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THE DESERTED COTTAGE.
FROM THE FIRST BOOK OF
'Twas summer, and the sun had mounted high: Southward the landscape indistinctly glared Through a pale steam; but all the northern
downs, In clearest air ascending, showed far off A surface dappled o'er with shadows flung From brooding clouds ; shadows that lay in
spots Determined and unmoved, with steady beams Of bright and pleasant sunshine interposed ; Pleasant to him who on the soft cool moss Extends his careless limbs along the front Of some huge cave, whose rocky ceiling casts
A twilight of its own, an ample shade,
Upon that open level stood a grove, The wished-for port to which my course was
bound. Thither I came, and there amid the gloom Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms, Appeared a roofless Hut; four naked walls That stared upon each other !-I looked round, And to my wish and to my hope espied Him whom I sought; a Man of reverend age, But stóut and hale, for travel unimpaired. There was he seen upon the cottage bench, Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep; An iron-pointed staff lay at his side.
Him had I marked the day before alone And stationed in the public way, with face
Túrned toward the sun then setting, while that
staff Afforded to the figure of the man Detained for contemplation or repose, Graceful support; his countenance meanwhile Was hidden from my view, and he remained Unrecognised; but, stricken by the sight, With slackened footsteps I advanced, and soon A glad congratulation we exchanged At such unthought-of meeting. -For the night We parted, nothing willingly; and now He by appointment waited for me here, Beneath the shelter of these clustering elms.
Plain his garb; Such as might suit a rustic Sire, prepared For sabbath duties; yet he was a man Whom no
one could have passed without remark. Active and nervous was his gait; his limbs And his whole figure breathed intelligence. Time had compressed the freshness of his cheek Into a narrower circle of deep red, But had not tamed his eye; that, under brows Shaggy and grey, had meanings which it brought From years of youth; which, like a Being made Of many Beings, he had wondrous skill To blend with knowledge of the years to come, Human, or such as lie beyond the grave.
So was He framed; and such his course of life
seems, Have somewhere found relief." He, at the
word, Pointing towards a sweet-brier, bade me climb The fence where that aspiring shrub looked out Upon the public way. It was a plot Of garden ground run wild, its matted weeds Marked with the steps of those, whom, as they
passed, The gooseberry trees that shot in long lank
slips, Or currants, hanging from theft leafless stems In scanty strings, had tempted to o'erleap
The broken wall. I looked around, and there,
stood, And eyed its waters till we seemed to feel One sadness, they and I. For them a bond