Tale X - Poem by George Crabbe
THE LOVER'S JOURNEY.
It is the Soul that sees: the outward eyes
Present the object, but the Mind descries;
And thence delight, disgust, or cool indiff'rence
When minds are joyful, then we look around,
And what is seen is all on fairy ground;
Again they sicken, and on every view
Cast their own dull and melancholy hue;
Or, if absorb'd by their peculiar cares,
The vacant eye on viewless matter glares,
Our feelings still upon our views attend,
And their own natures to the objects lend:
Sorrow and joy are in their influence sure,
Long as the passion reigns th' effects endure;
But Love in minds his various changes makes,
And clothes each object with the change he takes;
His light and shade on every view he throws,
And on each object what he feels bestows.
Fair was the morning, and the month was June,
When rose a Lover;--love awakens soon:
Brief his repose, yet much he dreamt the while
Of that day's meeting, and his Laura's smile:
Fancy and love that name assign'd to her,
Call'd Susan in the parish-register;
And he no more was John--his Laura gave
The name Orlando to her faithful slave.
Bright shone the glory of the rising day,
When the fond traveller took his favourite way;
He mounted gaily, felt his bosom light,
And all he saw was pleasing in his sight.
'Ye hours of expectation, quickly fly,
And bring on hours of bless'd reality;
When I shall Laura see, beside her stand,
Hear her sweet voice, and press her yielded hand.'
First o'er a barren heath beside the coast
Orlando rode, and joy began to boast.
'This neat low gorse,' said he, 'with golden
Delights each sense, is beauty, is perfume;
And this gay ling, with all its purple flowers,
A man at leisure might admire for hours;
This green-fringed cup-moss has a scarlet tip,
That yields to nothing but my Laura's lip;
And then how fine this herbage! men may say
A heath is barren; nothing is so gay:
Barren or bare to call such charming scene
Argues a mind possess'd by care and spleen.'
Onward he went, and fiercer grew the heat,
Dust rose in clouds before the horse's feet;
For now he pass'd through lanes of burning sand,
Bounds to thin crops or yet uncultured land;
Where the dark poppy flourish'd on the dry
And sterile soil, and mock'd the thin-set rye.
'How lovely this!' the rapt Orlando said;
'With what delight is labouring man repaid!
The very lane has sweets that all admire,
The rambling suckling, and the vigorous brier;
See! wholesome wormwood grows beside the way,
Where dew-press'd yet the dog-rose bends the spray;
Fresh herbs the fields, fair shrubs the banks
And snow-white bloom falls flaky from the thorn;
No fostering hand they need, no sheltering wall,
They spring uncultured, and they bloom for all.'
The Lover rode as hasty lovers ride,
And reach'd a common pasture wild and wide;
Small black-legg'd sheep devour with hunger keen
The meagre herbage, fleshless, lank, and lean:
Such o'er thy level turf, Newmarket! stray,
And there, with other black-legs, find their prey.
He saw some scatter'd hovels; turf was piled
In square brown stacks; a prospect bleak and wild!
A mill, indeed, was in the centre found,
With short sear herbage withering all around;
A smith's black shed opposed a wright's long shop,
And join'd an inn where humble travellers stop.
'Ay, this is Nature,' said the gentle 'Squire;
'This ease, peace, pleasure--who would not admire?
With what delight these sturdy children play,
And joyful rustics at the close of day;
Sport follows labour; on this even space
Will soon commence the wrestling and the race;
Then will the village-maidens leave their home,
And to the dance with buoyant spirits come;
No affectation in their looks is seen,
Nor know they what disguise aud flattery mean;
Nor aught to move an envious pang they see,
Easy their service, and their love is free;
Hence early springs that love, it long endures,
And life's first comfort, while they live, ensures:
They the low roof and rustic comforts prize,
Nor cast on prouder mansions envying eyes:
Sometimes the news at yonder town they hear,
And learn what busier mortals feel and fear;
Secure themselves, although by tales amazed
Of towns bombarded and of cities razed;
As if they doubted, in their still retreat,
The very news that makes their quiet sweet,
And their days happy--happier only knows
He on whom Laura her regard bestows.'
On rode Orlando, counting all the while
The miles he pass'd, and every coming mile;
Like all attracted things, he quicker flies,
The place approaching where th' attraction lies;
When next appear'd a dam--so call the place -
Where lies a road confined in narrow space;
A work of labour, for on either side
Is level fen, a prospect wild and wide,
With dikes on either hand by ocean's self supplied:
Far on the right the distant sea is seen,
And salt the springs that feed the marsh between:
Beneath an ancient bridge, the straiten'd flood
Rolls through its sloping banks of slimy mud;
Near it a sunken boat resists the tide,
That frets and hurries to th' opposing side;
The rushes sharp, that on the borders grow,
Bend their brown flow'rets to the stream below,
Impure in all its course, in all its progress slow:
Here a grave Flora scarcely deigns to bloom,
Nor wears a rosy blush, nor sheds perfume:
The few dull flowers that o'er the place are spread
Partake the nature of their fenny bed;
Here on its wiry stem, in rigid bloom,
Grows the salt lavender that lacks perfume;
Here the dwarf sallows creep, the septfoil harsh,
And the soft slimy mallow of the marsh;
Low on the ear the distant billows sound,
And just in view appears their stony bound;
No hedge nor tree conceals the glowing sun,
Birds, save a wat'ry tribe, the district shun,
Nor chirp among the reeds where bitter waters run.
