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CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


THE EXCURSION

BOOK THIRD

DESPONDENCY

          A HUMMING BEE--a little tinkling rill--
          A pair of falcons wheeling on the wing,
          In clamorous agitation, round the crest
          Of a tall rock, their airy citadel--
          By each and all of these the pensive ear
          Was greeted, in the silence that ensued,
          When through the cottage-threshold we had passed,
          And, deep within that lonesome valley, stood
          Once more beneath the concave of a blue
          And cloudless sky.--Anon exclaimed our Host--               10
          Triumphantly dispersing with the taunt
          The shade of discontent which on his brow
          Had gathered,--"Ye have left my cell,--but see
          How Nature hems you in with friendly arms!
          And by her help ye are my prisoners still.
          But which way shall I lead you?--how contrive,
          In spot so parsimoniously endowed,
          That the brief hours, which yet remain, may reap
          Some recompense of knowledge or delight?"
          So saying, round he looked, as if perplexed;                20
          And, to remove those doubts, my grey-haired Friend
          Said--"Shall we take this pathway for our guide?--
          Upward it winds, as if, in summer heats,
          Its line had first been fashioned by the flock
          Seeking a place of refuge at the root
          Of yon black Yew-tree, whose protruded boughs
          Darken the silver bosom of the crag,
          From which she draws her meagre sustenance.
          There in commodious shelter may we rest.
          Or let us trace this streamlet to its source;               30
          Feebly it tinkles with an earthy sound,
          And a few steps may bring us to the spot
          Where, haply, crowned with flowerets and green herbs,
          The mountain infant to the sun comes forth,
          Like human life from darkness."--A quick turn
          Through a strait passage of encumbered ground,
          Proved that such hope was vain:--for now we stood
          Shut out from prospect of the open vale,
          And saw the water, that composed this rill,
          Descending, disembodied, and diffused                       40
          O'er the smooth surface of an ample crag,
          Lofty, and steep, and naked as a tower.
          All further progress here was barred;--And who,
          Thought I, if master of a vacant hour,
          Here would not linger, willingly detained?
          Whether to such wild objects he were led
          When copious rains have magnified the stream
          Into a loud and white-robed waterfall,
          Or introduced at this more quiet time.

            Upon a semicirque of turf-clad ground,                    50
          The hidden nook discovered to our view
          A mass of rock, resembling, as it lay
          Right at the foot of that moist precipice,
          A stranded ship, with keel upturned, that rests
          Fearless of winds and waves. Three several stones
          Stood near, of smaller size, and not unlike
          To monumental pillars: and, from these
          Some little space disjoined a pair were seen,
          That with united shoulders bore aloft
          A fragment, like an altar, flat and smooth:                 60
          Barren the tablet, yet thereon appeared
          A tall and shining holly, that had found
          A hospitable chink, and stood upright,
          As if inserted by some human hand
          In mockery, to wither in the sun,
          Or lay its beauty flat before a breeze,
          The first that entered. But no breeze did now
          Find entrance;--high or low appeared no trace
          Of motion, save the water that descended,
          Diffused adown that barrier of steep rock,                  70
          And softly creeping, like a breath of air,
          Such as is sometimes seen, and hardly seen,
          To brush the still breast of a crystal lake.

            "Behold a cabinet for sages built,
          Which kings might envy!"--Praise to this effect
          Broke from the happy old Man's reverend lip;
          Who to the Solitary turned, and said,
          "In sooth, with love's familiar privilege,
          You have decried the wealth which is your own.
          Among these rocks and stones, methinks, I see               80
          More than the heedless impress that belongs
          To lonely nature's casual work: they bear
          A semblance strange of power intelligent,
          And of design not wholly worn away.
          Boldest of plants that ever faced the wind,
          How gracefully that slender shrub looks forth
          From its fantastic birth-place! And I own,
          Some shadowy intimations haunt me here,
          That in these shows a chronicle survives
          Of purposes akin to those of Man,                           90
          But wrought with mightier arm than now prevails.
          --Voiceless the stream descends into the gulf
          With timid lapse;--and lo! while in this strait
          I stand--the chasm of sky above my head
          Is heaven's profoundest azure; no domain
          For fickle, short-lived clouds to occupy,
          Or to pass through; but rather an abyss
          In which the everlasting stars abide;
          And whose soft gloom, and boundless depth, might tempt
          The curious eye to look for them by day.                   100
          --Hail Contemplation! from the stately towers,
          Reared by the industrious hand of human art
          To lift thee high above the misty air
          And turbulence of murmuring cities vast;
          From academic groves, that have for thee
          Been planted, hither come and find a lodge
          To which thou mayst resort for holier peace,--
          From whose calm centre thou, through height or depth,
          Mayst penetrate, wherever truth shall lead;
          Measuring through all degrees, until the scale             110
          Of time and conscious nature disappear,
          Lost in unsearchable eternity!"

