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For watchful, lurking, ʼmid th’ unrustling reed,
At those mirk hours the wily monster lies,
And frequent round him rolls his sullen eyes,
Ah, luckless swain, o'er all unblest, indeed !
Whom late bewilder'd in the dank, dark fen,
Far from his flocks, and smoking hamlet, then! To that sad spot where hums the sedgy weed :
On him, enraged, the fiend, in angry mood, Shall never look with pity's kind concern,
But instant, furious, raise the whelming flood
Or, if he meditate his wish'd escape
To his faint eye the grim and grisly shape,
Meantime the watery surge shall round him rise,
What now remains but tears and hopeless sighs ?
For him in vain his anxious wife shall wait,
Or wander forth to meet him on his way ;
For him in vain at to-fall of the day,
Her travellid limbs in broken slumbers steep,
Shall visit sad, perchance, her silent sleep: Then he, perhaps, with moist and watery hand,
Shall fondly seem to press her shuddering cheek, 130 And with his blue-swollen face before her stand,
And, shivering cold, these piteous accents speak : 132
At dawn or dusk, industrious as before ;
While I lie weltering on the osier'd shore, Drown'd by the Kelpie's1 wrath, nor e'er shall aid thee more!"
Unbounded is thy range; with varied skill
Thy Muse may, like those feathery tribes which spring
From their rude rocks, extend her skirting wing 140 Round the moist marge of each cold Hebrid isle,
To that hoar pile2 which still its ruins shows : In whose small vaults a pigmy folk is found,
Whose bones the delver with his spade upthrows, And culls them, wondering, from the hallow'd ground ! Or thither, 3 where, beneath the showery west,
The mighty kings of three fair realms are laid ; Once foes, perhaps, together now they rest,
No slaves revere them, and no wars invade : Yet frequent now, at midnight's solemn hour,
The rifted mounds their yawning cells unfold, And forth the monarchs stalk with sovereign power,
In pageant robes, and wreath'd with sheeny gold, And on their twilight tombs aërial council hold.
But, oh, o'er all, forget not Kilda's race,
On whose bleak rocks, which brave the wasting tides,
Fair Nature's daughter, Virtue, yet abides.
Then to my ear transmit some gentle song,
Their bounded walks the rugged cliffs along, 1 Kelpie :' the water fiend.— * • Hoar pile:' a ruined chapel in one of the Hebrides, called the Isle of Pigmies, where it is said that some bones of a small race of men have been dng up. — 3* Thither :' Icolmkill, one of the Hebrides, where near sixty ancient Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian kings are interred.
And all their prospect but the wintry main.
With sparing temperance, at the needful time, They drain the scented spring; or, hunger-prest,
Along th' Atlantic rock, undreading climb, And of its eggs despoil the solan's? nest.
Thus, blest in primal innocence, they live Sufficed, and happy with that frugal fare
Which tasteful toil and hourly danger give. Hard is their shallow soil, and bleak and bare ; Nor ever vernal bee was heard to murmur there!
Nor need'st thou blush that such false themes engage
Thy gentle mind, of fairer stores possest;
For not alone they touch the village breast, But fill’d, in elder time, th' historic page.
There, Shakspeare's self, with every garland crown’d, Flew to those fairy climes his fancy sheen,
In musing hour; his wayward sisters found, And with their terrors dress'd the magic scene.
From them he sung, when, 'mid his bold design, Before the Scot, afflicted, and aghast !
The shadowy kings of Banquo's fated line Through the dark cave in gleamy pageant pass'd.
Proceed ! nor quit the tales which, simply told,
Proceed, in forceful sounds, and colours bold,
In scenes like these, which, daring to depart
From sober truth, are still to nature true,
And call forth fresh delight to Fancy's view, Th’ heroic Muse employ'd her Tasso's art !
1. Solan:' the solan geese breed in the face of the cliffs ; their eggs are the principal source of subsistence to the inhabitants of St Kilda.
How have I trembled, when, at Tancred's stroke, 193 Its gushing blood the gaping cypress pour’d !
When each live plant with mortal accents spoke, And the wild blast upheaved the vanish'd sword !
How have I sat, when piped the pensive wind, To hear his harp by British Fairfax strung!
Prevailing poet! whose undoubting mind Believed the magic wonders which he sung !
Hence, at each sound, imagination glows ! Hence, at each picture, vivid life starts here !
Hence his warm lay with softest sweetness flows ! Melting it flows, pure, murmuring, strong, and clear, And fills th' impassion'd heart, and wins th' harmonious ear!
All hail, ye scenes that o'er my soul prevail !
Ye splendid friths and lakes, which, far away,
Are by smooth Annan fill’d, or pastoral Tay,
Your lowly glens, o’erhung with spreading broom ;
Or o'er your mountains creep, in awful gloom! Then will I dress once more the faded bower,
Where Jonson2 sat in Drummond's classic shade; Or crop, from Teviotdale, each lyric flower,
And mourn, on Yarrow's banks, where Willy's laid ! Meantime, ye powers that on the plains which bore
The cordial youth, on Lothian's plains,» attend ! Where'er Home dwells, on hill, or lowly moor,
To him I lose, your kind protection lend, And, touch'd with love like mine, preserve my absent friend!
1. Annan,' • Tay,' 'Don :' three rivers in Scotland. 2 Jonson :' Ben Jonson paid a visit on foot, in 1619, to the Scotch poet Drummond, at his seat of Hawthornden, within four miles of Edinburgh. — 8 Lothian's plains :' Barrow, it seems, was at the Edinburgh University, which is in the county of Lothian.
ADDRESSED TO SIR THOMAS HANMER, ON HIS EDITION
OF SHAKSPEARE'S WORKS. SIR, WHILE, born to bring the Muse's happier days, A patriot's hand protects a poet's lays; While, nursed by you, she sees her myrtles bloom, Green and unwither'd o'er his honour'd tomb; Excuse her doubts, if yet she fears to tell What secret transports in her bosom swell : With conscious awe she hears the critic's fame, And blushing hides her wreath at Shakspeare's name. Hard was the lot those injured strains endured, Unown'd by Science, and by years obscured : Fair Fancy wept; and echoing sighs confess'd A fix'd despair in every tuneful breast. Not with more grief th' afflicted swains appear, When wintry winds deform the plenteous year ; When lingering frosts the ruin'd seats invade Where Peace resorted, and the Graces play’d.
Each rising art by just gradation moves, Toil builds on toil, and age on age improves :