1 WHEN winter, with a frown severe,
2 Had parted with the worn-out year;
3 The worn-out year, in health decay'd,
4 Had run the course — to bloom and fade;
5 A snow-wreath'd mantle close infolds,
6 A clasp of icy diamonds holds;
7 Her former pleasantness forgot,
8 Her woods, her groves, remember'd not.
9 The lovely varying tints of green
10 Faded as if they'd never been,
11 For who that sees that poplar now
12 Would think e'er verdure cloth'd its brow!
13 Its robes are gone, and there remain
14 Autumnal leaves of yellow stain;
15 The blustering tyrant long had torn
16 The lingering leaf from the poor thorn, —
17 The lingering leaf, though fond to stay,
18 Was swept by the rude blast away;
19 And, falling on the russet ground,
20 Gave to the ear a wintry sound.
21 But Time, whom monarchs must obey,
22 Now melts this frozen pomp away;
23 Sending his harbingers the hours
24 Before, to speak for fragrant bowers;[Page 97]
25 Bidding the green-rob'd Spring come forth,
26 And strike the Tyrant of the north.
27 With lightsome foot they steal away,
28 And find her with her birds at play;
29 Pouring such songs in the young ear,
30 As suit the season of the year.
31 Flora the pattern flowers was showing,
32 Which on her couch were sweetly blowing;
33 While the light zephyr, pertly gay,
34 Now brought the scents, now bore away.
35 "Accept, sweet Spring," gay Flora said,
36 "This snowdrop with its lowly head;
37 Wrapt up in many a fleece of snow,
38 The little lady loves to go;
39 But her pale cheek would ne'er be seen,
40 Did I not trim her coif with green.
41 My sweetest violet next behold, —
42 How blue it looks, inhuman cold!
43 Yet not thy chilling hand can stay
44 Those sweets that scorn to wait for May!
45 The harebell now her goblet bears
46 With brimful cup of dewy tears,
47 Which o'er primroses pale she sheds,
48 That scarce have strength to leave their beds,
49 Till daisies and gay cowslips lead
50 Their weaker sisters o'er the mead,
51 And pendant leaves begin to spread
52 A waving shelter over head;
53 The woods and groves await thy will,
54 The sickly plant to spare or kill;[Page 98]
55 Come then, thou sower of the meads,
56 And scatter all the promis'd seeds!
57 When done, where'er thou mov'st along,
58 Leaves, plants, and flowers shall round thee throng;
59 Which wandering near the tinkling rill,
60 Shall, stooping, seem to listen still."
61 Not all the incense Flora pours —
62 Not all the offerings of the hours,
63 Could make her leave her blessed retreat,
64 Had Hope not charm'd her from her seat;
65 She, with a hand held out to bless,
66 And smiles that look'd like happiness,
67 Declar'd 'twas ever to be found;
68 Then folding the sweet hours around,
69 Bade her their joyous footsteps heed,
70 Nor fear to sow the smallest seed.
71 Fearful she rose, lest the rough wind
72 To infant buds should prove unkind; —
73 "Though now they seem with health to glow,
74 Their painted leaves may never blow;
75 Should blights arise, oft met before,
76 I ne'er should see these nurslings more;
77 But since the hours have led the way,
78 Have bath'd in tears this April day,
79 Through all the groves once more I'll range,
80 Once more their dusky liveries change."
81 A flowery chaplet binds her hair,
82 (The sweetest wreath a Nymph can wear,)
83 Her dark green robe was border'd round
84 With every flower that loves the ground;[Page 99]
85 Her tresses, negligently gay,
86 Stray'd far behind, too fond of play,
87 Because her curls it sadly teases
88 To be pull'd rudely by the breezes;
89 A basket o'er her arm was hung,
90 And plenteous were the seeds she flung;
91 The fanning zephyrs help'd her toil,
92 And mix'd the seeds with every soil;
93 To the hoar rock the ashlings bear,
94 Who doubt their hold and tremble there,
95 But, when a footing once they find,
96 Court the rough crag, and scorn the wind.
97 Now fluttering leaves crowd on the spray,
98 And birds, more fluttering still than they,
99 The freshest, softest mosses cull, —
100 From warmest sheep the warmest wool, —
101 The pliant hair to bind around, —
102 The firmest clay to lay the ground,
103 And, to support the mossy roof,
104 Some well-known twig of 'custom'd proof,
105 And, that the nestlings mayn't be found,
106 With bark the nest is roughcast round;
107 The brittle eggs in feathers lie,
108 The leafy door deceives the eye;
109 The little parent, doom'd to share
110 The pleasures with a parent's care,
111 In darkest foliage hides her head,
112 Of birds, of beasts, of man afraid;
113 While on the leafy neighbouring tree
114 Her sweet mate keeps her company;[Page 100]
115 And, when the young ones chirp for food,
116 He skims the brook, and scours the wood;
117 The gilded insects catch his eye; —
118 Why dost thou shine, then, glittering fly?
119 Thy lustre only serves to show
120 Thy covert to thy deadliest foe!
121 But now still Eve her mantle threw
122 O'er the soft sky of sweetest blue;
123 The happy bird on topmost spray,
124 "Singing the last song of the day,"
125 Rejoic'd aloud that th' hour of rest
126 Was rocking now her quiet nest,
127 And that she knew the rising morn
128 Would show her many a hoard of corn;
129 At distance saw a wandering tribe
130 That every darkening thicket ey'd;
131 And, where the matted moss had wound
132 The hawthorn's antique root around,
133 All full of mirth, and full of glee,
134 They hope the blackbird's nest to see,
135 Whose bright blue eggs, in graceful line,
136 Would 'midst the rows of pewter shine;
137 There speckl'd and the brown unite,
138 The iron-gray and yellow-white;
139 Nor could the little wren's escape,
140 Though smallest thing of oval shape.
141 These plunderers, as others do,
142 Hang out their ill-got wealth to view,
143 When dressers deck'd for Sunday's show
144 Call forth their platters row by row;[Page 101]
145 What though by some unlucky stroke
146 The king or queen or prince is broke;
147 What though they can no more contain
148 The mantling juice in every vein,
149 To show you that they yet are there,
150 They edge behind, and half appear,
151 Still eking out the grand design
152 Of making all the house look fine.
153 What more could high-priced baubles do!
154 Go, search the empty world through!
155 The hard-wrought, far-sought, diamond bring —
156 That much admired glittering thing;
157 From China or Japan go draw
158 The gilded chair and works of show;
159 Bid France her silken loom employ,
160 And Gobelins weave the fall of Troy;
161 Panama bid her pearls dispose
162 In innocent and humble rows;
163 Yet still, if such things do but please,
164 The cottage shelf may rival these;
165 For all depends, we mostly find,
166 Upon the eye within the mind;
167 Then, Ignorance, in quiet rest,
168 Thou'rt soonest pleas'd, and cheaply blest!
169 But think not yet the search is o'er,
170 And school-imps look for eggs no more;
171 For now among the yellow broom
172 You hear their little busy hum.
173 The watching parent from his tower
174 Listens, and tunes his pipe no more;[Page 102]
175 But, as the satchel-boy draws near,
176 His bristling feathers shake with fear;
177 From bough to bough he hops, and tries
178 To lead from home their searching eyes;
179 A broken wing pretends to show
180 Dragg'd on the ground, and fluttering low,
181 Disabl'd; see, he cannot fly,
182 Though oft he lamely seems to try;
183 Deceiv'd, the imps believe it true,
184 And through the prickling hedge pursue,
185 Till scratch'd and miserably torn,
186 And bled by every wounding thorn,
187 The happy parent darts on high,
188 And almost seems to reach the sky.
189 Amaz'd, provok'd, the sufferers now
190 Examine every twisted bough;
191 Too soon the quick-ey'd rifler sees
192 The well-hid nest midst arching trees;
193 Soon, soon he bears them into day,
194 And laughing hurries all away.
195 Now Morn in all her bloom arose,
196 Her sleeping-curtains half unclose;
197 And looking from her crimson bed,
198 On Night's pale cheek warm blushes spread;
199 Her saffron robe gay woodbine tied,
200 Which nodded to the breeze that sigh'd;
201 Her golden slippers, pearl'd with dew,
202 A riband bound of azure hue;
203 And in her hand a vase of flowers
204 That ope and close at certain hours;[Page 103]
205 Her chamber leaves; and in her car,
206 That erst was once the morning star,
207 Began her journey through the sky,
208 Bidding each shade of orient dye
209 Fall on the mountain's hoary head,
210 Where curling mists gray honours shed, —
211 There watch the god of rising day,
212 And in devotion melt away.
213 'Twas now the ploughman whistl'd o'er
214 Those furrow'd fields he mow'd before;
215 And nut-brown Labour, hard of hand,
216 Had not one moment's leave to stand;
217 Not e'en the resting-spade to hold
218 While some strange village tale was told.
219 'Tis Eve that Leisure brings along,
220 Companion of the tale and song;
221 At her approach, in sober weeds,
222 When wandering through the daisied meads,
223 Her thoughtful musings shepherds tell
224 To bid the gaudy sun farewell.
225 Years seem to've shown her all her folly, —
226 To've thrown a shade of melancholy
227 Across her brow, and ever hung
228 Th' instructive lesson on her tongue.
229 But not to scorn the aids of dress,
230 And make her person please the less,
231 Think not, all ornament refusing,
232 Or subjects that are but amusing,
233 She will not take an equal part,
234 Or play — unless to win the heart. [Page 104]
235 'Tis she who blows the pipe so shrill,
236 And winds the note around the hill,
237 Till nymphs and swains the signal hear,
238 And dancing in the dale appear.
239 With veil thrown up she joins the throng,
240 Nor grave nor gay she moves along;
241 With matron-mixture in her air,
242 Nor void of mirth, nor free from care;
243 Dress'd in a robe of clouded gray,
244 Her mourning for the loss of Day,
245 Whose parting beams her toils renew
246 To sprinkle every herb with dew;
247 The pearly dew, "so sweetly clear,
248 To hang in every cowslip's ear,"
249 There trembling till the morning's ray
250 Shall see it shine and melt away.
251 For now her mists were curling round,
252 And tall dark shadows stalk'd the ground,
253 While twilight close the vapours drew,
254 Hoodwink'd the sky and clos'd the view;
255 Till through th' expanse the sailing moon
256 Now bright appears, now hid in gloom,
257 Her face half showing; then a cloud
258 Enwraps the whole in fleecy shroud;
259 The fleecy shroud grows now more bright,
260 "Turning its lining on the night,"
261 Thin and more thin its veil is seen,
262 Till the full orb looks through between;
263 On ether borne it glides in state,
264 And slowly seeks the western gate;[Page 105]
265 Still faintly imitating day,
266 Lighting the traveller on his way,
267 Who else had from the cottage seen
268 The twinkling rush, and blest its light serene.
269 But sober joys to Eve belong,
270 The cheerful fire, the happy throng.
271 She sees the housewife oft prepare
272 The favourite dish and easy chair,
273 To welcome home her labouring lord,
274 And spread some dainty on his board;
275 Her face displaying joy and care,
276 Which spread a change of beauty there,
277 That by the vague impartial eye
278 Might on the cheek neglected die.
279 Not so; he eats the dish she dresses,
280 Tells her she's kind, and likes her messes;
281 Abroad for dainties he'll not roam,
282 For every thing is best at home.
283 The little prattlers have their share
284 Proportioned with exactest care;
285 The young ones on each knee are set, —
286 Calls this good boy, and that his pet;
287 The rest all climbing up his side,
288 Petition for to-morrow's ride.
289 Thus closes many a rural day,
290 From ploughing fields to mowing hay,
291 And on to harvest's golden reign,
292 Till winter sweeps the barren plain;
293 Still every season finds him blest
294 Whose wishes on his conscience rest;[Page 106]
295 Rest ever must that man attend
296 Who is to all his kind a friend!