« PreviousContinue »
How deep yon azure dyes the sky, Where orbs of gold unnumbered lie, While through their ranks in silver pride The nether crescent seems to glide!
The slumb'ring breeze forgets to breathe;
The lake is smooth and clear beneath,
Where once again the spangled show
Descends to meet our eyes below.
The grounds which on the right aspire
In dimness from the view retire;
The left presents a place of graves,
Whose wall the silent water laves;
That steeple guides thy doubtful sight
Among the livid gleams of night;
There pass, with melancholy state,
By all the solemn heaps of Fate,
And think, as softly-sad you tread
Above the venerable dead,
"Time was, like thee they life possessed,
And time shall be that thou shalt rest."
Those graves, with bending osier bound,
That nameless heave the crumbled ground,
Quick to the glancing thought disclose
Where Toil and Poverty repose.
The flat smooth stones that bear a name,
The chisel's slender help to fame
(Which ere our set of friends decay
Their frequent steps may wear away),
A middle race of mortals own,
Men half ambitious, all unknown.
The marble tombs that rise on high,
Whose dead in vaulted arches lie,
Whose pillars swell with sculptured stones-
Arms, angels, epitaphs, and bones,—
These, all the poor remains of state,
Adorn the rich or praise the great,
Who, while on earth in fame they live,
Are senseless of the fame they give.
Ha! while I gaze, pale Cynthia fades;
The bursting earth unveils the shades!
All slow, and wan, and wrapped with shrouds,
They rise in visionary crowds,
And all with sober accent cry,
"Think, mortal, what it is to die!"
Now from yon black and fun'ral yew,
That bathes the charnel-house with dew,
Methinks I hear a voice begin
(Ye ravens, cease your croaking din!
Ye tolling clocks, no time resound
O'er the long lake and midnight ground!);
It sends a peal of hollow groans,
Thus speaking from among the bones:
"When men my scythe and darts supply,
How great a King of Fears am I!
They view me like the last of things:
They make, and then they dread, my stings.
Fools! if you less provoked your fears,
No more my spectre-form appears.
Death's but a path that must be trod,
If man would ever pass to God;
A port of calms, a state of ease
From the rough rage of swelling seas.
Why, then, thy flowing sable stoles,
Deep pendant cypress, mourning poles,
Loose scarfs to fall athwart thy weeds,
Long palls, drawn hearses, covered steeds,
And plumes of black, that, as they tread,
Nod o'er the 'scutcheons of the dead?
Nor can the parted body know,
Nor wants the soul, these forms of woe:
As men who long in prison dwell,
With lamps that glimmer round the cell,
Whene'er their suffering years are run,
Spring forth to greet the glitt'ring sun,
Such joy, though far transcending sense,
Have pious souls at parting hence;
On earth, and in the body placed,
A few and evil years they waste,
But, when their chains are cast aside,
See the glad scene unfolding wide,
Clap the glad wing, and tow'r away,
And mingle with the blaze of day.
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a rev'rend hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well:
Remote from man, with God he passed the days,
Pray'r all his business, all his pleasure praise.
A life so sacred, such serene repose,
Seemed heav'n itself till one suggestion rose;
That vice should triumph, virtue vice obey,
This sprung some doubt of Providence's sway:
His hopes no more a certain prospect boast,
And all the tenour of his soul is lost.
So when a smooth expanse receives imprest
Calm Nature's image on its wat'ry breast,
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow,
And skies beneath with answ'ring colours glow;
But if a stone the gentle scene divide,
Swift ruffling circles curl on ev'ry side,
And glimmering fragments of a broken sun,
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run.
To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
To find if books or swains report it right
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Whose feet came wand'ring o'er the nightly dew),
He quits his cell: the pilgrim-staff he bore,
And fixed the scallop in his hat before;
Then with the sun a rising journey went,
Sedate to think and watching each event.
