Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


THE EXCURSION

BOOK NINTH

DISCOURSE OF THE WANDERER, AND AN EVENING VISIT TO THE LAKE

          "TO every Form of being is assigned,"
          Thus calmly spake the venerable Sage,
          "An 'active' Principle:--howe'er removed
          From sense and observation, it subsists
          In all things, in all natures; in the stars
          Of azure heaven, the unenduring clouds,
          In flower and tree, in every pebbly stone
          That paves the brooks, the stationary rocks,
          The moving waters, and the invisible air.
          Whate'er exists hath properties that spread                 10
          Beyond itself, communicating good
          A simple blessing, or with evil mixed;
          Spirit that knows no insulated spot,
          No chasm, no solitude; from link to link
          It circulates, the Soul of all the worlds.
          This is the freedom of the universe;
          Unfolded still the more, more visible,
          The more we know; and yet is reverenced least,
          And least respected in the human Mind,
          Its most apparent home. The food of hope                    20
          Is meditated action; robbed of this
          Her sole support, she languishes and dies.
          We perish also; for we live by hope
          And by desire; we see by the glad light
          And breathe the sweet air of futurity;
          And so we live, or else we have no life.
          To-morrow--nay perchance this very hour
          (For every moment hath its own to-morrow!)
          Those blooming Boys, whose hearts are almost sick
          With present triumph, will be sure to find                  30
          A field before them freshened with the dew
          Of other expectations;--in which course
          Their happy year spins round. The youth obeys
          A like glad impulse; and so moves the man
          'Mid all his apprehensions, cares, and fears,--
          Or so he ought to move. Ah! why in age
          Do we revert so fondly to the walks
          Of childhood--but that there the Soul discerns
          The dear memorial footsteps unimpaired
          Of her own native vigour; thence can hear                   40
          Reverberations; and a choral song,
          Commingling with the incense that ascends,
          Undaunted, toward the imperishable heavens,
          From her own lonely altar?
                                      Do not think
          That good and wise ever will be allowed,
          Though strength decay, to breathe in such estate
          As shall divide them wholly from the stir
          Of hopeful nature. Rightly is it said
          That Man descends into the VALE of years;
          Yet have I thought that we might also speak,                50
          And not presumptuously, I trust, of Age,
          As of a final EMINENCE; though bare
          In aspect and forbidding, yet a point
          On which 'tis not impossible to sit
          In awful sovereignty; a place of power,
          A throne, that may be likened unto his,
          Who, in some placid day of summer, looks
          Down from a mountain-top,--say one of those
          High peaks, that bound the vale where now we are.
          Faint, and diminished to the gazing eye,                    60
          Forest and field, and hill and dale appear,
          With all the shapes over their surface spread:
          But, while the gross and visible frame of things
          Relinquishes its hold upon the sense,
          Yea almost on the Mind herself, and seems
          All unsubstantialized,--how loud the voice
          Of waters, with invigorated peal
          From the full river in the vale below,
          Ascending! For on that superior height
          Who sits, is disencumbered from the press                   70
          Of near obstructions, and is privileged
          To breathe in solitude, above the host
          Of ever-humming insects, 'mid thin air
          That suits not them. The murmur of the leaves
          Many and idle, visits not his ear:
          This he is freed from, and from thousand notes
          (Not less unceasing, not less vain than these,)
          By which the finer passages of sense
          Are occupied; and the Soul, that would incline
          To listen, is prevented or deterred.                        80

            And may it not be hoped, that, placed by age
          In like removal, tranquil though severe,
          We are not so removed for utter loss;
          But for some favour, suited to our need?
          What more than that the severing should confer
          Fresh power to commune with the invisible world,
          And hear the mighty stream of tendency
          Uttering, for elevation of our thought,
          A clear sonorous voice, inaudible
          To the vast multitude; whose doom it is                     90
          To run the giddy round of vain delight,
          Or fret and labour on the Plain below.

