Midsummer Idylls. Canto II.

A poem by Lennox Amott

I.

Good day, and how d'ye do my friends and neighbours?
I must have dozed upon my easy chair;
I feel refreshed and recommence my labours,
And urge my soaring Pegasus through air,
Nor ask his destination or his fare,
It matters not to me, and I resume;
But not to dose you more than you can bear,
To take my flight with others, I presume,
And why not so, my friends, since there's no lack of room?


II.

You know I am a careless sort of fellow
On whom no living being spends a wink,
So stand aside and let me have my bellow,
You surely will not grudge me pen and ink!
I've little doubt that if you stop to think
You'll recollect I've met you once before,
I'm not the humbug who would wish to shrink
From friends of old, and so let's have your paw;
Of course 'twere better we were friendly to be sure.


III.

You know my failing and you will forgive it,
Or "lump it" p'raps (to use a common phrase),
Yet, as with most objections, you'll outlive it
Before the lapse of very many days;
The fact is this, I never look for praise
And never want it, for I quite intend
To abandon rhyming and amend my ways,
And utilise the moments that I spend
In such-like nonsense, towards a more befitting end.


IV.

I have my likes, great likes, great dislikes too,
'Twere well did I just one or two rehearse;
I hate to see a fool his ways renew,
I hate to see a youngster scribbling verse;
And now, my friends, just think, what can be worse
Than wasting time when we've so little of it?
But waywardness will surely prove a curse,
They tell me that I ought to be above it,
That is to say, my kinsfolk and belovëd.


V.

But something strange impels me to the task,
And here am I complaining while I write
Of human nature. Of myself I ask--
Now am I doing wrong or doing right?
'Tis hard indeed (I find it so) to fight
(However perseveringly I try,
And more particularly so to-night)
Against this most uncouth propensity:
Most likely tho' I shall grow wiser by and bye.


VI.

But I'll proceed--I never see the use
Of giving up a task when once begun,
Besides it's nonsense urging an excuse,
Just let me end my tale and I am done.
Why, there's the breakfast bell, and, ten to one,
Those girls are fast asleep, and what d'ye bet?
And Julia's just been waking them, what fun!
Ah, very well, you've lost, and don't forget
That you are now, let's see, a florin in my debt.


VII.

The girls were late indeed and no mistake;
Unutterably tired I should say,
But Julia said they all were wide awake,
And so 'twas useless making more delay.
Mamma proceeded in her usual way
To order in the breakfast then and there,
Concluding 'twas the excitement yesterday,
For waiting long was more than she could bear;
So after having kissed papa she took her chair.


VIII.

Papa consulted the barometer
To gain some knowledge of the coming weather,
Then stared and took out his chronometer,
Remarking it was funny altogether;
He rang the bell in order to know whether
His daughters really had begun to dress,
And Julia, quite as light as any feather,
Swept in and pertly answered, "Yes, Sir, yes,"
Much to his satisfaction, doubtless, you may guess.


IX.

They all came down to find the breakfast cold,
And there was then and there a great "to-do,"
Mamma felt very much disposed to scold,
And answered their excuses with "pooh-pooh:"
I think 'twas rather too bad tho', don't you,
Since they had done the very best they could
To entertain their visitors all through?
But there! she only scolded for their good,
And 'twas not well for them o'er such-like things to brood.


X.

For several days they were not quite the thing,
To judge from all appearances at least;
Their youthful levity had taken wing,
And all excursions for the present ceased;
And momently their restlessness increased,
The sketch was left unheeded: incomplete
The slippers they were knitting ere the feast,
And faded garlands strewed the arbour seat,
Now silent and neglected was that cool retreat.


XI.

But still this feeling's always more or less
Shortlived, I find it so, at any rate,
Altho' not always easy to repress,
We very soon reclaim our normal state:
'Twas so in this case, happy to relate,
For soon they all were lark-like as before,
With all their usual buoyancy innate,
Indeed they took to frolic more and more;
They were the liveliest feminines one ever saw.


XII.

It somehow chanced one night they could not sleep,
They did not even doze, but wakeful lay;
Oblivion's mists their senses did not steep;
Whatever was the cause I cannot say;
So they commenced to chat the time away,
Their rooms were quite convenient for it too,
Then on to various topics did they stray,
And long forgotten converse did renew:
No doubt 'twas quite enjoyable, they thought so too.


XIII.

At last, of course, they didn't wish to doze,
Preferring to prolong the conversation;
And still suggestions one by one arose
Which only met with their disapprobation;
And jokes were cracked in lively alternation:
From sundry rappings "peal on peal afar"
Occasioning surprise and consternation
I'm half afraid that they awoke Mama,
And, dozing sweetly too, most likely their papa.


XIV.

This was effectual to some extent,
They brought their voices down to somewhat low.
T' arouse the slumb'ring folks they never meant,
Whom they'd disturbed so much a while ago;
So they arranged at once that both should go
To Dora's bedroom if they wished to speak,
And "trip it on the light fantastic toe,"
But, oh dear, how those stupid boards did creak
As both of them their darling sister's room did seek!


XV.

The lamp was lighted and the apparatus
For making coffee speedily prepared,
The cups were steaming with an odor gratus,
They thought not of the hour and little cared
How far advanced the night, and gaily fared
On Spanish rusks and coffee, whilst the cry
Of cockerel answered cockerel, and they shared
The bountiful repast delightedly,
And chatted over several matters merrily.


XVI.

