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A market-village, seated in a tract
Of mountains, where my school-day time was passid,
One room he owned, the fifth part of a house,
A place to which he drew, from time to time,
And found a kind of home or harbour there.
He loved me; from a swarm of rosy Boys
Singled out me, as he in sport would say,
For my grave looks—too thoughtful for my years.
grew up it was my best delight
To be his chosen Comrade. Many a time,
On holidays, we wandered through the woods,
A pair of random travellers ; we sate-
We walked; he pleas'd me with his sweet discourse
Of things which he had seen; and often touch'd
Abstrusest matter, reasonings of the mind
Turned inward; or at my request he sang
Old songs--the product of his native hills;
A skilful distribution of sweet sounds,
Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed
As cool refreshing Water, by the care
Of the industrious husbandman, diffused
Through a parched meadow-ground, in time of drought.
Still deeper welcome found his pure discourse:
How precious when in riper days I learn'd
To weigh with care his words, and to rejoice
In the plain presence of his dignity!
Oh! many are the Poets that are sown By Nature; Men endowed with highest gifts, The vision and the faculty divine, Yet wanting the accomplishment of Verse, (Which in the docile season of their youth It was denied them to acquire, through lack Of culture and the inspiring aid of books, Or haply by a temper too severe, Or a nice backwardness afraid of shame), Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led By circumstance to take unto the height The measure of themselves, these favored Beings, All but a scattered few, live out their time, Husbanding that which they possess within, And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds Are often those of whom the noisy world Hears least; else surely this Man had not left His graces unrevealed and unproclaimed.
But, as the mind was filled with inward light,
So not without distinction had he lived,
Beloved and honoured—far as he was known.
And some small portion of his eloquent speech,
And something that may serve to set in view
The feeling pleasures of his loneliness,
The doings, observations, which his mind
Had dealt with–I will here record in verse;
Which, if with truth it correspond, and sink
Or rise, as venerable Nature leads,
The high and tender Muses shall accept
With gracious smile, deliberately pleased,
And listening Time reward with sacred praise.
Among the hills of Athol he was born:
There, on a small hereditary Farm,
An unproductive slip of rugged ground,
His Father dwelt; and died in poverty ;
While He, whose lowly fortune I retrace,
The youngest of three sons, was yet a babe,
A little One—unconscious of their loss.
But ere he had outgrown his infant days
His widowed Mother, for a second Mate,
Espoused the Teacher of the Village School ;
Who on her offspring zealously bestowed
Needful instruction; not alone in arts
Which to his humble duties appertained,
But in the lore of right and wrong, the rule
Of human kindness, in the peaceful ways
Of honesty, and holiness severe.
A virtuous Household though exceeding poor!
Pure Livers were they all, austere and grave,
And fearing God; the very Children taught
Stern self-respect, a reverence for God's word,
And an habitual piety, maintained
With strictness scarcely known on English ground.
From his sixth year, the Boy of whom I speak, In summer, tended cattle on the Hills; But, through the inclement and the perilous days Of long-continuing winter, he repaired To his Step-father's School, that stood alone, Sole Building on a mountain's dreary edge, Far from the sight of City spire, or sound Of Minster clock! From that bleak Tenement He, many an evening to his distant home
In solitude returning, saw the Hills
Grow larger in the darkness, all alone
Beheld the stars come out above his head,
And travelled through the wood, with no one near
To whom he might confess the things he saw.
So the foundations of his mind were laid.
In such communion, not from terror free,
While yet a Child, and long before his time,
He had perceived the presence and the power
Of greatness ; and deep feelings had impress'd
Great objects on his mind, with portraiture
And colour so distinct, that on his mind
They lay like substances, and almost seemed
To haunt the bodily sense.
He had received
(Vigorous in native genius as he was)
A precious gift; for, as he
years, With these impressions would he still compare All his remembrances, thoughts, shapes, and forms; And, being still unsatisfied with aught Of dimmer character, he thence attained An active power to fasten images Upon his brain ; and on their pictured lines Intensely brooded, even till they acquired