            But, if to such sublime ascent the hopes
          Of Man may rise, as to a welcome close
          And termination of his mortal course;
          Them only can such hope inspire whose minds
          Have not been starved by absolute neglect;
          Nor bodies crushed by unremitting toil;
          To whom kind Nature, therefore, may afford
          Proof of the sacred love she bears for all;                100
          Whose birthright Reason, therefore, may ensure.
          For me, consulting what I feel within
          In times when most existence with herself
          Is satisfied, I cannot but believe,
          That, far as kindly Nature hath free scope
          And Reason's sway predominates; even so far,
          Country, society, and time itself,
          That saps the individual's bodily frame,
          And lays the generations low in dust,
          Do, by the almighty Ruler's grace, partake                 110
          Of one maternal spirit, bringing forth
          And cherishing with ever-constant love,
          That tires not, nor betrays. Our life is turned
          Out of her course, wherever man is made
          An offering, or a sacrifice, a tool
          Or implement, a passive thing employed
          As a brute mean, without acknowledgment
          Of common right or interest in the end;
          Used or abused, as selfishness may prompt.
          Say, what can follow for a rational soul                   120
          Perverted thus, but weakness in all good,
          And strength in evil? Hence an after-call
          For chastisement, and custody, and bonds,
          And oft-times Death, avenger of the past,
          And the sole guardian in whose hands we dare
          Entrust the future.--Not for these sad issues
          Was Man created; but to obey the law
          Of life, and hope, and action. And 'tis known
          That when we stand upon our native soil,
          Unelbowed by such objects as oppress                       130
          Our active powers, those powers themselves become
          Strong to subvert our noxious qualities:
          They sweep distemper from the busy day,
          And make the chalice of the big round year
          Run o'er with gladness; whence the Being moves
          In beauty through the world; and all who see
          Bless him, rejoicing in his neighbourhood."

            "Then," said the Solitary, "by what force
          Of language shall a feeling heart express
          Her sorrow for that multitude in whom                      140
          We look for health from seeds that have been sown
          In sickness, and for increase in a power
          That works but by extinction? On themselves
          They cannot lean, nor turn to their own hearts
          To know what they must do; their wisdom is
          To look into the eyes of others, thence
          To be instructed what they must avoid:
          Or rather, let us say, how least observed,
          How with most quiet and most silent death,
          With the least taint and injury to the air                 150
          The oppressor breathes, their human form divine,
          And their immortal soul, may waste away."

            The Sage rejoined, "I thank you--you have spared
          My voice the utterance of a keen regret,
          A wide compassion which with you I share.
          When, heretofore, I placed before your sight
          A Little-one, subjected to the arts
          Of modern ingenuity, and made
          The senseless member of a vast machine,
          Serving as doth a spindle or a wheel;                      160
          Think not, that, pitying him, I could forget
          The rustic Boy, who walks the fields, untaught;
          The slave of ignorance, and oft of want,
          And miserable hunger. Much, too much,
          Of this unhappy lot, in early youth
          We both have witnessed, lot which I myself
          Shared, though in mild and merciful degree:
          Yet was the mind to hindrances exposed,
          Through which I struggled, not without distress
          And sometimes injury, like a lamb enthralled               170
          'Mid thorns and brambles; or a bird that breaks
          Through a strong net, and mounts upon the wind,
          Though with her plumes impaired. If they, whose souls
          Should open while they range the richer fields
          Of merry England, are obstructed less
          By indigence, their ignorance is not less,
          Nor less to be deplored. For who can doubt
          That tens of thousands at this day exist
          Such as the boy you painted, lineal heirs
          Of those who once were vassals of her soil,                180
          Following its fortunes like the beasts or trees
          Which it sustained. But no one takes delight
          In this oppression; none are proud of it;
          It bears no sounding name, nor ever bore;
          A standing grievance, an indigenous vice
          Of every country under heaven. My thoughts
          Were turned to evils that are new and chosen,
          A bondage lurking under shape of good,--
          Arts, in themselves beneficent and kind,
          But all too fondly followed and too far;--                 190
          To victims, which the merciful can see
          Nor think that they are victims--turned to wrongs,
          By women, who have children of their own,
          Beheld without compassion, yea with praise!
          I spake of mischief by the wise diffused
          With gladness, thinking that the more it spreads
          The healthier, the securer, we become;
          Delusion which a moment may destroy!
          Lastly, I mourned for those whom I had seen
          Corrupted and cast down, on favoured ground,               200
          Where circumstance and nature had combined
          To shelter innocence, and cherish love;
          Who, but for this intrusion, would have lived,
          Possessed of health, and strength, and peace of mind;
          Thus would have lived, or never have been born.

