The Battle-Day & other poems (2)
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[Continued from
previous page]


 

V.


Then the lot the most barren, the lot the most great,
Lindsay chose from the garner of treacherous fate:
To be hated by many, by few to be bless'd,
Do good unto all, and receive it from none,
To wake and to watch while all others may rest,
And die ere one half of his task has been done.
To die as he lived: all strange, great, and alone,
Mourned not in tears, but recorded in stone.

 

Soon the rumour crept and came,
Still and low as stifled flame,
That in some distant spot of earth
A vast great spirit had gone forth.
Wanderers strange from door to door,
And lands remote, the tidings bore.
Uncertain first, the echoes wild
Floated like dreams athwart a child:
A breath, a whisper, then a word
That grew familiar as 'twas heard,
Till quick achievement, pace on pace,
With giant march grasped time and space,
And clearer seen in glory's height,
Forth flashed the hero on the sight!
Then shouts the mass—it knows not why—
Save that another raised the cry;
Those living echoes of the crowd,
From hearts most shallow still most loud,
As answering notes are shrillest thrown
From barest rock and bleakest stone.

Thus steals on time a hero-name,
Deserved or undeserved, the same;
From million lips in thunder hurled,
Bursts the loud anthem o'er the world:
Then bow the nations, prostrate laid
Before the God themselves have made;
But, when temptation comes at last,
When power is strong, and peril past—
Then shall we know the workman's hands:
False greatness sinks—true greatness stands.
    *                *                *                *                *

 

And thus, amid the din of war,
Thro' cloud and thunder flashed the star,
Lost for awhile in gloom and night
To re-appear with tenfold light;
From orbit small, reluctant sent
To grasp a wide-spread firmament.

Thus many a spirit that would rest
All humbly in a household breast,
Pale sorrow drives, in league with fate,
To claim its place among the great.

And Lindsay rose, as merit can
When tempest stirs the floods of man;
Till ranged afar in foreign land
An army owned his sole command,
And on the coming battle's die
Reposed a nation's destiny.

Along the misty heather grey
Lord Lindsay's vast encampment lay,
Gleaming upward on the night
Emblazoned tents of silvery white,
Like snowflakes by a Northern blast
A midnight o'er the champaign cast.
The leader's in his tent alone;
And, like a tent above it thrown,
The night lay o'er it fold on fold,
Heavy, dark, and still and cold.
The murmur from the camp around,
The muffled tread on grassy ground,
Question low and low reply,
The rustling banner's mournful play—
Like flapping wing of bird of prey
Impatient for the carnage-day—
Sudden laugh and roundelay,
Like windgusts passing by;
Neigh and stamp and clank of arm,
Shot at sentry-posts' alarm,
Then the single bugle-blast,
And the squadron skirring past,
Sent 'mid darkness to the fight
A living thundercloud through night:
In one deep hum, but dead and low,
Crept through the curtains' silken flow,
And shook them with its ominous breath,
Like the step of the coming death.
    Those small, dull sounds, that fill the break
Ere long-expected thunders wake,
And start the listening watcher more
Than the loud storm's first opening roar,
    Came freezing on the humid air;
While 'neath night's fingers, chill and damp,
The flame crouched down upon the lamp—
    Scarce light enough to show 'twas there.
Thus Lindsay sat—all spirit-cold,
While night's dark hours the sun uprolled.
The battle's eve is hard to bear,
Its fears, but not its joys are there;
And Lindsay watched the moments fleet
One by one with leaden feet.
He counted them with beat of heart,
Slow to come and slow to part,
While on their silent wings they brought
Man's worst companion—anxious thought!
On every side—anear, afar—
Slept the tide of fiery war:
Countless hearts that, all aflame
Should kindle when the morrow came,
Now lay in slumber wrapt as death,
Calm as the sword within its sheath.
As from the scabbard leaps the brand
When drawn beneath the soldier's hand,
With one proud impulse Lindsay's call
Might rouse the slumbering thousands all.
    But deem not that his eye was bright
With glorious calm of wonted light:
Or steady throbs each rising vein:
There was too much to lose and gain!
The goal of all his stormy life
Is centred in the morrow's strife:
The guerdon he had toiled for long,
The hope, that made the weary strong,
The moment, that should years outweigh,
Beyond whose loss 'twere vain to stay,
When time, on-pointing to the dead,
Forbade afresh his path to tread;
Past man's control—past thought's command—
The life—the death—'twas all at hand,
And he was sitting on the brink
With nought to do but think—and think!

