WITHERING and keen the Winter comes,
While Comfort flies to close-shut rooms,
And sees the snow in feathers pass
Winnowing by the window-glass;
Whilst unfelt tempests howl and beat
Above his head in chimney-seat.
Now, musing oer the changing scene,
Farmers behind the tavern-screen
Collect;with elbow idly pressd
On hob, reclines the corners guest, 10
Reading the news, to mark again
The bankrupt lists, or price of grain;
Of flooded fields and clouded skies;
Whose Almanacs thumbd pages swarm
With frost and snow, and many a storm,
And wisdom, gossipd from the stars,
Of politics and bloody wars.
He shakes his head, and still proceeds,
Nor doubts the truth of what he reads: 20
All wonders are with faith supplied,
Bible, at once, or weather-guide.
Puffing the while his red-tipt pipe,
He dreams oer troubles nearly ripe;
Yet, not quite lost in profits way,
Hell turn to next years harvest-day,
And, Winters leisure to regale,
Hope better times, andsip his ale.
The schoolboy still, with dithering joys,
In pastime leisure hours employs, 30
And, be the weather as it may,
2 Is never at a loss for play:
Making rude forms of various names,
Snow-men, or aught his fancy frames;
Till, numbd and shivering, he resorts
To brisker games and warmer sports
Kicking, with many a flying bound,
The football oer the frozen ground;
Or seeking bright glib ice, to play
And slide the wintry hours away, 40
As quick and smooth as shadows run,
When clouds in autumn pass the sun.
Some, hurrying rambles eager take
To skait upon the meadow lake,
Scaring the snipe from her retreat,
From shelving banks in frozen seat;
Or running brook, where icy spars,
Which the pale sun-light specks with stars,
Shoot crizzling oer the restless tide,
To many a likeness petrified. 50
The moor-hen, too, with fear opprest,
Starts from her reedy shelterd rest,
As skaiting by, with curving springs,
3 And arms outspread like herons wings,
They race away, for pleasures sake,
With hunters speed along the lake.
Blackening through the evening sky,
In clouds the starlings daily fly
To Whittleseas reed-wooded mere,
And osier holts by rivers near; 60
Whilst many a mingled swarthy crowd,
Rook, crow, and jackdaw,noising loud,
Fly to and fro to dreary fen,
Dull Winters weary flight again;
They flop on heavy wings away
As soon as morning wakens grey,
And, when the sun sets round and red,
Return to naked woods to bed.
The sun is creeping out of sight
Behind the woodswhilst running Night 70
Hastens to shut the Days dull eye,
And grizzle oer the chilly sky.
Now maidens, fresh as summer roses,
4 Journeying from the distant closes,
Haste home with yokes and swinging pail:
The thresher, too, sets by his flail,
And leaves the mice at peace again
To fill their holes with stolen grain;
Whilst owlets, glad his toils are oer,
Swoop by him as he shuts the door. 80
Bearing his hook beneath his arm,
The shepherd seeks the cottage warm;
And, weary in the cold to roam,
Scenting the track that leads him home,
His dog goes swifter oer the mead,
Barking to urge his masters speed;
Then turns, and looks him in the face,
And trots before with mending pace,
Till, out of whistle from the swain,
He sits him down and barks again, 90
Anxious to greet the opend door,
And meet the cottage-fire once more.
The shutter closed, the lamp alight,
5 The faggot chopt and blazing bright
The shepherd now, from labour free,
Dances his children on his knee;
While, underneath his masters seat,
The tired dog lies in slumbers sweet,
Starting and whimpering in his sleep,
Chasing still the straying sheep. 100
The cats rolld round in vacant chair,
Or leaping childrens knees to lair
Or purring on the warmer hearth,
Sweet chorus to the crickets mirth.
The redcap, hanging over head,
In cage of wire is perchd a-bed;
Slumbering in his painted feathers,
Unconscious of the out-door weathers:
Evn things without the cottage walls
Meet comfort as the evening falls, 110
As happy in the Winters dearth
As those around the blazing hearth.
The ass, (frost-driven from the moor,
6 Where storms through naked bushes roar,
And not a leaf or sprig of green,
On ground or quaking bush, is seen,
Save grey-veind ivys hardy pride,
Round old trees by the common side)
Litterd with straw, now dozes warm,
Beneath his shed, from snow and storm: 120
The swine are fed and in the stye;
And fowls snug perchd in hovel nigh,
With head in feathers safe asleep,
Where foxes cannot hope to creep;
And geese are gabbling in their dreams
Of litterd corn and thawing streams.
The sparrow, too, a daily guest,
Is in the cottage eaves at rest:
And robin small, and smaller wren,
Are in their warm holes safe again 130
From falling snows, that winnow by
The hovels where they nightly lie,
And ague winds, that shake the tree
7 Where other birds are forcd to be.
The housewife, busy night and day,
Clears the supper-things away;
The jumping cat starts from her seat;
And stretching up on weary feet
The dog wakes at the welcome tones
That call him up to pick the bones. 140
On corner walls, a glittering row,
Hang fire-ironsless for use than show;
With horse-shoe brightend, as a spell,
Witchcrafts evil powers to quell;
And warming-pan, reflecting bright
The crackling blazes flickering light,
That hangs the corner wall to grace,
Nor oft is taken from its place:
There in its mirror, bright as gold,
The children peep, and straight behold 150
Their laughing faces, whilst they pass,
Gleam on the lid as plain as glass.
Supper removed, the mother sits,
8 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
Strolld to the meadow-lake to play, 160
Where willows, oer the bank inclined,
Shelterd 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 bestowd its light,
A farmers shepherd, oer his glass,
Forgot that he had woods to pass:
And having sold his masters sheep,
Was overtaen by darkness deep. 170
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 woodrides lonely gate
9 A murdering robber lay in wait.
The frightend 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: 180
The saddleit 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 decayd, 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
And ride on sheep-trays from the fold
A race-horse speed to Burton-hold;
To join the midnight mysterys rout,
Where witches meet the yews about:
And how, when met with unawares,
10 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, 200
And, unperceivd, through key-holes creep,
When all around have sunk to sleep,
To feast on what the cotter leaves,
Mice are not reckond greater thieves.
They take away, as well as eat,
And still the housewifes 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 grocers shop, 210
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 pluckd,
Or egg-shells by a cuckoo suckd;
With broad leaves of the sycamore
11 They clothe their stolen dainties oer:
And when in cellar they regale,
Bring hazel-nuts to hold their ale; 220
With bung-holes bord 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 ladders 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: 230
For which full many a daring crime
Is acted in the summer-time;
When glow-worm found in lanes remote
Is murderd for its shining coat,
And put in flowers, that Nature weaves
With hollow shapes and silken leaves,
Such as the
Serving for lamp or lantern well;
Or, following with unwearied watch
12 The flight of one they cannot match, 240
As silence sliveth upon sleep,
Or thieves by dozing watch-dogs creep,
They steal from Jack-a-Lanterns 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 onand others hie
As fast as loaded moths can fly: 250
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 childhoods memory dwell
Scoopd crow-pot-stone, or cockle-shell,
With wheels at hand of mallow seeds,
Where childish sport was stringing beads;
And thus equippd, they softly pass
Like shadows on the summer-grass, 260
And glide away in troops together
13 Just as the Spring-wind drives a feather.
As light as happy dreams they creep,
Nor break the feeblest link of sleep:
A midge, if in their road a-bed,
Feels not the wheels run oer his head,
But sleeps till sunrise calls him up,
Unconscious of the passing troop.
Thus dame the winter-night regales
With wonders never-ceasing tales; 270
While in a corner, ill at ease,
Or crushing tween their fathers knees,
The childrensilent all the while
And een repressed the laugh or smile
Quake with the ague chills of fear,
And tremble though they love to hear;
Starting, while they the tales recall,
At their own shadows on the wall:
Till the old clock, that strikes unseen
Behind the picture-pasted screen 300
Where Eve and Adam still agree
14 To rob Lifes fatal apple-tree,
Counts over bed-times hour of rest,
And bids each be Sleeps fearful guest.
She then her half-told tales will leave
To finish on to-morrows eve.
The children steal away to-bed,
And up the ladder softly tread;
Scarce daringfrom their fearful joys
To look behind or make a noise; 310
Nor speak a word! but still as sleep
They secret to their pillows creep,
And whisper oer, in terrors way,
The prayers they dare no louder say;
Then hide their heads beneath the clothes,
And try in vain to seek repose:
While yet, to fancys sleepless eye,
Witches on sheep-trays gallop by,
And fairies, like a rising spark,
Swarm twittering round them in the dark; 320
Till sleep creeps nigh to ease their cares,
15 And drops upon them unawares.
Oh! Spirit of the days gone by
The witching spells of winter nights,
Sweet childhoods fearful ecstacy!
