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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
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 22, 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
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
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.
Why should we crave a hallowed spot?
An altar is in each man's cot,
Reechoing pious anthems! while beneath
The chequer'd earth seems restless as a flood
Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light
Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance,
Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
And darkening and enlightening, as the leaves
Play wanton, every moment, every spot.
And now with nerves new-braced and spirits cheer'd
We tread the wilderness, whose well-roll'd walks
With curvature of slow and easy sweep,—
Deception innocent,-give ample space
To narrow bounds. The grove receives us next;
Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms
We may discern the thresher at his task.
Thump after thump, resounds the constant flail,
That seems to swing uncertain, and yet falls
Full on the destined ear. Wide flies the chaff,
The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist
Of atoms sparkling in the noon-day beam.
Come hither, ye that press your beds of down
And sleep not, see him sweating o'er his bread
Before he eats it.-'Tis the primal" curse,
A church in every grove that spreads
Its living roof above our heads.
Wordsworth. Labourer's Hymns.
Here aged trees Cathedral walks compose.
This line may have given the hint to Warburton.
27 O, my offence is rank, it smells to Heaven, It hath the primal eldest curse upon it.
Hamlet, Act iii. Sc. 3.
On me the curse aslope
But soften'd into mercy; made the pledge
Of cheerful days, and nights without a groan.
By ceaseless action, all that is subsists.
Constant rotation of the unwearied wheel
That nature rides upon, maintains her health,
Her beauty, her fertility. She dreads
An instant's pause, and lives but while she moves.
Its own revolvency upholds the world.
Winds from all quarters agitate the air,
And fit the limpid element for use,
Else noxious: oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams 375
All feel the freshening impulse, and are cleansed
By restless undulation. Even the oak
Thrives by the rude concussion of the storm;
He seems indeed indignant, and to feel
The impression of the blast with proud disdain,
Frowning as if in his unconscious arm
But the monarch owes
His firm stability to what he scorns,
More fixt below, the more disturb'd above.
The law by which all creatures else are bound,
Binds man the lord of all. Himself derives
No mean advantage from a kindred cause,
Glanced on the ground, with labour I must earn
My bread-What harm? idleness had been worse.
Par. Lost, x. 1053.
By that collision all the fine machine :
Else rust would rise, and foulness by degrees
Incumbering, choke at last what Heaven design'd
For ceaseless motion and a round of toil.
Akenside. Pleasures of Imagination, ii. 161.