« AnteriorContinuar »
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook
Appears a straggling heap of unhewn stones!
And to that place a story appertains,
Which, though it be ungarnished with events,
Is not unfit, I deem, for the fireside,
Or for the summer shade. It was the first
Of those domestic tales that spake to me
Of Shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men
Whom I already loved ;—not verily
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills
Where was their occupation and abode.
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy
Careless of books, yet having felt the power
Of Nature, by the gentle agency
Of natural objects led me on to feel
UPON the Forest-side in Grasmere Vale There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name; An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb. His bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen, Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs, And in his Shepherd's calling he was prompt And watchful more than ordinary men. Hence had he learned the meaning of all winds, Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes, When others heeded not, He heard the South Make subterraneous music, like the noise Of Bagpipers on distant Highland hills. The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock Bethought him, and he to himself would say, << The winds are now devising work for me!» And, truly, at all times, the storm-that drives The Traveller to a shelter-summoned him Up to the mountains: he had been alone Amid the heart of many thousand mists, That came to him and left him on the heights. So lived he till his eightieth year was past. And grossly that man errs, who should suppose That the green Valleys, and the Streams and Rocks, Were things indifferent to the Shepherd's thoughts. Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed The common air; the hills, which he so oft Had climbed with vigorous steps; which had impressed So many incidents upon his mind Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear; Which like a book preserved the memory Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved, Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts, So grateful in themselves, the certainty Of honourable gain; these fields, these hills, Which were his living Being, even more Than his own blood—what could they less? had laid Strong hold on his affections, were to him A pleasurable feeling of blind love, The pleasure which there is in life itself.
His days had not been passed in singleness. His Helpmate was a comely Matron, oldThough younger than himself full twenty years. She was a woman of a stirring life, Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had Of antique form, this large for spinning wool, That small for flax; and if one wheel had rest, It was because the other was at work. The Pair had but one Inmate in their house, An only Child, who had been born to them When Michael, telling o'er his years, began To deem that he was old,-in Shepherd's phrase, With one foot in the grave. This only Son, With two brave Sheep-dogs tried in many a storm, The one of an inestimable worth, Made all their Household. I may truly say, That they were as a proverb in the vale For endless industry. When day was gone, And from their occupations out of doors The Son and Father were come home, even then, Their labour did not cease; unless when all Turned to their cleanly supper-board, and there, Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, Sat round their basket piled with oaten cakes, And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when their meal Was ended, LUKE (for so the Son was named) And his old Father both betook themselves To such convenient work as might employ Their hands by the fire-side; perhaps to card Wool for the Housewife's spindle, or repair Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe, Or other implement of house or field.
Down from the ceiling by the chimney's edge
That in our ancient uncouth country style
Did with a huge projection overbrow
Large space beneath, as duly as the light
Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a Lamp;
An aged utensil, which had performed
Service beyond all others of its kind.
Early at evening did it burn and late,
Surviving Comrade of uncounted Hours,
Which going by from year to year had found
And left the couple neither gay perhaps
Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes,
Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when LUKE had reached his eighteenth year
There by the light of this old Lamp they sat,
Father and Son, while late into the night
The Housewife plied her own peculiar work,
Making the cottage through the silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.
This Light was famous in its neighbourhood,
And was a public Symbol of the life
The thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced,
Their Cottage on a plot of rising ground
Stood single, with large prospect, North and South,
High into Easedale, up to Dunmail-Raise,
And Westward to the village near the Lake;
And from this constant light, so regular
And so far seen, the House itself, by all
Who dwelt within the limits of the vale,
Both old and young, was named THE Evening Star.
Thus living on through such a length of years, The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs
Have loved his Helpmate; but to Michael's heart
This son of his old age was yet more dear-
Less from instinctive tenderness, the same
Blind Spirit, which is in the blood of all-
Than that a child, more than all other gifts,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts,
And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail.
Exceeding was the love he bare to him,
His Heart and his Heart's joy! For oftentimes 1 Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms, Had done him female service, not alone For pastime and delight, as is the use Of Fathers, but with patient mind enforced To acts of tenderness; and he had rocked His cradle with a woman's gentle hand.
And, in a later time, ere yet the Boy Had put on Boy's attire, did Michael love, Albeit of a stern unbending mind, To have the Young-one in his sight, when he Had work by his own door, or when he sat With sheep before him on his Shepherd's stool, Beneath that large old Oak, which near their door Stood, and, from its enormous breadth of shade, Chosen for the Shearer's covert from the sun, Thence in our rustic dialect was called The CLIPPING TREE, a name which yet it bears. There, while they two were sitting in the shade, With others round them, earnest all and blithe, Would Michael exercise his heart with looks Of fond correction and reproof bestowed Upon the Child, if he disturbed the sheep By catching at their legs, or with his shouts Scared them, while they lay still beneath the shears.