Where are they fled with their delights?
When listning on the corner seat,
The winter evenings length to cheat,
I heard my mothers memory tell
Tales Superstition loves so well: 330
Things said or sung a thousand times,
In simple prose or simpler rhymes!
Ah! where is page of poesy
So sweet as this was wont to be?
The magic wonders that deceived,
When fictions were as truths believed;
The fairy feats that once prevaild,
Told to delight, and never faild:
Where are they now, their fears and sighs,
And tears from founts of happy eyes? 340
I read in books, but find them not,
For Poesy hath its youth forgot:
I hear them told to children still,
16 But fear numbs not my spirits chill:
I still see faces pale with dread,
While mine could laugh at what is said;
See tears imagined woes supply,
While mine with real cares are dry.
Where are they gone?the joys and fears,
The links, the life of other years? 350
I thought they twined around my heart
So close, that we could never part;
But Reason, like a winters day,
Nippd childhoods visions all away,
Nor left behind one withering flower
To cherish in a lonely hour.
Memory may yet the themes repeat,
But Childhoods heart hath ceased to beat
At tales, which Reasons sterner lore
Turns like weak gossips from her door: 360
The Magic Fountain, where the head
Rose up, just as the startled maid
Was stooping from the weedy brink
To dip her pitcher in to drink,
That did its half-hid mystery tell
17 To smooth its hair, and use it well;
Which, doing as it bade her do,
Turnd to a king and lover too.
The tale of Cinderella, told
The winter through, and never old: 370
The pumpkin that, at her approach,
Was turnd into a golden coach;
The rats that fairies magic knew,
And instantly to horses grew;
The coachmen ready at her call,
To drive her to the Princes ball,
With fur-changed jackets silver lined,
And tails hung neath their hats behind;
The golden glove, with fingers small,
She lost while dancing in the hall, 380
That was on every finger tried,
And fitted hers, and none beside,
When Cinderella, soon as seen,
Was wood and won, and made a Queen.
The Boy that did the Giant slay,
And gave his mothers cows away
For magic mask, that day or night,
18 When on, would keep him out of sight.
The running bean,not such as weaves
Round poles the height of cottage eaves, 390
But magic one,that travelld high
Some steeples journey up the sky,
And reachd a giants dwelling there,
A cloud-built castle in the air:
Where, venturing up the fearful height,
That served him climbing half the night,
He searchd the giants coffers oer,
And never wanted riches more;
While, like a lion scenting food,
The giant roard in hungry mood, 400
A storm of threats that might suffice
To freeze the hottest blood to ice.
I hear it now, nor dream of woes;
The storm is settled to repose.
Those fears are dead!What will not die
In fading Lifes mortality?
Those truths have fled, and left behind
19 A real world and doubting mind.
THE snow has left the cottage top;
The thatch-moss grows in brighter green;
And eaves in quick succession drop,
Where grinning icicles have been;
Pit-patting with a pleasant noise
In tubs set by the cottage-door;
While ducks and geese, with happy joys,
Plunge in the yard-pond brimming oer.
The sun peeps through the window-pane;
Which children mark with laughing eye, 10
And in the wet street steal again,
To tell each other Spring is nigh:
Then, as young hope the past recalls,
In playing groups they often draw,
To build beside the sunny walls
Their spring-time huts of sticks or straw.
And oft in pleasures dreams they hie
Round homesteads by the village side,
Scratching the hedgerow mosses by,
Where painted pooty shells abide; 20
Mistaking oft the ivy spray
For leaves that come with budding Spring,
And wondring, in their search for play,
Why birds delay to build and sing.
The milkmaid singing leaves her bed,
As glad as happy thoughts can be,
While magpies chatter oer her head
As jocund in the change as she:
Her cows around the closes stray,
Nor lingring wait the foddering-boy; 30
Tossing the mole-hills in their play,
21 And staring round with frolic joy.
The shepherd now is often seen
Near warm banks oer his hook to bend;
Or oer a gate or stile to lean,
Chattering to a passing friend:
Ploughmen go whistling to their toils,
And yoke again the rested plough;
And, mingling oer the mellow soils,
Boys shout, and whips are noising now. 40
The barking dogs, by lane and wood,
Drive sheep a-field from foddering ground;
And Echo, in her summer mood,
Briskly mocks the cheering sound.
The flocks, as from a prison broke,
Shake their wet fleeces in the sun,
While, following fast, a misty smoke
Reeks from the moist grass as they run.
No more behind his masters heels
The dog creeps on his winter-pace; 50
But cocks his tail, and oer the fields
22 Runs many a wild and random chase,
Following, in spite of chiding calls,
The startled cat with harmless glee,
Scaring her up the weed-green walls,
Or mossy mottled apple tree.
As crows from morning perches fly,
He barks and follows them in vain;
Een larks will catch his nimble eye,
And off he starts and barks again, 60
With breathless haste and blinded guess,
Oft following where the hare hath gone;
Forgetting, in his joys excess,
His frolic puppy-days are done!
The hedgehog, from his hollow root,
Sees the wood-moss clear of snow,
And hunts the hedge for fallen fruit
Crab, hip, and winter-bitten sloe;
But often checkd by sudden fears,
As shepherd-dog his haunt espies, 70
He rolls up in a ball of spears,
23 And all his barking rage defies.
The gladdend swine bolt from the sty,
And round the yard in freedom run,
Or stretching in their slumbers lie
Beside the cottage in the sun.
The young horse whinneys to his mate,
And, sickening from the threshers door,
Rubs at the straw-yards banded gate,
Longing for freedom on the moor. 80
The small birds think their wants are oer,
To see the snow-hills fret again,
And, from the barns chaff-litterd door,
Betake them to the greening plain.
The woodmans robin startles coy,
Nor longer to his elbow comes,
To peck, with hungers eager joy,
Mong mossy stulps the litterd crumbs.
Neath hedge and walls that screen the wind,
The gnats for play will flock together; 90
And een poor flies some hope will find
24 To venture in the mocking weather;
From out their hiding-holes again,
With feeble pace, they often creep
Along the sun-warmd window-pane,
Like dreaming things that walk in sleep.
The mavis thrush with wild delight,
Upon the orchards dripping tree,
Mutters, to see the day so bright,
Fragments of young Hopes poesy: 100
And oft Dame stops her buzzing wheel
To hear the robins note once more,
Who tootles while he pecks his meal
From sweet-briar hips beside the door.
The sunbeams on the hedges lie,
The south wind murmurs summer soft;
The maids hang out white clothes to dry
Around the elder-skirted croft:
A calm of pleasure listens round,
And almost whispers Winter by; 110
While Fancy dreams of Summers sound,
25 And quiet rapture fills the eye.
Thus Nature of the Spring will dream
While south winds thaw; but soon again
Frost breathes upon the stiffning stream,
And numbs it into ice: the plain
Soon wears its mourning garb of white;
And icicles, that fret at noon,
Will eke their icy tails at night
Beneath the chilly stars and moon. 120
Nature soon sickens of her joys,
And all is sad and dumb again,
Save merry shouts of sliding boys
About the frozen furrowd plain.
The foddering-boy forgets his song,
And silent goes with folded arms;
And croodling shepherds bend along,
26 Crouching to the whizzing storms.
MARCH, month of many weathers, wildly comes
In hail, and snow, and rain, and threatening hums,
And floods;while often at his cottage-door
The shepherd stands, to hear the distant roar
Loosed from the rushing mills and river-locks,
With thundering sound and overpowering shocks.
From bank to bank, along the meadow lea,
The river spreads, and shines a little sea;
While, in the pale sunlight, a watery brood
Of swopping white birds flock about the flood. 10
Yet Winter seems half weary of his toil;
And round the ploughmen, on the elting soil,
Will thread a minutes sunshine wild and warm,
Through the raggd places of the swimming storm;
And oft the shepherd in his path will spy
The little daisy in the wet grass lie,
That to the peeping sun uncloses gay,
Like Labour smiling on a holiday;
And where the steep bank fronts the southern sky,
By lanes or brooks where sunbeams love to lie, 20
A cowslip-peep will open faintly coy,
Soon seen and gatherd by a wondering boy.
A tale of Spring around the distant haze
Seems muttering pleasures with the lengthening days;
Morn wakens mottled oft with May-day stains;
And shower-drops hang the grassy sprouting plains,
Or on the naked thorns of brassy hue
Drip glistening, like a summer-dream of dew.
