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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. 


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