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At Doncaster, and York, and Leeds,
And merry Carlisle had he been;
And all along the Lowlands fair,
All through the bonny shire of Ayr,
And far as Aberdeen.
And he had been at Inverness;
And Peter, by the mountain-rills,
Had danced his round with Highland lasses;
And he had lain beside his asses,
On lofty Cheviot Hills:
And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding scars;
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars:
And all along the indented coast,
Bespattered with the salt-sea foam;
Where'er a knot of houses lay
On headland, or in hollow bay ;—
Sure never man like him did roam!
As well might Peter, in the Fleet,
Have been fast bound, a begging debtor;-
He travelled here, he travelled there;—
But not the value of a hair
Was heart or head the better.
He roved among the vales and streams,
In the green wood and hollow dell;
They were his dwellings night and day,-
But nature ne'er could find the way,
Into the heart of Peter Bell.
In vain, through every changeful year, Did Nature lead him as before;
A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.
Small change it made in Peter's heart
To see his gentle panniered train
With more than vernal pleasure feeding,
Where'er the tender grass was leading
Its earliest green along the lane.
In vain, through water, earth, and air, The soul of happy sound was spread, When Peter on some April morn, Beneath the broom or budding thorn, Made the warm earth his lazy bed.
At noon, when, by the forest's edge
He lay beneath the branches high,
The soft blue sky did never melt
Into his heart; he never felt
The witchery of the soft blue sky!
On a fair prospect some have looked
And felt, as I have heard them say,
As if the moving time had been
A thing as steadfast as the scene
On which they gazed themselves away.
Within the breast of Peter Bell
These silent raptures found no place;
He was a Carl as wild and rude
As ever hue-and-cry pursued,
As ever ran a felon's race.
Of all that lead a lawless life,
Of all that love their lawless lives,
In city or in village small,
He was the wildest far of all ;
He had a dozen wedded wives.
Nay, start not!-wedded wives-and twelve! But how one wife could e'er come near him,
In simple truth I cannot tell;
For, be it said of Peter Bell,
To see him was to fear him.
Though Nature could not touch his heart
By lovely forms, and silent weather,
And tender sounds, yet you might see
At once, that Peter Bell and she
Had often been together.
A savage wildness round him hung
As of a dweller out of doors;
In his whole figure and his mien
A savage character was seen
Of mountains and of dreary moors.
To all the unshaped half-human thoughts
Which solitary Nature feeds
'Mid summer storms or winter's ice,
Had Peter joined whatever vice
The cruel city breeds.
His face was keen as is the wind
That cuts along the hawthorn-fence;
Of courage you saw little there,
But, in its stead, a medley air
Of cunning and of impudence.
He had a dark and sidelong walk,
And long and slouching was his gait;
Beneath his looks so bare and bold,
You might perceive, his spirit cold
Was playing with some inward bait.
His forehead wrinkled was and furred;
A work, one half of which was done
By thinking of his 'whens' and 'hows ;"
And half, by knitting of his brows
Beneath the glaring sun.
There was a hardness in his cheek,
There was a hardness in his eye,
As if the man had fixed his face,
In many a solitary place,
Against the wind and open sky!"
ONE NIGHT (and now, my little Bess,
We've reached at last the promised Tale),
One beautiful November night,
When the full moon was shining bright
Upon the rapid river Swale,
Along the river's winding banks
Peter was travelling all alone;—
Whether to buy or sell, or led
By pleasure running in his head,
To me was never known.
He trudged along through copse and brake,
He trudged along o'er hill and dale;
Nor for the moon cared he a tittle,
And for the stars he cared as little,
And for the murmuring river Swale.
But, chancing to espy a path
That promised to cut short the way;
As many a wiser man hath done,
He left a trusty guide for one
That might his steps betray.
To a thick wood he soon is brought
Where cheerily his course he weaves,
And whistling loud may yet be heard,
Though often buried, like a bird
Darkling, amid the boughs and leaves.
But quickly Peter's mood is changed,
And on he drives with cheeks that burn
In downright fury and in wrath ;-
There's little sign the treacherous path
Will to the road return!
The path grows dim, and dimmer still;
Now up, now down, the Rover wends,
With all the sail that he can carry
Till brought to a deserted quarry—
And there the pathway ends.
He paused-for shadows of strange shape, Massy and black before him lay;
But through the dark, and through the cold,
And through the yawning fissures old,
Did Peter boldly press his way
Right through the quarry;—and behold
A scene of soft and lovely hue!
Where blue and grey, and tender green,
Together make as sweet a scene
As ever human eye did view.