The woodman, in his pathway down the wood,
Crushes with hasty feet full many a bud 30
Of early primrose; yet if timely spied,
Shelterd some old half-rotten stump beside,
The sight will cheer his solitary hour,
28 And urge his feet to stride and save the flower.
The hedgers toils oft scare the doves, that browze
The chocolate berries on the ivy boughs,
Or flocking fieldfares, speckled like the thrush,
Picking the berry from the hawthorn bush,
That come and go on Winters chilling wing,
And seem to share no sympathy with Spring. 40
The ploughmen now along the doughy sloughs
Will often stop their songs, to clean their ploughs
From teasing twitch, that in the spongy soil
Clings round the coulter, interrupting toil.
The sower oer his heavy hopper leans,
Strewing with swinging arms the pattering beans,
Which, soon as Aprils milder weather gleams,
Will shoot up green between the furrowd seams.
The driving boy, glad when his steps can trace
The swelling headland as a resting-place, 50
Flings from his clotted shoes the dirt around,
And fain would rest him on the solid ground.
Not far behind them struts the nauntly crow,
And daw, whose head seems powderd oer with snow,
Seeking the worms: the rook, a noisy guest,
29 That on the wind-rockd elms prepares her nest,
30 . .
On the fresh furrow often drops, to pull
The twitching roots, or gather sticks and wool,
From trees whose dead twigs litter to the wind,
And gaps where stray sheep left their coats behind; 60
While ground-larks, on a swinging clump of rushes,
Or on the top twigs of the scatterd bushes,
Chirp their cree-creery note, that sounds of Spring;
And sky-larks meet the sun with fluttering wing.
The shepherd-boy, that hastens now and then
From hail and snow beneath his sheltering den
Of flags, or file-leaved sedges tied in sheaves,
Or stubble shocks, oft as his eye perceives
Sun-threads shrink out in momentary smiles,
With fairy thoughts his loneliness beguiles; 70
Thinking the struggling Winter howling by,
As down the edges of the distant sky
The hail-storm sweeps;and while he stops to strip
The stooping hedgebriar of its lingering hip,
He hears the wild geese gabble oer his head;
Then, pleased with fancies in his musings bred,
He marks the figured forms in which they fly,
30 And pausing, follows with a wondering eye,
31 . .
Likening their curious march, in curves or rows,
To every letter which his memory knows; 80
While, far above, the solitary crane
Swings lonely to unfrozen dykes again,
Cranking a jarring melancholy cry
Through the wild journey of the cheerless sky.
Often, at early seasons, mild and fair
March bids farewell, with garlands in her hair
Of hazel tassels, woodbines bushy sprout,
And sloe and wild-plum blossoms peeping out
In thick-set knots of flowers, preparing gay,
For Aprils reign, a mockery of May. 90
The old dame then oft stills her humming wheel
When the bright sun-beams through the windows steal
And gleam upon her face, and dancing fall
In diamond shadows on the picturd wall;
While the white butterfly, as in amaze,
Will settle on the glossy glass to gaze
And smiling, glad to see such things once more,
31 Up she will get and totter to the door,
32 . .
And look upon the trees beneath the eaves
Sweetbriar and lads-loveswelling into leaves; 100
And, stooping down, cull from her garden beds
The early blossoms perking out their heads,
In flower-pots on the window-board to stand,
Where the old hour-glass spins its thread of sand.
And while the passing clown remarks, with pride,
Days lengthen in their visits a cocks stride,
She cleans her candlesticks and sets them by,
Glad of the make-shift light that eves supply!
The boy, retiring home at night from toil,
Down lane and close, oer footbrig, gate, and stile, 110
Oft trembles into fear, and stands to hark
The waking fox renew his short gruff bark;
And shepherdsthat within their hulks remain
Night after night upon the chilly plain,
To watch the dropping lambs, that at all hours
Come in the quaking blast like tender flowers
When in the nightly watch they chance to hear
The badgers shrieks, can hardly stifle fear;
Likening the cry, from woodlands dark recess,
32 To that of helpless woman in distress: 120
33 .. .
For Superstition hath a thousand tales
To people all her midnight woods and vales;
And the dread spot from whence the dismal noise
Mars the night-musings of their dark employs,
Owns its sad tale to realize their fear
A tale their hearts in boyhood ached to hear.
A maid, at night, by treacherous love decoyd,
Was in that shrieking wood, years past, destroyd.
She went, twas said, to meet the waiting swain;
But home and friends neer saw her face again! 130
Mid brake and thorns that crowded round the dell,
And matting weeds that had no tongue to tell,
He murderd her alone at dead midnight,
While the pale moon threw round her sickly light.
Loud screams assaild the thickets slumbers deep,
But only scared the little birds from sleep;
When the pale murderers terror-frowning eye
Told its dread errandthat the maid should die.
Mid thick black thorns her secret grave was made;
And there the unresisting corpse was laid, 140
When no one saw the deed but God and he,
33 And moonlight sparkling through the sleeping tree.
34 . .
The Robin-redbreast might at morning steal
There, for the worm to meet his early meal,
In fresh-turnd moulds which first beheld the sun
Nor know the deed that dismal night had done.
Such is the tale that Superstition gives;
Which in her midnight memory ever lives;
Which makes the boy run by with wild affright,
And shepherds startle on their rounds at night. 150
Now love-teazed maidens, from the droning wheel,
At the red hour of sun-set, slily steal
From scolding dames, to meet their swains again;
Though water checks their visits oer the plain:
They slive where no one sees, some wall behind,
Or orchard apple-tree that stops the wind,
To talk about Springs pleasures hovering nigh,
And happy rambles when the roads get dry.
The insect-world, now sunbeams higher climb,
Oft dream of Spring, and wake before their time. 160
Bees stroke their little legs across their wings,
34 And venture short flights where the snow-drop hings
Its silver bell, and winter aconite
Its butter-cup-like flowers that shut at night,
With green leaf furling round its cup of gold,
Like tender maiden muffled from the cold:
They sip, and find their honey-dreams are vain,
Then feebly hasten to their hives again.
The butterflies, by eager hopes undone,
Glad as a child come out to greet the sun, 170
Beneath the shadow of a sudden shower
35 Are lostnor see to-morrows April flower.
NOW infant April joins the Spring,
And views the watery sky,
As youngling linnet tries its wing,
And fears at first to fly;
With timid step she ventures on,
And hardly dares to smile,
Till blossoms open one by one,
And sunny hours beguile.
But finer days are coming yet,
With scenes more sweet to charm, 10
And suns arrive that rise and set
Bright strangers to a storm:
Then, as the birds with louder song
Each mornings glory cheer,
With bolder step she speeds along,
And loses all her fear.
In wanton gambols, like a child,
She tends her early toils,
And seeks the buds along the wild,
That blossoms while she smiles; 20
Or, laughing on, with nought to chide,
She races with the Hours,
Or sports by Natures lovely side,
And fills her lap with flowers.
The shepherd on his pasture walks
The first fair cowslip finds,
Whose tufted flowers, on slender stalks,
Keep nodding to the winds.
And though the thorns withhold the May,
Their shades the violets bring. 30
Which children stoop for in their play
37 As tokens of the Spring.
38 .. ..
Those joys which childhood calls its own,
Would they were kin to men!
Those treasures to the world unknown,
When known, are witherd then!
But hovering round our growing years,
To gild Cares sable shroud,
Their spirit through the gloom appears
As suns behind a cloud. 40
Since thou didst meet my infant eyes,
As through the fields I flew,
Whose distance, where they meet the skies,
Was all the world I knew;
That warmth of Fancys wildest hours,
Which filld all things with life,
Which heard a voice in trees and flowers,
Has swoond in Reasons strife.
Sweet Month! thy pleasures bid thee be
The fairest child of Spring; 50
And every hour, that comes with thee,
38 Comes some new joy to bring:
39 . ..
The trees still deepen in their bloom,
Grass greens the meadow-lands,
And flowers with every morning come,
As dropt by fairy hands.
The field and gardens lovely hours
Begin and end with thee;
For whats so sweet, as peeping flowers
And bursting buds to see, 60
What time the dews unsullied drops,
In burnishd gold, distil
On crocus flowers unclosing tops,
And drooping daffodil?
To see thee come, all hearts rejoice;
And, warm with feelings strong,
With thee all Nature finds a voice,
And hums a waking song.
The lover views thy welcome hours,
And thinks of summer come, 70
And takes the maid thy early flowers,
39 To tempt her steps from home.
40 .. ..