            A pause ensued; and with minuter care
          We scanned the various features of the scene:
          And soon the Tenant of that lonely vale
          With courteous voice thus spake--
                                             "I should have grieved
          Hereafter, not escaping self-reproach,
          If from my poor retirement ye had gone
          Leaving this nook unvisited: but, in sooth,
          Your unexpected presence had so roused                     120
          My spirits, that they were bent on enterprise;
          And, like an ardent hunter, I forgot,
          Or, shall I say?--disdained, the game that lurks
          At my own door. The shapes before our eyes
          And their arrangement, doubtless must be deemed
          The sport of Nature, aided by blind Chance
          Rudely to mock the works of toiling Man.
          And hence, this upright shaft of unhewn stone,
          From Fancy, willing to set off her stores
          By sounding titles, hath acquired the name                 130
          Of Pompey's pillar; that I gravely style
          My Theban obelisk; and, there, behold
          A Druid cromlech!--thus I entertain
          The antiquarian humour, and am pleased
          To skim along the surfaces of things,
          Beguiling harmlessly the listless hours.
          But if the spirit be oppressed by sense
          Of instability, revolt, decay,
          And change, and emptiness, these freaks of Nature
          And her blind helper Chance, do 'then' suffice             140
          To quicken, and to aggravate--to feed
          Pity and scorn, and melancholy pride,
          Not less than that huge Pile (from some abyss
          Of mortal power unquestionably sprung)
          Whose hoary diadem of pendent rocks
          Confines the shrill-voiced whirlwind, round and round
          Eddying within its vast circumference,
          On Sarum's naked plain--than pyramid
          Of Egypt, unsubverted, undissolved--
          Or Syria's marble ruins towering high                      150
          Above the sandy desert, in the light
          Of sun or moon.--Forgive me, if I say
          That an appearance which hath raised your minds
          To an exalted pitch (the self-same cause
          Different effect producing) is for me
          Fraught rather with depression than delight,
          Though shame it were, could I not look around,
          By the reflection of your pleasure, pleased.
          Yet happier in my judgment, even than you
          With your bright transports fairly may be deemed,          160
          The wandering Herbalist,--who, clear alike
          From vain, and, that worse evil, vexing thoughts,
          Casts, if he ever chance to enter here,
          Upon these uncouth Forms a slight regard
          Of transitory interest, and peeps round
          For some rare floweret of the hills, or plant
          Of craggy fountain; what he hopes for wins,
          Or learns, at least, that 'tis not to be won:
          Then, keen and eager, as a fine-nosed hound,
          By soul-engrossing instinct driven along                   170
          Through wood or open field, the harmless Man
          Departs, intent upon his onward quest!--
          Nor is that Fellow-wanderer, so deem I,
          Less to be envied, (you may trace him oft
          By scars which his activity has left
          Beside our roads and pathways, though, thank Heaven!
          This covert nook reports not of his hand)
          He who with pocket-hammer smites the edge
          Of luckless rock or prominent stone, disguised
          In weather-stains or crusted o'er by Nature                180
          With her first growths, detaching by the stroke
          A chip or splinter--to resolve his doubts;
          And, with that ready answer satisfied,
          The substance classes by some barbarous name,
          And hurries on; or from the fragments picks
          His specimen, if but haply interveined
          With sparkling mineral, or should crystal cube
          Lurk in its cells--and thinks himself enriched,
          Wealthier, and doubtless wiser, than before!
          Intrusted safely each to his pursuit,                      190
          Earnest alike, let both from hill to hill
          Range; if it please them, speed from clime to clime;
          The mind is full--and free from pain their pastime."

            "Then," said I, interposing, "One is near,
          Who cannot but possess in your esteem
          Place worthier still of envy. May I name,
          Without offence, that fair-faced cottage-boy?
          Dame Nature's pupil of the lowest form,
          Youngest apprentice in the school of art!
          Him, as we entered from the open glen,                     200
          You might have noticed, busily engaged,
          Heart, soul, and hands,--in mending the defects
          Left in the fabric of a leaky dam
          Raised for enabling this penurious stream
          To turn a slender mill (that new-made plaything)
          For his delight--the happiest he of all!"

            "Far happiest," answered the desponding Man,
          "If such as now he is, he might remain!
          Ah! what avails imagination high
          Or question deep? what profits all that earth,             210
          Or heaven's blue vault, is suffered to put forth
          Of impulse or allurement, for the Soul
          To quit the beaten track of life, and soar
          Far as she finds a yielding element
          In past or future; far as she can go
          Through time or space--if neither in the one,
          Nor in the other region, nor in aught
          That Fancy, dreaming o'er the map of things,
          Hath placed beyond these penetrable bounds,
          Words of assurance can be heard; if nowhere                220
          A habitation, for consummate good,
          Or for progressive virtue, by the search
          Can be attained,--a better sanctuary
          From doubt and sorrow, than the senseless grave?"

