Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

As in an idiot's brain remembered words

Hang empty 'mid the cobwebs of his dreams! Will bleat of flocks or bellowing of herds

Make up for the lost music, when your teams Drag home the stingy harvest, and no more

The feathered gleaners follow to your door? “What! would you rather see the incessant stir

Of insects in the windrows of the hay,
And hear the locust and the grasshopper

Their melancholy hurdy-gurdies play?
Is this more pleasant to you than the whirr

Of meadow-lark, and her sweet roundelay,
Or twitter of little field-fares, as you take

Your nooning in the shade of bush and brake ? * You call them thieves and pillagers; but know

They are the winged wardens of your farms, Who from the corn-fields drive the insidious foe,

And from your harvests keep a hundred harms; Even the blackest of them all, the crow,

Renders good service as your man-at-arms, Crushing the beetle in his coat of mail,

And crying havoc on the slug and snail. “How can I teach your children gentleness,

And mercy to the weak, and reverence
For Life, which, in its weakness or excess,

Is still a gleam of God's omnipotence,
Or Death, which, seeming darkness, is no less

The selfsame light, although averted hence,
When by your laws, your actions, and your speech,
You contradict the very things I teach ?'
With this he closed; and through the audience went

A murmur, like the rustle of dead leaves;
The farmers laughed and nodded, and some bent

Their yellow heads together like their sheaves;
Men have no faith in fine-spun sentiment

Who put their trust in bullocks and in beeves. The birds were doomed; and, as the record shows, A bounty offered for the heads of crows.

There was another audience out of reach,

Who had no voice nor vote in making laws, But in the papers read his little speech,

And crowned his modest temples with applause; They made him conscious, each one more than each,

He still was victor, vanquished in their cause.
Sweetest of all the applause he won from thee,
O fair Almira at the Academy!

And so the dreadful massacre began;

O'er fields and orchards, and o'er woodland crests, The ceaseless fusillade of terror ran,

Dead fell the birds, with blood-stains on their breasts, Or wounded crept away from sight of man,

While the young died of famine in their nests;
A slaughter to be told in groans, not words,
The very St. Bartholomew of Birds !
The summer came, and all the birds were dead;

The days were like hot coals; the very ground
Was burned to ashes; in the orchards fed

Myriads of caterpillars, and around The cultivated fields and garden beds

Hosts of devouring insects crawled, and found No foe to check their march, till they had made The land a desert without leaf or shade. Devoured by worms, like Herod, was the town,

Because, like Herod, it had ruthlessly Slaughtered the Innocents. From the trees spun down

The canker-worms upon the passers-by,
Upon each woman's bonnet, shawl, and gown,

Who shook them off with just a little cry;
They were the terror of each favourite walk,
The endless theme of all the village talk.
The farmers grew impatient, but a few

Confessed their error, and would not complain,
For, after all, the best thing one can do

When it is raining, is to let it rain.
Then they repealed the law, although they knew

It would not call the dead to life again;
As school-boys, finding their mistake too late,
Draw a wet sponge across the accusing slate.

That year in Killingworth the Autumn came

Without the light of his majestic look,
The wonder of the falling tongues of fame,

The illumined pages of his Doomsday-Book.
A few lost leaves blushed crimson with their shame,

And drowned themselves despairing in the brook,
While the wild wind went moaning everywhere,
Lamenting the dead children of the air !
But the next Spring a stranger sight was seen,

A sight that never yet by bard was sung,
As great a wonder as it would have been

If some dumb animal had found a tongue!
A waggon, overarched with evergreen,
Upon whose boughs were wicker cages hung:

All full of singing birds, came down the street,
Filling the air with music wild and sweet.

From all the country round these birds were brought,

By order of the town, with anxious quest,
And, loosened from their wicker prisons, sought

In woods and fields the places they loved best,
Singing loud canticles, which many thought

Were satires to the authorities addressed,
While others, listening in green lanes, averred
Such lovely music never had been heard !

But blither still and louder carolled they

Upon the morrow, for they seemed to know
It was the fair Almira's wedding-day,

And everywhere, around, above, below,
When the Preceptor bore his bride away,

Their songs burst forth in joyous overflow,
And a new heaven bent over a new earth
Amid the sunny farms of Killingworth.

CLOSE OF FIRST DAY.

The hour was late ; the fire burned low, Then all arose, and said “Good Night."
The landlord's eyes were closed in sleep, | Alone remained the drowsy Squire
And near the story's end a deep

To rake the embers of the fire,
Sonorous sound at times was heard, And quench the waning parlour light:
As when the distant bagpipes blow. I Wbile from the windows, here and there,
At this all laughed; the Landlord stirred, The scattered lamps a moment gleamed,
As one awakening from a swound, And the illumiced hostel seemed
And, gazing anxiously around,

The constellation of the Bear, Protested that he had not slept,

Downward, athwart the misty air, But only shut his eyes, and kept

Sinking and setting toward the sun. His ears attentive to each word.

Far off the village clock struck one.

