Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
 
Wales: Coombe-Ellen
Coombe-Ellen
William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)
 
CALL the strange spirit that abides unseen
In wilds and wastes and shaggy solitudes,
And bid his dim hand lead thee through these scenes
That burst immense around! By mountains, glens,
And solitary cataracts that dash        5
Through dark ravines; and trees, whose wreathéd roots
O’erhang the torrent’s channelled course; and streams,
That far below, along the narrow vale
Upon their rocky way wind musical.
  Stranger! if Nature charm thee, if thou lovest        10
To trace her awful steps, in glade or glen,
Or under covert of the rocking wood,
That sways its murmuring and massy boughs
Above thy head; now, when the wind at times
Stirs its deep silence round thee, and the shower        15
Falls on the sighing foliage, hail her here
In these her haunts; and, rapt in musings high,
Think that thou boldest converse with some Power
Invisible and strange; such as of yore
Greece in the shades of piny Menelaus,        20
The abode of Pan, or Ida’s hoary caves,
Worshipped; and our old Druids, mid the gloom
Of rocks and woods like these, with muttered spell
Invoked, and the loud ring of choral harps.
*        *        *        *        *
  Now wind we up the glen, and hear below        25
The dashing torrent, in deep woods concealed,
And now again white-flashing on the view,
O’er the huge craggy fragments. Ancient stream,
That murmurest through the mountain solitudes,
The time has been when no eye marked thy course        30
Save His who made the world! Fancy might dream
She saw thee thus bound on from age to age
Unseen of man, whilst awful Nature sat
On the rent rocks, and said: “These haunts be mine.
How Taste has marked thy features; here and there        35
Touching with tender hand, but injuring not,
Thy beauties; whilst along thy woody verge
Ascends the winding pathway, and the eye
Catches at intervals thy varied falls.”
  But loftier scenes invite us; pass the hill,        40
And through the woody hanging, at whose feet
The tinkling Ellen winds, pursue thy way.
Yon bleak and weather-whitened rock, immense,
Upshoots amidst the scene, shaggy and steep,
And like some high-embattled citadel,        45
That awes the low plain shadowing. Half-way up
The purple heath is seen, but bare its brow,
And deep intrenched, and all beneath it spread
With massy fragments riven from its top.
*        *        *        *        *
  How through the whispering wood        50
We steal, and mark the old and mossy oaks
Emboss the mountain slope; or the wild ash,
With rich red clusters mantling; or the birch
In lonely glens light-wavering, till, behold!
The rapid river shooting through the gloom        55
Its lucid line along; and on its side
The bordering pastures green, where the swinked ox
Lies dreaming, heedless of the numerous flies
That, in the transitory sunshine, hum
Round his broad breast; and further up the cot,        60
With blue, light smoke ascending;—images
Of peace and comfort!
*        *        *        *        *
  Pass on to the hoar cataract, that foams
Through the dark fissures of the riven rock;
Prone-rushing it descends, and with white whirl,        65
Save where some silent shady pool receives
Its dash; thence bursting, with collected sweep
And hollow sound, it hurries, till it falls
Foaming in that wild stream that winds below.
Dark trees, that to the mountain’s height ascend,        70
O’ershade with pendant boughs its massy course,
And, looking up, the eye beholds it flash
Beneath the incumbent gloom, from ledge to ledge
Shooting its silvery foam, and far within
Wreathing its curve fantastic. If the harp        75
Of deep poetic inspiration, struck
At times by the pale minstrel, whilst a strange
And beauteous light filled his uplifted eye,
Hath ever sounded into mortal ears,
Here I might think I heard its tones, and saw        80
Sublime amidst the solitary scene,
With dimly gleaming harp, and snowy stole,
And cheek in momentary frenzy flushed,
The great musician stand.
*        *        *        *        *
  And now a little onward, where the way        85
Ascends above the oaks that far below
Shade the rude steep, let Contemplation lead
Our footsteps; from this shady eminence
’T is pleasant and yet fearful to look down
Upon the river roaring, and far off        90
To see it stretch in peace, and mark the rocks,
One after one, in solemn majesty
Unfolding their wild reaches; here with wood
Mantled, beyond abrupt and bare, and each
As if it strove with emulous disdain        95
To tower in ruder, darker amplitude.
Pause, ere we enter the long craggy vale;
It seems the abode of solitude. So high
The rock’s bleak summit frowns above our head,
Looking immediate down, we almost fear        100
Lest some enormous fragment should descend
With hideous sweep into the vale, and crush
The intruding visitant. No sound is here,
Save of the stream that shrills, and now and then
A cry as of faint wailing, when the kite        105
Comes sailing o’er the crags, or straggling lamb
Bleats for its mother.
*        *        *        *        *
  Scenes of retired sublimity, that fill
With fearful ecstasy and holy trance
The passing mind! we leave your awful gloom,        110
And lo! the footway plank, that leads across
The narrow torrent, foaming through the chasm
Below; the rugged stones are washed and worn
Into a thousand shapes, and hollows scooped
By long attrition of the ceaseless surge,        115
Smooth, deep, and polished as the marble urn,
In their hard forms. Here let us sit, and watch
The struggling current burst its headlong way,
Hearing the noise it makes, and musing much
On the strange chances of this nether world.        120
How many ages must have swept to dust
The still succeeding multitudes that “fret
Their little hour” upon this restless scene,
Or ere the sweeping waters could have cut
The solid rock so deep! As now its roar        125
Comes hollow from below, methinks we hear
The noise of generations as they pass,
O’er the frail arch of earthly vanity,
To silence and oblivion. The loud coil
Ne’er ceases; as the remaining river sounds        130
From age to age, though each particular wave
That made its brief noise as we hurried on,
Even whilst we speak, is past, and heard no more;
So ever to the ear of Heaven ascends
The long, loud murmur of the rolling globe;        135
Its strifes, its toils, its sighs, its shouts, the same!
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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