            "Is this," the grey-haired Wanderer mildly said,
          "The voice, which we so lately overheard,
          To that same child, addressing tenderly
          The consolations of a hopeful mind?
          'His body is at rest, his soul in heaven.'
          These were your words; and, verily, methinks               230
          Wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop
          Than when we soar."--
                                 The Other, not displeased,
          Promptly replied--"My notion is the same.
          And I, without reluctance, could decline
          All act of inquisition whence we rise,
          And what, when breath hath ceased, we may become.
          Here are we, in a bright and breathing world.
          Our origin, what matters it? In lack
          Of worthier explanation, say at once
          With the American (a thought which suits                   240
          The place where now we stand) that certain men
          Leapt out together from a rocky cave;
          And these were the first parents of mankind:
          Or, if a different image be recalled
          By the warm sunshine, and the jocund voice
          Of insects chirping out their careless lives
          On these soft beds of thyme-besprinkled turf,
          Choose, with the gay Athenian, a conceit
          As sound--blithe race! whose mantles were bedecked
          With golden grasshoppers, in sign that they                250
          Had sprung, like those bright creatures, from the soil
          Whereon their endless generations dwelt.
          But stop!--these theoretic fancies jar
          On serious minds: then, as the Hindoos draw
          Their holy Ganges from a skiey fount,
          Even so deduce the stream of human life
          From seats of power divine; and hope, or trust,
          That our existence winds her stately course
          Beneath the sun, like Ganges, to make part
          Of a living ocean; or, to sink engulfed,                   260
          Like Niger, in impenetrable sands
          And utter darkness: thought which may be faced,
          Though comfortless!--
                                 Not of myself I speak;
          Such acquiescence neither doth imply,
          In me, a meekly-bending spirit soothed
          By natural piety; nor a lofty mind,
          By philosophic discipline prepared
          For calm subjection to acknowledged law;
          Pleased to have been, contented not to be.
          Such palms I boast not;--no! to me, who find               270
          Reviewing my past way, much to condemn,
          Little to praise, and nothing to regret,
          (Save some remembrances of dream-like joys
          That scarcely seem to have belonged to me)
          If I must take my choice between the pair
          That rule alternately the weary hours,
          Night is than day more acceptable; sleep
          Doth, in my estimate of good, appear
          A better state than waking; death than sleep:
          Feelingly sweet is stillness after storm,                  280
          Though under covert of the wormy ground!

            Yet be it said, in justice to myself,
          That in more genial times, when I was free
          To explore the destiny of human kind
          (Not as an intellectual game pursued
          With curious subtilty, from wish to cheat
          Irksome sensations; but by love of truth
          Urged on, or haply by intense delight
          In feeding thought, wherever thought could feed)
          I did not rank with those (too dull or nice,               290
          For to my judgment such they then appeared,
          Or too aspiring, thankless at the best)
          Who, in this frame of human life, perceive
          An object whereunto their souls are tied
          In discontented wedlock; nor did e'er,
          From me, those dark impervious shades, that hang
          Upon the region whither we are bound,
          Exclude a power to enjoy the vital beams
          Of present sunshine.--Deities that float
          On wings, angelic Spirits! I could muse                    300
          O'er what from eldest time we have been told
          Of your bright forms and glorious faculties,
          And with the imagination rest content,
          Not wishing more; repining not to tread
          The little sinuous path of earthly care,
          By flowers embellished, and by springs refreshed.
          --'Blow winds of autumn!--let your chilling breath
          'Take the live herbage from the mead, and strip
          'The shady forest of its green attire,--
          'And let the bursting clouds to fury rouse                 310
          'The gentle brooks!--Your desolating sway,
          'Sheds,' I exclaimed, 'no sadness upon me,
          'And no disorder in your rage I find.
          'What dignity, what beauty, in this change
          'From mild to angry, and from sad to gay,
          'Alternate and revolving! How benign,
          'How rich in animation and delight,
          'How bountiful these elements--compared
          'With aught, as more desirable and fair,
          'Devised by fancy for the golden age;                      320
          'Or the perpetual warbling that prevails
          'In Arcady, beneath unaltered skies,
          'Through the long year in constant quiet bound,
          'Night hushed as night, and day serene as day!'
          --But why this tedious record?--Age, we know
          Is garrulous; and solitude is apt
          To anticipate the privilege of Age,
          From far ye come; and surely with a hope
          Of better entertainment:--let us hence!"

            Loth to forsake the spot, and still more loth            330
          To be diverted from our present theme,
          I said, "My thoughts, agreeing, Sir, with yours,
          Would push this censure farther;--for, if smiles
          Of scornful pity be the just reward
          Of Poesy thus courteously employed
          In framing models to improve the scheme
          Of Man's existence, and recast the world,
          Why should not grave Philosophy be styled,
          Herself, a dreamer of a kindred stock,
          A dreamer yet more spiritless and dull?                    340
          Yes, shall the fine immunities she boasts
          Establish sounder titles of esteem
          For her, who (all too timid and reserved
          For onset, for resistance too inert,
          Too weak for suffering, and for hope too tame)
          Placed, among flowery gardens curtained round
          With world-excluding groves, the brotherhood
          Of soft Epicureans, taught--if they
          The ends of being would secure, and win
          The crown of wisdom--to yield up their souls               350
          To a voluptuous unconcern, preferring
          Tranquillity to all things. Or is she,"
          I cried, "more worthy of regard, the Power,
          Who, for the sake of sterner quiet, closed
          The Stoic's heart against the vain approach
          Of admiration, and all sense of joy?"

