Page images

Itself, from all malevolent effect
of those mutations that extend their sway
Throughout the nether sphere!-And if with this
I mix more lowly matter ; with the thing
Contemplated, describe the Mind and Man
Contemplating; and who, and what he was-
The transitory Being that beheld
This Vision; when and where, and how he lived ;-
Be not this labour useless. If such theme

May sort with highest objects, then-dread Power!
Whose gracious favour is the primal source
Of all illumination-may my Life
Express the image of a better time,
More wise desires, and simpler manners ;-nurse
My Heart in genuine freedom :-all pure thonghts
Be with me;–50 shall thy unfailing love
Guide, and support, and cheer me to the end!'



And to my wish and to my hope espied
The Friend I sought; a Man of reverend age,

But stout and hale, for travel unimpaired.

There was he seen upon the cottage-bench,
A summer forenoon.-The Author reaches a ruined Cot-

Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep; tage upon a Common, and there meets with a revered Friend, the Wanderer, of whose education and course An iron-pointed staff lay at his side. of life he gives an account. The Wanderer, while resting under the shade of the Trees that surround the

Him had I marked the day before-alone Cottage, relates the History of its last Inhabitant.

And stationed in the public way, with face 'Twas summer, and the sun had mounted high: Turned toward the sun then setting, while that staff Southward the landscape indistinctly glared Afforded, to the figure of the man Through a pale steam; but all the northern downs, Detained for contemplation or repose, In clearest air ascending, showed far off

Graceful support; his countenance as he stood A surface dappled o'er with shadows flung Was hidden from my view, and he remained From brooding clouds ; shadows that lay in spots Unrecognised; but, stricken by the sight, Determined and unmoved, with steady beams With slackened footsteps I advanced, and soon Of bright and pleasant sunshine interposed ; A glad congratulation we exchanged To him most pleasant who on soft cool moss At such unthought-of meeting. For the night Extends his careless limbs along the front

We parted, nothing willingly; and now
Of some huge cave, whose rocky ceiling casts He by appointment waited for me here,
A twilight of its own, an ample shade,

Under the covert of these clustering elms.
Where the wren warbles, while the dreaming man,
Half conscious of the soothing melody,

We were tried Friends : amid a pleasant vale, With side-long eye looks out upon


scene, In the antique market-village where was passed By power of that impending covert, thrown, My school-time, an apartment he had owned, To finer distance. Mine was at that hour

To which at intervals the Wanderer drew, Far other lot, yet with good hope that soon

And found a kind of home or harbour there. Under a shade as grateful I should find

He loved me; from a swarm of rosy boys Rest, and be welcomed there to livelier joy. Singled out me, as he in sport would say, Across a bare wide Common I was toiling

For my grave looks, too thoughtful for my years. With languid steps that by the slippery turf As I grew up, it was my best delight Were baffled; nor could my weak arm disperse To be his chosen comrade. Many a time, The host of insects gathering round my face, On holidays, we rambled through the woods : And ever with me as I paced along.

We sate—we walked ; he pleased me with report

Of things which he had seen; and often touched Upon that open moorland stood a grove, Abstrusest matter, reasonings of the mind The wished-for port to which my course was bound. Turned inward; or at my request would sing Thither I came, and there, amid the gloom Old songs, the product of his native hills ; Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms,

A skilful distribution of sweet sounds, Appeared a roofless Hut; four naked walls Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed That stared upon each other !- I looked round, As cool refreshing water, by the care

Of the industrious husbandman, diffused

Of long-continuing winter, he repaired, Through a parched meadow-ground, in time of Equipped with satchel, to a school, that stood drought.

Sole building on a mountain's dreary edge, Still deeper welcome found his pure discourse : Remote from view of city spire, or sound How precious when in riper days I learned Of minster clock ! From that bleak tenement To weigh with care his words, and to rejoice He, many an evening, to his distant home In the plain presence of his dignity!

In solitude returning, saw the hills

Grow larger in the darkness; all alone Oh! many are the Poets that are sown

Beheld the stars come out above his head, By Nature; men endowed with highest gifts, And travelled through the wood, with no one near The vision and the faculty divine ;

To whom he might confess the things he saw, Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse, (Which, in the docile season of their youth,

So the foundations of his mind were laid. It was denied them to acquire, through lack In such communion, not from terror free, Of culture and the inspiring aid of books,

While yet a child, and long before his time, Or haply by a temper too severe,

Had he perceived the presence and the power Or a nice backwardness afraid of shame)

Of greatness; and deep feelings had impressed Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led So vividly great objects that they lay By circumstance to take unto the height

