A Summer Sabbath Walk

Delightful is this loneliness; it calms
My heart: pleasant the cool beneath these elms,
That throw across the stream a moveless shade.
Here nature in her midnoon whisper speaks;
How peaceful every sound! - the ring-dove's plaint,
Moan'd from the twilight centre of the grove,
While every other woodland lay is mute,
Save when the wren flits from her down-covered nest,
And from the root-spring trills her ditty clear, -
The grasshopper's oft-pausing chirp,- the buzz,
Angrily shrill, of moss-entangled bee,
That, soon as loosed, booms with full twang away,
The sudden rushing of the minnow shoal,
Scared from the shallows by my passing tread.
Dimpling the water glides, with here and there
A glossy fly, skimming in circlets gay
The treacherous surface, while the quick-eyed trout
Watches his time to spring; or, from above,
Some feather'd dam, purveying midst the boughs,
Darts from her perch, and to her plumeless brood
Bears off the prize: - Sad emblem of man's lot!
He, giddy insect, from his native leaf,
(Where safe and happily he might have lurk'd,)
Elate upon ambition's gaudy wings,
Forgetful of his origin, and, worse,
Unthinking of his end, flies to the stream;
And if from hostile vigilance he 'scape,
Buoyant he flutters but a little while,
Mistakes th' inverted image of the sky
For heaven itself, and, sinking, meets his fate.

Now let me trace the stream up to its source
Among the hills; its runnel by degrees
Diminishing, the murmur turns a tinkle.
Closer and closer still the banks approach,
Tangled so thick with pleaching bramble shoots,
With brier, and hazel branch, and hawthorn spray,
That, fain to quit the dangle, glad I mount
Into the open air: Grateful the breeze
That fans my throbbing temples! smiles the plain
Spread wide below: how sweet the placid view!
But, O! more sweet the thought, heart-soothing thought,
That thousands, and ten thousands of the sons
Of toil, partake this day the common joy
Of rest, of peace, of viewing the hill and dale,
Of breathing in the silence of the woods,
And blessing Him who gave the Sabbath day.
Yes, my heart flutters with a freer throb,
To think that now the townsman wanders forth
Among the fields and meadows, to enjoy
The coolness of the day's decline; to see
His children sport around, and simply pull
The flower and weed promiscuous, as a boon,
Which proudly in his breast they smiling fix.

Again I turn me to the hill, and trace
The wizard stream, now scarce to be discern'd;
Woodless its banks, but green with ferny leaves,
And thinly strew'd with heath-bells up and down.

Now, when the downward sun has left the glens
Each mountain's rugged lineaments are traced
Upon the adverse slope, where stalks gigantic
The shepherd's shadow thrown athwart the chasm,
As on the topmost ridge he homeward hies.
How deep the hush! the torrent's channel dry,
Presents a stony steep, the echo's haunt.
But, hark, a plaintive sound floating along!
'Tis from yon heath-roof'd shielin; now it dies
Away, now rises full; it is the song
Which He, - who listens to the hallelujahs
Of choiring Seraphim, - delights to hear;
It is the music of the heart, the voice
Of venerable age, - of guileless youth,
In kindly circle seated on the ground
Before their wicker door. Behold the man!
The grandsire and the saint; his silvery locks
Beam in the parting ray: before him lies,
Upon the smooth cropt sward, the open book,
His comfort, stay, and ever new delight!
While, heedless, at his side, the lisping boy
Fondles the lamb that nightly shares his couch.

by James Grahame

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Comments (1)

the idea is hackneyed