Along each hedge and sprouting bush
The singing birds are blest,
And linnet green and speckled thrush
Prepare their mossy nest;
On the warm bed thy plains supply,
The young lambs find repose,
And mid thy green hills basking lie
Like spots of lingring snows. 80
Thy opend leaves and ripend buds
The cuckoo makes his choice,
And shepherds in thy greening woods
First hear his cheering voice:
And to thy ripend blooming bowers
The nightingale belongs;
And, singing to thy parting hours,
Keeps night awake with songs!
With thee the swallow dares to come,
And cool his sultry wing; 90
And, urged to seek his yearly home,
40 Thy suns the martin bring.
Oh! lovely Month! be leisure mine
Thy yearly mate to be;
Though May-day scenes may brighter shine,
Their birth belongs to thee.
I waked me with thy rising sun,
And thy first glories viewed,
And, as thy welcome hours begun,
Their sunny steps pursued. 100
And now thy sun is on thee set,
Like to a lovely eve,
I view thy parting with regret,
And linger loth to leave.
Though at her birth the northern gale
Come with its withering sigh;
And hopeful blossoms, turning pale,
Upon her bosom die;
Ere April seeks another place,
And ends her reign in this, 110
She leaves us with as fair a face
41 As eer gave birth to bliss!
COME, Queen of Months! in company
With all thy merry minstrelsy:
The restless cuckoo, absent long,
And twittering swallows chimney-song;
With hedge-row crickets notes, that run
From every bank that fronts the sun;
And swarthy bees, about the grass,
That stop with every bloom they pass,
And every minute, every hour,
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower; 10
And Toil, and Childhoods humming joys!
For there is music in the noise
When village children, wild for sport,
In school-times leisure, ever short,
43 . ..
Alternate catch the bounding ball;
Or run along the church-yard wall,
Cappd with rude figured slabs, whose claims
In times bad memory have no names;
Or race around the nooky church;
Or raise loud echoes in the porch; 20
Throw pebbles oer the weather-cock,
Viewing with jealous eyes the clock;
Or leap oer grave-stones leaning heights,
Uncheckd by melancholy sights,
Though green grass swells in many a heap
Where kin, and friends, and parents sleep.
They think not, in their jovial cry,
The time will come, when they shall lie
As lowly and as still as they;
While other boys
above them play, 30
Heedless, as they are now, to know
The unconscious dust that lies below.
The driving boy, beside his team,
beauty now will dream,
And cock his hat, and turn his eye
43 On flower, and tree, and deepening sky;
44 . ..
And oft burst loud in fits of song,
And whistle as he reels along;
Cracking his whip in starts of joy
A happy, dirty, driving boy. 40
The youth, who leaves his corner stool
Betimes for neighbouring village-school,
Where, as a mark to guide him right,
The church spires all the way in sight,
With cheerings from his parents given,
Beneath the joyous smiles of Heaven
Saunters, with many an idle stand,
With satchel swinging in his hand,
And gazes, as he passes by,
On every thing that meets his eye. 50
Young lambs seem tempting him to play,
Dancing and bleating in his way;
With trembling tails and pointed ears
They follow him, and lose their fears;
He smiles upon their sunny faces,
And fain would join their happy races.
The birds, that sing on bush and tree,
44 Seem chirping for his company;
45 . ..
And allin fancys idle whim
Seem keeping holiday, but him. 60
He lolls upon each resting stile,
To see the fields so sweetly smile
To see the wheat grow green and long;
And lists the weeders toiling song,
Or short note of the changing thrush
Above him in the white-thorn bush,
That oer the leaning stile bends low
Its blooming mockery of snow.
Each hedge is coverd thick with green;
And where the hedger late hath been, 70
Young tender shoots begin to grow
From out the mossy stumps below.
But woodmen still on Spring intrude,
And thin the shadows solitude;
With sharpend axes felling down
The oak-trees budding into brown,
Which, as they crash upon the ground,
A crowd of labourers gather round.
These, mixing mong the shadows dark,
45 Rip off the crackling, staining bark; 80
46 . ..
Depriving yearly, when they come,
The green woodpecker of his home,
Who early in the Spring began,
Far from the sight of troubling man,
To bore his round holes in each tree
In fancys sweet security;
Now, startled by the woodmans noise,
He wakes from all his dreary joys.
The blue-bells too, that thickly bloom
Where man was never known to come; 90
And stooping lilies of the valley,
That love with shades and dews to dally,
And bending droop on slender threads,
With broad hood-leaves above their heads,
Like white-robed maids, in summer hours,
Beneath umbrellas shunning showers;
These, from the bark-mens crushing treads,
Oft perish in their blooming beds.
Strippd of its boughs and bark, in white
The trunk shines in the mellow light 100
Beneath the green surviving trees,
46 That wave above it in the breeze,
47 . ..
And, waking whispers, slowly bend,
As if they mournd their fallen friend.
Each morning, now, the weeders meet
To cut the thistle from the wheat,
And ruin, in the sunny hours,
Full many a wild weed with its flowers;
Corn-poppies, that in crimson dwell,
Calld Head-achs, from their sickly smell; 110
And charlocks, yellow as the sun,
That oer the May-fields quickly run;
And Iron-weed, content to share
The meanest spot that Spring can spare
Een roads, where danger hourly comes,
Are not without its purple blooms,
Whose leaves, with threatning thistles round
Thick set, that have no strength to wound,
Shrink into childhoods eager hold
Like hair; and, with its eye of gold 120
And scarlet-starry points of flowers,
Pimpernel, dreading nights and showers,
Oft calld the Shepherds Weather-glass,
47 That sleeps till suns have dried the grass,
48 . ..
Then wakes, and spreads its creeping bloom
Till clouds with threatening shadows come
Then close it shuts to sleep again:
Which weeders see, and talk of rain;
And boys, that mark them shut so soon,
Call John that goes to bed at noon: 130
And fumitory tooa name
That Superstition holds to fame
Whose red and purple mottled flowers
Are croppd by maids in weeding hours,
To boil in water, milk, and whey,
For washes on a holiday,
To make their beauty fair and sleek,
And scare the tan from Summers cheek;
And simple small Forget-me-not,
Eyed with a pins-head yellow spot 140
I the middle of its tender blue,
That gains from poets notice due:
These flowers, that toil by crowds destroys,
Robbing them of their lowly joys,
Had met the May with hopes as sweet
48 As those her suns in gardens meet;
49 . ..
And oft the dame will feel inclined,
As Childhoods memory comes to mind,
To turn her hook away, and spare
The blooms it loved to gather there! 150
Now young girls whisper things of love,
And from the old dames hearing move;
Oft making love-knots in the shade,
Of blue-green oat or wheaten blade;
Or, trying simple charms and spells
Which rural Superstition tells,
They pull the little blossom threads
From out the knotweeds button heads,
And put the husk, with many a smile,
In their white bosoms for a while, 160
Then, if they guess aright the swain
Their loves sweet fancies try to gain,
Tis said, that ere it lies an hour,
Twill blossom with a second flower,
And from their bosoms handkerchief
Bloom as it neer had lost a leaf.
But signs appear that token wet,
49 While they are neath the bushes met;
50 . ..
The girls are glad with hopes of play,
And harp upon the holiday: 170
A high blue bird is seen to swim
Along the wheat, when skies grow dim
With clouds; slow as the gales of Spring
In motion, with dark-shadowd wing
Beneath the coming storm he sails:
And lonely chirp the wheat-hid quails,
That come to live with Spring again,
But leave when Summer browns the grain;
They start the young girls joys afloat,
With wet my foottheir yearly note: 180
So fancy doth the sound explain,
And oft it proves a sign of rain!
The thresher, dull as winter days,
And lost to all that Spring displays,
Still mid his barn-dust forced to stand,
Swings round his flail with weary hand;
While oer his head shades thickly creep,
50 That hide the blinking owl asleep,
51 . ..
And bats, in cobweb-corners bred,
Sharing till night their murky bed. 190
The sunshine trickles on the floor
Through evry crevice of the door:
This makes his barn, where shadows dwell,
As irksome as a prisoners cell;
And, whilst he seeks his daily meal,
As school-boys from their task will steal,
So will he stand with fond delay
To see the daisy in his way,
Or wild weeds flowering on the wall;
For these to memory still recall 200
The joys, the sports that come with Spring,
The twirling top, the marble ring,
The jingling halfpence hustled up
At pitch and toss, the eager stoop
To pick up heads, the smuggled plays
Neath hovels upon sabbath-days,
The sitting down, when school was oer,
Upon the threshold of the door,
Picking from mallows, sport to please,
51 Each crumpled seed he calld a cheese, 210
52 . ..
And hunting from the stack-yard sod
The stinking henbanes belted pod,
By youths warm fancies sweetly led
To christen them his loaves of bread.
