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Is the bud so dusk and airy
Of the wild Field-Fritillary!
Like a joy my memory knoweth —
In my native fields it groweth ;
Like the voice of one long parted,
Calling to the faithful-hearted;
Like an unexpected pleasure
That hath neither stint nor measure ;
Like a bountiful good fairy,
Do I hail thee, Fritillary!
Tell me, pr’ythee, Dragon-fly,
What and whence thou art ? Whether art of earth or sky, Or of flowers a part?
And who, together
This fine weather
Put thee, glorious as thou art ?
He maketh no reply,
But all things answer loud, “Who formed the Dragon-fly, Formed sun and sea and cloud ;
Formed flower and tree;
Formed me and thee, With nobler gifts endowed!" Save for the Eternal Thought,
Bright shape thou hadst not been, He from dull matter wrought Thy purple and thy green;
And made thee take,
E'en for my sake, Thy beauty and thy sheen!
THE SQUIRREL. The pretty, black Squirrel lives up in a tree, A little blithe creature as ever can be ; He dwells in the boughs where the Stockdove broods, Far in the shades of the green summer woods ; His food is the young juicy cones of the Pine, And the milky Beach-nut is his bread and his wine. In the joy of his nature he frisks with a bound To the topmost twigs, and then down to the ground; Then up again, like a winged thing, And from tree to tree with a vaulting spring ; Then he sits up aloft, and looks waggish and queer, As if he would say, “Ay, follow me here !" And then he grows pettish, and stamps his foot; And then independently cracks his nut; And thus he lives the long summer thorough, Without a care or a thought of sorrow. But small as he is, he knows he may want, In the bleak winter weather, when food is scant, So he finds a hole in an old tree's core, And there makes his nest, and lays up his store ; And when cold winter comes, and the trees are bare, When the white snow is falling, and keen is the air, He heeds it not, as be sits by himself, In his warm little nest, with his nuts on his shelf. O, wise little Squirrel ! no wonder that he In the green summer woods is as blithe can be !
THE WILD SPRING.CROCUS. AH, though it is an English flower,
It only groweth here and there : Through merry England you might ride; Through all its length, from side to side; Through fifty counties, nor have spied
This flower so passing fair.
But in our meadows it is growing,
And now it is the early Spring:
And see from out the kindly earth
How thousand thousands issue forth,
As if it gloried to give birth
To such a lovely thing.
Like lilac-flame its colour glows,
Tender, and yet so clearly bright,
That all for miles and miles about,
The splendid meadow shineth out;
And far-off village children shout
To see the welcome sight.
I love the odorous Hawthorn flower,
I love the Wilding's bloom to see ;
I love the light Anemonies,
That tremble to the faintest breeze ;
And hyacinth-like Orchises,
Are very dear to me!
The Star-wort is a fairy-flower;
The Violet is a thing to prize ;
The Wild-pink on the craggy ledge,
The waving sword-like Water-sedge,
And e'en the Robin-run-i'th'-hedge
Are precious in my eyes.
Yes, yes, I love them all, bright things !
But then, such glorious flowers as these Are dearer still — I'll tell you why,
THE DRAGON-FLY. With wings like crystal air,
Dyed with the rainbow's dye; Fluttering here and there, Pr’ythee tell me, Dragon-fly,
Whence thou comest,
Where thou roamnest,
Art thou of the earth or sky?
'Mong plumes of Meadow-sweet
I see thee glance and play,
Or light with airy feet
Upon a nodding spray,
Or sailing slow,
I see thee go l'th' sunshine far away.
There's joy in many a thousand eye
When first goes forth the welcome cry,
Of " lo, the Crocuses !"
Then little, toiling children leave
Their care, and here by thousands throng,
And through the shining meadow run,
And gather them, not one by one,
But by grasped handfuls, where are none
To say that they do wrong.
They run, they leap, they shout for joy;
They bring their infant brethren here;
They fill each little pinafore ;
They bear their baskets brimming o'er;
Within their very hearts they store
This first joy of the year.
Yes, joy in these abundant meadows
Pours out like to the earth's o'erflowing;
And, less that they are beautiful,
Than that they are so plentiful,
So free for every child to pull,
I love to see them growing.
And here, in our own fields they grow-
An English flower, but very rare ;
Through all the kingdom you may ride,
O'er marshy flat, on mountain side,
Nor ever see, outstretching wide,
Such flowery meadows fair!
