« ПретходнаНастави »
For if thou leave thy Father he will die.'
The Youth made answer with a jocund voice;
And Isabel, when she had told her fears,
Recovered heart. That evening her best fare
Did she bring forth, and all together sat
Like happy people round a Christmas fire.
With daylight Isabel resumed her work;
And all the ensuing week the house appeared
As cheerful as a grove in Spring : at length
The expected letter from their kinsman came,
With kind assurances that he would do
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy;
To which, requests were added, that forthwith
He might be sent to him. Ten times or more
The letter was read over; Isabel
Went forth to show it to the neighbours round;
Nor was there at that time on English land
A prouder heart than Luke's. When Isabel
Had to her house returned, the old Man said,
'He shall depart to-morrow.' To this word
The Housewife answered, talking much of things
Which, if at such short notice he should go,
Would surely be forgotten. But at length
She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.
Near the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll, In that deep valley, Michael had designed To build a Sheepfold; and, before he heard The tidings of his melancholy loss, For this same purpose he had gathered up A heap of stones, which by the streamlet's edge Lay thrown together, ready for the work. With Luke that evening thitherward he walked ; And soon as they had reached the place he stopped. And thus the old Man spake to him :'My Son, To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart I look upon thee, for thou art the same That wert a promise to me ere thy birth, And all thy life hast been my daily joy. I will relate to thee some little part Of our two histories; ’twill do thee good
When thou art from me, even if I should touch
On things thou canst not know of. After thou
First cam'st into the world—as oft befalls
To new-born infants—thou didst sleep away
Two days, and blessings from thy Father's tongue
Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,
And still I loved thee with increasing love.
Never to living ear came sweeter sounds
Than when I heard thee by our own fireside
First uttering, without words, a natural tune:
While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy
Sing at thy Mother's breast. Month followed month
And in the open fields my life was passed
And on the mountains; else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy Father's knees.
But we were playmates, Luke: among these hills,
As well thou knowest, in us the old and young
Have played together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.'
Luke had a manly heart; but at these words
He sobbed aloud. The old Man grasped his hand,
And said, 'Nay, do not take it so—I see
That these are things of which I need not speak.
-Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good Father: and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at others' hand; for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth.
Both of them sleep together; here they lived,
As all their Forefathers had done; and when
At length their time was come, they were not loth
To give their bodies to the family mould.
I wished that thou shouldst live the life they lived:
But, 'tis a long time to look back, my So
And see so little gained from threescore years.
These fields were burthened when they came to me;
Till I was forty years of age, not more
Than half of my inheritance was mine.
I toiled and toiled; God blessed me in my work,
And till these three weeks past the land was free.
- It looks as if it never could endure
Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,
If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good
That thou shouldst go.'
At this the old Man paused;
Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood,
Thus, after a short silence, he resumed:
*This was a work for us; and now, my Son,
It is a work for me. But, lay one stone-
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.
Nay, Boy, be of good hope ;—we both may live
To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and hale ;—do thou thy part;
I will do mine. I will begin again
many tasks that were resigned to thee: Up to the heights, and in among the storms, Will I without thee go again, and do All works which I was wont to do alone, Before I knew thy face.—Heaven bless thee, Boy! Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast With many hopes; it should be so-yes-yesI knew that thou couldst never have a wish To leave me, Luke: thou hast been bound to me Only by links of love: when thou art gone, What will be left to us!-But, I forget My purposes : Lay now the corner-stone, As I requested; and hereafter, Luke, When thou art gone away, should evil men Be thy companions, think of me, my Son, And of this moment; hither turn thy thoughts, And God will strengthen thee: amid all fear And all temptations, Luke, I pray that thou May'st bear in mind the life thy Fathers lived, Who, being innocent, did for that cause Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well When thou return'st, thou in this place wilt see A work which is not here: a covenant 'Twill be between us; but, whatever fate Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,
And bear thy memory with me to the grave.'
The Shepherd ended here; and Luke stooped down, And, as his Father had requested, laid The first stone of the Sheepfold. At the sight The old Man's grief broke from him; to his heart He pressed his Son, he kissed him and wept; And to the house together they returned. -Hushed was that House in peace, or seeming peace, Ere the Night fell :—with morrow's dawn the Boy Began his journey, and when he had reached The public way, he put on a bold face; And all the neighbours, as he passed their doors, Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers, That followed him till he was out of sight.
A good report did from their kinsman come,
Of Luke and his well-doing: and the Boy
Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news,
Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout
'The prettiest letters that were ever seen.'
Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.
So, many months passed on: and once again
The Shepherd went about his daily work
With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now
Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour
He to that valley took his way, and there
Wrought at the Sheepfold. Meantime Luke began
To slacken in his duty; and, at length,
He in the dissolute city gave himself
To evil courses: ignominy and shame
Fell on him, so that he was driven at last
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.
There is a comfort in the strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain, or break the heart:
I have conversed with more than one who well
Remember the old Man, and what he was
Years after he had heard this heavy news.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks
He went, and still looked up to sun and cloud,
And listened to the wind; and, as before,
Performed all kinds of labour for his sheep,
And for the land, his small inheritance.
And to that hollow dell from time to time
Did he repair, to build the Fold of which
His flock had need. 'Tis not forgotten yet
The pity which was then in every heart
For the old Man-and 'tis believed by all
That many and many a day he thither went,
And never lifted up a single stone.
There, by the Sheepfold, sometimes was he seen
Sitting alone, or with his faithful Dog,
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.
The length of full seven years, from time to time,
He at the building of this Sheepfold wrought,
And left the work unfinished when he died.
Three years, or little more, did Isabel
Survive her Husband: at her death the estate
Was sold, and went into a stranger's hand.
The Cottage which was named the EVENING STAR
Is gone—the ploughshare has been through the ground
On which it stood; great changes have been wrought
In all the neighbourhood :-yet the oak is left
That grew beside their door; and the remains
Of the unfinished Sheepfold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Greenhead Ghyll.
From Stirling Castle we had seen
The mazy Forth unravell’d,
Had trod the banks of Clyde and Tay,
And with the Tweed had travellid;
And when we came to Clovenford,
Then said my 'winsome Marrow,
“Whate'er betide, we'll turn aside,
And see the Braes of Yarrow.'