He sees, while rocking down the street
With weary hands and crimpling feet,
Young children at the self-same games,
And hears the self-same boyish names
Still floating on each happy tongue:
Touchd with the simple scene so strong, 220
Tears almost start, and many a sigh
Regrets the happiness gone by;
Thus, in sweet Natures holiday,
His heart is sad while all is gay.
How lovely now are lanes and balks,
For lovers in their Sunday-walks!
The daisy and the butter-cup
For which the laughing children stoop
A hundred times throughout the day,
In their rude romping Summer play 230
So thickly now the pasture crowd,
52 In a gold and silver sheeted cloud,
53 . ..
As if the drops of April showers
Had wood the sun, and changed to flowers.
The brook resumes her Summer dresses,
Purling neath grass and water-cresses,
And mint and flagleaf, swording high
Their blooms to the unheeding eye;
The Summer tracks about its brink
Are fresh again where cattle drink; 240
And on its sunny bank the swain
Stretches his idle length again;
While all that lives enjoys the birth
53 Of frolic Summers laughing mirth.
NOW Summer is in flower, and Natures hum
Is never silent round her bounteous bloom;
Insects, as small as dust, have never done
With glittring dance, and reeling in the sun;
And green wood-fly, and blossom-haunting bee,
Are never weary of their melody.
Round field and hedge, flowers in full glory twine,
Large bind-weed bells, wild hop, and streakd woodbine,
That lift athirst their slender throated flowers,
Agape for dew-falls, and for honey showers; 10
These oer each bush in sweet disorder run,
And spread their wild hues to the sultry sun.
The mottled spider, at eves leisure, weaves
His webs of silken lace on twigs and leaves,
55 . ..
Which evry morning meet the poets eye,
Like fairies dew-wet dresses hung to dry.
The wheat swells into ear, and hides below
The May-month wild flowers and their gaudy show,
Leaving, a school-boys height, in snugger rest,
The leverets seat, and lark, and partridge nest. 20
The mowers now bend oer the beaded grass,
Where oft the gipsys hungry journeying ass
Will turn his wishes from the meadow paths,
Listning the rustle of the falling swaths.
The ploughman sweats along the fallow vales,
And down the sun-crackd furrow slowly trails;
Oft seeking, when athirst, the brooks supply,
Where, brushing eagerly the bushes by
For coolest water, he disturbs the rest
Of ring-dove, brooding oer its idle nest. 30
The shepherds leisure hours are over now;
No more he loiters neath the hedge-row bough,
On shadow-pillowed banks and lolling stile;
55 The wilds must lose their summer friend awhile.
56 . ..
With whistle, barking dogs, and chiding scold,
He drives the bleating sheep from fallow fold
To wash-pools, where the willow shadows lean,
Dashing them in, their stained coats to clean;
Then, on the sunny sward, when dry again,
He brings them homeward to the clipping pen, 40
Of hurdles formd, where elm or sycamore
Shut out the sunor to some threshing-floor.
There with the scraps of songs, and laugh, and tale,
He lightens annual toil, while merry ale
Goes round, and glads some old mans heart to praise
The threadbare customs of his early days:
How the high bowl was in the middle set
At breakfast time, when clippers yearly met,
Filld full of furmety, where dainty swum
The streaking sugar and the spotting plum. 50
The maids could never to the table bring
The bowl, without one rising from the ring
To lend a hand; who, if twere taen amiss,
Would sell his kindness for a stolen kiss.
The large stone pitcher in its homely trim,
56 And clouded pint-horn with its copper rim,
57 . ..
Were there; from which were drunk, with spirits high,
Healths of the best the cellar could supply;
While sung the ancient swains, in uncouth rhymes,
Songs that were pictures of the good old times. 60
Thus will the old man ancient ways bewail,
Till toiling shears gain ground upon the tale,
And break it offfor now the timid sheep,
His fleece shorn off, starts with a fearful leap,
Shaking his naked skin with wondring joys,
While others are brought in by sturdy boys.
Though fashions haughty frown hath thrown aside
Half the old forms simplicity supplied,
Yet there are some prides winter deigns to spare,
Left like green ivy when the trees are bare. 70
And now, when shearing of the flocks is done,
Some ancient customs, mixd with harmless fun,
Crown the swains merry toils. The timid maid,
Pleased to be praised, and yet of praise afraid,
Seeks the best flowers; not those of woods and fields,
57 But such as every farmers garden yields
58 . ..
Fine cabbage-roses, painted like her face;
The shining pansy, trimmd with golden lace;
The tall toppd larkheels, featherd thick with flowers;
The woodbine, climbing oer the door in bowers; 80
The pale pink pea, and monkshood darkly blue:
The white and purple gilliflowers, that stay
Lingring, in blossom, summer half away;
The single blood-walls, of a luscious smell,
Old-fashiond flowers which housewives love so well;
The columbines, stone-blue, or deep night-brown,
Their honeycomb-like blossoms hanging down,
Each cottage-gardens fond adopted child,
Though heaths still claim them, where they yet grow wild;
With marjoram knots, sweet-brier, and ribbon-grass, 90
And lavender, the choice of evry lass,
And sprigs of lads-loveall familiar names,
Which every garden through the village claims.
These the maid gathers with a coy delight,
58 And ties them up, in readiness for night;
59 . ..
Then gives to evry swain, tween love and shame,
Her clipping posies as his yearly claim.
He rises, to obtain the customd kiss:
With stifled smiles, half hankering after bliss,
She shrinks away, and blushing, calls it rude; 100
Yet turns to smile, and hopes to be pursued;
While one, to whom the hint may be applied,
Follows to gain it, and is not denied.
The rest the loud laugh raise, to make it known,
She blushes silent, and will not disown!
Thus ale, and song, and healths, and merry ways,
Keep up a shadow still of former days;
But the old beechen bowl, that once supplied
The feast of furmety, is thrown aside;
And the old freedom that was living then, 110
When masters made them merry with their men;
When all their coats alike were russet brown,
And his rude speech was vulgar as their own
All this is past, and soon will pass away
59 The time-torn remnant of the holiday.
JULY, the month of Summers prime,
Again resumes his busy time;
Scythes tinkle in each grassy dell,
Where solitude was wont to dwell;
And meadows, they are mad with noise
Of laughing maids and shouting boys,
Making up the withering hay
With merry hearts as light as play.
The very insects on the ground
So nimbly bustle all around, 10
Among the grass, or dusty soil,
They seem partakers in the toil.
The landscape even reels with life,
While mid the busy stir and strife
61 . ..
Of industry, the shepherd still
Enjoys his summer dreams at will;
Bent oer his hook, or listless laid
Beneath the pastures willow shade,
Whose foliage shines so cool and gray
Amid the sultry hues of day, 20
As if the mornings misty veil
Yet lingerd in its shadows pale;
Or lolling in a musing mood
On mounds where Saxon castles stood,
Upon whose deeply-buried walls
The ivyd oaks dark shadow falls,
He oft picks up with wondring gaze
Some little thing of other days,
Saved from the wrecks of timeas beads,
Or broken pots among the weeds, 30
Of curious shapesand many a stone
From Roman pavements thickly strown,
Oft hoping, as he searches round,
That buried riches may be found,
Though, search as often as he will,
61 His hopes are disappointed still;
62 . ..
Or watching, on his mossy seat,
The insect world beneath his feet,
In busy motion here and there
Like visitors to feast or fair, 40
Some climbing up the rushs stem,
A steeples height or more to them,
With speed, that sees no fear to stop,
Till perchd upon its spiry top,
Where they awhile the view survey,
Then prune their wings, and flit away,
And others journeying to and fro
Among the grassy woods below,
Musing, as if they felt and knew
The pleasant scenes they wanderd through, 50
Where each bent round them seems to be
Huge as a giant timber-tree.
Shaping the while their dark employs
To his own visionary joys,
He pictures such a life as theirs,
As free from Summers sultry cares,
And only wishes that his own
62 Could meet with joys so thickly sown:
63 . ..
Sport seems the all that they pursue,
And play the only work they do. 60
The cow-boy still cuts short the day,
By mingling mischief with his play;
Oft in the pond, with weeds oergrown,
Hurling quick the plashing stone
To cheat his dog, who watching lies,
And instant plunges for the prize;
And though each effort proves in vain,
He shakes his coat, and dives again,
Till, wearied with the fruitless play,
He drops his tail, and sneaks away, 70
Nor longer heeds the bawling boy,
Who seeks new sports with added joy:
Now on some banks oerhanging brow
Beating the wasps nest with a bough,
Till armies from the hole appear,
And threaten vengeance in his ear
With such determined hue-and-cry
63 As makes the bold besieger fly;
64 . ..