In some cavern's gloomy hollow,
Where the Lion and Serpent met, That thy nest was builded, Swallow ? Did the Negro people meet thee
With a word
Of welcome, bird, Kind as that with which we greet thee? Pr’ythee tell me how and where Thou wast guided through the air; Pr’ythee cease thy building-labour, And tell thy travel-story, neighbour! Thou hast been among the Caffres ;
Seen the Bushman's stealthy arm, Thou hast heard the lowing heifers
On some good Herrnhuter's farm ; Seen the gold-dust-finder, Swallow, Heard the Lion-hunter's holla!
Peace and strife,
And much of life Hast thou witnessed, wandering Swallow. Tell but this, we'll leave the rest, Which is wisest, which is best ; Tell, which happiest, if thou can, Hottentot or Englishman ?Naught for answer can we get, Save twitter, twitter, twitter, twet!
TWITTERING Swallow, fluttering Swallow,
Art come back again?
Come from water-bed or hollow,
Where thou, winter-long, hast lain?
Nay, I'll not believe it, Swallow,
Not in England hast thou tarried ;
Many a day
Has thy wing been wearied,
Over continent and isle,
Many and many and many a mile!
Tell me, pr’ythee bird, the story
of thy six months migratory!
If thou wert a human traveller,
We a quarto bonk should see ;
Thou wouldst be the sage unraveller
Of some dark old mystery ; Thou wouldst tell the wise men, Swallow, Of the rivers' hidden fountains ;
Plain and glen,
And savage men,
And Afgbauns of the mountains ;
Creatures, plants, and men unknown,
And cities in the Deserts lone :
Thou wouldst be, thou far-land dweller,
Like an Arab story-teller!
Was it in a temple, Swallow;
In some Moorish minaret,
THE Sea it is deep, the Sea it is wide ;
And it girdeth the earth on every side,
On every side it girds it round,
With an undecaying, mighty bound.
When the Spirit of God came down at first,
Ere the day from primal night had burst,
Before the mountains sprung to birth,
The dark, deep waters veiled the earth.
Like a youthful giant roused from sleep,
At Creation's call uprose the Deep,
And his crested waves tossed up their spray,
As the bonds of his ancient rest gave way;
And a voice went up in that stillness vast,
As if life through a mighty heart had passed.
Oh ancient, wide, unfathomed Sea,
Ere the mountains were, God fashioned thee;
And he gave in thine awful depths to dwell
Things like thyself untameable-
The Dragons old, and the Harpy brood,
Were the lords of thine early solitude !
But night came down on that ancient day,
And that mighty ra was swept away;
And death thy fathomless depths passed through ;
And thy waters meted out anew;
And then on thy calmer breast'were seen
The verdant crests of islands green;
And mountains in their strength came forth,
And trees and flowers arrayed the earth;
Then the Dolphin first his gambols played
In his rainbow-tinted scales arrayed ;
And down below all fretted and frore,
Were wrought the coral and madrepore;
And among the sea-weeds green and red,
Like Aocks of the valley the Turtles fled;
And the sea-flowers budded and opened wide
In the lustre of waters deepened and dyed ;
And the little Nautilus set afloat
On thy bounding tide his pearly boat;
And the Whale sprang forth in his vigorous play ;
And shoals of the Flying-fish leaped into day;
And the Pearl-fish under thy world of waves
Laid up his stores in the old sea-caves.
Then man came down, and with silent awe
The majesty of waters saw;
And he felt like an humbled thing of fear,
As he stood in that Presence august, severe.
Till he saw how the innocent creatures played
In the billowy depths and were not afraid ;
Till he saw how the Nautilus spread his sail,
And caught as it blew the favouring gale;
And great and small through the watery realm
Were steered as it were by a veering helm;
Then his heart grew bold, and his will grew strong,
And he pondered in vigilant thought not long
Ere he fashioned a boat of a hollow tree,
And thus became lord of the mighty Sea.
Perhaps some of my young readers may be tempted to turn critical, and say that some of the pieces herein set forth are not strictly entitled to the name of tales; I think it best, therefore, to plead guilty at once, and explain that the title was adopted as the most simple, and, at the same time, sufficiently expressive of the bulk of the contents. The poems in this volume which are not literally stories, will, I hope, find such favour in the eyes of my young friends, that they shall not deem them unfitting companions to the best tales amongst them.
I can wish no better for my kind young readers, so far as the book is concerned, than that it as popular amongst them as the Sketches of Natural History which I wrote for them some time ago.
