« AnteriorContinua »
Spread with the darksome tracery of boughs,
Shifting with peeps of white air and blue sky,
And all in breath, and all in blessedness,
As though it smiled, or felt how calm it was,
How rich, how healthy, and what a perfect work!
Not only birds live here, and make the spring
A throng of music, and the rains are thank'd
With odours, and the tufted squirrel sits
Handling against his tooth his hasty nut;
But here innumerable small things abide,
Fairies of fly and worm, with other lives
Than ours, but healthy, therefore happy sure,
Perhaps with centuries of sweet little thoughts
Cramm’d into them, as closely pack'd as seeds,
Knowing a world of knowledge we know not,
And certainly brief-death'd. Oh happy tree,
Happy the soul can taste a heaven in thee!
Blue never looks so sweet as through these sky-lights
Of the tree-tops; and never do we seem,
When gazing on that blue, to have and hold
So truly a bit of heaven. It comes small
And home to us; domesticates with the shade.
What think you of this seat, up in the boughs ?
And this bough footstool?
Tis the heav'n you speak of;
Nay, a man's nest. Did not these limbs of ours
Make me feel too gigantic, I could fain
Think myself bird,-a little, soft, warm thing,
Quick-neck'd, and glancing out of its nest-nook
With mother's heart over its eggs, those strange
New lives that are itself, and yet not it.
How rascally would seem now the round face
Of the boy come to steal them! What a horrible
Thrust through the leaves, of a young ogre head,
Frighting her soul out!
Don't let us big ogres
Catch him, or we will give his nose a twist
Shall make him think some devilish beak has got him.
Oh, nothing like your anti-cruelty
For being cruel, when its sense of right
Once begins raging; right and wrong then meet
So purely, and enable a man to vent
His will upon another's with such comfort !
Reader. Ah ha! I fancied you thought ill of no one?
Author. Nor do I :-No, not even of ill itself,
Kept in due bounds, and made the ground of good,
The dark of light, the labour for the enjoyment;
And its excess is sometimes but a rich
Outbreak and force of life ; at least has been so ;
Displacing worse; and upon hope's mild face
Opening fresh airs of heav'n, after the thunder.
But these are thoughts for reverence of the past,
Eternity's done deeds :-Conscience as reverent
Is for the future, and unbounded hope,
Whether to maintain action alone, and keep
Earth as it is, still hoping and still striving,
A pain-mixed good, strenuous and beautiful,
Or to some wondrous ripeness of sweet time
Perfect the planet, as to us seems perfect,
Blooming on one of the starry trees of space,
Which we call universes ;-golden heavens,
Sprung from the seeds of never-dying love.
Reader. And what of them that have inhabited
These future heavens, and died ?
'Tis easy to believe all good in the end,
And all conciliable ;-all solvable
By some sweet mystery of place and time.
Meantime, to know all mystery were perhaps
To defeat action, and put ends for means.
But these “high arguments” keep us waiting here
Under our tree, and threaten to defeat
Very agreeable action of our own,
And very requisite, and what heav'n approves ;
Dinner, to wit,—and sweet walk through the fields.
Besides, I grudge myself this teaching tone,
And mighty ramblings where one knows not of,
And wish you to discourse me infinite things,
Of woods, and old wood visions, and your own,
And what accords with all sweet country nests.
O ever let us take " the goods the gods
Provide us." Don't you like that honest discord
Of “goods and gods," full of harmonious truth?
Reader. " Goods” and the “ Gods," thank God, are one sole word:
For God is “good,” the gods but good divided ;
And thus the Pagan heaven may smile for ever
Beneath the Christian one,-an under firmament
Full of permitted shapes of beauty and joy.
But come we down, as well your laugh proposed,
From those “high arguments,” to this our nest.
What think ye of Sindbad, sitting here and feeling
His “great snake” down below there, waiting for him? Author. It makes me almost gather my legs up!
Methinks those dock-leaves rustle.
Are true, they say ! at least, “ founded in truth;"
I hope, not too entirely. "Twere a pity
To stint the wondrous to the known, and leave
Imagination not a world to conquer.
Author. No fear of that, e'en could we walk the stars,
As long as known itself remains unknown
In its first cause, and every leaf a wonder.
Reader. Ay; and we thus may welcome fresh true wonders,
Most Sindbad-like, nor give up dear astonishment.
What think ye of being jolter'd off your boughs
By a great shouldering sloth now,-a slow fellow
Enough on ground, but quick as hunger and strength
Under his trees, and travelling like a goblin ?
You know how he “gets on," clioging supine
Under the tossing boughs, from tree to tree? *
Fancy a goblin, in a fairy-tale,
Coming upon the wrong side of swung boughs
To kill two pigeons on a tree top,-lovers !
Author. Talk of him always. I could hear such mixture
Of truth and fiction, for a summer's day.
Those woods in the New World, treble the height
Of ours, painted with birds, chattering with monkeys,
Clogg'd and o'er-saturate with all sorts of life,
Where ferns are trees o'erhead, and creepers cables,
Are themselves good as fiction, though mere truths.
Reader. And such remain they, keeping their proud distance.
