Henry Kirke White ( )

Clifton Grove

LO! in the west fast fades the lingering light,
And days last vestige takes its silent flight.
No more is heard the woodmans measured stroke
Which with the dawn from yonder dingle broke;
No more, hoarse clamoring oer the uplifted head,
The crows, assembling seek their wind-rocked bed.
Stilled is the village hum,the woodland sounds
Have ceased to echo oer the dewy grounds,
And general silence reigns, save when below
The murmuring Trent is scarcely heard to flow;
And save when, swung by nighted rustic late,
Oft on its hinge rebounds the jarring gate;
Or when the sheep-bell, in the distant vale,
Breathes its wild music on the downy gale.

Now, when the rustic wears the social smile,
Released from day and its attendant toil,
And draws his household round their evening fire,
And tells the oft-told tales that never tire;
Or where the towns blue turrets dimly rise,
And manufacture taints the ambient skies,
The pale mechanic leaves the laboring loom,
The air-pent hold, the pestilential room,
And rushes out, impatient to begin
The stated course of customary sin:
Now, now, my solitary way I bend
Where solemn groves in awful state impend,
And cliffs, that boldly rise above the plain,
Bespeak, blest Clifton! thy sublime domain.
Here, lonely wandering oer the sylvan bower,
I come to pass the meditative hour;
To bid awhile the strife of passion cease,
And woo the calms of solitude and peace.

*        *        *        *        *

This gloomy alcove, darkling to the sight,
Where meeting trees create eternal night,
Save when from yonder stream the sunny ray
Reflected gives a dubious gleam of day,
Recalls endearing to my altered mind
Times when beneath the boxen hedge reclined
I watched the lapwing to her clamorous brood,
Or lured the robin to its scattered food,
Or woke with song the woodland echo wild,
And at each gay response, delighted, smiled.
How oft, when childhood threw its golden ray
Of gay romance oer every happy day,
Here would I run, a visionary boy,
When the hoarse tempest shook the vaulted sky,
And, fancy-led, beheld the Almightys form
Sternly careering on the eddying storm;
And heard, while awe congealed my inmost soul,
His voice terrific in the thunders roll.
With secret joy, I viewed with vivid glare
The volleyed lightnings cleave the sullen air;
And, as the warring winds around reviled,
With awful pleasure big, I heard and smiled.

*        *        *        *        *

Now as I rove where wide the prospect grows,
A livelier light upon my vision flows.
No more above the embracing branches meet,
No more the river gurgles at my feet,
But seen deep down the cliffs impending side,
Through hanging woods now gleams its silver tide.
Dim is my upland path; across the Green
Fantastic shadows fling, yet oft between
The checkered glooms the moon her chaste ray sheds
Where knots of bluebells droop their graceful heads
And beds of violets blooming mid the trees
Load with waste fragrance the nocturnal breeze.

*        *        *        *        *

How lovely from this hills superior height
Spreads the wide view before my straining sight!
Oer many a varied mile of lengthening ground,
Een to the blue-ridged hills remotest bound,
My ken is borne, while oer my head serene
The silver moon illumes the misty scene,
Now shining clear, now darkening in the glade,
In all the soft varieties of shade.

Behind me, lo! the peaceful hamlet lies.
The drowsy god has sealed the cotters eyes.
No more, where late the social fagot blazed,
The vacant peal resounds, by little raised:
But locked in silence, oer Orions star
The slumbering night rolls on her velvet car;
The church-bell tolls, deep sounding down the glade,
The solemn hour, for walking spectres made;
The simple plough-boy, wakening with the sound,
Listens aghast, and turns him startled round,
Then stops his ears, and strives to close his eyes,
Lest at the sound some grisly ghost should rise.
Now ceased the long, the monitory toll,
Returning silence stagnates in the soul;
Save when disturbed by dreams, with wild affright,
The deep-mouthed mastiff bays the troubled night,
Or, where the village alehouse crowns the vale,
The creaking sign-post whistles to the gale.
A little onward let me bend my way,
Where the mossed seat invites the travellers stay.
That spot, O yet it is the very same!
That hawthorn gives it shade, and gave it name;
There yet the primrose opes its earliest bloom,
There yet the violet sheds its first perfume,
And in the branch that rears above the rest
The robin unmolested builds its nest.

*        *        *        *        *

Now passed whateer the upland heights display,
Down the steep cliff I wind my devious way;
Oft rousing, as the rustling path I beat,
The timid hare from its accustomed seat.
And O how sweet this walk oerhung with wood,
That winds the margin of the solemn flood!
What rural objects steal upon the sight!
What rising views prolong the calm delight!
The brooklet branching from the silver Trent,
The whispering birch by every zephyr bent,
The woody island, and the naked mead,
The lowly hut half hid in groves of reed,
The rural wicket, and the rural stile,
And frequent interspersed the woodmans pile.
Above, below, whereer I turn my eyes,
Rocks, waters, woods, in grand succession rise.
High up the cliff the varied groves ascend,
And mournful larches oer the wave impend.

Henry Kirke White's other poems:
  1. Lines Supposed to Be Spoken by a Lover at the Grave of His Mistress
  2. Melody
  3. Lines Written in Wilford Churchyard on Recovery from Sickness
  4. Canzonet
  5. Lines Written on a Survey of the Heavens in the Morning before Daybreak

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