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No common soul. In youth by science nursed,
GUILT AND SORROW;
INCIDENTS UPON SALISBURY PLAIN.
ADVERTISEMENT, With indignation turned himself away,
PREFIXED TO THE FIRST EDITION OF THIS POEM, PUBLISHED
Not less than one-third of the following poem, though it Had charms for him ; and here he loved to sit,
has from time to time been altered in the expression, was His only visitants a straggling sheep,
published so far back as the year 1798, under the title of The stone-chat, or the glancing sand-piper :
" The Female Vagrant." The extract is of such length that
an apology seems to be required for reprinting it here: but And on these barren rocks, with fern and heath,
it was necessary to restore it to its original position, or the And juniper and thistle, sprinkled o'er,
rest would have been unintelligible. The whole was writFixing his downcast eye, he many an hour
ten before the close of the year 1794, and I will detail, A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here
rather as matter of literary biography than for any other An emblem of his own unfruitful life :
reason, the circumstances under which it was produced.
During the latter part of the summer of 1793, having And, lifting up his head, he then would gaze
passed a month in the Isle of Wight, in view of the fleet On the more distant scene,--how lovely 'tis which was then preparing for sea off Portsmouth at the Thou seest,—and he would gaze till it became
commencement of the war, I left the place with melanFar lovelier, and his heart could not sustain
choly forebodings. The American war was still fresh in
memory. The struggle which was beginning, and which The beauty, still more beauteous ! Nor, that time,
many thought would be brought to a speedy close by the When nature had subdued him to herself,
irresistible arms of Great Britain being added to those of Would he forget those Beings to whose minds the allies, I was assured in my own mind would be of long Warm from the labours of benevolence
continuance, and productive of distress and misery beyond
all possible calculation. This conviction was pressed upon The world, and human life, appeared a scene
me by having been a witness, during a long residence in Of kindred loveliness : then he would sigh, revolutionary France, of the spirit which prevailed in that Inly disturbed, to think that others felt
country. After leaving the Isle of Wight, I spent two What he must never feel : and so, lost Man !
days in wandering on foot over Salisbury Plain, which,
though cultivation was then widely spread through parts On visionary views would fancy feed,
of it, had upon the whole a still more impressive appear. Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale ance than it now retains. He died, -this seat his only monument.
The monuments and traces of antiquity, scattered in
abundance over that region, led me unavoidably to comIf Thou be one whose heart the holy forms
pare what we know or guess of those remote times with
certain aspects of modern society, and with calamities, Of young imagination have kept pure,
principally those consequent upon war, to which, more Stranger ! henceforth be warned ; and know that than other classes of men, the poor are subject. In those pride,
reflections, joined with particular facts that had come to Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
my knowledge, the following stanzas originated.
In conclusion, to obviate some distraction in the minds Is littleness ; that he who feels contempt
of those who are well acquainted with Salisbury Plain, it For any living thing, hath faculties
may be proper to say, that of the features described as Which he has never used ; that thought with him belonging to it, one or two are taken from other desolate Is in its infancy. The man whose eye
parts of England.
Pursued his vagrant way, with feet half bare ;
Help from the staff he bore; for mien and air Who, in the silent hour of inward thought, Were hardy, though his cheek seemed worn with Can still suspect, and still revere himself,
care In lowliness of heart.
Both of the time to come, and time long fled :
Down fell in straggling locks his thin grey hair ; A Sailor he, who many a wretched hour
Hath told ; for, landing after labour hard, But faded, and stuck o'er with many a patch and Full long endured in hope of just reward, shred.
He to an armed fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared While thus he journeyed, step by step led on,
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey, He saw and passed a stately inn, full sure
'Gainst all that in his heart, or theirs perhaps, said That welcome in such house for him was none.
nay. No board inscribed the needy to allure Hung there, no bush proclaimed to old and poor
For years the work of carnage did not cease, And desolate, “ Here you will find a friend !”
And death's dire aspect daily he surveyed, The pendent grapes glittered above the door ;
Death's minister; then came his glad release, On he must pace, perchance 'till night descend,
And hope returned, and pleasure fondly made Where'er the dreary roads their bare white lines
Her dwelling in his dreams. By Fancy's aid extend.
The happy husband flies, his arms to throw
Round his wife's neck; the prize of victory laid
Vain hope ! for fraud took all that he had earned. And scarce could any trace of man descry,
The lion roars and gluts his tawny brood Save cornfields stretched and stretching without Even in the desert's heart ; but he, returned, bound;
Bears not to those he loves their needful food. But where the sower dwelt was nowhere to be His home approaching, but in such a mood found.