With robe de chambre and slippers, each one seemed
To be exactly in her element,
While from each dimpled cheek a beauty beamed,
A rosy flush, of blossoms redolent;
Moreover each one's deshabille had lent
A careless grace which numbers can't convey,
As tho' fair Venus all her arts had spent
In rendering them beautiful as day,
Or had transformed each fondling to a fairy-fay.


XVII.

And there they sweetly lounged in statu quo,
More beautiful than words can ever tell,
In fact a tiny sprig of mistletoe
I should have deemed quite indispensable,
So greatly did their excellence excel
All evanescent beauty in man's eyes,
The loveliest primrose in the greenest dell,
The lithest form man e'er did idolize:
Fairer than fleece-like cloudlets of the southern skies.


XVIII.

Now Flora oped the casement, for she sought
The realm of silent Night. The breezes soft
Swept o'er her brow and cooled each burning thought,
And calmly bore each tranquil prayer aloft;
She sniffed the balmy air and lightly quaffed
The faint and mellow perfumes as they came,
And gazed abstractedly, as she so oft
Had done before. Who would not do the same,
And fondly praise his Maker's most belovëd name?


XIX.

Below, the pebbly rill, like the fond sigh
Of maiden's love, was whispering to the night,
While on its breast the star-lit canopy,
Reflected clear, the bosom did invite
To share its holy peace, its still delight,
And join the drowsy nocturnes that arose,
Hushing all nature to a slumber light,
And soothing down on pillows of repose
All weary mortals' earthly turmoils, cares and woes.


XX.

And summer dews had steeped the verdant sod,
The moon-rays shimmered o'er the spangled lea,
And taught the soul the eloquence of God,
Tinging the far horizon o'er the sea
With silver film and sheeny filigree,
While o'er the gray expanse with trembling wing
The ling'ring zephyr hovered sleepily,
And faintly breathed o'er every dormant thing
Its soft, sad benediction. This did Flora sing:--

Oh Night, beneath thy dark domain
How oft the human heart has bled!
But here a holy peace doth reign,
And now my soul is comforted.

Sublimest Monarch, teach my breast
To speak the phantasy it feels,
O take my heart to be thy guest,
And stay thy sombre chariot-wheels!

Thy course is bent thro' clouds--on them
Thy path thou takest o'er the sea,
Ten myriad worlds thy diadem,
Oh take me to abide with thee!

Thy sceptre--'tis with points of light
Begemmed; thy retinues advance,
And feeble Nature owns thy might,
The splendour of thy countenance.

The moon thy lamp, the flaming sun
Thy harbinger; take thou my soul,
Now bounding forth thy race to run,
To thy Imperial Capitol!

O let my spirit wander o'er
Thy sable woods and feel their sighs,
And float upon thy Stygian shore,
And revel in its mysteries!

O but to mingle with thy throng,
Partaker in thy flight to be,
A portion of that spirit-song,
A spirit minister to thee!


XXI.

They soon were rather weary and methinks
Their chirp-like chatter did grow somewhat less,
Now one would rouse herself from forty winks,
Another doze in sweet unconsciousness;
Indeed it was high time, as you may guess,
They should disperse--they wisely thought so too,
Then kissed and smiled and each one did confess
Such pranks as these would never, never do;
Of course they'd have to meet the scolding, that they knew.


XXII.

Their dreams were peopled with all forms and shapes
That nightmare with its horrors can conceive,
Egyptian sphynxes down to Barb'ry apes:
Entangled in all nets that dreams can weave
They struggled to get liberty and leave
The meshy maze, yet struggled all in vain,
Such horribles you never could believe
I wonder if they all transgressed again
As then; thus pleasure's always found preceding pain.


XXIII.

Rose, like the others, saw the wrong she did
Personified in dreams, while on her chest,
In slow descent, an Eastern Pyramid
Came down to crush her flat, she did her best,
Like dreaming people do when so distressed,
To move from underneath the cruel thing,
When up came Ju to know if she were dressed
And if she heard the bell for breakfast ring,
Surprised indeed so late to find her slumbering.


XXIV.

She heard it, yes, but with a dreaming ear,
Just as the pile above her did descend;
She heard the funeral knell, she saw the bier,
Which was to seal her most unpleasant end;
But fortunately then Mama did send
The housemaid to inform the time of day,
The Spinx etcetera did their ways amend,
Politely bowed, took wing, and flew away;
Rose wished them all good morning with no more delay.


XXV.

The girls went down to breakfast with a look
Which spoke guilt, shame and terror all in one,
Each sigh was language and each glance a book
Narrating all the mischief they had done;
And cowering conscience cautioned them to shun
The searching lectures of parental eyes,
But still the dark ordeal had begin,
For Mama swelled to a terrific size,
And Pater looked around the room in mute surprise.


XXVI.

Then glances were exchanged, and both declared
Such freaks as these again must never be,
Their Ma demanded how they even dared,
Since they'd been naughty to the last degree,
Ejaculating faintly "Goodness me!"
With various interjections of alarm,
Stamping with anger at the guilty three,
But 'twas not long e'er she again was calm,
And all her daughters knew of course she meant no harm.


XXVII.

But this unhappy circumstance was soon--
Like such unpleasantnesses were--forgotten,
All things were tolerably straight by noon,
(For family disputes are hell-begotten);
So they betook them to their knitting-cotton,
And felt themselves forgiven, as they were,
They said that lesson should be unforgotten,
Such nonsense never should again occur,
So they had asked their parents' pardon I infer.


XXVIII.