Upon his mind like substances, whose presence
The measure of themselves, these favoured Beings, Perplexed the bodily sense. He had received
All but a scattered few, live out their time, A precious gift; for, as he grew in years,
Husbanding that which they possess within, With these impressions would he still compare
And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds All his remembrances, thoughts, shapes, and forms ;
Are often those of whom the noisy world

And, being still unsatisfied with aught
Hears least; else surely this Man had not left Of dimmer character, he thence attained
His graces unrevealed and unproclaimed. An active power to fasten images
But, as the mind was filled with inward light, Upon his brain ; and on their pictured lines
So not without distinction had he lived,

Intensely brooded, even till they acquired
Beluved and honoured_far as he was known. The liveliness of dreams. Nor did he fail,
And some small portion of his eloquent speech, While yet a child, with a child's eagerness
And something that may serve to set in view Incessantly to turn his ear and eye
The feeling pleasures of his loneliness,

On all things which the moving seasons brought
His observations, and the thoughts his mind To feed such appetite-nor this alone
Had dealt with—I will here record in verse; Appeased his yearning: in the after-day
Which, if with truth it correspond, and sink Of boyhood, many an hour in caves forlorn,
Or rise as venerable Nature leads,

And ’mid the hollow depths of naked crags The high and tender Muses shall accept

He sate, and even in their fixed lineaments, With gracious smile, deliberately pleased,

Or from the power of a peculiar eye, And listening Time reward with sacred praise. Or by creative feeling overborne,

Or by predominance of thought oppressed, Among the hills of Athol he was born; Even in their fixed and steady lineaments Where, on a small hereditary farm,

He traced an ebbing and a flowing mind, An unproductive slip of rugged ground,

Expression ever varying ! His Parents, with their numerous offspring, dwelt ;

Thus informed, A virtuous household, though exceeding poor! He had small need of books ; for many a tale Pure livers were they all, austere and grave, Traditionary, round the mountains hung, And fearing God; the very children taught And many a legend, peopling the dark woods, Stern self-respect, a reverence for God's word, Nourished Imagination in her growth, And an habitual piety, maintained

And gave the Mind that apprehensive power With strictness scarcely known on English ground. By which she is made quick to recognise

The moral properties and scope of things.
From his sixth year, the Boy of whom I speak, But eagerly he read, and read again,
In summer, tended cattle on the hills ;

Whate'er the minister's old shelf supplied ; But, through the inclement and the perilous days The life and death of martyrs, who sustained,


With will inflexible, those fearful pangs

O then how beautiful, how bright, appeared Triumphantly displayed in records left

The written promise! Early had he learned Of persecution, and the Covenant-times

To reverence the volume that displays Whose echo rings through Scotland to this hour! The mystery, the life which cannot die; And there, by lucky hap, had been preserved But in the mountains did he feel his faith. A straggling volume, torn and incomplete, All things, responsive to the writing, there That left half-told the preternatural tale,

Breathed immortality, revolving life, Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends,

And greatness still revolving; infinite: Profuse in garniture of wooden cuts

There littleness was not; the least of things Strange and uncouth ; dire faces, figures dire, Seemed infinite; and there his spirit shaped Sharp-kneed, sharp-elbowed, and lean-ankled too, Her prospects, nor did he believe,,he saw. With long and ghostly shanks-forms which once What wonder if his being thus became

Sublime and comprehensive! Low desires, Could never be forgotten !

Low thoughts had there no place; yet was his In his heart,

heart Where Fear sate thus, a cherished visitant, Lowly; for he was meek in gratitude, Was wanting yet the pure delight of love

Oft as he called those ecstasies to mind, By sound diffused, or by the breathing air, And whence they flowed; and from them he Or by the silent looks of happy things,

acquired Or flowing from the universal face

Wisdom, which works thro' patience; thence he Of earth and sky. But he had felt the power

learned Of Nature, and already was prepared,

In oft-recurring hours of sober thought By his intense conceptions, to receive

To look on Nature with a humble heart,
Deeply the lesson deep of love which he,

Self-questioned where it did not understand,
Whom Nature, by whatever means, has taught And with a superstitious eye of love.
To feel intensely, cannot but receive.

