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If, as needs he must forebode,
Thou hast been loitering on the road!
His fears, his doubts, may now take flight-
The wished-for object is in sight;
Yet, trust the Muse, it rather hath
Stirred him up to livelier wrath ;
Which he stifles, moody man!
With all the patience that he can;
To the end that, at your meeting,
He may give thee decent greeting.
There he is-resolved to stop,
Till the waggon gains the top;
But stop he cannot-must advance:
Him Benjamin, with lucky glance,
Espies-and instantly is ready,
Self-collected, poised, and steady:
And, to be the better seen,
Issues from his radiant shroud,
From his close-attending cloud,
With careless air and open
Erect his port, and firm his going;
So struts yon cock that now is crowing ;
And the morning light in grace
Strikes upon his lifted face,
Hurrying the pallid hue away
That might his trespasses betray.
But what can all avail to clear him,
Or what need of explanation,
Parley or interrogation ?
For the Master sees, alas !
That unhappy Figure near him,
Limping o'er the dewy grass,
Where the road it fringes, sweet,
Soft and cool to way-worn feet;
And, O indignity! an Ass,
By his noble Mastiff's side,
Tethered to the waggon's tail :
And the ship, in all her pride,
Following after in full sail !
Not to speak of babe and mother;
Who, contented with each other,
And snug as birds in leafy arbour,
Find, within, a blessed harbour !
With eager eyes the Master pries;
Looks in and out, and through and through;
Says nothing-till at last he spies
A wound upon the Mastiff's head,
A wound, where plainly might be read
What feats an Ass's hoof can do!
But drop the rest :—this aggravation,
This complicated provocation,
A hoard of grievances unsealed;
All past forgiveness it repealed;
And thus, and through distempered blood
On both sides, Benjamin the good,
The patient, and the tender-hearted,
Was from his team and waggon parted;
When duty of that day was o'er,
Laid down his whip--and served no more.-
Nor could the waggon long survive,
Which Benjamin had ceased to drive:
It lingered on ;-guide after guide
Ambitiously the office tried;
But each unmanageable hill
Called for his patience and his skill;-
And sure it is, that through this night,
And what the morning brought to light,
Two losses had we to sustain,
We lost both WAGGONER and WAIN !
Accept, O Friend, for praise or blame,
The gift of this adventurous song;
A record which I dared to frame,
Though timid scruples checked me long;
They checked me--and I left the theme
Untouched-in spite of many a gleam
Of fancy which thereon was shed,
Like pleasant sunbeams shifting still
Upon the side of a distant hill :
But Nature might not be gainsaid;
For what I have and what I miss
I sing of these ;-it makes
bliss ! Nor is it I who play the part, But a shy spirit in my heart, That comes and goes—will sometimes leap From hiding-places ten years deep; Or haunts me with familiar face, Returning, like a ghost unlaid, Until the debt I owe be paid. Forgive me, then; for I had been On friendly terms with this Machine: In him, while he was wont to trace Our roads, through many a long year's space, A living almanack had we; We had a speaking diary, That in this uneventful place,
Gave to the days a mark and name
By which we knew them when they came.
-Yes, I, and all about me here,
Through all the changes of the year,
Had seen him through the mountains go,
of mist or pomp of snow,
Majestically huge and slow:
Or, with a milder grace adorning
The landscape of a summer's morning;
While Grasmere smoothed her liquid plain
The moving image to detain;
And mighty Fairfield, with a chime
Of echoes, to his march kept time;
When little other business stirred,
And little other sound was heard ;
In that delicious hour of balm,
Stillness, solitude, and calm,
While yet the valley is arrayed,
On this side with a sober shade;
On that is prodigally bright-
Crag, lawn, and wood—with rosy light.
-But most of all, thou Lordly Wain!
I wish to have thee here again,
When windows flap and chimney roars,
And all is dismal out of doors;
And, sitting by my fire, I see
Eight sorry carts, no less a train ;
Unworthy successors of thee,
Come straggling through the wind and rain!
And oft, as they pass slowly on,
Beneath my windows, one by one,
See, perched upon the naked height
The summit of a cumbrous freight,
A single traveller-and there
Another; then perhaps a pair-
The lame, the sickly, and the old;
Men, women, heartless with the cold;
And babes in wet and starveling plight;
Which once, be weather as it might,
Had still a nest within a nest,
Thy shelter—and their mother's breast !
Then most of all, then far the most,
Do I regret what we have lost;
Am grieved for that unhappy sin
Which robbed us of good Benjamin;
And of his stately Charge, which none
Could keep alive when He was gone!