Page images
PDF
EPUB

She will have just the life she prefers,
With little to wish or to fear;
And ours will be pleasant as hers,
Might we view her enjoying it here.

CHAP. XXXVIII.

COWPER.

THE EVENING WALK.

A TRUCE to thought! and let us o'er the fields,
Across the down, or through the shelving wood,
Wind our uncertain way. Let Fancy lead,
And be it ours to follow, and admire,

As well we may, the graces infinite

Of Nature. Lay aside the sweet resource
That winter needs, and may at will obtain,
Of authors chaste and good, and let us read
The living page, whose ev'ry character
Delights, and gives us wisdom. Not a tree,
A plant, a leaf, a blossom, but contains
A folio volume. We may read, and read,
And read again, and still find something new,
Something to please, and something to instruct,
E'en in the noisome weed. See, ere we pass
Alcanor's threshold, to the curious eye
A little monitor presents her page

Of choice instruction with her snowy bells,
The Lily of the vale. She nor affects
The public walk, nor gaze of mid-day Sun:
She to no state or dignity aspires,
But silent and alone puts on her suit,
And sheds her lasting perfume, but for which
We had not known there was a thing so sweet
Hid in the gloomy shade. So when the blast
Her sister tribes confounds, and to the earth
Stoops their high heads, that vainly were expos'd,
She feels it not, but flourishes anew,
Still shelter'd and secure. And so the storm,
That makes the high elm couch, and rends the oak,

A thousand blows,

The humble lily spares.
That shake the lofty monarch on his throne,
We lesser folks feel not. Keen are the pains
Advancement often brings. To be secure,
Be humble; to be happy, be content.

But come, we loiter. Pass unnotic'd by
The sleepy Crocus, and the staring Daisy,
The courtier of the sun. What see we there?
The lovesick Cowslip, that her head inclines,
To hide a bleeding heart. And here's the meek
And soft-ey'd Primrose. Dandelion this,
A college youth, that flashes for a day
All gold; anon he doffs his gaudy suit,
Touch'd by the magic hand of some grave bishop,
And all at once, by commutation strange,
Becomes a Reverend Divine.

Then mark

The melancholy Hyacinth, that weeps
All night, and never lifts an eye all day.

How gay this meadow-like a gamesome boy New cloth'd, his locks fresh comb'd and powder'd, he All health and spirits. Scarce so many stars Shine in the azure canopy of Heav'n, As kingcups here are scatter'd, interspers'd With silver daisies.

See, the toiling swain With many a sturdy stroke cuts up at last The tough and sinewy furze. How hard he fought, To win the glory of the barren waste! For what more noble than the vernal furze With golden baskets hung? Approach it not, For ev'ry blossom has a troop of swords Drawn to defend it. "Tis the treasury Of Fays and Fairies. Here they nightly meet, Each with a burnish'd kingcup in his hand, And quaff the subtile ether. Here they dance Or to the village chimes, or moody song Of midnight Philomel. The ringlet see Fantastically trod. There Oberon His gallant train leads out, the while his torch

The glowworm lights, and dusky night illumes;
And there they foot it featly round, and laugh.
The sacred spot the superstitious ewe
Regards, and bites it not in reverence.
Anon the drowsy clock tolls One-the cock
His clarion sounds—the dance breaks off-the lights
Are quench'd-the music hush'd-they speed away
Swifter than thought, and still the break of day
Outrun, and chasing Midnight as she flies,
Pursue her round the globe. So Fancy weaves
Her flimsy web, while sober Reason sits,
And smiling wonders at the puny work,
A net for her; then springs on eagle wing,
Constraint defies, and soars above the sun.

But mark with how peculiar grace yon wood, That clothes the weary steep, waves in the breeze Her sea of leaves; thither we turn our steps, And by the way attend the cheerful sound Of woodland harmony, that always fills The merry vale between. How sweet the song Day's harbinger attunes! I have not heard Such elegant divisions drawn from art. And what is he that wins our admiration? A little speck that floats upon the sunbeam. What vast perfection cannot Nature crowd Into a puny point! The nightingale, Her solo anthem sung, and all that heard, Content, joins in the chorus of the day, She, gentle heart, thinks it no pain to please, Nor, like the moody songsters of the world, Just shows her talent, pleases, takes affront, And locks it up in envy.

I love to see the little goldfinch pluck The groundsel's feather'd seed, and twit, and twit; And then, in bow'r of apple blossoms perch'd, Trim his gay suit, and pay us with a song. I would not hold him pris'ner for the world.

The chimney haunting swallow, too, my eye
And ear well pleases. I delight to see
How suddenly he skims the glassy pool,

How quaintly dips, and with a bullet's speed
Whisks by. I love to be awake, and hear
His morning song twitter'd to young-ey'd day.
But most of all it wins my admiration,
To view the structure of this little work,
A bird's nest. Mark it well, within, without.
No tool had he that wrought, no knife to cut,
No nail to fix, no bodkin to insert,

No glue to join; his little beak was all.
And yet how neatly finish'd. What nice hand,
With ev'ry implement and means of art,
And twenty years' apprenticeship to boot,
Could make me such another? Fondly then
We boast of excellence, whose noblest skill
Instinctive genius foils.

The bee observe;
She too an artist is, and laughs at man,
Who calls on rules the sightly hexagon
With truth to form; a cunning architect,
That at the roof begins her golden work,
And builds without foundation. How she toils,
And still from bud to bud, from flow'r to flow'r,
Travels the livelong day. Ye idle drones,
That rather pilfer than your bread obtain
By honest means like these, look here and learn
How good, how fair, how honourable 'tis,
To live by industry. The busy tribes
Of bees so emulous are daily fed
With Heav'n's peculiar manna.
"Tis for them,
Unwearied alchymists, the blooming world
Nectarious gold distils. And bounteous Heav'n,
Still to the diligent and active good,

Their very labour makes the certain cause
Of future wealth.

But see, the setting Sun Puts on a milder countenance, and skirts The undulated clouds, that cross his way, With glory visible. His axle cools, And his broad disk, though fervent, not intense,

Foretells the near approach of matron night.
Ye fair, retreat! Your drooping flowers need
Wholesome refreshment. Down the hedge-row path
We hasten home, and only slack our speed
To gaze a moment at th' accustom'd gap,
That all so unexpectedly presents

The clear cerulean prospect down the vale.
Dispers'd along the bottom flocks and herds,
Hay-ricks and cottages, beside a stream,
That silverly meanders here and there;
And higher up corn-fields, and pastures, hops,
And waving woods, and tufts, and lonely oaks,
Thick interspers'd as Nature best was pleas'd.

Happy the man, who truly loves his home,
And never wanders farther from his door,
Than we have gone to day; who feels his heart
Still drawing homeward, and delights, like us,
Once more to rest his foot on his own threshold.

HURDIS.

« PreviousContinue »