That from his sight his children might have run,
He met a traveller, robbed him, shed his blood ; No tree was there, no meadow's pleasant green,
And when the miserable work was done
He fled, a vagrant since, the murderer’s fate to No brook to wet his lip or soothe his ear ;
shun. Long files of corn-stacks here and there were seen, But not one dwelling-place his heart to cheer. Some labourer, thought he, may perchance be near; From that day forth no place to him could be And so he sent a feeble shout-in vain ;
So lonely, but that thence might come a pang No voice made answer, he could only hear
Brought from without to inward misery. Winds rustling over plots of unripe grain,
Now, as he plodded on, with sullen clang Or whistling thro' thin grass along the unfurrowed A sound of chains along the desert rang ; plain.
He looked, and saw upon a gibbet high
A human body that in irons swang, Long had he fancied each successive slope Uplifted by the tempest whirling by ; Concealed some cottage, whither he might turn And, hovering, round it often did a raven fly. And rest ; but now along heaven's darkening cope The crows rushed by in eddies, homeward borne. Thus warned he sought some shepherd's spreading It was a spectacle which none might view, thorn
In spot so savage, but with shuddering pain ; Or hovel from the storm to shield his head, Nor only did for him at once renew But sought in vain ; for now, all wild, forlorn, All he had feared from man, but roused a train And vacant, a huge waste around him spread ; Of the mind's phantoms, horrible as vain. The wet cold ground, he feared, must be his only The stones, as if to cover him from day, bed.
Rolled at his back along the living plain ;
He fell, and without sense or motion lay ; And be it so—for to the chill night shower But, when the trance was gone, feebly pursued his And the sharp wind his head he oft hath bared ;
Disclose a naked guide-post's double head, As one whose brain habitual phrensy fires
Sight which tho’ lost at once a gleam of pleasure Owes to the fit in which his soul hath tossed
shed. Profounder quiet, when the fit retires, Even so the dire phantasma which had crossed No swinging sign-board creaked from cottage elm His sense, in sudden vacancy quite lost,
To stay his steps with faintness overcome ; Left his mind still as a deep evening stream. 'Twas dark and void as ocean's watery realm Nor, if accosted now, in thought engrossed, Roaring with storms beneath night's starless gloom; Moody, or inly troubled, would he seem
No gipsy cower'd o'er fire of furze or broom ; To traveller who might talk of any casual theme. No labourer watched his red kiln glaring bright,
Nor taper glimmered dim from sick man's room ;
Along the waste no line of mournful light Hurtle the clouds in deeper darkness piled,
From lamp of lonely toll-gate streamed athwart Gone is the raven timely rest to seek ;
At length, though hid in clouds, the moon arose ; Shy tenant, seeing by the uncertain light
The downs were visible--and now revealed A man there wandering, gave a mournful shriek,
A structure stands, which two bare slopes enclose. And half upon the ground, with strange affright,
It was a spot, where, ancient vows fulfilled, Forced hard against the wind a thick unwieldy Kind pious hands did to the Virgin build fight.
A lonely Spital, the belated swain
From the night terrors of that waste to shield : All, all was cheerless to the horizon's bound;
But there no human being could remain,
And now the walls are named the “Dead House” The weary eye-which, wheresoe'er it strays,
of the plain.
Though he had little cause to love the abode What seems an antique castle spreading wide ;
Of man, or covet sight of mortal face, Hoary and naked are its walls, and raise
Yet when faint beams of light that ruin showed, Their brow sublime : in shelter there to bide
How glad he was at length to find some trace He turned, while rain poured down smoking on of human shelter in that dreary place. every side.
Till to his flock the early shepherd goes,
Here shall much-needed sleep his frame embrace. Pile of Stone-henge ! so proud to hint yet keep In a dry nook where fern the floor bestrows Thy secrets, thou that lov'st to stand and hear He lays his stiffened limbs,-his eyes begin to close ; The Plain resounding to the whirlwind's sweep, Inmate of lonesome Nature's endless year ; Even if thou saw'st the giant wicker rear
When hearing a deep sigh, that seemed to come For sacrifice its throngs of living men,
From one who mourned in sleep, he raised his Before thy face did ever wretch appear,
head, Who in his heart had groaned with deadlier pain
And saw a woman in the naked room Than he who, tempest-driven, thy shelter now
Outstretched, and turning on a restless bed : would gain.
The moon a wan dead light around her shed.
