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WRITTEN IN LONDON, SEPTEMBER, 1802.
O FRIEND! I know not which way I must look For comfort, being, as I am, opprest
To think that now our life is only drest
For show; mean handywork of craftsman, cook,
Or groom!-We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest :
The wealthiest man among us is the best :
No grandeur now, in nature or in book,
Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore :
Plain living and high thinking are no more:
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.
MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour;
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men :
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart :
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free;
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay.
AMID the smoke of cities did you pass
The time of early youth; and there you learned,
From years of quiet industry, to love
The living beings by your own fireside
With such a strong devotion, that your heart
Is slow towards the sympathies of them
Who look upon the hills with tenderness,
And make dear friendships with the streams and groves.
Yet we, who are transgressors in this kind,
Dwelling, retired in our simplicity,
Among the woods and fields, we love you well,
Joanna! and I guess, since you have been
So distant from us now for two long years,
That you will gladly listen to discourse,
However trivial, if you thence are taught
That they, with whom you once was happy, talk
Familiarly of you and of old times.
While I was seated, now some ten days past,
Beneath those lofty firs, that overtop
Their ancient neighbour, the old steeple tower,
The vicar from his gloomy house hard by
Came forth to greet me; and when he had asked,
"How fares Joanna, that wild-hearted maid!
And when will she return to us ?" he paused:
And, after short exchange of village news,
He with grave looks demanded, for what cause
Reviving obsolete idolatry,
I, like a Runic priest, in characters
Of formidable size had chiselled out
Some uncouth name upon the native rock,
Above the Rotha, by the forest side.
-Now, by those dear immunities of heart
Engendered betwixt malice and true love,
I was not loth to be so catechised,
And this was my reply :- -"As it befell,
One summer morning we had walked abroad
At break of day, Joanna and myself.
-'Twas that delightful season, when the broom,
Full-flowered, and visible on every steep,
Along the copses runs in veins of gold.
Our pathway led us on to Rotha's banks;
And when we came in front of that tall rock
Which looks towards the east, I there stopped short,
And traced the lofty barrier with my eye
From base to summit; such delight I found
To note in shrub and tree, in stone and flower,
That intermixture of delicious hues,
Along so vast a surface, all at once,
In one impression, by connecting force
Of their own beauty, imaged in the heart.
-When I had gazed perhaps two minutes' space,
Joanna, looking in my eyes, beheld
That ravishment of mine, and laughed aloud.
The rock, like something startling from a sleep,
Took up the lady's voice, and laughed again :
That ancient woman seated on Helm Crag
Was ready with her cavern: Hammar Scar,
And the tall steep of Silver How, sent forth
A noise of laughter; southern Loughrigg heard
And Fairfield answered with a mountain tone :
Helvellyn far into the clear-blue sky
Carried the lady's voice :—old Skiddaw blew
His speaking trumpet ;-back out of the clouds
Of Glaramara southward came the voice;
And Kirkstone tossed it from his misty head.
-Now whether, said I to our cordial friend,
Who in the heyday of astonishment
Smiled in my face, this were in simple truth
A work accomplished by the brotherhood
Of ancient mountains, or my ear was touched
With dreams and visionary impulses,
Is not for me to tell; but sure I am
That there was a loud uproar in the hills :
And, while we both were listening, to my side
The fair Joanna drew, as if she wished
To shelter from some object of her fear.
-And hence, long afterwards, when eighteen moons
Were wasted, as I chanced to walk alone
Beneath this rock, at sunrise, on a calm
And silent morning, I sat down, and there,
In memory of affections old and true,
I chiselled out in those rude characters
Joanna's name upon the living stone.
And I, and all who dwell by my fire-side,
Have called the lovely rock, 'Joanna's rock.'"