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Miss Aikin is a niece of the late Mrs. Barbauld. She is known as the historian of the British queen, Elizabeth, and her successor, James I. ; but she has not confined her attention to such high themes, she has composed books for the young, and her little work, Poetry for Children, is among the best initiatory collections. The three subsequent pieces are extracted from it.
Around the fire one wintry night
The farmer's rosy children sat;
The faggot lent its blazing light,
And jokes went round and careless chat.
When, hark ! a gentle hand they hear
Low tapping at the bolted door,
And thus, to gain their willing ear,
A feeble voice was heard to implore.
“ Cold blows the blast across the moor,
The fleet drives hissing in the wind;
Yon toilsome mountain lies before,
A dreary treeless waste behind.
My eyes are weak, and dim with age,
No road, no path, can I descry,
And these poor rags ill stand the rage
Of such a keen inclement sky.
So faint I am—these tottering feet
No more my palsied frame can bear ;
My freezing heart forgets to beat,
And drifting snows my tomb prepare.
Open your hospitable door,
And shield me from the biting blast :
Cold, cold it blows across the moor,
The weary moor that I have passed !"
With hasty step the fariner ran,
And close beside the fire they place
half frozen wand'ring man,
With shaking limbs and blue-pale face.
The little children flocking came
And chafed his frozen hands in theirs,
And busily the good old dame
A comfortable mess prepares.
Their kindness cheered his drooping soul,
And slowly down his wrinkled cheek
The big round tears were seen to roll,
And told the thanks he could not speak.
The children too began to sigh,
And all their merry chat was o'er ;
And yet they felt, they knew not why,
More glad than they had done before.
Where sacred Ganges pours along the plain,
And Indus rolls to swell the eastern main,
What awful scenes the curious mind delight,
What wonders burst upon the dazzled sight!
There giant palms lift high their tufted heads,
The plantain wide his graceful foliage spreads;
Wild in the woods the active monkey springs,
The chattering parrot claps his painted wings;
'Mid tall bamboos lies hid the deadly snake,
The tiger couches in the tangled brake ;
The spotted axis bounds in fear away,
The leopard darts on his defenceless prey,
'Mid reedy pools and ancient forests rude,
Cool, peaceful haunts of awful solitude !
The huge rhinoceros rends the crashing boughs,
And stately elephants untroubled browse.
Two tyrant seasons rule the wide doniain,
Scorch with dry heat, or drench with floods of rain.
Now feverish herds rush madding o'er the plains,
And cool in shady streams their throbbing veins,
The birds drop lifeless from the silent spray,
And nature faints beneath the fiery day;
Then burst the deluge on the sinking shore,
And teeming Plenty empties all her store.
Swallow ! that on rapid wing
Sweepst along in sportive ring,
Now here, now there, now low, now high,
Chasing keen the painted fly.-
Could I skim away with thee
Over land and over sea,
What streams would flow, what cities rise,
What landscapes dance before mine eyes!
First from England's southern shore
'Cross the channel we would soar,
And our vent'rous course advance
To the lively plains of France ;
Sport among the feather'd choir
On the verdant banks of Loire,
Skim Garonne's majestic tide,
Where Bordeaux adorns his side ;
Cross the towering Pyrenees,
'Mid orange groves and myrtle trees ;
Entering then the wild domain
Where wolves prowl round the flocks of Spain,
Where silk-worms spin, and olives grow,
And mules plod surely on and slow.
Steering then for many a day
For to south our course away,
From Gibraltar's rocky steep,
Dashing o'er the foaming deep,
On sultry Afric's fruitful shore
We'd rest at length, our journey o'er,
Till vernal gales should gently play
To waft us on our homeward way.
Sweet to the morning traveller
'The sky-lark's earliest song, Whose twinkling wings are seen at fits
The dewy lights among.
And cheering to the traveller
The gales that round him play,
When faint and wearily he drags
Along his noontide way.
And when beneath the unclouded sun
Full wearily toils he,
The flowing water makes to him
Most pleasant melody.
And when the evening light decays,
And all is calm around,
There is sweet music to his ear
In the distant sheep-bell's sound.
And sweet the neighbouring church's bell
That marks his journey's bourn ;
But sweeter is the voice of love
That welcomes his return!