both were clothed alike!
Dear babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was rear'd
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw naught lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself,

[blocks in formation]

TOGETHER WITH AN UNFINISHED POEM.

THUS far my scanty brain hath built the rhyme
Elaborate and swelling: yet the heart
Not owns it. From thy spirit-breathing powers
I ask not now, my friend! the aiding verse,
Tedious to thee, and from my anxious thought
Of dissonant mood. In fancy (well I know)
From business wandering far and local cares,
Thou creepest round a dear-loved sister's bed
With noiseless step, and watchest the faint look
Soothing each pang with fond solicitude,
And tenderest tones medicinal of love.
I too a sister had, an only sister-

She loved me dearly, and I doted on her!
To her I pour'd forth all my puny sorrows,
(As a sick patient in his nurse's arms,)
And of the heart those hidden maladies
That shrink ashamed from even friendship's eye.
O! I have woke at midnight, and have wept
Because SHE WAS NOT!-Cheerily, dear Charles!
Thou thy best friend shalt cherish many a year:
Such warm presages feel I of high hope.
For not uninterested the dear maid

I've view'd-her soul affectionate yet wise,
Her polish'd wit as mild as lambent glories
That play around a sainted infant's head.
He knows (the Spirit that in secret sees,
Of whose omniscient and all-spreading love
Aught to implore* were impotence of mind)
That my mute thoughts are sad before his throne,
Prepared, when he his healing ray vouchsafes,
To pour forth thanksgiving with lifted heart,
And praise him gracious with a brother's joy!
December, 1794.

THE HOUR WHEN WE SHALL MEET
AGAIN.

COMPOSED DURING ILLNESS AND IN ABSENCE.

DIM hour! that sleep'st on pillowing clouds afar, O rise and yoke the turtles to thy car!

I utterly recant the sentiment contained in the lines
Of whose omniscient and all-spreading love
Aught to implore were impotence of mind,

it being written in Scripture, "Ask, and it shall be given you," and my human reason being moreover convinced of the propriety of offering petitions as well as thanksgiv ings to the Deity.

Bend o'er the traces, blame each lingering dove,
And give me to the bosom of my love!
My gentle love, caressing and carest,
With heaving heart shall cradle me to rest;
Shed the warm tear-drop from her smiling eyes,
Lull with fond wo, and med'cine me with sighs:
While finely-flushing float her kisses meek,
Like melted rubies, o'er my pallid cheek.
Chill'd by the night, the drooping rose of May
Mourns the long absence of the lovely day;
Young day, returning at her promised hour,
Weeps o'er the sorrows of her favourite flower
Weeps the soft dew, the balmy gale she sighs,
And darts a trembling lustre from her eyes.
New life and joy th' expanding floweret feels:
His pitying mistress mourns, and mourning heals!

LINES TO JOSEPH COTTLE.

My honour'd friend! whose verse concise, yet clear,

Tunes to smooth melody unconquer'd sense,
May your fame fadeles live, as "never-sere"
The ivy wreathes yon oak, whose broad defence
Embowers me from noon's sultry influence!
For, like that nameless rivulet stealing by,
Your modest verse, to musing quiet dear,

Is rich with tints heaven-borrow'd: the charm'd eye

Shall gaze undazzled there, and love the soften' sky.

Circling the base of the poetic mount
A stream there is, which rolls in lazy flow
Its coal-black waters from oblivion's fount:
The vapour-poison'd birds, that fly too low,
Fall with dead swoop, and to the bottom go.
Escaped that heavy stream on pinion fleet,
Beneath the mountain's lofty frowning brow,
Ere aught of perilous ascent you meet,

A mead of mildest charm delays th' unlabouring feet.

Not there the cloud-climb'd rock, sublime and vast,
That like some giant king, o'erglooms the hill;
Nor there the pine-grove to the midnight blast
Makes solemn music! But th' unceasing rill
To the soft wren or lark's descending trill
Murmurs sweet under-song 'mid jasmin bowers.
In this same pleasant meadow, at your will,
I ween, you wander'd-there collecting flowers
Of sober tint, and herbs of med'cinable powers!
There for the monarch-murder'd soldier's tomb
You wove th' unfinish'd wreath of saddest hues;"
And to that holier chaplet† added bloom,
Besprinkling it with Jordan's cleansing dews.
But lo! your Henderson‡ awakes the muse-
His spirit beckon'd from the mountain's height!
You left the plain and soar'd mid richer views!
So nature mourn'd, when sank the first day's light,
With stars, unseen before, spangling her robe of
night!

* War, a fragment. + John the Baptist, a poem Monody on John Henderson.

