« PreviousContinue »
Moves right toward the mark; nor stops for aught,
But now and then with pressure of his thumb
To adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube
That fumes beneath his nose: the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.
Now from the roost or from the neighbouring pale,
Where diligent to catch the first faint gleam
Of smiling day, they gossipp'd side by side,
Come trooping at the housewife's well-known call
The feather'd tribes domestic. Half on wing
And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood
Conscious, and fearful of too deep a plunge.
The sparrows peep, and quit the sheltering eaves
To seize the fair occasion. Well they eye
The scatter'd grain, and thievishly resolved
To escape the impending famine, often scared
As oft return, a pert voracious kind.
Clean riddance quickly made, one only care
Remains to each, the search of sunny nook,
Or shed impervious to the blast. Resign'd
To sad necessity the cock foregoes
His wonted strut, and wading at their head
With well-considered steps, seems to resent
His alter'd gait and stateliness retrenched.
How find the myriads that in summer cheer3
2 While the cock to the barn door Stoutly struts his dames before.
3 Ilk hopping bird, wee, hapless thing That in the merry months o' spring Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o'thee?
Where wilt thou cower thy chitt'ring wing
An' close thy e'e?
The hills and vallies with their ceaseless songs
Due sustenance, or where subsist they now?
Earth yields them nought: the imprison'd worm is safe
Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs
Lie covered close, and berry-bearing thorns
That feed the thrush, (whatever some suppose,)
Afford the smaller minstrels no supply.
The long protracted rigour of the year
Thins all their numerous flocks. In chinks and holes
Ten thousand seek an unmolested end
As instinct prompts, self buried ere they die.
The very rooks and daws forsake the fields,
Where neither grub nor root nor earth-nut now
Repays their labour more; and perch'd aloft
By the way-side, or stalking in the path,
Lean pensioners upon the traveller's track,
Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them,
Of voided pulse or half digested grain.
The streams are lost amid the splendid blank
O'erwhelming all distinction. On the flood
Indurated and fixt, the snowy weight
Lies undissolved, while silently beneath
And unperceived the current steals away.
Not so, where scornful of a check it leaps
The mill-dam, dashes on the restless wheel,
And wantons in the pebbly gulf below.
No frost can bind it there. Its utmost force
Can but arrest the light and smoky mist
That in its fall the liquid sheet throws wide.
And see where it has hung the embroidered banks
With forms so various, that no powers of art,
The pencil or the pen, may trace the scene!
Here glittering turrets rise, upbearing high
(Fantastic misarrangement,) on the roof
Large growth of what may seem the sparkling trees
And shrubs of fairy land. The chrystal drops
That trickle down the branches, fast congeal'd
Shoot into pillars of pellucid length,
And prop the pile they but adorned before.
Here grotto within grotto safe defies
The sun-beam. There emboss'd and fretted wild
The growing wonder takes a thousand shapes
Capricious, in which fancy seeks in vain
The likeness of some object seen before.
Thus nature works as if to mock at art1,
And in defiance of her rival powers;
By these fortuitous and random strokes
Performing such inimitable feats
As she with all her rules can never reach.
Less worthy of applause though more admired,
Because a novelty, the work of man,
Imperial mistress of the fur-clad Russ!
Thy most magnificent and mighty freak,
4 'Twas nature's will; who sometimes undertakes,
For the reproof of human vanity,
Art to outstrip in her peculiar walk.
The pillar'd vestibule,
Expanding yet precise, the roof
Might seem design'd to humble man, when proud
Of his best workmanship by plan and tool.
Wordsworth. Second Sonn. on Staffa.
The sport of nature, aided by blind chance
Rudely to mock the works of toiling man.
The wonder of the north. No forest fell
When thou would'st build; no quarry sent its stores
To enrich thy walls: but thou didst hew the floods,
And make thy marble of the glassy wave.
In such a palace Aristæus found
Cyrene, when he bore the plaintive tale
Of his lost bees to her maternal ear.
In such a palace poetry might place
The armoury of Winter, where his troops
The gloomy clouds find weapons, arrowy sleet'
Skin-piercing volley, blossom-bruising hail,
And snow that often blinds the traveller's course,
And wraps him in an unexpected tomb.
Silently as a dream the fabric rose.
No sound of hammer or of saw was there.
Ice upon ice, the well-adjusted parts
Were soon conjoined, nor other cement ask'd
Than water interfused to make them one.
Lamps gracefully disposed and of all hues
Illumined every side. A watery light
Gleamed through the clear transparency, that seemed
Another moon new-risen', or meteor fallen
From heaven to earth, of lambent flame serene.
So stood the brittle prodigy, though smooth
And slippery the materials, yet frost-bound
Firm as a rock. Nor wanted aught within
5 Sharp sleet of arrowy showers. Par. Reg. iii. 324. Iron sleet of arrowy shower. Gray.
There was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building. 1 Kings, vi. 7. Par. Lost, i. 594.
7 As when the sun new risen.
That royal residence might well befit,
For grandeur or for use.
Of flowers that feared no
Blushed on the pannels.
Where all was vitreous, but in order due
Convivial table and commodious seat
Long wavy wreaths enemy but warmth, Mirror needed none
At hewing mountains into men, and some
At building human wonders mountain-high.
Some have amused the dull sad years of life,
in indolence, and therefore sad,
With schemes of monumental fame, and sought
(What seemed at least commodious seat,) were there, Sofa and couch and high-built throne august. The same lubricity was found in all, And all was moist to the warm touch, a scene Of evanescent glory, once a stream, And soon to slide into a stream again. Alas! 'twas but a mortifying stroke Of undesigned severity, that glanced (Made by a monarch,) on her own estate, On human grandeur and the courts of kings. 'Twas transient in its nature, as in show 'Twas durable. As worthless as it seemed Intrinsically precious: to the foot
Treacherous and false, it smiled and it was cold.
Great princes have great playthings. Some have played
See Kircher's description of the Grotto of Antiparos, in Goldsmith's Nat. vol. i. c. 8.
In several places magnificent columns, thrones, altars, and other objects appeared, as if nature had designed to mock the curiosities of art. &c.