            Alas! what differs more than man from man!
          And whence that difference? whence but from himself?
          For see the universal Race endowed
          With the same upright form!--The sun is fixed,
          And the infinite magnificence of heaven                    210
          Fixed, within reach of every human eye;
          The sleepless ocean murmurs for all ears;
          The vernal field infuses fresh delight
          Into all hearts. Throughout the world of sense,
          Even as an object is sublime or fair,
          That object is laid open to the view
          Without reserve or veil; and as a power
          Is salutary, or an influence sweet,
          Are each and all enabled to perceive
          That power, that influence, by impartial law.              220
          Gifts nobler are vouchsafed alike to all;
          Reason, and, with that reason, smiles and tears;
          Imagination, freedom in the will;
          Conscience to guide and check; and death to be
          Foretasted, immortality conceived
          By all,--a blissful immortality,
          To them whose holiness on earth shall make
          The Spirit capable of heaven, assured.
          Strange, then, nor less than monstrous, might be deemed
          The failure, if the Almighty, to this point                230
          Liberal and undistinguishing, should hide
          The excellence of moral qualities
          From common understanding; leaving truth
          And virtue, difficult, abstruse, and dark;
          Hard to be won, and only by a few;
          Strange, should He deal herein with nice respects,
          And frustrate all the rest! Believe it not:
          The primal duties shine aloft--like stars;
          The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless,
          Are scattered at the feet of Man--like flowers.            240
          The generous inclination, the just rule,
          Kind wishes, and good actions, and pure thoughts--
          No mystery is here! Here is no boon
          For high--yet not for low; for proudly graced--
          Yet not for meek of heart. The smoke ascends
          To heaven as lightly from the cottage hearth
          As from the haughtiest palace. He, whose soul
          Ponders this true equality, may walk
          The fields of earth with gratitude and hope;
          Yet, in that meditation, will he find                      250
          Motive to sadder grief, as we have found;
          Lamenting ancient virtues overthrown,
          And for the injustice grieving, that hath made
          So wide a difference between man and man.

            Then let us rather fix our gladdened thoughts
          Upon the brighter scene. How blest that pair
          Of blooming Boys (whom we beheld even now)
          Blest in their several and their common lot!
          A few short hours of each returning day
          The thriving prisoners of their village school:            260
          And thence let loose, to seek their pleasant homes
          Or range the grassy lawn in vacancy:
          To breathe and to he happy, run and shout
          Idle,--but no delay, no harm, no loss;
          For every genial power of heaven and earth,
          Through all the seasons of the changeful year,
          Obsequiously doth take upon herself
          To labour for them; bringing each in turn
          The tribute of enjoyment, knowledge, health,
          Beauty, or strength! Such privilege is theirs,             270
          Granted alike in the outset of their course
          To both; and, if that partnership must cease,
          I grieve not," to the Pastor here he turned,
          "Much as I glory in that child of yours,
          Repine not for his cottage-comrade, whom
          Belike no higher destiny awaits
          Than the old hereditary wish fulfilled;
          The wish for liberty to live--content
          With what Heaven grants, and die--in peace of mind,
          Within the bosom of his native vale.                       280
          At least, whatever fate the noon of life
          Reserves for either, sure it is that both
          Have been permitted to enjoy the dawn;
          Whether regarded as a jocund time,
          That in itself may terminate, or lead
          In course of nature to a sober eve.
          Both have been fairly dealt with; looking back
          They will allow that justice has in them
          Been shown, alike to body and to mind."

