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Poem by Charlotte Turner Smith
ON thy stupendous summit, rock sublime! That o'er the channel rear'd, half way at sea The mariner at early morning hails, I would recline; while Fancy should go forth, And represent the strange and awful hour Of vast concussion; when the Omnipotent Stretch'd forth his arm, and rent the solid hills, Bidding the impetuous main flood rush between The rifted shores, and from the continent Eternally divided this green isle. Imperial lord of the high southern coast! From thy projecting head-land I would mark Far in the east the shades of night disperse, Melting and thinned, as from the dark blue wave Emerging, brilliant rays of arrowy light Dart from the horizon; when the glorious sun Just lifts above it his resplendent orb. Advances now, with feathery silver touched, The rippling tide of flood; glisten the sands, While, inmates of the chalky clefts that scar Thy sides precipitous, with shrill harsh cry, Their white wings glancing in the level beam, The terns, and gulls, and tarrocks, seek their food, And thy rough hollows echo to the voice Of the gray choughs, and ever restless daws, With clamour, not unlike the chiding hounds, While the lone shepherd, and his baying dog, Drive to thy turfy crest his bleating flock. The high meridian of the day is past, And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven, Is of cerulean hue; and murmurs low The tide of ebb, upon the level sands. The sloop, her angular canvas shifting still, Catches the light and variable airs That but a little crisp the summer sea. Dimpling its tranquil surface. Afar off, And just emerging from the arch immense Where seem to part the elements, a fleet Of fishing vessels stretch their lesser sails; While more remote, and like a dubious spot Just hanging in the horizon, laden deep, The ship of commerce richly freighted, makes Her slower progress, on her distant voyage, Bound to the orient climates, where the sun Matures the spice within its odorous shell, And, rivalling the gray worm's filmy toil, Bursts from its pod the vegetable down; Which in long turban'd wreaths, from torrid heat Defends the brows of Asia's countless casts. There the Earth hides within her glowing breast The beamy adamant, and the round pearl Enchased in rugged covering; which the slave, With perilous and breathless toil, tears off From the rough sea-rock, deep beneath the waves. These are the toys of Nature; and her sport Of little estimate in Reason's eye: And they who reason, with abhorrence see Man, for such gaudes and baubles, violate The sacred freedom of his fellow man Erroneous estimate! As Heaven's pure air, Fresh as it blows on this aërial height, Or sound of seas upon the stony strand, Or inland, the gay harmony of birds, And winds that wander in the leafy woods; Are to the unadulterate taste more worth Than the elaborate harmony, brought out From fretted stop, or modulated airs Of vocal science.So the brightest gems, Glancing resplendent on the regal crown, Or trembling in the high born beauty's ear, Are poor and paltry, to the lovely light Of the fair star, that as the day declines, Attendant on her queen, the crescent moon, Bathes her bright tresses in the eastern wave. For now the sun is verging to the sea, And as he westward sinks, the floating clouds Suspended, move upon the evening gale, And gathering round his orb, as if to shade The insufferable brightness, they resign Their gauzy whiteness; and more warm'd, assume All hues of purple. There, transparent gold Mingles with ruby tints, and sapphire gleams, And colours, such as Nature through her works Shews only in the ethereal canopy. Thither aspiring Fancy fondly soars, Wandering sublime thro' visionary vales, Where bright pavilions rise, and trophies, fann'd By airs celestial; and adorn'd with wreaths Of flowers that bloom amid elysian bowers. Now bright, and brighter still the colours glow, Till half the lustrous orb within the flood Seems to retire: the flood reflecting still Its splendor, and in mimic glory drest; Till the last ray shot upward, fires the clouds With blazing crimson; then in paler light, Long lines of tenderer radiance, lingering yield To partial darkness; and on the opposing side The early moon distinctly rising, throws Her pearly brilliance on the trembling tide. The fishermen, who at set seasons pass Many a league off at sea their toiling