The hush of bliss on the Sunny Hills, The clouds were sleeping on the silent sky,

 

The Angler's Tent

 

By John Wilson, also known as Christopher North, British poet, 1785-1854

 

 

The hush of bliss was on the sunny hills, 

The clouds were sleeping on the silent sky, 

We travelled in the midst of melody 

Warbled around us from the mountain-rills. 

The voice was like the glad voice of a friend 

Murmuring a welcome to his happy home; 

We felt its kindness with our spirits blend, 

And said, "This day no farther will we roam!" 

The coldest heart that ever looked on heaven, 

Had surely felt the beauty of that day, 

And, as he paused, a gentle blessing given 

To the sweet scene that tempted him to stay. 

But we, who travelled through that region bright, 

Were joyful pilgrims under Nature's care, 

From youth had loved the dreams of pure delight,

Descending on us through the lonely air, 

When Heaven is clothed with smiles, and Earth as Heaven is fair!

 

Seven lovely days had like a happy dream 

Died in our spirits silently away, 

Since Grassmere, waking to the morning ray, 

Met our last lingering look with farewell gleam. 

I may not tell what joy our beings filled, 

Wand'ring like shadows over plain and steep, 

What beauteous visions lonely souls can build 

When 'mid the mountain solitude they sleep. 

I may not tell how the deep power of sound 

Can back to life long-faded dreams recall, 

When lying mid the noise that lives around 

Through the hush'd spirit flows a waterfall. 

To thee, my Wordsworth![1] whose inspired song 

Comes forth in pomp from Nature's inner shrine, 

To thee by birth-right such high themes belong,

The unseen grandeur of the earth is thine! 

One lowlier simple strain of human love be mine.

 

How leapt our hearts, when from an airy height, 

On which we paused for a sweet fountain's sake, 

With green fields fading in a peaceful lake, 

A deep-sunk vale burst sudden on our sight! 

We felt as if at home; a magic sound, 

As from a spirit whom we must obey, 

Bade us descend into the vale profound, 

And in its silence pass the Sabbath-day. 

The placid lake that rested far below, 

Softly embosoming another sky, 

Still as we gazed assumed a lovelier glow, 

And seem'd to send us looks of amity. 

Our hearts were open to the gracious love 

Of Nature, smiling like a happy bride; 

So following the still impulse from above, 

Down the green slope we wind with airy glide, 

And pitch our snowy tent on that fair water's side.

 

Ah me! even now I see before me stand, 

Among the verdant holly-boughs half hid, 

The little radiant airy pyramid, 

Like some wild dwelling built in Fairy land. 

As silently as gathering cloud it rose, 

And seems a cloud descended on the earth, 

Disturbing not the Sabbath-day's repose, 

Yet gently stirring at the quiet birth 

Of every short-lived breeze: the sun-beams greet 

The beauteous stranger in the lonely bay; 

Close to its shading tree two streamlets meet, 

With gentle glide, as weary of their play. 

And in the liquid lustre of the lake 

Its image sleeps, reflected far below; 

Such image as the clouds of summer make, 

Clear seen amid the waveless water's glow, 

As slumbering infant still, and pure as April snow.

 

Wild though the dwelling seem, thus rising fair, 

A sudden stranger 'mid the sylvan scene,

One spot of radiance on surrounding green, 

Human it is—and human souls are there! 

Look through that opening in the canvass wall, 

Through which by fits the scarce-felt breezes play, —

Upon three happy souls thine eyes will fall, 

The summer lambs are not more blest than they! 

On the green turf all motionless they lie, 

In dreams romantic as the dreams of sleep, 

The filmy air slow-glimmering on their eye, 

And in their ear the murmur of the deep. 

Or haply now by some wild winding brook, 

Deep, silent pool, or waters rushing loud, 

In thought they visit many a fairy nook 

That rising mists in rainbow colours shroud, 

And ply the Angler's sport involved in mountain-cloud!

 

Yes! dear to us that solitary trade, 

'Mid vernal peace in peacefulness pursued, 

Through rocky glen, wild moor, and hanging wood, 

White-flowering meadow, and romantic glade!