Few—few upon his musing break,
An augur from their chief to take.

 

There was but one—and this a friend—
Who questioned of the morrow's end.
He would not the word betray,
The word, that lost the coming day!
'Twas but one friend! he bent his ear,
And then could scarce the answer hear;
The gusty winds were loud without,
'Twas scarcely breathed: "I doubt!   I doubt!"
There was none else who could have heard
The scarce articulated word!
Yet through the curtain's silken fold,
Coldly on the midnight cold
It crept like messenger of ill,
From heart to heart with footstep chill.
    Spoken lowly and alone,
Whence did echo win the tone?
From lip and eye, and brow and hand,
And deadness of the dull command.
O'er hearts, that every thought can hear,
Untold of tongue, unheard of ear,
In blighting circles widened out
The palsying spell—"I doubt! I doubt!"

The night passed by to beat of heart,
    Like a funeral march to an open tomb;
When sunlight mapped the heaven's wide
        chart,
    'Twas but a torch to show the gloom
The gloom upon the war-helmed head
    And breast imprisoned in bright mail:
Gleamed the crest on glances dead,
    Flashed the steel on foreheads pale.

Sullen broke the battle's roar,
    Sultry dropped the cannon-flame,
The conflict to the midward bore,
The banners shook unto its breath,
Music swelled the voice of death,
    And slowly rolled the long acclaim.

Reeled the battle's midward shock—
    Charges on the serried square:
As the earthquake tears the rock,
    The horse the pausing column tear.

But every arm is half unnerved—
Each rider in the onset swerved—
Rein half-tightened, lance half-thrust,
A palsy on the battle's lust,
For still each beating breast about
Is wound the web: "I doubt!   I doubt!"

Now, gallant Lindsay! turn the war!
The moment's come to make or mar.
No, send the rally to the charge!
The serried phalanxes enlarge!
For hot volcanoes, left and right,
    Spit forth their iron hail—
Where battery flames from crenelled
        height
    Make day's red flambeau pale.

As to winds sink scattered waves,
On that deathfield without graves
Down before the cannon-blast
Behold a living pavement cast.
And still they stood, and still they fell
Before the red advancing hell:
Then turned to Lindsay every eye,
Broke from the field one smothered cry
Demanding but that single sign
To crush the foes' up-gathering line.
Every horse is scarce held back—
Every heart is on the rack—
Every spirit on the rise:
It is the moment—and it flies!

Upon a height Lord Lindsay stood
And marked the turning of the flood;
And thrice he raised his arm on high,
Thrice turned to shout his battle-cry;
And thrice the gallant impulse dies
To fears that throng, and doubts that rise;
It is the moment—and it flies!
Delay and doubt did more that hour
Than bayonet-charge and carnage-shower.

Loud howls the battle like a gale:
But fast the fiery ardours fail,
And every brow is turning pale!
They have the heart but lack the word:—
Broke from Lindsay's lip no cry,
Flashed no signal from his eye,
He neither spoke, nor signed, nor stirred,
He thought but: "Should they fail!"
Cold on his brow was writ despair,
His army saw it lettered there;
From rank to rank, from man to man,
Like a word that dead look ran.
The impulse flags,—the die is cast—
It was the moment—and 'tis past!