night, Now hail their comrades, from their daily task Returning; and make ready for their own, With the night tide commencing:The night tide Bears a dark vessel on, whose hull and sails Mark her a coaster from the north. Her keel Now ploughs the sand; and sidelong now she leans, While with loud clamours her athletic crew Unload her; and resounds the busy hum Along the wave-worn rocks. Yet more remote, Where the rough cliff hangs beetling o'er its base, All breathes repose; the water's rippling sound Scarce heard; but now and then the sea-snipe's cry Just tells that something living is abroad; And sometimes crossing on the moonbright line, Glimmers the skiff, faintly discern'd awhile, Then lost in shadow. Contemplation here, High on her throne of rock, aloof may sit, And bid recording Memory unfold Her scroll voluminousbid her retrace The period, when from Neustria's hostile shore The Norman launch'd his galleys, and the bay O'er which that mass of ruin frowns even now In vain and sullen menace, then received The new invaders; a proud martial race, Of Scandinavia the undaunted sons, Whom Dogon, Fier-a-bras, and Humfroi led To conquest: while Trinacria to their power Yielded her wheaten garland; and when thou, Parthenope! within thy fertile bay Receiv'd the victors In the mailed ranks Of Normans landing on the British coast Rode Taillefer; and with astounding voice Thunder'd the war song daring Roland sang First in the fierce contention: vainly brave, One not inglorious struggle England made But failing, saw the Saxon heptarchy Finish for ever.Then the holy pile, Yet seen upon the field of conquest, rose, Where to appease heaven's wrath for so much blood, The conqueror bade unceasing prayers ascend, And requiems for the slayers and the slain. But let not modern Gallia form from hence Presumptuous hopes, that ever thou again, Queen of the isles! shalt crouch to foreign arms. The enervate sons of Italy may yield; And the Iberian, all his trophies torn And wrapp'd in Superstition's monkish weed, May shelter his abasement, and put on Degrading fetters. Never, never thou! Imperial mistress of the obedient sea; But thou, in thy integrity secure, Shalt now undaunted meet a world in arms. England! 'twas where this promontory rears Its rugged brow above the channel wave, Parting the hostile nations, that thy fame, Thy naval fame was tarnish'd, at what time Thou, leagued with the Batavian, gavest to France One day of triumphtriumph the more loud, Because even then so rare. Oh! well redeem'd, Since, by a series of illustrious men, Such as no other country ever rear'd, To vindicate her cause. It is a list Which, as Fame echoes it, blanches the cheek Of bold Ambition; while the despot feels The extorted sceptre tremble in his grasp. From even the proudest roll by glory fill'd, How gladly the reflecting mind returns To simple scenes of peace and industry, Where, bosom'd in some valley of the hills Stands the lone farm; its gate with tawny ricks Surrounded, and with granaries and sheds, Roof'd with green mosses, and by elms and ash Partially shaded; and not far remov'd The hut of sea-flints built; the humble home Of one, who sometimes watches on the heights, When hid in the cold mist of passing clouds, The flock, with dripping fleeces, are dispers'd O'er the wide down; then from some ridged point That overlooks the sea, his eager eye Watches the bark that for his signal waits To land its merchandize:Quitting for this Clandestine traffic his more honest toil, The crook abandoning, he braves himself The heaviest snow-storm of December's night, When with conflicting winds the ocean raves, And on the tossing boat, unfearing mounts To meet the partners of the perilous trade, And share their hazard. Well it were for him, If no such commerce of destruction known, He were content with what the earth affords To human labour; even where she seems Reluctant most. More happy is the hind, Who, with his own hands rears on some black moor, Or turbary, his independent hut Cover'd with heather, whence the slow white smoke Of smouldering peat arisesA few sheep, His best possession, with his children share The rugged shed when wintry tempests blow; But, when with Spring's return the green blades rise Amid the russet heath, the household live Joint tenants of the waste throughout the day, And often, from her nest, among the swamps, Where the gemm'd sun-dew grows, or fring'd