Joanna Baillie


The Fountain


IT was a well
Of whitest marble, white as from the quarry;
And richly wrought with many a high relief,
Greek sculpture--in some earlier day perhaps
A tomb, and honour'd with a hero's ashes.
The water from the rock fill'd, overflow'd it;
Then dash'd away, playing the prodigal,
And soon was lost--stealing, unseen, unheard,
Through the long grass, and round the twisted roots
Of aged trees--discovering where it ran
By the fresh verdure. Overcome with heat,
I threw me down, admiring, as I lay,
That shady nook, a singing-place for birds,
That grove so intricate, so full of flowers,
More than enough to please a maid a-Maying.
The sun was down, a distant convent-bell
Ringing the Angelus ; and now approached
The hour for stir and village gossip there,
The hour Rebekah came, when from the well

She drew with such alacrity to serve
The stranger and his camels. Soon I heard
Footsteps; and, lo, descending by a path
Trodden for ages, many a nymph appear'd,
Appear'd and vanish'd, bearing on her head
Her earthen pitcher. It call'd up the day
Ulysses landed there; and long I gaz'd,
Like one awaking in a distant time.
At length there came the loveliest of them all,
Her little brother dancing down before her;
And ever as he spoke, which he did ever,
Turning and looking up in warmth of heart
And brotherly affection. Stopping there,
She join'd her rosy hands, and, filling them
With the pure element, gave him to drink;
And, while he quench'd his thirst, standing on tiptoe,
Look'd down upon him with a sister's smile,
Nor stirr'd till he had done--fix'd as a statue.
Then hadst thou seen them as they stood, Canova ,
Thou hadst endow'd them with eternal youth;
And they had evermore liv'd undivided,
Winning all hearts--of all thy works the fairest! 




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