Page images
PDF
EPUB

IO

15

20

In unrecumbent sadness; there they wait
Their wonted fodder, not like hung'ring man,
Fretful if unsupplied, but silent, meek,
And patient of the slow-paced swain's delay.
He from the stack carves out th' accustomed load,
Deep-plunging and again deep-plunging oft
His broad, keen knife into the solid mass;
Smooth as a wall the upright remnant stands,
With such undeviating and even force
He severs it away; no needless care
Lest storms should overset the leaning pile
Deciduous, or its own unbalanced weight.
Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcerned
The cheerful haunts of man, to wield the axe
And drive the wedge in yonder forest drear,
From morn to eve his solitary task.
Shaggy and lean and shrewd, with pointed ears
And tail cropped short, half lurcher and half cur,
His dog attends him: close behind his heel
Now creeps he slow; and now, with many a frisk
Wide scamp'ring, snatches up the drifted snow
With iv'ry teeth, or ploughs it with his snout;
Then shakes his powdered coat, and barks for joy.
Heedless of all his pranks, the sturdy churl
Moves right toward the mark, nor stops for aught
But now and then with pressure of his thumb
T'adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube
That fumes beneath his nose; the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.

25

30

35

THE BASTILE

Then shame to manhood, and opprobrious more
To France than all her losses and defeats
Old or of later date, by sea or land,
Her house of bondage worse than that of old
Which God avenged on Paraoh—the Bastile !
Ye horrid tow'rs, th' abode of broken hearts,
Ye dungeons and ye cages of despair,
That monarchs have supplied from age to age
With music such as suits their sov'reign ears-

5 10

15

20

25

The sighs and groans of miserable men,
There's not an English heart that would not leap
To hear that ye were fallen at last, to know
That even our enemies, so oft employed
In forging chains for us, themselves were free:
For he that values liberty, confines
His zeal for her predominance within
No narrow bounds; her cause engages him
Wherever pleaded; 't is the cause of man.
There dwell the most forlorn of human kind,
Immured though unaccused, condemned untried,
Cruelly spared, and hopeless of escape.
There, like the visionary emblem seen
By him of Babylon, life stands a stump,
And filleted about with hoops of brass;
Still lives, though all its pleasant boughs are gone.
To count the hour-bell and expect no change;
And ever as the sullen sound is heard,
Still to reflect that though a joyless note
To him whose moments all have one dull pace,
Ten thousand rovers in the world at large
Account it music—that it summons some
To theatre, or jocund feast, or ball;
The wearied hireling finds it a release
From labour; and the lover, that has chid
Its long delay, feels ev'ry welcome stroke
Upon his heart-strings trembling with delight:
To fly for refuge from distracting thought
To such amusements as ingenious woe
Contrives, hard-shifting and without her tools-
To read engraven on the mouldy walls,
In stagg’ring types, his predecessor's tale,
A sad memorial, and subjoin his own;
To turn purveyor to an overgorged
And bloated spider, till the pampered pest
Is made familiar, watches his approach,
Comes at his call, and serves him for a friend;
To wear out time in numb'ring to and fro
The studs that thick emboss his iron door,
Then downward and then upward, then aslant
And then alternate, with a sickly hope

30

35

40

45

50 55

By dint of change to give his tasteless task
Some relish, till, the sum exactly found
In all directions, he begins again :-
Oh comfortless existence! hemmed around
With woes, which who that suffers would not kneel
And beg for exile or the pangs of death?
That man should thus encroach on fellow-man,
Abridge him of his just and native rights,
Eradicate him, tear him from his hold
Upon th' endearments of domestic life
And social, nip his fruitfulness and use,
And doom him for perhaps an heedless word
To barrenness and solitude and tears,
Moves indignation; makes the name of king
(Of king whom such prerogative can please)
As dreadful as the Manichean god,
Adored through fear, strong only to destroy.

60

65

5

10

SET NOT THY FOOT ON WORMS
I would not enter on my list of friends,
Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility, the man
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
An inadvertent step may crush the snail
That crawls at ev'ning in the public path;
But he that has humanity, forewarned,
Will tread aside and let the reptile live.
The creeping vermin, loathsome to the sight,
And charged perhaps with venom, that intrudes,
A visitor unwelcome, into scenes
Sacred to neatness and repose-th' alcove,
The chamber, or refectory,—may die:
A necessary act incurs no blame.
Not so when, held within their proper bounds
And guiltless of offence, they range the air,
Or take their pastime in the spacious field:
There they are privileged; and he that hunts
Or harms them there is guilty of a wrong,
Disturbs th' economy of Nature's realm,
Who, when she formed, designed them an abode.
1783-84

1785.

15

20

ON THE DEATH OF MRS. THROCKMORTON'S

BULLFINCH

Ye nymphs, if e'er your eyes were red
With tears o'er hapless fav'rites shed,

O, share Maria's grief!
Her fav'rite, even in his cage
(What will not hunger's cruel rage?),

Assassined by a thief.

5

Where Rhenus strays his vines among,
The egg was laid from which he sprung;

And though by nature mute,
Or only with a whistle blest,
Well-taught, he all the sounds expressed

Of flageolet or flute.

ro

15

The honours of his ebon poll
Were brighter than the sleekest mole;

His bosom, of the hue
With which Aurora decks the skies
When piping winds shall soon arise

To sweep away the dew.

20

Above, below, in all the house,
Dire foe alike of bird and mouse,

No cat had leave to dwell ;
And Bully's cage supported stood
On props of smoothest-shaven wood,

Large built and latticed well.

25

Well latticed—but the grate, alas!
Not rough with wire of steel or brass,

For Bully's plumage sake,
But smooth with wands from Ouse's side,
With which, when neatly peeled and dried,

The swains their baskets make.

30

Night veiled the pole; all seemed secure;
When, led by instinct sharp and sure,

Subsistence to provide,
A beast forth sallied on the scout,
Long-backed, long-tailed, with whiskered snout,

And badger-coloured hide.

35

He, ent'ring at the study door,
Its ample area 'gan explore,

And something in the wind
Conjectured, sniffing round and round,
Better than all the books he found,

Food chiefly for the mind.

40

45

Just then, by adverse fate impressed,
A dream disturbed poor Bully's rest;

In sleep he seemed to view
A rat fast clinging to the cage,
And, screaming at the sad presage,

Awoke and found it true.

50

For, aided both by ear and scent,
Right to his mark the monster went-

Ah, Muse! forbear to speak
Minute the horrors that ensued:
His teeth were strong, the cage was wood,

He left poor Bully's beak.

[blocks in formation]

O that those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine—thy own sweet smile I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,

5

« PreviousContinue »