Days had not only sped but galloped on,
As they expressed it, e'er they could "turn round;"
Before they were aware, the month had gone,
The first of August, too, had come they found,
(A fact which seemed the household to astound)
On which date, I imagine, they designed
A short excursion, by the pleasant sound
Of tossing waters wild and unconfined:
In following this suggestion they were not behind.


XXIX.

It was the first of August, now I know,
A day that's most unlucky I believe,
As I, for one, have always found it so,
Then ask Astrologers who can't deceive;
For I myself was surely doomed to grieve,
Selected by some most ill-omened star,
'Twas then (but why, I really can't conceive)
That I was introduced to my Mama,
From then she always wished me over at Malabar.


XXX.

I mean to say that I was born unlucky,
My mother never danced me up and down,
I never once was designated "ducky,"
Nor rolled within the doubles of her gown,
Nor dandled as when fondlings "go to town,"
Nor kissed and snuggled when I went to bed,
Or rather when conveyed there with a frown,
A downright shaking and a smarting head;
To me no coaxing sweet appeal was made when fed.


XXXI.

I don't know if the Pythagorean theory
Is quite to be relied upon or spurned,
I'm half afraid this must remain a query
As far as my enquiries are concerned;
For theories are by theories overturned,
And what a wise man says a coon disputes,
For my part I must leave it with the learned,
And those who play the fool with such pursuits,
I take the first that comes, or anyone which suits.


XXXII.

But if that version of the matter's true
I must have suffered for my previous sin,
Some former life of follies, what think you?
Some other mischief I've been joining in;
But what's the use of idle pondering
On things so troublesome and as abstruse,
It were prepost'rous even to begin,
What was there that could possibly induce
Pythagoras to turn his pen to such a use?


XXXIII.

The thought of spiritual transmigration
Is somewhat pleasant, therefore let it be;
It seems delightful to my contemplation
But what of that, it's all the same to me!
In fact, to tell the truth, I cannot see
Wherefore Pythagoras did puzzle o'er
This tiresome philosophy when he
Must truly have considered it a bore,
I think it so, and, doubtless, so do many more.


XXXIV.

"One fool makes many," as the saying goes,
And he was quite as bad as any Plato,
There was some slight resemblance I suppose,
As Alcibiades resembled Cato;
But I must hurry on and not delay so
On themes unnecessary to my tale,
I'm sure you will agree with me and say so,
I'm prone to 'light on topics that are stale,
As I have said before, I know that I am frail.


XXXV.

Well laden with good things by way of luncheon,
Our heroines were starting on their way,
With ham and tongue, and wine an infant puncheon,
With spirits buoyant, and a jolly day;
The sun upon them shot his summer ray,
Above, the pendent lark was on the wing,
The fair ones, each and all, had lots to say,
And absolutely laughed like anything;
The very air with their blithe merriment did ring.


XXXVI.

'Twas early yet, and, as they were proceeding,
On some poor widow they'd arranged to call,
To give her heart the comfort she was needing,
Whose open bible was her hope, her all;
And Dora in her basket bore a shawl,
A gift from Ma to the disabled dame,
Together with some stockings and a ball
Of worsted. To the cottage gate they came,
And, doubtless, reader, you have often done the same.


XXXVII.

They knocked, then pressed the latch and entered. There
Her grandchild sat; oh, she was sweet to see!
Her cheek was bright, and fairer than the fair,
Each tress the sungleam shimmering o'er the sea;
An open bible lay upon her knee,
She had been reading from the volume old
In meek and innocent simplicity,
And tinging all things earthly with the gold
The calmer, holier radiance of that other fold.


XXXVIII.

"I will be with you even unto death."
"Come unto Me and I will give you rest."
"I, even I, am He that comforteth."
What words are these! how beautiful, how blest!
And Granny, as she listened, fondly pressed
Her darling's little hand, did she not bring
Sweet consolation to her agéd breast
When th' sun of life was low--towards evening,
And life's fast fleeting pleasures, all had taken wing?


XXXIX.

But dim were Granny's glasses with a tear
While listening to that voice so soft, so low,
Oh! what upon this weary earth so dear?
Oh! what so cherished as that smile below?
The depth of human fondness who can know?
She dried her tears, imprinting a slow kiss
Upon her beauty's cheek, she loved her so,
Oh! what more tender, more sublime than this?
Beside that hearth there reigned such still, such sacred bliss.


XL.

Our visitors had entered. Granny seemed
Right down delighted that they should have come,
For from her eyes a nameless pleasure beamed,
Which seemed of all delights to be the sum;
She tried to make them cosy interdum,
And to their kind enquiries she replied,
"I'm bonny in my way, I thank you, Mum,
And how's yourselves and those at home beside?"
Then to them several little matters did confide.


XLI.

The cot, consisting of two rooms, was thatched;
Each room was on the ground. Above the door
Clung vines and roses, and the wall was patched,
And all an aspect of contentment bore,
The prettiest little scene you ever saw,
Within, above the mantel, hung the gun
Which there had hung for fifteen years or more,
Memento of that dear departed one,
Telling of how much service it before had done.


XLII.

Within the corner stood the eight-day clock
Which had recounted time for years and years,
And even then was going "tick-a-tock,"
Tho' it had seen so many smiles and tears;
There is a something which, I fancy, cheers
In the slow ditty which those songsters sing,
Some sweet responsion which the bosom hears,
Whose echo is so soft and comforting,
Winding a stilly peace round each familiar thing.


XLIII.