            He paused, as if revolving in his soul                   290
          Some weighty matter; then, with fervent voice
          And an impassioned majesty, exclaimed--

            "O for the coming of that glorious time
          When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth
          And best protection, this imperial Realm,
          While she exacts allegiance, shall admit
          An obligation, on her part, to 'teach'
          Them who are born to serve her and obey;
          Binding herself by statute to secure
          For all the children whom her soil maintains               300
          The rudiments of letters, and inform
          The mind with moral and religious truth,
          Both understood and practised,--so that none,
          However destitute, be left to droop
          By timely culture unsustained; or run
          Into a wild disorder; or be forced
          To drudge through a weary life without the help
          Of intellectual implements and tools;
          A savage horde among the civilised,
          A servile band among the lordly free!                      310
          This sacred right, the lisping babe proclaims
          To be inherent in him, by Heaven's will,
          For the protection of his innocence;
          And the rude boy--who, having overpast
          The sinless age, by conscience is enrolled,
          Yet mutinously knits his angry brow,
          And lifts his wilful hand on mischief bent,
          Or turns the godlike faculty of speech
          To impious use--by process indirect
          Declares his due, while he makes known his need.           320
          --This sacred right is fruitlessly announced,
          This universal plea in vain addressed,
          To eyes and ears of parents who themselves
          Did, in the time of their necessity,
          Urge it in vain; and, therefore, like a prayer
          That from the humblest floor ascends to heaven,
          It mounts to meet the State's parental ear;
          Who, if indeed she own a mother's heart,
          And be not most unfeelingly devoid
          Of gratitude to Providence, will grant                     330
          The unquestionable good--which, England, safe
          From interference of external force,
          May grant at leisure; without risk incurred
          That what in wisdom for herself she doth,
          Others shall e'er be able to undo.

            Look! and behold, from Calpe's sun-burnt cliffs
          To the flat margin of the Baltic sea,
          Long-reverenced titles cast away as weeds;
          Laws overturned; and territory split,
          Like fields of ice rent by the polar wind,                 340
          And forced to join in less obnoxious shapes
          Which, ere they gain consistence, by a gust
          Of the same breath are shattered and destroyed.
          Meantime the sovereignty of these fair Isles
          Remains entire and indivisible:
          And, if that ignorance were removed, which breeds
          Within the compass of their several shores
          Dark discontent, or loud commotion, each
          Might still preserve the beautiful repose
          Of heavenly bodies shining in their spheres.               350
          --The discipline of slavery is unknown
          Among us,--hence the more do we require
          The discipline of virtue; order else
          Cannot subsist, nor confidence, nor peace.
          Thus, duties rising out of good possest,
          And prudent caution needful to avert
          Impending evil, equally require
          That the whole people should be taught and trained.
          So shall licentiousness and black resolve
          Be rooted out, and virtuous habits take                    360
          Their place; and genuine piety descend,
          Like an inheritance, from age to age.

            With such foundations laid, avaunt the fear
          Of numbers crowded on their native soil,
          To the prevention of all healthful growth
          Through mutual injury! Rather in the law
          Of increase and the mandate from above
          Rejoice!--and ye have special cause for joy.
          --For, as the element of air affords
          An easy passage to the industrious bees                    370
          Fraught with their burthens; and a way as smooth
          For those ordained to take their sounding flight
          From the thronged hive, and settle where they list
          In fresh abodes--their labour to renew;
          So the wide waters, open to the power,
          The will, the instincts, and appointed needs
          Of Britain, do invite her to cast off
          Her swarms, and in succession send them forth;
          Bound to establish new communities
          On every shore whose aspect favours hope                   380
          Or bold adventure; promising to skill
          And perseverance their deserved reward.

            Yes," he continued, kindling as he spake,
          "Change wide, and deep, and silently performed,
          This Land shall witness; and as days roll on,
          Earth's universal frame shall feel the effect;
          Even till the smallest habitable rock,
          Beaten by lonely billows, hear the songs
          Of humanised society; and bloom
          With civil arts, that shall breathe forth their fragrance, 390
          A grateful tribute to all-ruling Heaven.
          From culture, unexclusively bestowed
          On Albion's noble Race in freedom born,
          Expect these mighty issues: from the pains
          And faithful care of unambitious schools
          Instructing simple childhood's ready ear:
          Thence look for these magnificent results!
          --Vast the circumference of hope--and ye
          Are at its centre, British Lawgivers;
          Ah! sleep not there in shame! Shall Wisdom's voice         400
          From out the bosom of these troubled times
          Repeat the dictates of her calmer mind,
          And shall the venerable halls ye fill
          Refuse to echo the sublime decree?
          Trust not to partial care a general good;
          Transfer not to futurity a work
          Of urgent need.--Your Country must complete
          Her glorious destiny. Begin even now,
          Now, when oppression, like the Egyptian plague
          Of darkness, stretched o'er guilty Europe, makes           410
          The brightness more conspicuous that invests
          The happy Island where ye think and act;
          Now, when destruction is a prime pursuit,
          Show to the wretched nations for what end
          The powers of civil polity were given."

