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TO SIR GEORGE HOWLAND BEAUMONT, BART. FROM THE SOUTH-WEST COAST OF CUMBERLAND.-1811.
FAR from our home by Grasmere's quiet Lake,
From the Vale's peace which all her fields partake,
Here on the bleakest point of Cumbria's shore
We sojourn stunned by Ocean's ceaseless roar;
While, day by day, grim neighbour! huge Black
Frowns deepening visibly his native gloom,
Unless, perchance rejecting in despite
What on the Plain we have of warmth and light,
In his own storms he hides himself from sight.
Rough is the time; and thoughts, that would be free
From heaviness, oft fly, dear Friend, to thee;
Turn from a spot where neither sheltered road
Nor hedge-row screen invites my steps abroad;
Where one poor Plane-tree, having as it might
Attained a stature twice a tall man's height,
Hopeless of further growth, and brown and sere
Through half the summer, stands with top cut sheer,
Like an unshifting weathercock which proves
How cold the quarter that the wind best loves,
Or like a Centinel that, evermore
Darkening the window, ill defends the door
Of this unfinished house-a Fortress bare,
Where strength has been the Builder's only care;
Whose rugged walls may still for years demand
The final polish of the Plasterer's hand.
-This Dwelling's Inmate more than three weeks'
And oft a Prisoner in the cheerless place,
I-of whose touch the fiddle would complain,
Whose breath would labour at the flute in vain,
In music all unversed, nor blessed with skill
A bridge to copy, or to paint a mill,
Tired of my books, a scanty company!
And tired of listening to the boisterous sea-
Pace between door and window muttering rhyme,
An old resource to cheat a froward time!
Though these dull hours (mine is it, or their shame?)
Would tempt me to renounce that humble aim.
-But if there be a Muse who, free to take
Her seat upon Olympus, doth forsake
Those heights (like Phoebus when his golden locks
He veiled, attendant on Thessalian flocks)
And, in disguise, a Milkmaid with her pail
Trips down the pathways of some winding dale;
Or, like a Mermaid, warbles on the shores
To fishers mending nets beside their doors;
Or, Pilgrim-like, on forest moss reclined,
Gives plaintive ditties to the heedless wind,
Or listens to its play among the boughs
Above her head and so forgets her vows-
If such a Visitant of Earth there be
And she would deign this day to smile on me
And aid my verse, content with local bounds
Of natural beauty and life's daily rounds,
Thoughts, chances, sights, or doings, which we tell
Without reserve to those whom we love well—
Then haply, Beaumont! words in current clear
Will flow, and on a welcome page appear
Duly before thy sight, unless they perish here.
What shall I treat of? News from Mona's Isle ? Such have we, but unvaried in its style; No tales of Runagates fresh landed, whence And wherefore fugitive or on what pretence; Of feasts, or scandal, eddying like the wind Most restlessly alive when most confined. Ask not of me, whose tongue can best appease The mighty tumults of the HOUSE of Keys; The last year's cup whose Ram or Heifer gained, What slopes are planted, or what mosses drained: An eye of fancy only can I cast
On that proud pageant now at hand or past,
When full five hundred boats in trim array,
With nets and sails outspread and streamers gay,
And chanted hymns and stiller voice of prayer,
For the old Manx-harvest to the Deep repair,
Soon as the herring-shoals at distance shine
Like beds of moonlight shifting on the brine.
Mona from our Abode is daily seen, But with a wilderness of waves between ; And by conjecture only can we speak Of aught transacted there in bay or creek; No tidings reach us thence from town or field, Only faint news her mountain sunbeams yield, And some we gather from the misty air,
And some the hovering clouds, our telegraph, And in that griesly object recognise
But these poetic mysteries I withhold;
For Fancy hath her fits both hot and cold,
And should the colder fit with You be on
When You might read, my credit would be gone.
Let more substantial themes the pen engage, And nearer interests culled from the opening stage Of our migration.-Ere the welcome dawn Had from the east her silver star withdrawn, The Wain stood ready, at our Cottage-door, Thoughtfully freighted with a various store; And long or ere the uprising of the Sun O'er dew-damped dust our journey was begun, A needful journey, under favouring skies, Through peopled Vales; yet something in the guise Of those old Patriarchs when from well to well They roamed through Wastes where now the tented Arabs dwell.
