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That shewed like happiness. But, in despite
Of all this outside bravery, within,
He neither felt encouragement nor hope:
For moral dignity, and strength of mind,
Were wanting; and simplicity of life;
And reverence for himself; and, last and best,
Confiding thoughts, through love and fear of Him
Before whose sight the troubles of this world
Are vain, as billows in a tossing sea.
The glory of the times fading away— The splendor, which had given a festal air To self-importance, hallowed it, and veiled From his own sight-this gone, he forfeited All joy in human nature; was consumed, And vexed, and chafed, by levity and scorn, And fruitless indignation; galled by pride; Made desperate by contempt of men who throve Before his sight in power or fame, and won, Without desert, what he desired; weak men, Too weak even for his envy or his hate! Tormented thus, after a wandering course Of discontent, and inwardly opprest With malady-in part, I fear, provoked By weariness of life-he fixed his home, Or, rather say, sate down by very chance, Among these rugged hills; where now he dwells, And wastes the sad remainder of his hours, Steeped in a self-indulging spleen, that wants not Its own voluptuousness;-on this resolved, With this content, that he will live and die Forgotten, at safe distance from 'a world Not moving to his mind.'”
Closed the preparatory notices
That served my Fellow-traveller to beguile
The way, while we advanced up that wide vale.
Diverging now (as if his quest had been
Some secret of the mountains, cavern, fall
Of water, or some lofty eminence,
Renowned for splendid prospect far and wide)
W'e scaled, without a track to ease our steps,
A steep ascent; and reached a dreary plain,
With a tumultuous waste of huge hill tops
Before us; savage region! which I paced
Disparited: when, all at once, behold!
Beneath our feet, a little lowly vale,
| A lowly vale, and yet uplifted high
Among the mountains; even as if the spot
Had been from eldest time by wish of theirs
So placed, to be shut out from all the world!
Cra-like it was in shape, deep as an urn;
With rocks encompassed, save that to the south
We one small opening, where a heath-clad ridge
Supplied a boundary less abrupt and close;
A quiet treeless nook, with two green fields,
A liquid pool that glittered in the sun,
And one bare dwelling; one abode, no more!
It seemed the home of poverty and toil,
Though not of want: the little fields, made green
By husbandry of many thrifty years,
Paid cheerful tribute to the moorland house.
-There crows the cock, single in his domain:
The small birds find in spring no thicket there
To shroud them; only from the neighbouring vales
The cuckoo, straggling up to the hill tops,
Shouteth faint tidings of some gladder place.
Ah! what a sweet Recess, thought I, is here! Instantly throwing down my limbs at ease Upon a bed of heath ;-full many a spot Of hidden beauty have I chanced to espy Among the mountains; never one like this; So lonesome, and so perfectly secure ; Not melancholy-no, for it is green, And bright, and fertile, furnished in itself With the few needful things that life requires. -In rugged arms how softly does it lie, How tenderly protected! Far and near We have an image of the pristine earth, The planet in its nakedness: were this Man's only dwelling, sole appointed seat, First, last, and single, in the breathing world, It could not be more quiet: peace is here Or nowhere; days unruffled by the gale Of public news or private; years that pass Forgetfully; uncalled upon to pay The common penalties of mortal life, Sickness, or accident, or grief, or pain.
On these and kindred thoughts intent I lay In silence musing by my Comrade's side, He also silent; when from out the heart Of that profound abyss a solemn voice, Or several voices in one solemn sound, Was heard ascending; mournful, deep, and slow The cadence, as of psalms-a funeral dirge! We listened, looking down upon the hut, But seeing no one: meanwhile from below The strain continued, spiritual as before; And now distinctly could I recognise These words: Shall in the grave thylove be known, In death thy faithfulness?"—" God rest his soul!" Said the old man, abruptly breaking silence,— "He is departed, and finds peace at last!"
This scarcely spoken, and those holy strains Not ceasing, forth appeared in view a band
Of rustic persons, from behind the hut
Bearing a coffin in the midst, with which
They shaped their course along the sloping side
Of that small valley, singing as they moved;
A sober company and few, the men
Bare-headed, and all decently attired!
