« AnteriorContinuar »
-Yes, without me, up hills so high
'Tis vain to strive for mastery.
Then grieve not, jolly Team! though tough
The road we travel, steep and rough.
Though Rydal-heights and Dunmail-raise,
And all their fellow Banks and Braes,
Full often make you stretch and strain,
And halt for breath and halt again,
Yet to their sturdiness 't is owing
That side by side we still are going!
While Benjamin in earnest mood His meditations thus pursued,
A storm, which had been smothered long, Was growing inwardly more strong;
And, in its struggles to get free,
Was busily employed as he.
The thunder had begun to growl-
He heard not, too intent of soul;
The air was now without a breath-
Be marked not that 't was still as death.
But soon large drops upon his head
Fell with the weight of drops of lead ;-
He starts—and, at the admonition,
Takes a survey of his condition.
The road is black before his eyes,
Glimmering faintly where it lies;
Black is the sky-and every hill,
Up to the sky, is blacker still;
A huge and melancholy room,
Hung round and overhung with gloom!
Save that above a single height
Is to be seen a lurid light,
Above Helm-craga streak half dead,
A burning of portentous red;
And, near that lurid light, full well
The ASTROLOGER, sage Sydrophel,
Where at his desk and book he sits,
Puzzling on high his curious wits;
He whose domain is held in common
With no one but the ANCIENT WOMAN,
Cowering beside her rifted cell;
As if intent on magic spell ;-
Dread pair, that, spite of wind and weather,
Still sit upon Helm-crag together!
The ASTROLOGER was not unseen
By solitary Benjamin:
But total darkness came anon,
And he and every thing was gone.
And suddenly a ruffling breeze,
(That would have sounded through the trees
Had aught of sylvan growth been there)
Was felt throughout the region bare:
The rain rushed down-the road was battered,
As with the force of billows shattered;
The horses are dismayed, nor know
Whether they should stand or go;
And Benjamin is groping near them,
Sees nothing, and can scarcely hear them.
He is astounded,-wonder not,-
With such a charge in such a spot;
A mountain of Grasmere, the broken summit of which presents two figures, full as distinctly shaped as that of the famous Cobbler, Bear Arracher, in Scotland.
Astounded in the mountain gap
By peals of thunder, clap on clap!
And many a terror-striking flash ;-
And somewhere, as it seems, a crash,
Among the rocks; with weight of rain,
And sullen motions long and slow,
That to a dreary distance go-
Till, breaking in upon the dying strain,
A rending o'er his head begins the 'fray again.
Meanwhile, uncertain what to do,
And oftentimes compelled to halt,
The horses cautiously pursue
Their way, without mishap or fault;
And now have reached that pile of stones,
Heaped over brave King Dunmail's bones;
He who had once supreme command,
Last king of rocky Cumberland;
His bones, and those of all his Power,
Slain here in a disastrous hour!
When, passing through this narrow strait,
Stony, and dark, and desolate,
Benjamin can faintly hear
A voice that comes from some one near,
A female voice:-« Whoe'er you be,
Stop, it exclaimed, «and pity me.»>
And, less in pity than in wonder,
Amid the darkness and the thunder,
The Waggoner, with prompt command,
Summons his horses to a stand.
The voice, to move commiseration, Prolonged its earnest supplication« This storm that beats so furiouslyThis dreadful place! oh pity me!»>
While this was said, with sobs between, And many tears, by one unseen; There came a flash-a startling glare, And all Seat-Sandal was laid bare! "T is not a time for nice suggestion, And Benjamin, without further question, Taking her for some way-worn rover, Said, « Mount, and get you under cover!»>
Another voice, in tone as hoarse As a swoln brook with rugged course, Cried out, « Good brother, why so fast? I've had a glimpse of you-avast! Or, since it suits you to be civil, Take her at once-for good and evil!»
« It is my Husband,» softly said The Woman, as if half afraid: By this time she was snug within, Through help of honest Benjamin; She and her Babe, which to her breast With thankfulness the Mother pressed; And now the same strong voice more near Said cordially, « My Friend, what cheer? Rough doings these! as God's my judge, The sky owes somebody a grudge! We've had in half an hour or less A twelvemonth's terror and distress!»>
Now, should you think I judge amiss,
The CHERRY TREE shows proof of this;
For soon, of all the happy there,
Our Travellers are the happiest pair.