'Various as beauteous, Nature, is thy face,'
Exclaim'd Orlando: 'all that grows has grace:
All are appropriate--bog, and marsh, and fen,
Are only poor to undiscerning men;
Here may the nice and curious eye explore
How Nature's hand adorns the rushy moor;
Here the rare moss in secret shade is found,
Here the sweet myrtle of the shaking ground;
Beauties are these that from the view retire,
But well repay th' attention they require;
For these my Laura will her home forsake,
And all the pleasures they afford partake.'
Again, the country was enclosed, a wide
And sandy road has banks on either side;
Where, lo! a hollow on the left appear'd,
And there a gipsy tribe their tent had rear'd;
'Twas open spread, to catch the morning sun,
And they had now their early meal begun,
When two brown boys just left their grassy seat,
The early Trav'ller with their prayers to greet:
While yet Orlando held his pence in hand,
He saw their sister on her duty stand;
Some twelve years old, demure, affected, sly,
Prepared the force of early powers to try;
Sudden a look of languor he descries,
And well-feign'd apprehension in her eyes;
Train'd but yet savage, in her speaking face
He mark'd the features of her vagrant race;
When a light laugh and roguish leer express'd
The vice implanted in her youthful breast:
Forth from the tent her elder brother came,
Who seem'd offended, yet forbore to blame
The young designer, but could only trace
The looks of pity in the trav'ller's face:
Within, the Father, who from fences nigh
Had brought the fuel for the fire's supply,
Watch'd now the feeble blaze, and stood dejected
On ragged rug, just borrow'd from the bed,
And by the hand of coarse indulgence fed,
In dirty patchwork negligently dress'd,
Reclined the Wife, an infant at her breast;
In her wild face some touch of grace remain'd,
Of vigour palsied and of beauty stain'd;
Her bloodshot eyes on her unheeding mate
Were wrathful turn'd, and seem'd her wants to
Cursing his tardy aid--her Mother there
With gipsy-state engross'd the only chair;
Solemn and dull her look; with such she stands,
And reads the milk-maid's fortune in her hands,
Tracing the lines of life; assumed through years,
Each feature now the steady falsehood wears;
With hard and savage eye she views the food,
And grudging pinches their intruding brood;
Last in the group, the worn-out Grandsire sits
Neglected, lost, and living but by fits:
Useless, despised, his worthless labours done,
And half protected by the vicious Son,
Who half supports him; he with heavy glance
Views the young ruffians who around him dance;
And, by the sadness in his face, appears
To trace the progress of their future years:
Through what strange course of misery, vice,
Must wildly wander each unpractised cheat!
What shame and grief, what punishment and pain,
Sport of fierce passions, must each child sustain -
Ere they like him approach their latter end,
Without a hope, a comfort, or a friend!
But this Orlando felt not; 'Rogues,' said he,
'Doubtless they are, but merry rogues they be;
They wander round the land, and be it true
They break the laws--then let the laws pursue
The wanton idlers; for the life they live,
Acquit I cannot, but I can forgive.'
This said, a portion from his purse was thrown,
And every heart seem'd happy like his own.
He hurried forth, for now the town was nigh -
'The happiest man of mortal men am I.'
Thou art! but change in every state is near
(So while the wretched hope, the bless'd may fear):
'Say, Where is Laura?'--'That her words must show,'
A lass replied; 'read this, and thou shalt know!'
'What, gone!--'Her friend insisted--forced to
Is vex'd, was teased, could not refuse her'--No?
'But you can follow.' Yes! 'The miles are few,
The way is pleasant; will you come?--Adieu!
Thy Laura!' No! I feel I must resign
The pleasing hope; thou hadst been here, if mine.
A lady was it?--Was no brother there?
But why should I afflict me, if there were?
'The way is pleasant.' What to me the way?
I cannot reach her till the close of day.
My dumb companion! Is it thus we speed?
Not I from grief nor thou from toil art freed;
Still art thou doom'd to travel and to pine,
For my vexation--What a fate is mine!
'Gone to a friend, she tells me;--I commend
Her purpose: means she to a female friend?
By Heaven, I wish she suffer'd half the pain
Of hope protracted through the day in vain.
Shall I persist to see th' ungrateful maid?
Yes, I will see her, slight her, and upbraid.
What! in the very hour? She knew the time,
And doubtless chose it to increase her crime.'
Forth rode Orlando by a river's side,
Inland and winding, smooth, and full, and wide,
That roll'd majestic on, in one soft-flowing tide;
The bottom gravel, flow'ry were the banks,
Tall willows waving in their broken ranks;
The road, now near, now distant, winding led
By lovely meadows which the waters fed;
He pass'd the way-side inn, the village spire,
Nor stopp'd to gaze, to question or admire;
On either side the rural mansions stood,
With hedge-row trees, and hills, high-crown'd with
And many a devious stream that reach'd the nobler
'I hate these scenes,' Orlando angry cried,
'And these proud farmers! yes I hate their pride,
See! that sleek fellow, how he strides along,
Strong as an ox, and ignorant as strong;
Can yon close crops a single eye detain
But he who counts the profits of the grain?
