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POEMS ON THE NAMING OF PLACES

II. TO JOANNA

          AMID the smoke of cities did you pass
          The time of early youth; and there you learned,
          From years of quiet industry, to love
          The living Beings by your own fireside,
          With such a strong devotion, that your heart
          Is slow to meet the sympathies of them
          Who look upon the hills with tenderness,
          And make dear friendships with the streams and groves.
          Yet we, who are transgressors in this kind,
          Dwelling retired in our simplicity                          10
          Among the woods and fields, we love you well,
          Joanna! and I guess, since you have been
          So distant from us now for two long years,
          That you will gladly listen to discourse,
          However trivial, if you thence be taught
          That they, with whom you once were happy, talk
          Familiarly of you and of old times.
            While I was seated, now some ten days past,
          Beneath those lofty firs, that overtop
          Their ancient neighbour, the old steeple-tower,             20
          The Vicar from his gloomy house hard by
          Came forth to greet me; and when he had asked,
          "How fares Joanna, that wild-hearted Maid!
          And when will she return to us?" he paused;
          And, after short exchange of village news,
          He with grave looks demanded, for what cause,
          Reviving obsolete idolatry,
          I, like a Runic Priest, in characters
          Of formidable size had chiselled out
          Some uncouth name upon the native rock,                     30
          Above the Rotha, by the forest-side.
          --Now, by those dear immunities of heart
          Engendered between malice and true love,
          I was not loth to be so catechised,
          And this was my reply:--"As it befell,
          One summer morning we had walked abroad
          At break of day, Joanna and myself.
          --'Twas that delightful season when the broom,
          Full-flowered, and visible on every steep,
          Along the copses runs in veins of gold.                     40
          Our pathway led us on to Rotha's banks;
          And when we came in front of that tall rock
          That eastward looks, I there stopped short--and stood
          Tracing the lofty barrier with my eye
          From base to summit; such delight I found
          To note in shrub and tree, in stone and flower
          That intermixture of delicious hues,
          Along so vast a surface, all at once,
          In one impression, by connecting force
          Of their own beauty, imaged in the heart.                   50
          --When I had gazed perhaps two minutes' space,
          Joanna, looking in my eyes, beheld
          That ravishment of mine, and laughed aloud.
          The Rock, like something starting from a sleep,
          Took up the Lady's voice, and laughed again;
          That ancient Woman seated on Helm-crag
          Was ready with her cavern; Hammar-scar,
          And the tall Steep of Silver-how, sent forth
          A noise of laughter; southern Loughrigg heard,
          And Fairfield answered with a mountain tone;                60
          Helvellyn far into the clear blue sky
          Carried the Lady's voice,--old Skiddaw blew
          His speaking-trumpet;--back out of the clouds
          Of Glaramara southward came the voice;
          And Kirkstone tossed it from his misty head.
          --Now whether (said I to our cordial Friend,
          Who in the hey-day of astonishment
          Smiled in my face) this were in simple truth
          A work accomplished by the brotherhood
          Of ancient mountains, or my ear was touched                 70
          With dreams and visionary impulses
          To me alone imparted, sure I am
          That there was a loud uproar in the hills.
          And, while we both were listening, to my side
          The fair Joanna drew, as if she wished
          To shelter from some object of her fear.
          --And hence, long afterwards, when eighteen moons
          Were wasted, as I chanced to walk alone
          Beneath this rock, at sunrise, on a calm
          And silent morning, I sat down, and there,                  80
          In memory of affections old and true,
          I chiselled out in those rude characters
          Joanna's name deep in the living stone:--
          And I, and all who dwell by my fireside,
          Have called the lovely rock, JOANNA'S ROCK."
                                                              1800.


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