All care with Benjamin is gone-
A Cæsar past the Rubicon!
He thinks not of his long, long strife;-
The Sailor, Man by nature gay,
Hath no resolves to throw away;
And he hath now forgot his Wife,
Hath quite forgotten her-or may be
Deems that she is happier, laid
Within that warm and peaceful bed;
Sleeping by her sleeping Baby.
With bowl in hand, (It may not stand) Gladdest of the gladsome band, Amid their own delight and fun,
They hear when every dance is done-
They hear when every fit is o'er-
The fiddle's squeak-that call to bliss,
Ever followed by a kiss;
They envy not the happy lot,
But enjoy their own the more!
While thus our jocund Travellers fare, Up springs the Sailor from his chairLimps (for I might have told before That he was lame) across the floorIs gone-returns-and with a prize? With what?-a Ship of lusty size; A gallant stately Man of War, Fixed on a smoothly-sliding car. Surprise to all, but most surprise To Benjamin, who rubs his eyes, Not knowing that he had befriended A Man so gloriously attended!
«a Third-rate is
This,» cries the Sailor,
Stand back, and you shall see her gratis!
This was the Flag-Ship at the Nile,
The Vanguard-you may smirk and smile,
But, pretty maid, if you look near,
You'll find you 've much in little here!
A nobler Ship did never swim,
shall see het in full trim:
I'll set, my Friends, to do you honour,
Set every inch of sail upon her.>>>
So said, so done; and masts, sails, yards,
He names them all; and interlards
His speech with uncouth terms of art,
Accomplished in the Showman's part;
And then, as from a sudden check,
Cries out-'T is there, the Quarter-deck
On which brave Admiral Nelson stood-
A sight that would have roused your blood'
One eye he had, which, bright as ten,
Burnt like a fire among his men;
Let this be Land, and that be Sea,
Bere lay the French-and thus came we!»
Hushed was by this the fiddle's sound, The Dancers all were gathered round, And, such the stillness of the house, You might have heard a nibbling mouse; While, borrowing helps where'er he may, The Sailor through the story runs Of Ships to Ships and guns to guns; And does his utmost to display The dismal conflict, and the might And terror of that wondrous night!
A Bowl, a Bowl of double measure,» Cries Benjamin, «a draught of length, To Nelson, England's pride and treasure, Her bulwark and her tower of strength!» When Benjamin had seized the bowl,
At the close of each strathspey, or jig, a particular note from the fiddle summons the Rustic to the agreeable duty of saluting his Partner.
RIGHT gladly had the horses stirred,
When they the wished-for greeting heard,
The whip's loud notice from the door,
That they were free to move once more.
You think, these doings must have bred
In them disheartening doubts and dread;
No, not a horse of all the eight,
Although it be a moonless night,
Fears either for himself or freight;
For this they know (and let it hide,
In part, the offences of their Guide)
That Benjamin, with clouded brains,
Is worth the best with all their pains;
And, if they had a prayer to make,
The prayer would be that they may take
With him whatever comes in course,
The better fortune or the worse;
That no one else may have business near them, And, drunk or sober, he may steer them.
So, forth in dauntless mood they fare, And with them goes the guardiau pair.
Now, heroes, for the true commotion, The triumph of your late devotion! Can aught on earth impede delight, Still mounting to a higher height; And higher still-a greedy flight! Can any low-born care pursue her, Can any mortal clog come to her? No notion have they-not a thought, That is from joyless regions brought! And, while they coast the silent lake, Their inspiration I partake; Share their empyreal spirits-yea, With their enraptured vision, seeO fancy-what a jubilee! What shifting pictures-clad in gleams Of colour bright as feverish dreams! Earth, spangled sky, and lake serene, Involved and restless all-a scene Pregnant with mutual exaltation, Rich change, and multiplied creation!
This sight to me the Muse imparts ;-
And then, what kindness in their hearts!