Nottingham, June 10th, 1836.
Where waves the corn, the red fern bowed
On heathy turf that ne'er was ploughed;
And boundless tracts were covered o'er
With mossy bog, and barren moor;
The green hill-slopes, the pastoral lea,
Were shadowed by the forest-tree;
And herds of deer, of nought afraid,
Went bounding through the greenwood shade;
And 'mong the leafy boughs above,
Loud screamed the jay, and cooed the dove;
The squirrel sprung from tree to tree,
The timid badger gamboled free,
And the red fox barked dismally ;
And the grim wolf, at close of day,
Made the lone mountain herds his prey.
Then fasts were held, and prayers were said
When knight or yeoman journeyed,
For peril great was on the road,
Where'er a daring traveller trode;
And ever as they came or went,
Before the way-side cross they bent,
Their beads to tell, their prayers to say,
And crave protection for the way.
Yet, save when quiet woodmen passed
Silently through the forest vast,
Or hermit stole from out his cell,
Down to some holy way-side well,
Or portly monk, in habit grey,
And long black cowl, rode by the way,
Or pilgrim went with staff in hand,
To some famed shrine across the land,
But rarely man had man in view,
For travellers in this land were few.
Yet at times upon the breeze was borne
The gallant sound of hunter's horn;
And barons from their halls came forth,
With leashed hounds, and sounds of mirth;
And dames in quaint, embroidered dresses,
And hooded hawks with bells and jesses;
With yeomen bold a thousand strong,
Careered right gallantly along,
DEDICATED, WITH MUCH RESPECT, TO
The fields with corn are rich and deep,
Which only he who sows can reap;
And in old woodlands' grassy lea
Are cattle grazing peacefully; -
And hamlet-homes in valleys low
Fear neither famine, fire, nor foe.
A thousand busy towns are rise
With prosperous sounds of trade and life,
And bustling crowds are in the streets,
Where man is friend with all he meets.
No need is there of city-wall,
Nor gates to shut at evening-fall;
For, know ye not, the land I praise
Is England in these happy days!
It was not thus in wood and wold,
It was not thus in times of old ;
Then at dawn of day the sober train
Set out upon their way again;
Travelling on by dale and down,
Warily to some distant town —
Or to some dark, grey castle tall,
Guarded with drawbridge, moat, and wall;
With porter stern, and bloodhounds grim,
With towers of strength, and dungeons dim;
Where minstrels stood with pipes to play,
And a jester jibed the livelong day ;-
Or to halt in some green vale before
The monastery's gothic door,
To meekly ask, with speaking eye,
What the lord Abbot chose to buy -
Or ermine soft, or linen fine,
Or procious flasks of foreign wine ?
And at times, stout men, like Robin Hood,
With outlawed dwellers of the wood,
With their merry men, clad all in green,
A hunting in the woods were seen.
Not then each golden harvest-field
Was reaped for him whose toil had tilled;
Little was recked of cruel wrong -
The weak man laboured for the strong ;
And civil war fierce ruin wrought,
And battles, many a one, were fought;
And the old remnants of the slain,
Moulder on hill, and heath, and plain.
Then, learning was of little note,
And, saving moniks, none read nor wrote;
And even kings, with nought of shame,
Confessed they could not sign their name !
Then ladies' lives were dull, for they
Wrought tapestry-work from day to day;
And peasant-women, brown with toil,
Tilled with the men the barren soil.
Then towns were few, and small and lone,
Inclosed with massy walls of stone ;
And at each street an outer gate,
To shut before the day grew late ;
And not a lamp might give its light,
After the curfew rung at night.
And if perchance it happened so
That a traveller came on journey slow,
In scarlet cloak and leathern belt,
And high-crowned hat of sable felt,
And huge jack-bools, and iron-spur,
Riding, the king's grave messenger,
How stared the townsfolk, half aghast,
As solemnly he onward passed
To the low hostel, built of wood !
And how in wandering groups they stood,
With questions poured out amain,
To see him journey forth again!
Another day of blither cheer
Might come, some three times in the year,
When the customed traders came with packs
Of needful things on horses' backs ;
With jingling bells to the leader's rein,
Sounding afar on the narrow lane;-
A long array of near a score,
With armed riders on before ;
And the men of trade with visage thin,
In travelling caps of badger skin,
And rough, huge clooks, and ponderous gear
Of arms and trappings closed the rear.