The bacon hung suspended from a beam,
And ancient china made the parlour gay;
The picture of a little mountain stream
Called Rose's admiration into play;
And, basking in the sun's delightful ray,
A favourite kitten purred with sleepy air,
The polished flags were spotless as the day,
And groups of flowering plants stood here and there,
And industry was most apparent everywhere.


XLIV.

Our ladies three had had their little chat,
Had likewise done the good they had to do,
Moreover had admired and stroked the cat,
And then they thought 'twas time that they withdrew;
The widow was more thankful than they knew,
And twenty times expressed her firm conviction
They were disguised archangels (what think you?)
Then twenty times pronounced her benediction,
Hoping they'd never live to suffer her affliction.


XLV.

Her little grandchild courtesied at the gate,
Showed them the way and courtesied once again,
They sauntered on at just their former rate
And chattered in their usual lively strain;
Passing along an elevated plain
They paused to look around them for the scene
Delighted them enormously and fain
Would they have been to rest mid-way between,
But forward gaily pressed o'er silent tracts of green.


XLVI.

The view was bounded on their right by hills,
Those gentle hills that border on the sea,
Ah! as I write a thought my bosom stills,
That thought, Oh Berwick, is the thought of thee!
How kind, how tranquil were thine hours to me,
Those hours amongst thy silent valleys cast,
O moments gone, come back and let me be
Enfolded in the visions of the Past,
While other hours and days and years are fleeting fast!


XLVII.

Anon the summit of the cliff they gained,
Above the vast expanse the eye is bent,
Where Beauty's finger wanders unrestrained
With its fantastical embellishment;
The mind is riveted, the gaze is spent
Where lavish Nature pours her richest spoil,
The tongue is voiceless with bewilderment,
Far, far below the ocean's ceaseless toil
Makes bosoms inly shudder and all eyes recoil.


XLVIII.

Our little thoughts are staggered at the scene,
That splendour so unspeakably intense,
And dazzled by its brilliancy of sheen,
The senses reel with its magnificence;
Below the surgy yeast was boiling, whence
Rose on the summer air its restless roar,
It smote the broken cliff's bold battlements,
Unmoted like the warriors of yore,
And plunged upon the moss-clad boulders of the shore.


XLIX.

The feathery clouds moved slowly through the sky,
The coast-line melted into tender blue,
The storm-bleared headland stood defiantly
The boldest feature of that boundless view;
In contrast with its chalky front, the hue
Of the green sea swept freely far and wide,
And o'er the promontory's base there grew,
As though its time-torn nakedness to hide,
Some shaggy weeds that floated on the swelling tide.


L.

It was the ebb. They could not yet descend;
So Rose suggested that they should proceed
In the direction of the headland's end,
There straightway squat them on the grass and read
The books they'd brought; to this they all agreed,
Then hastened onward though the sun was hot,
And there beneath their sunshades with much speed
And very much more chatter did they squat;
In those parts foliage umbrageous there was not.


LI.

They must have read an hour when they discovered
Exactly simultaneously that they
Were really hungry, so they all uncovered
Their baskets of refreshment for the day,
And laughed to see the paper fly away;
They must, I think, have quite enjoyed their fare
So close above the music of the bay,
No doubt it was delightful to be there
Fanned by the soothing breath of the ozonic air.


LII.

They chatted, read, and dozed in alternation,
And time had flitted as it always will,
Flo recommended change of situation,
Not pleased that they were tarrying there still;
So all arose and forward urged until
They saw afar some narrow steps and rude,
Beginning some short distance up the hill,
And which of course no sooner had they viewed
Than thither they repaired as quickly as they could.


LIII.

Descending, they discovered that the sea
Had much subsided since they saw it last,
Then down they hopped with more than usual glee
To note the waters thus receding fast;
Upon the narrow strip of sand were cast
Weeds, star-fish, and all sorts of shells around,
And, as along the level stretch they passed,
Most interesting articles they found
Which lay all washed and wet upon the solid ground.


LIV.

They cut their names upon the cliff and wrote
All sorts of hieroglyphics on the sand,
And rhymes that I'm unable now to quote;
All found amusement there on every hand;
They thought a life at sea was truly grand
As very many ladies often do,
Perhaps it is when strolling on the strand,
At least I find it passable, don't you?
In fact, I think, much more so than in transitu.


LV.

They deemed it a misfortune they were girls;
Rose wished she'd been a boy and gone abroad,
Flo wished she'd been a sailor lad with curls
By all the fair of Christendom adored;
Then Dora too her present state deplored
And also would have been a tar (because
She loved to listen when the waters roared)
Or any blessed thing but what she was;
All these ideas were most enjoyable of course.


LVI.

At some short distance was a vessel hurled,
A dismal wreck, upon the rockbound shoal,
Around its hulk th' encircling billows curled,
Now thro' its splintered deck the wavelet stole,
Then, issuing forth, it gurgled through a hole
Staved by the tempest's fury in its side,
Afar off did its shattered timbers roll,
Its treasures all were scattered in the tide.
The headland gained, the swaying wreck they soon espied.


LVII.

Soon as the waves permitted them to go
Across the smooth white rocks, they to it went;
The raging brine had torn off half the bow,
Its starboard shivered and its cordage rent;
The warring waters had their anger spent
And flung its fragments to the cruel blast,
Its iron bands were burst apart and bent,
And all around in dire disorder cast;
There, shattered, at some little distance, lay the mast.


LVIII.