Some steps when they had thus advanced, the dirge
Ended; and, from the stillness that ensued
Recovering, to my Friend I said, " You spake,
Methought, with apprehension that these rites
Are paid to Him upon whose shy retreat
This day we purposed to intrude.”—“I did so,
But let us hence, that we may learn the truth:
Perhaps it is not he but some one else
For whom this pious service is performed;
Some other tenant of the solitude."
So, to a steep and difficult descent
Trusting ourselves, we wound from crag to crag,
Where passage could be won; and, as the last
Of the mute train, behind the heathy top
Of that off-sloping outlet, disappeared,
I, more impatient in my downward course,
Had landed upon easy ground; and there
Stood waiting for my Comrade. When behold
An object that enticed my steps aside!
A narrow, winding, entry opened out
Into a platform-that lay, sheepfold-wise,
Enclosed between an upright mass of rock
And one old moss-grown wall ;—a cool recess,
And fanciful! For where the rock and wall
Met in an angle, hung a penthouse, framed
By thrusting two rude staves into the wall
And overlaying them with mountain sods;
To weather-fend a little turf-built seat
Whereon a full-grown man might rest, nor dread
The burning sunshine, or a transient shower;
But the whole plainly wrought by children's hands!
Whose skill had thronged the floor with a proud
Of baby-houses, curiously arranged;
Nor wanting ornament of walks between,
With mimic trees inserted in the turf,
And gardens interposed. Pleased with the sight,
I could not choose but beckon to my Guide,
Who, entering, round him threw a careless glance,
Impatient to pass on, when I exclaimed,
Exclaimed the Wanderer, "cannot but be his,
And he is gone!" The book, which in my hand
Had opened of itself (for it was swoln
With searching damp, and seemingly had lain
To the injurious elements exposed
From week to week,) I found to be a work
In the French tongue, a Novel of Voltaire,
His famous Optimist. "Unhappy Man!"
Exclaimed my Friend: "here then has been to him
Retreat within retreat, a sheltering-place
Within how deep a shelter! He had fits,
Even to the last, of genuine tenderness,
And loved the haunts of children: here, no doubt,
Pleasing and pleased, he shared their simple sports,
Or sate companionless; and here the book,
Left and forgotten in his careless way,
Must by the cottage-children have been found:
Heaven bless them, and their inconsiderate work!
To what odd purpose have the darlings turned
This sad memorial of their hapless friend!”
"Me," said 1, "most doth it surprise, to find Such book in such a place !"-" A book it is," He answered, "to the Person suited well, Though little suited to surrounding things: 'Tis strange, I grant; and stranger still had been To see the Man who owned it, dwelling here, With one poor shepherd, far from all the world!— Now, if our errand hath been thrown away, As from these intimations I forebode, Grieved shall I be less for my sake than yours, And least of all for him who is no more."
By this, the book was in the old Man's hand;
And he continued, glancing on the leaves
An eye of scorn:-"The lover," said he, "doomed
To love when hope hath failed him-whom no
Of privacy is deep enough to hide,
Hath yet his bracelet or his lock of hair,
And that is joy to him. When change of times
Hath summoned kings to scaffolds, do but give
The faithful servant, who must hide his head
Henceforth in whatsoever nook he may
A kerchief sprinkled with his master's blood,
And he too hath his comforter. How poor,
Beyond all poverty how destitute,
Must that Man have been left, who, hither driver,
"Lo! what is here?" and, stooping down, drew Flying or seeking, could yet bring with him
A book, that, in the midst of stones and moss
And wreck of party-coloured earthen-ware,
Aptly disposed, had lent its help to raise
One of those petty structures. "His it must be !"
No dearer relique, and no better stay,
Than this dull product of a scoffer's pen,
Impure conceits discharging from a heart
Hardened by impious pride!-I did not fear
To tax you with this journey; "-mildly said
My venerable Friend, as forth we stepped
Into the presence of the cheerful light—
For I have knowledge that you do not shrink
From moving spectacles;—but let us on.”