And when by Heaven's good grace the Boy grew up A healthy Lad, and carried in his cheek Two steady roses that were five years old, Then Michael from a winter coppice cut With his own hand a sapling, which he hooped With iron, making it throughout in all
Due requisites a perfect Shepherd's Staff, | And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipt Ile as a Watchman oftentimes was placed At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock; And, to his office prematurely called, There stood the Urchin, as you will divine, Something between a hinderance and a help; And for this cause not always, I believe, Receiving from his Father hire of praise; Though nought was left undone which staff or voice, Or looks, or threatening gestures could perform.
But soon as Luke, full ten years old, could stand
Against the mountain blasts; and to the heights,
Not fearing toil, nor length of weary ways,
He with his Father daily went, and they
Were as companions, why should I relate
That objects which the Shepherd loved before
Were dearer now? that from the Boy there came
Feelings and emanations-things which were
Light to the sun and music to the wind;
And that the Old Man's heart seemed born again.
Clipping is the word used in the North of England for shear
Thus in his Father's sight the Boy grew up; And now when he had reached his eighteenth year, He was his comfort and his daily hope.
WHILE in this sort the simple Household lived From day to day, to Michael's ear there came Distressful tidings. Long before the time
Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound
In surety for his Brother's Son, a man
Of an industrious life, and ample means,-
But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly
Hlad prest upon him,-and old Michael now
Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture,
A grievous penalty, but little less
Than half his substance. This unlooked-for claim,
At the first hearing, for a moment took
More hope out of his life than he supposed
That any old man ever could have lost.
As soon as he had gathered so much strength
That he could look his trouble in the face,
It seemed that his sole refuge was to sell
A portion of his patrimonial fields.
Such was his first resolve; he thought again,
And his heart failed him. « Isabel,» said he,
Two evenings after he had heard the news,
« I have been toiling more than seventy years,
And in the open sunshine of God's love
Have we all lived; yet if these fields of ours
Should pass into a Stranger's hand, I think
That I could not lie quiet in my grave.
Our lot is a hard lot; the sun himself
Has scarcely been more diligent than I;
And I have lived to be a fool at last
To my own family. An evil Man
That was, and made an evil choice, if he
Were false to us; and if he were not false,
There are ten thousand to whom loss like this
Had been no sorrow. I forgive him-but
'T were better to be dumb than to talk thus.
When I began, my purpose was to speak
Of remedies and of a cheerful hope.
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land
Shall not go from us, and it shall be free;
He shall possess it, free as is the wind
That passes over it. We have, thou know'st,
Another Kinsman-he will be our friend
In this distress. He is a prosperous man,
Thriving in trade-and Luke to him shall go,
And with his Kinsman's help and his own thrift
He quickly will repair this loss, and then
May come again to us. If here he stay,
What can be done? Where every one is poor,
What can be gained?» At this the Old Man paused,
And Isabel sat silent, for her mind
Was busy, looking back into past times.
There's Richard Bateman, thought she to herself,
He was a Parish-boy-at the Church-door
They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence,
Aud half pennies, wherewith the neighbours bought
A Basket, which they filled with Pedlar's wares;
And with this Basket on his arm, the Lad,
Went up to London, found a Master there,
Who out of many chose the trusty Boy
To and overlook his merchandise
Beyond the seas: where he grew wonderous rich,
And left estates and monies to the poor,
And at his birth-place built a Chapel floored
With Marble, which he sent from foreign lands.
These thoughts, and many others of like sort,
Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel,
And her face brightened. The Old Man was glad,
And thus resumed:-«Well, Isabel! this scheme
These two days has been meat and drink to me.
Far more than we have lost is left us yet.
-We have enough-I wish indeed that I
Were younger, but this hope is a good hope.
Make ready Luke's best garments, of the best
Buy for him more, and let us send him forth
To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night :
-If he could go, the Boy should go to-night.»
Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth
With a light heart. The Housewife for five days
Was restless morn and night, and all day long
Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare
Things needful for the journey of her son.
But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
To stop her in her work: for, when she lay
By Michael's side, she through the two last nights
Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep:
And when they rose at morning she could see
That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon
She said to Luke, while they two by themselves
Were sitting at the door, « Thou must not go :
We have no other child but thee to lose,
None to remember-do not go away,
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 Green-head Ghyll, In that deep Valley, Michael had designed To build a Sheep-fold; 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; 't will do thee good
When thou art from me, even if I should speak
Of 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 fire-side
First uttering, without words, a natural tune;
When 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 know'st, 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
fle 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' hands; 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 't is a long time to look back, my Son,
And see so little gain 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-
llere, 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
With 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 he 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 temptation, Luke, I pray that thou
Mayst 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
A good report did from their Kinsman come, Of Luke and his well-doing: and the Boy Wrote loving letters, full of wonderous 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 Sheep-fold. 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; T will 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. flis bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks He went, and still looked up upon the sun, 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 yét
The pity which was then in every heart
For the Old Man-and 't is believed by all
That many and many a day he thither went,
And never lifted up a single stone.
There, by the Sheep-fold, sometimes was he seen Sitting alone, with that 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 Sheep-fold 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 remain's
Of the unfinished Sheep-fold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Ghyll.
