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He is a slave to whom release comes not,
And cannot come. The boy, where'er he turns,
Is still a prisoner; when the wind is up
Among the clouds, and roars through the ancient woods;
Or when the sun is shining in the east,
Quiet and calm. Behold him-in the school
Of his attainments ? no; but with the air
Fanning his temples under heaven's blue arch.
His raiment, whitened o'er with cotton-flakes
Or locks of wool, announces whence he comes.
Creeping his gait and cowering, his lip pale,
His respiration quick and audible;
And scarcely could you fancy that a gleam
Could break from out those languid eyes, or a blush
his cheek. Is this the form,
Is that the countenance, and such the port,
Of no mean Being ? One who should be clothed
With dignity befitting his proud hope ;
Who, in his very childhood, should appear
Sublime from present purity and joy!
The limbs increase ; but liberty of mind
Is gone for ever; and this organic frame,
So joyful in its motions, is become
Dull, to the joy of her own motions dead;
And even the touch, so exquisitely poured
Through the whole body, with a languid will
Performs its functions ; rarely competent
To impress a vivid feeling on the mind
Of what there is delightful in the breeze,
The gentle visitations of the sun,
Or lapse of liquid element–by hand,
Or foot, or lip, in summer's warmth-perceived.
– Can hope look forward to a manhood raised On such foundations ?"
“Hope is none for him !" The pale Recluse indignantly exclaimed, “And tens of thousands suffer wrong as deep. Yet be it asked, in justice to our age, If there were not, before those arts appeared, These structures rose, commingling old and young, And unripe sex with sex, for mutual taint; If there were not, then, in our far-famed Isle, Multitudes, who from infancy had breathed Air unimprisoned, and had lived at large; Yet walked beneath the sun, in human shape, As abject, as degraded ? At this day, Who shall enumerate the crazy
huts And tottering hovels, whence do issue forth A ragged Offspring, with their upright hair Crowned like the image of fantastic Fear; Or wearing, (shall we say ?) in that white growth An ill-adjusted turban, for defence Or fierceness, wreathed around their sun-burnt brows, By savage Nature ? Shrivelled are their lips ; Naked, and coloured like the soil, the feet On which they stand; as if thereby they drew Some nourishment, as trees do by their roots, From earth, the common mother of us all. Figure and mien, complexion and attire, Are leagued to strike dismay; but outstretched hand And whining voice denote them supplicants For the least boon that pity can bestow. Such on the breast of darksome heaths are found; And with their parents occupy the skirts Of furze-clad commons; such are born and reared
At the mine's mouth under impending rocks;
Or dwell in chambers of some natural cave;
Or where their ancestors erected huts,
For the convenience of unlawful gain,
In forest purlieus; and the like are bred,
All England through, where nooks and slips of ground
Purloined, in times less jealous than our own,
From the green margin of the public way,
A residence afford them, ʼmid the bloom
And gaiety of cultivated fields.
Such (we will hope the lowest in the scale)
Do I remember oft-times to have seen
'Mid Buxton's dreary heights. In earnest watch,
Till the swift vehicle approach, they stand;
Then, following closely with the cloud of dust,
An uncouth feat exhibit, and are gone
Heels over head, like tumblers on a stage.
-Up from the ground they snatch the copper coin,
And, on the freight of merry passengers
Fixing a steady eye, maintain their speed;
And spin—and pant—and overhead again;
Wild pursuivants ! until their breath is lost,
Or bounty tires—and every face, that smiled
Encouragement, hath ceased to look that way,
-But, like the vagrants of the gipsy tribe,
These, bred to little pleasure in themselves,
Are profitless to others.
Turn we then
To Britons born and bred within the pale
Of civil polity, and early trained
To earn, by wholesome labour in the field,
The bread they eat. A sample should I give
Of what this stock hath long produced to enrich
The tender age of life, ye would exclaim,
Is this the whistling plough-boy whose shrill notes
Impart new gladness to the morning air !'
Forgive me if I venture to suspect
That many, sweet to hear of in soft verse,
Are of no finer frame. Stiff are his joints ;
Beneath a cumbrous frock, that to the knees
Invests the thriving churl, his legs appear,
Fellows to those that lustily upheld
The wooden stools for everlasting use,
Whereon our fathers sate. And mark his brow
Under whose shaggy canopy are set
Two eyes--not dim, but of a healthy stare-
Wide, sluggish, blank, and ignorant, and strange-
Proclaiming boldly that they never drew
A look or motion of intelligence
From infant-conning of the Christ-cross-row,
Or puzzling through a primer, line by line,
Till perfect mastery crown the pains at last.
-What kindly warmth from touch of fostering hand,
What penetrating power of sun or breeze,
Shall e'er dissolve the crust wherein his soul
Sleeps, like a caterpillar sheathed in ice ?
This torpor is no pitiable work
Of modern ingenuity; no town
Nor crowded city can be taxed with aught
Of sottish vice or desperate breach of law,
To which (and who can tell where or how soon ?)
He may be roused. This Boy the fields produce :
His spade and hoe, mattock and glittering scythe,
The carter's whip that on his shoulder rests
In air high-towering with a boorish pomp,
The sceptre of his sway ; his country's name,
Her equal rights, her churches and her schools-
What have they done for him ? And, let me ask,
For tens of thousands uninformed as he ?
In brief, what liberty of mind is here ?"
This ardent sally pleased the mild good Man,
To whom the appeal couched in its closing words
Was pointedly addressed ; and to the thoughts
That, in assent or opposition, rose
Within his mind, he seemed prepared to give
Prompt utterance; but the Vicar interposed
With invitation urgently renewed.
-We followed, taking as he led, a path
Along a hedge of hollies dark and tall,
Whose flexile boughs low bending with a weight
Of leafy spray, concealed the stems and roots
gave them nourishment. When frosty winds Howl from the north, what kindly warmth, methought, Is here-how grateful this impervious screen!
-Not shaped by simple wearing of the foot On rural business passing to and fro Was the commodious walk : a careful hand Had marked the line, and strewn its surface o'er With pure cerulean gravel, from the heights Fetched by a neighbouring brook.- Across the vale The stately fence accompanied our steps ; And thus the pathway, by perennial green Guarded and graced, seemed fashioned to unite, As by a beautiful yet solemn chain, The Pastor's mansion with the house of prayer.
Like image of solemnity, conjoined With feminine allurement soft and fair,