So speaking, on he went, and at the word
I followed, till he made a sudden stand:
For full in view, approaching through a gate
That opened from the enclosure of green fields
Into the rough uncultivated ground,
Behold the Man whom he had fancied dead!
I knew from his deportment, mien, and dress,
That it could be no other; a pale face,
A meagre person, tall, and in a garb
Not rustic-dull and faded like himself!
He saw us not, though distant but few steps;
For he was busy, dealing, from a store
Upon a broad leaf carried, choicest strings
of red ripe currants; gift by which he strove,
With intermixture of endearing words,
To soothe a Child, who walked beside him, weeping
As if disconsolate.-"They to the grave
Are bearing him, my Little-one," he said,
To the dark pit; but he will feel no pain;
Ha body is at rest, his soul in heaven."
At any grave or solemn spectacle,
Inly distressed or overpowered with awe,
He knows not wherefore;-but the boy to-day,
Perhaps is shedding orphan's tears; you also
Must have sustained a loss."-"The hand of Death,"
He answered, "has been here; but could not well
Have fallen more lightly, if it had not fallen
Upon myself."-The other left these words
Unnoticed, thus continuing.—
"From yon crag,
Down whose steep sides we dropped into the vale,
We heard the hymn they sang-a solemn sound
Heard any where; but in a place like this
"Tis more than human! Many precious rites
And customs of our rural ancestry
Are gone, or stealing from us; this, I hope,
Will last for ever. Oft on my way have I
Stood still, though but a casual passenger,
So much I felt the awfulness of life,
In that one moment when the corse is lifted
In silence, with a hush of decency;
Then from the threshold moves with song of peace,
And confidential yearnings, tow'rds its home,
Its final home on earth. What traveller-who-
(How far soe'er a stranger) does not own
The bond of brotherhood, when he sees them go,
More might have followed-but my honoured A mute procession on the houseless road;
Broke in upon the Speaker with a frank
And cordial greeting.—Vivid was the light
That flashed and sparkled from the other's eyes;
He was all fire: no shadow on his brow
Remained, nor sign of sickness on his face.
Hands joined he with his Visitant,—a grasp,
An eager grasp; and many moments' space-
When the first glow of pleasure was no more,
And, of the sad appearance which at once
Had vanished, much was come and coming back-
An amicable smile retained the life
Which it had unexpectedly received,
Upon his hollow cheek. "How kind," he said,
*Nor could your coming have been better timed;
For this, you see, is in our narrow world
A day of sorrow. I have here a charge"-
And, speaking thus, he patted tenderly
The sun-burnt forehead of the weeping child—
"A little mourner, whom it is my task
To comfort;-but how came ye?-if yon track
Which doth at once befriend us and betray)
Conducted hither your most welcome feet,
Ye could not miss the funeral train-they yet
Ilave scarcely disappeared." "This blooming
Sud the old Man, "is of an age to weep
Or passing by some single tenement
Or clustered dwellings, where again they raise
The monitory voice? But most of all
It touches, it confirms, and elevates,
Then, when the body, soon to be consigned
Ashes to ashes, dust bequeathed to dust,
Is raised from the church-aisle, and forward borne
Upon the shoulders of the next in love,
The nearest in affection or in blood;
Yea, by the very mourners who had knelt
Beside the coffin, resting on its lid
In silent grief their unuplifted heads,
And heard meanwhile the Psalmist's mournful
And that most awful scripture which declares
We shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed!
-Have I not seen-ye likewise may have seen-
Son, husband, brothers-brothers side by side,
And son and father also side by side,
Rise from that posture:--and in concert move,
On the green turf following the vested Priest,
Four dear supporters of one senseless weight,
From which they do not shrink, and under which
They faint not, but advance towards the open grave
Step after step-together, with their firm
Unhidden faces: he that suffers most,
He outwardly, and inwardly perhaps,
The most serene, with most undaunted eye !—
Oh! blest are they who live and die like these,
Loved with such love, and with such sorrow
"That poor Man taken hence to-day," replied The Solitary, with a faint sarcastic smile
Had almost a forbidding nakedness;
Less fair, I grant, even painfully less fair,
Than it appeared when from the beetling rock
We had looked down upon it. All within,
As left by the departed company,
Was silent; save the solitary clock
That on mine ear ticked with a mournful sound.