TO CHARLES LAMB, Esq.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
WHEN I sent you, a few weeks ago, the Tale of Peter Fell, you asked « why THE WAGGONER was not added ?» -To say the truth,-from the higher tone of imagination, and the deeper touches of passion aimed at in the former, I apprehended, this little Piece could not accompany it without disadvantage. In the year 1806, if I am not mistaken, THE WAGGONER was read to you in manuscript; and, as you have remembered it for so long a time, I am the more encouraged to hope, that, since the localities on which it partly depends did not prevent its being interesting to you, it may prove acceptable to others. Being therefore in some measure the cause of its present appearance, you must allow me the gratification of inscribing it to you; in acknowledgment of the pleasure I have derived from your Writings, and of the high esteem with which I am Very truly yours,
RYDAL MOUNT, May 20, 1819.
'Tis spent-this burning day of June!
Soft darkness o'er its latest gleams is stealing;
The dor-hawk, solitary bird,
Round the dim crags on heavy pinions wheeling,
Buzzes incessantly, a tiresome tune;
That constant voice is all that can be heard
In silence deeper far than that of deepest noon!
Confiding Glow-worms! 't is a night Propitious to your earth-born light; But, where the scattered stars are seen In hazy straits the clouds between,
Each, in his station twinkling not, Seems changed into a pallid spot. The air, as in a lion's den,
Is close and hot;-and now and then
Comes a tired and sultry breeze
With a haunting and a panting,
Like the stifling of disease;
The mountains rise to wonderous height,
And in the heavens there hangs a weight;
But the dews allay the heat,
And the silence makes it sweet.
Hush, there is some one on the stir! 'Tis Benjamin the Waggoner;Who long hath trod this toilsome way, Companion of the night and day. That far-off tinkling's drowsy cheer, Mixed with a faint yet grating sound In a moment lost and found, The Wain announces-by whose side, Along the banks of Rydal Mere, He paces on, a trusty Guide,Listen! you can scarcely hear! Hither he his course is bending;Now he leaves the lower ground, And the craggy up hill ascending Many a stop and stay he makes, Many a breathing-fit he takes ;Steep the way and wearisome, Yet all the while his whip is dumb!
The Horses have worked with right good-will,
And now have gained the top of the hill;
He was patient-they were strong-
And now they smoothly glide along,
Gathering breath, and pleased to win
The praises of mild Benjamin.
Heaven shield him from mishap and snare!
But why so early with this prayer?-
Is it for threatenings in the sky?
Or for some other danger nigh?
No, none is near him yet, though he
Be one of much infirmity;
For, at the bottom of the Brow,
Where once the Dove and OLIVE-BOUGH
Offered a greeting of good ale
To all who entered Grasmere Vale;
And called on him who must depart
To leave it with a jovial heart ;-
There, where the Dove and OLIVE-DOUGH
Once hung, a Poet harbours now,-
A simple water-drinking Bard;
Why need our Hero then (though frail
His best resolves) be on his guard?
He marches by, secure and bold,-
Yet, while he thinks on times of old,
It seems that all looks wonderous cold,
He shrugs his shoulders-shakes his head-
And, for the honest folk within,
It is a doubt with Benjamin
Whether they be alive or dead!
Here is no danger,- none at all! Beyond his wish is he secure ; But pass a mile-and then for trial,Then for the pride of self-denial;
The place to Benjamin full well
Is known, and by as strong a spell
As used to be that sign of love
And hope-the OLIVE-BOUGH and Dove;
He knows it to his cost, good Man!
Who does not know the famous SWAN?
Uncouth although the object be,
An image of perplexity;
Yet not the less it is our boast,
For it was painted by the Host;
His own conceit the figure planned,
'T was coloured all by his own hand;
And that frail Child of thirsty clay,
Of whom I sing this rustic lay,
Could tell with self-dissatisfaction
Quaint stories of the Bird's attraction!1
Well! that is past-and in despite
open door and shining light.
And now the Conqueror essays
The long ascent of Dunmail-raise ;
And with his Team is gentle here
As when he clomb from Rydal Mere;
His whip they do not dread-his voice
They only hear it to rejoice.
To stand or go is at their pleasure;
Their efforts and their time they measure
By generous pride within the breast;
And, while they strain, and while they rest,
He thus pursues his thoughts at leisure.
Now am I fairly safe to-nightAnd never was my heart more light. I trespassed lately worse than everBut Heaven will bless a good endeavour; And, to my soul's delight, I find The evil One is left behind.
Yes, let my master fume and fret,
Here am I-with my Horses yet!
My jolly Team, he finds that ye
Will work for nobody but me!
Good proof of this the Country gained,
One day, when ye were vexed and strained—
Entrusted to another's care,
And forced unworthy stripes to bear.
Here was it-on this rugged spot
Which now, contented with our lot,
We climb-that, piteously abused,
Ye plunged in anger and confused:
As chance would have it, passing by
I saw you in your jeopardy:
A word from me was like a charm--
The ranks were taken with one mind;
And your huge burthen, safe from harm,
Moved like a vessel in the wind!
This rude piece of self-taught art (such is the progress of refine mont) has been supplanted by a professional production.