Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

How precious when in riper days I learned
To weigh with care his words, and to rejoice
In the plain presence of his dignity!

*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;
Which, if with truth it correspond, and sink
Or rise as venerable Nature leads,
The high and tender Muses shall accept
With gracious smile, deliberately pleased,
And listening Time reward with sacred praise.

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

Beheld the stars come out above his head,
And travelled through the wood, with no one near
To whom he might confess the things he saw.

So the foundations of his mind were laid.
In such communion, not from terror free,
While yet a child, and long before his time,
Had he perceived the presence and the power
Of greatness; and deep feelings had impressed
So vividly great objects that they lay
Upon his mind like substances, whose presence
Perplexed the bodily sense. He had received
A precious gift ; for, as he grew in years,
With these impressions would he still compare
All his remembrances, thoughts, shapes, and forms;
And, being still unsatisfied with aught
Of dimmer character, he thence attained
An active power to fasten images
Upon his brain ; and on their pictured lines
Intensely brooded, even till they acquired
The liveliness of dreams. Nor did he fail,
While yet a child, with a child's eagerness
Incessantly to turn his ear and

eye
On all things which the moving seasons brought
To feed such appetite-nor this alone
Appeased his yearning :-in the after-day
Of boyhood, many an hour in caves forlorn,
And ʼmid the hollow depths of naked crags

He sate, and even in their fixed lineaments,
Or from the power of a peculiar eye,
Or by creative feeling overborne,
Or by predominance of thought oppressed,
Even in their fixed and steady lineaments
He traced an ebbing and a flowing mind,
Expression ever varying !

Thus informed,
He had small need of books; for many a tale
Traditionary, round the mountains hung,
And many a legend, peopling the dark woods,
Nourished Imagination in her growth,
And gave the Mind that apprehensive power
By which she is made quick to recognise
The moral properties and scope of things.
But eagerly he read, and read again,
Whate'er the minister's old shelf supplied ;
The life and death of martyrs, who sustained,
With will inflexible, those fearful pangs
Triumphantly displayed in records left
Of persecution, and the Covenant-times
Whose echo rings through Scotland to this hour!
And there, by lucky hap, had been preserved
A straggling volume, torn and incomplete,
That left half-told the preternatural tale,
Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends,
Profuse in garniture of wooden cuts
Strange and uncouth ; dire faces, figures dire,
Sharp-kneed, sharp-elbowed, and lean-ankled too,

With long and ghostly shanks—forms which once seen
Could never be forgotten !

In his heart,
Where Fear sate thus, a cherished visitant,
Was wanting yet the pure delight of love
By sound diffused, or by the breathing air,
Or by the silent looks of happy things,
Or flowing from the universal face
Of earth and sky.

But he had felt the power
Of Nature, and already was prepared,
By his intense conceptions, to receive
Deeply the lesson deep of love which he,
Whom Nature, by whatever means, has taught
To feel intensely, cannot but receive.

Such was the Boy—but for the growing Youth
What soul was his, when, from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun
Rise
up,

and bathe the world in light! He looked
Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth
And ocean's liquid mass, in gladness lay
Beneath him :-Far and wide the clouds were touched,
And in their silent faces could he read
Unutterable love. Sound needed

none,
Nor any voice of joy ; his spirit drank
The spectacle : sensation, soul, and form,
All melted into him; they swallowed up
His animal being; in them did he live,
And by them did he live; they were his life.

« ПредишнаНапред »