            Abruptly here, but with a graceful air,
          The Sage broke off. No sooner had he ceased
          Than, looking forth, the gentle Lady said,
          "Behold the shades of afternoon have fallen
          Upon this flowery slope; and see--beyond--                 420
          The silvery lake is streaked with placid blue;
          As if preparing for the peace of evening.
          How temptingly the landscape shines! The air
          Breathes invitation; easy is the walk
          To the lake's margin, where a boat lies moored
          Under a sheltering tree."--Upon this hint
          We rose together; all were pleased; but most
          The beauteous girl, whose cheek was flushed with joy.
          Light as a sunbeam glides along the hills
          She vanished--eager to impart the scheme                   430
          To her loved brother and his shy compeer.
          --Now was there bustle in the Vicar's house
          And earnest preparation.--Forth we went,
          And down the vale along the streamlet's edge
          Pursued our way, a broken company,
          Mute or conversing, single or in pairs.
          Thus having reached a bridge, that overarched
          The hasty rivulet where it lay becalmed
          In a deep pool, by happy chance we saw
          A twofold image; on a grassy bank                          440
          A snow-white ram, and in the crystal flood
          Another and the same! Most beautiful,
          On the green turf, with his imperial front
          Shaggy and bold, and wreathed horns superb,
          The breathing creature stood; as beautiful,
          Beneath him, showed his shadowy counterpart.
          Each had his glowing mountains, each his sky,
          And each seemed centre of his own fair world:
          Antipodes unconscious of each other,
          Yet, in partition, with their several spheres,             450
          Blended in perfect stillness, to our sight!

            "Ah! what a pity were it to disperse,
          Or to disturb, so fair a spectacle,
          And yet a breath can do it!"
                                        These few words
          The Lady whispered, while we stood and gazed
          Gathered together, all in still delight,
          Not without awe. Thence passing on, she said
          In like low voice to my particular ear,
          "I love to hear that eloquent old Man
          Pour forth his meditations, and descant                    460
          On human life from infancy to age.
          How pure his spirit! in what vivid hues
          His mind gives back the various forms of things,
          Caught in their fairest, happiest, attitude!
          While he is speaking, I have power to see
          Even as he sees; but when his voice hath ceased,
          Then, with a sigh, sometimes I feel, as now,
          That combinations so serene and bright
          Cannot be lasting in a world like ours,
          Whose highest beauty, beautiful as it is,                  470
          Like that reflected in yon quiet pool,
          Seems but a fleeting sunbeam's gift, whose peace,
          The sufferance only of a breath of air!"

            More had she said--but sportive shouts were heard
          Sent from the jocund hearts of those two Boys,
          Who, bearing each a basket on his arm,
          Down the green field came tripping after us.
          With caution we embarked; and now the pair
          For prouder service were addrest; but each,
          Wishful to leave an opening for my choice,                 480
          Dropped the light oar his eager hand had seized.
          Thanks given for that becoming courtesy,
          Their place I took--and for a grateful office
          Pregnant with recollections of the time
          When, on thy bosom, spacious Windermere!
          A Youth, I practised this delightful art;
          Tossed on the waves alone, or 'mid a crew
          Of joyous comrades. Soon as the reedy marge
          Was cleared, I dipped, with arms accordant, oars
          Free from obstruction; and the boat advanced               490
          Through crystal water, smoothly as a hawk,
          That, disentangled from the shady boughs
          Of some thick wood, her place of covert, cleaves
          With correspondent wings the abyss of air.
          --"Observe," the Vicar said, "yon rocky isle
          With birch-trees fringed; my hand shall guide the helm,
          While thitherward we shape our course; or while
          We seek that other, on the western shore;
          Where the bare columns of those lofty firs,
          Supporting gracefully a massy dome                         500
          Of sombre foliage, seem to imitate
          A Grecian temple rising from the Deep."

