William Lisle Bowles

Monody Written at Matlock

MATLOCK! amid thy hoary-hanging views,
Thy glens that smile sequestered, and thy nooks
Which yon forsaken crag all dark o’erlooks,
Once more I court the long-neglected Muse,
As erst when by the mossy brink and falls
Of solitary Wainsbeck, or the side
Of Clysdale’s cliffs, where first her voice she tried,
I strayed a pensive boy. Since then, the thralls
That wait life’s upland road have chilled her breast,
And much, as much they might, her wing depressed.
Wan Indolence, resigned, her deadening hand
Laid on her heart, and Fancy her cold wand
Dropped at the frown of fortune; yet once more
I call her, and once more her converse sweet,
Mid the still limits of this wild retreat,
I woo;—if yet delightful as of yore
My heart she may revisit, nor deny
The soothing aid of some sweet melody!
  I hail the rugged scene that bursts around;
I mark the wreathéd roots, the saplings gray,
That bend o’er the dark Derwent’s wandering way;
I mark its stream with peace-persuading sound
That steals beneath the fading foliage pale,
Or at the foot of frowning crags upreared,
Complains like one forsaken and unheard.
To me, it seems to tell the pensive tale
Of spring-time, and the summer days all flown:
And while sad autumn’s voice even now I hear
Along the umbrage of the high-wood moan,
At intervals, whose shivering leaves fall sere;
Whilst o’er the group of pendant groves I view
The slowly spreading tints of pining hue,
I think of poor humanity’s brief day,
How fast its blossoms fade, its summers speed away!

*        *        *        *        *

  Yet the bleak cliffs that lift their head so high
(Around whose beetling crags with ceaseless coil
And still-returning flight the ravens toil)
Heed not the changeful seasons as they fly,
Nor spring nor autumn; they their hoary brow
Uprear, and ages past, as in this now,
The same deep trenches unsubdued have worn,
The same majestic frown and looks of lofty scorn.
  So Fortitude, a mailéd warrior old,
Appears; he lifts his scar-intrenchéd crest;
The tempest gathers round his dauntless breast;
He hears far off the storm of havoc rolled;
The feeble fall around: their sound is past;
Their sun is set, their place no more is known;
Like the wan leaves before the winter’s blast,
They perish;—he unshaken and alone
Remains, his brow a sterner shade assumes
By age ennobled, whilst the hurricane
That raves resistless o’er the ravaged plain
But shakes unfelt his helmet’s quivering plume.

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