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This is my hour of triumph! I can now
With my own fancies play the merry fool,
And laugh away worse folly, being free.
Here will I seat myself, beside this old,
Hollow, and weedy oak, which ivy-twine
Clothes as with net-work: here will I couch my
Close by this river, in this silent shade,
As safe and sacred from the step of man
As an invisible world--unheard, unseen,
And listening only to the pebbly brook
That murmurs with a dead, yet tinkling sound ;
Or to the bees, that in the neighboring trunk
Make honey-hoards. The breeze, that visits me
Was never Love's accomplice, never raised
The tendril ringlets from the maiden's brow,
And the blue, delicate veins above her cheek ;
Ne'er played the wanton—never half disclosed
The maiden's snowy bosom, scattering thence
Eye-poisons for some love-distempered youth,
Who ne'er henceforth may see an aspen-grove
Shiver in sunshine, but his feeble heart
Shall flow away like a dissolving thing.
Sweet breeze! thou only, if I guess aright,
Liftest the feathers of the robin's breast,
That swells its little breast, so full of song,
Singing above me, on the mountain-ash.
And thou too, desert stream ! no pool of thine,
Though clear as lake in latest summer-eve,
Did e'er reflect the stately virgin's robe,
The face, the form divine, the downcast look
Contemplative! Behold! her open palm
Presses her cheek and brow! her elbow rests
On the bare branch of half-uprooted tree,
That leans towards its mirror ! Who erewhile
Had from her countenance turned, or looked by
(For fear is true love's cruel nurse,) he now
With steadfast gaze and unoffending eye,
Worships the watery idol, dreaming hopes
Delicious to the soul, but fleeting, vain,
E’en as that phantom-world on which he gazed,
But not unheeded gazed: for see, ah ! see,
The sportive tyrant with her left hand plucks
The heads of tall flowers that behind her grow,
Lychnis, and willow-herb, and foxglove bells:
And suddenly, as one that toys with time,
Scatters them on the pool! Then all the charm
Is broken—all that phantom-world so fair
Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread,
And each misshape the other. Stay awhile,
Poor youth, who scarcely dar’st lift up thine eyes,
The stream will soon renew its smoothness, soon
The visions will return ! And lo! he stays:
And soon the fragments dim of lovely forms
Come treinbling back, unite, and now once more
The pool becomes a mirror; and behold
Each wild-flower on the marge inverted there,
And there the half-uprooted tree—but where,
O where the virgin's snowy arm, that leaned
On its bare branch ? He turns, and she is gone!
Homeward she steals through many a woodland
Which he shall seek in vain. Ill-fated youth!
Go, day by day, and waste thy manly prime
In mad love-yearning by the vacant brook,
Till sickly thoughts bewitch thine eyes, and thou
Behold'st her shadow still abiding there,
The Naiad of the mirror!
Not to thee, O wild and desert stream! belongs this tale: Gloomy and dark art thou—the crowded firs Spire from thy shores, and stretch across thy bed, Making thee doleful as a cavern well; Save when the shy kingfishers build their nest On thy steep banks, no loves hast thou, wild stream!
This be my chosen haunt-emancipate From passion's dreams, a freeman and alone, I rise and trace its devious course.
O lead, Lead me to deeper shades and lonelier glooms. Lo! stealing through the canopy of firs, How fair the sunshine spots that mossy rock, Isle of the river, whose disparted waves Dart off asunder with an angry sound, How soon to reunite! And see! they meet, Each in the other lost and found : and see Placeless, as spirits, one soft water sun
Throbbing within them, heart at once and eye!
With its soft neighbourhood of filmy clouds,
The stains and shadings of forgotten tears,
Dimness o'erswum with lustre! Such the hour
Of deep enjoyment, following love's brief feuds;
And hark, the noise of a near waterfall !
I pass forth into light-I find myself
Beneath a weeping birch, (most beautiful
Of forest-trees, the lady of the woods,)
Hard by the brink of a tall weedy rock
That overbrows the cataract. How bursts
The landscape on my sight! Two crescent hills
Fold in behind each other, and so make
A circular vale, and land-locked, as might seem,
With brook and bridge, and gray stone cottages,
Half hid by rocks and fruit-trees. At my feet,
The whortleberries are bedewed with spray, .
Dashed upwards by the furious waterfall,
How solemnly the pendant ivy-mass
Swings in its winnow; all the air is calm.
The smoke from cottage chimneys, tinged with light,
Rises in columns; from this house alone,
Close by the waterfall, the column slants,
And feels its ceaseless breeze. But what is this?
That cottage, with its slanting chimney-smoke,
And close beside its porch a sleeping child,
His dear head pillowed on a sleeping dog-
One arm between its fore-legs, and the hand
Holds loosely its small handful of wild flowers,
Unfilleted, and of unequal lengths.
A curious picture, with a master's haste
Sketched on a strip of pinky-silver skin,
Peeled from the birchen bark! Divinest maid !
Yon bark her canvas, and those purple berries
Her pencil! See, the juice is scarcely dried
On the fine skin! She has been newly here ;
And lo! yon patch of heath has been her couch-
The pressure still remains !, O blessed couch !
For this mayst thou flower early, and the sun,
Slanting at eve, rest bright, and linger long
Upon thy purple bells ! Isabel!
Daughter of genius! stateliest of our maids!
More beautiful than whom Alcæus wooed
The Lesbian woman of immortal song!
O child of genius! stately, beautiful,
And full of love to all, save only me,
And not ungentle e’en to me! My heart,
Why beats is thus? Through yonder coppice-
Needs must the pathway turn, that leads straight-
On to her father's house. She is alone!
The night draws on—such ways are hard to hit-
And fit it is I should restore this sketch,
Dropt unawares no doubt. Why should I
To keep the relique? 'twill but idly feed
The passion that consumes me. Let me haste !
The picture in my hand which she has left ;
She cannot blame me that I followed her:
And I may be her guide the long wood through.