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In whom, as by her lonely hearth she sate,
The ghastly face of cold decay put on
A sun-like beauty, and appeared divine !
May I not mention—that, within those walls,
In due observance of her pious wish,
The congregation joined with me in prayer
For her soul's good ? Nor was that office vain.
- Much did she suffer: but, if any friend, Beholding her condition, at the sight Gave way to words of pity or complaint, She stilled them with a prompt reproof, and said, “He who afflicts me knows what I can bear; 'And, when I fail, and can endure no more,
Will mercifully take me to himself.' So, through the cloud of death, her Spirit passed Into that pure and unknown world of love Where injury cannot come :—and here is laid The mortal Body by her Infant's side.”
The Vicar ceased; and downcastlooks made known That each had listened with his inmost heart. For me, the emotion scarcely was less strong Or less benign than that which I had felt When seated near my venerable Friend, Under those shady elms, from him I heard The story that retraced the slow decline Of Margaret, sinking on the lonely heath With the neglected house to which she clung.
-I noted that the Solitary's cheek Confessed the power of nature.—Pleased though sad, More pleased than sad, the grey-haired Wanderer
Thanks to his pure imaginative soul
Capacious and serene ; his blameless life,
His knowledge, wisdom, love of truth, and love
Of human kind! He was it who first broke
The pensive silence, saying :-
- Blest are they
Whose sorrow rather is to suffer wrong
Than to do wrong, albeit themselves have erred.
This tale gives proof that Heaven most gently deals
With such, in their affliction.-Ellen's fate,
Her tender spirit, and her contrite heart,
Call to my mind dark hints which I have heard
Of one who died within this vale, by doom
Heavier, as his offence was heavier far.
Where, Sir, I pray you, where are laid the bones
Of Wilfred Armathwaite ?”
The Vicar answered,
“ In that green nook, close by the Church-yard wall,
Beneath yon hawthorn, planted by myself
In memory and for warning, and in sign
Of sweetness where dire anguish had been known,
Of reconcilement after deep offence-
There doth he rest. No theme his fate supplies
For the smooth glozings of the indulgent world;
Nor need the windings of his devious course
Be here retraced ;-enough that, by mishap
And venial error, robbed of competence,
And her obsequious shadow, peace of mind,
He craved a substitute in troubled joy ;
Against his conscience rose in arms, and, braving
Divine displeasure, broke the marriage-vow.
That which he had been weak enough to do
Was misery in remembrance; he was stung,
Stung by his inward thoughts, and by the smiles
Of wife and children stung to agony.
Wretched at home, he gained no peace abroad;
Ranged through the mountains, slept upon the earth,
Asked comfort of the open air, and found
No quiet in the darkness of the night,
No pleasure in the beauty of the day.
His flock he slighted : his paternal fields
Became a clog to him, whose spirit wished
To fly—but whither! And this gracious Church,
That wears a look so full of peace and hope
And love, benignant mother of the vale,
How fair amid her brood of cottages !
She was to him a sickness and reproach.
Much to the last remained unknown : but this
Is sure, that through remorse and grief he died ;
Though pitied among men, absolved by God,
He could not find forgiveness in himself;
Nor could endure the weight of his own shame..
Here rests a Mother. But from her I turn And from her grave.— Behold-upon that ridge, That, stretching boldly from the mountain side, Carries into the centre of the vale Its rocks and woods—the Cottage where she dwelt; And where yet dwells her faithful Partner, left (Full eight years past) the solitary prop Of many helpless Children. I begin With words that might be prelude to a tale Of sorrow and dejection; but I feel No sadness, when I think of what mine eyes See daily in that happy family. -Bright garland form they for the pensive brow Of their undrooping Father's widowhood, Those six fair Daughters, budding yet-not one, Not one of all the band, a full-blown flower. Deprest, and desolate of soul, as once That Father was, and filled with anxious fear, Now, by experience taught, he stands assured, That God, who takes away, yet takes not half Of what he seems to take; or gives it back, Not to our prayer, but far beyond our prayer ; He gives it—the boon produce of a soil Which our endeavours have refused to till, And hope hath never watered. The Abode, Whose grateful owner can attest these truths, Even were the object nearer to our sight, Would seem in no distinction to surpass The rudest habitations. Ye might think
That it had sprung self-raised from earth, or grown
Out of the living rock, to be adorned
By nature only ; but, if thither led,
Ye would discover, then, a studious work
Of many fancies, prompting many hands.
Brought from the woods the honeysuckle twines
Around the porch, and seems, in that trim place,
A plant no longer wild ; the cultured rose
There blossoms, strong in health, and will be soon
Roof-high ; the wild pink crowns the garden-wall,
And with the flowers are intermingled stones
Sparry and bright, rough scatterings of the hills.
These ornaments, that fade not with the year,
A hardy Girl continues to provide ;
Who, mounting fearlessly the rocky heights,
Her Father's prompt attendant, does for him
All that a boy could do, but with delight
More keen and prouder daring ; yet hath she,
Within the garden, like the rest, a bed
For her own flowers and favourite herbs, a space,
By sacred charter, holden for her use.
- These, and whatever else the garden bears
Of fruit or flower, permission asked or not,
I freely gather; and my leisure draws
A not unfrequent pastime from the hum
Of bees around their range of sheltered hives
Busy in that enclosure ; while the rill,
That sparkling thrids the rocks, attunes his voice
To the pure course of human life which there
Flows on in solitude. But, when the gloom
Of night is falling round my steps, then most
This Dwelling charms me; often I stop short,
(Who could refrain ?) and feed by stealth my sight
With prospect of the company within,
Laid open through the blazing window :—there
I see the eldest Daughter at her wheel
Spinning amain, as if to overtake
The never-halting time ; or, in her turn,
Teaching some Novice of the sisterhood
That skill in this or other household work,
Which, from her Father's honoured hand, herself,
While she was yet a little-one, had learned.
Mild Man! he is not gay, but they are gay ;
And the whole house seems filled with gaiety.
- Thrice happy, then, the Mother may be deemed,
The Wife, from whose consolatory grave
I turned, that ye in mind might witness where,
And how, her Spirit yet survives on earth!”