L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

. (page 5 of 20)
Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 5 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


JAMES HOGG

LXXXIII

A BOY'S SONG

Where the pools are bright and deep,
Where the grey trout lies asleep,
Up the river and over the lea,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Where the blackbird sings the latest,
Where the hawthorn blooms the sweetest,
Where the nestlings chirp and flee,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Where the mowers mow the cleanest,
Where the hay lies thick and greenest ;
There to track the homeward bee,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Where the hazel bank is steepest,
Where the shadow falls the deepest,
Where the clustering nuts fall free,
That's the way for Billy and me.

Why the boys should drive away
Little sweet maidens from the play,
Or love to banter and fight so well,
That's the thing I never could tell.

But this I know, I love to play,
Through the meadow, among the hay ;
Up the water and over the lea,
That's the way for Billy and me.



72 ENGLISH VERSE

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH



CHARACTER OF A CHILD THREE
YEARS OLD

Loving she is, and tractable, though wild ;

And Innocence hath privilege in her

To dignify arch looks and laughing eyes ;

And feats of cunning ; and the pretty round

Of trespasses, affected to provoke

Mock-chastisement and partnership in play.

And, as a faggot sparkles on the hearth,

Not less if unattended and alone

Than when both young and old sit gathered

round

And take delight in its activity ;
Even so this happy Creature of herself
Is all-sufficient, solitude to her
Is blithe society, -who fills the air
With gladness and involuntary songs.
Light are her sallies as the tripping fawn's
Forth-startled from the fern where she lay

couched ;

Unthought-of, unexpected, as the stir
Of the soft breeze ruffling the meadow-flowers,
Or from before it chasing wantonly
The many-coloured images imprest
Upon the bosom of a placid lake.



LUCY GRAY
or, Solitude

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray :
And, when I crossed the wild,
I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary child.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 73

No mate, no comrade Lucy knew ;
She dwelt on a wide moor,
The sweetest thing that ever grew
Beside a human door !

You yet may spy the fawn at play,
The hare upon the green ;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen.

' To-night will be a stormy night-
You to the town must go ;
And take a lantern, Child, to light
Your mother through the snow.'

' That, Father ! will I gladly do :
'Tis scarcely afternoon
The minster-clock has just struck two,
And yonder is the moon ! '

At this the Father raised his hook,
And snapped a faggot-band ;
He plied his work ; and Lucy took
The lantern in her hand.

Not blither is the mountain roe :
With many a wanton stroke
Her feet disperse the powdery snow,
That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time :
She wandered up and down ;
And many a hill did Lucy climb :
But never reached the town.

The wretched parents all that night
Went shouting far and wide ;
But there was neither sound nor sight
To serve them for a guide.

At day-break on a hill they stood
That overlooked the moor ;
And thence they saw the bridge of wood,
A furlong from their door.



74 ENGLISH VERSE

They wept and, turning homeward, cried,
' In heaven we all shall meet ; '
When in the snow the mother spied
The print of Lucy's feet.

Then downwards from the steep hill's edge
They tracked the footmarks small ;
And through the broken hawthorn hedge,
And by the long stone-wall ;

And then an open field they crossed :
The marks were still the same ;
They tracked them on, nor ever lost ;
And to the bridge they came.

They followed from the snowy bank
Those footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank ;
And further there were none !

Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living child ;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome wild.

O'er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind ;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.



LXXXVI

WE ARE SEVEN
A simple Child,



That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb.
What should it know of death ?

I met a little cottage Girl :
She was eight years old, she said ;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 75

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad :
Her eyes were fair, and very fair ;
Her beauty made me glad.

' Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be ? '
' How many ? Seven in all,' she said
And wondering looked at me.

' And where are they ? I pray you tell.'
She answered, ' Seven are we ;
And two of us at Conway dwell.
And two are gone to sea.

' Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother ;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.'

' You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven ! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.'

Then did the little Maid reply,
' Seven boys and girls are we ;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.'

' You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive ;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.'

' Their graves are green they may be seen,
The little Maid replied,

' Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side.

' My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem ;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.



7 6 ENGLISH VERSE

' And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light an'd fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

' The first that died was sister Jane ;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain ;
And then she went away.

' So in the church-yard she was laid ;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

' And when the ground was white with snow,

And I could run and slide,

My brother John was forced to go,

And he lies by her side.'