The sweetest visions of our boyish years 

Come to our spirits with a murmuring tone 

Of running waters,—and one stream appears, 

Remember'd all, tree, willow, bank, and stone! 

How glad were we, when after sunny showers 

Its voice came to us issuing from the school! 

How fled the vacant, solitary hours, 

By dancing rivulet, or silent pool! 

And still our souls retain in manhood's prime 

The love of joys our childish years that blest; 

So now encircled by these hills sublime, 

We Anglers, wandering with a tranquil breast, 

Build in this happy vale a fairy bower of rest!

 

Within that bower are strewn in careless guise, 

Idle one day, the angler's simple gear; 

Lines that, as fine as floating gossamer, 

Dropt softly on the stream the silken flies; 

The limber rod that shook its trembling length, 

Almost as airy as the line it threw,

Yet often bending in an arch of strength 

When the tired salmon rose at last to view, 

Now lightly leans across the rushy bed, 

On which at night we dream of sports by day; 

And, empty now, beside it close is laid 

The goodly pannier framed of osiers gray; 

And, maple bowl in which we wont to bring 

The limpid water from the morning wave, 

Or from some mossy and sequester'd spring 

To which dark rocks a grateful coolness gave, 

Such as might Hermit use in solitary cave!

 

And ne'er did Hermit, with a purer breast, 

Amid the depths of sylvan silence pray, 

Than prayed we friends on that mild quiet day, 

By God and man beloved, the day of rest! 

All passions in our souls were lull'd to sleep, 

Ev'n by the power of Nature's holy bliss; 

While Innocence her watch in peace did keep 

Over the spirit's thoughtful happiness!

We view'd the green earth with a loving look, 

Like us rejoicing in the gracious sky; 

A voice came to us from the running brook 

That seem'd to breathe a grateful melody. 

Then all things seem'd embued with life and sense, 

And as from dreams with kindling smiles to wake, 

Happy in beauty and in innocence; 

While, pleased our inward quiet to partake, 

Lay hush'd, as in a trance, the scarcely-breathing lake.

 

Yet think not, in this wild and fairy spot, 

This mingled happiness of earth and heaven, 

Which to our hearts this Sabbath-day was given, 

Think not, that far-off friends were quite forgot. 

Helm-crag arose before our half-closed eyes 

With colours brighter than the brightening dove; 

Beneath that guardian mount a cottage lies* 

Encircled by the halo breathed from Love!

And sweet that dwelling rests upon the brow* 

(Beneath its sycamore) of Orest-hill, 

As if it smiled on Windermere below, 

Her green recesses and her islands still! 

Thus, gently-blended many a human thought 

With those that peace and solitude supplied, 

Till in our hearts the moving kindness wrought 

With gradual influence, like a flowing tide, 

And for the lovely sound of human voice we sigh'd.

 

And hark! a laugh, with voices blended, stole 

Across the water, echoing from the shore! 

And during pauses short, the beating oar 

Brings the glad music closer to the soul. 

We leave our tent; and lo! a lovely sight 

Glides like a living creature through the air, 

For air the water seems thus passing bright, 

A living creature beautiful and fair!

Nearer it glides; and now the radiant glow 

That on its radiant shadow seems to float, 

Turns to a virgin band, a glorious shew, 

Rowing with happy smiles a little boat. 

Towards the tent their lingering course they steer, 

And cheerful now upon the shore they stand, 

In maiden bashfulness, yet free from fear, 

And by our side, gay-moving hand in hand, 

Into our tent they go, a beauteous sister-band!

 

Scarce from our hearts had gone the sweet surprise, 

Which this glad troop of rural maids awoke; 

Scarce had a more familiar kindness broke 

From the mild lustre of their smiling eyes, 

Ere the tent seem'd encircled by the sound 

Of many voices; in an instant stood 

Men, women, children, all the circle round, 

And with a friendly joy the strangers view'd, 

Strange was it to behold this gladsome crowd 

Our late so solitary dwelling fill;

And strange to hear their greetings mingling loud 

Where all before was undisturb'd and still. 