Then, pelting with excessive glee
The squirrel on the woodland-tree, 80
Who nimbles round from grain to grain,
And cocks his tail, and peeps again,
Half-pleased, as if he thought the fray
Which mischief made, was meant for play,
Till scared and startled into flight,
He instant tumbles out of sight.
Thus he his leisure hour employs,
And feeds on busy meddling joys,
While in the willow-shaded pool
His cattle stand, their hides to cool. 90
Loud is the Summers busy song,
The smallest breeze can find a tongue,
While insects of each tiny size
Grow teazing with their melodies,
Till noon burns with its blistering breath
Around, and day dies still as death.
The busy noise of man and brute
64 Is on a sudden lost and mute;
65 . ..
Even the brook that leaps along
Seems weary of its bubbling song, 100
And, so soft its waters creep,
Tired silence sinks in sounder sleep.
The cricket on its banks is dumb,
The very flies forget to hum;
And, save the waggon rocking round,
The landscape sleeps without a sound.
The breeze is stopt, the lazy bough
Hath not a leaf that dances now;
The tottergrass upon the hill,
And spiders threads, are standing still; 110
The feathers dropt from moorhens wing,
Which to the waters surface cling,
Are steadfast, and as heavy seem
As stones beneath them in the stream;
Hawkweed and groundsels fanning downs
Unruffled keep their seedy crowns;
And in the oven-heated air,
Not one light thing is floating there,
Save that to the earnest eye,
65 The restless heat seems twittering by. 120
66 . ..
Noon swoons beneath the heat it made,
And flowers een wither in the shade,
Until the sun slopes in the west,
Like weary traveller, glad to rest,
On pillowed clouds of many hues;
Then natures voice its joy renews,
And chequerd field and grassy plain
Hum, with their summer songs again,
A requiem to the days decline,
Whose setting sunbeams coolly shine, 130
As welcome to days feeble powers
As falling dews to thirsty flowers.
Now to the pleasant pasture dells,
Where hay from closes sweetly smells,
Adown the pathways narrow lane
The milking maiden hies again,
With scraps of ballads never dumb,
And rosy cheeks of happy bloom,
Tannd brown by Summers rude embrace,
66 Which adds new beauties to her face, 140
67 . ..
And red lips never pale with sighs,
And flowing hair, and laughing eyes
That oer full many a heart prevaild,
And swelling bosom loosely veiled,
White as the love it harbours there,
Unsullied with the taunts of care.
The mower now gives labour oer,
And on his bench beside the door
Sits down to see his children play,
Smoking a leisure hour away: 150
While from her cage the blackbird sings,
That on the woodbine arbour hings;
And all with soothing joys receive
67 The quiet of a Summers eve.
Harvest approaches with its busy day;
The wheat tans brown, and barley bleaches grey;
In yellow garb the oatland intervenes,
And tawny glooms the valley throngd with beans.
Silent the village grows,wood-wandering dreams
Seem not so lonely as its quiet seems;
Doors are shut up as on a winters day,
And not a child about them lies at play;
The dust that winnows neath the breezes feet
Is all that stirs about the silent street: 10
Fancy might think that desert-spreading Fear
Had whisperd terrors into Quiets ear,
Or plundering armies past the place had come
And drove the lost inhabitants from home.
69 . ..
The fields now
claim them, where a motley crew
Of old and young their daily tasks pursue.
The reapers leave their rest before the sun,
And gleaners follow in the toils begun
To pick the litterd ear the reaper leaves,
And glean in open fields among the sheaves. 20
The ruddy child, nursed in the lap of Care,
In Toils rude strife to do its little share,
Beside its mother poddles oer the land,
Sunburnt, and stooping with a weary hand,
Picking its tiny glean of corn or wheat,
While crackling stubbles wound its little feet;
Full glad it often is to sit awhile
Upon a smooth green bank to ease its toil,
And fain would spend an idle hour in play
With insects, strangers to the moiling day, 30
Creeping about each rush and grassy stem,
And often wishes it were one of them:
Meanwhile the expecting mother stops to tie
Her handful up, and, waiting his supply,
Misses the idle younker from her side;
69 Then shouts of rods, and morts of threats beside
70 . ..
truths in his unpractised breast,
How they, who idle in the harvest rest,
Shall well-deserving in the winter pine,
Or hunt the hedges with the birds and swine. 40
In vain he wishes that the rushes height
Were tall as trees to hide him from her sight.
Leaving his pleasant seat, he sighs and rubs
His legs, and shows scratchd wounds from piercing stubs,
To make excuse for play; but she disdains
His little wounds, and smiles while he complains;
And as he stoops adown in troubles sore,
She sees his grief, and bids him mourn no more,
For by and by, on the next Sabbath-day,
He shall have well-earnd pence as well as play, 50
When he may buy, almost without a stint,
Sweet candied horehound, cakes, and peppermint,
At the gay shop, within whose window lie
Things of all sorts to tempt his eager eye:
Rich sugar-plums in phials shining bright,
In every hue, young fancies to delight;
Coaches and ladies of gilt gingerbread;
70 And downy plums, and apples streakd with red.
71 . ..
Such promises all
sorrow soon displace,
And smiles are instant kindled in his face; 60
Scorning the troubles which he felt before,
He picks the trailing ears, and mourns no more.
The fields are all alive with sultry noise
Of labours sounds, and insects busy joys.
The reapers oer their glittering sickles stoop,
Startling full oft the partridge coveys up;
Some oer the rustling scythe go bending on;
And shockers follow where their toils have gone,
Heaping the swaths that rustle in the sun,
Where mice from Terrors dangers nimbly run, 70
Leaving their tender young in fears alarm
Lapt up in nests of chimbled grasses warm,
Hoping for safety from their flight in vain;
While the rude boy, or churlish-hearted swain,
Pursues with lifted weapons oer the ground,
And spreads an instant murder all around.
In vain the anxious maidens tender prayer
Urges the clown their little lives to spare;
She sighs, while trailing the long rake along,
71 At scenes so cruel, and forgets her song. 80
72 . ..
When the Sun stoops to meet the western sky,
And Noons hot hours have wanderd weary by,
Seeking a hawthorn bush or willow-tree
For resting-places that the coolest be,
Where baskets heaped and unbroached bottles lie,
Which dogs in absence watchd with wary eye,
They catch their breath awhile, and share the boon
Which bevering-time allows their toil at noon.
Next to her favourd swain the maiden steals,
Blushing at kindness which his love reveals; 90
Making a seat for her of sheaves around,
He drops beside her on the naked ground.
Then from its cool retreat the beer they bring,
And hand the stout-hoopd bottle round the ring.
Each swain soaks hard; the maiden, ere she sips,
Shrieks at the bold wasp settling on her lips,
That seems determined only hers to greet,
As if it fancied they were cherries sweet!
The dog foregoes his sleep awhile, or play,
Springing at frogs that rustling jump away, 100
To watch each morsel carelessness bestows,
72 Or wait the bone or crust the shepherd throws;
73 . ..
For shepherds are
no more of ease possest,
But share in harvest-labours with the rest.
When day declines and others meet repose,
The bawling boy his evening journey goes;
At toils unwearied call the first and last,
He drives his horses to their nights repast,
In dewy close or meadow to sojourn;
And often ventures, on his still return, 110
Oer garden pales, or orchard walls, to hie,
When sleeps safe key hath lockd up dangers eye,
All but the mastiff watching in the dark,
Who snuffs and knows him, and forbears to bark.
With fearful haste he climbs each loaded tree,
And picks for prizes, that the ripest be;
While the pale moon, creeping with jealous light,
Fills empty shadows with the power to fright;
And, from the barn-hole, pops and hurries by,
The grey owl, screaming with a fearful cry; 120
He hears the noise, and, hastening to escape,
73 Thinks each thing grows around a dismal shape.
74 . ..
oer the mossy mouldring wall,
He loses half his booty in the fall;
Where, soon as ever Morning opes its eyes,
The restless hogs will happen on the prize,
And crump adown the mellow and the green,
Making all seem as nothing eer had been.
Amid the broils of harvests weary reign,
How sweet the Sabbath wakes its rest again! 130
And on each weary mind what rapture dwells,
To hear once more the pleasant chiming bells,
That from each steeple, peeping here and there,
Murmur a soothing lullaby to care.
The shepherd, journeying on his morning rounds,
Pauses awhile to hear the pleasing sounds,
While the glad children, free from toils employ,
Mimic the "ding dong" hums, and laugh for joy.
