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· BOOK FIRST.
'Twas summer, and the sun had mounted high :
Far other lot, yet with good hope that soon
Upon that open moorland stood a grove, The wished-for port to which my course was bound. Thither I came, and there, amid the gloom Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms, Appeared a roofless Hut; four naked walls That stared upon each other !—I looked round, And to my wish and to my hope espied The Friend I sought; a Man of reverend age, But stout and hale, for travel unimpaired. There was he seen upon the cottage-bench, Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep; An iron-pointed staff lay at his side.
Him had I marked the day before-alone And stationed in the public way, with face Turned toward the sun then setting, while that staff Afforded, to the figure of the man Detained for contemplation or repose, Graceful support; his countenance as he stood Was hidden from my view, and he remained Unrecognised ; but, stricken by the sight,
With slackened footsteps I advanced, and soon
We were tried Friends : amid a pleasant vale, In the antique market-village where was passed My school-time, an apartment he had owned, To which at intervals the Wanderer drew, And found a kind of home or harbour there. He loved me; from a swarm of rosy boys Singled out me, as he in sport would say, For my grave looks, too thoughtful for my years. As I grew up, it was my best delight To be his chosen comrade. Many a time, On holidays, we rambled through the woods : We sate—we walked; he pleased me with report Of things which he had seen; and often touched Abstrusest matter, reasonings of the mind Turned inward; or at my request would sing Old songs, the product of his native hills ; A skilful distribution of sweet sounds, Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed As cool refreshing water, by the care Of the industrious husbandman, diffused Through a parched meadow-ground, in time of drought. Still deeper welcoine found his pure discourse :
How precious when in riper days I learned
Oh! many are the Poets that are sown By Nature; men endowed with highest gifts, The vision and the faculty divine; Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse, (Which, in the docile season of their youth, It was denied them to acquire, through lack Of culture and the inspiring aid of books, Or haply by a temper too severe, Or a nice backwardness afraid of shame) Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led By circumstance to take unto the height The measure of themselves, these favoured Beings, All but a scattered few, live out their time, Husbanding that which they possess within, And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds Are often those of whom the noisy world Hears least; else surely this Man had not left His graces unrevealed and unproclaimed. But, as the mind was filled with inward light, So not without distinction had he lived, Beloved and honoured—far as he was known. And some small portion of his eloquent speech, And something that may serve to set in view The feeling pleasures of his loneliness, His observations, and the thoughts his mind
Had dealt with–I will here record in verse;
Among the hills of Athol he was born ; Where, on a small hereditary farm, An unproductive slip of rugged ground, His Parents, with their numerous offspring, dwelt; A virtuous household, though exceeding poor! Pure livers were they all, austere and grave, And fearing God; the very children taught Stern self-respect, a reverence for God's word, And an habitual piety, maintained With strictness scarcely known on English ground.
From his sixth year, the Boy of whom I speak, In summer, tended cattle on the hills ; But, through the inclement and the perilous days Of long-continuing winter, he repaired, Equipped with satchel, to a school, that stood Sole building on a mountain's dreary edge, Remote from view of city spire, or sound Of minster clock! From that bleak tenement He, many an evening, to his distant home In solitude returning, saw the hills Grow larger in the darkness ; all alone