Yet was the stir delightful to our ear, 

And moved to happiness our inmost blood, 

The sudden change, the unexpected cheer, 

Breaking like sunshine on a pensive mood, 

This breath and voice of life in seeming solitude!

 

Hard task it was, in our small tent to find 

Seats for our quickly-gather'd company; 

But in them all was such a mirthful glee, 

I ween they soon were seated to their mind! 

Some viewing with a hesitating look 

The panniers that contained our travelling fare, 

On them at last their humble station took, 

Pleased at the thought, and with a smiling air. 

Some on our low-framed beds then chose their seat, 

Each maid the youth that loved her best beside, 

While many a gentle look, and whisper sweet, 

Brought to the stripling's face a gladsome pride.

The playful children on the velvet green, 

Soon as the first-felt bashfulness was fled, 

Smiled to each other at the wondrous scene, 

And whisper'd words they to each other said, 

And raised in sportive fit the shining, golden head!

 

Then did we learn that this our stranger tent, 

Seen by the lake-side gleaming like a sail, 

Had quickly spread o'er mountain and o'er vale 

A gentle shock of pleased astonishment. 

The lonely dwellers by the lofty rills, 

Gazed in surprise upon th' unwonted sight, 

The wandering shepherds saw it from the hills, 

And quick descended from their airy height. 

Soon as the voice of simple song and prayer 

Ceased in the little chapel of the dell, 

The congregation did in peace repair 

To the lake-side, to view our wondrous cell. 

While leaving, for one noon, both young and old, 

Their cluster'd hamlets in this deep recess, 

All join the throng, in conscious good-will bold,

Elate and smiling in their Sabbath-dress, 

A mingled various groupe of homely happiness!

 

And thus our tent a joyous scene became, 

Where loving hearts from distant vales did meet 

As at some rural festival, and greet

Each other with glad voice and kindly name. 

Here a pleased daughter to her father smiled, 

With fresh affection in her soften'd eyes; 

He in return look'd back upon his child 

With gentle start and tone of mild surprise: 

And on his little grand-child, at her breast, 

An old man's blessing and a kiss bestow'd, 

Or to his cheek the lisping baby prest, 

Light'ning the mother of her darling load; 

While comely matrons, all sedately ranged 

Close to their husbands' or their children's side, 

A neighbour's friendly greeting interchanged, 

And each her own with frequent glances eyed, 

And raised her head in all a mother's harmless pride.

Happy were we among such happy hearts! 

And to inspire with kindliness and love 

Our simple guests, ambitiously we strove, 

With novel converse and endearing arts! 

We talk'd to them, and much they loved to hear, 

Of those sweet vales from which we late had come; 

For though these vales are to each other near, 

Seldom do dalesmen leave their own dear home: 

Then would we speak of many a wondrous sight

Seen in great cities,—temple, tower, and spire, 

And winding streets at night-fall blazing bright 

With many a star-like lamp of glimmering fire. 

The gray-hair'd men with deep attention heard, 

Viewing the speaker with a solemn face, 

While round our feet the playful children stirr'd, 

And near their parents took their silent place, 

Listening with looks where wonder breathed a glowing grace.

 

And much they gazed with never-tired delight 

On varnish'd rod, with joints that shone like gold,

And silken line on glittering reel enroll'd, 

To infant anglers a most wondrous sight! 

Scarce could their chiding parents then controul 

Their little hearts in harmless malice gay, 

But still one, bolder than his fellows, stole 

To touch the tempting treasures where they lay. 

What rapture glistened in their eager eyes, 

When, with kind voice, we bade these children take 

A precious store of well-dissembled flies, 

To use with caution for the strangers' sake! 

The unlook'd-for gift we graciously bestow 

With sudden joy the leaping heart o'erpowers; 

They grasp the lines, while all their faces glow 

Bright as spring-blossoms after sunny showers, 

And wear them in their hats like wreaths of valley-flowers!

 

Nor could they check their joyance and surprise, 

When the clear crystal and the silver bowl 

Gleamed with a novel beauty on their soul, 

And the wine mantled with its rosy dies.