Still soar, my friend, those richer views among,
Strong, rapid, fervent flashing fancy's beam!
Virtue and truth shall love your gentler song;
But poesy demands th' impassion'd theme:

innocence of his own heart still mistaking her increasing fondness for motherly affection; she, at length, overcome by her miserable passion, after much abuse of Mary's temper and moral tendencies,

Waked by heaven's silent dews at eve's mild exclaimed with violent emotion-"O Edward! in

gleam,

What balmy sweets Pomona breathes around!

But if the vext air rush a stormy stream,
Or autumn's shrill gust moan in plaintive sound,
With fruits and flowers she loads the tempest-
honour'd ground.

IV. ODES AND MISCELLANEOUS

POEMS.

THE THREE GRAVES.

A FRAGMENT OF A SEXTON'S TALE.

THE author has published the following humble fragment, encouraged by the decisive recommendation of more than one of our most celebrated living poets. The language was intended to be dramatic; that is, suited to the narrator: and the metre corresponds to the homeliness of the diction. It is therefore presented as the fragment, not of a poem, but of a common ballad tale. Whether this is sufficient to justify the adoption of such a style, in any metrical composition not professedly ludicrous, the author is himself in some doubt. At all events, it is not presented as poetry, and it is in no way connected with the author's judgment concerning poetic diction. Its merits, if any, are exclusivley psychological. The story, which must be supposed to have been narrated in the first and second parts,

is as follows.

deed, indeed, she is not fit for you-she has not a heart to love you as you deserve. It is I that love you! Marry me, Edward! and I will this very day settle all my property on you."-The lover's eyes were now opened; and thus taken by surprise, whether from the effect of the horror which he felt, acting as it were hysterically on his nervous system, or that at the first moment he lost the sense of the proposal in the feeling of its strangeness and absurdity, he flung her from him and burst into a fit of laughter. Irritated by this almost to frenzy, the woman fell on her knees, and in a loud voice that approached to a scream, she prayed for a curse both on him and on her own child. Mary happened to be in the room directly above them, heard Edward's laugh and her mother's blasphemous prayer, and fainted away. He, hearing the fall, ran up stairs, and taking her in his arms, carried her off to Ellen's home; and after some fruitless attempts on her part toward a reconciliation with her mother, she was married to him.-And here the third part of the tale begins.

I was not led to choose this story from any partiality to tragic, much less to monstrous events, (though at the time that I composed the verses, somewhat more than twelve years ago, I was less averse to such subjects than at present,) but from finding in it a striking proof of the possible effect on the imagination, from an idea violently and suddenly impressed on it. I had been reading Bryan Edwards's account of the effect of the Oby Witchcraft on the Negroes in the West Indies, and Hearne's deeply interesting anecdotes of similar Edward, a young farmer, meets, at the house of workings on the imagination of the Copper Indians, Ellen, her bosom friend, Mary, and commences an (those of my readers who have it in their power acquaintance, which ends in a mutual attachment. will be well repaid for the trouble of referring to With her consent, and by the advice of their comthose works for the passages alluded to,) and I conmon friend Ellen, he announces his hopes and in-ceived the design of showing that instances of this tentions to Mary's mother, a widow woman border-kind are not peculiar to savage or barbarous tribes, ing on her fortieth year, and from constant health, and of illustrating the mode in which the mind is the possession of a competent property, and from affected in these cases, and the progress and symptoms of the morbid action on the fancy from the having had no other children but Mary and another daughter, (the father died in their infancy,) retain- beginning. ing, for the greater part, her personal attractions and comeliness of appearance; but a woman of low education and violent temper. The answer which she at once returned to Edward's application was remarkable: "Well! Edward, you are a handsome young fellow, and you shall have my daughter." From this time all their wooing passed under the mother's eye; and, in fine, she became herself enamoured of her future son-in-law, and practised every art, both of endearment and of calumny, to transfer his affections from her daughter to herself. (The outlines of the tale are positive facts, and of no very distant date, though the author has purposely altered the names and the scene of action, as well as invented the characters of the parties and the detail of the incidents.) Edward, however, though perplexed by her strange detraction from her daughter's good qualities, yet in the

69

[The tale is supposed to be narrated by an old sexton, in a country churchyard, to a traveller whose curiosity had been awakened by the appearance of three graves, close by each other, to two only of which there were grave-stones. On the first of these were the name, and dates, as usual: on the second no name but only a date, and the words, The mercy of God is infinite.]

PART III.

THE grapes upon the vicar's wall
Were ripe as ripe could be;
And yellow leaves in sun and wind
Were falling from the tree.

2 z 2

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »