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Long time lay Susan lost in thought;
A PASTORAL POEM
She turned, she tossed herself in bed,
“ Alas! what is become of them!
Away she goes up hill and down,
The owls have hardly sung their last,
If from the public way you turn your steps Up the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll, You will suppose that with an upright path Your feet must struggle ; in such bold ascent The pastoral mountains front you, face to face. But, courage ! for around that boisterous brook The mountains have all opened out themselves, And made a hidden valley of their own. No habitation can be seen ; but they Who journey thither find themselves alone With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites That overhead are sailing in the sky. It is in truth an utter solitude; Nor should I have made mention of this Dell But for one object which you might pass by, Might see and notice not. Beside the brook Appears a straggling heap of unhewn stones ! And to that simple object appertains A story—unenriched with strange events, Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside, Or for the summer shade. It was the first Of those domestic tales that spake to me Of Shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men Whom I already loved ;—not verily For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills Where was their occupation and abode. And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy Careless of books, yet having felt the power Of Nature, by the gentle agency Of natural objects, led me on to feel For passions that were not my own, and think (At random and imperfectly indeed) On man, the heart of man, and human life. Therefore, although it be a history Homely and rude, I will relate the same For the delight of a few natural hearts ; And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake Of youthful Poets, who among these hills Will be my second self when I am gone.
For while they all were travelling home,
Now Johnny all night long had heard The owls in tuneful concert strive; No doubt too he the moon had seen ; For in the moonlight he had been From eight o'clock till five.
And thus, to Betty's question, he Made answer, like a traveller bold, (His very words I give to you,) “ The cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo, And the sun did shine so cold !”
– Thus answered Johnny in his glory, And that was all his travel's story.
Upon the forest-side in Grasmere Vale There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name ; An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb. His bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength : his mind was keen, Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs, And in his shepherd's calling he was prompt And watchful more than ordinary men.
Hence had he learned the meaning of all winds, Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk,
Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes,
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when
the meal Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills.
Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named) The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock And his old Father both betook themselves Bethought him, and he to himself would say, To such convenient work as might employ The winds are now devising work for me!' Their hands by the fire-side ; perhaps to card And, truly, at all times, the storm, that drives Wool for the Housewife's spindle, or repair The traveller to a shelter, summoned him Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe, Up to the mountains : he had been alone
Or other implement of house or field. Amid the heart of many thousand mists, That came to him, and left him, on the heights. Down from the ceiling, by the chimney's edge, So lived he till his eightieth year was past. That in our ancient uncouth country style And grossly that man errs, who should suppose With huge and black projection overbrowed That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks, Large space beneath, as duly as the light Were things indifferent to the Shepherd's thoughts. Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a lamp ; Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed An aged utensil, which had performed The common air ; hills, which with vigorous step Service beyond all others of its kind. He had so often climbed ; which had impressed Early at evening did it burn--and late, So many incidents upon his mind
Surviving comrade of uncounted hours, Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear ; Which, going by from year to year, had found, Which, like a book, preserved the memory And left the couple neither gay perhaps Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved, Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes, Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts Living a life of eager industry. The certainty of honourable gain ;
And now, when Luke had reached his eighteenth Those fields, those hills—what could they less ? year, had laid
There by the light of this old lamp they sate, Strong hold on his affections, were to him Father and Son, while far into the night A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
The Housewife plied her own peculiar work, The pleasure which there is in life itself.
Making the cottage through the silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies. His days had not been passed in singleness. This light was famous in its neighbourhood, His Helpmate was a comely matron, old
And was a public symbol of the life Though younger than himself full twenty years. That thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced, She was a woman of a stirring life,
Their cottage on a plot of rising ground Whose heart was in her house : two wheels she had Stood single, with large prospect, north and south, Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool; High into Easedale, up to Dunmail-Raise, That small, for fax; and if one wheel had rest, And westward to the village near the lake; It was because the other was at work.
And from this constant light, so regular The Pair had but one inmate in their house, And so far seen, the House itself, by all An only Child, who had been born to them Who dwelt within the limits of the vale, When Michael, telling o'er his years, began Both old and young, was named The EVENING STAR. To deem that he was old,- in shepherd's phrase, With one foot in the grave. This only Son, Thus living on through such a length of years, With two brave sheep-dogs tried in many a storm, The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs The one of an inestimable worth,
Have loved his Helpmate ; but to Michael's heart Made all their household. I may truly say, This son of his old age was yet more dearThat they were as a proverb in the vale
Less from instinctive tenderness, the same For endless industry. When day was gone, Fond spirit that blindly works in the blood of all — And from their occupations out of doors
Than that a child, more than all other gifts The Son and Father were come home, even then, That earth can offer to declining man, Their labour did not cease ; unless when all Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts, Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and there, And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail.
He with his Father daily went, and they Exceeding was the love he bare to him,
Were as companions, why should I relate His heart and his heart's joy! For oftentimes That objects which the Shepherd loved before Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms, Were dearer now? that from the Boy there came Had done him female service, not alone
Feelings and emanations things which were For pastime and delight, as is the use
Light to the sun and music to the wind; Of fathers, but with patient mind enforced And that the old Man's heart seemed born again? To acts of tenderness; and he had rocked His cradle, as with a woman's gentle hand.