For all our pomp we shew'd with mickle glee, 

And choicest viands, fitly to regale, 

On such a day of rare festivity, 

Our guests thus wondering at their native vale. 

And oft we pledged them, nor could they decline 

The social cup we did our best to press, 

But mingled wishes with the joyful wine, 

Warm wishes for our health and happiness. 

And all the while, a low, delightful sound 

Of voice, soft-answering voice, with music fill'd 

Our fairy palace's enchanted ground, 

Such tones as seem from blooming tree distill'd, 

Where unseen bees repair their waxen cells to build.

 

Lost as we were in that most blessed mood 

Which Nature's sons alone can deeply prove, 

We lavish'd with free heart our kindest love 

On all who breath'd,—one common brotherhood. 

Three faithful servants, men of low degree, 

Were with us, as we roamed the wilds among,

And well it pleased their simple hearts to see 

Their masters mingling with the rural throng. 

Oft to our guests they sought to speak aside, 

And, in the genial flow of gladness, told 

That we were free from haughtiness or pride, 

Though scholars all, and rich in lands and gold. 

We smiled to hear our praise thus rudely sung, 

(Well might such praise our modesty offend) 

Yet, we all strove, at once with eye and tongue 

To speak, as if invited by a friend, 

And with our casual talk instruction's voice to blend.

 

Rumours of wars had reached this peaceful vale, 

And of the Wicked King, whom guilt hath driven 

On earth to wage a warfare against Heaven, 

These sinless shepherds had heard many a tale. 

Encircled as we were with smiles and joy, 

In quietness to Quiet's dwelling brought, 

To think of him whose bliss is to destroy, 

At such a season was an awful thought!

We felt the eternal power of happiness 

And virtue's power; we felt with holy awe 

That in this world, in spite of chance distress, 

Such is the Almighty Spirit's ruling law. 

And joyfully did we these shepherds tell 

To hear all rumours with a tranquil mind, 

For, in the end, that all would yet be well, 

Nor this bad Monarch leave one trace behind, 

More than o'er yonder hills the idly-raving wind.

 

Then gravely smiled, in all the power of age, 

A hoary-headed, venerable man, 

Like the mild chieftain of a peaceful clan, 

'Mid simple spirits looked on as a sage. 

Much did he praise the holy faith we held, 

Which God, he said, to chear the soul had given, 

For even the very angels that rebelled, 

By sin performed the blessed work of Heaven. 

The Wicked King, of whom we justly spake, 

Was but an instrument in God's wise hand,

And though the kingdoms of the earth might quake, 

Peace would revisit every ravaged land. 

Even as the earthquake, in some former time, 

Scatter'd yon rugged mountain far and wide, 

Till years of winter's snow and summer's prime, 

To naked cliffs fresh verdure have supplied, —

Now troops of playful lambs are bounding on its side.

 

Pleased were the simple groupe to hear the sire 

Thus able to converse with men from far, 

And much did they of vaguely-rumour'd war, 

That long had raged in distant lands, enquire. 

Scarce could their hearts, at peace with all mankind, 

Believe what bloody deeds on earth are done, 

That man of woman born should be so blind 

As walk in guilt beneath the blessed sun; 

And one, with thoughtful countenance, exprest 

A fear lest on some dark disastrous day,

Across the sea might come that noisome pest, 

And make fair England's happy vales his prey. 

Short lived that fear!—soon firmer thoughts arise: 

Well could these dalesmen wield the patriot's sword, 

And stretch the foe beneath the smiling skies; 

In innocence they trust, and in the Lord, 

Whom they, that very morn, in gladness had adored!

 

But soon such thoughts to lighter speech give way; 

We in our turn a willing ear did lend 

To tale of sports, that made them blythely spend 

The winter-evening and the summer-day. 

Smiling they told us of the harmless glee 

That bids the echoes of the mountains wake, 

When at the stated festival they see 

Their new-wash'd flocks come snow-white from the lake; 

And joyful dance at neighbouring village fair, 

Where lads and lasses, in their best attire, 

Go to enjoy that playful pastime rare, 

And careful statesmen shepherds new to hire!