            His countenance gave notice that my zeal
          Accorded little with his present mind;
          I ceased, and he resumed.--"Ah! gentle Sir,
          Slight, if you will, the 'means'; but spare to slight      360
          The 'end' of those, who did, by system, rank,
          As the prime object of a wise man's aim,
          Security from shock of accident,
          Release from fear; and cherished peaceful days
          For their own sakes, as mortal life's chief good,
          And only reasonable felicity.
          What motive drew, what impulse, I would ask,
          Through a long course of later ages, drove,
          The hermit to his cell in forest wide;
          Or what detained him, till his closing eyes                370
          Took their last farewell of the sun and stars,
          Fast anchored in the desert?--Not alone
          Dread of the persecuting sword, remorse,
          Wrongs unredressed, or insults unavenged
          And unavengeable, defeated pride,
          Prosperity subverted, maddening want,
          Friendship betrayed, affection unreturned,
          Love with despair, or grief in agony;--
          Not always from intolerable pangs
          He fled; but, compassed round by pleasure, sighed          380
          For independent happiness; craving peace,
          The central feeling of all happiness,
          Not as a refuge from distress or pain,
          A breathing-time, vacation, or a truce,
          But for its absolute self; a life of peace,
          Stability without regret or fear;
          That hath been, is, and shall be evermore!--
          Such the reward he sought; and wore out life,
          There, where on few external things his heart
          Was set, and those his own; or, if not his,                390
          Subsisting under nature's stedfast law.

            What other yearning was the master tie
          Of the monastic brotherhood, upon rock
          Aerial, or in green secluded vale,
          One after one, collected from afar,
          An undissolving fellowship?--What but this,
          The universal instinct of repose,
          The longing for confirmed tranquillity,
          Inward and outward; humble, yet sublime:
          The life where hope and memory are as one;                 400
          Where earth is quiet and her face unchanged
          Save by the simplest toil of human hands
          Or seasons' difference; the immortal Soul
          Consistent in self-rule; and heaven revealed
          To meditation in that quietness!--
          Such was their scheme: and though the wished-for end
          By multitudes was missed, perhaps attained
          By none, they for the attempt, and pains employed,
          Do, in my present censure, stand redeemed
          From the unqualified disdain, that once                    410
          Would have been cast upon them by my voice
          Delivering her decisions from the seat
          Of forward youth--that scruples not to solve
          Doubts, and determine questions, by the rules
          Of inexperienced judgment, ever prone
          To overweening faith; and is inflamed,
          By courage, to demand from real life
          The test of act and suffering, to provoke
          Hostility--how dreadful when it comes,
          Whether affliction be the foe, or guilt!                   420

            A child of earth, I rested, in that stage
          Of my past course to which these thoughts advert,
          Upon earth's native energies; forgetting
          That mine was a condition which required
          Nor energy, nor fortitude--a calm
          Without vicissitude; which, if the like
          Had been presented to my view elsewhere,
          I might have even been tempted to despise.
          But no--for the serene was also bright;
          Enlivened happiness with joy o'erflowing,                  430
          With joy, and--oh! that memory should survive
          To speak the word--with rapture! Nature's boon,
          Life's genuine inspiration, happiness
          Above what rules can teach, or fancy feign;
          Abused, as all possessions 'are' abused
          That are not prized according to their worth.
          And yet, what worth? what good is given to men,
          More solid than the gilded clouds of heaven?
          What joy more lasting than a vernal flower?--
          None! 'tis the general plaint of human kind                440
          In solitude: and mutually addressed
          From each to all, for wisdom's sake:--This truth
          The priest announces from his holy seat:
          And, crowned with garlands in the summer grove,
          The poet fits it to his pensive lyre.
          Yet, ere that final resting-place be gained,
          Sharp contradictions may arise, by doom
          Of this same life, compelling us to grieve
          That the prosperities of love and joy
          Should be permitted, oft-times, to endure                  450
          So long, and be at once cast down for ever.
          Oh! tremble, ye, to whom hath been assigned
          A course of days composing happy months,
          And they as happy years; the present still
          So like the past, and both so firm a pledge
          Of a congenial future, that the wheels
          Of pleasure move without the aid of hope:
          For Mutability is Nature's bane;
          And slighted Hope 'will' be avenged; and, when
          Ye need her favours, ye shall find her not;                460
          But in her stead--fear--doubt--and agony!"

            This was the bitter language of the heart:
          But, while he spake, look, gesture, tone of voice,
          Though discomposed and vehement, were such
          As skill and graceful nature might suggest
          To a proficient of the tragic scene
          Standing before the multitude, beset
          With dark events. Desirous to divert
          Or stem the current of the speaker's thoughts,
          We signified a wish to leave that place                    470
          Of stillness and close privacy, a nook
          That seemed for self-examination made;
          Or, for confession, in the sinner's need,
          Hidden from all men's view. To our attempt
          He yielded not; but, pointing to a slope
          Of mossy turf defended from the sun,
          And on that couch inviting us to rest,
          Full on that tender-hearted Man he turned
          A serious eye, and his speech thus renewed.