What tears of rapture, what vow-making,
Profound entreaties, and hand-shaking!
What solemn, vacant, interlacing,
As if they'd fall asleep embracing!
Then, in the turbulence of glee,
And in the excess of amity,
Says Benjamin, «That ass of thine,
He spoils thy sport, and hinders mine;
If he were tethered to the Waggon,
He'd drag as well what he is dragging;
And we, as brother should with brother,
Might trudge it alongside each other!
Forthwith, obedient to command The horses made a quiet stand; And to the Waggon's skirts was tied The Creature, by the Mastiff's side (The Mastiff not well pleased to be So very near such company). This new arrangement made, the Wain Through the still night proceeds again : No Moon hath risen her light to lend; But indistinctly may be kenned The VANGUARD, following close behind, Sails spread, as if to catch the wind!
Thy Wife and Child are snug and warm,
Thy Ship will travel without harm;
I like,» said Benjamin, « her shape and stature;
And this of mine-this bulky Creature Of which I have the steering-this,
Seen fairly, is not much amiss!
We want your streamers, Friend, you know;
But, all together, as we go,
We make a kind of handsome show!
Among these hills, from first to last,
We've weathered many a furious blast;
Hard passage forcing on, with head
Against the storm, and canvass spread.
I hate a boaster-but to thee
Will say 't, who know'st both land and sea,
The unluckiest Hulk that sails the brine
Is hardly worse beset than mine,
When cross winds on her quarter beat;
And, fairly lifted from my feet,
I stagger onward-Heaven knows how-
But not so pleasantly as now-
Poor Pilot I, by snows confounded,
And many a foundrous pit surrounded!
Yet here we are, by night and day
Grinding through rough and smooth our way,
Through foul and fair our task fulfilling;
And long shall be so yet-God willing!»
«Ay,» said the Tar, « through fair and foulBut save us from yon screeching Owl!» That instant was begun a fray
Which called their thoughts another way;
The Mastiff, ill-conditioned carl!
What must he do but growl and snarl,
Still more and more dissatisfied
With the meek comrade at his side?
Till, not incensed, though put to proof,
The Ass, uplifting a hind hoof,
Salutes the Mastiff on the head;
And so were better manners bred, And all was calmed and quieted.
«Yon Screech-owl,» says the Sailor, turning Back to his former cause of mourning, << Yon Owl!-pray God that all be well! 'Tis worse than any funeral bell; As sure as I've the gift of sight, We shall be meeting Ghosts to-night!» -Said Benjamin, « This whip shall lay A thousand, if they cross our way. I know that Wanton's noisy station, I know him and his occupation; The jolly Bird hath learned his cheer On the banks of Windermere ; Where a tribe of them make merry, Mocking the Man that keeps the Ferry; Hallooing from an open throat, Like Travellers shouting for a Boat. -The tricks he learned at Windermere This vagrant Owl is playing here— That is the worst of his employment; He's in the height of his enjoyment!»>
This explanation stilled the alarm, Cured the foreboder like a charm; This, and the manner, and the voice, Summoned the Sailor to rejoice; His heart is up-he fears no evil From life or death, from man or devil; He wheeled-and, making many stops, Brandished his crutch against the mountain tops; And, while he talked of blows and scars, Benjamin, among the stars, Beheld a dancing-and a glancing; Such retreating and advancing As, I ween, was never seen
In bloodiest battle since the days of Mars!
Taus they, with freaks of proud delight,
Beguile the remnant of the night;
And many a snatch of jovial song
Regales them as they wind along;
While, to the music from on high,
The echoes make a glad reply.—
But the sage Muse the revel heeds
No farther than her story needs;
Nor will she servilely attend
The loitering journey to its end.
-Blithe Spirits of her own impel
The Muse, who scents the morning air,
To take of this transported Pair
A brief and unreproved farewell;
To quit the slow-paced Waggon's side,
And wander down yon hawthorn dell,
With murmuring Greta for her guide.
-There doth she ken the awful form
Of Raven-crag-black as a storm-
Glimmering through the twilight pale;
And Gimmer-crag, his tall twin-brother,
Each peering forth to meet the other.-
And, while she roves
through St John's Vale, The crag of the ewe-lamb.