Or they would tell, how, at some neighbour's cot, 

When nights are long, and winter on the earth, 

All cares are in the dance and song forgot, 

And round the fire quick flies the circling mirth, 

When nuptial vows are pledged, or at an infant's birth!

 

Well did the roses blooming on their cheek, 

And eyes of laughing light, that glisten'd fair 

Beneath the artless ringlets of their hair, 

Each maiden's health and purity bespeak. 

Following the impulse of their simple will, 

No thought had they to give or take offence; 

Glad were their bosoms, yet sedate and still, 

And fearless in the strength of innocence. 

Oft as, in accents mild, we strangers spoke 

To these sweet maidens, an unconscious smile 

Like sudden sunshine o'er their faces broke, 

And with it struggling blushes mix'd the while. 

And oft as mirth and glee went laughing round, 

Breath'd in this maiden's ear some harmless jest 

Would make her, for one moment, on the ground

Her eyes let fall, as wishing from the rest 

To hide the sudden throb that beat within her breast.

 

Oh! not in vain have purest poets told, 

In elegies and hymns that ne'er shall die, 

How, in the fields of famous Arcady, 

Lived simple shepherds in the age of gold! 

They fabled not, in peopling rural shades 

With all most beautiful in heart and frame; 

Where without guile swains woo'd their happy maids, 

And love was friendship with a gentler name. 

Such songs in truth and nature had their birth, 

Their source was lofty and their aim was pure, 

And still, in many a favour'd spot of earth, 

The virtues that awoke their voice endure! 

Bear witness thou! O, wild and beauteous dell, 

To whom my gladden'd heart devotes this strain; —

O! long may all who in thy bosom dwell 

Nature's primeval innocence retain, 

Nor e'er may lawless foot thy sanctity profane! 

Sweet Maids! my wandering heart returns to you;

And well the blush of joy, the courteous air, 

Words unrestrained, and open looks declare 

That fancy's day-dreams have not been untrue. 

It was indeed a beauteous thing, to see 

The virgin, while her bashful visage smiled, 

As if she were a mother, on her knee 

Take up, with many a kiss, the asking child. 

And well, I ween, she play'd the mother's part; 

For as she bended o'er the infant fair, 

A mystic joy seem'd stirring at her heart, 

A yearning fondness, and a silent prayer. 

Nor did such gentle maiden long refuse 

To cheer our spirits with some favourite strain, 

Some simple ballad, framed by rustic muse, 

Of one who died for love, or, led by gain, 

Sail'd in a mighty ship to lands beyond the main.

 

And must we close this scene of merriment? —

Lo! in the lake soft burns the star of eve, 

And the night-hawk hath warn'd our guests to leave, 

Ere darker shades descend, our happy tent.

The Moon's bright edge is seen above the hill; 

She comes to light them on their homeward way; 

And every heart, I ween, now lies as still 

As on yon fleecy cloud her new-born ray. 

Kindly by young and old our hands are press'd, 

And kindly we the gentle touch return; 

Each face declares that deep in every breast 

Peace, virtue, friendship, and affection burn. 

At last beneath the silent air we part, 

And promise make that shall not be in vain, 

A promise asked and given warm from the heart, 

That we will visit all, on hill and plain, 

If e'er it be our lot to see this land again!

 

Backward they gazed, as slowly they withdrew, 

With step reluctant, from the water-side; 

And oft, with waving hand, at distance tried 

Through the dun light to send a last adieu! 

One lovely groupe still linger'd on the green, 

The first to come, the last to go away;

While steep'd in stillness of the moonlight scene, 

Moor'd to a rock their little pinnace lay. 

These laughing damsels climb its humble side, 

Like fairy elves that love the starry sea; 

Nor e'er did billows with more graceful glide 

'Mid the wild main enjoy their liberty. 

Their faces brightening in triumphant hue, 

Close to each maid their joyful lovers stand; 

One gives the signal,—all the jovial crew Let go, 

with tender press, the yielding hand; —

Down drop the oars at once,—away they push from land.

 

The boat hath left the silent bank, the tone 

Of the retiring oar escapes the mind; 

Like mariners some ship hath left behind, 

We feel, thus standing speechless and alone. 