So passed the time; yet to the nearest town
Such was the Boy—but for the growing Youth He duly went with what small overplus
What soul was his, when, from the naked top His earnings might supply, and brought away
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun

The book that most had tempted his desires Rise up, and bathe the world in light! He looked— While at the stall he read. Among the hills Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth

He gazed upon that mighty orb of song, And ocean's liquid mass, in gladness lay

The divine Milton, Lore of different kind, Beneath him :-Far and wide the clouds were The annual savings of a toilsome life, touched,

His School-master supplied; books that explain And in their silent faces could he read

The purer elements of truth involved Unutterable love. Sound needed none,

In lines and numbers, and, by charm severe, Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank

(Especially perceived where nature droops The spectacle : sensation, soul, and form,

And feeling is suppressed) preserve the mind All melted into him; they swallowed up

Busy in solitude and poverty.
His animal being; in them did he live,

These occupations oftentimes deceived
And by them did he live ; they were his life. The listless hours, while in the hollow vale,
In such access of mind, in such high hour

Hollow and green, he lay on the green turf
Of visitation from the living God,

In pensive idleness. What could he do, Thought was not; in enjoyment it expired. Thus daily thirsting, in that lonesome life, No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request;

With blind endeavours ? Yet, still uppermost, Rapt into still communion that transcends

Nature was at his heart as if he felt, The imperfect offices of prayer and praise, Though yet he knew not how, a wasting power His mind was a thanksgiving to the power In all things that from her sweet influence That made him; it was blessedness and love ! Might tend to wean him. Therefore with her hues,

Her forms, and with the spirit of her forms, A Herdsman on the lonely mountain tops, He clothed the nakedness of austere truth. Such intercourse was his, and in this sort

While yet he lingered in the rudiments Was his existence oftentimes possessed.

Of science, and among her simplest laws,

His triangles—they were the stars of heaven, Through hot and dusty ways, or pelting storm, The silent stars! Oft did he take delight

A vagrant Merchant under a heavy load To measure the altitude of some tall crag

Bent as he moves, and needing frequent rest ; That is the eagle's birth-place, or some peak Yet do such travellers find their own delight; Familiar with forgotten years, that shows

And their hard service, deemed debasing now, Inscribed upon its visionary sides,

Gained merited respect in simpler times ; The history of many a winter storm,

When squire, and priest, and they who round them Or obscure records of the path of fire.


In rustic sequestration—all dependent And thus before his eighteenth year was told. Upon the Pedlar’s toil-supplied their wants, Accumulated feelings pressed his heart

Or pleased their fancies, with the wares he brought. With still increasing weight; he was o’erpowered Not ignorant was the Youth that still no few By Nature ; by the turbulence subdued

Of his adventurous countrymen were led Of his own mind; by mystery and hope,

By perseverance in this track of life And the first virgin passion of a soul

To competence and ease :- to him it offered Communing with the glorious universe.

Attractions manifold ;—and this he chose. Full often wished he that the winds might rage -His Parents on the enterprise bestowed When they were silent: far more fondly now Their farewell benediction, but with hearts Than in his earlier season did he love

Foreboding evil. From his native hills Tempestuous nights—the conflict and the sounds He wandered far; much did he see of men, That live in darkness. From his intellect

Their manners, their enjoyments, and pursuits, And from the stillness of abstracted thought Their passions and their feelings; chiefly those He asked repose ; and, failing oft to win

Essential and eternal in the heart,
The peace required, he scanned the laws of light That, ʼmid the simpler forms of rural life,
Amid the roar of torrents, where they send Exist more simple in their elements,
From hollow clefts up to the clearer air

And speak a plainer language. In the woods, A cloud of mist, that smitten by the sun

A lone Enthusiast, and among the fields, Varies its rainbow hues. But vainly thus,

Itinerant in this labour, he had passed And vainly by all other means, be strove

The better portion of his time ; and there To mitigate the fever of his heart.

Spontaneously had his affections thriven

Amid the bounties of the year, the peace
In dreams, in study, and in ardent thought, And liberty of nature; there he kept
Thus was he reared; much wanting to assist In solitude and solitary thought
The growth of intellect, yet gaining more,

His mind in a just equipoise of love.
And every moral feeling of his soul

Serene it was, unclouded by the cares
Strengthened and braced, by breathing in content Of ordinary life; unvexed, unwarped
The keen, the wholesome, air of poverty,

By partial bondage. In his steady course,
And drinking from the well of homely life. No piteous revolutions had he felt,
-But, from past liberty, and tried restraints, No wild varieties of joy and grief.
He now was summoned to select the course Unoccupied by sorrow of its own,
Of humble industry that promised best

His heart lay open; and, by nature tuned
To yield him no unworthy maintenance.

And constant disposition of his thoughts
Urged by his Mother, he essayed to teach

To sympathy with man, he was alive
A village-school—but wandering thoughts were then To all that was enjoyed where'er he went,
A misery to him; and the Youth resigned

And all that was endured; for, in himself
A task he was unable to perform.

