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Howe'er derived, its force confest
Rules with despotic sway the breast,
And drags us on by viewless chain,
While taste and reason plead in vain.
Look east, and ask the Belgian why,
Beneath Batavia's sultry sky,
He seeks not eager to inhale
The freshness of the mountain gale,
Content to rear his whitend wall
Beside the dank and dull canal ?
He'll say, from youth he loved to see
The white sail gliding by the tree.
Or see yon weather-beaten hind,
Whose sluggish herds before him wind,
Whose tatter'd plaid and rugged cheek
His northern clime and kindred speak;
Through England's laughing meads he goes,
And England's wealth around him flows;
Ask, if it would content him well,
At ease in those gay plains to dwell,
Where hedge-rows spread a verdant screen,
And spires and forests intervene,
And the neat cottage peeps between ?
No! not for these will he exchange
His dark Lochaber's boundless range ;
Not for fair Devon's meads forsake
Ben-nevis grey, and Garry's lake.
Thus while I ape the measure wild Of tales that charm'd me yet a child, Rude though they be, still with the chime Return the thoughts of early time, And feelings, roused in life's first day, Glow in the line, and prompt the lay. Then rise those crags, that mountain tower, Which charm’d my fancy's wakening hour. Though no broad river swept along, To claim, perchance, heroic song ; Though sigh’d no groves in summer gale, To prompt of love a softer tale ; Though scarce a puny streamlet's speed Claim'd homage from a shepherd's reed ; Yet was poetic impulse given, By the green hill and clear blue heaven. It was a barren scene, and wild, Where naked cliffs were rudely piled ;
But ever and anon between
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green ;
And well the lonely infant knew
Recesses where the wall-flower grew,
And honey-suckle loved to crawl
Up the low crag and ruin'd wall.
I deem'd such nooks the sweetest shade
The sun in all its round survey'd ;
And still I thought that shatter'd tower
The mightiest work of human power ;
And marvell’d as the aged hind
With some strange tale bewitch'd my mind,
Of forayers, who, with headlong force,
Down from that strength had spurr'd their
Their southern rapine to renew,
Far in the distant Cheviots blue,
And, home returning, filld the hall
With revel, wassel-rout, and brawl.
Methought that still, with trump and clang,
The gate-way's broken arches rang ;
Methought grim features, seam'd with scars,
Glared through the window's rusty bars,
And ever, by the winter hearth,
Old tales I heard of woe or mirth,
Of lovers' slights, of ladies' charms,
Of witches' spells, of warriors' arms;
Of patriot battles, won of old
By Wallace wight and Bruce the bold ;
Of later fields of feud and fight,
When, pouring from their Highland height,
The Scottish clans, in headlong sway,
Had swept the scarlet ranks away.
While stretch'd at length upon the floor,
Again I fought each combat o'er,
Pebbles and shells, in order laid,
The mimic ranks of war display'd ;
And onward still the Scottish Lion bore,
And still the scatter'd Southron fled before.
Still, with vain fondness, could I trace, Anew, each kind familiar face, That brighten’d at our evening fire ! From the thatch'd mansion's grey-haird Sire, Wise without learning, plain and good, And sprung of Scotland's gentler blood;
Whose eye, in age, quick, clear, and keen,
Show'd what in youth its glance had been ;
Whose doom discording neighbours sought,
Content with equity unbought;
To him the venerable Priest,
Our frequent and familiar guest,
Whose life and manners well could paint
Alike the student and the saint ;
Alas! whose speech too oft I broke
With gambol rude and timeless joke :
For I was wayward, bold, and wild,
A self-will'd imp, a grandame's child ;
But half a plague, and half a jest,
Was still endured, beloved, caress'd.
For me, thus nurtured, dost thou ask The classic poet's well-conn'd task? Nay, Erskine, nay-On the wild hill Let the wild heath-bell flourish still ; Cherish the tulip, prune the vine, But freely let the woodbine twine, And leave untrimm'd the eglantine : Nay, my friend, nay–Since oft thy praise