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TO SIK GEORGE HOWLAND BEAUMONT, BART.
From the South-west Coast of Cumberland.—1811.
Par from our home by G-rasmere's quiet Lake, From the Vale's peace which all her fields
partake, Here on the bleakest point of Cumbria's shore We sojourn stunned by Ocean's ceaseless roar; While, day by day, grim neighbour! huge Black
Frowns deepening visibly his native gloom,
Unless, perchance rejecting in despite
What on the Plain we have of warmth and light,
In his own storms he hides himself from sight.
Eough is the time; and thoughts, that would
be free 10
From heaviness, oft fly, dear Friend, to thee; Turn from a spot where neither sheltered road Nor hedge-row screen invites my steps abroad; Where one poor Plane-tree, having as it might Attained a stature twice a tall man's height, 15 Hopeless of further growth, and brown and sere Through half the summer, stands with top cut
sheer, Like an unshifting weathercock which proves How cold the quarter that the wind best loves, Or like a Centinel that, evermore 20
Darkening the window, ill defends the door
Of this unfinished house—a Fortress bare,
Where strength has been the Builder's only care;
Whose rugged walls may still for years demand
The final polish of the Plasterer's hand. 25
—This Dwelling's Inmate more than three
And oft a Prisoner in the cheerless place,
I—of whose touch the fiddle would complain,
Whose breath would labour at the flute in vain,
In music all unversed, nor blessed with skill 30
A bridge to copy, or to paint a mill,
Tired of my books, a scanty company!
And tired of listening to the boisterous sea—
Pace between door and window muttering rhyme,
An old resource to cheat a froward time! 35
Though these dull hours (mine is it, or their
Would tempt me to renounce that humble aim.
—But if there be a Muse who, free to take
Her seat upon Olympus, doth forsake
Those heights (like Phoebus when his golden locks
He veiled, attendant on Thessalian flocks) 41
And, in disguise, a Milkmaid with her pail
Trips down the pathways of some winding dale;
Or, like a Mermaid, warbles on the shores
To fishers mending nets beside their doors; 45
Or, Pilgrim-like, on forest moss reclined,
Gives plaintive ditties to the heedless wind,
Or listens to its play among the boughs
Above her head and so forgets her vows—
If such a Visitant of Earth there be 50
And she would deign this day to smile on me
And aid my verse, content with local bounds
Of natural beauty and life's daily rounds,
Thoughts, chances, sights, or doings, which we
Without reserve to those whom we love well—
Then haply, Beaumont! words in current clear
Will flow, and on a welcome page appear
Duly before thy sight, unless they perish here.
Such have we, but unvaried in its style; 60
What shall I treat of? News from Mona's Isle?
No tales of Eunagates fresh landed, whence
And wherefore fugitive or on what pretence;
Of feasts, or scandal, eddying like the wind
Most restlessly alive when most confined.
Ask not of me, whose tongue can best appease
The mighty tumults of the House Of Keys; 66
The last year's cup whose Earn or Heifer gained,
What slopes are planted, or what mosses drained:
An eye of fancy only can I cast
On that proud pageant now at hand or past, 70
When full five hundred boats in trim array,
With nets and sails outspread and streamers gay,
And chanted hymns and stiller voice of prayer,
For the old Manx-harvest to the Deep repair,
Soon as the herring-shoals at distance shine 75
Like beds of moonlight shifting on the brine.
Mona from our Abode is daily seen, But with a wilderness of waves between; And by conjecture only can we speak Of aught transacted there in bay or creek; 80 No tidings reach us thence from town or field, Only faint news her mountain sunbeams yield, And some we gather from the misty air, And some the hovering clouds, our telegraph,
declare. But these poetic mysteries I withhold; 85
For Fancy hath her fits both hot and cold, And should the colder fit with You be on When You might read, my credit would be gone.
Let more substantial themes the pen engage, And nearer interests culled from the opening
Of our migration.—Ere the welcome dawn
Had from the east her silver star withdrawn,
The Wain stood ready, at our Cottage-door,
Thoughtfully freighted with a various store;
And long or ere the uprising of the Sun 95
O'er dew-damped dust our journey was begun,
A needful journey, under favouring skies,
Through peopled Yales; yet something in the
guise Of those old Patriarchs when from well to well They roamed through Wastes where now the
tented Arabs dwell. 100
Say first, to whom did we the charge confide, Who promptly undertook the Wain to guide Up many a sharply-twining road and down, And over many a wide hill's craggy crown, Through the quick turns of many a hollow
And the rough bed of manyanunbridged brook?
A blooming Lass—who in her better hand
Bore a light switch, her sceptre of command
When, yet a slender Girl, she often led, 109
Skilful and bold, the horse andburthened sled1
From the peat-yielding Moss on G-owdar'shead.
What could go wrong with such a Charioteer
For goods and chattels, or those Infants dear,
A Pair who smilingly sat side by side,
Our hope confirming that the salt-sea tide, 115
Whose free embraces we were bound to seek,
Would their lost strength restore and freshen
the pale cheek?
1 A local word for sledge.
Such hope did either Parent entertain
Pacing behind along the silent lane.
Blithe hopes and happy musings soon took
For lo! an uncouth melancholy sight—
On a green bank a creature stood forlorn
Just half protruded to the light of morn,
Its hinder part concealed by hedge-row thorn.
The Figure called to mind a beast of prey 125
Stript of its frightful powers by slow decay,
And, though no longer upon rapine bent,
Dim memory keeping of its old intent.
We started, looked again with anxious eyes,
And in that griesly object recognise 130
The Curate's Dog—his long-tried friend, for
they, As well we knew, together had grown grey. The Master died, his drooping servant's grief Found at the Widow's feet some sad relief; Yet still he lived in pining discontent, 135
Sadness which no indulgence could prevent; Hence whole day wanderings, broken nightly
And lonesome watch that out of doors he keeps;
Not oftentimes, I trust, as we, poor brute!
Espied him on his legs sustained, blank, mute,
And of all visible motion destitute, 141
So that the very heaving of his breath
Seemed stopt, though by some other power than
death. Long as we gazed upon the form and face, A mild domestic pity kept its place, 145
Unscared by thronging fancies of strange hue
That haunted us in spite of what we knew.
Even now I sometimes think of him as lost
In second-sight appearances, or crost