            "Turn where we may," said I, "we cannot err
          In this delicious region."--Cultured slopes,
          Wild tracts of forest-ground, and scattered groves,
          And mountains bare, or clothed with ancient woods,
          Surrounded us; and, as we held our way
          Along the level of the glassy flood,
          They ceased not to surround us; change of place
          From kindred features diversely combined,                  510
          Producing change of beauty ever new.
          --Ah! that such beauty, varying in the light
          Of living nature, cannot be portrayed
          By words, nor by the pencil's silent skill;
          But is the property of him alone
          Who hath beheld it, noted it with care,
          And in his mind recorded it with love!
          Suffice it, therefore, if the rural Muse
          Vouchsafe sweet influence, while her Poet speaks
          Of trivial occupations well devised,                       520
          And unsought pleasures springing up by chance;
          As if some friendly Genius had ordained
          That, as the day thus far had been enriched
          By acquisition of sincere delight,
          The same should be continued to its close.

            One spirit animating old and young,
          A gipsy-fire we kindled on the shore
          Of the fair Isle with birch-trees fringed--and there,
          Merrily seated in a ring, partook
          A choice repast--served by our young companions            530
          With rival earnestness and kindred glee.
          Launched from our hands the smooth stone skimmed the lake;
          With shouts we raised the echoes:--stiller sounds
          The lovely Girl supplied--a simple song,
          Whose low tones reached not to the distant rocks
          To be repeated thence, but gently sank
          Into our hearts; and charmed the peaceful flood.
          Rapaciously we gathered flowery spoils
          From land and water; lilies of each hue--
          Golden and white, that float upon the waves,               540
          And court the wind; and leaves of that shy plant,
          (Her flowers were shed) the lily of the vale,
          That loves the ground, and from the sun withholds
          Her pensive beauty; from the breeze her sweets.

            Such product, and such pastime, did the place
          And season yield; but, as we re-embarked,
          Leaving, in quest of other scenes, the shore
          Of that wild spot, the Solitary said
          In a low voice, yet careless who might hear,
          "The fire, that burned so brightly to our wish,            550
          Where is it now?--Deserted on the beach--
          Dying, or dead! Nor shall the fanning breeze
          Revive its ashes. What care we for this,
          Whose ends are gained? Behold an emblem here
          Of one day's pleasure, and all mortal joys!
          And, in this unpremeditated slight
          Of that which is no longer needed, see
          The common course of human gratitude!"

            This plaintive note disturbed not the repose
          Of the still evening. Right across the lake                560
          Our pinnace moves; then, coasting creek and bay,
          Glades we behold, and into thickets peep,
          Where couch the spotted deer; or raised our eyes
          To shaggy steeps on which the careless goat
          Browsed by the side of dashing waterfalls;
          And thus the bark, meandering with the shore,
          Pursued her voyage, till a natural pier
          Of jutting rock invited us to land.

            Alert to follow as the Pastor led,
          We clomb a green hill's side; and, as we clomb,            570
          The Valley, opening out her bosom, gave
          Fair prospect, intercepted less and less,
          O'er the flat meadows and indented coast
          Of the smooth lake, in compass seen:--far off,
          And yet conspicuous, stood the old Church-tower,
          In majesty presiding over fields
          And habitations seemingly preserved
          From all intrusion of the restless world
          By rocks impassable and mountains huge.

            Soft heath this elevated spot supplied,                  580
          And choice of moss-clad stones, whereon we couched
          Or sate reclined; admiring quietly
          The general aspect of the scene; but each
          Not seldom over anxious to make known
          His own discoveries; or to favourite points
          Directing notice, merely from a wish
          To impart a joy, imperfect while unshared.
          That rapturous moment never shall I forget
          When these particular interests were effaced
          From every mind!--Already had the sun,                     590
          Sinking with less than ordinary state,
          Attained his western bound; but rays of light--
          Now suddenly diverging from the orb
          Retired behind the mountain tops or veiled
          By the dense air--shot upwards to the crown
          Of the blue firmament--aloft, and wide:
          And multitudes of little floating clouds,
          Through their ethereal texture pierced--ere we,
          Who saw, of change were conscious--had become
          Vivid as fire; clouds separately poised,--                 600
          Innumerable multitude of forms
          Scattered through half the circle of the sky;
          And giving back, and shedding each on each,
          With prodigal communion, the bright hues
          Which from the unapparent fount of glory
          They had imbibed, and ceased not to receive.
          That which the heavens displayed, the liquid deep
          Repeated; but with unity sublime!