Along the smooth unpathway'd plain,
By sheep-track, or through cottage lane,
Where no disturbance comes to intrude
Upon the pensive solitude,
Her unsuspecting eye, perchance,
With the rude Shepherd's favour'd glance,
Beholds the Faeries in array,
Whose party-coloured garments gay
The silent company betray;
Red, green, and blue; a moment's sight!
For Skiddaw-top with rosy light
Is touch'd-and all the band take flight.
-Fly also, Muse! and from the dell
Mount to the ridge of Nathdale Fell;
Thence look thou forth o'er wood and lawn,
Hoar with the frost-like dews of dawn;
Across yon meadowy bottom look,
Where close fogs hide their parent brook;
And see, beyond that hamlet small,
The ruin'd towers of Threlkeld-hall,
Lurking in a double shade,
By trees and lingering twilight made!
There, at Blencathara's rugged feet,
Sir Lancelot gave a safe retreat
To noble Clifford; from annoy
Conceal'd the persecuted Boy,
Well pleased in rustic garb to feed
His flock, and pipe on Shepherd's reed;
Among this multitude of hills,
Crags, woodlands, waterfalls, and rills;
Which soon the morning shall enfold,
From east to west, in ample vest
Of massy gloom and radiance bold.
The mists, that o'er the Streamlet's bed
Hung low, begin to rise and spread;
Even while I speak, their skirts of grey
Are smitten by a silver ray;
And lo!-up Castrigg's naked steep
(Where, smoothly urged, the vapours sweep
Along-and scatter and divide
Like fleecy clouds self-multiplied)
The stately Waggon is ascending
With faithful Benjamin attending,
Apparent now beside his team-
Now lost amid a glittering steam.
And with him goes his Sailor Friend,
By this time near their journey's end,
And, after their high-minded riot,
Sickening into thoughtful quiet;
As if the morning's pleasant hour
Had for their joys a killing power.
They are drooping, weak, and dull; But the horses stretch and pull; With increasing vigour climb, Eager to repair lost time; Whether by their own desert, Knowing there is cause for shame, They are labouring to avert At least a portion of the blame, Which full surely will alight Upon his head, whom, in despite Of all his faults they love the best; Whether for him they are distress'd ;
Or, by length of fasting roused,
Are impatient to be housed;
Up against the hill they strain-
Tugging at the iron chain-
Tugging all with might and main-
Last and foremost, every horse
To the utmost of his force!
And the smoke and respiration
Rising like an exhalation,
Blends with the mist,-a moving shroud
To form-an undissolving cloud;
Which, with slant ray, the merry sun
Takes delight to play upon.
Never surely old Apollo
He, or other God as old,
Of whom in story we are told,
Who had a favourite to follow
Through a battle or elsewhere,
Round the object of his care,
In a time of peril, threw
Veil of such celestial hue;
Interposed so bright a screen
Him and his enemies between!
Alas, what boots it?-who can hide When the malicious Fates are bent On working out an ill intent? Can destiny be turn'd aside? No-sad progress of my story! Benjamin, this outward glory Cannot shield thee from thy Master, Who from Keswick has prick'd forth, Sour and surly as the north; And, in fear of some disaster, Comes to give what help he may, Or to hear what thou canst say; If, as needs he must forebode, Thou hast loiter'd on the road!
His doubts-his fears may now take flight-
The wished-for object is in sight;
Yet, trust the Muse, it rather hath
Stirr'd him up to livelier wrath;
Which he stifles, moody man!
With all the patience that he can;
To the end that at your meeting
Ile may give thee decent greeting.
There he is-resolved to stop, Till the waggon gains the top; But stop he cannot-must advance: Him Benjamin, with lucky glance, Espies, and instantly is ready, Self-collected, poised, and steady; And, to be the better seen, Issues from his radiant shroud, From his close attending cloud, With careless air and open mien. Erect his port, and firm his going; So struts yon cock that now is crowing; And the morning light in grace Strikes upon his lifted face, Hurrying the pallid hue away That might his trespasses betray. But what can all avail to clear him, Or what need of explanation, Parley, or interrogation?