' How many are you, then,' said I,
' If they two are in heaven ? '
Quick was the little Maid's reply,
' O Master ! we are seven.'

' But they are dead ; those two are dead !
Their spirits are in heaven ! '
'Twas throwing words away ; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, ' Nay, we are seven ! '



TO H(ARTLEY) C(OLERIDGE)
Six Years Old

O thou ! whose fancies from afar are brought ;

Who of thy words dost make a mock apparel,

And fittest to unutterable thought

The breeze-like motion and the self-born carol

Thou faery voyager ! that dost float

In such clear water, that thy boat



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 77

May rather seem

To brood on air than on an earthly stream ;

Suspended in a stream as clear as sky,

Where earth and heaven do make one imagery

blessed vision ! happy child !
Thou art so exquisitely wild,

1 think of thee with many fears

For what may be thy lot in future years.

I thought of times when Pain might be thy

guest,

Lord of thy house and hospitality ;
And Grief, uneasy lover ! never rest
But when she sate within the touch of thee.
O too industrious folly !
O vain and causeless melancholy !
Nature will either end thee quite ;
Or, lengthening out thy season of delight,
Preserve for thee, by individual right,
A young lamb's heart among the full-grown flocks.
What hast thou to do with sorrow,
Or the injuries of to-morrow ?
Thou art a dew-drop, which the morn brings

forth,

111 fitted to sustain unkindly shocks,
Or to be trailed along the soiling earth ;
A gem that glitters while it lives,
And no forewarning gives ;
But, at the touch of wrong, without a strife
Slips in a moment out of life.



LXXXVIII
THE CHILD AND THE SHELL

I have seen

A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell ;
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely ; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy ; for from within were heard



78 ENGLISH VERSE

Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with its native sea.
Even such a shell the universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith.



LXXXIX
THE KITTEN AND FALLING LEAVES

That way look, my Infant, lo !

What a pretty baby-show !

See the Kitten on the wall,

Sporting with the leaves that fall,

Withered leaves one two and three

From the lofty elder-tree !

Through the calm and frosty air

Of this morning bright and fair,

Eddying round and round they sink

Softly, slowly : one might think,

From the motions that are made,

Every little leaf conveyed

Sylph or Faery hither tending,

To this lower world descending,

Each invisible and mute,

In his wavering parachute. . . .

Such a light of gladness breaks,

Pretty Kitten ! from thy freaks,

Spreads with such a living grace

O'er my little Dora's face ;

Yes, the sight so stirs and charms

Thee, Baby, laughing in my arms,

That almost I could repine

That your transports are not mine,

That I do not wholly fare

Even as ye do, thoughtless pair !

And I will have my careless season

Spite of melancholy reason,

Will walk through life in such a way

That, when time brings on decay,

Now and then I may possess



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 79

Hours of perfect gladsomeness.

Pleased by any random toy ;

By a kitten's busy joy,

Or an infant's laughing eye

Sharing in the ecstasy ;

I would fare like that or this,

Find my wisdom in my bliss ;

Keep the sprightly soul awake,

And have faculties to take,

Even from things by sorrow wrought,

Matter for a jocund thought,

Spite of care, and spite of grief,

To gambol with Life's falling leaf.



xc
THERE WAS A BOY

There was a Boy : ye knew him well, ye cliffs

And islands of Winander ! many a time

At evening, when the earliest stars began

To move along the edges of the hills,

Rising or setting, would he stand alone

Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake ;

And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands

Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth

Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,

Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,

That they might answer him. And they would

shout

Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call with quivering peals,
And long halloos and screams, and echoes loud,
Redoubled and redoubled, concourse wild
Of jocund din ! And, when there came a pause
Of silence such as baffled his best skill :
Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain torrents ; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind,



8o ENGLISH VERSE

With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,

Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received

Into the bosom of the steady lake.