            "You never saw, your eyes did never look                 480
          On the bright form of Her whom once I loved:--
          Her silver voice was heard upon the earth,
          A sound unknown to you; else, honoured Friend!
          Your heart had borne a pitiable share
          Of what I suffered, when I wept that loss,
          And suffer now, not seldom, from the thought
          That I remember, and can weep no more.--
          Stripped as I am of all the golden fruit
          Of self-esteem; and by the cutting blasts
          Of self-reproach familiarly assailed;                      490
          Yet would I not be of such wintry bareness
          But that some leaf of your regard should hang
          Upon my naked branches:--lively thoughts
          Give birth, full often, to unguarded words;
          I grieve that, in your presence, from my tongue
          Too much of frailty hath already dropped;
          But that too much demands still more.
                                                 You know,
          Revered Compatriot--and to you, kind Sir,
          (Not to be deemed a stranger, as you come
          Following the guidance of these welcome feet               500
          To our secluded vale) it may be told--
          That my demerits did not sue in vain
          To One on whose mild radiance many gazed
          With hope, and all with pleasure. This fair Bride--
          In the devotedness of youthful love,
          Preferring me to parents, and the choir
          Of gay companions, to the natal roof,
          And all known places and familiar sights
          (Resigned with sadness gently weighing down
          Her trembling expectations, but no more                    510
          Than did to her due honour, and to me
          Yielded, that day, a confidence sublime
          In what I had to build upon)--this Bride,
          Young, modest, meek, and beautiful, I led
          To a low cottage in a sunny bay,
          Where the salt sea innocuously breaks,
          And the sea breeze as innocently breathes,
          On Devon's leafy shores;--a sheltered hold,
          In a soft clime encouraging the soil
          To a luxuriant bounty!--As our steps                       520
          Approach the embowered abode--our chosen seat--
          See, rooted in the earth, her kindly bed,
          The unendangered myrtle, decked with flowers,
          Before the threshold stands to welcome us!
          While, in the flowering myrtle's neighbourhood,
          Not overlooked but courting no regard,
          Those native plants, the holly and the yew,
          Gave modest intimation to the mind
          How willingly their aid they would unite
          With the green myrtle, to endear the hours                 530
          Of winter, and protect that pleasant place.
          --Wild were the walks upon those lonely Downs,
          Track leading into track; how marked, how worn
          Into bright verdure, between fern and gorse
          Winding away its never-ending line
          On their smooth surface, evidence was none;
          But, there, lay open to our daily haunt,
          A range of unappropriated earth,
          Where youth's ambitious feet might move at large;
          Whence, unmolested wanderers, we beheld                    540
          The shining giver of the day diffuse
          His brightness o'er a tract of sea and land
          Gay as our spirits, free as our desires;
          As our enjoyments, boundless.--From those heights
          We dropped, at pleasure, into sylvan combs;
          Where arbours of impenetrable shade,
          And mossy seats, detained us side by side,
          With hearts at ease, and knowledge in our hearts
          'That all the grove and all the day was ours.'

            O happy time! still happier was at hand;                 550
          For Nature called my Partner to resign
          Her share in the pure freedom of that life,
          Enjoyed by us in common.--To my hope,
          To my heart's wish, my tender Mate became
          The thankful captive of maternal bonds;
          And those wild paths were left to me alone.
          There could I meditate on follies past;
          And, like a weary voyager escaped
          From risk and hardship, inwardly retrace
          A course of vain delights and thoughtless guilt,           560
          And self-indulgence--without shame pursued.
          There, undisturbed, could think of and could thank
          Her whose submissive spirit was to me
          Rule and restraint--my guardian--shall I say
          That earthly Providence, whose guiding love
          Within a port of rest had lodged me safe;
          Safe from temptation, and from danger far?
          Strains followed of acknowledgment addressed
          To an authority enthroned above
          The reach of sight; from whom, as from their source        570
          Proceed all visible ministers of good
          That walk the earth--Father of heaven and earth,
          Father, and king, and judge, adored and feared!
          These acts of mind, and memory, and heart,
          And spirit--interrupted and relieved
          By observations transient as the glance
          Of flying sunbeams, or to the outward form
          Cleaving with power inherent and intense,
          As the mute insect fixed upon the plant
          On whose soft leaves it hangs, and from whose cup          580
          It draws its nourishment imperceptibly--
          Endeared my wanderings; and the mother's kiss
          And infant's smile awaited my return.

            In privacy we dwelt, a wedded pair,
          Companions daily, often all day long;
          Not placed by fortune within easy reach
          Of various intercourse, nor wishing aught
          Beyond the allowance of our own fire-side,
          The twain within our happy cottage born,
          Inmates, and heirs of our united love;                     590
          Graced mutually by difference of sex,
          And with no wider interval of time
          Between their several births than served for one
          To establish something of a leader's sway;
          Yet left them joined by sympathy in age;
          Equals in pleasure, fellows in pursuit.
          On these two pillars rested as in air
          Our solitude.
                         It soothes me to perceive,
          Your courtesy withholds not from my words
          Attentive audience. But, oh! gentle Friends,               600
          As times of quiet and unbroken peace,
          Though, for a nation, times of blessedness,
          Give back faint echoes from the historian's page;
          So, in the imperfect sounds of this discourse,
          Depressed I hear, how faithless is the voice
          Which those most blissful days reverberate.
          What special record can, or need, be given
          To rules and habits, whereby much was done,
          But all within the sphere of little things;
          Of humble, though, to us, important cares,                 610
          And precious interests? Smoothly did our life
          Advance, swerving not from the path prescribed;
          Her annual, her diurnal, round alike!
          Maintained with faithful care. And you divine
          The worst effects that our condition saw
          If you imagine changes slowly wrought,
          And in their progress unperceivable;
          Not wished for; sometimes noticed with a sigh,
          (Whate'er of good or lovely they might bring)
          Sighs of regret, for the familiar good                     620
          And loveliness endeared which they removed.