buck-bean, They scare the plover, that with plaintive cries Flutters, as sorely wounded, down the wind. Rude, and but just remov'd from savage life Is the rough dweller among scenes like these, (Scenes all unlike the poet's fabling dreams Describing Arcady)But he is free; The dread that follows on illegal acts He never feels; and his industrious mate Shares in his labour. Where the brook is traced By crouding osiers, and the black coot hides Among the plashy reeds, her diving brood, The matron wades; gathering the long green rush That well prepar'd hereafter lends its light To her poor cottage, dark and cheerless else Thro' the drear hours of Winter. Otherwhile She leads her infant group where charlock grows 'Unprofitably gay,' or to the fields, Where congregate the linnet and the finch, That on the thistles, so profusely spread, Feast in the desert; the poor family Early resort, extirpating with care These, and the gaudier mischief of the ground; Then flames the high rais'd heap; seen afar off Like hostile war-fires flashing to the sky. Another task is theirs: On fields that shew As angry Heaven had rain'd sterility, Stony and cold, and hostile to the plough, Where clamouring loud, the evening curlew runs And drops her spotted eggs among the flints; The mother and the children pile the stones In rugged pyramids;and all this toil They patiently encounter; well content On their flock bed to slumber undisturb'd Beneath the smoky roof they call their own. Oh! little knows the sturdy hind, who stands Gazing, with looks where envy and contempt Are often strangely mingled, on the car Where prosperous Fortune sits; what secret care Or sick satiety is often hid, Beneath the splendid outside: He knows not How frequently the child of Luxury Enjoying nothing, flies from place to place In chase of pleasure that eludes his grasp; And that content is e'en less found by him, Than by the labourer, whose pick-axe smooths The road before his chariot; and who doffs What was an hat; and as the train pass on, Thinks how one day's expenditure, like this, Would cheer him for long months, when to his toil The frozen earth closes her marble breast. Ah! who is happy ? Happiness! a word That like false fire, from marsh effluvia born, Misleads the wanderer, destin'd to contend In the world's wilderness, with want or woe Yet they are happy, who have never ask'd What good or evil means. The boy That on the river's margin gaily plays, Has heard that Death is thereHe knows not Death, And therefore fears it not; and venturing in He gains a bullrush, or a minnowthen, At certain peril, for a worthless prize, A crow's, or raven's nest, he climbs the boll, Of some tall pine; and of his prowess proud, Is for a moment happy. Are your cares, Ye who despise him, never worse applied ? The village girl is happy, who sets forth To distant fair, gay in her Sunday suit, With cherry colour'd knots, and flourish'd shawl, And bonnet newly purchas'd. So is he Her little brother, who his mimic drum Beats, till he drowns her rural lovers' oaths Of constant faith, and still increasing love; Ah! yet a while, and half those oaths believ'd, Her happiness is vanish'd; and the boy While yet a stripling, finds the sound he lov'd Has led him on, till he has given up His freedom, and his happiness together. I once was happy, when while yet a child, I learn'd to love these upland solitudes, And, when elastic as the mountain air, To my light spirit, care was yet unknown And evil unforeseen:Early it came, And childhood scarcely passed, I was condemned, A guiltless exile, silently to sigh, While Memory, with faithful pencil, drew The contrast; and regretting, I compar'd With the polluted smoky atmosphere And dark and stifling streets, the southern hills That to the setting Sun, their graceful heads Rearing, o'erlook the frith, where Vecta breaks With her white rocks, the strong impetuous tide, When western winds the vast Atlantic urge To thunder on the coastHaunts of my youth! Scenes of fond day dreams, I behold ye yet! Where 'twas so pleasant by thy northern slopes To climb the winding sheep-path, aided oft By scatter'd thorns: whose spiny branches bore Small woolly tufts, spoils of the vagrant lamb There seeking shelter from the noon-day sun; And pleasant, seated on the short soft turf, To look beneath upon the hollow way While heavily upward mov'd the labouring wain, And stalking slowly by, the sturdy hind To ease his