One moment lives that melancholy trance— 

The mountains ring: Oh! what a joy is there! 

As hurries o'er their heights, in circling dance, 

Cave-loving Echo, Daughter of the Air.

Is it some spirit of night that wakes the shout, 

As o'er the cliffs, with headlong speed, she ranges? 

Is it, on plain and steep, some fairy rout 

Answering each other in tumultuous changes? 

There seems amid the hills a playful war; 

Trumpet and clarion join the mystic noise; 

Now growing on the ear, now dying far! 

Great Gabel from his summit sends a voice, 

And the remotest depths of Ennerdale rejoice!

 

Oh! well I know what means this din of mirth! 

No spirits are they, who, trooping through the sky, 

In chorus swell that mountain-melody; —

It comes from mortal children of the earth! 

These are the voices that so late did chear 

Our tent with laughter; from the hills they come 

With friendly sound unto our listening ear, 

A jocund farewell to our glimmering home. 

Loth are our guests, though they have linger'd long, 

That our sweet tent at last should leave their sight; 

So with one voice they sing a parting song,

Ere they descend behind the clouds of night. 

Nor are we mute; an answering shout we wake, 

At each short pause of the long, lengthening sound, 

Till all is silent as the silent Lake, 

And every noise above, below, around, 

Seems in the brooding night-sky's depth of slumber drown'd!

 

Soon from that calm our spirits start again 

With blyther vigour; nought around we see, 

Save lively images of mirth and glee, 

And playful fancies hurry through our brain. 

Shine not, sweet Moon! with such a haughty light; 

Ye stars! behind your veil of clouds retire; 

For we shall kindle on the earth, this night, 

To drown your feeble rays, a joyous fire. 

Bring the leaves withering in the holly-shade, 

The oaken branches sapless now and hoar, 

The fern no longer green, and whins that fade 

'Mid the thin sand that strews the rocky shore.

Heap them above that new-awaken'd spark; 

Soon shall a pyramid of flame arise; 

Now the first rustling of the vapour, hark! 

The kindling spirit from its prison flies, 

And in an instant mounts in glory to the skies!

 

Far gleams the Lake, as in the light of day, 

Or when, from mountain-top, the setting sun, 

Ere yet his earth-delighting course is run, 

Sheds on the slumbering wave a purple ray. 

A bright'ning verdure runs o'er every field, 

As if by potent necromancer shed, 

And a dark wood is suddenly reveal'd, 

A glory resting on its ancient head. 

And oh! what radiant beauty doth invest 

Our tent that seems to feel a conscious pride, 

Whiter by far than any cygnet's breast, 

Or cygnet's shadow floating with the tide. 

A warmer flush unto the moonlight cold, 

Winning its lovely way, is softly given, 

A silvery radiance tinged with vivid gold;

While thousand mimic stars are gayly driven 

Through the bright-glistening air, scarce known from those in Heaven.

 

Amid the flame our lurid figures stand, 

Or, through the shrouding vapour dimly view'd, 

To fancy seem, in that strange solitude, 

Like the wild brethren of some lawless band. 

One, snatching from the heap a blazing bough, 

Would, like lone maniac, from the rest retire, 

And, as he waved it, mutter deep a vow, 

His head encircled with a wreath of fire. 

Others, with rushing haste, and eager voice, 

Would drag new victims to the insatiate power, 

That like a savage idol did rejoice 

Whate'er his suppliants offer'd to devour. 

And aye strange murmurs o'er the mountains roll'd, 

As if from sprite immured in cavern lone, 

While higher rose pale Luna to behold 

Our mystic orgies, where no light had shone, 

For many and many a year of silence—but her own.

 

O! gracious Goddess! not in vain did shine 

Thy spirit o'er the heavens; with reverent eye 

We hail'd thee floating through the happy sky; 

No smiles to us are half so dear as thine! 

Silent we stood beside our dying flame, 

In pensive sadness, born of wild delight, 

And gazing heavenward, many a gentle name 

Bestow'd on her who beautifies the night. 