The morn was wasted in the pathless grass,
And long and lonesome was the wild to pass;
But when the southern sun had warmed the day,
A youth came posting o'er a crossing way-
His raiment decent, his complexion fair,
And soft in graceful ringlets waved his hair.
Then, near approaching, "Father, hail!" he cried;
"And hail, my son!" the rev'rend sire replied.
Words followed words, from question answer flowed,
And talk of various kind deceived the road;
Till, each with other pleased, and loth to part,
While in their age they differ, join in heart:
Thus stands an aged elm, in ivy bound;
Thus youthful ivy clasps an elm around.
Now sunk the sun; the closing hour of day
Came onward, mantled o'er with sober gray;
Nature in silence bid the world repose;
When near the road a stately palace rose:
There by the moon through ranks of trees they pass,
Whose verdure crowned their sloping sides of grass.
It chanced the noble master of the dome
Still made his house the wand'ring stranger's home;
Yet still the kindness, from a thirst of praise,
Proved the vain flourish of expensive ease.
The pair arrive: the liv'ried servants wait;
Their lord receives them at the pompous gate;
The table groans with costly piles of food,
And all is more than hospitably good;
Then, led to rest, the day's long toil they drown,
Deep sunk in sleep and silk and heaps of down.
At length 't is morn, and at the dawn of day
Along the wide canals the zephyrs play;
Fresh o'er the gay parterres the breezes creep,
And shake the neighb'ring wood to banish sleep.
Up rise the guests, obedient to the call:
An early banquet decked the splendid hall;
Rich luscious wine a golden goblet graced,
Which the kind master forced the guests to taste;
Then, pleased and thankful, from the porch they go,
And but the landlord none had cause of woe-
His cup was vanished, for in secret guise
The younger guest purloined the glittering prize.
As one who 'spies a serpent in his way,
Glist'ning and basking in the summer ray,
Disordered stops to shun the danger near,
Then walks with faintness on and looks with fear;
So seemed the sire, when, far upon the road,
The shining spoil his wily partner showed:
He stopped with silence, walked with trembling heart,
And much he wished, but durst not ask, to part;
Murm'ring he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard
That generous actions meet a base reward.
While thus they pass, the sun his glory shrouds;
The changing skies hang out their sable clouds;
A sound in air presaged approaching rain,
And beasts to covert scud across the plain.
Warned by the signs, the wand'ring pair retreat,
To seek for shelter at a neighb'ring seat.
'T was built with turrets, on a rising ground,
And strong, and large, and unimproved around;
Its owner's temper, tim'rous and severe,
Unkind and griping, caused a desert there.
As near the miser's heavy doors they drew,
Fierce rising gusts with sudden fury blew;
The nimble lightning, mixed with show'rs, began,
And o'er their heads loud-rolling thunders ran.
Here long they knock, but knock or call in vain,
Driv'n by the wind and battered by the rain.
At length some pity warmed the master's breast
('T was then his threshold first received a guest):
Slow creaking, turns the door with jealous care,
And half he welcomes in the shivering pair;
One frugal faggot lights the naked walls,
And nature's fervour through their limbs recalls;
Bread of the coarsest sort, with eager wine,
Each hardly granted, served them both to dine;
And when the tempest first appeared to cease,
A ready warning bid them part in peace.
With still remark the pond'ring hermit viewed
In one so rich a life so poor and rude;
"And why should such," within himself he cried,
"Lock the lost wealth a thousand want beside?"
But what new marks of wonder soon took place
In ev'ry settling feature of his face,
When from his vest the young companion bore
That cup the gen'rous landlord owned before,
And paid profusely, with the precious bowl,
The stinted kindness of this churlish soul!
But now the clouds in airy tumult fly;
The sun, emerging, opes an azure sky;
A fresher green the smelling leaves display,
And, glitt'ring as they tremble, cheer the day:
The weather courts them from the poor retreat,
And the glad master bolts the wary gate.