            While from the grassy mountain's open side
          We gazed, in silence hushed, with eyes intent              610
          On the refulgent spectacle, diffused
          Through earth, sky, water, and all visible space,
          The Priest in holy transport thus exclaimed:
          "Eternal Spirit! universal God!
          Power inaccessible to human thought,
          Save by degrees and steps which thou hast deigned
          To furnish; for this effluence of thyself,
          To the infirmity of mortal sense
          Vouchsafed; this local transitory type
          Of thy paternal splendours, and the pomp                   620
          Of those who fill thy courts in highest heaven,
          The radiant Cherubim;--accept the thanks
          Which we, thy humble Creatures, here convened,
          Presume to offer; we, who--from the breast
          Of the frail earth, permitted to behold
          The faint reflections only of thy face--
          Are yet exalted, and in soul adore!
          Such as they are who in thy presence stand
          Unsullied, incorruptible, and drink
          Imperishable majesty streamed forth                        630
          From thy empyreal throne, the elect of earth
          Shall be--divested at the appointed hour
          Of all dishonour, cleansed from mortal stain.
          --Accomplish, then, their number; and conclude
          Time's weary course! Or if, by thy decree,
          The consummation that will come by stealth
          Be yet far distant, let thy Word prevail,
          Oh! let thy Word prevail, to take away
          The sting of human nature. Spread the law,
          As it is written in thy holy book,                         640
          Throughout all lands; let every nation hear
          The high behest, and every heart obey;
          Both for the love of purity, and hope
          Which it affords, to such as do thy will
          And persevere in good, that they shall rise,
          To have a nearer view of thee, in heaven.
          --Father of good! this prayer in bounty grant,
          In mercy grant it, to thy wretched sons.
          Then, not till then, shall persecution cease,
          And cruel wars expire. The way is marked,                  650
          The guide appointed, and the ransom paid.
          Alas! the nations, who of yore received
          These tidings, and in Christian temples meet
          The sacred truth to knowledge, linger still;
          Preferring bonds and darkness to a state
          Of holy freedom, by redeeming love
          Proffered to all, while yet on earth detained.

            So fare the many; and the thoughtful few,
          Who in the anguish of their souls bewail
          This dire perverseness, cannot choose but ask,             660
          Shall it endure?--Shall enmity and strife,
          Falsehood and guile, be left to sow their seed;
          And the kind never perish? Is the hope
          Fallacious, or shall righteousness obtain
          A peaceable dominion, wide as earth,
          And ne'er to fail? Shall that blest day arrive
          When they, whose choice or lot it is to dwell
          In crowded cities, without fear shall live
          Studious of mutual benefit; and he,
          Whom Morn awakens, among dews and flowers                  670
          Of every clime, to till the lonely field,
          Be happy in himself?--The law of faith
          Working through love, such conquest shall it gain,
          Such triumph over sin and guilt achieve?
          Almighty Lord, thy further grace impart!
          And with that help the wonder shall be seen
          Fulfilled, the hope accomplished; and thy praise
          Be sung with transport and unceasing joy.

