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MEMORIALS OF A TOUR ON THE CONTINENT, 1820

XXVII. THE THREE COTTAGE GIRLS

                                   I

          HOW blest the Maid whose heart--yet free
          From Love's uneasy sovereignty--
          Beats with a fancy running high,
          Her simple cares to magnify;
          Whom Labour, never urged to toil,
          Hath cherished on a healthful soil;
          Who knows not pomp, who heeds not pelf;
          Whose heaviest sin it is to look
          Askance upon her pretty Self
          Reflected in some crystal brook;
          Whom grief hath spared--who sheds no tear
          But in sweet pity; and can hear
          Another's praise from envy clear.

                                   II

          Such (but O lavish Nature! why
          That dark unfathomable eye,
          Where lurks a Spirit that replies
          To stillest mood of softest skies,
          Yet hints at peace to be o'erthrown,
          Another's first, and then her own?)
          Such, haply, yon ITALIAN Maid,
          Our Lady's laggard Votaress,
          Halting beneath the chestnut shade
          To accomplish there her loveliness:
          Nice aid maternal fingers lend;
          A Sister serves with slacker hand;
          Then, glittering like a star, she joins the festal band.

                                   III

          How blest (if truth may entertain
          Coy fancy with a bolder strain)
          The HELVETIAN Girl--who daily braves,
          In her light skiff, the tossing waves,
          And quits the bosom of the deep
          Only to climb the rugged steep!
          --Say whence that modulated shout!
          From Wood-nymph of Diana's throng?
          Or does the greeting to a rout
          Of giddy Bacchanals belong?
          Jubilant outcry! rock and glade
          Resounded--but the voice obeyed
          The breath of an Helvetian Maid.

                                   IV

          Her beauty dazzles the thick wood;
          Her courage animates the flood;
          Her steps the elastic greensward meets
          Returning unreluctant sweets;
          The mountains (as ye heard) rejoice
          Aloud, saluted by her voice!
          Blithe Paragon of Alpine grace,
          Be as thou art--for through thy veins
          The blood of Heroes runs its race!
          And nobly wilt thou brook the chains
          That, for the virtuous, Life prepares;
          The fetters which the Matron wears;
          The patriot Mother's weight of anxious cares!

                                   V

          "Sweet HIGHLAND Girl! a very shower
          Of beauty was thy earthly dower,"
          When thou didst flit before mine eyes,
          Gay Vision under sullen skies,
          While Hope and Love around thee played,
          Near the rough falls of Inversneyd!
          Have they, who nursed the blossom, seen
          No breach of promise in the fruit?
          Was joy, in following joy, as keen
          As grief can be in grief's pursuit?
          When youth had flown did hope still bless
          Thy goings--or the cheerfulness
          Of innocence survive to mitigate distress?

                                   VI

          But from our course why turn--to tread
          A way with shadows overspread;
          Where what we gladliest would believe
          Is feared as what may most deceive?
          Bright Spirit, not with amaranth crowned
          But heath-bells from thy native ground,
          Time cannot thin thy flowing hair,
          Nor take one ray of light from Thee;
          For in my Fancy thou dost share
          The gift of immortality;
          And there shall bloom, with Thee allied,
          The Votaress by Lugano's side;
          And that intrepid Nymph, on Uri's steep descried!


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