We want them not, content with our own small,
Still, thoughtful, many-storied, home-fit woods ;
Sweet-voiced, when voiced they are; but sometimes mute,
As fits sweet voices, resting on the heart.
Author. So much I think with you, that give me but
Five trees, familiar ones, and I can love them
For their own sakes, or turn them to five hundred,
The fancied outskirt of some mighty forest,
Where I am still at home. Europe is home,
And Christendom is home; nay, Pagandom,
Being of Europe; nay, the East itself,
For who's a stranger in the Arabian Nights?
The trees of Ariosto and of Theocritus
Are ours,-beeches and oaks, with no more difference
Than what has been made ours in green old books,-
Cypress and olive, native to all verse;
And with the palm we have grown up in the Bible.
Reader. We suit each other, as if made to do so!
Not the worst thing in the world! though some nice friendships
Require a little comfortable discord
To hinder the infinite universe from palling
Upon two pair of ears! I want, like you,
No miles of forest, when a wood's at hand;
No mountains, when I've hills ; no trading river,
Lap me but inland by a mossy brook.
Yet love I all those magnitudes; the river,
Showing great ships; mountains, like earths on earth;
Forests, where silence travels with a man.
Poets and poetry-loving men, love all
Which Nature loves, and that is everything.
Out of a garden of some thirty feet
Plump with round roses and his lady's bosom,
A poet's verse, a fount, and a guitar,
The Persian makes his paradise. So could I.
Author. Out of a garden of some thirty feet,
Plump with a water-butt, and spiced with potherbs,
An inn, a hunger, and an ended walk,
The diner makes his paradise. So will we.
Thus from our tree we merrily descend,
Half sliding down the exuberant dry ditch
With jovial heels, and gloved against the nettles,
And so walk onward through the wood; now hearing
The cuckoo, now the thrush, always the leaves,
For 'tis a western wind; now seeing visions
Of fauns, and flying nymphs, and fairy stags
Drawing pursuit to some enamour'd bower;
Or colour'd shield, hung in the sycamore,
By which some knight's asleep; or the famed band,
Suspenders of the breath of him in the tree,
Who saw them throng into the sudden door ;*
Or Man o' the Woods, that wept when it was fair,
And laugh'd and leap'd in tempests ;t or that worse
And bad old man, living in the lone house,
Who from his window watch'd along the wood,
And came out, loud and violent.I Suddenly
An abbot cometh, plump as two of his priests,
And strong as his horse; yet starteth; for an arrow
Sticks straight into the tree, close by his ear,
Follow'd by laughter from the brakes. Ah, Robin !
Ever good shot, and jovial heart wast thou,
And loved'st to laugh back his tithe to the poor.
The dusty and firr'd wood, with dinning nook
Of Aies, and bits of heavy-mantled pond,
Which yet we love, for sylvan too are they,
And full of life, has varied, as we go,
Into park neighbourhood, not tamed, however,
* Who need be reminded of the “ Forty Thieves ?"
+ See the Orlando Innamorato, Canto 23.
Morgante Maggiore, Canto 17.
From what is sweet in wildness. Of such spots
Hung with wild musk-blooms and with golden shades,
Where dizzes the dark bee, grave in his joy,
Elysian fields were made, and Eden bowers,
And Golden Ages; and if hope speaks well
And beauteous fitness, shall be made again ;
And man, now huddled into struggling towns,
Be sprinkled, blest, o'er all the greeny globe.
That" kingdom come!"- Meanwhile, welcome the hope,
And welcome the delay, and welcome, aye,
The disappointment, should we know it not
Thoroughly, nor desist from hope's good work,
Its cheer, its bettering, or its patient love.
Smooth future world, I hail thee, if to be;
May still some little rough relish thy smoothness.
Rough present world, I hail thee also. Smooth
Hast thou as well as rough; art joy-begotten,
Action-sustain'd, and diest briefly, hoping.
We issue from the trees, and look right down
On more, with a church-tow'r, o'er level meads ;-
The village! There's the manor house; old smoker,-
Wrinkled and stately as Queen Elizabeth,
Its very windows, somehow, seem to wink,
Like old eyes with their lifted brows. There nestles
The parsonage;~and there, behind that elm,
Over the goose-green, as you quit the place,
There, there's the inn !
Thank God and our good walk !
Now, by my future hopes and present appetite,
No better prospect hath the Golden Age ;
Nor were a phænix equal to broil'd fowl.
A steak is final.
What a land for meals !
Look in the dell here, in this steep hill-shade,
Under the trees, - look at the colour'd cattle.
They're milking them. There's pretty breakfast for you ;
There, and in yonder corn-field, past the hedge.
Red with the poppies; you just see the skirts of it.
Upon this other side clusters the farm,
As full of eggs, and fitches, and all sorts
Of eatables, as eggs are full of meat,
And with its homesteads making you feel at home,
Although a stranger. Farms are all men's homes,
A sort of homely golden age in fancy;
Often in fact, did but the inmates know it.
Author. Si bona norint, as the poet says;
Happy, were they but happy!--a small proviso!
Yes; some once in one's life, all would be farmers, VOL. XCVI.