            Once," and with mild demeanour, as he spake,
          On us the venerable Pastor turned                          680
          His beaming eye that had been raised to Heaven,
          "Once, while the Name, Jehovah, was a sound
          Within the circuit of this sea-girt isle
          Unheard, the savage nations bowed the head
          To Gods delighting in remorseless deeds;
          Gods which themselves had fashioned, to promote
          Ill purposes, and flatter foul desires.
          Then, in the bosom of yon mountain-cove,
          To those inventions of corrupted man
          Mysterious rites were solemnised; and there--              690
          Amid impending rocks and gloomy woods--
          Of those terrific Idols some received
          Such dismal service, that the loudest voice
          Of the swoln cataracts (which now are heard
          Soft murmuring) was too weak to overcome,
          Though aided by wild winds, the groans and shrieks
          Of human victims, offered up to appease
          Or to propitiate. And, if living eyes
          Had visionary faculties to see
          The thing that hath been as the thing that is,             700
          Aghast we might behold this crystal Mere
          Bedimmed with smoke, in wreaths voluminous,
          Flung from the body of devouring fires,
          To Taranis erected on the heights
          By priestly hands, for sacrifice performed
          Exultingly, in view of open day
          And full assemblage of a barbarous host;
          Or to Andates, female Power! who gave
          (For so they fancied) glorious victory.
          --A few rude monuments of mountain-stone                   710
          Survive; all else is swept away.--How bright
          The appearances of things! From such, how changed
          The existing worship; and with those compared,
          The worshippers how innocent and blest!
          So wide the difference, a willing mind
          Might almost think, at this affecting hour,
          That paradise, the lost abode of man,
          Was raised again: and to a happy few,
          In its original beauty, here restored.

            Whence but from thee, the true and only God,             720
          And from the faith derived through Him who bled
          Upon the cross, this marvellous advance
          Of good from evil; as if one extreme
          Were left, the other gained.--O ye, who come
          To kneel devoutly in yon reverend Pile,
          Called to such office by the peaceful sound
          Of sabbath bells; and ye, who sleep in earth,
          All cares forgotten, round its hallowed walls!
          For you, in presence of this little band
          Gathered together on the green hill-side,                  730
          Your Pastor is emboldened to prefer
          Vocal thanksgivings to the eternal King;
          Whose love, whose counsel, whose commands, have made
          Your very poorest rich in peace of thought
          And in good works; and him, who is endowed
          With scantiest knowledge, master of all truth
          Which the salvation of his soul requires.
          Conscious of that abundant favour showered
          On you, the children of my humble care,
          And this dear land, our country, while on earth            740
          We sojourn, have I lifted up my soul,
          Joy giving voice to fervent gratitude.
          These barren rocks, your stern inheritance;
          These fertile fields, that recompense your pains;
          The shadowy vale, the sunny mountain-top;
          Woods waving in the wind their lofty heads,
          Or hushed; the roaring waters and the still--
          They see the offering of my lifted hands,
          They hear my lips present their sacrifice,
          They know if I be silent, morn or even:                    750
          For, though in whispers speaking, the full heart
          Will find a vent; and thought is praise to him,
          Audible praise, to thee, omniscient Mind,
          From whom all gifts descend, all blessings flow!"

            This vesper-service closed, without delay,
          From that exalted station to the plain
          Descending, we pursued our homeward course,
          In mute composure, o'er the shadowy lake,
          Under a faded sky. No trace remained
          Of those celestial splendours; grey the vault--            760
          Pure, cloudless, ether; and the star of eve
          Was wanting; but inferior lights appeared
          Faintly, too faint almost for sight; and some
          Above the darkened hills stood boldly forth
          In twinkling lustre, ere the boat attained
          Her mooring-place; where, to the sheltering tree,
          Our youthful Voyagers bound fast her prow,
          With prompt yet careful hands. This done, we paced
          The dewy fields; but ere the Vicar's door
          Was reached, the Solitary checked his steps;               770
          Then, intermingling thanks, on each bestowed
          A farewell salutation; and, the like
          Receiving, took the slender path that leads
          To the one cottage in the lonely dell:
          But turned not without welcome promise made
          That he would share the pleasures and pursuits
          Of yet another summer's day, not loth
          To wander with us through the fertile vales,
          And o'er the mountain-wastes. "Another sun,"
          Said he, "shall shine upon us, ere we part;                780
          Another sun, and peradventure more;
          If time, with free consent, be yours to give,
          And season favours."
                                To enfeebled Power,
          From this communion with uninjured Minds,
          What renovation had been brought; and what
          Degree of healing to a wounded spirit,
          Dejected, and habitually disposed
          To seek, in degradation of the Kind,
          Excuse and solace for her own defects;
          How far those erring notions were reformed;                790
          And whether aught, of tendency as good
          And pure, from further intercourse ensued;
          This--if delightful hopes, as heretofore,
          Inspire the serious song, and gentle Hearts
          Cherish, and lofty Minds approve the past--
          My future labours may not leave untold.
                                                         1795-1814.


CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors