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Even with the organs of his bodily eye,
Below him in the bosom of the deep,
Saw mountains, -saw the forms of sheep that grazed
On verdant hills-with dwellings among trees,
And shepherds clad in the same country gay
Which he himself had worn.
And now at last From perils manifold, with some small wealth, Acquired by traffic in the Indian isles, To his parental home he is return'd, With a determined purpose to resume The life which he lived there : both for the sake Of many darling pleasures, and the love Which to an only brother he has borne In all his hardships, since that happy time When, whether it blew foul or fair, they two Were brother shepherds on their native hills. —They were the last of all their race: and now, When Leonard had approached his home, his heart Failed in him; and, not venturing to enquire Tidings of one whom he so dearly loved, Towards the churchyard he had turn'd aside, That as he knew in what particular spot His family were laid, he thence might learn If still his brother lived, or to the file Another grave was added. He had found Another grave,-near which a full half-hour He had remain'd : but as he gazed, there grew Such a confusion in his memory, That he began to doubt ; and he had hopes That he had seen this heap of turf before,
That it was not another grave; but one
He had forgotten. He had lost his path,
As up the vale, that afternoon, he walked
Through fields which once had been well known to him :
And oh what joy the recollection now
Sent to his heart ! he lifted up his eyes,
And looking round, imagined that he saw
Strange alteration wrought on every side
Among the woods and fields, and that the rocks,
. And the eternal hills themselves were changed.
By this the Priest, who down the field had come
Unseen by Leonard, at the churchyard gate
Stopped short,--and thence, at leisure, limb by limb,
Perused him with a gay complacency.
Ay, thought the Vicar, smiling to himself,
'Tis one of those who needs must leave the path
Of the world's business to go wild alone :
His arms have a perpetual holiday ;
The happy man will creep about the fields,
Following his fancies by the hour, to bring
Tears down his cheeks, or solitary smiles
Into his face, until the setting sun
Write fool upon his forehead. Planted thus
Beneath a shed that over-arched the gate
Of this rude churchyard, till the stars appeared,
The good man might have communed with himself,
But that the Stranger, who had left the grave,
Approached; he recognised the Priest at once,
And, after greetings interchanged, and given
By Leonard to the Vicar, as to one
Unknown to him, this dialogue ensued.
You live, sir, in these dales a quiet life :
make up one peaceful family ;
And who would grieve and fret, if, welcome come
And welcome gone, they are so like each other,
They cannot be remembered ? Scarce a funeral
Comes to this churchyard once in eighteen months ;
And yet some changes must take place among you :
And you who dwell here, even among these rocks
Can trace the finger of mortality,
And see, that with our threescore years and ten,
We are not all that perish.- -I remember,
For many years ago I pass'd this road,
There was a footway all along the felds
By the brook-side-'tis gone—and that dark cleft !
To me it does not seem to wear the face
Which then it had.
Nay, sir, for aught I know, That chasm is much the same
But, surely, yonder
PRIEST. Ay, there, indeed, your memory is a friend That does not play you false. --On that tall pike (It is the loneliest place of all these hills) There were two springs which bubbled side by side, As if they had been made that they might be Companions for each other : ten years back,
Close to those brother fountains, the huge crag
Was rent with lightning, -one hath disappeared.
The other, left behind, is flowing still. -
For accidents and changes such as these,
We want not store of them :a waterspout
Will bring down half a mountain ; what a feast
For folks that wander up and down like you
To see an acre's breadth of that wide cliff
One roaring cataract : a sharp May storm,
Will come with loads of January snow,
And in one night send twenty score of sheep
To feed the ravens ; or a shepherd dies
By some untoward death among the rocks :
The ice breaks up and sweeps away a bridge-
A wood is felled :-and then for our own homes !
A child is born or christened, a field ploughed,
A daughter sent to service, a web spun,
The old house clock is decked with a new face;
And hence, so far from wanting facts or dates
To chronicle the time, we all have here
A pair of diaries,-one, serving, sir,
For the whole dale, and one for each fireside-
Yours was a stranger's judgment : for historians,
Commend me to these valleys !
Yet your churchyard
Seems, if such freedom may be used with you,
that you are heedless of the past;
An orphan could not find his mother's grave :
Here's neither head nor foot stone, plate of brass,
Cross-bones or skull, -type of our earthly state
Nor emblem of our hopes : the dead man's home
Is but a fellow to that pasture field.
PRIEST. Why, there, sir, is a thought that's new to me! The stone-cutters, 'tis true, might beg their bread If every English churchyard were like ours ; Yet your conclusion wanders from the truth : We have no need of names and epitaphs; We talk about the dead by our firesides. And then, for our immortal part; we want No symbols, sir, to tell us that plain tale : The thought of death sits easy on the man Who has been born and dies among the mountains.
LEONARD. Your dalesmen, then, do in each other's thoughts Possess a kind of second life : no doubt You, sir, could help me to the history Of half these graves ?
For eight-score winters past, With what I've witnessed, and with what I've heard, Perhaps I might; and on a winter's evening, If you were seated at my chimney's nook, By turning o'er these hillocks one by one, We two could travel, sir, through a strange round; Yet all in the broad highway of the world. Now there's a grave-your foot is half upon it, It looks just like the rest ; and yet that man Died broken-hearted.