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And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Beside the little pond or moorish food,
Motionless as a cloud the old man stood ;
That heareth not the loud winds when they call,
And moveth altogether, if it move at all.
At length himself unsettling, he the pond
Stirred with his staff, and fixedly did look
Upon the muddy water, which he conned,
As if he had been reading in a book :
And now such freedom as I could I took,
And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
“This morning gives us promise of a glorious day.”
A gentle answer did the old man make,
In courteous speech, which forth he slowly drew :
And him with further words I thus bespake :
“ What kind of work is that which you pursue ?
This is a lonesome place for one like you."
He answered while a flash of mild surprise
Broke from the sable orbs of his yet vivid eyes.
His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,
Yet each in solemn order followed each.
With something of a lofty utterance dressed :
Choice word, and measured phrase ; above the reach
Of ordinary men; a stately speech;
Such as grave livers do in Scotland use,-
Religious men who give to God and man their dues.
He told that to these waters he had come
To gather leeches, being old and poor.
Employment hazardous and wearisome !
And he had many hardships to endure ;
From pond to pond he roamed, from moor to moor,
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance ; And in this way he gained an honest maintenance.
The old man still stood talking by my side ;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard, nor word from word could I divide ;
And the whole body of the man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream ;
Or like a man from some far region sent
To give me human strength by apt admonishment.
My former thoughts returned : the fear that kills,
And hope that is unwilling to be fed ;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty poets in their misery dead.
Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,
My question eagerly did I renew,
How is it that you live, and what is it you do ?”
He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said, that, gathering leeches, far and wide
He travelled ; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the pools where they abide.
“Once I could meet with them on every side ;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay,
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."
While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The old man's shape and speech, all troubled me;
In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renew'd.
And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
But stately in the main ; and when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit man so firm a mind.
“God,” said I, “ be my help and stay secure ; I'll think of the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor.”
The Knight had ridden down from Wensley Moor
With the slow motion of a summer's cloud ;
He turned aside towards a vassal's door,
And “Bring another horse !” he cried aloud.
“Another horse !”-that shout the vassal heard,
And saddled his best steed, a comely gray ;
Sir Walter mounted him ; he was the third
Which he had mounted on that glorious day.
Joy sparkled in the prancing courser's eyes ;
The horse and horseman are a happy pair ;
But though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,
There is a doleful silence in the air.
A rout this morning left Sir Walter's hall,
That, as they galloped, made the echoes roar;
But horse and man are vanished, one and all ;
Such race, I think, was never seen before.
Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,
Calls to the few tired dogs that yet remain :
Blanch, Swift, and Music, noblest of their kind,
Follow, and up the weary mountain strain.
The Knight hallooed, he chid and cheered them on With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern ;
But breath and eyesight fail ; and, one by one
The dogs are stretched among the mountain fern.
Where is the throng, the tumult of the race ?
The bugles that so joyfully were blown ?-
This chase it looks not like an earthly chase ;
Sir Walter and the Hart are left alone.
The poor Hart toils along the mountain side ;
I will not stop to tell how far he fled,
Nor will I mention by what death he died ;
But now the Knight beholds him lying dead.
Dismounting then, he leaned against a thorn;
He had no follower, dog, nor man, nor boy,
He neither smack'd his whip, nor blew his horn,
But gazed upon the spoil with silent joy.
Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter leaned,
Stood his dumb partner in this glorious feat ;
Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yeaned ;
And white with foam as if with cleaving sleet.
Upon his side the Hart was lying stretched :
His nostril touched a spring beneath the hill,
And with the last deep groan his breath had fetched,
The waters of the spring were trembling still.
And now, too happy for repose or rest,
(Never had living man such joysul lot !)
Sir Walter walked all round, north, south, and west,
And gazed and gazed upon that darling spot.