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By notice indirect, or blunt demand
From traveller halting in his own despite,
A simple curiosity to ease:
Of which adventures, that beguiled and cheered
Their grave migration, the boon pair would tell,
With undiminished glee, in hoary age.
A Priest he was by function; but his course From his youth up, and high as manhood's noon, (The hour of life to which he then was brought) Had been irregular, I might say, wild; By books unstudied, by his pastoral care Too little checked. An active, ardent mind; A fancy pregnant with resource and scheme To cheat the sadness of a rainy day; Hands apt for all ingenious arts and games; A generous spirit, and a body strong To
cope with stoutest champions of the bowl; Had earned for him sure welcome, and the rights Of a prized visitant, in the jolly hall Of country 'squire; or at the statelier board Of duke or earl, from scenes of courtly pomp Withdrawn, to wile away the summer hours In condescension among rural guests.
With these high comrades he had revelled long, Frolicking industriously, a simple Clerk By hopes of coming patronage beguiled Till the heart sickened. So, each loftier aim Abandoning and all his showy friends, For a life's stay (slender it was, but sure) He turned to this secluded chapelry; That had been offered to his doubtful choice
By an unthought-of patron. Bleak and bare
They found the cottage, their allotted home;
Naked without, and rude within; a spot
With which the Cure not long had been endowed:
And far remote the chapel stood,—remote,
And, from his Dwelling, unapproachable,
Save through a gap high in the hills, an opening
Shadeless and shelterless, by driving showers
Frequented, and beset with howling winds.
Yet cause was none, whate'er regret might hang
On his own mind, to quarrel with the choice
Or the necessity that fixed him here;
Apart from old temptations, and constrained
To punctual labor in his sacred charge.
See him a constant preacher to the poor!
And visiting, though not with saintly zeal,
Yet, when need was, with no reluctant will,
The sick in body, or distrest in mind ;
And by as salutary change, compelled
To rise from timely sleep, and meet the day
With no engagement, in his thoughts, more proud
Or splendid than his garden could afford,
His fields, or mountains by the heath-cock ranged,
Or the wild brooks; from which he now returned
Contented to partake the quiet meal
Of his own board, where sat his gentle Mate
And three fair Children, plentifully fed
Though simply, from their little household farm;
Nor wanted timely treat of fish or fowl
By nature yielded to his practised hand;-
To help the small but certain comings-in
Of that spare benefice. Yet not the less
Theirs was a hospitable board, and theirs
A charitable door.
So days and years
Passed on ;-the inside of that rugged house
Was trimmed and brightened by the Matron's care,
And gradually enriched with things of price,
Which might be lacked for use or ornament.
What, though no soft and costly sofa there
Insidiously stretched out its lazy length,
And no vain mirror glittered upon the walls,
Yet were the windows of the low abode
By shutters weather-fended, which at once
Repelled the storm and deadened its loud roar.
There snow-white curtains hung in decent folds;
Tough moss, and long-enduring mountain plants,
That creep along the ground with sinuous trail,
Were nicely braided; and composed a work
Like Indian mats, that with appropriate grace
Lay at the threshold and the inner doors;
And a fair carpet, woven of homespun wool
But tinctured daintily with florid hues,
For seemliness and warmth, on festal days,
Covered the smooth blue slabs of mountain-stone
With which the parlor-floor, in simplest guise
Of pastoral homesteads, had been long inlaid.
These pleasing works the Housewife's skill pro-
Meanwhile the unsedentary Master's hand
Was busier with his task-to rid, to plant,
To rear for food, for shelter, and delight;
A thriving covert! And when wishes, formed
In youth, and sanctioned by the riper mind,
Restored me to my native valley, here
To end my days; well pleased was I to see
The once-bare cottage, on the mountain-side,
Screen'd from assault of every bitter blast;
While the dark shadows of the summer leaves
Danced in the breeze, chequering its mossy roof.
Time, which had thus afforded willing help
To beautify with Nature's fairest growths
This rustic tenement, had gently shed,
Upon its Master's frame, a wintry grace;
The comeliness of unenfeebled age.
But how could I say, gently? for he still Retained a flashing eye, a burning palm, A stirring foot, a head which beat at nights Upon its pillow with a thousand schemes. Few likings had he dropped, few pleasures lost; Generous and charitable, prompt to serve ; And still his harsher passions kept their holdAnger and indignation. Still he loved The sound of titled names, and talked in glee Of long-past banquetings with high-born friends: Then, from those lulling fits of vain delight Uproused by recollected injury, railed At their false ways disdainfully,—and oft In bitterness and with a threatening eye Of fire, incensed beneath its hoary brow. -Those transports, with staid looks of pure good
And with soft smile, his consort would
She, far behind him in the race of years,
Yet keeping her first mildness, was advanced
Far nearer, in the habit of her soul,
To that still region whither all are bound.
Him might we liken to the setting sun
As seen not seldom on some gusty day,
Struggling and bold, and shining from the west
With an inconstant and unmellowed light;
She was a soft attendant cloud, that hung
As if with wish to veil the restless orb ;
From which it did itself imbibe a ray
Of pleasing lustre.—But no more of this;
I better love to sprinkle on the sod
That now divides the pair, or rather
That still unites them, praises, like heaven's dew,
Without reserve descending upon both.
first in eminence of years
Our very This old Man stood, the patriarch of the Vale! And, to his unmolested mansion, death Had never come, through space of forty years; Sparing both old and young in that abode. Suddenly then they disappeared: not twice Had summer scorched the fields; not twice had fallen
On those high peaks, the first autumnal snow,
Before the greedy visiting was closed,
And the long-privileged house left empty-swept
As by a plague. Yet no rapacious plague
Had been among them; all was gentle death,
One after one, with intervals of peace.
A happy consummation! an accord
Sweet, perfect, to be wished for! save that here
Was something which to mortal sense might sound.
Like harshness,--that the old grey-headed Sire,
The oldest, he was taken last, survived
When the meek Partner of his age, his Son,