            Seven years of occupation undisturbed
          Established seemingly a right to hold
          That happiness; and use and habit gave,
          To what an alien spirit had acquired,
          A patrimonial sanctity. And thus,
          With thoughts and wishes bounded to this world,
          I lived and breathed; most grateful--if to enjoy
          Without repining or desire for more,
          For different lot, or change to higher sphere,             630
          (Only except some impulses of pride
          With no determined object, though upheld
          By theories with suitable support)--
          Most grateful, if in such wise to enjoy
          Be proof of gratitude for what we have;
          Else, I allow, most thankless.--But, at once,
          From some dark seat of fatal power was urged
          A claim that shattered all.--Our blooming girl,
          Caught in the gripe of death, with such brief time
          To struggle in as scarcely would allow                     640
          Her cheek to change its colour, was conveyed
          From us to inaccessible worlds, to regions
          Where height, or depth, admits not the approach
          Of living man, though longing to pursue.
          --With even as brief a warning--and how soon,
          With what short interval of time between,
          I tremble yet to think of--our last prop,
          Our happy life's only remaining stay--
          The brother followed; and was seen no more!

            Calm as a frozen lake when ruthless winds                650
          Blow fiercely, agitating earth and sky,
          The Mother now remained; as if in her,
          Who, to the lowest region of the soul,
          Had been erewhile unsettled and disturbed,
          This second visitation had no power
          To shake; but only to bind up and seal;
          And to establish thankfulness of heart
          In Heaven's determinations, ever just.
          The eminence whereon her spirit stood,
          Mine was unable to attain. Immense                         660
          The space that severed us! But, as the sight
          Communicates with heaven's ethereal orbs
          Incalculably distant; so, I felt
          That consolation may descend from far
          (And that is intercourse, and union, too,)
          While, overcome with speechless gratitude,
          And, with a holier love inspired, I looked
          On her--at once superior to my woes
          And partner of my loss.--O heavy change,
          Dimness o'er this clear luminary crept                     670
          Insensibly;--the immortal and divine
          Yielded to mortal reflux; her pure glory,
          As from the pinnacle of worldly state
          Wretched ambition drops astounded, fell
          Into a gulf obscure of silent grief,
          And keen heart-anguish--of itself ashamed,
          Yet obstinately cherishing itself:
          And, so consumed, she melted from my arms;
          And left me, on this earth, disconsolate!

            What followed cannot be reviewed in thought;             680
          Much less, retraced in words. If she, of life
          Blameless, so intimate with love and joy
          And all the tender motions of the soul,
          Had been supplanted, could I hope to stand--
          Infirm, dependent, and now destitute?
          I called on dreams and visions, to disclose
          That which is veiled from waking thought; conjured
          Eternity, as men constrain a ghost
          To appear and answer; to the grave I spake
          Imploringly;--looked up, and asked the Heavens             690
          If Angels traversed their cerulean floors,
          If fixed or wandering star could tidings yield
          Of the departed spirit--what abode
          It occupies--what consciousness retains
          Of former loves and interests. Then my soul
          Turned inward,--to examine of what stuff
          Time's fetters are composed; and life was put
          To inquisition, long and profitless!
          By pain of heart--now checked--and now impelled--
          The intellectual power, through words and things,          700
          Went sounding on, a dim and perilous way!
          And from those transports, and these toils abstruse,
          Some trace am I enabled to retain
          Of time, else lost;--existing unto me
          Only by records in myself not found.

            From that abstraction I was roused,--and how?
          Even as a thoughtful shepherd by a flash
          Of lightning startled in a gloomy cave
          Of these wild hills. For, lo! the dread Bastile,
          With all the chambers in its horrid towers,                710
          Fell to the ground:--by violence overthrown
          Of indignation; and with shouts that drowned
          The crash it made in falling! From the wreck
          A golden palace rose, or seemed to rise,
          The appointed seat of equitable law
          And mild paternal sway. The potent shock
          I felt: the transformation I perceived,
          As marvellously seized as in that moment
          When, from the blind mist issuing, I beheld
          Glory--beyond all glory ever seen,                         720
          Confusion infinite of heaven and earth,
          Dazzling the soul. Meanwhile, prophetic harps
          In every grove were ringing, 'War shall cease;
          'Did ye not hear that conquest is abjured?
          'Bring garlands, bring forth choicest flowers, to deck
          'The tree of Liberty.'--My heart rebounded;
          My melancholy voice the chorus joined;
          --'Be joyful all ye nations; in all lands,
          'Ye that are capable of joy be glad!
          'Henceforth, whate'er is wanting to yourselves             730
          'In others ye shall promptly find;--and all,
          'Enriched by mutual and reflected wealth,
          'Shall with one heart honour their common kind.'