panting team, stopp'd with a stone The grating wheel. Advancing higher still The prospect widens, and the village church But little, o'er the lowly roofs around Rears its gray belfry, and its simple vane; Those lowly roofs of thatch are half conceal'd By the rude arms of trees, lovely in spring, When on each bough, the rosy-tinctur'd bloom Sits thick, and promises autumnal plenty. For even those orchards round the Norman farms, Which, as their owners mark the promis'd fruit, Console them for the vineyards of the south, Surpass not these. Where woods of ash, and beech, And partial copses, fringe the green hill foot, The upland shepherd rears his modest home, There wanders by, a little nameless stream That from the hill wells forth, bright now and clear, Or after rain with chalky mixture gray, But still refreshing in its shallow course, The cottage garden; most for use design'd, Yet not of beauty destitute. The vine Mantles the little casement; yet the briar Drops fragrant dew among the July flowers; And pansies rayed, and freak'd and mottled pinks Grow among balm, and rosemary and rue: There honeysuckles flaunt, and roses blow Almost uncultured: Some with dark green leaves Contrast their flowers of pure unsullied white; Others, like velvet robes of regal state Of richest crimson, while in thorny moss Enshrined and cradled, the most lovely, wear The hues of youthful beauty's glowing cheek. With fond regret I recollect e'en now In Spring and Summer, what delight I felt Among these cottage gardens, and how much Such artless nosegays, knotted with a rush By village housewife or her ruddy maid, Were welcome to me; soon and simply pleas'd. An early worshipper at Nature's shrine; I loved her rudest sceneswarrens, and heaths, And yellow commons, and birch-shaded hollows, And hedge rows, bordering unfrequented lanes Bowered with wild roses, and the clasping woodbine Where purple tassels of the tangling vetch With bittersweet, and bryony inweave, And the dew fills the silver bindweed's cups I loved to trace the brooks whose humid banks Nourish the harebell, and the freckled pagil; And stroll among o'ershadowing woods of beech, Lending in Summer, from the heats of noon A whispering shade; while haply there reclines Some pensive lover of uncultur'd flowers, Who, from the tumps with bright green mosses clad, Plucks the wood sorrel, with its light thin leaves, Heart-shaped, and triply folded; and its root Creeping like beaded coral; or who there Gathers, the copse's pride, anémones, With rays like golden studs on ivory laid Most delicate: but touch'd with purple clouds, Fit crown for April's fair but changeful brow. Ah! hills so early loved! in fancy still I breathe your pure keen air; and still behold Those widely spreading views, mocking alike The Poet and the Painter's utmost art. And still, observing objects more minute, Wondering remark the strange and foreign forms Of sea-shells; with the pale calcareous soil Mingled, and seeming of resembling substance. Tho' surely the blue Ocean (from the heights Where the downs westward trend, but dimly seen) Here never roll'd its surge. Does Nature then Mimic, in wanton mood, fantastic shapes Of bivalves, and inwreathed volutes, that cling To the dark sea-rock of the wat'ry world ? Or did this range of chalky mountains, once Form a vast bason, where the Ocean waves Swell'd fathomless ? What time these fossil shells, Buoy'd on their native element, were thrown Among the imbedding calx: when the huge hill Its giant bulk heaved, and in strange ferment Grew up a guardian barrier, 'twixt the sea And the green level of the sylvan weald. Ah! very vain is Science' proudest boast, And but a little light its flame yet lends To its most ardent votaries; since from whence These fossil forms are seen, is but conjecture, Food for vague theories, or vain dispute, While to his daily task the peasant goes, Unheeding such inquiry; with no care But that the kindly change of sun and shower, Fit for his toil the earth he cultivates. As little recks the herdsman of the hill, Who on some turfy knoll, idly reclined, Watches his wether flock; that deep beneath Rest the remains of men, of whom is left No traces in the records of mankind, Save what these half obliterated mounds And half fill'd trenches doubtfully impart To some lone antiquary; who on times remote, Since which two thousand years have roll'd away, Loves to contemplate. He perhaps