Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
A Garden and Summer House (from The Story of Rimini)
By Leigh Hunt (1784–1859)
 
  A NOBLE range it was, of many a rood,
Walled and tree-girt, and ending in a wood.
A small sweet house o’erlooked it from a nest
Of pines:—all wood and garden was the rest,
Lawn, and green lane, and covert:—and it had        5
A winding stream about it, clear and glad,
With here and there a swan, the creature born
To be the only graceful shape of scorn.
The flower-beds all were liberal of delight:
Roses in heaps were there, both red and white,        10
Lilies angelical, and gorgeous glooms
Of wall-flowers, and blue hyacinths, and blooms
Hanging thick clusters from light boughs; in short,
All the sweet cups to which the bees resort,
With plots of grass, and leafier walks between        15
Of red geraniums, and of jessamine,
And orange, whose warm leaves so finely suit,
And look as if they shade a golden fruit;
And midst the flowers, turfed round beneath a shade
Of darksome pines, a babbling fountain played,        20
And ’twixt their shafts you saw the water bright,
Which through the tops glimmered with showering light
So now you stood to think what odours best
Made the air happy in that lovely nest;
And now you went beside the flowers, with eyes        25
Earnest as bees, restless as butterflies;
And then turned off into a shadier walk,
Close and continuous, fit for lover’s talk;
And then pursued the stream, and as you trod
Onward and onward o’er the velvet sod,        30
Felt on your face an air, watery and sweet,
And a new sense in your soft-lighting feet.
At last you entered shades indeed, the wood,
Broken with glens and pits, and glades far-viewed,
Through which the distant palace now and then        35
Look’d lordly forth with many-windowed ken;
A land of trees,—which reaching round about
In shady blessing stretched their old arms out;
With spots of sunny openings, and with nooks
To lie and read in, sloping into brooks,        40
Where at her drink you startled the slim deer,
Retreating lightly with a lovely fear.
And all about, the birds kept leafy house,
And sung and darted in and out the boughs;
And all about, a lovely sky of blue        45
Clearly was felt, or down the leaves laughed through;
And here and there, in every part, were seats,
Some in the open walks, some in retreats,—
With bowering leaves o’erhead, to which the eye
Looked up half sweetly and half awfully,—        50
Places of nestling green, for poets made,
Where, when the sunshine struck a yellow shade,
The rugged trunks, to inward peeping sight,
Thronged in dark pillars up the gold green light.
 
  But ’twixt the wood and flowery walks, half-way,        55
And formed of both, the loveliest portion lay,—
A spot, that struck you like enchanted ground:—
It was a shallow dell, set in a mound
Of sloping orchards,—fig, and almond trees,
Cherry and pine, with some few cypresses;        60
Down by whose roots, descending darkly still,
(You saw it not, but heard) there gushed a rill,
Whose low sweet talking seemed as if it said,
Something eternal to that happy shade.
The ground within was lawn, with fruits and flowers        65
Heaped towards the centre, half of citron bowers;
And in the middle of those golden trees,
Half seen amidst the globy oranges,
Lurked a rare summer-house, a lovely sight,—
Small, marble, well-proportioned, creamy white,        70
Its top with vine-leaves sprinkled,—but no more,—
And a young bay-tree either side the door.
The door was to the wood, forward and square,
The rest was domed at top, and circular;
And through the dome the only light came in,        75
Tinged as it entered by the vine-leaves thin.
 
  It was a beauteous piece of ancient skill,
Spared from the rage of war, and perfect still;
By some supposed the work of fairy hands,—
Famed for luxurious taste, and choice of lands,        80
Alcina or Morgana,—who from fights
And errant fame inveigled amorous knights,
And lived with them in a long round of blisses,
Feasts, concerts, baths, and bower-enshaded kisses.
But ’twas a temple, as its sculpture told,        85
Built to the Nymphs that haunted there of old;
For o’er the door was carved a sacrifice
By girls and shepherds brought, with reverend eyes,
Of sylvan drinks and foods, simple and sweet,
And goats with struggling horns and planted feet:        90
And round about, ran, on a line with this,
In like relief, a world of pagan bliss,
That shewed, in various scenes, the nymphs themselves;
Some by the water-side, on bowery shelves
Leaning at will,—some in the stream at play,—        95
Some pelting the young Fauns with buds of May,—
Or half-asleep, pretending not to see
The latter in the brakes come creepingly,
While from their careless urns, lying aside
In the long grass, the straggling waters glide.        100
Never, be sure, before or since was seen
A summer-house so fine in such a nest of green.
 
 
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