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The start of terror and the groan of fear,
See the large dew-beads on his forehead rise,
And the cold.death-drop glaze his sunken eyes.
Nor yet he died, but with unwonted force
Seemed with some fancied being to discourse:
He knew not us, or with accustomed art
He hid the knowledge, yet exposed his heart;
’T was part confession and the rest defence,
A madman's tale with gleams of waking sense.
"I'll tell you all,” he said, “the very day
When the old man first placed them in my way,
My father's spirit, he who always tried
To give me trouble when he lived and died;
When he was gone he could not be content
To see my days in painful labour spent,
But would appoint his meetings, and he made
Me watch at these and so neglect my trade.
“T was one hot noon, all silent, still, serene;
No living being had I lately seen;
I paddled up and down, and dipped my net,
But (such his pleasure) I could nothing get-
A father's pleasure, when his toil was done,
To plague and torture thus an only son!
And so I sat and looked upon the stream,
How it ran on, and felt as in a dream.
But dream it was not: no! I fixed my eyes
On the mid stream, and saw the spirits rise;
I saw my father on the water stand,
And hold a thin pale boy in either hand;
And there they glided ghastly on the top
Of the salt flood, and never touched a drop;
I would have struck them, but they knew th' intent,
And smiled upon the oar, and down they went.
“Now, from that day, whenever I began
To dip my net, there stood the hard old man-
He and those boys. I humbled me, and prayed
They would be gone: they heeded not, but stayed;
Nor could I turn, nor would the boat go by,
But, gazing on the spirits, there was I;
They bade me leap to death, but I was loth to die.
And every day, as sure as day arose,
Would these three spirits meet me ere the close;
To hear and mark them daily was my doom,
And 'Come,' they said, with weak, sad voices, 'come':
To row away, with all my strength I tried,
325 But there were they, hard by me in the tide, The three unbodied forms; and 'Come,' still 'come,' they
cried. Fathers should pity—but this old man shook His hoary locks, and froze me by a look. Thrice, when I struck them, through the water came 330 A hollow groan, that weakened all my frame. 'Father !' said I, ‘have mercy! He repliedI know not what—the angry spirit lied‘Didst thou not draw thy knife?' said he: 't was true, But I had pity and my arm withdrew;
335 He cried for mercy, which I kindly gave, But he has no compassion in his grave.
“There were three places where they ever roseThe whole long river has not such as those Places accurst, where if a man remain,
340 He'll see the things which strike him to the brain: And there they made me on my paddle lean, And look at them for hours-accursèd scene! When they would glide to that smooth eddy-space, Then bid me leap and join them in the place; And at my groans each little villain sprite Enjoyed my pains and vanished in delight.
"In one fierce summer day, when my poor brain Was burning-hot, and cruel was my pain, Then came this father-foe, and there he stood
350 With his two boys again upon the flood; There was more mischief in their eyes, more glee In their pale faces, when they glared at me. Still did they force me on the oar to rest; And when they saw me fainting and oppressed,
355 He, with his hand, the old man, scooped the flood, And there came flame about him mixed with blood; He bade me stoop and look upon the place, Then flung the hot-red liquor in my face; Burning it blazed, and then I roared for pain
360 I thought the demons would have turned my brain.
Still there they stood, and forced me to behold
A place of horrors—they can not be told-
Where the flood opened, there I heard the shriek
Of tortured guilt-no earthly tongue can speak:
‘All days alike! forever ! did they say,
‘And unremitted torments every day!-
Yes, so they said.” But here he ceased, and gazed
On all around, affrightened and amazed;
And still he tried to speak, and looked in dread
Of frightened females gathering round his bed;
Then dropped exhausted, and appeared at rest
Till the strong foe the vital powers possessed;
Then with an inward, broken voice he cried,
"Again they come !” and muttered as he died.
"Whom passed we musing near the woodman's shed,
Whose horse not only carried him but led,
That his grave rider might have slept the time,
Or solved a problem, or composed a rhyme ?
A more abstracted man within my view
Has never come—he recollected you.”
Yes, he was thoughtful-thinks the whole day long,
Deeply, and chiefly that he once thought wrong:
He thought a strong and kindred mind to trace
In the soft outlines of a trifler's face.
Poor Finch! I knew him when at school, a boy
Who might be said his labours to enjoy;
So young a pedant that he always took
The girl to dance who most admired her book,
And would the butler and the cook surprise,
Who listened to his Latin exercise.
The matron's self the praise of Finch avowed,
He was so serious and he read so loud.
But yet, with all this folly and conceit,
The lines he wrote were elegant and neat;
And early promise in his mind appeared
Of noble efforts when by reason cleared.
And when he spoke of wives, the boy would say
His should be skilled in Greek and algebra,
For who would talk with one to whom his themes
And favourite studies were no more than dreams?
For this, though courteous, gentle, and humane,
The boys contemned and hated him as vain,
Stiff, and pedantic.
"Did the man enjoy, In after life, the visions of the boy?”
At least they formed his wishes; they were yet
The favourite views, on which his mind was set:
He quaintly said how happy must they prove
Who, loving, study, or who, studious, love;
Who feel their minds with sciences imbued,
And their warm hearts by beauty's force subdued.
His widowed mother, who the world had seen,
And better judge of either sex had been,
Told him that, just as their affairs were placed,
In some respects he must forego his taste;
That every beauty, both of form and mind,
Must be by him, if unendowed, resigned;
That wealth was wanted for their joint affairs-
His sisters' portions and the Hall's repairs.
The son assented—and the wife must bring
Wealth, learning, beauty, ere he gave the ring;
But as these merits, when they all unite,
Are not produced in every soil and site,
And when produced are not the certain gain
Of him who would these precious things obtain,
Our patient student waited many a year,
Nor saw this phoenix in his walks appear.
But as views mended in the joint estate,
He would a something in his points abate:
Give him but learning, beauty, temper, sense,
And he would then the happy state commence.
The mother sighed, but she at last agreed;
And now the son was likely to succeed:
Wealth is substantial good the Fates allot-
We know we have it or we have it not;
But all those graces which men highly rate
Their minds themselves imagine and create,
And therefore Finch was in a way to find
A good that much depended on his mind.
He looked around, observing, till he saw
Augusta Dallas ! when he felt an awe
Of so much beauty and commanding grace,
That well became the honours of her race:
This lady never boasted of the trash
That commerce brings; she never spoke of cash;
70 The gentle blood that ran in every vein At all such notions blushed in pure disdain. Wealth once relinquished, there was all beside, As Finch believed, that could adorn a bride: He could not gaze upon the form and air
75 Without concluding all was right and fair; Her mild but dignified reserve suppressed All free inquiry, but his mind could rest, Assured that all was well, and in that view was blest. And now he asked, “Am I the happy man
80 Who can deserve her? is there one who can?” His mother told him he possessed the land That puts a man in heart to ask a hand; All who possess it feel they bear about A spell that puts a speedy end to doubt. But Finch was modest : "May it, then, be thought That she can so be gained?" "She may be sought.” “Can love with land be won?” “By land is beauty bought. Do not, dear Charles, with indignation glow, All value that the want of which they know :
90 Nor do I blame her; none that worth denies. But can my son be sure of what he buys? Beauty she has; but with it can you find The inquiring spirit or the studious mind? This wilt thou need who art to thinking prone,
95 And minds unpaired had better think alone; Then how unhappy will the husband be Whose sole associate spoils his company?” This he would try; but all such trials prove Too mighty for a man disposed to love: He whom the magic of a face enchains But little knowledge of the mind obtains;