Then, with one heart, like men who inly mourn'd, 

Slowly we paced towards our fairy cell, 

And e'er we enter'd, for one moment turn'd, 

And bade the silent majesty farewell! 

Our rushy beds invite us to repose; 

And while our spirits breathe a grateful prayer, 

In balmy slumbers soon our eyelids close, 

While, in our dreams, the Moon, serenely fair, 

Still bathes in light divine the visionary air!

 

Methinks, next night, I see her mount her throne, 

Intent with loving smile once more to hail

The deep, deep peace of this her loneliest vale, —

But where hath now the magic dwelling flown? 

Oh! it hath melted like a dream away, 

A dream by far too beautiful for earth; 

Or like a cloud that hath no certain stay, 

But ever changing, like a different birth. 

The aged holly trees more silently, 

Now we are gone, stand on the silent ground; 

I seem to hear the streamlet floating by 

With a complaining, melancholy sound. 

Hush'd are the echoes in each mountain's breast, 

No traces there of former mirth remain; 

They all in friendly grandeur lie at rest 

And silent, save where Nature's endless strain, 

From cataract and cave, delights her lonely reign.

 

Yet, though the strangers and their tent have past 

Away, like snow that leaves no mark behind, 

Their image lives in many a guiltless mind, 

And long within the shepherd's cot shall last. 

Oft when, on winter night, the crowded seat

Is closely wheel'd before the blazing fire, 

Then will he love with grave voice to repeat 

(He, the gray-headed venerable sire,) 

The conversation he with us did hold 

On moral subjects, he had studied long; 

And some will jibe the maid who was so bold 

As sing to strangers readily a song. 

Then they unto each other will recall 

Each little incident of that strange night, 

And give their kind opinion of us all: 

God bless their faces smiling in the light 

Of their own cottage-hearth! O, fair subduing sight!

 

Friends of my heart! who shared that purest joy, 

And oft will read these lines with soften'd soul, 

Go where we will, let years of absence roll, 

Nought shall our sacred amity destroy. 

We walk'd together through the mountain-calm, 

In open confidence, and perfect trust; 

And pleasure, falling through our breasts like balm, 

Told that the yearnings that we felt were just.

No slighting tone, no chilling look e'er marr'd 

The happiness in which our thoughts reposed, 

No words save those of gentleness were heard, 

The eye spoke kindly when the lip was closed. 

But chief, on that blest day that wakes my song, 

Our hearts eternal truth in silence swore; 

The holy oath is planted deep and strong 

Within our spirits,—in their inmost core,— 

And it shall blossom fair till life shall be no more!

Most hallow'd day! scarce can my heart sustain 

Your tender light by memory made more mild; 

Tears could I shed even like unto a child, 

And sighs within my spirit hush the strain. 

Too many clouds have dimm'd my youthful life, 

These wakeful eyes too many vigils kept; 

Mine hath it been to toss in mental strife, 

When in the moonlight breathing Nature slept. 

But I forget my cares, in bliss forget, 

When, peaceful Valley! I remember thee;

I seem to breathe the air of joy, and yet 

Thy bright'ning hues with moisten'd eyes I see. 

So will it be, till life itself doth close, 

Roam though I may o'er many a distant clime; 

Happy, or pining in unnoticed woes, 

Oft shall my soul recal that blessed time, 

And in her depths adore the beauteous and sublime!

 

Time that my rural reed at last should cease I

ts willing numbers; not in vain hath flow'd 

The strain that on my singing heart bestow'd 

The holy boon of undisturbed peace. 

O gentlest Lady! Sister of my friend, 

This simple strain I consecrate to thee; 

Haply its music with thy soul may blend, 

Albeit well used to loftier minstrelsy. 

Nor, may thy quiet spirit read the lay 

With cold regard, thou wife and mother blest! 

For he was with me on that Sabbath-day, 

Whose heart lies buried in thy inmost breast.

Then go my innocent and blameless tale, 

In gladness go, and free from every fear, 

To yon sweet dwelling above Grassmere vale, 

And be to them I long have held so dear, 

One of their fire-side songs, still fresh from year to year!