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234. ON A DISTANT PROSPECT OF ETON COLLEGE.
Ye distant spires ! ye antique towers !
That crown the watery glade
Where grateful Science still adores
Her Henry's holy shade;
And ye that from the stately brow
Of Windsor's heights th’expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among
Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way:
Ah, happy hills ! ah, pleasing shade!
Ah, fields beloved in vain !
Where once my careless childhood strayed,
A stranger yet to pain!
I feel the gales that from ye blow
A momentary bliss bestow,
As, waving fresh their gladsome wing,
My weary soul they seem to soothe,
And, redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring.
Say, father Thames! for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race,
Disporting on thy margent green,
The paths of pleasure trace:
Who foremost now delight to cleave
With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
The captive linnet which inthrall?
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed,
Or urge the flying ball?
While some, on earnest business bent,
Their murmuring labors ply,
'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint,
To sweeten liberty;
Some bold adventurers disdain
The limits of their little reign,
And unknown regions dare descry,
Still as they run they look behind,
They hear a voice in every wind,
And snatch a fearful joy.
Gay Hope is theirs, by Fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possessed :
Awake, Æolian lyre! awake,
And give to rapture all thy trembling strings !
From Helicon's harmonious springs A thousand rills their mazy progress take; The laughing flowers, that round them blow, Drink life and fragrance as they flow. Now the rich stream of music winds along, Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong, Through verdant vales and Ceres' golden reign; Now rolling down the steep amain,
Headlong, impetuous, see it pour; The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar.
Woods that wave o'er Delphi's steep,
Isles that crown th' Ægean deep,
Fields that cool Ilissus laves,
Or where Meander's amber waves
In lingering labyrinths creep,
How do your tuneful echoes languish,
Mute but to the voice of Anguish?
Where each old poetic mountain
Inspiration breathed around;
Every shade and hallowed fountain
Murmured deep a solemn sound,
Till the sad Nine, in Greece's evil hour,
Left their Parnassus for the Latian plains,
Alike they scorn the pomp of tyrant Power
And coward Vice, that revels in her chains. When Latium had her lofty spirit lost, They sought, O Albion! next thy sea-encircled coast.
Far from the sun and summer-gale,
In thy green lap was Nature's darling laid,
What time, where lucid Avon strayed,
To him the mighty Mother did unveil
Her awful face; the dauntless child
Stretched forth his little arms, and smiled.
This pencil take (she said) whose colors clear
Richly paint the vernal year;
Thine, too, these golden keys, immortal Boy!
This can unlock the gates of Joy,
Of Horror that, and thrilling Fears,
Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic Tears.
Nor second He that rode sublime
Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy;
The secrets of th' abyss to spy,
He passed the flaming bounds of place and time;
The living throne, the sapphire-blaze,
Where angels tremble while they gaze,
He saw; but blasted with excess of light,
Closed his eyes in endless night.
Behold where Dryden's less presumptuous car
Wide o'er the fields of glory bear
Two coursers of ethereal race,
With necks in thunder clothed and long-resounding pac •
Hark! his hands the lyre explore!
Bright-eyed Fancy, hovering o'er,
Scatters from her pictured urn
Thoughts that breathe and words that burn;
But ah! 'tis heard no more.
O lyre divine! what dying spirit
Wakes thee now? though he inherit
Nor the pride nor ample pinion
That the Theban eagle bear,
Through the azure deep of air,
Yet oft before his infant eyes would run
Such forms as glitter in the Muse's ray
With orient hues, unborrowed of the sun;
Yet shall he mount, and keep his distant way
Beyond the limits of a vulgar fate,
Beneath the good how far - but far above the great.
WILLIAM COWPER. 1731-1800. (Manual, p. 357.)
FROM "THE TASK." 236. ON THE RECEIPT OF MY Mother's PICTURE OUT OF
NORFOLK, THE GIFT OF MY COUSIN, ANN BODHAM,
O that those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine - thy own sweet smile I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me;
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
“Grieve not, my child; chase all thy fears away!”
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalize,
The art that baffles Time's tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.
Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
O welcome guest, though unexpected here!
Who bidd'st me honor with an artless song,
Affectionate, a mother lost so long.
I will obey, not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own:
And, while that face renews my filial grief,
Fancy shall weave a charm for my relief,
Shall steep me in Elysian reverie,
A momentary dream, that thou art she.
My mother! when I learned that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?
Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss :
Ah, that maternal smile! it answers, Yes.
I heard the bell tolled on thy burial day;
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
And, turning from my nursery window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu !
But was it such ? - It was. – Where thou art gone
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more !
Thy maidens, grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return.
What ardently I wished, I long believed,
And, disappointed still, was still deceived.
By expectation every day beguiled,
Dupe of to-morrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrows spent,
-I learned at last submission to my lot,
But, though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.
Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more;
Children not thine have trod my nursery floor;
And where the gardener Robin, day by day,
Drew me to school along the public way,
Delighted with my bawble coach, and wrapped
In scarlet mantle warm, and velvet cap,
'Tis now become a history but little known,
That once we called the pastoral house our own.
Short-lived possession! but the record fair,
That memory keeps of all thy kindness there,
Still outlives many a storm, that has effaced
A thousand other themes less deeply traced.
Thy nightly visits to my chamber made,
That thou might'st know me safe and warmly laid;
Thy morning bounties ere I left my home;
The biscuit, or confectionery plum;
The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestowed
By thy own hand, till fresh they shone and glowed, -
All this, and more endearing still than all,
Thy constant flow of love, that knew no fall,
Ne’er roughened by those cataracts and breaks,
That humor interposed too often makes;
All this still legible in memory's page,
And still to be so to my latest age,
Adds joy to duty, makes me glad to pay
Such honors to thee as my numbers may;