ABSTRACT

THERE are in our existence spots of time, That with distinct pre-eminence retain A renovating virtue, whence, depressed By false opinion and contentious thought, Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight, In trivial occupations, and the round Of ordinary intercourse, our minds Are nourished and invisibly repaired; A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced, That penetrates, enables us to mount, When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen. This efficacious spirit chiefly lurks Among those passages of life that give Profoundest knowledge to what point, and how, The mind is lord and master—outward sense The obedient servant of her will. Such moments Are scattered everywhere, taking their date From our first childhood. I remember well, That once, while yet my inexperienced hand Could scarcely hold a bridle, with proud hopes I mounted, and we journeyed towards the hills: An ancient servant of my father’s house Was with me, my encourager and guide: We had not travelled long, ere some mischance Disjoined me from my comrade; and, through fear Dismounting, down the rough and stony moor I led my horse, and, stumbling on, at length Came to a bottom; where in former times A murderer had been hung in iron chains. The gibbet-mast had mouldered down, the bones And iron case were gone; but on the turf, Hard by, soon after that fell deed was wrought, Some unknown hand had caryed the murderer’s name. 205The monumental letters were inscribed In times long past; but still, from year to year, By superstition of the neighbourhood, The grass is cleared away, and to this hour The characters are fresh and visible: A casual glance had shown them, and I fled, Faltering and faint, and ignorant of the road: Then, reascending the bare common, saw A naked pool that lay beneath the hills, The beacon on the summit, and, more near, A girl, who bore a pitcher on her head, And seemed with difficult steps to force her way Against the blowing wind. It was, in truth, An ordinary sight; but I should need Colours and words that are unknown to man, To paint the visionary dreariness Which, while I looked all round for my lost guide, Invested moorland waste, and naked pool, The beacon crowning the lone eminence, The female and her garments vexed and tossed By the strong wind. When, in the blessed hours Of early love, the loved one at my side, I roamed, in daily presence of this scene, Upon the naked pool and dreary crags, And on the melancholy beacon, fell A spirit of pleasure and youth’s golden gleam; And think ye not with radiance more sublime For these remembrances, and for the power They had left behind? So feeling comes in aid Of feeling, and diversity of strength Attends us, if but once we have been strong. Oh! mystery of man, from what a depth Proceed thy honours. I am lost, but see In simple childhood something of the base On which thy greatness stands; but this I feel, That from thyself it comes, that thou must give, Else never canst receive. The days gone by Return upon me almost from the dawn 206Of life: the hiding-places of man’s power Open; I would approach them, but they close. I see by glimpses now; when age comes on, May scarcely see at all; and I would give, While yet we may, as far as words can give, Substance and life to what I feel, enshrining, Such is my hope, the spirit of the past For future restoration.—Yet another Of these memorials:— One Christmas-time, On the glad eve of its dear holidays, Feverish, and tired, and restless, I went forth Into the fields, impatient for the sight Of those led palfreys that should bear us home; My brothers and myself. There rose a crag, That from the meeting-point of two highways Ascending, overlooked them both, far stretched; Thither, uncertain on which road to fix My expectation, thither I repaired, Scout-like, and gained the summit; ’twas a day Tempestuous, dark, and wild, and on the grass I sate half-sheltered by a naked wall; Upon my right hand couched a single sheep, Upon my left a blasted hawthorn stood; With those companions at my side, I watched, Straining my eyes intensely, as the mist Gave intermitting prospect of the copse And plain beneath. Ere we to school returned,— That dreary time,—ere we had been ten days Sojourners in my father’s house, he died, And I and my three brothers, orphans then, Followed his body to the grave. The event, With all the sorrow that it brought, appeared A chastisement; and when I called to mind That day so lately past, when from the crag I looked in such anxiety of hope; With trite reflections of morality, 207Yet in the deepest passion, I bowed low To God, Who thus corrected my desires: And, afterwards, the wind and sleety rain, And all the business of the elements, The single sheep, and the one blasted tree, And the bleak music from that old stone wall, The noise of wood and water, and the mist That on the line of each of those two roads Advanced in such indisputable shapes; All these were kindred spectacles and sounds To which I oft repaired, and thence would drink, As at a fountain; and on winter nights, Down to this very time, when storm and rain Beat on my roof, or, haply, at noon-day, While in a grove I walk, whose lofty trees, Laden with summer’s thickest foliage, rock In a strong wind, some working of the spirit, Some inward agitations thence are brought, Whate’er their office, whether to beguile Thoughts over busy in the course they took, Or animate an hour of vacant ease.