On went they, guests of special grace,
On to the little market-place ;-
And quickly might be purchased there,
From the Sheffieldman his cutler-ware;
And winter garb, and woollen vest,
From the sturdy weaver of the West ;
And scarlet hose, and 'broidered shoon,
And wooden bowl, and horny spoon ;
Buckles and belts, and caps of hide,
And a thousand other things beside,
Till the townsfolk had laid in their store,
And the traders could sell nothing more,
MADAM FORTESCUE AND HER CAT.
AN ILLUSTRATION OF THREE PICTURES, DE
SIGNED AND DRAWN BY ANNA MARY HOWITT, FOR HER BROTHER CLAUDE.
Within this picture, you may view
The Cat and Madam Fortescue-
And very soon you will discover,
That Mistress Pussy “lived in clover."
This is a nice pleasant parlour,
As you may see in a minute ; It belongs to Madam Fortescue,
And there she sits in it.
That's the dear old lady,
In a green tabby gown, And a great lace cap,
With long lace ruffles hanging down There she sits
In a cushioned high-backed seat, Covered over with crimsoned damask,
With a footstool at her feet.
You see what a handsome room it is,
Full of old carving and gilding;
The house is, one niay be sure,
Of the Elizabethan style of building.
So she smiled, and was smooth-spoken,
And the lady said, “ Crabthorn, You are the best waiting woman
That ever was born! “ And when I die, good Crabthorn,
In my will it shall appear, That my cat I leave to you,
And fifty pounds a year. “For I certainly think, Crabthorn,
You will love her for my sake!" " That I shall!" said the waiting woman,
“And all my pleasure will she make !" Now all this has been said and done
This very day, I am sure — For there lies the lady's will.
Tied up with red tape secure.
New men, new measures," as 't is said ; Now Madam Fortescue is dead And the poor Cat, as we shall show, In little time doth suffer woe.
It is a pleasant place;
And through the window one sees
Into old-fashioned gardens
Full of old yew trees.
And on that table, – that funny table,
With the curious thin legs, -
Stand little tea-cups, a china jar,
And great ostrich eggs. One can see in a moment,
That she is very rich indeed;
With nothing to do, all day long,
But sit in a chair and read.
And those are very antique chairs,
So heavy and so strong ;
The seats are tent-stitch, the lady's work,
All done when she was young.
And that's Mr. Fortescue's portrait,
That hangs there on the wall,
In the thunder-and-lightning coat,
The bag.wig and all.
Very old-fashioned and stately,
With a sword by his side ;
But 't is many a long year now,
Since the old gentleman died. Thus you see the room complete,
With a Turkey carpet on the floor ; And get a peep into other rooms
Through that open door. But the chiefest thing of all
We have yet passed over, The tortoise-shell cat, which our motto says
“Now lives in clover." Meaning she has nothing to do,
All the long year through, But sleep and take her meals
With good Madam Fortescue. Only look, on that crimson cushion,
How soft and easy she lies, Just between sleep and wake,
With half buttoned-up eyes ! And good Madam Fortescue,
She lifts her eyes from her book, To see if she want anything,
And to give her a loving 'look. But now turn your eyes
Behind this great Indian screen,There sits Madam Fortescue's woman
Very crabbed and very lean. She makes believe to her lady,
To be very fond of the cat; But she hates her,
And pinches when she pretends to pat.
But the lady never knows it,
For the cat can but mew;
She can tell no tales, however ill used,
And that Mrs. Crabthorn knew.
Now comes the second picture ;
And here we shall discover,
That the poor pussy now
No longer lives in clover.
For she gets no sups of cream, -
Not even a crumb of bread;
Cross Mrs. Crabthorn rules the house,
Now Madam Fortescue is dead.
And the fine crimson cushion,
Into the lumber-room is thrown, Only look at that poor cat,
She would melt a heart of stone.
She may well look so forlorn, —
Poor creature that she may;
And only think what kicks she's had,
And nothing to eat all day ?
This, then, is the dressing room,
Grand and stately as you can see; Yet everything in the room
Looks as solemn as can be ! The very peacock’s feathers
Over the old glass on the wall,
Look like great mourning plumes
Waving at a funeral.
And that glass in the black frame;
And the footstool on the floor,
And the chair where Madam sate to dress,
But where she 'll sit no more! Everything looks as if some
Great sorrow would befall! See there's the old tabby gown Hanging on the wall;