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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 sate-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 drought.
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.
Among the hills of Athol he was born; Where, on a small hereditary farm, An unproductive slip of rugged ground, His Parents, with their numerous offspring, dwelt;
A virtuous household, though exceeding poor!
Pure livers were they all, austere and grave,
And fearing God; the very children taught
Stern self-respect, a reverence for God's word,
And an habitual piety, maintained
With strictness scarcely known on English ground.
From his sixth year, the Boy of whom I speak, In summer, tended cattle on the hills; But, through the inclement and the perilous da Of long-continuing winter, he repaired, Equipped with satchel, to a school, that stood Sole building on a mountain's dreary edge, Remote from view of city spire, or sound Of minster clock! From that bleak tenement He, many an evening, to his distant home In solitude returning, saw the hills Grow larger in the darkness; all alone Beheld the stars come out above his head, And travelled through the wood, with no one near To whom he might confess the things he saw.
So the foundations of his mind were laid. In such communion, not from terror free, While yet a child, and long before his time, Had he perceived the presence and the power Of greatness; and deep feelings had impressed So vividly great objects, that they lay Upon his mind like substances, whose presence Perplexed the bodily sense. He had received A precious gift; for, as he grew in years, With these impressions would he still compare All his remembrances, thoughts, shapes, and forms;
And, being still unsatisfied with aught
Of dimmer character, he thence attained
An active power to fasten images
Upon his brain; and on their pictured lines
Intensely brooded, even till they acquired
The liveliness of dreams. Nor did he fail,
While yet a child, with a child's eagerness
Incessantly to turn his ear and eye
On all things which the moving seasons brought
To feed such appetite-nor this alone
Appeased his yearning:-in the after-day
Of boyhood, many an hour in caves forlorn,
And 'mid the hollow depths of naked crags
He sate, and even in their fixed lineaments,
Or from the power of a peculiar eye,
Or by creative feeling overborne,
Or by predominance of thought oppressed,
Even in their fixed and steady lineaments
He traced an ebbing and a flowing mind,
Expression ever varying!
Thus informed, He had small need of books; for many a tale Traditionary, round the mountains hung, And many a legend, peopling the dark woods, Nourished Imagination in her growth, And gave the Mind that apprehensive power By which she is made quick to recognize The moral properties and scope of things. But eagerly he read, and read again, Whate'er the minister's old shelf supplied; The life and death of martyrs, who sustained, With will inflexible, those fearful pangs Triumphantly displayed in records left
Of persecution, and the Covenant-times
Whose echo rings through Scotland to this hour!
And there, by lucky hap, had been preserved
A straggling volume, torn and incomplete,
That left half-told the preternatural tale,
Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends,
Profuse in garniture of wooden cuts
Strange and uncouth; dire faces, figures dire,
Sharp-kneed, sharp-elbowed, and lean-ankled too,
With long and ghostly shanks-forms which once seen
Could never be forgotten!
In his heart,
Where Fear sate thus, a cherished visitant,
Was wanting yet the pure delight of love
By sound diffused, or by the breathing air,
Or by the silent looks of happy things,
Or flowing from the universal face
Of earth and sky. But he had felt the power
Of Nature, and already was prepared,
By his intense conceptions, to receive
Deeply the lesson deep of love which he,
Whom Nature, by whatever means, has taught
To feel intensely, cannot but receive.
Such was the Boy-but for the growing Youth What soul was his, when, from the naked top Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun Rise up, and bathe the world in light! He looked-Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth And ocean's liquid mass, in gladness lay
Beneath him:-Far and wide the clouds were
And in their silent faces could he read