may trace, Or fancy he can trace, the oblong square Where the mail'd legions, under Claudius, rear'd, The rampire, or excavated fossé delved; What time the huge unwieldy Elephant Auxiliary reluctant, hither led, From Afric's forest glooms and tawny sands, First felt the Northern blast, and his vast frame Sunk useless; whence in after ages found, The wondering hinds, on those enormous bones Gaz'd; and in giants dwelling on the hills Believed and marvell'd Hither, Ambition, come! Come and behold the nothingness of all For which you carry thro' the oppressed Earth, War, and its train of horrorssee where tread The innumerous hoofs of flocks above the works By which the warrior sought to register His glory, and immortalize his name The pirate Dane, who from his circular camp Bore in destructive robbery, fire and sword Down thro' the vale, sleeps unremember'd here; And here, beneath the green sward, rests alike The savage native, who his acorn meal Shar'd with the herds, that ranged the pathless woods; And the centurion, who on these wide hills Encamping, planted the Imperial Eagle. All, with the lapse of Time, have passed away, Even as the clouds, with dark and dragon shapes, Or like vast promontories crown'd with towers, Cast their broad shadows on the downs: then sail Far to the northward, and their transient gloom Is soon forgotten. But from thoughts like these, By human crimes suggested, let us turn To where a more attractive study courts The wanderer of the hills; while shepherd girls Will from among the fescue bring him flowers, Of wonderous mockery; some resembling bees In velvet vest, intent on their sweet toil, While others mimic flies, that lightly sport In the green shade, or float along the pool, But here seem perch'd upon the slender stalk, And gathering honey dew. While in the breeze That wafts the thistle's plumed seed along, Blue bells wave tremulous. The mountain thyme Purples the hassock of the heaving mole, And the short turf is gay with tormentil, And bird's foot trefoil, and the lesser tribes Of hawkweed; spangling it with fringed stars. Near where a richer tract of cultur'd land Slopes to the south; and burnished by the sun, Bend in the gale of August, floods of corn; The guardian of the flock, with watchful care, Repels by voice and dog the encroaching sheep While his boy visits every wired trap That scars the turf; and from the pit-falls takes The timid migrants, who from distant wilds, Warrens, and stone quarries, are destined thus To lose their short existence. But unsought By Luxury yet, the Shepherd still protects The social bird, who from his native haunts Of willowy current, or the rushy pool, Follows the fleecy croud, and flirts and skims, In fellowship among them. Where the knoll More elevated takes the changeful winds, The windmill rears its vanes; and thitherward With his white load, the master travelling, Scares the rooks rising slow on whispering wings, While o'er his head, before the summer sun Lights up the blue expanse, heard more than seen, The lark sings matins; and above the clouds Floating, embathes his spotted breast in dew. Beneath the shadow of a gnarled thorn, Bent by the sea blast, from a seat of turf With fairy nosegays strewn, how wide the view! Till in the distant north it melts away, And mingles indiscriminate with clouds: But if the eye could reach so far, the mart Of England's capital, its domes and spires Might be perceivedYet hence the distant range Of Kentish hills, appear in purple haze; And nearer, undulate the wooded heights, And airy summits, that above the mole Rise in green beauty; and the beacon'd ridge Of Black-down shagg'd with heath, and swelling rude Like a dark island from the vale; its brow Catching the last rays of the evening sun That gleam between the nearer park's old oaks, Then lighten up the river, and make prominent The portal, and the ruin'd battlements Of that dismantled fortress; rais'd what time The Conqueror's successors fiercely fought, Tearing with civil feuds the desolate land. But now a tiller of the soil dwells there, And of the turret's loop'd and rafter'd halls Has made an humbler homesteadWhere he sees, Instead of armed foemen, herds that graze Along his yellow meadows; or his flocks At evening from the upland driv'n to fold In such a castellated mansion once A stranger chose his home; and where hard by In rude disorder fallen, and hid with brushwood Lay fragments