Close! close the square! from every side
    Hark to horsemen's hurtling shock!
Onward pours that living tide
    Upon that living rock!—

And up and down—and to and fro—
    The battle reeled across the plain,
And when its force seemed stricken low,
    Up burst the fiend afresh again;
With quivering arm and panting breath,
And battered bone and streaming vein,
But heart as fierce as it began—
A mass of horse, and steel and man—
Squadron hurtling, shattered square,—
But still enough to do and dare;
Beat of foot and hard hoof prancing,
Now receding, now advancing,—
The ebb and flow of the tide of death!

Then, when his bands were falling fast,
That gallant spirit dared its last.
Then Lindsay rode the foremost rank
And drove his steed through war-pools dank,
And bravely waved his pennon high,
And loudly cried his battle-cry!
And minstrels heard the foeman say
Lord Lindsay had fought well that day.
    *            *            *            *            *

 

A single rider from the field,
    All worn with wounds, when day was low,
With severed sword and shattered shield,
    But heart unbroken by the blow
    That laid his life before his foe,
    Rode to seek uncoffined rest
    In the spot becomes a soldier best:
    A warrior's grave on heather wild,
With the death of a man and the sleep of a
        child!

 

The sun was trembling on the sea,
    Winds were low and clouds were high,
And one bird sang on the old oak tree
    When Lindsay laid him down to die.
    It sang a song of early days,
    Rich—rich with childhood's fairy lays.
Thus the robin sang on the linden-bough,
In the horse of his youth as it called to him now;
'Twas a carol of heaven it chanted him then,
And the self-same song it was chanting again.

But the world had rolled with its fiery blast,
Filling the gulf 'twixt the present and past.
'Mid the madd'ning and whirlpool and roar of
        its wave,
He knew not his cradle-song sung o'er his grave!—
And all the spirits of his life,
His Peace, his Hope, his Love, his Strife,
Float by him wan in that solemn hour,
Bearing each a withered flower.
Colourless spectres, they cast on his sight
Forms without beauty and smiles without light!

 

His useless life so wildly passed!—
So many deeds and none to last!—
A sigh of regret for his parting breath;
Of all that seed but one fruit—Death!
And the Beyond?   To him unknown:
A tear—a knell—a prayer—a stone!
A sod wrapped round a soulless clay,
And a keyless gate to a trackless way!
For Death, to him all light without,
Was worse than agony—was Doubt.
So high a heart—so sad a fate!
Wanting but Faith to have been great.

 

____________________________

 
PLOUGH AND LOOM.

LEAWOOD HALL,

A Chistmas Tale.

 

IN a cottage on a moor
    Famine's feeble children cried;
The frost knocked sharply at the door,
    And hunger welcom'd him inside;

In the moonlight cracked the leaves,
    As the fox across them passed,
And the ice-drops from the eaves
    Rattled to the whirling blast;

On the black hearth glowed no ember,
    On the damp floor lay the rime,
Elfin haloes of December
    For the sainted Christmas-time;

And a pale girl sat there chanting
    Mournfully to children twain,
Like some sweet house-spirit haunting
    Old men's homes with childhood's strain.

Ellen was a maiden fair
    With that beauty meek and frail,
Softened by the hand of care
    From the red rose to the pale.

But the children had no feature
    Of the blithe child's merry grace,
Still of spirit—small of stature—
    Manhood's thought an childhood's face.

And a woman, thin and eager,
    Tossed upon a litter low,
Lifting up large eyes of fever,
    With a look of angry woe.

Harsh complaints and words unkind
    To each and all in turn addressed,
For pain, with searching hand, will find
    A bitter drop in every in breast.

Bearing all with passive mood
    While her sharp invective ran,
In cold and fearful calmness stood
    A silent, melancholy man.

O'er his brow the moonbeam lingered
    'Mid the lines that passion wrought,
Like an angel, glory-fingered,
    Shewing heaven the dangerous thought.

He had toiled in hope's assurance,
    Toiled when hope had changed to fear,
Toiled amid despair's endurance—
    These were sorry thanks to hear!