            Thus was I reconverted to the world;
          Society became my glittering bride,
          And airy hopes my children.--From the depths
          Of natural passion, seemingly escaped,
          My soul diffused herself in wide embrace
          Of institutions, and the forms of things;
          As they exist, in mutable array,                           740
          Upon life's surface. What, though in my veins
          There flowed no Gallic blood, nor had I breathed
          The air of France, not less than Gallic zeal
          Kindled and burnt among the sapless twigs
          Of my exhausted heart. If busy men
          In sober conclave met, to weave a web
          Of amity, whose living threads should stretch
          Beyond the seas, and to the farthest pole,
          There did I sit, assisting. If, with noise
          And acclamation, crowds in open air                        750
          Expressed the tumult of their minds, my voice
          There mingled, heard or not. The powers of song
          I left not uninvoked; and, in still groves,
          Where mild enthusiasts tuned a pensive lay
          Of thanks and expectation, in accord
          With their belief, I sang Saturnian rule
          Returned,--a progeny of golden years
          Permitted to descend, and bless mankind.
          --With promises the Hebrew Scriptures teem:
          I felt their invitation; and resumed                       760
          A long-suspended office in the House
          Of public worship, where, the glowing phrase
          Of ancient inspiration serving me,
          I promised also,--with undaunted trust
          Foretold, and added prayer to prophecy;
          The admiration winning of the crowd;
          The help desiring of the pure devout.

            Scorn and contempt forbid me to proceed!
          But History, time's slavish scribe, will tell
          How rapidly the zealots of the cause                       770
          Disbanded--or in hostile ranks appeared;
          Some, tired of honest service; these, outdone,
          Disgusted therefore, or appalled, by aims
          Of fiercer zealots--so confusion reigned,
          And the more faithful were compelled to exclaim,
          As Brutus did to Virtue, 'Liberty,
          'I worshipped thee, and find thee but a Shade!'

            Such recantation had for me no charm,
          Nor would I bend to it; who should have grieved
          At aught, however fair, that bore the mien                 780
          Of a conclusion, or catastrophe.
          Why then conceal, that, when the simply good
          In timid selfishness withdrew, I sought
          Other support, not scrupulous whence it came;
          And, by what compromise it stood, not nice?
          Enough if notions seemed to be high-pitched,
          And qualities determined.--Among men
          So charactered did I maintain a strife
          Hopeless, and still more hopeless every hour;
          But, in the process, I began to feel                       790
          That, if the emancipation of the world
          Were missed, I should at least secure my own,
          And be in part compensated. For rights,
          Widely--inveterately usurped upon,
          I spake with vehemence; and promptly seized
          All that Abstraction furnished for my needs
          Or purposes, nor scrupled to proclaim,
          And propagate, by liberty of life,
          Those new persuasions. Not that I rejoiced,
          Or even found pleasure, in such vagrant course,            800
          For its own sake; but farthest from the walk
          Which I had trod in happiness and peace,
          Was most inviting to a troubled mind;
          That, in a struggling and distempered world,
          Saw a seductive image of herself.
          Yet, mark the contradictions of which Man
          Is still the sport! Here Nature was my guide,
          The Nature of the dissolute; but thee,
          O fostering Nature! I rejected--smiled
          At others' tears in pity; and in scorn                     810
          At those, which thy soft influence sometimes drew
          From my unguarded heart.--The tranquil shores
          Of Britain circumscribed me; else, perhaps
          I might have been entangled among deeds,
          Which, now, as infamous, I should abhor--
          Despise, as senseless: for my spirit relished
          Strangely the exasperation of that Land,
          Which turned an angry beak against the down
          Of her own breast; confounded into hope
          Of disencumbering thus her fretful wings.                  820

            But all was quieted by iron bonds
          Of military sway. The shifting aims,
          The moral interests, the creative might,
          The varied functions and high attributes
          Of civil action, yielded to a power
          Formal, and odious, and contemptible.
          --In Britain, ruled a panic dread of change;
          The weak were praised, rewarded, and advanced;
          And, from the impulse of a just disdain,
          Once more did I retire into myself.                        830
          There feeling no contentment, I resolved
          To fly, for safeguard, to some foreign shore,
          Remote from Europe; from her blasted hopes;
          Her fields of carnage, and polluted air.

            Fresh blew the wind, when o'er the Atlantic Main
          The ship went gliding with her thoughtless crew;
          And who among them but an Exile, freed
          From discontent, indifferent, pleased to sit
          Among the busily-employed, not more
          With obligation charged, with service taxed,               840
          Than the loose pendant--to the idle wind
          Upon the tall mast streaming. But, ye Powers
          Of soul and sense mysteriously allied,
          Oh, never let the Wretched, if a choice
          Be left him, trust the freight of his distress
          To a long voyage on the silent deep!
          For, like a plague, will memory break out;
          And, in the blank and solitude of things,
          Upon his spirit, with a fever's strength,
          Will conscience prey.--Feebly must they have felt          850
          Who, in old time, attired with snakes and whips
          The vengeful Furies. 'Beautiful' regards
          Were turned on me--the face of her I loved;
          The Wife and Mother pitifully fixing
          Tender reproaches, insupportable!
          Where now that boasted liberty? No welcome
          From unknown objects I received; and those,
          Known and familiar, which the vaulted sky
          Did, in the placid clearness of the night,
          Disclose, had accusations to prefer                        860
          Against my peace. Within the cabin stood
          That volume--as a compass for the soul--
          Revered among the nations. I implored
          Its guidance; but the infallible support
          Of faith was wanting. Tell me, why refused
          To One by storms annoyed and adverse winds;
          Perplexed with currents; of his weakness sick;
          Of vain endeavours tired; and by his own,
          And by his nature's, ignorance, dismayed!