Say first, to whom did we the charge confide, Who promptly undertook the Wain to guide Up many a sharply-twining road and down, And over many a wide hill's craggy crown, Through the quick turns of many a hollow nook, And the rough bed of many an unbridged brook? A blooming Lass-who in her better hand Bore a light switch, her sceptre of command When, yet a slender Girl, she often led, Skilful and bold, the horse and burthened sled * From the peat-yielding Moss on Gowdar's head. What could go wrong with such a Charioteer For goods and chattels, or those Infants dear, A Pair who smilingly sate side by side, Our hope confirming that the salt-sea tide, Whose free embraces we were bound to seek, Would their lost strength restore and freshen the
Such hope did either Parent entertain Pacing behind along the silent lane.
The Curate's Dog-his long-tried friend, for they,
As well we knew, together had grown grey.
The Master died, his drooping servant's grief
Found at the Widow's feet some sad relief;
Yet still he lived in pining discontent,
Sadness which no indulgence could prevent;
Hence whole day wanderings, broken nightly sleeps
And lonesome watch that out of doors he keeps ;
Not oftentimes, I trust, as we, poor brute!
Espied him on his legs sustained, blank, mute,
And of all visible motion destitute,
So that the very heaving of his breath
Seemed stopt, though by some other power than
Long as we gazed upon the form and face,
A mild domestic pity kept its place,
Unscared by thronging fancies of strange hue
That haunted us in spite of what we knew.
Even now I sometimes think of him as lost
In second-sight appearances, or crost
By spectral shapes of guilt, or to the ground,
On which he stood, by spells unnatural bound,
Like a gaunt shaggy Porter forced to wait
In days of old romance at Archimago's gate.
Advancing Summer, Nature's law fulfilled, The choristers in every grove had stilled; But we, we lacked not music of our own, For lightsome Fanny had thus early thrown, Mid the gay prattle of those infant tongues, Some notes prelusive, from the round of songs With which, more zealous than the liveliest bird That in wild Arden's brakes was ever heard, Her work and her work's partners she can cheer, The whole day long, and all days of the year.
Thus gladdened from our own dear Vale we pass And soon approach Diana's Looking-glass! To Loughrigg-tarn, round clear and bright as heaven,
Such name Italian fancy would have given,
Blithe hopes and happy musings soon took flight, Ere on its banks the few grey cabins rose
For lo! an uncouth melancholy sight-
On a green bank a creature stood forlorn
Just half protruded to the light of morn,
Its hinder part concealed by hedge-row thorn.
The Figure called to mind a beast of prey
Stript of its frightful powers by slow decay,
And, though no longer upon rapine bent,
Dim memory keeping of its old intent.
We started, looked again with anxious eyes,
* A local word for Sledge.
That yet disturb not its concealed repose More than the feeblest wind that idly blows.
Ah, Beaumont! when an opening in the road Stopped me at once by charm of what it showed, The encircling region vividly exprest Within the mirror's depth, a world at restSky streaked with purple, grove and craggy bield*, And the smooth green of many a pendent field,
* A word common in the country, signifying shelter, as in Scotland.
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And vocal wishes ment of like good will
To our kind Vriend high on the wunny hill –
Taminoms regum, fair na if the prime
Work tempting all natir to look aloft or elimb;
Only the centre of the shining cot
With door left open makes a gloomy spot,
Kamble of those dark corners sometimes found
Within the happiest breast on earthly ground.
Stich prospect left behind of stream and vale, And mountain tops, a barren ridge we scale; Derend and reach, in Yewdale's depths, a plain With haycocks studded, striped with yellowing
An area level as a Lake and sprend
Let me not ask what tears may have been wept By those bright eyes, what weary vigils kept, Beside that hearth what sighs may have been heaved
For wounds inflicted, nor what toil relieved
By fortitude and patience, and the grace
Of heaven in pity visiting the place.
Not unadvisedly those secret springs
I leave unsearched: enough that memory elings,
Here as elsewhere, to notices that make
Their own significance for hearts awake,
To rural incidents, whose genial powers
Filled with delight three summer morning hours.
More could my pen report of grave or gay That through our gipsy travel cheered the way; But, bursting forth above the waves, the Sun Laughs at my pains, and seems to say, "Be done." Yet, Beaumont, thou wilt not, I trust, reprove This humble offering made by Truth to Love,
Nor chide the Muse that stooped to break a spell Which might have else been on me yet:
UPON PERUSING THE FOREGOING EPISTLE THIRTY YEARS AFTER ITS COMPOSITION.
Soon did the Almighty Giver of all rest
Take those dear young Ones to a fearless nest;
And in Death's arms has long reposed the Friend
For whom this simple Register was penned.
Thanks to the moth that spared it for our eyes;
And Strangers even the slighted Scroll may prize,
Moved by the touch of kindred sympathies.
For save the calm, repentance sheds o'er strife
Raised by remembrances of misused life,
The light from past endeavours purely willed
And by Heaven's favour happily fulfilled;
Save hope that we, yet bound to Earth, may share
The joys of the Departed-what so fair
As blameless pleasure, not without some tears,
Reviewed through Love's transparent veil of years?