Yet he chid not her reproving,
    Bore it all in quiet part—
Said: It is but misery moving
    Pulses foreign to her heart.

Still in solemn silence bound,
    Scarce a sign of life he gave,
But fixed his eyes upon the ground,
    As though his look could dig his grave.

Sudden through the broken pane
    Faintly gleamed a ruddy light,
And something like a festive strain
    Came thrilling through the heart of night.

With flashing eyes that woman wan
    Rose like a shade against the wall:
"Hark! hark! the festival's began!
    The tables groan at Leawood Hall!

The rich man feasts—and Leawood's near—
    "What honey stores his golden hive!
"Go! bid him give those dying here,
    "One crust to save their souls alive!"


__________________


The night grew dark—but from a height
    Afar the lordly mansion shone,
Shone pillar white and portal bright,
    Like trellis-work of fire and stone.

Along the roads, from every side
    The blazing lamps were racing all,
As fast the guests invited hied
    To share the feast at Leawood Hall,

It was a Norman castle high—
    It was a keep of ages rude,
When men named murder—chivalry,
    And robbery was called—a feud.

There barons stern once housed in pride,
    And coined the labourer's heart to gold:
On field and fell the labourer died,
    While they were gay in holt and hold.

What they had lavished to replenish,
    They o'ertaxed endurance' length,
Drunk his labour down in Rhenish,
    And grew strong upon his strength.

Men of haughtiness! unthinking
    In their selfishness of caste,
'Twas his life-blood they were drinking!
    But 'twould poison them at last,

From the dust that they were treading
    Some stood up by force or craft,
Till, the scutcheoned peer o'erheading,
    In his face the trader laughed.

Then, his triumph once insuring,
    This new conqueror fiercely rose,
Smote the people's neck enduring,
    After they had crushed his foes.

And those mighty tyrant-blasters
    Settled into slaves again;
They had only changed their masters,
    And that change was worse than vain.

Since then, a sterile-thoughted man
    Had lorded it o'er Leawood fair,
Who as an errand-boy began,
    And ended as a millionaire.

And his son, by slow degrees,
    Mounted life with golden feet,
For the son knew how to please,
    As the sire knew how to cheat.

Before he rose, the people's friend,
    He feigned at all their wrongs to burn;
Now, as he bent, made others bend,
    And played the tyrant in his turn.

Patronized each bible-mission;
    Gave to charities—his name;
No longer cared for man's condition,
    But carefully preserved—his game.

Against the Slave-trade he had voted,
    "Rights of Man" resounding still;
Now, basely turning, brazen-throated,
    Yelled against the Ten Hours' Bill.


__________________


Oh! Leawood Hall was gay that night;
    Shone roof and rafter, porch and door,
And proudly rolled the sheeted light
    Its glory over Leawood Moor.

Full in the glare the labourer stood;
    The music smote him like a blast,
And through the rich ancestral wood
    He heard the fat deer rushing past.

"While we are starving!" cried his love;
    "But they are watching!" said his fear.
'Twixt hell below and heaven above—
    What dost thou on the balance here?

Through the hall the beggar spurning,
    Menials drove him from the door:
Can they chide the torch for burning,
    They cast smouldering on the floor?

Say not; "This is no fair sample,
    "This was but the menial's part!"
'Twas the master's past example
    Filtered through the servant's heart.

"Man is born—and man must live!"
    Thus anger read its maddening creed:
"If I take what they won't give,
    "Can heaven itself frown on the deed?"


__________________


That night a fierce and haggard man
    From Leawood Hall was seen to run;—
But ere the fearful race began
    The rifle's deadly work was done.

Ye pampered drones! pursuit is vain,
    Give o'er the godless, cruel strife!
As well o'ertake the hurricane:
    Despair and love fly there for life.


__________________


Long the anxious wife sat waiting,
    Fainter grew the children's cry;
Ken the wind, the desolating,
    Slept to his own lullaby.