The fields themselves seem happy to be free,
Where insects chatter with unusual glee; 140
While Solitude, the grass and stubs among,
Appears to muse and listen to the song.
In quiet peace awakes the welcome morn;
74 Men tired, and children with their gleaning worn,
75 . ..
Weary and stiff,
lie round doors all day,
To rest themselves, with little heart for play.
In calm delight the Sabbath wears along;
Yet round the Cross, at noon, a tempted throng
Of little younkers, with their pence, repair
To buy the downy plum and luscious pear 150
That melts i th mouth, which gardeners never fail,
For gains strong impulse, to expose for sale;
Placed on the circling Cross-steps in the sun,
What time the parson has his sermon done.
There, soon the boy his sore-earnd penny spends;
And he the while, that pennyless attends,
In sullen, silent mood, approaching nigh,
Full often drops a keen, desiring eye
Upon each loaded basket, to perceive
What makes his little fingers itch to thieve; 160
But, close at hand, the stocks in terror shine,
And temptings strong, to stronger fears resign.
Thus Sundays leisure passes swiftly by
In rest, soft peace, and home-tranquility,
Till Monday morning doth its cares pursue,
75 Rousing the harvests busy toils anew.
Harvest awakes the
And toils rude groups the valleys fill;
Deserted is each cottage hearth
To all life, save the crickets mirth;
Each burring wheel its sabbath meets,
Nor walks a gossip in the streets;
The bench beneath the eldern bough,
Lined oer with grass, is empty now,
Where blackbirds, caged from out the sun,
Would whistle while their mistress spun: 10
All haunt the thronged fields, to share
The harvests lingering bounty there.
As yet, no meddling boys resort
About the streets in idle sport;
77 . ..
enjoys its hour,
And flirts, unchased, from flower to flower;
The humming bees, which morning calls
From out the low huts mortar walls,
And passing boy no more controls
Fly undisturbd about their holes; 20
The sparrows in glad chirpings meet,
Unpelted in the quiet street.
None but imprisond children now
Are seen, where dames with angry brow
Threaten each younker to his seat,
Who, through the window, eyes the street;
Or from his hornbook turns away,
To mourn for liberty and play.
Yet loud are mornings early sounds;
The farm or cottage yard abounds 30
With creaking noise of opening gate,
And clanking pumps, where boys await
With idle motion, to supply
The thirst of cattle crowding nigh.
Upon the dovecotes mossy slates,
77 The pigeons coo around their mates;
78 . ..
And close beside
the stable wall,
Where morning sunbeams earliest fall,
The basking hen, in playful rout,
Flaps the powdery dust about. 40
Within the barn-hole sits the cat
Watching to seize the thirsty rat,
Who oft at morn its dwelling leaves
To drink the moisture from the eaves;
The red-breast, with his nimble eye,
Dares scarcely stop to catch the fly,
That, tangled in the spiders snare,
Mourns in vain for freedom there.
The dog beside the threshold lies,
Mocking sleep, with half-shut eyes 50
With head crouchd down upon his feet,
Till strangers pass his sunny seat
Then quick he pricks his ears to hark,
And bustles up to growl and bark;
While boys in fear stop short their song,
And sneak in startled speed along;
And beggar, creeping like a snail,
78 To make his hungry hopes prevail
79 . ..
Oer the warm
heart of charity,
Leaves his lame halt and hastens by. 60
The maid afield now leaves the farm,
With dinner basket on her arm,
Loitering unseen in narrow lane,
To be oertook by following swain,
Who, happy thus her truth to prove,
Carries the load and talks of love.
Soon as the dew is off the ground,
Rumbling like distant thunder round,
The waggons haste the corn to load,
And hurry down the dusty road; 70
While driving boy with eager eye
Watches the church clock passing by
Whose gilt hands glitter in the sun
To see how far the hours have run;
Right happy, in the breathless day,
To see time wearing fast away.
But now and then a sudden shower
79 Will bring to toil a resting hour;
80 . ..
sheltering shocks, a crowd
Of merry voices mingle loud, 80
Draining, with leisures laughing eye,
Each welcome, bubbling bottle dry;
Till peeping suns dry up the rain,
Then off they start to toil again.
the fields are getting clear,
And glad sounds hum in labours ear;
When children halloo Here they come!
And run to meet the Harvest Home,
Coverd with boughs, and throngd with boys,
Who mingle loud a merry noise, 90
And, when they meet the stack-throngd yard
Cross-buns and pence their shouts reward.
Then comes the harvest-supper night,
Which rustics welcome with delight;
When merry game and tiresome tale,
And songs, increasing with the ale,
Their mingled uproar interpose,
80 To crown the harvests happy close;
81 . ..
While Mirth, that
at the scene abides,
Laughs, till she almost cracks her sides. 100
harvests busy hum declines,
And labour half its help resigns.
Boys, glad at heart, to play return;
The shepherds to their peace sojourn,
Rush-bosomd solitudes among,
Which busy toil disturbd so long.
The gossip, happy all is oer,
Visits again her neighbours door,
On scandals idle tales to dwell,
Which harvest had no time to tell; 110
And free from all its sultry strife,
Enjoys once more her idle life.
A few, whom waning toil reprieves,
Thread the forests sea of leaves,
Where the pheasant loves to hide,
And the darkest glooms abide,
Beneath the old oaks mossd and grey,
81 Whose shadows seem as old as they;
82 . ..
Where time hath
many seasons won,
Since aught beneath them saw the sun; 120
Within these brambly solitudes,
The ragged, noisy boy intrudes,
To gather nuts, that, ripe and brown,
As soon as shook will patter down.
harvest ends its busy reign,
And leaves the fields their peace again;
Where Autumns shadows idly muse
And tinge the trees in many hues:
Amid whose scenes Im fain to dwell,
And sing of what I love so well. 130
But hollow winds, and tumbling floods,
And humming showers, and moaning woods,
All startle into sudden strife,
And wake a mighty lay to life;
Making, amid their strains divine,
82 Unheard a song so mean as mine.
NATURE now spreads around, in dreary hue,
A pall to cover all that summer knew;
Yet, in the poets solitary way,
Some pleasing objects for his praise delay;
Something that makes him pause and turn again,
As every trifle will his eye detain:
The free horse rustling through the stubble field;
And cows at lair in rushes, half conceald;
With groups of restless sheep who feed their fill,
Oer cleard fields rambling wheresoeer they will; 10
The hedger stopping gaps, amid the leaves,
Which time, oer-head, in every colour weaves;
The milkmaid pausing with a timid look,
From stone to stone, across the brimming brook;
84 . ..
The cotter journeying with his noisy swine,
Along the wood-side where the brambles twine,
Shaking from mossy oaks the acorns brown,
Or from the hedges red haws dashing down;
The nutters, rustling in the yellow woods,
Who teaze the wild things in their solitudes; 20
The hunters, from the thickets avenue,
In scarlet jackets, startling on the view,
Skimming a moment oer the russet plain,
Then hiding in the motley woods again;
The plopping guns sharp, momentary shock,
Which echo bustles from her cave to mock;
The bawling song of solitary boys,
Journeying in rapture oer their dreaming joys,
Haunting the hedges in their reveries,
For wilding fruit that shines upon the trees; 30
The wild wood music from the lonely dell,
Where merry Gipseys oer their raptures dwell,
Haunting each commons wild and lonely nook,
Where hedges run as crooked as the brook,
Shielding their camps beneath some spreading oak,
84 And but discovered by the circling smoke
85 . ..
Puffing, and peeping up, as wills the breeze,
Between the branches of the coloured trees:
Such are the pictures that October yields,
To please the poet as he walks the fields; 40
While Naturelike fair woman in decay,
Whom pale consumption hourly wastes away
Upon her waning features, winter chill,
Wears dreams of beauty that seem lovely still.
Among the heath-furze still delights to dwell,
Quaking, as if with cold, the harvest bell;
And mushroom-buttons each moist morning brings,
Like spots of snow-shine in dark fairy rings.
Wild shines each hedge in autumns gay parade;
And, where the eldern trees to autumn fade, 50
The glossy berry picturesquely cleaves
Its swarthy bunches mid the yellow leaves,
On which the tootling robin feeds at will,
And coy hedge-sparrow stains its little bill.
The village dames, as they get ripe and fine,
Gather the bunches for their eldern wine;
Which, bottled up, becomes a rousing charm,
85 To kindle winters icy bosom warm;
86 . ..
And, with its merry partner, nut-brown beer,
Makes up the peasants Christmas-keeping cheer. 60
Like to a painted map the landscape lies;
And wild above, shine the cloud-thronged skies,
That chase each other on with hurried pace,
Like living things, as if they ran a race.
