What wonder strikes the curious, while he views
The black ant's city, by a rotten tree,
Or woodland bank! In ignorance we muse:
Pausing, annoyed, - we know not what we see,
Such government and thought there seem to be;
Some looking on, and urging some to toil,
Dragging their loads of bent-stalks slavishly:
And what's more wonderful, when big loads foil
One ant or two to carry, quickly then
A swarm flock round to help their fellow-men.
Surely they speak a language whisperingly,
Too fine for us to hear; and sure their ways
Prove they have kings and laws, and that they be
Deformed remnants of the Fairy-days.
_To Anna Three Years Old_
My Anna, summer laughs in mirth,
And we will of the party be,
And leave the crickets in the hearth
For green fields' merry minstrelsy.
I see thee now with little hand
Catch at each object passing bye,
The happiest thing in all the land
Except the bee and butterfly.
* * * * *
And limpid brook that leaps along,
Gilt with the summer's burnished gleam,
Will stop thy little tale or song
To gaze upon its crimping stream.
Thou'lt leave my hand with eager speed
The new discovered things to see -
The old pond with its water weed
And danger-daring willow tree,
Who leans an ancient invalid
Oer spots where deepest waters be.
In sudden shout and wild surprise
I hear thy simple wonderment,
As new things meet thy childish eyes
And wake some innocent intent;
As bird or bee or butterfly
Bounds through the crowd of merry leaves
And starts the rapture of thine eye
To run for what it neer achieves.
But thou art on the bed of pain,
So tells each poor forsaken toy.
Ah, could I see that happy hour
When these shall be thy heart's employ,
And see thee toddle oer the plain,
And stoop for flowers, and shout for joy.
_From "The Parish: A Satire"_
In politics and politicians' lies
The modern farmer waxes wondrous wise;
Opinionates with wisdom all compact,
And een could tell a nation how to act;
Throws light on darkness with excessive skill,
Knows who acts well and whose designs are ill,
Proves half the members nought but bribery's tools,
And calls the past a dull dark age of fools.
As wise as Solomon they read the news,
Not with their blind forefathers' simple views,
Who read of wars, and wished that wars would cease,
And blessed the King, and wished his country peace;
Who marked the weight of each fat sheep and ox,
The price of grain and rise and fall of stocks;
Who thought it learning how to buy and sell,
And him a wise man who could manage well.
No, not with such old-fashioned, idle views
Do these newsmongers traffic with the news.
They read of politics and not of grain,
And speechify and comment and explain,
And know so much of Parliament and state
You'd think they're members when you heard them prate;
And know so little of their farms the while
They can but urge a wiser man to smile.
A thing all consequence here takes the lead,
Reigning knight-errant oer this dirty breed -
A bailiff he, and who so great to brag
Of law and all its terrors as Bumtagg;
Fawning a puppy at his master's side
And frowning like a wolf on all beside;
Who fattens best where sorrow worst appears
And feeds on sad misfortune's bitterest tears?
Such is Bumtagg the bailiff to a hair,
The worshipper and demon of despair,
Who waits and hopes and wishes for success
At every nod and signal of distress,
Happy at heart, when storms begin to boil,
To seek the shipwreck and to share the spoil.
Brave is this Bumtagg, match him if you can;
For there's none like him living - save his man.
As every animal assists his kind
Just so are these in blood and business joined;
Yet both in different colours hide their art,
And each as suits his ends transacts his part.
One keeps the heart-bred villain full in sight,
The other cants and acts the hypocrite,
Smoothing the deed where law sharks set their gin
Like a coy dog to draw misfortune in.
But both will chuckle oer their prisoners' sighs
And are as blest as spiders over flies.
Such is Bumtagg, whose history I resign,
As other knaves wait room to stink and shine;
And, as the meanest knave a dog can brag,
Such is the lurcher that assists Bumtagg.
_Nobody Cometh to Woo_
On Martinmas eve the dogs did bark,
And I opened the window to see,
When every maiden went by with her spark
But neer a one came to me.
And O dear what will become of me?
And O dear what shall I do,
When nobody whispers to marry me -
Nobody cometh to woo?