This boy was taken from his mates, and died
In childhood, ere he was full twelve years old.
Pie-eminent in beauty is the vale
Where he was born and bred : the church-yard

hangs

Upon a slope above the village school ;
And, through that church-yard when my way

has led

On summer evenings, I believe, that there
A long half-hour together I have stood
Mute looking at the grave in which he lies !



xci
THE BOY IN THE MILL

The boy, where'er he turns,
Is still a prisoner ; when the wind is up
Among the clouds, and roars through the ancient

woods ;

Or when the sun is shining in the east,
Quiet and calm. Behold him -in the school ;
Of his attainments ? no ; but with the air
Fanning his temples under heaven's blue arch.
His raiment, whitened o'er with cotton-flakes
Or locks of wool, announces whence he comes.
Creeping his gait and cowering, his lip pale,
His respiration quick and audible ;
And scarcely could you fancy that a gleam
Could break from out those languid eyes, or a

blush

Mantle upon his cheek. Is this the form,
Is that the countenance, and such the port,
Of no mean Being ? One who should be clothed
With dignity befitting his proud hope ;
Who, in his very childhood, should appear
Sublime from present purity and joy !



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 8l

The limbs increase ; but liberty of mind

Is gone for ever ; and this organic frame,

So joyful in its motions, is become

Dull, to the joy of her own motions dead ;

And even the touch, so exquisitely poured

Through the whole body, with a languid will

Performs its functions ; rarely competent

To impress a vivid feeling on the mind

Of what there is delightful in the breeze.

The gentle visitations of the sun,

Or lapse of liquid element by hand,

Or foot, or lip, in summer's warmth perceived.

Can hope look forward to a manhood raised

On such foundations ?



THE EDUCATION OF NATURE

Three years she grew in sun and shower,

Then Nature said, ' A lovelier flower

On earth was never sown ;

This Child I to myself will take ;

She shall be mine, and I will make

A Lady of my own.

' Myself will to my darling be

Both law and impulse : and with me

The Girl, in rock and plain,

In earth and heaven, in glade and bower.

Shall feel an overseeing power

To kindle or restrain.

' She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn,
Or up the mountain springs ;
And hers shall be the breathing balm,
And hers the silence and the calm
Of mute insensate things.

' The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her ; for her the willow bend ;



82 ENGLISH VERSE

Nor shall she fail to see

Even in the motions of the Storm

Grace that shall mould the Maiden's form

By silent sympathy.

' The stars of midnight shall be dear

To her ; and she shall lean her ear

In many a secret place

Where rivulets dance their wayward round,

And beauty born of murmuring sound

Shall pass into her face.

' And vital feelings of delight

Shall rear her form to stately height,

Her virgin bosom swell ;

Such thoughts to Lucy I will give

While she and I together live

Here in this happy dell.'

Thus Nature spake The work was done

How soon my Lucy's race was run !

She died, and left to me

This heath, this calm, and quiet scene ;

The memory of what has been,

And never more will be.



IT IS A BEAUTEOUS EVENING,
CALM AND FREE

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,

The holy time is quiet as a Nun

Breathless with adoration ; the broad sun

Is sinking down in its tranquillity ;

The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea :

Listen ! the mighty Being is awake,

And doth with his eternal motion make

A sound like thunder everlastingly.

Dear Child ! dear Girl ! that walkest with me

here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 83

Thy nature is not therefore less divine :
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year ;
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.



C A TECH I SING

From Little down to Least, in due degree,
Around the Pastor, each in new-wrought vest,
Each with a vernal posy at his breast,
We stood, a trembling, earnest Company !
With low soft murmur, like a distant bee,
Some spake, by thought-perplexing fears be-
trayed ;

And some a bold unerring answer made :
How fluttered then thy anxious heart for me,
Beloved Mother ! Thou whose happy hand
Had bound the flowers I wore, with faithful tie :
Sweet flowers ! at whose inaudible command
Her countenance, phantom-like, doth reappear :
O lost too early for the frequent tear,
And ill requited by this heartfelt sigh !



xcv

SURPRISED BY JOY IMPATIENT
,AS THE WIND

Surprised by joy impatient as the Wind

I turned to share the transport Oh ! with

whom

But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find ?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind
But how could I forget thee ? Through what

power,

Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind



84 ENGLISH VERSE

To my most grievous loss ? That thought's

return

Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more ;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.



THE TWO APRIL MORNINGS

We walked along, while bright and red
Uprose the morning sun ;
And Matthew stopped, he looked, and said,
' The will of God be done ! '

A village schoolmaster was he,
With hair of glittering grey ;
As blithe a man as you could see
On a spring holiday.

And on that morning, through the grass,
And by the steaming rills,
We travelled merrily, to pass
A day among the hills.

