« AnteriorContinuar »
- at safe distance from a world
Not moving to his mind.""
These serious words
Closed the preparatory notices
That served my Fellow-traveller to beguile
The way, while we advanced up that wide vale.
Diverging now (as if his quest had been
Some secret of the mountains, cavern, fall
Of water, or some lofty eminence,
Renowned for splendid prospect far and wide)
We scaled, without a track to ease our steps,
A steep ascent; and reached a dreary plain,
With a tumultuous waste of huge hill-tops
Before us; savage region! which I paced
Dispirited when, all at once, behold!
Beneath our feet, a little lowly vale,
A lowly vale, and yet uplifted high
Among the mountains; even as if the spot
Had been from eldest time by wish of theirs
So placed, to be shut out from all the world!
Urn-like it was in shape, deep as an urn;
With rocks encompassed, save that to the south
Was one small opening, where a heath-clad ridge
Supplied a boundary less abrupt and close;
A quiet, treeless nook, with two green fields,
A liquid pool that glittered in the sun,
And one bare dwelling; one abode, no more
It seemed the home of poverty and toil,
Though not of want: the little fields, made green
By husbandry of many thrifty years,
Paid cheerful tribute to the moorland house.
- There crows the cock, single in his domain: The small birds find in spring no thicket there To shroud them; only from the neighboring vales The cuckoo, straggling up to the hill-tops, Shouteth faint tidings of some gladder place.
Ah! what a sweet Recess, thought I, is here! Instantly throwing down my limbs at ease Upon a bed of heath; - full many a spot Of hidden beauty have I chanced to espy Among the mountains; never one like this; So lonesome, and so perfectly secure ; Not melancholy, no, for it is green, And bright, and fertile, furnished in itself With the few needful things that life requires. - In rugged arms how softly does it lie, How tenderly protected! Far and near We have an image of the pristine earth, The planet in its nakedness: were this Man's only dwelling, sole appointed seat, First, last, and single, in the breathing world, It could not be more quiet: peace is here Or nowhere; days unruffled by the gale Of public news or private; years that pass Forgetfully; uncalled upon to pay The common penalties of mortal life, Sickness, or accident, or grief, or pain.
On these and kindred thoughts intent I lay
In silence musing by my Comrade's side,
He also silent; when from out the heart
Of that profound abyss a solemn voice,
Or several voices in one solemn sound,
Was heard ascending; mournful, deep, and slow
The cadence, as of psalms, a funeral dirge!
We listened, looking down upon the hut,
But seeing no one meanwhile from below
The strain continued, spiritual as before;
And now distinctly could I recognize
These words: "Shall in the grave thy love be
In death thy faithfulness?”.
"God rest his soul!" Said the old Man, abruptly breaking silence. "He is departed, and finds peace at last!
This scarcely spoken, and those holy strains. Not ceasing, forth appeared in view a band Of rustic persons, from behind the hut Bearing a coffin in the midst, with which They shaped their course along the sloping side Of that small valley, singing as they moved; A sober company and few, the men Bare-headed, and all decently attired! Some steps when they had thus advanced, the dirge Ended; and, from the stillness that ensued Recovering, to my Friend I said, "You spake, Methought, with apprehension that these rites Are paid to him upon whose shy retreat This day we purposed to intrude.” — “ I did so ;
But let us hence, that we may learn the truth:
Perhaps it is not he, but some one else,
For whom this pious service is performed;
Some other tenant of the solitude."
So, to a steep and difficult descent
Trusting ourselves, we wound from crag to crag,
Where passage could be won; and, as the last
Of the mute train, behind the heathy top
Of that off-sloping outlet, disappeared,
I, more impatient in my downward course,
Had landed upon easy ground; and there
Stood waiting for my Comrade. When behold
An object that enticed my steps aside!
A narrow, winding entry opened out
Into a platform, that lay, sheepfold-wise,
Inclosed between an upright mass of rock
And one old, moss-grown wall; a cool recess,
And fanciful! For where the rock and wall
Met in an angle hung a penthouse, framed
By thrusting two rude staves into the wall
And overlaying them with mountain sods;
To weather-fend a little turf-built seat
Whereon a full-grown man might rest, nor dread
The burning sunshine, or a transient shower;
But the whole plainly wrought by children's hands!
Whose skill had thronged the floor with a proud show
Of baby-houses, curiously arranged;
Nor wanting ornament of walks between,
With mimic trees inserted in the turf,
And gardens interposed. Pleased with the sight,
I could not choose but beckon to my Guide,
Who, entering, round him threw a careless glance
Impatient to pass on, when I exclaimed,
"Lo! what is here?" and, stooping down, drew forth
A book, that, in the midst of stones and moss
And wreck of party-colored earthen-ware,
Aptly disposed, had lent its help to raise
One of those petty structures. "His it must be !"
Exclaimed the Wanderer, "cannot but be his,
And he is gone!" The book, which in my hand
Had opened of itself, (for it was swoln
With searching damp, and seemingly had lain.
To the injurious elements exposed
From week to week,) I found to be a work
In the French tongue, a Novel of Voltaire,
His famous Optimist. "Unhappy Man!"
Exclaimed my Friend: "here then has been to
Retreat within retreat, a sheltering-place
Within how deep a shelter! He had fits,
Even to the last, of genuine tenderness,
And loved the haunts of children: here, no doubt,
Pleasing and pleased, he shared their simple sports.
Or sat companionless; and here the book,
Left and forgotten in his careless way,
Must by the cottage children have been found:
Heaven bless them, and their inconsiderate work!
To what odd purpose have the darlings turned
This sad memorial of their hapless friend!"