gray of towers and buttresses, Among the ruins, often he would muse His rustic meal soon ended, he was wont To wander forth, listening the evening sounds Of rushing milldam, or the distant team, Or night-jar, chasing fern-flies: the tir'd hind Pass'd him at nightfall, wondering he should sit On the hill top so late: they from the coast Who sought bye paths with their clandestine load, Saw with suspicious doubt, the lonely man Cross on their way: but village maidens thought His senses injur'd; and with pity say That he, poor youth! must have been cross'd in love For often, stretch'd upon the mountain turf With folded arms, and eyes intently fix'd Where ancient elms and firs obscured a grange, Some little space within the vale below, They heard him, as complaining of his fate, And to the murmuring wind, of cold neglect And baffled hope he told.The peasant girls These plaintive sounds remember, and even now Among them may be heard the stranger's songs. Were I a Shepherd on the hill And ever as the mists withdrew Could see the willows of the rill Shading the footway to the mill Where once I walk'd with you And as away Night's shadows sail, And sounds of birds and brooks arise, Believe, that from the woody vale I hear your voice upon the gale In soothing melodies; And viewing from the Alpine height, The prospect dress'd in hues of air, Could say, while transient colours bright Touch'd the fair scene with dewy light, 'Tis, that her eyes are there! I think, I could endure my lot And linger on a few short years, And then, by all but you forgot, Sleep, where the turf that clothes the spot May claim some pitying tears. For 'tis not easy to forget One, who thro' life has lov'd you still, And you, however late, might yet With sighs to Memory giv'n, regret The Shepherd of the Hill. Yet otherwhile it seem'd as if young Hope Her flattering pencil gave to Fancy's hand, And in his wanderings, rear'd to sooth his soul Ideal bowers of pleasureThen, of Solitude And of his hermit life, still more enamour'd, His home was in the forest; and wild fruits And bread sustain'd him. There in early spring The Barkmen found him, e'er the sun arose; There at their daily toil, the Wedgecutters Beheld him thro' the distant thicket move. The shaggy dog following the truffle hunter, Bark'd at the loiterer; and perchance at night Belated villagers from fair or wake, While the fresh night-wind let the moonbeams in Between the swaying boughs, just saw him pass, And then in silence, gliding like a ghost He vanish'd! Lost among the deepening gloom. But near one ancient tree, whose wreathed roots Form'd a rude couch, love-songs and scatter'd rhymes, Unfinish'd sentences, or half erased, And rhapsodies like this, were sometimes found Let us to woodland wilds repair While yet the glittering night-dews seem To wait the freshly-breathing air, Precursive of the morning beam, That rising with advancing day, Scatters the silver drops away. An elm, uprooted by the storm, The trunk with mosses gray and green, Shall make for us a rustic form, Where lighter grows the forest scene; And far among the bowery shades, Are ferny lawns and grassy glades. Retiring May to lovely June Her latest garland now resigns; The banks with cuckoo-flowers are strewn, The woodwalks blue with columbines, And with its reeds, the wandering stream Reflects the flag-flower's golden gleam. There, feathering down the turf to meet, Their shadowy arms the beeches spread, While high above our sylvan seat, Lifts the light ash its airy head; And later leaved, the oaks between Extend their bows of vernal green. The slender birch its paper rind Seems offering to divided love, And shuddering even without a wind Aspins, their paler foliage move, As if some spirit of the air Breath'd a low sigh in passing there. The Squirrel in his frolic mood, Will fearless bound among the boughs; Yaffils laugh loudly thro' the wood, And murmuring ring-doves tell their vows; While we, as sweetest woodscents rise, Listen to woodland melodies. And I'll contrive a sylvan room Against the time of summer heat, Where leaves, inwoven in Nature's loom, Shall canopy our green retreat; And gales that 'close the eye of day' Shall linger, e'er they die away. And when a sear and sallow hue From early frost the bower receives, I'll dress the sand rock cave for you, And strew the floor with heath and leaves, That you, against the autumnal air May find securer shelter