When gazing pensively o'er ocean's realm
Its wide destruction, its unspoken might,
There is a something which doth overwhelm,
As day is overshadowed by the night;
This was, forsooth, an interesting sight
To them, yet no less dreadful, for the scene
Was one such as could never yield delight,
And so delighted they could not have been,
Before they never such a spectacle had seen.


LIX.

They picked up curious items, three or four,
And placed them in their baskets to take home,
The wreck and its surroundings did explore,
Upon the slimy reefs, too, did they roam,
While backward and still backward rolled the foam,
While faster flew each hour, one after one,
And they discovered evening had come,
'Twas time they put an end to all their fun,
And so to think of their return they had begun.


LX.

The time indeed had gone exceeding fast,
But how it had gone--that they could not say,
And nor could I, my reader, if you asked,
They tell me that for no man Time will stay:
Oh! not for womankind--for such as they?
I'm half afraid old Chronos doth forget
As he goes tearing on from day to day
The right and just demands of etiquette
Which is, as you'll agree, a matter of regret.


LXI.

They finished their refreshments seated nicely
Upon a spar (just what they all required),
Which seemed as if put for them--so precisely
Was it the very thing that they desired;
They were (or should have been) intensely tired,
But luckily they had not far to go,
A lot of pleasant matters had transpired,
And all had cracked their lively joke or so;
But now the day was o'er, the sun was getting low.


LXII.

Behind the cliff they wished to see him fall,
And therefore with that object did they wait,
There was no need to hurry home at all,
And they could walk it well by half-past eight,
And surely that was not so very late.
They each detached a portion of the wood,
For Dora took much pains to demonstrate,
It was most necessary that they should
(For a memento be it clearly understood).


LXIII.

There can be nothing dearer that I know
(When thus I speak of course I mean--to me)
Than wand'ring slowly when the tide is low,
Alone and silent by the gentle sea;
Each winding cranny of the rock may be
Enjoyment's wealth. There, is a world of thought,
Of joys unbounded for a heart as free,
A universe of life if only sought;
Each breath, each dreaming ripple is with music fraught.


LXIV.

Give me the ocean: let me hear its roll,
For ever let me wander by its side,
There is a voice that murmurs to the soul,
A strength which thunders in its mighty tide:
There let me but my lonely footsteps guide,
Or hasten to some far neglected glen,
Wherein myself for ever I can hide,
And rest a stranger to the ways of men,
And find a refuge dear beyond all human ken.


LXV.

There let me be, nor friend nor kinsman near,
For earthly friends and kinsmen--what are they?
There let me unbefriended drop a tear
And spend in solitude life's little day,
Where strange, strange voices all--all pass away
And mingle with the voices that have been,
There in those stilly valleys let me stray,
Where all is soundless, all is fair and green,
And peace, that holy peace, surrounds each smiling scene.


LXVI.

Within me is a craving, and for what?
A lingering longing, dark and ill-defined,
A something wanting, but I know it not,
A missing link it is not mine to find,
A flaming fire that scorches up the mind
And goads me ever onward--onward where?
I pray--I gasp for light--for I am blind,
The light that never, never will be there;
What can that something be my spirit may not share?


LXVII.

Oh let me be, for mine is Nature's praise;
I leave the world for those it doth invite,
For those who are untaught in Nature's ways,
Who seek their pleasures in the boast of might;
Give me the wood, the ocean, and the night,
I ask no more, these, these shall be my all,
And wield my cornucopia of delight;
The crested helmet and the kingly hall
Are not for me, for them I neither care nor call.


LXVIII.

I ask not Wealth, nor wish one single hour
Where Splendour gilds the trophies of the brave,
Of purse-proud pomp, of pageantry and power
Whose flaunting grandeur can but deck the grave;
To me 'tis hollow--all is nothing save
The pine-capped mountain and the heathery plain,
The rolling forest and the leaping wave,
Oh give me back their sweetnesses again,
Those dear, those silent pleasures which can never wane!


LXIX.

Far have I wandered when the even fills
The bosom with sweet sadnesses and sighs,
When life was like the mellow on far hills
Bathed in the sunset of the summer skies
And tinged with purple--when the spirit cries
And gasps for very language but in vain,
When wavelets whisper and the heart replies,
When the soul sobs and all is hushed again
Save Tritons chanting to this pathless world of pain.


LXX.

Stay, stay thy footsteps, o'er the waters see
How calm the weary elements, how still--
For Nature too herself forgets to be,
While holy thoughts and prayers the bosom fill,
And dim the daylight quivers o'er the hill,
The creatures of the air to home and rest
Have winged their lonely journey at their will,
And no alarms alarm the human breast
And all, yea all, with heavenly quietude is blest.


LXXI.

They'd seen the sun descend, the blending hues,
Rich, in succession, come, then fade away,
Regretting that such splendour they should lose
With the departure of the solar ray;
Do we not note this every dawning day--
That beauty is short-lived and soon must pass?
More beautiful, more wasted by decay,
We see it and we cry "Alas! Alas!
Our days are as a tale that is told--we are but grass!"


LXXII.

I will apply a philosophic rule
Which, like most rules, admits of some exception,
But I was no philosopher at school,
I'll tell you that much so there's no deception,
In fact, a perfect dunce, you've no conception--
But that you'll say is foreign to my tail,
I thank you for your generous correction,
I copied all my masters to a nail,
Yet no one ever asked me if I was for sale.


LXXIII.

