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west, north, and south, to meet the wind from every point, proved the source of very humble, but very dear pleasure, to one with whom it was even as a living thing, the companion of his eye, and the inspirer of his thoughts, having more than once suggested grave meditations on the vanity of the world, and the flight of time.
During such reveries, I often purposed that my first ramble on recovery of my freedom should be down by that river, under those trees, across the fields beyond, and away to the windmill.
And so it came to pass. On one fine morning in the middle of April I was liberated. Immediately afterwards I sallied forth, and took my walk in that direction, from whence, with feelings which none but an emancipated captive can fully understand, I looked back upon the Castle walls, and to the window of that chamber from which I had been accustomed to look forward, both with the eye and with hope, upon the ground which I was now treading, with a spring in my step as though the very soil were elastic under my feet. While I was thus traversing the fields, not with any apprehension of falling over the verge of the narrow footpath, but from mere wantonness of instinct, in the joy of liberty long wished for, and, though late, come at last, I wilfully diverged from the track, crossing it now to the right, then to the left, like a butterfly fluttering here and there, making a long course and little way, just to prove
my legs, that they were no longer under restraint, but might tread where and how they pleased; and that I myself was in reality abroad again in the world, not gazing at a section of landscape over stone walls that might not be scaled; nor, when, in the Castle-yard, the ponderous gates, or the small wicket, happened to be opened to let in or out visitors or captives, looking up the street from a particular point within the enclosure which might not be passed. Now to some wise people this may appear very childish, even in such a stripling as I then was; but the feeling was pure and natural, and the expression innocent and graceful, as every unsophisticated emotion, and its spontaneous manifestation, must be; however much, on cool reflection, a prudent man, with the eyes of all the world upon him, might choose to conceal the one and repress the other. Be this as it may, having once or twice mentioned the frolic in company, I know not through how many mouths it may have transmigrated before it reached Mr. Hazlitt in the form under which he has presented it.
After the foregoing narratives and statements of my juvenile delinquencies and sufferings, one sentence from the original Preface to the following "Confessions" will be sufficient :
"These pieces were composed in bitter moments, amid the horrors of a gaol, under the pressure of sickness. They were the transcripts of melancholy
feelings, -the warm effusions of a bleeding heart. The writer amused his imagination with attiring his sorrows in verse, that, under the romantic appearance of fiction, he might sometimes forget that his misfortunes were real."
November 10, 1840.
VERSES TO A ROBIN RED-BREAST,
WHO VISITS THE WINDOW OF MY PRISON EVERY DAY.
WELCOME, pretty little stranger!
Welcome to my lone retreat! Here, secure from every danger, Hop about, and chirp, and eat: Robin! how I envy thee, Happy child of Liberty!
Now, though tyrant Winter, howling,
Shakes the world with tempests round, Heaven above with vapors scowling, Frost imprisons all the ground;Robin! what are these to thee? Thou art blest with liberty.
Though yon fair majestic river *
Mourns in solid icy chains;
Though yon flocks and cattle shiver,
Robin! thou art gay and free,
Hunger never shall distress thee,
While my cates one crumb afford; Colds nor cramps shall e'er oppress thee; Come and share my humble board: Robin! come and live with me, Live-yet still at liberty.
Soon shall Spring in smiles and blushes
Should some rough unfeeling Dobbin,
Seize thee on thy nest, my Robin!
And confine thee in a cage,
Then, poor prisoner! think of me,
February 2, 1795.