None's born for such troubles as I be:
If the sun wakens first in the morn
"Lazy hussy" my parents both call me,
And I must abide by their scorn,
For nobody cometh to marry me,
Nobody cometh to woo,
So here in distress must I tarry me -
What can a poor maiden do?
If I sigh through the window when Jerry
The ploughman goes by, I grow bold;
And if I'm disposed to be merry,
My parents do nothing but scold;
And Jerry the clown, and no other,
Eer cometh to marry or woo;
They think me the moral of mother
And judge me a terrible shrew.
For mother she hateth all fellows,
And spinning's my father's desire,
While the old cat growls bass with the bellows
If eer I hitch up to the fire.
I make the whole house out of humour,
I wish nothing else but to please,
Would fortune but bring a new comer
To marry, and make me at ease!
When I've nothing my leisure to hinder
I scarce get as far as the eaves;
Her head's instant out of the window
Calling out like a press after thieves.
The young men all fall to remarking,
And laugh till they're weary to see't,
While the dogs at the noise begin barking,
And I slink in with shame from the street.
My mother's aye jealous of loving,
My father's aye jealous of play,
So what with them both there's no moving,
I'm in durance for life and a day.
O who shall I get for to marry me?
Who will have pity to woo?
Tis death any longer to tarry me,
And what shall a poor maiden do?
What is there in those distant hills
My fancy longs to see,
That many a mood of joy instils?
Say what can fancy be?
Do old oaks thicken all the woods,
With weeds and brakes as here?
Does common water make the floods,
That's common everywhere?
Is grass the green that clothes the ground?
Are springs the common springs?
Daisies and cowslips dropping round,
Are such the flowers she brings?
* * * * *
Are cottages of mud and stone,
By valley wood and glen,
And their calm dwellers little known
Men, and but common men,
That drive afield with carts and ploughs?
Such men are common here,
And pastoral maidens milking cows
Are dwelling everywhere.
If so my fancy idly clings
To notions far away,
And longs to roam for common things
All round her every day,
Right idle would the journey be
To leave one's home so far,
And see the moon I now can see
And every little star.
And have they there a night and day,
And common counted hours?
And do they see so far away
This very moon of ours?
* * * * *
I mark him climb above the trees
With one small [comrade] star,
And think me in my reveries -
He cannot shine so far.
* * * * *
The poets in the tales they tell
And with their happy powers
Have made lands where their fancies dwell
Seem better lands than ours.
Why need I sigh far hills to see
If grass is their array,
While here the little paths go through
The greenest every day?
Such fancies fill the restless mind,
At once to cheat and cheer
With thought and semblance undefined,
Nowhere and everywhere.
MIDDLE PERIOD 1824-1836
When trouble haunts me, need I sigh?
No, rather smile away despair;
For those have been more sad than I,
With burthens more than I could bear;
Aye, gone rejoicing under care
Where I had sunk in black despair.
When pain disturbs my peace and rest,
Am I a hopeless grief to keep,
When some have slept on torture's breast
And smiled as in the sweetest sleep,
Aye, peace on thorns, in faith forgiven,
And pillowed on the hope of heaven?
Though low and poor and broken down,
Am I to think myself distrest?
No, rather laugh where others frown
And think my being truly blest;
For others I can daily see
More worthy riches worse than me.
Aye, once a stranger blest the earth
Who never caused a heart to mourn,
Whose very voice gave sorrow mirth -
And how did earth his worth return?
It spurned him from its lowliest lot,
The meanest station owned him not;
An outcast thrown in sorrow's way,
A fugitive that knew no sin,
Yet in lone places forced to stray -
Men would not take the stranger in.
Yet peace, though much himself he mourned,
Was all to others he returned.
* * * * *
His presence was a peace to all,
He bade the sorrowful rejoice.
Pain turned to pleasure at his call,
Health lived and issued from his voice.
He healed the sick and sent abroad
The dumb rejoicing in the Lord.
The blind met daylight in his eye,
The joys of everlasting day;
The sick found health in his reply;
The cripple threw his crutch away.
Yet he with troubles did remain
And suffered poverty and pain.
Yet none could say of wrong he did,
And scorn was ever standing bye;
Accusers by their conscience chid,
When proof was sought, made no reply.
Yet without sin he suffered more
Than ever sinners did before.
What is song's eternity?
Come and see.
Can it noise and bustle be?
Come and see.
Praises sung or praises said
Can it be?
Wait awhile and these are dead -
Be they high or lowly bred They die.
What is song's eternity?
Come and see.
Melodies of earth and sky,
Here they be.
Song once sung to Adam's ears
Can it be?
Ballads of six thousand years
Songs awaken with the spheres
Mighty songs that miss decay,
What are they?
Crowds and cities pass away
Like a day.
Books are out and books are read;
What are they?
Years will lay them with the dead -
Trifles unto nothing wed,
Dreamers, mark the honey bee;
Mark the tree
Where the blue cap "_tootle tee_"
Sings a glee
Sung to Adam and to Eve
Here they be.
When floods covered every bough,
Heard that ballad singing now;
"_Tootle tootle tootle tee_" -
Can it be
Pride and fame must shadows be?
Come and see -
Every season own her own;
Bird and bee
Sing creation's music on;
Is in every mood and tone
_The Old Cottagers_
The little cottage stood alone, the pride
Of solitude surrounded every side.
Bean fields in blossom almost reached the wall;
A garden with its hawthorn hedge was all
The space between. - Green light did pass
Through one small window, where a looking-glass
Placed in the parlour, richly there revealed
A spacious landscape and a blooming field.
The pasture cows that herded on the moor
Printed their footsteps to the very door,
Where little summer flowers with seasons blow
And scarcely gave the eldern leave to grow.
The cuckoo that one listens far away
Sung in the orchard trees for half the day;
And where the robin lives, the village guest,
In the old weedy hedge the leafy nest
Of the coy nightingale was yearly found,
Safe from all eyes as in the loneliest ground;
And little chats that in bean stalks will lie
A nest with cobwebs there will build, and fly
Upon the kidney bean that twines and towers
Up little poles in wreaths of scarlet flowers.
There a lone couple lived, secluded there
From all the world considers joy or care,
Lived to themselves, a long lone journey trod,
And through their Bible talked aloud to God;
While one small close and cow their wants maintained,
But little needing, and but little gained.
Their neighbour's name was peace, with her they went,
With tottering age, and dignified content,
Through a rich length of years and quiet days,
And filled the neighbouring village with their praise.
The spring is coming by a many signs;
The trays are up, the hedges broken down,
That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines
Like some old antique fragment weathered brown.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two - till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill and wags his tail to meet the yoe,
And then another, sheltered from the wind,
Lies all his length as dead - and lets me go
Close bye and never stirs but baking lies,
With legs stretched out as though he could not rise.
When first we hear the shy-come nightingales,
They seem to mutter oer their songs in fear,
And, climb we eer so soft the spinney rails,
All stops as if no bird was anywhere.
The kindled bushes with the young leaves thin
Let curious eyes to search a long way in,
Until impatience cannot see or hear
The hidden music; gets but little way
Upon the path - when up the songs begin,
Full loud a moment and then low again.
But when a day or two confirms her stay
Boldly she sings and loud for half the day;
And soon the village brings the woodman's tale
Of having heard the newcome nightingale.
The holly bush, a sober lump of green,
Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,
And smiles at winter be it eer so keen
With all the leafy luxury of May.
And O it is delicious, when the day
In winter's loaded garment keenly blows
And turns her back on sudden falling snows,
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of evergreen that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving storm;
And in the bitterest day that ever blew
The walk will find some places still and warm
Where dead leaves rustle sweet and give alarm
To little birds that flirt and start away.
Home furthest off grows dearer from the way;
And when the army in the Indias lay
Friends' letters coming from his native place
Were like old neighbours with their country face.
And every opportunity that came
Opened the sheet to gaze upon the name
Of that loved village where he left his sheep
For more contented peaceful folk to keep;
And friendly faces absent many a year
Would from such letters in his mind appear.
And when his pockets, chafing through the case,
Wore it quite out ere others took the place,
Right loath to be of company bereft
He kept the fragments while a bit was left.
Here morning in the ploughman's songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky,
And twilight in the east, a doubt as yet,
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her bye.
Woke early, I arose and thought that first
In winter time of all the world was I.
The old owls might have hallooed if they durst,
But joy just then was up and whistled bye
A merry tune which I had known full long,
But could not to my memory wake it back,
Until the ploughman changed it to the song.
O happiness, how simple is thy track.
- Tinged like the willow shoots, the east's young brow
Glows red and finds thee singing at the plough.
Where slanting banks are always with the sun
The daisy is in blossom even now;
And where warm patches by the hedges run
The cottager when coming home from plough
Brings home a cowslip root in flower to set.
Thus ere the Christmas goes the spring is met
Setting up little tents about the fields
In sheltered spots. - Primroses when they get
Behind the wood's old roots, where ivy shields
Their crimpled, curdled leaves, will shine and hide.
Cart ruts and horses' footings scarcely yield
A slur for boys, just crizzled and that's all.
Frost shoots his needles by the small dyke side,
And snow in scarce a feather's seen to fall.
_Letter in Verse_
Like boys that run behind the loaded wain
For the mere joy of riding back again,
When summer from the meadow carts the hay
And school hours leave them half a day to play;
So I with leisure on three sides a sheet
Of foolscap dance with poesy's measured feet,
Just to ride post upon the wings of time
And kill a care, to friendship turned in rhyme.
The muse's gallop hurries me in sport
With much to read and little to divert,
And I, amused, with less of wit than will,
Run till I tire. - And so to cheat her still.
Like children running races who shall be
First in to touch the orchard wall or tree,
The last half way behind, by distance vext,
Turns short, determined to be first the next;
So now the muse has run me hard and long -
I'll leave at once her races and her song;
And, turning round, laugh at the letter's close
And beat her out by ending it in prose.
What a night! The wind howls, hisses, and but stops
To howl more loud, while the snow volley keeps
Incessant batter at the window pane,
Making our comfort feel as sweet again;
And in the morning, when the tempest drops,
At every cottage door mountainous heaps
Of snow lie drifted, that all entrance stops
Untill the beesom and the shovel gain
The path, and leave a wall on either side.
The shepherd rambling valleys white and wide
With new sensations his old memory fills,
When hedges left at night, no more descried,
Are turned to one white sweep of curving hills,
And trees turned bushes half their bodies hide.
The boy that goes to fodder with surprise
Walks oer the gate he opened yesternight.
The hedges all have vanished from his eyes;
Een some tree tops the sheep could reach to bite.
The novel scene emboldens new delight,
And, though with cautious steps his sports begin,
He bolder shuffles the huge hills of snow,
Till down he drops and plunges to the chin,
And struggles much and oft escape to win -
Then turns and laughs but dare not further go;
For deep the grass and bushes lie below,
Where little birds that soon at eve went in
With heads tucked in their wings now pine for day
And little feel boys oer their heads can stray.
The fir trees taper into twigs and wear
The rich blue green of summer all the year,
Softening the roughest tempest almost calm
And offering shelter ever still and warm
To the small path that towels underneath,
Where loudest winds - almost as summer's breath -
Scarce fan the weed that lingers green below
When others out of doors are lost in frost and snow.
And sweet the music trembles on the ear
As the wind suthers through each tiny spear,
Makeshifts for leaves; and yet, so rich they show,
Winter is almost summer where they grow.
Grasshoppers go in many a thumming spring
And now to stalks of tasseled sow-grass cling,
That shakes and swees awhile, but still keeps straight;
While arching oxeye doubles with his weight.
Next on the cat-tail-grass with farther bound
He springs, that bends until they touch the ground.
The beams in blossom with their spots of jet
Smelt sweet as gardens wheresoever met;
The level meadow grass was in the swath;
The hedge briar rose hung right across the path,
White over with its flowers - the grass that lay
Bleaching beneath the twittering heat to hay
Smelt so deliciously, the puzzled bee
Went wondering where the honey sweets could be;
And passer-bye along the level rows
Stoopt down and whipt a bit beneath his nose.
Dear brother robin this comes from us all
With our kind love and could Gip write and all
Though but a dog he'd have his love to spare
For still he knows and by your corner chair
The moment he comes in he lyes him down
and seems to fancy you are in the town.
