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Faintly reflected in a lingering stream.
Nor lacked, for more delight on that warm day,
Our table, small parade of garden fruits,
And whortle-berries from the mountain side.
The Child, who long ere this had stilled his sobs,
Was now a help to his late comforter,
And moved, a willing Page, as he was bid,
Ministering to our need.
In genial mood,
While at our pastoral banquet thus we gate
Fronting the window of that little cell,
I could not, ever and anon, forbear
To glance an upward look on two huge Peaks,
That from some other vale peered into this.
“ Those lusty twins,” exclaimed our host, “ if here
It were your lot to dwell, would soon become
Your prized companions.—Many are the notes
Which, in his tuneful course, the wind draws forth
From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths, and dashing
shores ; And well those lofty brethren bear their part In the wild concert-chiefly when the storm Rides high ; then all the upper air they fill With roaring sound, that ceases not to flow, Like smoke, along the level of the blast, In mighty current ; theirs, too, is the song Of stream and headlong flood that seldom fails ; And, in the grim and breathless hour of noon, Methinks that I have heard them echo back The thunder's greeting. Nor have nature's laws Left them ungifted with a power to yield Music of finer tone ; a harmony, So do I call it, though it be the hand Of silence, though there be no voice ;—the clouds, The mist, the shadows, light of golden suns, Motions of moonlight, all come thither-touch, And have an answer—thither come, and shape A language not unwelcome to sick hearts
And idle spirits :—there the sun himself,
At the calm close of summer's longest day,
Rests his substantial orb ;-between those heights
And on the top of either pinnacle,
More keenly than elsewhere in night's blue vault,
Sparkle the stars, as of their station proud.
Thoughts are not busier in the mind of man
Than the mute agents stirring there :-alone
Here do I sit and watch.--"
A fall of voice,
Regretted like the nightingale's last note,
Had scarcely closed this high-wrought strain of
rapture Ere with inviting smile the Wanderer said: "Now for the tale with which you threatened us !” “In truth the threat escaped me unawares : Should the tale tire you, let this challenge stand For my excuse. Dissevered from mankind, As to your eyes and thoughts we must have seemed When ye looked down upon us from the crag, Islanders mid a stormy mountain sea, We are not so;—perpetually we touch Upon the vulgar ordinances of the world; And he, whom this our cottage hath to-day Relinquished, lived dependent for his bread Upon the laws of public charity. The Housewife, tempted by such slender gains As might from that occasion be distilled, Opened, as she before had done for me, Her doors to admit this homeless Pensioner ; The portion gave of coarse but wholesomne fare Which appetite required a blind dull nook, Such as she had, the kennel of his rest! This, in itself not ill, would yet have been Iil borne in earlier life; but his was now The still contentedness of seventy years. Calm did he sit under the wide-spread tree Of his old age; and yet less calm and meek,
Winningly meek or venerably calm,
Than slow and torpid ; paying in this wise
A penalty, if penalty it were,
For spendthrift feats, excesses of his prime.
I loved the old Man, for I pitied him!
A task it was, I own, to hold discourse
With one so slow in gathering up his thoughts,
But he was a cheap pleasure to my eyes ;
Mild, inoffensive, ready in his way,
And helpful to his utmost power; and there
Our housewife knew full well what she possessed !
He was her vassal of all labour, tilled
Her garden, from the pasture fetched her kine;
And, one among the orderly array
Of hay-makers, beneath the burning sun
Maintained his place; or heedfully pursued
His course, on errands bound, to other vales,
Leading sometimes an inexperienced child
Too young for any profitable task.
So moved he like a shadow that performed
Substantial service. Mark me now, and learn
For what reward !—The moon her monthly round
Hath not completed since our dame, the queen
Of this one cottage and this lonely dale,
Into my little sanctuary rushed-
Voice to a rueful treble humanised,
And features in deplorable dismay.
I treat the matter lightly, but, alas !
It is most serious : persevering rain
Had fallen in torrents ; all the mountain tops
Were hidden, and black vapours coursed their sides;
This had I seen, and saw ; but, till she spake,
Was wholly ignorant that my ancient Friend-
Who at her bidding, early and alone,
Had clomb aloft to delve the moorland turf
For winter fuel—to his noontide meal
Returned not, and now, haply, on the heights
Lay at the mercy of this raging storm.
"Inhuman!'-said I, 'was an old Man's life
Not worth the trouble of a thought ?-alas!
This notice comes too late. With joy I saw
Her husband enter-from a distant vale.
We sallied forth together; found the tools
Which the neglected veteran had dropped,
But through all quarters looked for him in vain.
We shouted—but no answer! Darkness fell
Without remission of the blast or shower,
And fears for our own safety drove us home.
I, who weep little, did, I will confess, The moment I was seated here alone, Honour my little cell with some few tears Which anger and resentment could not dry. All night the storm endured ; and, soon as help Had been collected from the neighbouring vale, With morning we renewed our quest : the wind Was fallen, the rain abated, but the hills Lay shrouded in impenetrable mist; And long and hopelessly we sought in vain : "Till, chancing on that lofty ridge to pass A heap of ruin-almost without walls And wholly without roof (the bleached remains Of a small chapel, where, in ancient time, The peasants of these lonely valleys used To meet for worship on that central height)— We there espied the object of our search, Lying full three parts buried among tufts Of heath-plant, under and above him strewn, To baffle, as he might, the watery storm : And there we found him breathing peaceably, Snug as a child that hides itself in sport 'Mid a green hay-cock in a sunny field. We spake-he made reply, but would not stir At our entreaty ; less from want of power Than apprehension and bewildering thoughts.
So was he lifted gently from the ground, And with their freight homeward the shepherds
Through the dull mist, I following-when a step,
A single step, that freed me from the skirts
Of the blind vapour, opened to my view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul !
The appearance, instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city-boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a boundless depth,
Far sinking into splendor—without end!
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright,
In avenues disposed ; there, towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
Bore stars-illumination of all gems!
By earthly nature had the effect been wrought
Upon the dark materials of the storm
Now pacified ; on them, and on the coves
And mountain-steeps and summits, whereunto
The vapours had receded, taking there
Their station under a cerulean sky.
Oh, 'twas an unimaginable sight!
Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald
Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
Molten together, and composing thus,
Each lost in each, that marvellous array
Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped.
Right in the midst, where interspace appeared