' Our work,' said I, ' was well begun,
Then, from thy breast what thought,
Beneath so beautiful a sun,
So sad a sigh has brought ? '

A second time did Matthew stop ;
And fixing still his eye
Upon the eastern mountain-top,
To me he made reply :

' Yon cloud with that long purple cleft
Brings fresh into my mind
A day like this which I have left
Full thirty years behind.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 85

' And just above yon slope of corn
Such colours, and no other,
Were in the sky, that April morn,
Of this the very brother.

' With rod and line I sued the sport

Which that sweet season gave,

And, to the church-yard come, stopped short

Beside my daughter's grave.

' Nine summers had she scarcely seen,
The pride of all the vale ;
And then she sang ; she would have been
A very nightingale.

' Six feet in earth my Emma lay ;
And yet I loved her more,
For so it seemed, than till that day
I e'er had loved before.

' And, turning from her grave, I met,
Beside the church-yard yew,
A blooming Girl, whose hair was wet
With points of morning dew.

' A basket on her head she bare ;
Her brow was smooth and white :
To see a child so very fair,
It was a pure delight !
' No fountain from its rocky cave
E'er tripped with foot so free ;
She seemed as happy as a wave
That dances on the sea.

' There came from me a sigh of pain
Which I could ill confine ;
I looked at her, and looked again :
And did not wish her mine ! '

Matthew is in his grave, yet now,
Methinks, I see him stand,
As at that moment, with a bough
Of wilding in his hand.



86 ENGLISH VERSE



From THE PRELUDE FAIR SEED-
TIME HAD MY SOUL '



. . . One, the fairest of all rivers, loved
To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song,
And, from his alder shades and rocky falls,
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
That flowed along my dreams. For this, didst

thou,

O Derwent ! winding among grassy holms
Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,
Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts
To more than infant softness, giving me
Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind
A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm
That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.



Oh, many a time have I, a five years' child,
In a small mill-race severed from his stream,
Made one long bathing of a summer's day ;
Basked in the sun, and plunged and basked again
Alternate, all a summer's day, or scoured
The sandy fields, leaping through flowery groves
Of yellow ragwort ; or, when rock and hill,
The woods, and distant Skiddaw's lofty height,
Were bronzed with deepest radiance, stood alone
Beneath the sky, as if I had been born
On Indian plains, and from my mother's hut
Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport
A naked savage, in the thunder shower.



Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
Fostered alike by beauty and by fear :
Much favoured in my birth-place, and no less
In that beloved Vale to which erelong



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 87

We were transplanted ; there were we let loose
For sports of wider range. Ere I had told
Ten birth-days, when among the mountain slopes
Frost, and the breath of frosty wind, had

snapped

The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy
With store of springes o'er my shoulder hung
To range the open heights where woodcocks run
Along the smooth green turf. Through half the

night,

Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
That anxious visitation ; moon and stars
Were shining o'er my head. I was alone,
And seemed to be a trouble to the peace
That dwelt among them. Sometimes it befell
In these night wanderings, that a strong desire
O'erpowered my better reason, and the bird
Which was the captive of another's toil
Became my prey ; and when the deed was done
I heard among the solitary hills
Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
Of undistinguishable motion, steps
Almost as silent as the turf they trod.

Nor less, when spring had warmed the cultured

Vale,

Moved we as plunderers where the mother-bird
Had in high places built her lodge ; though mean
Our object and inglorious, yet the end
Was not ignoble. Oh ! when I have hung
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry

wind

Blow through my ear ! the sky seemed not a sky
Of earth and with what motion moved the

clouds !



ENGLISH VERSE



IV

One summer evening (led by her ) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on ;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon's utmost boundary ; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace ; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan ;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree ;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,
And through the meadows homeward went, in

grave

And serious mood ; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being ; o'er my thoughts



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 89

There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields ;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.



And in the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and visible for many a mile
The cottage windows blazed through twilight

gloom,

I heeded not their summons : happy time
It was indeed for all of us for me
It was a time of rapture ! Clear and loud
The village clock tolled six, I wheeled about.
Proud and exulting like an untired horse
That cares not for his home. All shod with

steel.

We hissed along the polished ice in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures, the resounding horn,
The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle ; with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud ;
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron ; while far distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars
Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the reflex of a star
That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed
Upon the glassy plain ; and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side



go ENGLISH VERSE

Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning

still

The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
Stopped short ; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheeled by me even as if the earth had rolled
With visible motion her diurnal round !
Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched
Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 5 of 20)