Who was it said Variety was Beauty
Or Beauty was Variety?--no matter,
To recollect his name is not my duty,
It may have been Theocritus's hatter,
For aught I know, my brains are in a batter,
I'm older than I used to be by far,
Yet, joking all aside, myself I flatter
My faculties are lively as they are,
And yet--let's see--who was that Philosophic Star?


LXXIV.

I can't think--never mind. But I maintain
That Beauty is Variety (and I
Emphatically say the same again)
Just now it doesn't matter how or why:
If anybody wishes to deny
That this is true--then--let him come and prove it,
If anyone has doubt of it, I'll try--
I'll do my very utmost to remove it.
If 'twere a lie most certainly I should reprove it.


LXXV.

It is when Autumn sweeps the frosty plain
And tips the woods with flaming hues, that I
Delight to pause and gaze and gaze again
Where varied tints the landscape beautify;
It is the smirking maiden's nut-brown eye,
Fair skin all traversed by the tender blue,
Her cherry cheeks and lips that make me sigh,
Besides her snowy teeth--now don't they you?
That's right, I knew that you'd agree, of course they do.


LXXVI.

Ah, what is that which makes the sunset dear?
It is each varying tinge that stains the air,
While ever-changing colours still appear,
And fairy-flecks float forward calm and fair.
But still our weary ladies lingered there,
For Flo their fav'rite trio did propose,
And Dora, as was usual, sang the air;
The eve was still, the day began to close
As on the gentle breeze the following words arose:


THE CHORUS OF THE NEREIDES.

We are ever ever merry as we frolic in the ocean,
As we dive beneath the waters to its gem-bestudded floor;
And we dance within its grottoes with an ever-whirling motion,
And we roll the little wavelets one by one upon the shore.

From beneath the leaves in caverns adamantine we are peeping,
Now along the blazing pearl and ruby corridors we glide,
And amongst the tall fantastic arches slily are we creeping,
There within their dark, mysterious recesses do we hide.

We recline within the bowers of the ever-rolling billow,
We repose upon its bosom with a calm and cool delight,
While ecstacies enrapture on its tranquillizing pillow,
And we raise a myriad voices to the canopy of Night.


LXXVII.

Then up they started; 'twas already dim,
Still 'twas but half an hour's walk at the most,
Altho' they were not quite in walking trim,
Fatigued by all their rambles on the coast;
In clambering o'er the rocks no time they lost,
Altho' their small bottines got somewhat wet,
And their incautiousness some duckings cost,
But over soaking hose they didn't fret,
For, jumping slippery rocks, what could they hope to get?


LXXVIII.

But, sad to say, as Dora took a leap
Across a little channel full of water,
A channel which was more than ankle-deep,
She slipped and fell ere either could have caught her;
Her sisters shrieked and, bending, they besought her,
To say if any hurt she had sustained,
And Flora, much alarmed, at once bethought her
"What if she has?"--for Dora there remained,
And most distressingly she moaned but nought explained.


LXXIX.

But as she spoke not, what could they surmise,
While with red blood bedabbled was her cheek?
She fell back helpless when she tried to rise,
And seemed unable, tho' she strove, to speak:
Upon her forehead gaped a crimson streak,
And stretched upon th' unyielding rock she lay,
To soothe her pain both sisterlike did seek,
They washed the bloody finger-prints away;
Alas that such as this should end so bright a day!


LXXX.

What could they do? where could they fly for aid
With night fast closing over all around?
Where could they go, bewildered and afraid,
With not the comfort of a single sound?
They looked aghast with lips all horror-bound,
With none to help and not a cottage near
Where they could take her, prostrate on the ground,
Where they might bind her brow who was so dear;
And stirred they had not with embarrassment and fear.


LXXXI.

Now clearly, as was apprehensible
From the sad nature of the wound received,
To all around she lay insensible,
And Rose and Flora were most sorely grieved;
Their inward terror could not be conceived,
They tried to raise her but they tried in vain,
And many sighs of disappointment heaved
As down she sank upon the rock again;
Each asked what should be done, they must not there remain.


LXXXII.

That was a question which they could not solve,
She was too heavy for their strength to bear,
But Rose to fly for succour did resolve,
Rushed up the cliff and left her sisters there;
Within her heart there lurked a trembling prayer
For her dear Dora's safety as she sped
Along the soundless road, she knew not where,
While darkness quickly gathered overhead,
On, on she ran, half overcome, and pale with dread.


LXXXIII.

The first she met--to him she did appeal,
He was a neighbouring cottager who bore
A right good heart which others' woes could feel,
To whom, too, she was not unknown before;
At the sad news he hastened to his door,
Brought forth a lighted lantern and a phial,
And both strode quickly forward to the shore,
He tried to soothe poor Rose's grief the while,
Whose agitation told how terrible the trial.


LXXXIV.

They reached the cliff and cautious did descend,
They indistinctly saw a group of three,
In Rose's breast alarm and joy did blend
While wondering who the welcome third might be;
Impatiently she hurried on to see,
'Twas Rowland kneeling at her sister's side
To whom he ministered relief for he
The waving kerchief from the cliff had spied,
Had heard the call for help and to the beach had hied.


LXXXV.

His brother Gilbert by some happy chance
Had accompanied his brother on his way,
Both saw what was the matter at a glance
As Dora on the ground unconscious lay;
Flora with tears besought them both to stay
But they'd arranged that Gilbert home should fly
(They lived three-quarters of a mile away)
And bring restoratives immediately,
And chaise, of course, which was a great necessity.


LXXXVI.

