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THE IDLE SHEPHERD-BOYS;

OR, DUNGEON-GHYLL FORCE

A PASTORAL

          THE valley rings with mirth and joy;
          Among the hills the echoes play
          A never never ending song,
          To welcome in the May.
          The magpie chatters with delight;
          The mountain raven's youngling brood
          Have left the mother and the nest;
          And they go rambling east and west
          In search of their own food;
          Or through the glittering vapours dart                      10
          In very wantonness of heart.

          Beneath a rock, upon the grass,
          Two boys are sitting in the sun;
          Their work, if any work they have,
          Is out of mind--or done.
          On pipes of sycamore they play
          The fragments of a Christmas hymn;
          Or with that plant which in our dale
          We call stag-horn, or fox's tail,
          Their rusty hats they trim:                                 20
          And thus, as happy as the day,
          Those Shepherds wear the time away.

          Along the river's stony marge
          The sand-lark chants a joyous song;
          The thrush is busy in the wood,
          And carols loud and strong.
          A thousand lambs are on the rocks,
          All newly born! both earth and sky
          Keep jubilee, and more than all,
          Those boys with their green coronal;                        30
          They never hear the cry,
          That plaintive cry! which up the hill
          Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Ghyll.

          Said Walter, leaping from the ground,
          "Down to the stump of yon old yew
          We'll for our whistles run a race."
          --Away the shepherds flew;
          They leapt--they ran--and when they came
          Right opposite to Dungeon-Ghyll,
          Seeing that he should lose the prize,                       40
          "Stop!" to his comrade Walter cries--
          James stopped with no good will:
          Said Walter then, exulting, "Here
          You'll find a task for half a year.

          "Cross, if you dare, where I shall cross--
          Come on, and tread where I shall tread."
          The other took him at his word,
          And followed as he led.
          It was a spot which you may see
          If ever you to Langdale go;                                 50
          Into a chasm a mighty block
          Hath fallen, and made a bridge of rock:
          The gulf is deep below;
          And, in a basin black and small,
          Receives a lofty waterfall.

          With staff in hand across the cleft
          The challenger pursued his march;
          And now, all eyes and feet, hath gained
          The middle of the arch.
          When list! he hears a piteous moan--                        60
          Again!--his heart within him dies--
          His pulse is stopped, his breath is lost,
          He totters, pallid as a ghost,
          And, looking down, espies
          A lamb, that in the pool is pent
          Within that black and frightful rent.

          The lamb had slipped into the stream,
          And safe without a bruise or wound
          The cataract had borne him down
          Into the gulf profound.                                     70
          His dam had seen him when he fell,
          She saw him down the torrent borne;
          And, while with all a mother's love
          She from the lofty rocks above
          Sent forth a cry forlorn,
          The lamb, still swimming round and round,
          Made answer to that plaintive sound.

          When he had learnt what thing it was,
          That sent this rueful cry; I ween
          The Boy recovered heart, and told                           80
          The sight which he had seen.
          Both gladly now deferred their task;
          Nor was there wanting other aid--
          A Poet, one who loves the brooks
          Far better than the sages' books,
          By chance had thither strayed;
          And there the helpless lamb he found
          By those huge rocks encompassed round.

          He drew it from the troubled pool,
          And brought it forth into the light:                        90
          The Shepherds met him with his charge,
          An unexpected sight!
          Into their arms the lamb they took,
          Whose life and limbs the flood had spared;
          Then up the steep ascent they hied,
          And placed him at his mother's side;
          And gently did the Bard
          Those idle Shepherd-boys upbraid,
          And bade them better mind their trade.
                                                              1800.


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