And these vile beans with deleterious smell,
Where is there beauty? can a mortal tell?
These deep fat meadows I detest; it shocks
One's feelings there to see the grazing ox; -
For slaughter fatted, as a lady's smile
Rejoices man, and means his death the while.
Lo! now the sons of labour! every day
Employ'd in toil and vex'd in every way;
Theirs is but mirth assumed, and they conceal,
In their affected joys, the ills they feel:
I hate these long green lanes; there's nothing sees
In this vile country but eternal green;
Woods! waters! meadows! Will they never end?
'Tis a vile prospect: --Gone to see a friend?'
Still on he rode! a mansion fair and tall
Rose on his view--the pride of Loddon Hall:
Spread o'er the park he saw the grazing steer,
The full-fed steed, and herds of bounding deer:
On a clear stream the vivid sunbeams play'd,
Through noble elms, and on the surface made
That moving picture, checker'd light and shade;
Th' attended children, there indulged to stray,
Enjoy'd and gave new beauty to the day;
Whose happy parents from their room were seen
Pleased with the sportive idlers on the green.
'Well!' said Orlando, 'and for one so bless'd,
A thousand reasoning wretches are distressed;
Nay, these, so seeming glad, are grieving like the
Man is a cheat--and all but strive to hide
Their inward misery by their outward pride.
What do yon lofty gates and walls contain,
But fruitless means to sooth unconquer'd pain?
The parents read each infant daughter's smile,
Form'd to seduce, encouraged to beguile;
They view the boys unconscious of their fate,
Sure to be tempted, sure to take the bait;
These will be Lauras, sad Orlandos these -
There's guilt and grief in all one hears and sees.'
Our Trav'ller, lab'ring up a hill, look'd down
Upon a lively, busy, pleasant town;
All he beheld were there alert, alive,
The busiest bees that ever stock'd a hive:
A pair were married, and the bells aloud
Proclaim'd their joy, and joyful seem'd the crowd;
And now, proceeding on his way, he spied,
Bound by strong ties, the bridegroom and the bride,
Each by some friends attended, near they drew,
And spleen beheld them with prophetic view.
'Married! nay mad!' Orlando cried in scorn;
'Another wretch on this unlucky morn:
What are this foolish mirth, these idle joys?
Attempts to stifle doubt and fear by noise:
To me these robes, expressive of delight,
Foreshow distress, and only grief excite;
And for these cheerful friends, will they behold
Their wailing brood in sickness, want, and cold;
And his proud look, and her soft languid air
Will--but I spare you--go, unhappy pair!'
And now, approaching to the Journey's end,
His anger fails, his thoughts to kindness tend,
He less offended feels, and rather fears t'offend:
Now gently rising, hope contends with doubt,
And casts a sunshine on the views without;
And still reviving joy and lingering gloom
Alternate empire o'er his soul assume;
Till, long perplex'd he now began to find
The softer thoughts engross the settling mind:
He saw the mansion, and should quickly see
His Laura's self--and angry could he be?
No! the resentment melted all away -
'For this my grief a single smile will pay,'
Our trav'ller cried;--'And why should it offend,
That one so good should have a pressing friend?
Grieve not, my heart! to find a favourite guest
Thy pride and boast--ye selfish sorrows rest;
She will be kind, and I again be bless'd.'
While gentler passions thus his bosom sway'd
He reach'd the mansion, and he saw the maid;
'My Laura!'--'My Orlando!--this is kind;
In truth I came persuaded, not inclined:
Our friends' amusement let us now pursue,
And I to-morrow will return with you.'
Like man entranced the happy Lover stood -
'As Laura wills, for she is kind and good;
Ever the truest, gentlest, fairest, best -
As Laura wills: I see her and am bless'd.'
Home went the Lovers through that busy place,
By Loddon Hall, the country's pride and grace;
By the rich meadows where the oxen fed,
Through the green vale that form'd the river's bed;
And by unnumber'd cottages and farms,
That have for musing minds unnumbered charms;
And how affected by the view of these
Was then Orlando? did they pain or please?
Nor pain nor pleasure could they yield--and why?
The mind was fill'd, was happy, and the eye
Roved o'er the fleeting views, that but appear'd to
Alone Orlando on the morrow paced
The well-known road; the gipsy-tent he traced;
The dam high-raised, the reedy dikes between,
The scatter'd hovels on the barren green,
The burning sand, the fields of thin-set rye,
Mock'd by the useless Flora blooming by;
And last the heath with all its various bloom,
And the close lanes that led the trav'ller home.
Then could these scenes the former joys renew?
Or was there now dejection in the view? -
Nor one or other would they yield--and why?
The mind was absent, and the vacant eye
Wander'd o'er viewless scenes, that but appear'd to
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