Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
I. An Evening Walk in Bengal
By Reginald Heber (1783–1826)
OUR task is done! on Gunga’s breast
The sun is sinking down to rest;
And, moored beneath the tamarind bough,
Our bark has found its harbour now.
With furlèd sail and painted side,        5
Behold the tiny frigate ride:
Upon her deck, ’mid charcoal gleams,
The Moslem’s savoury supper steams,
While all apart, beneath the wood,
The Hindoo cooks his simpler food.        10
Come walk with me the jungle through:
If yonder hunter told us true,
Far off, in desert dank and rude,
The tiger holds its solitude;
Nor (taught by recent harm to shun        15
The thunders of the English gun)
A dreadful guest but rarely seen,
Returns to scare the village green.
Come boldly on! no venomed snake
Can shelter in so cool a brake.        20
Child of the Sun! he loves to lie
’Midst Nature’s embers, parched and dry,
Where o’er some tower in ruin laid,
The peepul spreads its haunted shade;
Or round a tomb his scales to wreathe        25
Fit warder in the gate of Death.
Come on!—yet pause! Behold us now
Beneath the bamboo’s archèd bough,
Where, gemming oft that sacred gloom,
Glows the geranium’s scarlet bloom, 1        30
And winds our path through many a bower
Of fragrant tree and giant flower;
The ceiba’s crimson pomp displayed
O’er the broad plantain’s humbler shade
And dusk anana’s prickly glade;        35
While o’er the brake, so wild and fair,
The betel waves his crest in air.
With pendent train and rushing wings
Aloft the gorgeous peacock springs;
And he, the bird of hundred dyes, 2        40
Whose plumes the dames of Ava prize.
So rich a shade, so green a sod
Our English fairies never trod!
Yet who in Indian bowers has stood
But thought on England’s “good green wood!”        45
And blessed, beneath the palmy shade,
Her hazel and her hawthorn glade,
And breathed a prayer (how oft in vain!)
To gaze upon her oaks again?
A truce to thought,—the jackal’s cry        50
Resounds like Sylvan revelry;
And through the trees yon failing ray
Will scantly serve to guide our way.
Yet mark! as fade the upper skies,
Each thicket opes ten thousand eyes.        55
Before, beside us, and above,
The fire-fly lights his lamp of love,
Retreating, chasing, sinking, soaring,
The darkness of the copse exploring,
While to this cooler air confest,        60
The broad Dhatura bares her breast,
Of fragrant scent, and virgin white,
A pearl around the locks of night!
Still, as we pass, in softened hum
Along the breezy alleys come        65
The village song, the horn, the drum.
Still, as we pass, from bush and briar,
The shrill Cigala strikes his lyre;
And, what is she whose liquid strain
Thrills through yon copse of sugar-cane?        70
I know that soul-entrancing swell,
It is—it must be—Philomel!
Enough, enough! the rustling trees
Announce a shower upon the breeze;
The flashes of the summer sky        75
Assume a deeper, ruddier dye;
Yon lamp that trembles on the stream,
From forth our cabin sheds its beam;
And we must early sleep, to find
Betimes the morning’s healthy wind.        80
But, oh! with thankful hearts confess
E’en here there may be happiness;
And He, the bounteous Sire, has given
His peace on earth,—His hope of heaven!
Note 1. A shrub whose deep scarlet flowers very much resemble the geranium, and thence called the Indian geranium. [back]
Note 2. The Mucharunga. [back]

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