Now Dora upright sat and looked around,
Much better than she was a time ago,
With a damp handkerchief her head was bound,
And now and then she took a draught or so
The cottager supplied, as you all know,
Till on the road above the chaise arrived;
Gilbert his brother called from down below,
Gave him the flask and asked if she'd revived
And how her safe removal was to be contrived.


LXXXVII.

There Gilbert waited while his brother went
To offer his support to Dora who
Seemed nothing else but sweet bewilderment,
And, at this juncture, so did Rowland too.
Since Gilbert brought one, they had lanterns two
Which much assisted them their way to see,
As well as what they were about to do
In this unfortunate emergency;
For 'twas a matter of the utmost urgency.


LXXXVIII.

Now Rowland on the left supported Dora,
The cottager was stationed on the right,
One of the lights did they entrust to Flora,
And one to Rose who was exhausted quite;
Then on they passed beneath the sultry night,
Safe o'er the rocks, upon the hardened sand--
Tho' Dora was in most unhappy plight--
With all the haste they could just then command,
Befitted to the circumstance you understand.


LXXXIX.

The steps were steep and narrow, and a rail,
For wanderers' protection was placed there,
Yet it was at the best so very frail
That it was necessary to beware;
With narrow limits they did not despair,
But managed somehow to go three abreast
And at the summit safely lodge their care;
To render her relief all did their best,
They knew their parents would be very much distressed.


XC.

It chanced auspiciously that ladies' dress
Was then not as we know it to have been,
That concentration of all ugliness--
That awful bustle and the crinoline--
It would have been unfortunate, I mean,
For their ascent, and with me you'll agree,
It would have proved a hopeless case, I ween,
And ended in a dire catastrophe,
Which simply would have been embarrassing you see.


XCI.

The cottager sought nothing for his pains
And proffered trifles thankfully declined;
Ah! happy they who think not of their gains,
Who for the kindness only would be kind;
But there are very few of such a mind,
That is as far as my experience goes,
For love of self more often lurks behind
A worthy action, and one seldom knows
The true and real source from which a kindness flows.


XCII.

Now with his charges three was Rowland seated,
Then all and everyone exchanged "good night,"
And when that ceremony was completed
The cottager bent homeward with his light
And so did Gilbert. 'Twas a blessing quite
That matters were all settled as they were
In their most awkward and distressing plight,--
As Dora thought especially for her
It was indeed unfortunate it should occur.


XCIII.

When they arrived at Elleston Farm they found
Such dire dismay as ne'er before was seen,
Papa dispatching to the places round
Some messengers to know where they had been,
It really was a most excited scene,
With Julia, Ma, and Hannah at the gate
To see if information they could glean
In much alarm since it was now so late,
For Dora told them that they should return by eight.


XCIV.

Ma gave a dismal shriek and swooned away,
And Julia (bless her!) tried to do so too,
Most naturally so, for truth to say
It was a dreary spectacle to view;
Soon to the house they hurriedly withdrew,
All those who kept their footing and were able;
With Ma and Julia there was much ado
Since they between them made a little Babel,
While Hannah screamed and staggered back upon the table.


XCV.

To Dora Rowland was, of course, attentive,
Yes, very so; he also did his best
For th' others, using every preventive
Against a second swoon one could suggest;
His efforts I am glad to say were blest,
Tho' Dora was quite helpless from the fall,
But Hannah went on just like one possessed,
While Julia did the lackadaisical
And wagged her head most drearily against the wall.


XCVI.

Ere long there was an end to the confusion,
And everyone came back to common sense,
Then all the household joined in the conclusion
It was a fearful blow, at all events
Poor Dora's sufferings were most intense,
And prudently she was despatched to bed,
Permitted to remain on no pretence,
And there the household bandaged up her head,
For all lent their assistance as I should have said.


XCVII.

Respecting how they spent their length of time
There was a lot to say as you'd suppose,
(Which I will not repeat to you in rhyme)
Concerning their enjoyments and their woes,
And all such trivialities as those,
Or thanks to him to whom such thanks were due,
And query after query then arose,
And pleasant incidents by no means few,
As under the like circumstances always do.


XCVIII.

Supper despatched, our Rowland started back
Loaded with thanks and all that words could speak,
The stars were overcast, the night was black,
The wind arose as from some sudden freak;
At intervals was seen a livid streak,
And distant rumblings fell upon the ear;
'Twas true a storm had threatened all the week
And lurked about the sultry atmosphere,
Then was the time they were to have it, it was clear.


XCIX.

Yet these were tokens Rowland did not heed,
Such trifles then he little cared about,
As he upon his journey did proceed
He was disturbed within more than without
And dead to all around I've not a doubt,
Absorbed in thoughts that words can ne'er define,
Yet you can guess, my reader, what about,
Most likely such as those have once been thine,
I really fail to count how often they've been mine.


C.

Within him was a feeling as of pain,--
That melancholy music in whose tone,
Though full of sadness, something sweet doth reign,
And Rowland for the first time felt alone;
How often hath this feeling been our own
When all is--what? compared to something dear,
When former pleasures all, yea, all have flown,
And life is centred in another sphere,
And all the world is nothing if one be not near.


CI.

There was a something in the heaven above
That corresponded with his state of mind;
We all know what it is to be in love,
When all Earth's sweetest pleasures seem combined,
When Life and Love both, both are intertwined,
And the young blood is as the desert's thirst,
A scorching wilderness, a torrid wind,
A torrent with its flood-gates open burst;
When Youth's most cherished hopes within the breast are nursed.


CII.