there. The Nightingale will then have ceas'd To sing her moonlight serenade; But the gay bird with blushing breast, And Woodlarks still will haunt the shade, And by the borders of the spring Reed-wrens will yet be carolling. The forest hermit's lonely cave None but such soothing sounds shall reach, Or hardly heard, the distant wave Slow breaking on the stony beach; Or winds, that now sigh soft and low, Now make wild music as they blow. And then, before the chilling North The tawny foliage falling light, Seems, as it flits along the earth, The footfall of the busy Sprite, Who wrapt in pale autumnal gloom, Calls up the mist-born Mushroom. Oh! could I hear your soft voice there, And see you in the forest green All beauteous as you are, more fair You'ld look, amid the sylvan scene, And in a wood-girl's simple guise, Be still more lovely in mine eyes. Ye phantoms of unreal delight, Visions of fond delirium born! Rise not on my deluded sight, Then leave me drooping and forlorn To know, such bliss can never be, Unless loved like me. The visionary, nursing dreams like these, Is not indeed unhappy. Summer woods Wave over him, and whisper as they wave, Some future blessings he may yet enjoy. And as above him sail the silver clouds, He follows them in thought to distant climes, Where, far from the cold policy of this, Dividing him from her he fondly loves, He, in some island of the southern sea, May haply build his cane-constructed bower Beneath the bread-fruit, or aspiring palm, With long green foliage rippling in the gale. Oh! let him cherish his ideal bliss For what is life, when Hope has ceas'd to strew Her fragile flowers along its thorny way ? And sad and gloomy are his days, who lives Of Hope abandon'd! Just beneath the rock Where Beachy overpeers the channel wave, Within a cavern mined by wintry tides Dwelt one, who long disgusted with the world And all its ways, appear'd to suffer life Rather than live; the soul-reviving gale, Fanning the bean-field, or the thymy heath, Had not for many summers breathed on him; And nothing mark'd to him the season's change, Save that more gently rose the placid sea, And that the birds which winter on the coast Gave place to other migrants; save that the fog, Hovering no more above the beetling cliffs Betray'd not then the little careless sheep On the brink grazing, while their headlong fall Near the lone Hermit's flint-surrounded home, Claim'd unavailing pity; for his heart Was feelingly alive to all that breath'd; And outraged as he was, in sanguine youth, By human crimes, he still acutely felt For human misery. Wandering on the beach, He learn'd to augur from the clouds of heaven, And from the changing colours of the sea, And sullen murmurs of the hollow cliffs, Or the dark porpoises, that near the shore Gambol'd and sported on the level brine When tempests were approaching: then at night He listen'd to the wind; and as it drove The billows with o'erwhelming vehemence He, starting from his rugged couch, went forth And hazarding a life, too valueless, He waded thro' the waves, with plank or pole Towards where the mariner in conflict dread Was buffeting for life the roaring surge; And now just seen, now lost in foaming gulphs, The dismal gleaming of the clouded moon Shew'd the dire peril. Often he had snatch'd From the wild billows, some unhappy man Who liv'd to bless the hermit of the rocks. But if his generous cares were all in vain, And with slow swell the tide of morning bore Some blue swol'n cor'se to land; the pale recluse Dug in the chalk a sepulchreabove Where the dank sea-wrack mark'd the utmost tide, And with his prayers perform'd the obsequies For the poor helpless stranger. One dark night The equinoctial wind blew south by west, Fierce on the shore; the bellowing cliffs were shook Even to their stony base, and fragments fell Flashing and thundering on the angry flood. At day-break, anxious for the lonely man, His cave the mountain shepherds visited, Tho' sand and banks of weeds had choak'd their way He was not in it; but his drowned cor'se By the waves wafted, near his former home Receiv'd the rites of burial. Those who read Chisel'd within the rock, these mournful lines, Memorials of his sufferings, did not grieve, That dying in the cause of charity His spirit, from its earthly bondage freed, Had to some better region fled for ever.
Charlotte Turner Smith
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