Note.-LOUGHRIGG TARN, alluded to in the foregoing Epistle, resembles, though much smaller in compass, the Lake Nemi, or Speculum Dianæ as it is often called, not only in its clear waters and circular form, and the beauty immediately surrounding it, but also as being overlooked by the eminence of Langdale Pikes as Lake Nemi is by that of Monte Calvo. Since this Epistle was written Loughrigg Tarn has lost much of its beauty by the felling of many natural clumps of wood, relics of the old forest, particularly upon the farm called "The Oaks," from the abundance of that tree which grew there.
It is to be regretted, upon public grounds, that Sir George Beaumont did not carry into effect his intention of constructing here a Summer Retreat in the style I have described; as his taste would have set an example how buildings, with all the accommodations modern society requires, might be introduced even into the most secluded parts of this country without injuring their native character.
The design was not abandoned from failure of inclination on his part, but in consequence of local untowardnesses which need not be particularised.
GOLD AND SILVER FISHES IN A VASE,
THE soaring lark is blest as proud
When at heaven's gate she sings;
The roving bee proclaims aloud
Her flight by vocal wings;
While Ye, in lasting durance pent,
Your silent lives employ
For something more than dull content,
Though haply less than joy.
YE brood of conscience-Spectres! that frequent
The bad Man's restless walk, and haunt his bed-
Fiends in your aspect, yet beneficent
In act, as hovering Angels when they spread
Their wings to guard the unconscious Innocent—
Slow be the Statutes of the land to share
A laxity that could not but impair
Your power to punish crime, and so prevent.
And ye, Beliefs! coiled serpent-like about
The adage on all tongues, "Murder will out,"
How shall your ancient warnings work for good
In the full might they hitherto have shown,
If for deliberate shedder of man's blood
Survive not Judgment that requires his own?
THOUGH to give timely warning and deter
Is one great aim of penalty, extend
Thy mental vision further and ascend
Far higher, else full surely shalt thou err.
What is a State? The wise behold in her
A creature born of time, that keeps one eye
Fixed on the statutes of Eternity,
To which her judgments reverently defer.
Speaking through Law's dispassionate voice the
Endues her conscience with external life
And being, to preclude or quell the strife
Of individual will, to elevate
The grovelling mind, the erring to recal,
And fortify the moral sense of all.
BEFORE the world had past her time of youth
While polity and discipline were weak,
The precept eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,
Came forth-a light, though but as of day-break,
Strong as could then be borne. A Master meek
Proscribed the spirit fostered by that rule,
Patience his law, long-suffering his school,
OUR bodily life, some plead, that life the shrine
Of an immortal spirit, is a gift
So sacred, so informed with light divine,
That no tribunal, though most wise to sift
Deed and intent, should turn the Being adrift
Into that world where penitential tear
And love the end, which all through peace must May not avail, nor prayer have for God's ear seek.
But lamentably do they err who strain
His mandates, given rash impulse to controul
And keep vindictive thirstings from the soul,
So far that, if consistent in their scheme,
They must forbid the State to inflict a pain,
Making of social order a mere dream.
A voice-that world whose veil no hand can lift
For earthly sight. "Eternity and Time"
They urge," have interwoven claims and rights
Not to be jeopardised through foulest crime:
The sentence rule by mercy's heaven-born lights."
Even so; but measuring not by finite sense
Infinite Power, perfect Intelligence.
FIT retribution, by the moral code
Determined, lies beyond the State's embrace,
Yet, as she may, for each peculiar case
She plants well-measured terrors in the road
Of wrongful acts. Downward it is and broad,
And, the main fear once doomed to banishment,
Far oftener then, bad ushering worse event,
Blood would be spilt that in his dark abode
Crime might lie better hid. And, should the
Take from the horror due to a foul deed,
Pursuit and evidence so far must fail,
And, guilt escaping, passion then might plead
In angry spirits for her old free range,
And the "wild justice of revenge" prevail.
AH, think how one compelled for life to abide
Locked in a dungeon needs must eat the heart
Out of his own humanity, and part
With every hope that mutual cares provide;
And, should a less unnatural doom confide
In life-long exile on a savage coast,
Soon the relapsing penitent may boast
Of yet more heinous guilt, with fiercer pride.
Hence thoughtful Mercy, Mercy sage and pure,
Sanctions the forfeiture that Law demands,
Leaving the final issue in His hands
Whose goodness knows no change, whose love is
Who sees, foresees; who cannot judge amiss, And wafts at will the contrite soul to bliss.