The father came—but hot and wild
    The open door he staggered past;
His brow was knit, but still he smiled,
    Like sunset over tempest cast.

"Food! food!" he cried, "they feast to-night,
    "And I have brought our share as well;
"Wife! we were starving—'twas our right!
    "If not—as God wills—heaven or hell!"

Them spoke his wife with inward pride
    To think her counsel proved so brave;
"I knew you could not be denied;
    "Now bless the gentle hand that gave."

He strangely smiled in wondrous mood,
    And, with the haste of fever, quaffed
Down to the dregs a fiery flood;
    And still he smiled—and still he laughed.

He smiled to mark their spirits rise,
    And that his wife had ceased to sigh,
And how the ardour in her eyes
    Gave her the look of times gone by.

He laughed to think how small a cost
    Might brighten poverty's eclipse;
But sudden silence strangely crossed
    With blanching hand his quivering lips.

Then oft he kissed each little child,
    And looked as one who'd much to say;
But, ere he spoke, some pinion wild
    Waved the unuttered thought away.

And Ellen marvelled to behold
    Such fitful change and sudden cheer;
He had so long been stern and cold,
    This kindness seemed a thing to fear.

And fainter grew his smile and bitter,
    And his face turned cold and grey,
While slow he sunk down on the litter,
    And strength's last bravery broke away.

Then they saw where, heartward glancing,
    Deep the cruel rifle smote;
While death's gurgling march advancing
    Sounded up his gasping throat.

Clung, like leaves of Autumn's serest,
    Wife and children to his side;
He turned his last look on his dearest,
    And, thus sadly gazing, died.

Courage now no more dissembled
    Broken strength and baffled will;
The wistful children stood and trembled,
    And the room grew very still.

 

____________________________

 
THE FACTORY TOWN.

 

THE night had sunk along the city,
    It was a bleak and cheerless hour;
The wild winds sang their solemn ditty
    To cold grey wall and blackened tower.

The factories gave forth lurid fires
    From pent-up hells within their breast;
E'en Etna's burning wrath expires,
    But man's volcanoes never rest.

Women, children, men were toiling,
    Locked in dungeons close and black,
Life's fast-failing thread uncoiling
    Round the wheel, the modern rack!

E'en the very stars seemed troubled
    With the mingled fume and roar;
The city like a cauldron bubbled,
    With its poison boiling o'er.

For the reeking walls environ
    Mingled groups of death and life:
Fellow-workmen, flesh and iron,
    Side by side in deadly strife.

There, amid the wheels' dull droning
    And the heavy, choking air,
Strength's repining, labour's groaning,
    And the throttling of despair,—

With the dust around them whirling,
    And the white, cracked, fevered lips,
And the shuttle's ceaseless twirling
    And the short life's toil eclipse—

Stood half-naked infants shivering
    With heart-frost amid the heat;
Manhood's shrunken sinews quivering
    To the engine's horrid beat!

Woman's aching heart was throbbing
    With her wasting children's pain,
While red Mammon's hand was robbing
    God's thought-treasure from their brain!

Yet their lord bids proudly wander
    Stranger eyes thro' factory scenes;
"Here are men, and engines yonder."
    "I see nothing but machines!"

Hark! amid that bloodless slaughter
    Comes the wailing of despair:
"Oh! for but one drop of water!
    "Oh! for but one breath of air!

"One fresh touch of dewy grasses,
    "Just to cool this shrivelled hand!
"Just to catch one breeze that passes
    "From some shady forest land."

No! though 'twas a night of summer
    With a scent of new mown hay
From where the moon, the fairies' mummer,
    On distant fields enchanted lay!

On the lealands slept the cattle,
    Freshness through the forest ran—
While, in Mammon's mighty battle,
    Man was immolating man!

While the rich, with power unstable,
    Crushed the pauper's heart of pain,
As though those rich were heirs of Abel,
    And the poor the sons of Cain.

