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A Summer Forenoon. The Author reaches a ruined Cottage upon a Common, and there meets with a revered Friend, the Wanderer, of whose education and course of life he gives an account. The Wanderer, while resting under the shade of the Trees that surround the Cottage, relates the History of its last Inhabitant.
"T WAS summer, and the sun had mounted high;
Southward the landscape indistinctly glared
Through a pale steam; but all the Northern downs,
In clearest air ascending, showed far off
A surface dappled o'er with shadows flung
From brooding clouds; shadows that lay in spots
Determined and unmoved, with steady beams
Of bright and pleasant sunshine interposed;
To him most pleasant who on soft cool moss
Extends his careless limbs along the front
Of some huge cave, whose rocky ceiling casts
A twilight of its own, an ample shade,
Where the wren warbles, while the dreaming man,
Half conscious of the soothing melody,
With sidelong eye looks out upon the scene,
By power of that impending covert thrown
To finer distance. Mine was at that hour
Far other lot, yet with good hope that soon
Under a shade as grateful I should find
Rest, and be welcomed there to livelier joy.
Across a bare wide Common I was toiling
With languid steps that by the slippery turf
Were baffled; nor could my weak arm disperse
The host of insects gathering round my face,
And ever with me as I paced along.
Upon that open moorland stood a grove,
The wished-for port to which my course was bound.
Thither I came, and there, amid the gloom
Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms,
Appeared a roofless Hut; four naked walls.
That stared upon each other!
I looked round,
And to my wish and to my hope espied
The Friend I sought; a Man of reverend
But stout and hale, for travel unimpaired.
There was he seen upon the cottage-bench,
Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep;
An iron-pointed staff lay at his side.
Him had I marked the day before, alone
And stationed in the public way, with face
Turned toward the sun then setting, while that staff
Afforded, to the figure of the man
Detained for contemplation or repose,
Graceful support; his countenance as he stood
Was hidden from my view, and he remained
Unrecognized; but, stricken by the sight,
With slackened footsteps I advanced, and soon
A glad congratulation we exchanged
At such unthought-of meeting. For the night
We parted, nothing willingly; and now
He by appointment waited for me here,
Under the covert of these clustering elms.
We were tried friends: amid a pleasant vale, In the antique market-village where was passed My school-time, an apartment he had owned, To which at intervals the Wanderer drew, And found a kind of home or harbor there. He loved me; from a swarm of rosy boys Singled out me, as he in sport would say, For my grave looks, too thoughtful for my years. As I grew up, it was my best delight
To be his chosen comrade. Many a time,
On holidays, we rambled through the woods:
we walked; he pleased me with report
Of things which he had seen; and often touched
Abstrusest matter, reasonings of the mind
Turned inward; or at my request would sing
Old songs, the product of his native hills;
A skilful distribution of sweet sounds,
Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed
As cool, refreshing water, by the care
Of the industrious husbandman diffused
Through a parched meadow-ground, in time of
Still deeper welcome found his pure discourse
How precious when in riper days I learned
To weigh with care his words, and to rejoice
In the plain presence of his dignity!
Oh! many are the Poets that are sown By Nature; men endowed with highest gifts, The vision and the faculty divine; Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse, (Which, in the docile season of their youth, It was denied them to acquire, through lack Of culture and the inspiring aid of books, Or haply by a temper too severe, Or a nice backwardness afraid of shame,) Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led By circumstance to take unto the height The measure of themselves, these favored Beings, All but a scattered few, live out their time, Husbanding that which they possess within, And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds Are often those of whom the noisy world Hears least; else surely this Man had not left His graces unrevealed and unproclaimed. But, as the mind was filled with inward light, So not without distinction had he lived, Beloved and honored, far as he was known. And some small portion of his eloquent speech, And something that may serve to set in view The feeling pleasures of his loneliness, His observations, and the thoughts his mind Had dealt with, I will here record in verse; Which, if with truth it correspond, and sink Or rise as venerable Nature leads,
The high and tender Muses shall accept
With gracious smile, deliberately pleased,
And listening Time reward with sacred praise.