Thus in his Father's sight the Boy grew up:
And now, when he had reached his eighteenth year, And, in a later time, ere yet the Boy
He was his comfort and his daily hope.
While in this sort the simple household lived
Had prest upon him; and old Michael now The CLIPPING TREE *, a name which yet it bears. Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture, There, while they two were sitting in the shade, A grievous penalty, but little less With others round them, earnest all and blithe, Than half his substance. This unlooked-for claim, Would Michael exercise his heart with looks At the first hearing, for a moment took Of fond correction and reproof bestowed
More hope out of his life than he supposed Upon the Child, if he disturbed the sheep
That any old man ever could have lost.
The Shepherd's sole resource to sell at once
Such was his first resolve; he thought again, Two steady roses that were five years old; And his heart failed him. “Isabel,” said he, Then Michael from a winter coppice cut
Two evenings after he had heard the news, With his own hand a sapling, which he hooped “ I have been toiling more than seventy years, With iron, making it throughout in all
And in the open sunshine of God's love Due requisites a perfect shepherd's staff,
Have we all lived; yet if these fields of ours And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipt Should pass into a stranger's hand, I think He as a watchman oftentimes was placed
That I could not lie quiet in my grave. At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock;
Our lot is a hard lot; the sun himself
Has scarcely been more diligent than I;
That was, and made an evil choice, if he
Were false to us ; and if he were not false, Though nought was left undone which staff, or There are ten thousand to whom loss like this voice,
Had been no sorrow. I forgive him ;- but Or looks, or threatening gestures, could perform. "Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus.
But soon as Luke, full ten years old, could stand Against the mountain blasts; and to the heights, Not fearing toil, nor length of weary ways,
When I began, my purpose was to speak
* Clipping is the word used in the North of England for shearing.
Another kinsman-he will be our friend
And Isabel, when she had told her fears,
Recovered heart. That evening her best fare
With daylight Isabel resumed her work; What can be done? Where every one is poor,
And all the ensuing week the house appeared What can be gained ?"
As cheerful as a grove in Spring: at length At this the old Man paused, The expected letter from their kinsman came, And Isabel sat silent, for her mind
With kind assurances that he would do Was busy, looking back into past times.
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy ; There's Richard Bateman, thought she to herself, To which, requests were added, that forthwith He was a parish-boy--at the church-door
He might be sent to him. Ten times or more They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence The letter was read over; Isabel And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought Went forth to show it to the neighbours round; A basket, which they filled with pedlar's wares ; Nor was there at that time on English land And, with this basket on his arm, the lad
A prouder heart than Luke's. When Isabel Went up to London, found a master there, Had to her house returned, the old Man said, Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy
“ He shall depart to-morrow.” To this word To go and overlook his merchandise
The Housewife answered, talking much of things Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich, Which, if at such short notice he should go, And left estates and monies to the poor,
Would surely be forgotten. But at length And, at his birth-place, built a chapel floored She gave consent, and Michael was at ease. With marble, which he sent from foreign lands. These thoughts, and many others of like sort, Near the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll, Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel, In that deep valley, Michael had designed And her face brightened. The old Man was glad, To build a Sheep-fold; and, before he heard And thus resumed:-“ Well, Isabel ! this scheme The tidings of his melancholy loss, These two days, has been meat and drink to me. For this same purpose he had gathered up Far more than we have lost is left us yet.
A heap of stones, which by the streamlet's edge We have enough-I wish indeed that I
Lay thrown together, ready for the work. Were younger ;-but this hope is a good hope. With Luke that evening thitherward he walked :
- Make ready Luke's best garments, of the best And soon as they had reached the place he stopped, Buy for him more, and let us send him forth And thus the old Man spake to him :-“ My Son, To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night:
To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart - If he could go, the Boy should go to-night.” I look upon thee, for thou art the same
That wert a promise to me ere thy birth, Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth And all thy life hast been my daily joy. With a light heart. The Housewife for five days I will relate to thee some little part Was restless morn and night, and all day long Of our two histories; 'twill do thee good Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare When thou art from me, even if I should touch Things needful for the journey of her son. On things thou canst not know of.—After thou But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
First cam'st into the world—as oft befals To stop her in her work: for, when she lay To new-born infants—thou didst sleep away By Michael's side, she through the last two nights Two days, and blessings from thy Father's tongue Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep : Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on, And when they rose at morning she could see And still I loved thee with increasing love. That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon Never to living ear came sweeter sounds She said to Luke, while they two by themselves Than when I heard thee by our own fire-side Were sitting at the door, “ Thou must not go: First uttering, without words, a natural tune; We have no other Child but thee to lose,
While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy None to remember-do not go away,
Sing at thy Mother's breast. Month followed month, For if thou leave thy Father he will die."
And in the open fields my life was passed The Youth made answer with a jocund voice; And on the mountains; else I think that thou