Which did not please me, "must be deemed, I fear, Following our Guide, we clomb the cottage-stairs
Of the unblest; for he will surely sink
Into his mother earth without such pomp
Of grief, depart without occasion given
By him for such array of fortitude.
Full seventy winters hath he lived, and mark!
This simple Child will mourn his one short hour,
And I shall miss him; scanty tribute! yet,
This wanting, he would leave the sight of men,
If love were his sole claim upon their care,
Like a ripe date which in the desert falls
Without a hand to gather it."
I interposed, though loth to speak, and said,
"Can it be thus among so small a band
As ye must needs be here? in such a place
I would not willingly, methinks, lose sight
Of a departing cloud."-" "Twas not for love"
Answered the sick Man with a careless voice-
"That I came hither; neither have I found
Among associates who have power of speech,
Nor in such other converse as is here,
Temptation so prevailing as to change
That mood, or undermine my first resolve."
Then, speaking in like careless sort, he said
To my benign Companion,-" Pity 'tis
That fortune did not guide you to this house
A few days earlier; then would you have seen
What stuff the Dwellers in a solitude,
That seems by Nature hollowed out to be
The seat and bosom of pure innocence,
Are made of; an ungracious matter this!
Which, for truth's sake, yet in remembrance too
Of past discussions with this zealous friend
And advocate of humble life, I now
Will force upon his notice; undeterred
By the example of his own pure course,
And that respect and deference which a soul
May fairly claim, by niggard age enriched
In what she most doth value, love of God
And his frail creature Man ;-but ye shall hear.
I talk-and ye are standing in the sun
Quickly had he spoken, And, with light steps still quicker than his words, Led toward the Cottage. Homely was the spot; And, to my feeling, ere we reached the door,
And reached a small apartment dark and low,
Which was no sooner entered than our Host
Said gaily, "This is my domain, my cell,
My hermitage, my cabin, what you will-
I love it better than a snail his house.
But now ye shall be feasted with our best."
So, with more ardour than an unripe girl
Left one day mistress of her mother's stores,
He went about his hospitable task.
My eyes were busy, and my thoughts no less,
And pleased I looked upon my grey-haired Friend.
As if to thank him; he returned that look,
Cheered, plainly, and yet serious. What a wreek
Had we about us! scattered was the floor,
And, in like sort, chair, window-seat, and shelf,
With books, maps, fossils, withered plants ar
And tufts of mountain moss. Mechanic tools
Lay intermixed with scraps of paper, some
Scribbled with verse: a broken angling-rod
And shattered telescope, together linked
By cobwebs, stood within a dusty nook;
And instruments of music, some half-made,
Some in disgrace, hung dangling from the walls.
But speedily the promise was fulfilled;
A feast before us, and a courteous Host
Inviting us in glee to sit and eat.
A napkin, white as foam of that rough brook
By which it had been bleached, o'erspread th
And was itself half-covered with a store
Of dainties,―oaten bread, curd, cheese, and cruam .
And cakes of butter curiously embossed,
Butter that had imbibed from meadow-flowers
A golden hue, delicate as their own
Faintly reflected in a lingering stream.
Nor lacked, for more delight on that warm day,
Our table, small parade of garden fruits,
And whortle-berries from the mountain side
The Child, who long ere this had stilled his solm.
Was now a help to his late comforter,
And moved, a willing Page, as he was bad,
Ministering to our need.
In genial mood,
While at our pastoral banquet thus we sate
Fronting the window of that little cell,
I could not, ever and anon, forbear
To glance an upward look on two huge Peaks,
That from some other vale peered into this.