THE SECOND DAY.

PRELUDE.

A COLD, uninterrupted rain,

Then one by one the guests came down, That washed each southern window-pane, And greeted with a smile the Squire, And made a river of the road ;

Who sat before the parlour fire, A sea of mist that overflowed

Reading the paper fresh from town.
The house, the barns, the gilded vane, First the Sicilian, like a bird,
And drowned the upland and the plain, Before his form appeared, was heard
Through which the oak-trees, broad and Whistling and singing down the stair;
high,

Then came the Student, with a look
Like phantom ships went drifting by ; As placid as a meadow-brook ;
And, hidden behind a watery screen, The Theologian, still perplexed
The sun unseen, or only seen

With thoughts of this world and the As a faint pallor in the sky ;

next; Thus cold and colourless and gray, The Poet then, as one who seems The morn of that autumnal day,

Walking in visions and in dreams; As if reluctant to begin,

Then the Musician, like a fair Dawned on the silent Sudbury Inn, | Hyperion from whose golden hair And all the guests that in it lay.

The radiance of the morning streams;

And last the aromatic Jew Full late they slept. They did not hear Of Alicant, who, as he threw The challenge of Sir Chanticleer,

The door wide open, on the air Who on the empty threshing-floor, Breathed round about him a perfume Disdainful of the rain outside,

Of damask roses in full bloom, Was strutting with a martial stride, Making a garden of the room. As if upon his thigh he wore The famous broadsword of the Squire, The breakfast ended, cach pursued And said, “Behold me and admire!” The promptings of his various mood ;

Beside the fire in silence smoked Only the Poet seemed to hear,

The taciturn, impassive Jew,
In drowse or dream, more near and near, Lost in a pleasant reverie ;
Across the border-land of sleep,

While, by his gravity provoked,
The blowing of a blithesome horn, His portrait the Sicilian drew,
That laughed the dismal day to scorn; And wrote beneath is “Edrehi,
A splash of hoofs and rush of wheels At the Red Horse in Sudbury.”
Through sand and mire like stranding
keels,

By far the busiest of them all,
As from the road with sudden sweep The Theologian in the hall
The Mail drove up the little steep, Was feeding robins in a cage, -
And stopped beside the tavern door; Two corpulent and lazy birds,
A moment stopped, and then again, Vagrants and pilferers at best,
With crack of whip and bark of dog, If one might trust the hostler's words,
Plunged forward through the sea of fog, Chief instrument of their arrest;
And all was silent as before, -

Two poets of the Golden Age, All silent save the dripping rain. Heirs of a boundless heritage

Of fields and orchards, east and west, A jaded horse, his head down bent,
And sunshine of long summer days, | Passed slowly, limping as he went.
Though outlawed now and dispossessed !
Such was the Theologian's phrase. The young Sicilian-who had grown

Impatient longer to abide
Meanwhile the Student held discourse A prisoner, greatly mortified
With the Musician, on the source To see completely overthrown
Of all the legendary lore

His plans for angling in the brook, Among the nations, scattered wide And, leaning o'er the bridge of stone, Like salt and seaweed by the force To watch the speckled trout glide by, And fluctuation of the tide ;

And float through the inverted sky, The tale repeated o'er and o'er,

Still round and round the baited hook,-With change of place and change of Now paced the room with rapid stride, name,

And, pausing at the Poet's side, Disguised, transformed, and yet the sanje Looked forth, and saw the wretched We've heard a hundred times before.

steed,

And said: “ Alas for human greed, The Poet at the window mused,

That with cold band and stony eye And saw, as in a dream confused, Thus turns an old friend out to die, The countenance of the Sun, discrowned, Or beg his food from gate to gate! And haggard with a pale despair, This brings a tale into my mind, And saw the cloud-rack trail and drift | Which, if you are not disinclined Before it, and the trees uplift

To listen, I will now relate." Their leafless branches, and the air Filled with the arrows of the rain, All gave assent; all wished to hear, And heard amid the mist below,

Not without many a jest and jeer, Like voices of distress and pain,

The story of a spavined steed;
That haunt the thoughts of men insane, And even the Student with the rest
The fateful cawings of the crow. Put in his pleasant little jest

Out of Malherbe, that Pegasus
Then down the road, with mud besprent, Is but a horse that with all speed
And drenched with rain from head to Bears poets to the hospital;
hoof,

| While the Sicilian, self-possessed,
The rain-drops dripping from his mane | After a moment's interval
And tail as from a pent-house roof, Began his simple story thus.

THE SICILIAN'S TALE.

THE BELL OF ATRI.
Ar Atri in Abruzzo, a small town
Of ancient Roman date, but scant renown,
One of those little places that have run
Half up the hill, beneath a blazing sun,
And then sat down to rest, as if to say,
I climb no farther upward, come what may,”—
The Re Giovanni, now unknown to fame,
So many monarchs since have borne the name,
Had a great bell hung in the market-place
Beneath a roof, projecting some small space,

« AnteriorContinuar »