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More delicate his timorous mate retires.
When Winter soaks the fields, and female feet
Too weak to struggle with tenacious clay,
Or ford the rivulets, are best at home,
The task of new discoveries falls on me.
At such a season and with such a charge
Once went I forth, and found, till then unknown,
A cottage, whither oft we since repair :
'Tis perch'd upon the green-hill top, but close
Environ'd with a ring of branching elms
That overhang the thatch, itself unseen,
Peeps at the vale below; so thick beset
With foliage of such dark redundant growth,
I call'd the low-roof'd lodge the peasant's nest.
And hidden as it is, and far remote
From such unpleasing sounds as haunt the ear
In village or in town, the bay of curs
Incessant, clinking hammers, grinding wheels,
And infants clamorous whether pleased or pain'd,
Oft have I wish'd the peaceful covert mine.
Here, I have said, at least I should possess
The poet's treasure "7, silence, and indulge
The dreams of fancy, tranquil and secure.
Vain thought! the dweller in that still retreat
Dearly obtains the refuge it affords.
Its elevated site forbids the wretch
To drink sweet waters of the crystal well;
To ease and silence every Muse's son.
Pope. Hor. ii. 2. Silence is the rest of the soul, and refreshes invention.
He dips his bowl into the weedy ditch,
And heavy-laden brings his beverage home,
Far-fetch'd and little worth; nor seldom waits,
Dependent on the baker's punctual call,
To hear his creaking panniers at the door,
Angry and sad, and his last crust consumed.
So farewell envy of the peasant's nest.
If solitude make scant the means of life,
Society for me! Thou seeming sweet,
Be still a pleasing object in my view,
My visit still, but never mine abode.
Not distant far, a length of colonnade
Invites us: Monument of ancient taste,
Now scorn'd, but worthy of a better fate.
Our fathers knew the value of a screen
From sultry suns, and in their shaded walks
And long-protracted bowers, enjoy'd at noon 18
The gloom and coolness of declining day.
We bear our shades about us; self-deprived
Of other screen, the thin umbrella spread,
And range an Indian waste without a tree.
Thanks to Benevolus 19; he spares me yet
These chestnuts ranged in corresponding lines,
And though himself so polish'd, still reprieves
The obsolete prolixity of shade.
Descending now (but cautious, lest too fast,)
A sudden steep, upon a rustic bridge
18 Where summer's beauty midst of winter stays,
And winter's coolness spite of summer's rays.
Pope. Imit. of Cowley.
19 John Courtney Throckmorton, Esq. of Weston Under
We pass a gulf in which the willows 20 dip
Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink.
Hence ancle-deep in moss and flowery thyme
We mount again, and feel at every step
Our foot half sunk in hillocks green and soft,
Raised by the mole, the miner of the soil.
He not unlike the great ones of mankind,
Disfigures earth, and plotting in the dark
Toils much to earn a monumental pile,
record the mischiefs he has done.
The summit gain'd, behold the proud alcove
That crowns it! yet not all its pride secures
The grand retreat from injuries impress'd
By rural carvers, who with knives deface
The panels, leaving an obscure rude name 21
In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss.
So strong the zeal to immortalize himself
Beats in the breast of man, that even a few
Few transient years won from the abyss abhorr'd
Of blank oblivion seem a glorious prize,
And even to a clown. Now roves the eye,
And posted on this speculative height
Exults in its command. The sheep-fold here
Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.
At first, progressive as a stream, they seek
The middle field; but scatter'd by degrees
A willow grows ascant the brook
There on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang.
Hamlet, Act iv. Sc. 7.
21 Their name, their years, spelt by the unletter'd Muse, The place of fame and elegy supply.
22 For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey
Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land.
There, from the sun-burnt hay-field homeward creeps
The loaded wain, while lighten'd of its charge
The wain that meets it passes swiftly by,
The boorish driver leaning o'er his team
Vociferous, and impatient of delay.
Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,
Diversified with trees of every growth
Alike yet various. Here the grey smooth trunks
Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine,
Within the twilight of their distant shades;
There lost behind a rising ground, the wood
Seems sunk, and shorten'd to its topmost boughs.
No tree in all the grove but has its charms,
Though each its hue peculiar; paler some,
And of a wannish grey; the willow such
And poplar 23, that with silver lines his leaf,
And ash far-stretching his umbrageous arm;
Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still,
Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak.
Some glossy-leaved and shining in the sun,
The maple, and the beech of oily nuts
Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve' 24
Diffusing odours: nor unnoted pass
The sycamore, capricious in attire,
Now green, now tawny, and ere autumn yet
23 From haunted spring, and dale Edged with poplar pale.
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve.
Have changed the woods, in scarlet honours bright. 320
O'er these, but far beyond, (a spacious map
Of hill and valley interposed between,)
The Ouse, dividing the well-water'd land,
Now glitters in the sun, and now retires,
As bashful, yet impatient to be seen.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short,
And such the re-ascent; between them weeps
A little Naiad her impoverish'd urn
All summer long, which winter fills again.
The folded gates would bar my progress now,
But that the Lord 25 of this enclosed demesne,
Communicative of the good he owns,
Admits me to a share: the guiltless eye
Commits no wrong, nor wastes what it enjoys.
Refreshing change! where now the blazing sun? 335
By short transition we have lost his glare,
And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime.
Ye fallen avenues! once more I mourn
Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice
That yet a remnant of your race survives.
How airy and how light the graceful arch,
Yet aweful as the consecrated roof 26
Why should we crave a hallowed spot?
An altar is in each man's cot,
25 See the foregoing note (19).
26 Accordant with the theory commonly ascribed to Bishop Warburton, but which may be found in older Stukeley
"The cloysters in this Cathedral (at Gloucester) are beautiful beyond any thing I ever saw,... for a gallery, library, or the like, it is the best manner of building, because the idea of it is taken from a walk of trees, whose branching heads are curiously imitated by the roof."-Itinerarium Curiosum, p. 68.