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Ashestiel, Ettricke Forest.
LIKE April morning clouds, that pass,
With varying shadow, o'er the grass,
And imitate, on field and furrow,
Life's chequered scene of joy and sorrow;
Like streamlet of the mountain north,
Now in a torrent racing forth,
Now winding slow its silver train,
And almost slumbering on the plain;
Like breezes of the autumn day,
Whose voice inconstant dies away,
And ever swells again as fast,
When the ear deems its murmur past;
Thus various my romantic theme
Flits, winds, or sinks, a morning dream.
Yet pleased, our eye pursues the trace
Of light and shade's inconstant race;
Pleased, views the rivulet afar,
Weaving its maze irregular ;
And pleased, we listen as the breeze
Heaves its wild sigh through autumn trees;
Then wild as cloud, or stream, or gale,
Flow on, flow unconfined, my tale.
Need I to thee, dear Erskine, tell,
I love the license all too well,
In sound now lowly, and now strong,
To raise the desultory song.
Oft, when mid such capricious chime,
Some transient fit of loftier rhyme,
To thy kind judgment seemed excuse
For many an error of the muse;
Oft hast thou said, "If still misspent,
Thine hours to poetry are lent;
Go, and to tame thy wandering course,
Quaff from the fountain at the source;
Approach those masters, o'er whose tomb,
Immortal laurels ever bloom:
Instructive of the feebler bard,
Still from the grave their voice is heard; From them, and from the paths they showed, Choose honoured guide and practised road; Nor ramble on through break and maze, With harpers rude of barbarous days.
"Or deem'st thou not our later time, Yields topic meet for classic rhyme? Hast thou no elegiac verse
For Brunswick's venerable hearse,
What! not a line, a tear, a sigh,
When valour bleeds for liberty?
Oh, hero of that glorious time,
When with unrivalled light sublime,—
Though martial Austria, and though all
The might of Russia, and the Gaul,
Though banded Europe stood her foes-
The Star of Brandenburgh arose !
Thou couldst not live to see her beam
For ever quenched in Jena's stream.
Lamented chief!—it was not given,
To thee to change the doom of heaven,
And crush that dragon in its birth,
Predestined scourge of guilty earth.
Lamented chief!-not thine the power,
To save in that presumptuous hour,
When Prussia hurried to the field,
And snatched the spear, but left the shield;
Valour and skill 'twas thine to try,
And, tried in vain, 'twas thine to die.
Ill had it seemed thy silver hair
The last, the bitterest pang to share,
For princedoms reft, and scutcheons riven,
And birthrights to usurpers given;
Thy land's, thy children's wrongs to feel,
And witness woes thou could'st not heal;
On thee relenting heaven bestows
For honoured life an honoured close;
And when revolves, in time's sure change,
The hour of Germany's revenge,
When, breathing fury for her sake,
Some new Arminius shall awake,
Her champion, ere he strike, shall come
To whet his sword on Brunswick's tomb.
"Or of the Red Cross hero teach,
Dauntless in dungeon as on breach:
Alike to him the sea, the shore,
The brand, the bridle, or the oar;
Alike to him the war that calls
Its votaries to the shattered walls,
Which the grim Turk besmeared with blood,
Against the Invincible made good;
Or that whose thundering voice could wake
The silence of the polar lake,
When stubborn Russ, and metal'd Swede,
On the warped wave their death-game played,
Or that where vengeance and affright
Howled round the father of the fight,
Who snatched on Alexandria's sand
The conqueror's wreath with dying hand.
"Or if to touch such chord be thine,
Restore the ancient tragic line,
And emulate the notes that rung
From the wild harp which silent hung,
By silver Avon's holy shore,
Till twice an hundred years rolled o'er;
When she, the bold Enchantress, came,
With fearless hand and heart on flame,
From the pale willow snatched the treasure,
And swept it with a kindred measure,
Till Avon's swans, while rung the grove
With Monfort's hate and Basil's love,
Awakening at the inspired strain,
Deemed their own Shakspeare lived again."