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O could my rustic string
Their beauty and their feats proclaim,
And give and steal the minstrel's fame,
Of all, of each, my harp should ring!
But light as he the strain should spring
That sings the greyhound rare;
And soft as Beauty's plumy wing
The lay that paints the Fair.
Whilst harsh and rude the notes I fling,
Coursing nor Beauty dare I sing,
The greyhound nor the hare.
Yet, gentle maids, ye well may spy
Your triumphs in your lovers' eye:
And ye, kind sportsmen, well may claim
For gallant dogs scarce-rivall'd fame.
And durst I sing, in vent'rous guise,
Of ricks and turns, and falls and byes,
And all the courser's mysteries,
Then should the swan-neck'd Nancy show
As spotless as her fur of snow;
Then should the Sharks successive reign,
And all their master's fame sustain ;
Nor Windsor shame his breeding high;
Nor thou thy name, Northumbrian Fly;
Nor thou, Prince Hal, thy namesake old,
"The nimble-footed mad-cap" bold;
Nor thou the meed thy mother won,
My golden-crested Marmion*.
* Celebrated greyhounds belonging to Messrs. Newell, Hayward, Webb, Hunt, and Mitford. Marmion is the son of Dr. Mitford's Maria, who won the Ilsley cup for 1808. Mr. Hayward's famous Shark was the sire of Lord Rivers's Remark, and the grandsire of Maria, and of Rose-bud, who won the cup, last season, at Swaffham.
Leave we them all: to stand awhile
Upon the topmost brow,
And mark how many a length'ning mile
The landscape spreads below.
Here let us stand! The breezes chill
A healthful freshness breathe,
The blood with stirring quickness fill,
And Fancy's wildest garlands wreathe.
How pure, how transient is the storm!
See in yon furze poor puss's form,
A vacant cradle seems,
Rock'd by the loud wind to and fro;
Whilst the coy primrose blooms below,
Nurs'd by the southern beams:
And over-head in richer gold
The gorse's hardy flow'rs unfold,
Framing wild wreaths most sweet, most fair,
To hang around her mountain lair.
Methinks I too should love to dwell
Within this lone and cloud-capp'd cell:
With all around of vast and rude;
A wild romantic solitude!
With all below to charm the eye;
With nought above me, but the sky.
Here would I watch each sailing cloud
Scudding along in grandeur proud;
And mark the varying shadows cast
On down or fallow as it past;
Or view the sudden catching light
Now part the shades and now unite;
Till noon's refulgent brightness spread
Its glories o'er the mountain's head:
Then would I bend from my high place
To gaze upon th' horizon's space,
A tract sublime of various grace.
Yet first the charmed eye would greet
The lowland home-scene's vallies sweet,
Of wood and turf and field;
Where the snug cot, the lordly seat,
Like grandeur and contentment meet,
And mutual beauty yield.
And first would trace the winding road
Which through the beech-wood leads,
By red-cloak'd maids and ploughmen trod,
Rich wains and prancing steeds.
And first admire those beechen trees,
Whose upper branches in the breeze,
All bare and polish'd seem to freeze;
Whilst, feather'd like an archer's barb,
Each lower bough, in saffron garb,
Catches the rain-drops as they fall,
And answers to the night-wind's call.
Among those woods one chimney white
Just glances in the southern light,
Deep bosom'd in th' impervious glades,
The fairy bow'r of Brittwell's shades*.
Is it the woodman's fair retreat
Where merry children sport?
Or the rough keeper's jovial seat,
Where hounds and huntsmen frequent meet,
And hold their sylvan court?
* Brittwell nunnery. The retreat of several aged nuns, who were driven from France by the revolution.
Is it the laugh of infants
Shaking the forest with their play,
That wakes the echoes round?
Or trampling steeds at break of day,
The noisy pack, the clarion's lay?
What wakes thy voice, coy echo, say?
It is a holier sound.
There, from their native country driv❜n,
The Nuns' sweet vespers rise to heav'n.
Exiles of France! In early life
They fled the world's tumultuous strife,
To find within a convent's breast
The Present calm, the Future blest.
They sought for peace, and peace they found,
Till impious havoc, glaring round,
Of earth, of heav'n, the ties unbound,
And said, Maids, ye are free!
But Freedom's prostituted sound
To them was misery.
Chas'd from their voluntary prison,
They seem'd as from some earthquake risen,
Where all they lov'd, where all they knew,
Had vanish'd from their tear-dimm'd view.
Nor place to sit them down and pray,
Nor friends, nor home, nor grave, had they.
Sick'ning at war's tumultuous din
They fled that clime of woe and sin;
And here they dwell, the pious band!
Honour'd and safe in Albion's land.
And though perchance a casual tear
Fall for the convent once so dear,
Yet sweet Contentment's patient smile
Shall grace each placid cheek the while:
Here, where they keep their holy vow,
Here is their native country now:
For here, though all unknown the tongue,
The tenderest sound of welcome rung;
Here pity beams in every eye;
Here blest they live-more blest shall die.
From pious Brittwell pass we now,
At Freedom's holy shrine to bow,
On Chalgrove's honour'd field*
An undistinguish'd speck it seems,
Where scarce the Sun's refulgent beams
One spark of light can yield.
But in the field of History,
Long, bright, undying is the page,
That tells of Chalgrove's victory,
Of Hampden's virtuous rage.
Hampden! thy name from age to age
The patriot heart shall fire;
The good, the fair, the brave, the sage
All weep thy funeral pyre.
Thy very enemy confest
The virtues of thy noble breast+;
Hard as it is amid the jar
Of falling thrones, of civil war,
To judge of Man's inconstant state;
Even he confest thee good and great.
* The spot where Hampden fell.
+ See the character of Hampden in Lord Clarendon's History.