Happy, and quiet in his cheerfulness,

He had no painful pressure from without That stern yet kindly Spirit, who constrains That made him turn aside from wretchedness The Savoyard to quit his naked rocks,

With coward fears. He could afford to suffer The free-born Swiss to leave his narrow vales, With those whom he saw suffer. Hence it came (Spirit attached to regions mountainous

That in our best experience he was rich,
Like their own stedfast clouds) did now impel And in the wisdom of our daily life.
His restless mind to look abroad with hope. For hence, minutely, in his various rounds,
-An irksome drudgery seems it to plod on, He had observed the progress and decay

[ocr errors]

Of many minds, of minds and bodies too;

Into a narrower circle of deep red, The history of many families ;

But had not tamed his eye; that, under brows How they had prospered; how they were o’erthrown Shaggy and grey, had meanings which it brought By passion or mischance, or suoh misrule

From years of youth ; which, like a Being made Among the unthinking masters of the earth Of many Beings, he had wondrous skill As makes the nations groan.

To blend with knowledge of the years to come,

This active course Human, or such as lie beyond the grave.
He followed till provision for his wants
Had been obtained ;-the Wanderer then resolved
To pass the remnant of his days, untasked

So was He framed; and such his course of life
With needless services, from hardship free. Who now, with no appendage but a staff,
His calling laid aside, he lived at ease :

The prized memorial of relinquished toils, But still he loved to pace the public roads Upon that cottage-bench reposed his limbs, And the wild paths; and, by the summer's warmth Screened from the sun. Supine the Wanderer lay, Invited, often would he leave his home

His eyes as if in drowsiness half shut, And journey far, revisiting the scenes

The shadows of the breezy elms above That to his memory were most endeared.

Dappling his face. He had not heard the sound -Vigorous in health, of hopeful spirits, undamped Of my approaching steps, and in the shade By worldly-mindedness or anxious care ;

Unnoticed did I stand some minutes' space. Observant, studious, thoughtful, and refreshed At length I hailed him, seeing that his hat By knowledge gathered up from day to day; Was moist with water-drops, as if the brim Thus had he lived a long and innocent life. Had newly scooped a running stream. He rose,

And ere our lively greeting into peace The Scottish Church, both on himself and those Had settled, “ 'Tis,” said I, “a burning day: With whom from childhood he grew up, had held My lips are parched with thirst, but you, it seems, The strong hand of her purity; and still

Have somewhere found relief.” He, at the word, Had watched him with an unrelenting eye. Pointing towards a sweet-briar, bade me climb This he remembered in his riper age

The fence where that aspiring shrub looked out With gratitude, and reverential thoughts.

Upon the public way. It was a plot But by the native vigour of his mind,

Of garden ground run wild, its matted weeds By his habitual wanderings out of doors,

Marked with the steps of those, whom, as they passed, By loneliness, and goodness, and kind works, The gooseberry trees that shot in long lank slips, Whate'er, in docile childhood or in youth, Or currants, hanging from their leafless stems, He had imbibed of fear or darker thought

In scanty strings, had tempted to o’erleap Was melted all away ; so true was this,

The broken wall. I looked around, and there, That sometimes his religion seemed to me

Where two tall hedge-rows of thick alder boughs Self-taught, as of a dreamer in the woods ; Joined in a cold damp nook, espied a well Who to the model of his own pure heart

Shrouded with willow-flowers and plumy fern. Shaped his belief, as grace divine inspired, My thirst I slaked, and, from the cheerless spot And human reason dictated with awe.

Withdrawing, straightway to the shade returned
-And surely never did there live on earth Where sate the old Man on the cottage-bench;
A man of kindlier nature. The rough sports And, while, beside him, with uncovered head,
And teasing ways of children vexed not him; I yet was standing, freely to respire,
Indulgent listener was he to the tongue

And cool my temples in the fanning air,
Of garrulous age; nor did the sick man's tale, Thus did he speak. “I see around me here
To his fraternal sympathy addressed,

Things which you cannot see: we die, my Friend, Obtain reluctant hearing.

Nor we alone, but that which each man loved Plain his garb;

And prized in his peculiar nook of earth Such as might suit a rustic Sire, prepared

Dies with him, or is changed; and very soon For sabbath duties; yet he was a man

Even of the good is no memorial left. Whom no one could have passed without remark. -The Poets, in their elegies and songs Active and nervous was his gait; his limbs Lamenting the departed, call the groves, And his whole figure breathed intelligence. They call upon the hills and streams to mourn, Time had compressed the freshness of his cheek And senseless rocks; nor idly; for they speak,

« PreviousContinue »