"Those lusty twins," exclaimed our host, "if here
It were your lot to dwell, would soon become
Your prized companions.-Many are the notes
Which, in his tuneful course, the wind draws forth
From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths, and dashing
And well those lofty brethren bear their part
In the wild concert-chiefly when the storm
Rides high; then all the upper air they fill
With roaring sound, that ceases not to flow,
Like smoke, along the level of the blast,
In mighty current; theirs, too, is the song
Of stream and headlong flood that seldom fails;
And, in the grim and breathless hour of noon,
Methinks that I have heard them echo back
The thunder's greeting. Nor have nature's laws
Left them ungifted with a power to yield
Music of finer tone; a harmony,
So do I call it, though it be the hand
Of silence, though there be no voice ;-the clouds,
The mist, the shadows, light of golden suns,
Motions of moonlight, all come thither-touch,
And have an answer-thither come, and shape
A language not unwelcome to sick hearts
And idle spirits:-there the sun himself,
At the calm close of summer's longest day,
Rests his substantial orb;-between those heights
And on the top of either pinnacle,
More keenly than elsewhere in night's blue vault,
Sparkle the stars, as of their station proud.
Thoughts are not busier in the mind of man
Than the mute agents stirring there :-alone
Here do I sit and watch.—”
Regretted like the nightingale's last note,
The Housewife, tempted by such slender gains
As might from that occasion be distilled,
Opened, as she before had done for me,
Her doors to admit this homeless Pensioner;
The portion gave of coarse but wholesome fare
Which appetite required—a blind dull nook,
Such as she had, the kennel of his rest!
This, in itself not ill, would yet have been
Ill borne in earlier life; but his was now
The still contentedness of seventy years.
Calm did he sit under the wide-spread tree
Of his old age; and yet less calm and meek,
Winningly meek or venerably calm,
Than slow and torpid; paying in this wise
A penalty, if penalty it were,
For spendthrift feats, excesses of his prime.
I loved the old Man, for I pitied him!
A task it was, I own, to hold discourse
With one so slow in gathering up his thoughts,
But he was a cheap pleasure to my eyes;
Mild, inoffensive, ready in his way,
And helpful to his utmost power: and there
Our housewife knew full well what she possessed!
He was her vassal of all labour, tilled
Her garden, from the pasture fetched her kine;
And, one among the orderly array
Of hay-makers, beneath the burning sun
Maintained his place; or heedfully pursued
His course, on errands bound, to other vales,
Leading sometimes an inexperienced child
Too young for any profitable task.
So moved he like a shadow that performed
Substantial service. Mark me now, and learn
For what reward!—The moon her monthly round
Hath not completed since our dame, the queen
Of this one cottage and this lonely dale,
Into my little sanctuary rushed-
Voice to a rueful treble humanized,
And features in deplorable dismay.
Had scarcely closed this high-wrought strain of I treat the matter lightly, but, alas!
Ere with inviting smile the Wanderer said:
"Now for the tale with which you threatened us!"
"In truth the threat escaped me unawares:
Should the tale tire you, let this challenge stand
For my excuse. Dissevered from mankind,
Aa to your eyes and thoughts we must have seemed
When ye koked down upon us from the crag,
Islanders mid a stormy mountain sea,
I We are not so ;--perpetually we touch
Upon the vulgar ordinances of the world;
And he, whom this our cottage hath to-day
↑ Relinquished, lived dependent for his bread Upon the laws of public charity.
It is most serious: persevering rain
Had fallen in torrents; all the mountain tops
Were hidden, and black vapours coursed their sides;
This had I seen, and saw; but, till she spake,
Was wholly ignorant that my ancient Friend—
Who at her bidding, early and alone,
Had clomb aloft to delve the moorland turf
For winter fuel-to his noontide meal
Returned not, and now, haply, on the heights
Lay at the mercy of this raging storm.
Inhuman !'-said I, 'was an old Man's life
Not worth the trouble of a thought?—alas!
This notice comes too late.' With joy I saw
Her husband enter-from a distant vale.