Page images

Thy long-extended realms, and rueful wastes ! Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,

Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
Athwart the gloom profound. The sickly
By glimmering through thy low-brow'd misty


(Furr'd round with mouldy damps and ropy slime)

Lets fall a supernumerary horror, And only serves to make thy night more irksome.


Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew, Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms: Where light-heel'd ghosts, and visionary shades,

Beneath the wan cold moon (as fame reports) Embodied, thick, perform their mystic rounds. No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.

See yonder hallow'd fane; the pious work Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot, And buried midst the wreck of things which

[blocks in formation]

Their branchless trunks; others so thin a-top, That scarce two crows could lodge in the same tree.

Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here:

50 Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs:

Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;

And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.

(Such tales their cheer, at wake or gossiping, When it draws near the witching time of night.)

Oft in the lone church-yard at night I've


By glimpse of moonshine chequering through the trees,

The school-boy, with his satchel in his hand, Whistling aloud to bear his courage up, And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones, (With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)


That tell in homely phrase who lie below. Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,

The sound of something purring at his heels; Full fast he flies, and dares not look behind him,

Till out of breath he overtakes his fellows;
Who gather round, and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition, tall and ghastly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his

O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell !)


[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

At first thin wavering; till at last the flakes Fall broad, and wide, and fast, dimming the day 231

With a continual flow. The cherished fields
Put on their winter-robe of purest white.
'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow

Along the mazy current. Low, the woods
Bow their hoar head; and, ere the languid sun
Faint from the west emits his evening ray,
Earth's universal face, deep-hid and chill,
Is one wild dazzling waste, that buries wide
The works of man. Drooping, the labourer-
Stands covered o'er with snow, and then de-



The fruit of all his toil. The fowls of heaven,
Tamed by the cruel season, crowd around
The winnowing store, and claim the little boon
Which Providence assigns them. One alone,
The redbreast, sacred to the household gods,
Wisely regardful of the embroiling sky,
In joyless fields and thorny thickets leaves
His shivering mates, and pays to trusted man
His annual visit. Half-afraid, he first
Against the window beats; then, brisk,

On the warm hearth; then, hopping o'er the floor,

Eyes all the smiling family askance, And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is

Till, more familiar grown, the table-crumbs Attract his slender feet. The foodless wilds Pour forth their brown inhabitants. The hare,

Though timorous of heart, and hard beset

By death in various forms, dark snares, and dogs,

And more unpitying men, the garden seeks, Urged on by fearless want. The bleating kind


Eye the black heaven, and next the glistening earth

With looks of dumb despair; then, sad dispersed,

Dig for the withered herb through heaps of




Or rushing thence, in one diffusive band, They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog Compelled, to where the mazy-running brook Forms a deep pool; this bank abrupt and high,

And that, fair-spreading in a pebbled shore. Urged to the giddy brink, much is the toil, The clamour much, of men, and boys, and dogs,

Ere the soft, fearful people to the flood Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain,

On some impatient seizing, hurls them in: 380
Emboldened then, nor hesitating more,
Fast, fast, they plunge amid the flashing wave,
And panting labour to the farther shore.
Repeated this, till deep the well-washed fleece
Has drunk the flood, and from his lively

[blocks in formation]

Shines o'er the rest, the pastoral queen, and


Her smiles, sweet-beaming, on her shepherdking;

While the glad circle round them yield their souls

To festive mirth, and wit that knows no gall.
Meantime, their joyous task goes on apace:
Some mingling stir the melted tar, and some,
Deep on the new-shorn vagrant's heaving side,
To stamp his master's cypher ready stand;
Others the unwilling wether drag along; 409
And, glorying in his might, the sturdy boy
Holds by the twisted horns the indignant ram.
Behold where bound, and of its robe bereft,
By needy man, that all-depending lord,
How meek, how patient, the mild creature

What softness in its melancholy face,
What dumb complaining innocence appears!
Fear not, ye gentle tribes, 'tis not the knife
Of horrid slaughter that is o'er you waved;
No, 'tis the tender swain's well-guided shears,
Who having now, to pay his annual care, 420
Borrowed your fleece, to you a cumbrous load,
Will send you bounding to your hills again.


At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
Scarce staining ether; but by fast degrees,
In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails
Along the loaded sky, and mingling deep, 150
Sits on the horizon round, a settled gloom:
Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,
Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind,
And full of every hope and every joy,
The wish of Nature. Gradual sinks the

Into a perfect calm; that not a breath
Is heard to quiver through the closing woods,
Or rustling turn the many twinkling leaves
Of aspen tall. The uncurling floods, diffused
In glassy breadth, seem through delusive

Forgetful of their course. 'Tis silence all, 161 And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye The fallen verdure. Hushed in short suspense The plumy people streak their wings with oil, To throw the lucid moisture trickling off; And wait the approaching sign to strike, at once,

[blocks in formation]


Defeating oft the labours of the year, The sultry south collects a potent blast. At first, the groves are scarcely seen to stir Their trembling tops, and a still murmur runs Along the soft-inclining fields of corn; But as the aërial tempest fuller swells, And in one mighty stream, invisible, Immense, the whole excited atmosphere Impetuous rushes o'er the sounding world, Strained to the root, the stooping forest pours A rustling shower of yet untimely leaves. 321 High-beat, the circling mountains eddy in, From the bare wild, the dissipated storm, And send it in a torrent down the vale. Exposed, and naked, to its utmost rage, Through all the sea of harvest rolling round, The billowy plain floats wide; nor can evade, Though pliant to the blast, its seizing force Or whirled in air, or into vacant chaff 329 Shook waste. And sometimes too a burst of rain,

Swept from the black horizon, broad, descends
In one continuous flood. Still over head
The mingling tempest weaves its gloom, and

The deluge deepens; till the fields around
Lie sunk, and flatted, in the sordid wave.
Sudden, the ditches swell; the meadows

Red, from the hills, innumerable streams
Tumultuous roar; and high above its banks
The river lift; before whose rushing tide,
Herds, flocks, and harvests, cottages, and


Roll mingled down: all that the winds had spared,

In one wild moment ruined; the big hones, And well-earned treasures of the pri

Fled to some eminence, the husbandman,
Helpless, beholds the miserable wreck
Driving along; his drowning ox at once
Descending, with his labours scattered round,
He sees; and instant o'er his shivering thought
Comes Winter unprovided, and a train
Of clamant children dear. Ye masters, then,
Be mindful of the rough laborious hand
That sinks you soft in elegance and ease;
Be mindful of those limbs, in russet1 clad,
Whose toil to yours is warmth and graceful

And, oh, be mindful of that sparing board
Which covers yours with luxury profuse,
Makes your glass sparkle, and your sense

Nor cruelly demand what the deep rains
And all-involving winds have swept away.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »