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366 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

conjuring up gorgeous palaces by the sides of all the fa-
mous rivers in the regions of old romance.

My dear girl, why do you shudder so at the very idea
of a toad, and writhe your features into an expression of
disgust and horror? Nobody is asking you to put it into
your bosom — don't faint, for if you do we must kiss you
back into animation — or under your pillow. But let it
crawl across the gravel path, from shade to shade, unre-
viled, for after all it is not ugly — and the lustre of its eyes,
as you may have heard, is proverbial. Disgust is a habit.
But 'tis most unlike you, sweet, to cherish anjr such feel-
ing towards any one of God's creatures. No merit in
loving birds and butterflies, for they are manifestly beau-
tiful, and in sympathizing with all the displays of their
joy, you are pleasurably moved by signs or symbols of
your own happy prime. But reptiles, slimy creatures,
palmer-worms, and caterpillars — let them find favour in
your sight, and we will lay our hand on your head with a
prouder blessing. Remember that ladies have been changed
into toads ; Caroline Bowles, when a mere child, bethought
her of that metamorphosis, and entitled her poor toad
" Princess Hemjunah."

"Fowls of the air, and beasts, and creeping things,
Ay, reptiles — slimy creatures — all that breathed
The breath of life, found favour in my sight ;
And strange disgust I've seen (/ thought it strange)
Wrinkle their features who beheld me touch.
Handle, caress the creatures tliey abhorr'd;
Enchase my finger with the palmer-worm
Or caterpillar's green, cold, clammy ring,
Or touch the rough back of the spotted toad.
One of that species, for long after years,
Ev'n till of late, became my pensioner —
A monstrous creature ! — It was wont to sit
Among the roots of an old scraggy shrub,
A huge Gum-Cystus: All the summer long
' Princes Hemjunah' (titled so by me
In honour of that royal spell-bound fair
So long compell'd in reptile state to crawl),
' Princess Hemjunah' there from morn to eve
Made her pavilion of the spicy shrub;
And they who look'd beneath it, scarce discern'd
That livinof clod from the surroundin'j mould


But by the lustre of two livin^r gems

That from the reptile's forehead upward beain'd

Intelligent, with ever-wakeful gaze.

There daily on some fresh green leaf I spread

A luscious banquet for that uncouth guest —

Milk, cream, and sugar, — to the creature's taste

Right welcome offering, unrejected still.

" When Autumn wind's gan strew the crisped leaves
Round that old Cystus, to some lonelier haunt,
Some dark retreat the hermit reptile crawl'd;
Belike some grotto, 'ncath the hollow roots
Of ancient laurel or thick juniper,
Whose everlasting foliage darkly gleam'd
Through the bare branches of deciduous trees.
There self-imrnured, the livelong winter through,
Brooded unseen the solitary thing:
E'en when young Spring with violet-printed steps
Brush'd the white hoar-frost from her morning path,
The creature stirr'd not from its secret cell :
But on some balmy morn of rip'ning June,
Some morn of perfect smnmer, waken'd up
With choirs of music pour'd from every bush,
Dews dropping incense from tli' unfolding leaves
Of hall-blown roses, and the gentle South
Exhaling, blending, and diffusing sweets —
Then was I sure on some such morn to find
My princess crouch'd in her accustom'd form
Beneath the Cystus.

So for many years
— Ay — as I said, till late, she came and went,
And came again when summer suns return'd —
All knew and spared the creature for my sake,
Not without comment on the strange caprice
Protecting such deform'd detected thing.
But in a luckless iiour — an autumn morn.
About the time when my poor toad withdrew
(Annually punctual) to her winter house.
The axe and pruning-knife were set at work —
— (Ah ! uncle Philip ! with unsparing zeal
You urged them on) to lop the straggling boughs
Whose rank luxuriance from the parent stem
Drain'd for their useless growth too large supply ;
Branch after branch condemn'd fell thickly round,
Till, moderate retbrm intended first,
(Nice task to fix the boundary !) edged on,
Encroaching still to radical ; and soon

368 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

Uncheck'd the devastating fury raged,

And shoots, and boughs, and limbs bestrew'd the ground,

And all denuded and exposed — sad sight !

The mangled trees held out their ghastly stumps.

" Spring reappear'd, and trees and shrubs put forth
Their budding leaves, and e'en those mangled trunks
(Though later) felt the vegetable life
Mount in their swelling sap, and all around
The recently dismember'd parts, peep'd out —
Pink tender shoots disparting into green.
And bursting forih at lasi, with rapid growth.
In full redundance — healthful, vig'rous, thick ;
And June return'd with all her breathing sweets.
Her op'ning roses and soft southern gales ;
And music pour'd from ev'ry bending spray ;
E'en the old mangled Cystus bloom'd once more.
But my poor princess never came again."

No sentimentalism about the poetry of Caroline Bowies.
She had her wild-tame hare, and her rabbits, and dormice,
and squirrel, and cats and kittens, and dogs of many a
race, from ancient Di to Black Mungo, and her own gentle
playfellow Chloe, and her gallant Juba, and her pet sheep
called Willy, a palfrey of mettled blood, not to mention
jackdaws, magpies, bullfinches, turtle-doves, and owls,
and many other manner of birds. But their keep cost
but little; some of them were useful, and all of them were
happy; and she herself, the happiest of them all, did not
forget — the poor. For she was one of the

" Sound healthy children of the God of heaven ;"

and the j'^oung hands that are duly held up in prayer are
always " open as day to melting charity ;" and there is
not a lovelier sight beneath the skies than a meek-eyed
maiden in hovel or by wayside silently giving alms.

Here is a picture that almost equals Cowper's Peasant's

" Bid them turn
(Those sentimental chemics, who extract
The essence of imaginary griefs
From overwrought refinement), bid them turn


To some poor cottage — not a bower of sweets

Where woodbines cluster o'er the neat warm thatch,

And mad Marias sing fantastic ditties,

But to some wretched hut, whose crazy walls.

Crumbling with age and dripping damps, scarce prop

Tiie rotten roof, all verdant with decay ;

Unlatch the door, those starting planks that ill

Keep out the wind and rain, and bid them look

At the home-comforts of the scene within.

There on the hearth a tew fresh-gathered sticks,

Or smouldering sods, diffuse a feeble warmlii,

Fann'd by that kneeling woman's lab'ring breath

Into a transient flame, o'erhanging which

Cowers close, with outspread palms, a haggard form,

But yesterday raised up from the sick-bed

Of wasting fever, yet to-night return'd

From the resumption of his daily toil.

' Too hastily resumed — imprudent man !'

Ay, but his famish'd infants cried for bread ;

So he went forth and strove, till nature fail'd,

And the faint dews of weakness gather'd thick

In the dark hollows of iiis sallow cheek.

And round his white-parched lips. Then home he crawl'd

To the cold comforts of that cheerless hearth.

And of a meal whose dainties are set out

Invitingly — a cup of coarse black tea.

With milk unmingled, and a crust of bread.

No infant voices welcome his return

With joyous clamour, but the piteous wail,

' Father ! I'm liungry — Father ! give me bread !'

Salutes him from the little-huddled group

Beside that smoky flame, where one poor babe.

Shaking with ague-chills, creeps shuddering in

Between its mother's knees — that most forlorn,

Most wretched mother, with sad lullaby

Hushing the sickly infant at her breast,

Whose scanty nourishment yet drains her life."

You must not think that the whole poenn is about the
author's childhood. How could it? Herself of the pre-
sent speaks of her own thoughts and feelings, even when
in contrast, still harmonious with those of herself of the
past; for so it ever is with a well-ordered life, whose
growth has been unconstrained, and left free to the spon-
taneity of nature. Caroline BowleSj as every poetess

370 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

must be, is a devout conservative. But mark us well — of
what? Of all that, for its own dear sake, she has once
loved, and taken to her heart.

" Old friend ! old stone ! old way-mark ! art thou gone 1
I could have better spared a better thing
Than sight of thy familiar shapeless form,
Defaced and weather-stain'd."

And again in sportive sadness —

" Beautiful elms! your spreading branches fell,
Because, forsooth ! across the king's highway,
Conspiring with the free-born, charter'd air,
Your verdant branches treasonably waved.
And swung perchance the pendant dew-drop oft'
On roof of royal mail, or on the eyes
Of sleepy coachman, waken'd so full well
For safety of his snoring ' four insides,'
Unconscious innocents !"

Worse and worse ; the oak that for time immemorial had
stood intercepting no sunbeam, and flinging no shadow,
has fallen at the decree of the " Great Road Dragon."
Yet there had been

"Only left of thee
The huge old trunk, still verdant in decay
With ivy garlands, and a tender growth
(Like second childhood) of thine own young shoots;
And there, like giant guardian of the pass.
Thou stand'st, majestic ruin ! thy i)uge roots
(Whose every fretted niche and mossy cave
Harbour'd a primrose) grappling the steep bank,
A wayside rampart. Lo ! they've rent away
The living bulwark now, a ghastly breach,
A crumbling hollow left to mark its site," &c.

And more beautiful still —

" And the old thorns are gone — the thorns I loved,
For that in childhood I could reach and pluck
Their first sweet blossoms. They were low like me.
Young, lowly bushes, I a little child.
And we grew up together. They are gone ;
And the great elder by the mossy pales —


How sweet the blackbird sang in that old tree !
Sweeter, methink.s, than now, from statelier shades —
They've fell'd that too — the goodly harmless thing!
That with its fragrant clusters overhung
Our garden hedge, and furnish'd its ricli store
Of juicy berries for the Christmas wine
Spicy and hot, and its round hollow stems
(The pith extracted) for quaint arrow heads,
Such as my fatlier in our archery games
Taught me to fashion. Tliat they've ta'en away.
And so some relic daily disappears,
. Something I've loved and prized ; and now the last —
Almost the last — the poor old milestone falls.
And in its place this smooth, white, perk'd up thing.
With its great staring figures."

No change would our bitter-sweet Conservative suffer ;
and had her will been the rule of action, strange results,
she confesses,

" Would shock the rational community."

No farmer should clip one straggling hedge — on pain of
transportation for life; no road-surveyor change one rug-
ged stone, nor pare one craggy bank, nor lop one way-
side tree, unless bent to be hanged.

" I'd have the road
One bowery arch, what matter it so low
No mail might pass beneath ^ For aught I care
The post might come on foot — or not at all.
In short, in short, it's quite as well, perhaps,
I can but rail, not rule. Splenetic wrath
Will not lack on again dissever'd boughs,
Nor set up the old stones; so let me breathe
The fulness of a vexed spirit out
In impotent murmurs."

Caroline was an only child. There is little or nothing
said about any companions of her own age — and yet as
she seems never to have felt the want of them, why should
we ? though sometimes we have been expecting to see
some elf like herself come gliding into the poem. A
loving heart is never at a loss for objects of its love. The

372 avilson's miscellaneous writings.

natural affections attach themselves to the thoughts or
ideas of all life's holiest relations; and doubtless the glad
girl had then brothers and sisters in her dreams. Per-
haps had the house been full of them in flesh and blood,
she had never been a poetess. Solitary but never sad,
and alone, except with mute creatures, in her very pas-
times, yet never out of sight of parental eyes, or reach of
parental hands, her thoughtful nature became moi'e and
more thoughtful in her happiness flowing ever from and
back upon herself, and thus she learnt to think on her own
heart, and to hark to the small still voice that never de-

" While life is calm and innocent."

Merry as she is, and frolicsome

" As a young fawn at play,"

there is a repose over the poem which for the most part
breathes the spirit of still life. Speaking of her father,
she says,

" Soon came the days,
When his companion, his — his only one,
My fatiier's I became. Proud, happy child.
Untiring now, in many a lengthen'd walk,
Yet resting oft (iiis arm encircling me)
On the old mile-stone, in our homeward way."

A thought crosses us here that her mother may have died.
Yet her name is mentioned in a subsequent passage ; but
this leaves us in uncertainty, for the order of time is not
always preserved, and the transitions obey the bidding
of some new-risen thought. The gloom hanging over
the beginning of the following passage looks like that of
death : —

" My father loved tlie patient angler's art;
And many a summer day, from early morn
To latest evening, by some streamlet's side
We two have tarried; strange companionship!
A sad and silent man ; a joyous child. —


Yet were those days, as I recall them now,

Supremely happy. Silent though he was,

My father's eyes were often on iiis child

Tenderly eloquent — and his few words

Were kind and o^enlle. Never ang-ry tone

Repulsed me, if I broke upon his thoughts

With childisli question. But I learnt at last —

Learnt intuitively to hold my peace

When the dark hour was on him, and deep sighs

Spoke the perturbed spirit — only then

I crept a little closer to liis side,

And stole my hand in his, or on his arm

Laid my cheek softly ; till the simple wile

Won on his sad abstraction, and he lurn'd

With a faint smile, and sigh'd, and shook his head.

Stooping toward me ; so I reached at last

Mine arm about his neck, and clasp'd it close.

Printing his pale brow with a silent kiss."

" That was a lovely brook, by whose green marge
We two (the patient angler and his child)
Loiter'd away so many summer days !
A shallow sparkling stream, it hurried now
Leaping and glancing among large round stones,
With everlasting friction cliafing still
Their polish'd smoothness — on a gravelly bed.
Then softly slipt away with rippling sound.
Or all inaudible, where the green moss
Sloped down to meet the clear reflected wave.
That lipp'd its emerald bank with seeming show
Of gentle dalliance. In a dark, deep pool
Collected now, the peaceful waters slept
Embay'd by rugged headlands; hollow roots
Of huge old pollard willows. Anchored there
Rode safe from every gale, a silvan fleet
Of milk-white water lilies ; every bark
Worthy as those on his own sacred flood
To waft the Indian Cupid. Then the stream
Brawling again o'er pebbly shallows ran,
On — on, to where a rustic, rough-hewn bridge.
All bright with mosses and green ivy wreathes,
Spann'd the small channel with its single arch ;
And underneath, the bank on either side
Shelved down into the water darkly green
Wilh unsunn'd verdure; or whereon the sun
Look'd only when his rays at eventide

ou I. 82

374 avilson's miscellaneous wkitinos.

Obliquely glanced between the blacken'd piers

With arrowy beams of orient emerald light

Touching tiie river and its velvet marge —

'Twas there, beneath the archway, just Vv'ithin

Its rough misshapen piles, I found a cave,

A little secret cell, one large flat stone

Its ample floor, embedded deep in moss,

And a rich tuft of dark blue violet.

And fretted o'er with curious groining dark.

Like vault of Gothic chapel was the roof

Of that small cunning cave — ' The Nereid's Grot !'

I named it learnedly, for I had read

About Egeria, and was deeply versed

In heathenish stories of the guardian tribes

In groves, and single trees, and silvan streams

Abiding co-existent. So methought

The little Naiad of our brook might haunt

That cool retreat, and to her guardian care

My wont was ever, at the bridge arrived,

To trust our basket, with its simple store

Of home-made, wholesome cates ; by one at home

Provided, for our banquet-hour at noon.

"A joyful hour! anticipated keen
With zest of youthful appetite I trow.
Full oft expelling unsubstantial thoughts
Of Grots and Naiads, sublimated fare —
The busy, bustling joy, with housewife airs
(Directress, handmaid, lady of the feast!)
To spread that ' table in the wilderness !'
The spot selected with deliberate care.
Fastidious from variety of choice.
Where all was beautiful. Some pleasant nook
Among the fringing alders : or beneath
A single spreading oak: or higher up
Within the thicket, a more secret bower,
A little clearing carpeted all o'er
With creeping strawberry, and greenest moss
Thick vcin'd with ivy. There unfolded smooth
The snowy napkin (carefully secured
At every corner with a pebbly weight,)
Was spread prelusive ; fairly garnish'd soon
With the contents (most interesting then)
Of the well-plenish'd basket: simple viands.
And sweet brown bread, and biscuits for dessert,
And rich ripe cherries; and two slender flasks,


Of cider one, and one of sweet new milk,

Mine own allotted beverage, temper'd down

To wholesome thinness by admixture pure

From the near streamlet. Two small silver cups

Set our grand buffet — and all was done ;

But there I stood immovable, entranced,

Absorb'd in admiration — shifting oft

My groimd contemplative, to reperuse

In every point of view the perfect whole

Of that arrangement, mine own handy work.

Then glancing skyward, if my dazzled eyes

Shrank from the sunbeams, vertically bright,

Away, away, toward the river's brink

I ran to summon from his silent sport

My father to the banquet; tutor'd well,

As I approach'd his station, to restrain

All noisy outbreak of exuberant glee;

Lest from their quiet haunts the finny prey

Should dart far off to deeper solitudes.

The gentle summons met observance prompt,

Kindly considerate of the famish'd child:

And all in order left — the mimic fly

Examined and renew'd, if need required.

Or changed for other sort, as time of day.

Or clear or clouded sky, or various signs

Of atmosphere or water, so advised

T h' experienced angler ; the long line afloat —

The rod securely fix'd ; then into mine

The willing hand was yielded, and I led

With joyous exultation that dear guest

To our green banquet-room. Not Leicester's self,

When to the hall of princely Kenilworth

He led Elizabeth, exulted more

With inward gratulation at the show

Of his own proud magnificence, than I,

When full in view of mine arranged feast,

I held awhile my pleased companion back,

Exacting wonder — admiration, praise

With pointing finger, and triumphant ' There !' "

All that is perfectly beautiful — " one song that will not
die" — and so is all the rest of the picture. The banquet
over, and grateful acknowledgment made, her father goes
again to the stream, bidding her take care " that nothing
may be lost," and she, understanding well the meaning
of the injunction, acts accordingly.


" So lib'ral dole
I scatter'd round for the small feather'd things
Who from their leafy lodges all about
Had watch'd the strange intruders and their ways;
And eyed the feast with curious wistfulness,
Half longing to partake. Some bold, brave bird,
He of the crimson breast, approaching near
And near and nearer, till his little beak
Made prize of tempting crumb, and off he flew
Triumphant, to return (permitted thief!)
More daringly fiimiliar.

Neatly pack'd
Napkin and cups, with the diminish'd store
Of our well-lighten'd basket — largess left
For our shy woodland ho>ts, some special treat
In fork'd brancii or hollow trunk for him
The preltiest, merriest, with his frolic leaps
And jet black sparkling eyes, and mimic wrath
Clacking loud menace. Yet before me lay
The long bright summer evening. Was it long,
Tediously long in prospect ? Nay, good sooth !
The hours in Eden never swifter flew
With Eve yet innocent, than fled with me
Their course by thy fair stream, sweet Royden vale !"

Carry has been accustomed, on such occasions, to
extract, " with permitted hand," from a certain pouch,
ample and deep, within the fisher's coat, an old clumsy
russet-covered book, which furnished enjoyment, increasing
with renewed and more intimate experience — a copy of
old Isaac W^alton ! And there,

" The river at my feet, its mossy bank,
Clipt by that cover'd oak my pleasant seat,
Still as an image in its carved shrine,
I nestled in my sylvan niche, like hare
Upgather'd in her form, upon my knees
The open book, over which I stoop'd intent,
Half hidden (the large liat flung careless off,)
In a gold gleaming shower of auburn curls."

Nor is there in print or manuscript a more faithful cha-
racter than is here afterwards drawn in lines of light, by
woman's hand, of gentle Isaac!

VVc know not whether the long quotation given above
or the following be the more delightful.


"Dear n-arden ! once again with lingering look
Reverted, half remorseful, let me dwell
Upon thee as thou wert in that old time
Of happy days departed. Thou art changed.
And I liave changed thee — was it wisely done !
Wisely and well they say who look thereon
With unimpassion'd eye — cool, clear, undimm'd
By moisture such as memory gathers oft
In mine, while gazing on the things that are
Not with the hallow'd past, the loved, the lost,
Associated as those I now retrace
Witli tender sadness. The old shrubbery walk,
Straight as an arrow, was less graceful far
Than this fair winding among flowers and turf,
Till with an artful curve it sweeps from sight
To reappear again, just seen and lost
Among the hawthorns in tiie little dell.
Less lovely the old walk, but there I ran
Holding my mother's hand, a happy child ;
There were her steps imprinted, and my father's,
And those of many a loved one, now laid low
In his last resting place. No flowers melhinks
That now I cultivate are half so sweet.
So bright, so beautiful as those that bloom'd
In the old formal borders. These clove pinks
Yield not such fragrance as the true old sort
That spiced our pot-pourrie (my mother's pride)
With such peculiar richness; and this rose,
With its fine foreign name, is scentless, pale,
Compared with the old cabbage — those that blush'd
In the thick hedge of spiky lavender —
8uch lavender as is not now-a-days ;
And gillyflowers are not as they were then
tiure lo ' come double ;' and the night breeze now
Sighs not so loaded with delicious scents
Of lily and sevinger. Oh, my heart !
Is all indeed so alter'd ? — or art thou
The changeling, sore aweary now at times
Of all beneath the sun ]

" Such weariness
Knows not that blessed springtide of the heart
When 'treasures dwell in flowers.' How glad was
How joyously exultant, when I found
Such virtues in my flowery treasury
As hitherto methought discoverer's eye
Had pass'd unheeded I Here at once I found,

378 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

Unbought, un=ucd for, the desired command
(How longingly desired !) of various dyes,
Wherewith to tint the semblance incomplete
In its hard pencil ou line, of those forms
Of floral loveliness, whose juices now
Supplied me with a palette of all hues.
Bright as the rainbow. Brushes lack'd I none
For my rude process, the soft flower or leaf
Serving for such ; its moisture nice express'd
By a small cunning hand, where'er required
The imitative shadow to perfect
With glowing colour. Heavens! how plain 1 sec,
Even at this moment, the first grand result
Of that occult invention. There it lies.
Living as life itself (I thought no less,)
A sprig of purple stock, that dullest eye
Must have detected, and lault-finding critic
Have ovvn'd at least a likeness. Mother's love
Thought it perfection, when with stealing step
And flushing face and conscious, I drew near
And laid it on her lap without a word ;
Then hung upon her shoulder, shrinking back
With a child's baslifulness, all hope and fear,
Shunning and courting notice;

But I kept
Profoundly secret, certain floral rites

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