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Time was when, settling on thy leaf, a fly
Could shake thee to the root-and time has been
When tempests could not. At thy firmest age
Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents,
That might have ribbed the sides and planked the deck
Of some flagged admiral ; and tortuous arms,
The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present
To the four-quartered winds, robust and bold,
Warped into tough knee-timber, many a load !
But the axe spared thee. In those thriftier days
Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply
The bottomless demands of contest waged
For senatorial honours. Thus to Time
The task was left to whittle thee away
With his sly scythe, whose ever-nibbling edge,
Noiseless, an atom, and an atom more,
Disjoining from the rest, has, unobserved,
Achieved a labour, which had, far and wide,
By man performed, made all the forest ring.

Embowelled now, and of thy ancient self
Possessing nought but the scooped rind, that seems
A huge throat calling to the clouds for drink,
Which it would give in rivulets to thy root,
Thou temptest none, but rather much forbiddest
The feller's toil, which thou couldst ill requite. 115
Yet is thy root sincere, sound as the rock,
A quarry of stout spurs and knotted fangs,
Which, crooked into a thousand whimsies, clasp
The stubborn soil, and hold thee still erect.

So stands a kingdom, whose foundation yet


I 20


Knee-timber is found in the crooked arms of oak, which, by reason of their distortion, are easily adjusted to the angle formed where the deck and the ship's sides meet.

Fails not, in virtue and in wisdom laid,
Though all the superstructure, by the tooth
Pulverised of venality, a shell
Stands now, and semblance only of itself!

Thine arms have left thee. Winds have rent them off Long since, and rovers of the forest wild

126 With bow and shaft have burnt them. Some have left A splintered stump bleached to a snowy white; And some memorial none where once they grew. Yet life still lingers in thee, and puts forth

Proof not contemptible of what she can,
Even where death predominates. The Spring
Finds thee not less alive to her sweet force
Than yonder upstarts of the neighbouring wood,
So much thy juniors, who their birth received 135
Half a millennium since the date of thine.

But since, although well qualified by age
To teach, no spirit dwells in thee, nor voice
May be expected from thee, seated here
On thy distorted root, with hearers none,

Or prompter, save the scene, I will perform
Myself the oracle, and will discourse
In my own ear such matter as I

may. One man alone, the father of us all, Drew not his life from woman; never gazed,

145 With mute unconsciousness of what he saw, On all around him ; learned not by degrees, Nor owed articulation to his ear ; But moulded by his Maker into man At once, upstood intelligent, surveyed

150 All creatures, with precision understood Their purport, uses, properties; assigned To each his name significant, and, filled

With love and wisdom, rendered back to Heaven
In praise harmonious the first air he drew.

He was excused the penalties of dull
Minority. No tutor charged his hand
With the thought-tracing quill, or tasked his mind
With problems. History, not wanted yet,
Leaned on her elbow, watching Time, whose course,
Eventful, should supply her with a theme.






John GILPIN was a citizen

Of credit and renown,
A train-band captain eke was he

Of famous London town.


John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,

“Though wedded we have been These twice ten tedious years, yet we

No holiday have seen.

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"My sister, and my sister's child,

Myself, and children three,
Will fill the chaise ; so you must ride

On horseback after we.”


He soon replied, "I do admire

Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear,

Therefore it shall be done.


“I am a linen-draper bold,

As all the world doth know, And my good friend the calender

Will lend his horse to go.”


Quoth Mrs Gilpin, “ That's well said ;

And for that wine is dear,
We will be furnished with our own,

Which is both bright and clear.”


John Gilpin kissed his loving wife;

O'erjoyed was he to find,
That though on pleasure she was bent,

She had a frugal mind.

The morning came, the chaise was brought,

But yet was not allowed
To drive up to the door, lest all

Should say that she was proud.


So three doors off the chaise was stayed,

Where they did all get in ; Six precious souls, and all agog

To dash through thick and thin.


Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,

Were never folk so glad ;
The stones did rattle underneath,

As if Cheapside were mad.


John Gilpin at his horse's side

Seized fast the flowing mane, And up he got, in haste to ride,

But soon came down again;

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