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A tale of rural life, a tale of woes,
The orphan babes, and guardian uncle fierce.
O Cruel! will no pang of pity pierce
That heart by lust of lucre sear’d to stone !
For sure, if aught of virtue last, or verse,
To latest times shall tender souls bemoan
Those helpless orphan-babes by thy fell arts undone.
Behold, with berries smear'd, with brambles torn, * The babes now famish'd lay them down to die, 'Midst the wild howl of darksome woods forlorn, Folded in one another's arms they lie ; Nor friend, nor stranger, hears their dying cry; 66 For from the town the man returns no more." But thou, who Heaven's just vengeance dar’st defy,
This deed with fruitless tears shall soon deplore, When Death lays waste, thy house, and flames con
sume thy store.
A stifled smile of stern vindictive joy
Brighten'd one moment Edwin's starting tear.-
“But why should gold man's feeble mind decoy,
“ And innocence thus die by doom severe?”
O Edwin! while thy heart is yet sincére,
Th' assaults of discontent and doubt repel :
Dark even at noon-tide is our mortal sphere;
But let us hope to doubt, is to rebel,-
Let us exult in hope, that all shall yet be well.
* See the fine old ballad, called, The Children in the Wood.
Nor be thy generous indignation check’d,
Nor check'd the tender tear to Misery given;
From Guilt's contagious power shall that protect,
This soften and refine the soul for Heaven.
But dreadful is their doom, whom doubt has driven
To censure Fate, and pious Hope forego :
Like yonder blasted boughs by lightning riven,
Perfection, beauty, life, they never know,
But frown on all that pass, a monument of wo.
Shall he, whose birth, maturity, and age,
Scarce fill the circle of one summer-day,
Shall the poor gnat with discontent and rage
Exclaim, that Nature hastens to decay,
If but a cloud obstruct the solar ray,
If but a momentary shower descend !
Or shall frail man Heaven's dread decree gainsay,
Which bade the series of events extend
Wide thro’unnumber'd worlds, and ages without end!
One part, one little part, we dimly scan
Thro’ the dark medium of life's feverish dream,
Yet dare arraign the whole stupendous plan,
If but that little part incongruous seem.
Nor is that part perhaps what mortals deem;
Oft from apparent ill our blessings rise.
O then renounce that impious self-esteem,
That aims to trace the secrets of the skies :
For thou art but of dust; be humble, and be wise.
Thus Heaven enlarg’d his soul in riper years ;
For Nature gave him strength and fire, to soar
On Fancy's wing above this vale of tears ;
Where dark cold-hearted skeptics, creeping, pore
Through microscope of metaphysic lore ;
And much they grope for truth, but never hit.
For why? their powers, inadequate before,
This art preposterous renders more unfit ; (wit. Yet deem they darkness light, and their vain blunders
Nor was this ancient dame a foe to mirth,
Her ballad, jest, and riddle's quaint device,
Oft cheer'd the shepherds round their social hearth;
Whom levity or spleen could ne'er entice
To purchase chat or laughter, at the price
Of decency. Nor let it faith exceed,
That Nature forms a rustic taste so nice.
Ah! had they been of court or city breed,
Such delicacy were right marvellous indeed.
Oft when the winter-storm had ceas'd to rave,
He roam'd the snowy waste at even, to view
The cloud stupendous, from th’ Atlantic wave
High-towering, sail along th' horizon blue :
Where 'midst the changeful scenery ever new
Fancy a thousand wondrous forms descries
More wildly great than ever pencil drew.
Rocks, torrents, gulfs, and shapes of giant-size,
And glittering cliffs on cliffs, and fiery ramparts rise.
Thence musing onward to the sounding shore,
The lone enthusiast oft would take his way,
Listening with pleasing dread to the deep roar
Of the wide-weltering waves.
In black array
When sulph'rous clouds rolld on the vernal day,
Even then he hasten'd from the haunt of man,
Along the trembling wilderness to stray,
What time the lightning's fierce career began, (ran. And o’er Heaven's rending arch the rattling thunder
Responsive to the sprightly pipe when all
In sprightly dance the village youth were join'd,
Edwin, of melody aye held in thrall,
From the rude gambol far remote reclin'd,
Sooth'd with the soft notes warbling in the wind.
Ah then, all jollity seem'd noise and folly.
To the pure soul by Fancy's fire refin'd,
Ah what is mirth but turbulence unholy,
When with the charm compared of heavenly melan-
Is there a heart that music cannot melt?
Alas! how is that rugged heart forlorn !
Is there, who ne'er those mystic transports felt
Of solitude and melancholy born?
He needs not woo the Muse: he is her scorn.
The sophist's robe of cobweb he shall twine ;
Mope o'er the schoolman's peevish page; or mourn,
And delve for life in Mammon's dirty mine;
Sneak with the scoundrel fox, or grunt with glutton
For Edwin, Fate a nobler doom had plann'd;
Song was his favourite and first pursuit.
The wild harp rang to his adventurous hand,
And languish'd to his breast the plaintive flute.
His infant muse, though artless, was not mute ;
Of elegance as yet he took no care;
For this of time and culture is the fruit ;
And Edwin gain'd at last this fruit so rare;
As in some future verse I purpose to declare."
Meanwhile, whate'er of beautiful, or new,
Sublime or dreadful, in earth, sea, or sky;
By chance, or search, was offer'd to his view,
He scann'd with curious and romantic eye.
Whate'er of lore tradition could supply
From Gothic tale, or song, or fable old,
Rous'd him, still keen to listen and to pry.
At last, though long by penury controlld,
And solitude, his soul her graces 'gan unfold.
Thus on the chill Lapponian's dreary land,
For many a long month lost in snow profound,
When Sol from Cancer sends the season bland,
And in their-northern cave the storms are bound;
From silent mountains, straight, with startling sound,
Torrents are hurl'd; green hills emerge ; and lo,
The trees with foliage, cliffs with flowers are crown'd;
Pure rills thro' vales of verdure warbling go;
And wonder, love, and joy, the peasant's heart o'er-
* Spring and Autump are hardly known to the Laplanders. About the time the sun enters Cancer, their fields, which a week before were covered with snow, appear on a sud-len full of grass and flowers. Scheffer's History of Lapland, p. 16.