This leaves us well in health thank God for that
For old acquaintance Sue has kept your hat
Which mother brushes ere she lays it bye
and every sunday goes upstairs to cry
Jane still is yours till you come back agen
and neer so much as dances with the men
and ned the woodman every week comes in
and asks about you kindly as our kin
and he with this and goody Thompson sends
Remembrances with those of all our friends
Father with us sends love untill he hears
and mother she has nothing but her tears
Yet wishes you like us in health the same
and longs to see a letter with your name
So loving brother don't forget to write
Old Gip lies on the hearth stone every night
Mother can't bear to turn him out of doors
and never noises now of dirty floors
Father will laugh but lets her have her way
and Gip for kindness get a double pay
So Robin write and let us quickly see
You don't forget old friends no more than we
Nor let my mother have so much to blame
To go three journeys ere your letter came.
Supper removed, the mother sits,
And tells her tales by starts and fits.
Not willing to lose time or toil,
She knits or sews, and talks the while
Something, that may be warnings found
To the young listeners gaping round -
Of boys who in her early day
Strolled to the meadow-lake to play,
Where willows, oer the bank inclined
Sheltered the water from the wind,
And left it scarcely crizzled oer -
When one sank in, to rise no more!
And how, upon a market-night,
When not a star bestowed its light,
A farmer's shepherd, oer his glass,
Forgot that he had woods to pass:
And having sold his master's sheep,
Was overta'en by darkness deep.
How, coming with his startled horse,
To where two roads a hollow cross;
Where, lone guide when a stranger strays,
A white post points four different ways,
Beside the woodride's lonely gate
A murdering robber lay in wait.
The frightened horse, with broken rein,
Stood at the stable-door again;
But none came home to fill his rack,
Or take the saddle from his back;
The saddle - it was all he bore -
The man was seen alive no more! -
In her young days, beside the wood,
The gibbet in its terror stood:
Though now decayed, tis not forgot,
But dreaded as a haunted spot. -
She from her memory oft repeats
Witches' dread powers and fairy feats:
How one has oft been known to prance
In cowcribs, like a coach, to France,
And ride on sheep-trays from the fold
A race-horse speed to Burton-hold;
To join the midnight mystery's rout,
Where witches meet the yews about:
And how, when met with unawares,
They turn at once to cats or hares,
And race along with hellish flight,
Now here, now there, now out of sight! -
And how the other tiny things
Will leave their moonlight meadow-rings,
And, unperceived, through key-holes creep,
When all around have sunk to sleep,
To feast on what the cotter leaves, -
Mice are not reckoned greater thieves.
They take away, as well as eat,
And still the housewife's eye they cheat,
In spite of all the folks that swarm
In cottage small and larger farm;
They through each key-hole pop and pop,
Like wasps into a grocer's shop,
With all the things that they can win
From chance to put their plunder in; -
As shells of walnuts, split in two
By crows, who with the kernels flew;
Or acorn-cups, by stock-doves plucked,
Or egg-shells by a cuckoo sucked;
With broad leaves of the sycamore
They clothe their stolen dainties oer:
And when in cellar they regale,
Bring hazel-nuts to hold their ale;
With bung-holes bored by squirrels well,
To get the kernel from the shell;
Or maggots a way out to win,
When all is gone that grew within;
And be the key-holes eer so high,
Rush poles a ladder's help supply.
Where soft the climbers fearless tread,
On spindles made of spiders' thread.
And foul, or fair, or dark the night,
Their wild-fire lamps are burning bright:
For which full many a daring crime
Is acted in the summer-time; -
When glow-worm found in lanes remote
Is murdered for its shining coat,
And put in flowers, that nature weaves
With hollow shapes and silken leaves,
Such as the Canterbury bell,
Serving for lamp or lantern well;
Or, following with unwearied watch
The flight of one they cannot match,
As silence sliveth upon sleep,
Or thieves by dozing watch-dogs creep,
They steal from Jack-a-Lantern's tails
A light, whose guidance never fails
To aid them in the darkest night
And guide their plundering steps aright.
Rattling away in printless tracks,
Some, housed on beetles' glossy backs,
Go whisking on - and others hie
As fast as loaded moths can fly:
Some urge, the morning cock to shun,
The hardest gallop mice can run,
In chariots, lolling at their ease,
Made of whateer their fancies please; -
Things that in childhood's memory dwell -
Scooped crow-pot-stone, or cockle-shell,