O tell me not that Youth, all youth is folly,
Give me the kiss that youth doth first impress,
O let me feel love's ling'ring melancholy,
And smile on lips all youthful loveliness!
Give me the bosom I can fondly press
While Youth's hot blood is burning in the veins,
O what but this is earthly happiness?
This world no sweeter thing than this contains;
When days of youth are o'er, life's foremost pleasure wanes.


CIII.

Yes, Youth was made for such; it is enough
To know in some fond heart our words abide;
Oh life's not life but death without a love,
All ceaseless darkness where she is denied!
We know not our existence till we hide
Our soul within another's there to be
Its very being: like a river wide
Love rolls its endless volumes to the sea,
Losing itself within its own immensity.


CIV.

There is a sort of torture which attends
That most delightful of the heart's delights,
A sort of cruelty which somehow blends
With passion in its most distracted flights;
And absence from a bosom that requites
An all-absorbing love is as a flame
Fed ten-fold, yet insatiate; it excites
Those maddened cravings which the breast inflame,
Those fiery, longing gasps within the fevered frame.


CV.

However, I'm too fond of pondering
When it's so necessary to proceed,
And on to worthless topics wandering
To which my friends will pay but little heed,
All those I mean who take my book and read
Those matters that they studied long ago,
Who of such information have no need
And want to hear of something they don't know;
I know what's due to them and they shall have it so.


CVI.

'Twas Dora, as by now you will have guessed,
Who was the burden of poor Rowland's thought,
He was not merely by her face impressed
But loved her to distraction as he ought,
It is you know the popular report
That the best love is love at the first sight;
If such is true or not it matters nought,
I'd rather not discuss the point to-night,
It won't affect our story whether wrong or right.


CVII.

I think and I've good reason to suppose
This was a first-sight love, but who can say
For certain if it was so? Goodness knows
If he conceived it in amongst the hay:
If I hear rightly ever since that day
He had been somewhat quieter than before
And had been known to take himself away
To wander long alone upon the shore:
Such oddities betoken love you may be sure.


CVIII.

Ah, who may tell what crowding thoughts arose
Where boiled the tumult of Love's surging sea,
That strength this world itself could not enclose,
Nor Space with infinite immensity!
But there no matter why, love is to be
While men and women both are what they are,
While eyes can wander unrestrainedly,
And light on dimpled cheeks unknown to Ma,
Or eyes that glisten like a polished scimitar.


CIX.

Some pierce as deeply, I can tell you, too,
And do the dickens in the way of slaughter,
And slash the heart to mincemeat through and through,
And make ten thousand lives some few years shorter;
Those eyes that make beholding lips quite water,
Full many a Don Giovani die o' grief,
Which yield the love-sick populace no quarter
And--(isn't it cruel?) give them no relief,
And work no end of miracles in my belief!


CX.

Which rudely tilt Love's overflowing cup,
And work a trifle in their little way;
Just tip the solar-system downside up,
What is there that they can't do, who shall say?
While for one glance a thousand pine away,
Which certainly is most disastrous when
Our span is not too long as you will say,
And what of their short three score years and ten?
But this may not apply to woman-jilted men.


CXI.

A friend of mine observed some time ago
That women were men's guardian-angels--stay,
I scarcely think it can be always so
Tho' very often certainly it may;
At any rate you know I mean to say
They very seldom put men at their ease,
Once wedded in a week can turn 'em grey,
So deuced disagreeable if they please,
And I myself have known some two or three of these.


CXII.

I do not mean that I've experienced this--
(The subject 'tis a pity I began)
I never knew that fancied state of bliss,
I'm not, my friends, in short, a married man,
So cannot judge as well as others can
Who are more fortunate and have a wife,
I would much rather live contented than
Engaged in all the wars of married life,
And what's more troublesome than matrimonial strife?


CXIII.

In fact I often "wish I were a bird"
I'd fly and fly and fly to--Heaven knows where,
And, if such happy chance to me occurred,
I'd visit all the windows of the fair,
To see if they had kisses I could bear,
And be the General Post Office above,
And do all sorts of things I do declare;
'Twere better, too, I think to be a dove,
That gentle bird so suited to affairs of love.


CXIV.

Oh, bother interruptions, when a chap
Has something most particular to say!
My mother calls--there must be some mishap,
So I must leave it for another day;
I should be whacked severely did I stay,
And that would be a pity you must own,
And so 'twere better for me to obey
With much regret at leaving you alone,
But 'tis a great necessity as I have shewn.


CXV.

I'm hungry too, and I must feed sometimes
As other folks accustomed are to do;
I'm not of those who fatten on their rhymes,
My reader kind, between myself and you;
So this abruptly-ended interview
With circumstances such you will forgive,
The thread of my narration I'll renew
To-morrow or the next day if I live,
That is of course if your attention you will give.


CXVI.

Ta-ta for now, and may you ever be
The good forbearing friend I knew you once,
And may you yet proceed indulgently,
Permit my story and forgive the dunce,
In spite of these most troublesome affronts;
Let's see how long since last I flew my kite,
Yes, certainly it must be some few months,
And here I am again at it to-night,
It's enough to tax the patience of a Bedlamite.


CXVII.

You know the author for you see him here,
He weeps or smiles as here he doth rehearse,
Oh, critic, stay, and drop but Pity's tear,
If not for him, the author--for his verse:
Full many have done better but few worse,
And surely he's the very first to know it,
Of course there's much to talk of when converse,
Like friend and friend, the critic and his poet,
But now I cannot stay, I'm in a hurry, blow it!



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