While the proud from drowsy riot,
    Staggered past his church unknown,
Where his God, in the great quiet,
    Preached the livelong night alone!

While the bloated trader passes,
    Lord of loom and lord of mill;
On his pathway rush the masses,
    Crushed beneath his stubborn will.

Eager slaves, a willing heriot,
    O'er their brethren's living road
Drive him in his golden chariot,
    Quickened by his golden goad.

Young forms—with their pulses stifled,
    Young heads—with the eldered brain,
Young hearts—of their spirit rifled,
    Young lives—sacrificed in vain:

There they lie—the withered corses,
    With not one regretful thought,
Trampled by thy fierce steam-horses,
    England's mighty Juggernaut!

Over all the solemn heaven
    Arches, like a God's reproof
At the offerings man has driven
    To Hell's altars, loom and woof!

Hear ye not the secret sighing?
    And the tear drop thro' the night?
See ye not a nation dying
    For want of rest, and air, and light?

Perishing for want of Nature!
    Crowded in the stifling town—
Dwarfed in brain and shrunk' in stature—
    Generations growing down!

Thinner wanes the rural village,
    Smokier lies the fallow plain—
Shrinks the cornfields' pleasant tillage,
    Fades the orchard's rich domain;

And a banished population
    Festers in the fetid street:—
Give us, God, to save our nation,
    Less of cotton, more of wheat.

Take us back to lea and wild wood,
    Back to nature and to Thee !
To the child restore his childhood—
    To the man his dignity!


__________________


Lo! the night hangs o'er the city,
    And the hours in fever fly,
And the wild winds sing their ditty,
    And the generations die.

 

____________________________

 
THE CORNFIELD AND THE FACTORY.

 

OH! what is so blithe as through cornfields to roam,
    When the lark is in heaven and laughter on earth?
Oh! what is so blithe as the glad harvest-home,
    When the lads are all frolic—the lasses all mirth?

Oh! what is so fair as mid breezes of June
    To watch the long corn-billows sweep?
When the fields in their bloom sway like tides to the
            moon,
    And from slender stalks drooping the soft whispers
            creep,
As though angels walked through them and prayed
            o'er their sleep!

Oh! what is so gay as the harvest-home dance,
    When the moonbeams troop on the gray church-
            roof,
    And the old men smile as they stand aloof;
    The boys and the girls round them riot and race,
    And the moon seems to laugh till 'tis red in the
            face
At the goblets that clank and the younkers that
            prance—
And the village-girls glance—at their partners
            askance,
    As though heads and hearts too could be proof?

Oh! what is so sweet as the Sunday morn?
    When the bells on the breezes flow;
And the peasant lad walks with his bride through
            the corn
    As church-ward they go—oh!—how slow
    Because—the blue cornflowers along the path
            grow!
And he and his lass bless the corn as they pass—
For they speak with a glance of the harvest-home
            dance.

Oh! what is so calm as the old man's joy,
    When he walks by the field in its pride,
And talks of his feats in that field when a boy,
    To the young boy who walks by his side?
How he mowed it down in one long summer's
            day:
When the labour was done how he knelt down to
            pray!
See! the flashes of boyhood from aged eyes glance,
For he thinks of his bride at the harvest-home
            dance.

'Twas merry in England in times of old
When the summer fields rolled their long billows
            of gold,
    And the bright year had climbed to its noon;
The earth was song, laughter, and joyaunce and
            love,
And the Spirit of heaven sat smiling above,
    From the orb of the red harvest moon.