The winds, that oer each sudden tempest brood,
Waken like spirits in a startled mood;
Flirting the sear leaves on the bleaching lea,
That litter under every fading tree;
And pausing oft, as falls the patting rain;
Then gathering strength, and twirling them again, 70
Till drops the sudden calm :the hurried mill
Is stopt at once, and every noise is still;
Save crows, that from the oak trees quawking spring,
Dashing the acorns down with beating wing,
Waking the woods short sleep in noises low,
Patting the crimpt brakes withering brown below;
And whirr of starling crowds, that dim the light
86 With mimic darkness, in their numerous flight;
87 . ..
Or shrilly noise of puddocks feeble wail,
As in slow circles round the woods they sail; 80
While huge black beetles, revelling alone,
In the dull evening hum their heavy drone.
These trifles linger through the shortening day,
To cheer the lone bards solitary way;
Till surly Winter comes with biting breath,
And strips the woods, and numbs the scene with death;
Then all is still oer wood and field and plain,
87 As nought had been, and nought would be again.
THE landscape sleeps in mist from morn till noon;
And, if the sun looks through, tis with a face
Beamless and pale and round, as if the moon,
When done the journey of her nightly race,
Had found him sleeping, and supplied his place.
For days the shepherds in the fields may be,
Nor mark a patch of skyblindfold they trace,
The plains, that seem without a bush or tree,
Whistling aloud by guess, to flocks they cannot see.
The timid hare seems half its fears to lose, 10
Crouching and sleeping neath its grassy lair,
And scarcely startles, tho the shepherd goes
Close by its home, and dogs are barking there;
The wild colt only turns around to stare
At passer by, then knaps his hide again;
And moody crows beside the road, forbear
To fly, tho pelted by the passing swain;
Thus day seems turnd to night, and tries to wake in vain.
The owlet leaves her hiding-place at noon,
And flaps her grey wings in the doubling light; 20
The hoarse jay screams to see her out so soon,
And small birds chirp and startle with affright;
Much doth it scare the superstitious wight,
Who dreams of sorry luck, and sore dismay;
While cow-boys think the day a dream of night,
And oft grow fearful on their lonely way,
89 Fancying that ghosts may wake, and leave their graves by day.
Yet but awhile the slumbering weather flings
Its murky prison roundthen winds wake loud;
With sudden stir the startled forest sings 30
Winters returning songcloud races cloud,
And the horizon throws away its shroud,
Sweeping a stretching circle from the eye;
Storms upon storms in quick succession crowd,
And oer the sameness of the purple sky
Heaven paints, with hurried hand, wild hues of every dye.
At length it comes among the forest oaks,
With sobbing ebbs, and uproar gathering high;
The scared, hoarse raven on its cradle croaks,
And stockdove-flocks in hurried terrors fly, 40
While the blue hawk hangs oer them in the sky.
The hedger hastens from the storm begun,
To seek a shelter that may keep him dry;
And foresters low bent, the wind to shun,
90 Scarce hear amid the strife the poachers muttering gun.
The ploughman hears its humming rage begin,
And hies for shelter from his naked toil;
Buttoning his doublet closer to his chin,
He bends and scampers oer the elting soil,
While clouds above him in wild fury boil, 50
And winds drive heavily the beating rain;
He turns his back to catch his breath awhile,
Then ekes his speed and faces it again,
To seek the shepherds hut beside the rushy plain.
The boy, that scareth from the spiry wheat
The melancholy crowin hurry weaves,
Beneath an ivied tree, his sheltering seat,
Of rushy flags and sedges tied in sheaves,
Or from the field a shock of stubble thieves.
There he doth dithering sit, and entertain 60
His eyes with marking the storm-driven leaves;
Oft spying nests where he spring eggs had taen,
91 And wishing in his heart twas summer-time again.
Thus wears the month along, in checkerd moods,
Sunshine and shadows, tempests loud, and calms;
One hour dies silent oer the sleepy woods,
The next wakes loud with unexpected storms;
A dreary nakedness the field deforms
Yet many a rural sound, and rural sight,
Lives in the village still about the farms, 70
Where toils rude uproar hums from morn till night
Noises, in which the ears of Industry delight.
At length the stir of rural labours still,
And Industry her care awhile foregoes;
When Winter comes in earnest to fulfil
His yearly task, at bleak Novembers close,
And stops the plough, and hides the field in snows;
When frost locks up the stream in chill delay,
And mellows on the hedge the jetty sloes,
For little birdsthen Toil hath time for play, 80
92 And nought but threshers flails awake the dreary day.
GLAD Christmas comes, and every hearth
Makes room to give him welcome now,
Een want will dry its tears in mirth,
And crown him with a holly bough;
Though tramping neath a winter sky,
Oer snowy paths and rimy stiles,
The housewife sets her spinning by
To bid him welcome with her smiles.
Each house is swept the day before,
And windows stuck with ever-greens, 10
The snow is besomd from the door,
And comfort crowns the cottage scenes.
Gilt holly, with its thorny pricks,
And yew and box, with berries small,
These deck the unused candlesticks,
And pictures hanging by the wall.
Neighbours resume their annual cheer,
Wishing, with smiles and spirits high,
Glad Christmas and a happy year,
To every morning passer-by; 20
Milkmaids their Christmas journeys go,
Accompanied with favourd swain;
And children pace the crumping snow,
To taste their grannys cake again.
The shepherd, now no more afraid,
Since custom doth the chance bestow,
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of misletoe
That neath each cottage beam is seen,
With pearl-like berries shining gay; 30
The shadow still of what hath been,
94 Which fashion yearly fades away.
The singing wates, a merry throng,
At early morn, with simple skill,
Yet imitate the angels song,
And chant their Christmas ditty still;
And, mid the storm that dies and swells
By fitsin hummings softly steals
The music of the village bells,
Ringing round their merry peals. 40
When this is past, a merry crew,
Bedeckd in masks and ribbons gay,
The Morris-dance, their sports renew,
And act their winter evening play.
The clown turnd king, for penny-praise,
Storms with the actors strut and swell;
And Harlequin, a laugh to raise,
Wears his hunch-back and tinkling bell.
And oft for pence and spicy ale,
With winter nosegays pinnd before, 50
The wassail-singer tells her tale,
95 And drawls her Christmas carols oer.
While prentice boy, with ruddy face,
And rime-bepowderd, dancing locks,
From door to door with happy pace,
Runs round to claim his Christmas box.
The block upon the fire is put,
To sanction customs old desires;
And many a fagot's bands are cut,
For the old farmers Christmas fires; 60
Where loud-tongued Gladness joins the throng,
And Winter meets the warmth of May,
Till feeling soon the heat too strong,
He rubs his shins, and draws away.
While snows the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming oer the pitchers rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm;
Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
Sits there, its pleasures to impart, 70
And children, tween their parents knees,
96 Sing scraps of carols oer by heart.
And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In Fancys infant ecstasy;
Laughing, with superstitious love,
Oer visions wild that youth supplies,
Of people pulling geese above,
And keeping Christmas in the skies. 80
As tho the homestead trees were drest,
In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves;
As tho the sun-dried martins nest,
Instead of icles hung the eaves;
The children hail the happy day
As if the snow were Aprils grass,
And pleasd, as neath the warmth of May,
Sport oer the water froze to glass.
Thou day of happy sound and mirth,
That long with childish memory stays, 90
How blest around the cottage hearth
97 I met thee in my younger days!
Harping, with raptures dreaming joys,
On presents which thy coming found,
The welcome sight of little toys,
The Christmas gift of cousins round.
The wooden horse with arching head,
Drawn upon wheels around the room;
The gilded coach of gingerbread,
And many-colourd sugar plum; 100
Gilt coverd books for pictures sought,
Or stories childhood loves to tell,
With many an urgent promise bought,
To get to-morrows lesson well.
And many a thing, a minutes sport,
Left broken on the sanded floor,
When we would leave our play, and court
Our parents promises for more.
Tho manhood bids such raptures die,
And throws such toys aside as vain, 110
Yet memory loves to turn her eye,
98 And count past pleasures oer again.
Around the glowing hearth at night,
The harmless laugh and winter tale
Go round, while parting friends delight
To toast each other oer their ale;
The cotter oft with quiet zeal
Will musing oer his Bible lean;
While in the dark the lovers steal
To kiss and toy behind the screen. 120
Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
However simple they may be:
Whateer with time hath sanction found,
Is welcome, and is dear to me.
Pride grows above simplicity,
And spurns them from her haughty mind,
And soon the poets song will be
99 The only refuge they can find.