            Long-wished-for sight, the Western World appeared;       870
          And, when the ship was moored, I leaped ashore
          Indignantly--resolved to be a man,
          Who, having o'er the past no power, would live
          No longer in subjection to the past,
          With abject mind--from a tyrannic lord
          Inviting penance, fruitlessly endured:
          So, like a fugitive, whose feet have cleared
          Some boundary, which his followers may not cross
          In prosecution of their deadly chase,
          Respiring I looked round.--How bright the sun,             880
          The breeze how soft! Can anything produced
          In the old World compare, thought I, for power
          And majesty with this gigantic stream,
          Sprung from the desert? And behold a city
          Fresh, youthful, and aspiring! What are these
          To me, or I to them? As much at least
          As he desires that they should be, whom winds
          And waves have wafted to this distant shore,
          In the condition of a damaged seed,
          Whose fibres cannot, if they would, take root.             890
          Here may I roam at large;--my business is,
          Roaming at large, to observe, and not to feel,
          And, therefore, not to act--convinced that all
          Which bears the name of action, howsoe'er
          Beginning, ends in servitude--still painful,
          And mostly profitless. And, sooth to say,
          On nearer view, a motley spectacle
          Appeared, of high pretensions,--unreproved
          But by the obstreperous voice of higher still;
          Big passions strutting on a petty stage;                   900
          Which a detached spectator may regard
          Not unamused.--But ridicule demands
          Quick change of objects; and, to laugh alone,
          At a composing distance from the haunts
          Of strife and folly, though it be a treat
          As choice as musing Leisure can bestow;
          Yet, in the very centre of the crowd,
          To keep the secret of a poignant scorn,
          Howe'er to airy Demons suitable,
          Of all unsocial courses, is least fit                      910
          For the gross spirit of mankind,--the one
          That soonest fails to please, and quickliest turns
          Into vexation.
                          Let us, then, I said,
          Leave this unknit Republic to the scourge
          Of her own passions; and to regions haste,
          Whose shades have never felt the encroaching axe,
          Or soil endured a transfer in the mart
          Of dire rapacity. There, Man abides,
          Primeval Nature's child. A creature weak
          In combination, (wherefore else driven back                920
          So far, and of his old inheritance
          So easily deprived?) but, for that cause,
          More dignified, and stronger in himself;
          Whether to act, judge, suffer, or enjoy.
          True, the intelligence of social art
          Hath overpowered his forefathers, and soon
          Will sweep the remnant of his line away;
          But contemplations, worthier, nobler far
          Than her destructive energies, attend
          His independence, when along the side                      930
          Of Mississippi, or that northern stream
          That spreads into successive seas, he walks;
          Pleased to perceive his own unshackled life,
          And his innate capacities of soul,
          There imaged: or when, having gained the top
          Of some commanding eminence, which yet
          Intruder ne'er beheld, he thence surveys
          Regions of wood and wide savannah, vast
          Expanse of unappropriated earth,
          With mind that sheds a light on what he sees;              940
          Free as the sun, and lonely as the sun,
          Pouring above his head its radiance down
          Upon a living and rejoicing world!

            So, westward, tow'rd the unviolated woods
          I bent my way; and, roaming far and wide,
          Failed not to greet the merry Mocking-bird;
          And, while the melancholy Muccawiss
          (The sportive bird's companion in the grove)
          Repeated, o'er and o'er, his plaintive cry,
          I sympathised at leisure with the sound;                   950
          But that pure archetype of human greatness,
          I found him not. There, in his stead, appeared
          A creature, squalid, vengeful, and impure;
          Remorseless, and submissive to no law
          But superstitious fear, and abject sloth.

            Enough is told! Here am I--ye have heard
          What evidence I seek, and vainly seek;
          What from my fellow-beings I require,
          And either they have not to give, or I
          Lack virtue to receive; what I myself,                     960
          Too oft by wilful forfeiture, have lost
          Nor can regain. How languidly I look
          Upon this visible fabric of the world,
          May be divined--perhaps it hath been said:--
          But spare your pity, if there be in me
          Aught that deserves respect: for I exist,
          Within myself, not comfortless.--The tenor
          Which my life holds, he readily may conceive
          Whoe'er hath stood to watch a mountain brook
          In some still passage of its course, and seen,             970
          Within the depths of its capacious breast,
          Inverted trees, rocks, clouds, and azure sky;
          And, on its glassy surface, specks of foam,
          And conglobated bubbles undissolved,
          Numerous as stars; that, by their onward lapse,
          Betray to sight the motion of the stream,
          Else imperceptible. Meanwhile, is heard
          A softened roar, or murmur; and the sound
          Though soothing, and the little floating isles
          Though beautiful, are both by Nature charged               980
          With the same pensive office; and make known
          Through what perplexing labyrinths, abrupt
          Precipitations, and untoward straits,
          The earth-born wanderer hath passed; and quickly,
          That respite o'er, like traverses and toils
          Must he again encounter.--Such a stream
          Is human Life; and so the Spirit fares
          In the best quiet to her course allowed;
          And such is mine,--save only for a hope
          That my particular current soon will reach                 990
          The unfathomable gulf, where all is still!"


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