But where has it flown?   Why less bright than of old
Does summer turn emerald fields into gold?
And the harvest moon struggle through mist faint
            and dim,
Like a pale ghost who peers round the charnel
            shroud's rim?
On the fair brow of woman a shadow is bent,
From the wild eye of man flashes forth discontent!
Say!   Whence comes the change?   Whence, the
            curse has been sent?
*             *              *              *              *              *              *

What is it, next the church-tower climbs the sky,
How more frequented far, and scarce less high?
What plague-cloud rolls across the darkened land,
And hurls the sun away with shadowy hand?
What wheels revolve in dungeons hot and black,
Of modern tyranny the modern rack?
What horrid birth from that unnatural womb?
The demon god of factory and loom!
Fierce, with a yell he bounds upon the land,
Writhes his thin lip and waves his yellow hand,
And points, where man's volcanoes through the
            skies,
His thousand temples' burning altars rise.
Curses and groans his ear like anthems greet,
And blighted lives are cast beneath his feet.
His sable banners o'er heaven's glory roll
The shades that blast the heart and reach the soul.
Care-stricken forms the street's long darkness fill,
Embodied dreams of misery and ill!
A more than Cain-like mark their foreheads bear,
For sin's their only respite from despair!
And in each sunken eye's unhallowed cell
The fever flashes, not of life, but hell.
Oaths upon infant lips, and, loathsome sight!
The eyes of childhood without childhood's light.
The laugh of youth a gibbering of art;
Larves of humanity without a heart!

The very sun shines pale on a dark earth,
Where quivering engines groan their horrid mirth,
And black smoke-offerings, crimes and curses, swell
From furnace-altars of incarnate hell!
The demon laughs, and still his arm he waves,
That thins the villages, but fills the graves.
Through bleak, deserted fields he loves to roam,
Where shines the funace on hell's harvest-home.
'Tis this has stilled the laughter of the child,
And made man's mirth less holy, but more wild!
Bade Heav'n's pure light from woman's eye depart,
And trodden love from out her gentle heart.
'Tis this, that wards the sunshine from the sod,
And intercepts the very smile of God!

 

____________________________

 
THE PEASANT.

 

FORTH to the fight! then shining sword of song!
Sing, sing the toil, that makes the toiler strong.
Sing, how the peasant, after well-fought field,
Where sun-gilt legions to his sickle yield,
Reluctant turns from willing work to part,
In body wearied, but yet fresh in heart.
His the glad labour, that but strengthens more,
Braces the frame and bids the spirit soar;
His the pure life, gives loftier feeling scope,
The harvest gratitude, the seed-time hope!
For him the orchards bloom, the corn-fields nod,
And these are altars where he worships God.
Not thus the pale mechanic, hapless slave,
Digs for a master's wealth his own dark grave,
Who sows in misery, and reaps in pain,
The harvest, garner'd for another's gain;
Unknown amid the bustling crowd sinks down,
A martyr! but without a martyr's crown!
Turn from the sight—and see what joys abide,
What comfort by the cottager's fireside:

Before the expiring embers' fitful light
Watches a wife, a mother, through the night,
Her fair brow hung with care's cold drapery white;
Her thoughts upon a desert of hope's dearth,
A dying heart beside a darkening hearth.

The deaf had known each sound that came and went,
By the quick shudder through her slight form sent
At the light footstep of the elfish blast,
Who tapped against the window as he passed;
Or hollow laugh from clouds, the stars' black hearse,
When dies their light before the thunder's curse.

Eager she listens every sound to catch!—
'Tis but the tempest's hand upon the latch.
Unconsciously she moves from spot to spot,
Or gazes on her babe, but sees it not!
Is that pale prison of an anxious life
The boast of womanhood—a peasant's wife?
At length a rude hand strikes the cottage door,
A boisterous foot is on the shaking floor,
A lofty form, but care-worn now and thin,
Enters, as though the tempest had poured in:
With fevered face, with glances fierce and wild,
The husband greets the mother and the child.
The babe starts from its sleep with cry of fear,
The fond wife casts a smile upon a tear,
And throws her arms around that form so proud,
As a pale moonbeam clasps a thunder-cloud.
His heart a prison, with a chaos fraught,
His hearth neglected, and his brain untaught,
Half-stifled curses smouldering in his breast,
'Tis thus the British peasant seeks his rest.




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