Coventry Patmore

The River

It is a venerable place,
An old ancestral ground,
So broad, the rainbow wholly stands
Within its lordly bound;
And here the river waits and winds
By many a wooded mound.
Upon a rise, where single oaks
And clumps of beeches tall
Drop pleasantly their shade beneath,
Half-hid amidst them all,
Stands in its quiet dignity
An ancient manor-hall.
About its many gable-ends
The swallows wheel their flight;
The huge fantastic weather-vanes
Look happy in the light;
The warm front through the foliage gleams,
A comfortable sight.
The ivied turrets seem to love
The low, protected leas;
And, though this manor-hall hath seen
The snow of centuries,
How freshly still it stands amid
Its wealth of swelling trees!
The leafy summer-time is young;
The yearling lambs are strong;
The sunlight glances merrily;
The trees are full of song;
The valley-loving river flows
Contentedly along.
Look where the merry weather-vanes
Veer upon yonder tower:
There, amid starry jessamine
And clasping passion-flower,
The sweetest Maid of all the land
Is weeping in her bower.
Alas, the lowly Youth she loves
Loves her, but fears to sue:
He came this morning hurriedly;
Then forth her blushes flew!
But he talk'd of common things, and so
Her eyes are fill'd with dew.
Time passes on; the clouds are come;
The river, late so bright,
Rolls foul and black, and gloomily
Makes known across the night,
In far-heard plash and weary drench,
The passage of its might.
The noble Bridegroom counts the hours;
The guests are coming fast;
(The vanes are creaking drearily
Within the dying blast!)
The bashful Bride is at his side;
And night is here at last.
The guests are gay; the minstrels play;
'Tis liker noon than night;
From side to side, they toast the Bride,
Who blushes ruby light:
For one and all within that hall,
It is a cheerful sight.
But unto one, who stands alone,
Among the mists without,
Watching the windows, bright with shapes
Of king and saint devout,
Strangely across the muffled air
Pierces the laughter-shout.
No sound or sight this solemn night
But moves the soul to fear:
The faded saints stare through the gloom,
Askant, and wan, and blear;
And wither'd cheeks of watchful kings
Start from their purple gear.
The burthen of the wedding-song
Comes to him like a wail;
The stream, athwart the cedar-grove,
Is shining ghastly pale:
His cloudy brow clears suddenly!
Dark soul, what does thee ail?
He turns him from the lighted hall;
The pale stream curls and heaves
And moans beyond the gloomy wood,
Through which he breaks and cleaves;
And now his footfall dies away
Upon the wither'd leaves.
The restless moon, among the clouds,
Is loitering slowly by;
Now in a circle like the ring
About a weeping eye;
Now left quite bare and bright; and now
A pallor in the sky;
And now she's looking through the mist,
Cold, lustreless, and wan,
And wildly, past her dreary form,
The watery clouds rush on,
A moment white beneath her light,
And then, like spirits, gone.
Silent and fast they hurry past,
Their swiftness striketh dread,
For earth is hush'd, and no breath sweeps
The spider's rainy thread,
And everything, but those pale clouds,
Is dark, and still, and dead.
The lonely stars are here and there,
But weak and wasting all;
The winds are dead, the cedars spread
Their branches like a pall;
The guests, by laughing twos and threes,
Have left the bridal hall.
Beneath the mossy, ivied bridge,
The river slippeth past:
The current deep is still as sleep,
And yet so very fast!
There's something in its quietness
That makes the soul aghast.
No wind is in the willow-tree
That droops above the bank;
The water passes quietly
Beneath the sedges dank;
Yet the willow trembles in the stream,
And the dry reeds talk and clank.
The weak stars swoon; the jagged moon
Is lost in the cloudy air.
No thought of light! save where the wave
Sports with a fitful glare.
The dumb and dreadful world is full
Of darkness and night-mare.
The hall-clocks clang; the watch-dog barks.
What are his dreams about?
Marsh lights leap, and tho' fast asleep
The owlets shriek and shout;
The stars, thro' chasms in utter black,
Race like a drunken rout.
‘Wake, wake, oh wake!’ the Bridegroom now
Calls to his sleeping Bride:
‘Alas, I saw thee, pale and dead,
Roll down a frightful tide!’
He takes her hand: ‘How chill thou art!
What is it, sweet my Bride?’

The Bride bethinks her now of him
Who last night was no guest.
‘Sweet Heaven! and for me? I dream!
Be calm, thou throbbing breast.’
She says, in thought, a solemn prayer
And sinks again to rest.
Along, along, swiftly and strong
The river slippeth past;
The current deep is still as sleep,
And yet so very fast!
There's something in its quietness
That makes the soul aghast.
The morn has risen: wildly by
The water glides to-day;
Outspread upon its eddying face,
Long weeds and rushes play;
And on the bank the fungus rots,
And the grass is foul'd with clay.
Time passes on: the park is bare;
The year is scant and lean;
The river's banks are desolate;
The air is chill and keen;
But, now and then, a sunny day
Comes with a thought of green.
Amid blear February's flaw,
Tremulous snowdrops peep;
The crocus, in the shrewd March morn,
Starts from its wintry sleep;
The daisies sun themselves in hosts,
Among the pasturing sheep.
The waters, in their old content,
Between fresh margins run;
The pike, as trackless as a sound,
Shoots thro' the current dun;
And languid new-born chestnut-leaves
Expand beneath the sun.
The summer's prime is come again;
The lilies bloom anew;
The current keeps the doubtful past
Deep in its bosom blue,
And babbles low thro' quiet fields
Gray with the falling dew.
The sheep-bell tolls the curfew-time;
The gnats, a busy rout,
Fleck the warm air; the distant owl
Shouteth a sleepy shout;
The voiceless bat, more felt than seen,
Is flitting round about;
The poplar's leaflet scarcely stirs;
The river seems to think;
Across the dusk, the lily broad
Looks coolly from the brink;
And knee-deep in the freshet's fall,
The meek-eyed cattle drink.
The chafers boom; the white moths rise
Like spirits from the ground;
The gray-flies sing their weary tune,
A distant, dream-like sound;
And far, far off, in the slumberous eve,
Bayeth a restless hound.
At this sweet time, the Lady walks
Beside the gentle stream;
She marks the waters curl along,
Beneath the sunset gleam,
And in her soul a sorrow moves,
Like memory of a dream.
She passes on. How still the earth,
And all the air above!
Here, where of late the scritch-owl shriek'd,
Whispers the happy dove;
And the river, through the ivied bridge,
Flows calm as household love. 

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