[Page 74]


1 BESIDE a spreading elm, from whose high boughs
2 Like knotted tufts the crow's light dwelling shows,
3 Skreened from the northern blast and winter-proof,
4 Snug stands the parson's barn with thatched roof.
5 At chaff-strewed door where in the morning ray
6 The gilded mots in mazy circles play,
7 And sleepy Comrade in the sun is laid,
8 More grateful to the cur than neighb'ring shade:
9 In snowy shirt, unbraced, brown Robin stood,
10 And leant upon his flail in thoughtful mood.
11 His ruddy cheeks that wear their deepest hue,
12 His forehead brown that glist'ning drops bedew,
13 His neck-band loose and hosen rumpled low,
14 A careful lad, nor slack at labour, shew.
[Page 75]
15 Nor scraping chickens chirping in the straw,
16 Nor croaking rook o'er-head, nor chattering daw,
17 Loud-breathing cow among the juicy weeds,
18 Nor grunting sow that in the furrow feeds,
19 Nor sudden breeze that stirs the quaking leaves
20 And makes disturbance 'mong the scattered sheaves,
21 Nor floating straw that skims athwart his nose
22 The deeply musing youth may discompose.
23 For Nelly fair, and blythest village maid,
24 Whose tuneful voice beneath the hedge-row shade,
25 At early milking o'er the meadow borne,
26 E'er cheered the ploughman's toil at rising morn;
27 The neatest maid that e'er in linen gown
28 Bore cream and butter to the market town;
29 The tightest lass that e'er at wake or fair
30 Footed the ale-house floor with lightsome air,
31 Since Easter last had Robin's heart possest,
32 And many a time disturbed his nightly rest.
33 Full oft returning from the loosened plough,
34 He slacked his pace, and knit his careful brow;
35 And oft, ere half his thresher's task was o'er,
36 Would muse with arms across at cooling door.
[Page 76]
37 His mind thus bent, with downcast eyes he stood,
38 And leant upon his flail in thoughtful mood.
39 His soul o'er many a soft remembrance ran
40 And muttering to himself the youth began.
41 "Ah! happy is the man whose early lot
42 Hath made him master of a furnished cot;
43 Who trains the vine that round his window grows,
44 And after setting sun his garden hoes;
45 Whose wattled pales his own enclosure shield,
46 Who toils not daily in another's field.
47 Where'er he goes, to church or market town,
48 With more respect he and his dog are known,
49 With brisker face at pedlar's booth he stands,
50 And takes each tempting gew-gaw in his hands,
51 And buys at will or ribands, gloves, or beads,
52 And willing partners to the green he leads:
53 And oh! secure from toils that cumber life,
54 He makes the maid he loves an easy wife.
55 Ah! Nelly! canst thou with contented mind
56 Become the help-mate of a labouring hind,
[Page 77]
57 And share his lot, whate'er the chances be,
58 Who hath no dower but love to fix on thee?
59 Yes; gayest maid may meekest matron prove,
60 And things of little note betoken love.
61 When from the Church thou cam'st at eventide,
62 And I and red-haired Susan by thy side,
63 I pulled the blossoms from the bending tree,
64 And some to Susan gave and some to thee;
65 Thine were the fairest, and thy smiling eye
66 The difference marked, and guessed the reason why.
67 When on that holiday we rambling strayed,
68 And passed Old Hodge's cottage in the glade;
69 Neat was the garden dressed, sweet humm'd the bee,
70 I wished the Cot and Nelly made for me;
71 And well, methought, thy very eyes revealed,
72 The self-same wish within thy breast concealed.
73 When, artful, once I sought my love to tell,
74 And spoke to thee of one who loved thee well,
75 You saw the cheat, and jeering homeward hied,
76 Yet secret pleasure in thy looks I spied.
77 Ay, gayest maid may meekest matron prove,
78 And smaller signs than these betoken love."
[Page 78]
79 Now at a distance on the neighb'ring plain,
80 With creaking wheels slow comes the harvest wain,
81 High on its shaking load a maid appears,
82 And Nelly's voice sounds shrill in Robin's ears.
83 Quick from his hand he throws the cumbrous flail,
84 And leaps with lightsome limbs the enclosing pale.
85 O'er field and fence he scours, and furrow wide,
86 With wakened Comrade barking by his side;
87 While tracks of trodden grain and tangled hay,
88 And broken hedge-flowers sweet, mark his impetuous way.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): A REVERIE.
Themes: contentment
Genres: heroic couplet

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Source edition

Baillie, Joanna, 1762-1851. Fugitive Verses. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Dramas on the Passions,“ etc. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXL., 1840, pp. 74-78.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Joanna Baillie