He hoped, to calm her mind ; but ill he sped, Within that fabric of mysterious form,
For of that ruin she had heard a tale Winds met in conflict, each by turns supreme ; Which now with freezing thoughts did all her And, from the perilous ground dislodged, through
powers assail ; storm And rain he wildered on, no moon to stream From gulf of parting clouds one friendly beam, Had heard of one who, forced from storms to Nor any friendly sound his footsteps led ;
shroud, Once did the lightning's faint disastrous gleam Felt the loose walls of this decayed Retreat
Rock to incessant neighings shrill and loud,
The bending body of my active sire ;
Our watchful house-dog, that would tease and tire XXI.
The stranger till its barking-fit I checked ; Such tale of this lone mansion she had learned
The red-breast, known for years, which at my And, when that shape, with eyes in sleep half casement pecked.
drowned, By the moon's sullen lamp she first discerned, Cold stony horror all her senses bound.
The suns of twenty summers danced along, Her he addressed in words of cheering sound ; Too little marked how fast they rolled away : Recovering heart, like answer did she make ; But, through severe mischance and cruel wrong, And well it was that, of the corse there found,
My father's substance fell into decay :
But vain were wishes, efforts vain as they ;
He from his old hereditary nook
we took. In fainter howlings told its rage was spent : Meanwhile discourse ensued of various kind,
It was indeed a miserable hour Which by degrees a confidence of mind
When, from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed, And mutual interest failed not to create.
Peering above the trees, the steeple tower And, to a natural sympathy resigned,
That on his marriage day sweet music made ! In that forsaken building where they sate
Till then, he hoped his bones might there be laid The Woman thus retraced her own untoward fate. Close by my mother in their native bowers :
Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed ;XXII.
I could not pray through tears that fell in “By Derwent's side my father dwelt-a man
showers Of virtuous life, by pious parents bred ;
Glimmered our dear-loved home, alas ! no longer And I believe that, soon as I began
'Mid the green mountains many a thoughtless song And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought. We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May ;
When we began to tire of childish play, xxiv.
We seemed still more and more to prize each other; A little croft we owned-a plot of corn,
We talked of marriage and our marriage day ;
Like one revived, upon his neck I wept ;
And her whom he had loved in joy, he said, In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
Husband and children ! one by one, by sword
And ravenous plague, all perished : every tear We lived in peace and comfort ; and were blest Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board With daily bread, by constant toil supplied. A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored." Three lovely babes had lain upon my breast ; And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed, And knew not why. My happy father died, When threatened war reduced the children's meal: Nor voice, nor sound, that moment's pain expressed,
Here paused she of all present thought forlorn, Thrice happy ! that for him the grave could hide
Yet Nature, with excess of grief o’erborne, The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel, And tears that flowed for ills which patience might He too was mute ; and, ere her weeping ceased,
From her full eyes their watery load released. not heal.
He rose, and to the ruin's portal went,
And saw the dawn opening the silvery east
Of such rough storm, this happy change to view." In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain : So forth she came, and eastward looked; the sight To join those miserable men he flew,
Over her brow like dawn of gladness threw ; And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we Upon her cheek, to which its youthful hue drew.
Seemed to return, dried the last lingering tear,
And from her grateful heart a fresh one drew : XXXI.
The whilst her comrade to her pensive cheer There were we long neglected, and we bore Much sorrow ere the fleet its anchor weighed ;
Tempered fit words of hope; and the lark warbled
near. Green fields before us, and our native shore, We breathed a pestilential air, that made Ravage for which no knell was heard. We prayed They looked and saw a lengthening road, and wain For our departure ; wished and wished-nor knew, That rang down a bare slope not far remote : 'Mid that long sickness and those hopes delayed,
The barrows glistered bright with drops of rain, That happier days we never more must view.
Whistled the waggoner with merry note, The parting signal streamed—at last the land with
The cock far off sounded his clarion throat ; drew.
But town, or farm, or hamlet, none they viewed, XXXI.
Only were told there stood a lonely cot But the calm summer season now was past. A long mile thence. While thither they pursued On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
Their way, the Woman thus her mournful tale Ran mountains high before the howling blast,
“ Peaceful as this immeasurable plain
Is now, by beams of dawning light imprest,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main ; We reached the western world, a poor devoted
The very ocean hath its hour of rest. crew.
I too forgot the heavings of my breast.
How quiet 'round me ship and ocean were ! The pains and plagues that on our heads came As quiet all within me. I was blest, down,
And looked, and fed upon the silent air Disease and famine, agony and fear,
Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.