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In days of
yore how fortunately fared The Minstrel! wandering on from Hall to Hall, Baronial Court or Royal; cheered with gifts Munificent, and love, and Ladies' praise; Now meeting on his road an armed Knight, Now resting with a Pilgrim by the side Of a clear brook ;-beneath an Abbey's roof One evening sumptuously lodged; the next Humbly, in a religious Hospital ; Or with some merry Outlaws of the wood; Or haply shrouded in a Hermit's cell.
Him, sleeping or awake, the Robber spared ;
He walked-protected from the sword of war
By virtue of that sacred Instrument
His Harp, suspended at the Traveller's side;
His dear Companion wheresoe'er he went
Opening from Land to Land an easy way
By melody, and by the charm of verse.
Yet not the noblest of that honoured Race
Drew happier, loftier, more empassioned thoughts
From his long journeyings and eventful life,
Than this obscure Itinerant (an obscure,
But a high-souled and tender-hearted Man)
Had skill to draw from many a ramble, far
And wide protracted, through the tamer ground
Of these our unimaginative days;
Both while he trod the earth in humblest guise
Accoutred with his burthen and his staff;
And now, when free to move with lighter pace.
What wonder, then, if I, whose favourite School Hath been the fields, the roads, and rural lanes, And pathways winding on from farm to farm, Looked on this Guide with reverential love?
Each with the other pleased, we now pursued
Our journey-beneath favourable skies.
Turn wheresoe'er we would, he was a light
Unfailing: not a Hamlet could we pass,
Rarely a House, which did not yield to him
Remembrances; or from his tongue call forth
Some way-beguiling tale. Nor less regard
Accompanied those strains of apt discourse,
Which Nature's various objects might supply:
And in the silence of his face I read
His overflowing spirit.' Birds and beasts,
And the mute fish that glances in the stream,
And harmless reptile coiling in the sun,
And gorgeous insect hovering in the air,
The fowl domestic, and the household dog,
In his capacious mind-he loved them all :
Their rights acknowledging he felt for all.
Oft was occasion given me to perceive
How the calm pleasures of the pasturing Herd
'To happy contemplation soothed his walk
Along the field, and in the shady grove;
How the poor Brute's condition, forced to run
Its course of suffering in the public road,
Sad contrast! all too often smote his heart
With unavailing pity. Rich in love
And sweet humanity, he was, himself,
To the degree that he desired, beloved.
-Greetings and smiles we met with all day long
From faces that he knew ; we took our seats
By many a cottage hearth, where he received
The welcome of an Inmate come from far.
-Nor was he loth to enter ragged Huts,
Wherein his charity was blessed ; his voice
Heard as the voice of an experienced Friend.
And, sometimes, where the Poor Man held dispute
With his own mind, unable to subdue
Impatience, through inaptness to perceive
General distress in his particular lot;
Or cherishing resentment, or in vain
Struggling against it, with a soul perplexed,
And finding in itself no steady power
To draw the line of comfort that divides
Calamity, the chastisement of heaven,
From the injustice of our brother men;
To Him appeal was made as to a judge ;
Who, with an understanding heart, allayed
The perturbation ; listened to the plea ;
Resolved the dubious point; and sentence gave
So grounded, so applied, that it was heard
With softened spirit,-even when it condemned.
Such intercourse I witnessed, while we roved Now as his choice directed, now as mine; Or both, with equal readiness of will, Our course submitting to the changeful breeze Of accident. But when the rising sun Had three times called us to renew our walk, My Fellow Traveller said with earnest voice, As if the thought were but a moment old, That I must yield myself without reserve To his disposal. Glad was I of this : We started—and he led towards the hills ; Up through an ample vale, with higher hills Before us, mountains stern and desolate; But in the majesty of distance now Set off, and to our ken appearing fair Of aspect, with aerial softness clad, And beautified with morning's purple beams.