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THE CHURCH-YARD AMONG THE MOUNTAINS
WHILE thus from theme to theme the Historian passed,
Of his own spirit urged,—now, as a voice
“ These grassy heaps lie amicably close,” Said I, “like surges heaving in the wind Along the surface of a mountain pool : Whence comes it, then, that yonder we behold Five graves, and only five, that rise together Unsociably sequestered, and encroaching On the smooth play-ground of the village-school ?"
The Vicar answered, “No disdainful pride In them who rest beneath, nor any course Of strange or tragic accident, hath helped To place those hillocks in that lonely guise. -Once more look forth, and follow with your sight The length of road that from yon mountain's base
Through bare enclosures stretches, 'till its line
-Rocked by the motion of a trusty ass Two ruddy children hung, a well-poised freight, Each in his basket nodding drowsily ; Their bonnets, I remember, wreathed with flowers, Which told it was the pleasant month of June ; And, close behind, the comely Matron rode, A woman of soft speech and gracious smile, And with a lady's mien.—From far they came, Even from Northumbrian hills; yet theirs had been A merry journey, rich in pastime, cheered By music, prank, and laughter-stirring jest ; And freak put on, and arch word dropped-to swell The cloud of fancy and uncouth surmise That gathered round the slowly-moving train. _Whence do they come? and with what errand charged? * Belong they to the fortune-telling tribe • Who pitch their tents under the green-wood tree? Or Strollers are they, furnished to enact
Fair Rosamond, and the Children of the Wood, • And, by that whiskered tabby's aid, set forth * The lucky venture of sage Whittington, • When the next village hears the show announced ‘By blast of trumpet ?' Plenteous was the growth Of such conjectures, overheard, or seen On many a staring countenance portrayed Of boor or burgher, as they marched along. And more than once their steadiness of face Was put to proof, and exercise supplied To their inventive humour, by stern looks,
And questions in authoritative tone,
A Priest he was by function ; but his course From his youth up, and high as manhood's noon, (The hour of life to which he then was brought) Had been irregular, I might say, wild; By books unsteadied, by his pastoral care Too little checked. An active, ardent mind ; A fancy pregnant with resource and scheme To cheat the sadness of a rainy day; Hands apt for all ingenious arts and games; A generous spirit, and a body strong To cope with stoutest champions of the bowl ; Had earned for him sure welcome, and the rights Of a prized visitant, in the jolly hall Of country ’squire ; or at the statelier board Of duke or earl, from scenes of courtly pomp Withdrawn,—to while away the summer hours In condescension among rural guests.