Part 3 out of 3
Never to living ear came sweeter sounds
Than when I heard thee by our own fire-side
First uttering without words a natural tune,
When thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy
Sing at thy Mother's breast. Month follow'd month,
And in the open fields my life was pass'd
And in the mountains, else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy father's knees.
--But we were playmates, Luke; among these hills,
As well thou know'st, in us the old and young
Have play'd together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.
Luke had a manly heart; but at these words
He sobb'd aloud; the Old Man grasp'd his hand,
And said, "Nay do not take it so--I see
That these are things of which I need not speak.
--Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good Father: and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Receiv'd at others' hands, for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who lov'd me in my youth."
Both of them sleep together: here they liv'd
As all their Forefathers had done, and when
At length their time was come, they were not loth
To give their bodies to the family mold.
I wish'd that thou should'st live the life they liv'd.
But 'tis a long time to look back, my Son,
And see so little gain from sixty years.
These fields were burthen'd when they came to me;
'Till I was forty years of age, not more
Than half of my inheritance was mine.
"I toil'd and toil'd; God bless'd me in my work,
And 'till these three weeks past the land was free.
--It looks as if it never could endure
Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,
If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good
That thou should'st go." At this the Old Man paus'd,
Then, pointing to the Stones near which they stood,
Thus, after a short silence, he resum'd:
"This was a work for us, and now, my Son,
It is a work for me. But, lay one Stone--
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.
I for the purpose brought thee to this place."
Nay, Boy, be of good hope:--we both may live
To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and stout;--do thou thy part,
I will do mine.--I will begin again
With many tasks that were resign'd to thee;
Up to the heights, and in among the storms,
Will I without thee go again, and do
All works which I was wont to do alone,
Before I knew thy face.--Heaven bless thee, Boy!
Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast
With many hopes--it should be so--yes--yes--
I knew that thou could'st never have a wish
To leave me, Luke, thou hast been bound to me
Only by links of love, when thou art gone
What will be left to us!--But, I forget
My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone,
As I requested, and hereafter, Luke,
When thou art gone away, should evil men
Be thy companions, let this Sheep-fold be
Thy anchor and thy shield; amid all fear
And all temptation, let it be to thee
An emblem of the life thy Fathers liv'd,
Who, being innocent, did for that cause
Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well--
When thou return'st, thou in this place wilt see
A work which is not here, a covenant
'Twill be between us--but whatever fate
Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,
And bear thy memory with me to the grave.
The Shepherd ended here; and Luke stoop'd down,
And as his Father had requested, laid
The first stone of the Sheep-fold; at the sight
The Old Man's grief broke from him, to his heart
He press'd his Son, he kissed him and wept;
And to the House together they return'd.
Next morning, as had been resolv'd, the Boy
Began his journey, and when he had reach'd
The public Way, he put on a bold face;
And all the Neighbours as he pass'd their doors
Came forth, with wishes and with farewell pray'rs,
That follow'd him 'till he was out of sight.
A good report did from their Kinsman come,
Of Luke and his well-doing; and the Boy
Wrote loving letters, full of wond'rous news,
Which, as the House-wife phrased it, were throughout
The prettiest letters that were ever seen.
Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.
So, many months pass'd on: and once again
The Shepherd went about his daily work
With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now
Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour
He to that valley took his way, and there
Wrought at the Sheep-fold. Meantime Luke began
To slacken in his duty, and at length
He in the dissolute city gave himself
To evil courses: ignominy and shame
Fell on him, so that he was driven at last
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.
There is a comfort in the strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would break the heart:--Old Michael found it so.
I have convers'd with more than one who well
Remember the Old Man, and what he was
Years after he had heard this heavy news.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks
He went, and still look'd up upon the sun.
And listen'd to the wind; and as before
Perform'd all kinds of labour for his Sheep,
And for the land his small inheritance.
And to that hollow Dell from time to time
Did he repair, to build the Fold of which
His flock had need. 'Tis not forgotten yet
The pity which was then in every heart
For the Old Man--ands 'tis believ'd by all
That many and many a day he thither went,
And never lifted up a single stone.
There, by the Sheep-fold, sometimes was he seen
Sitting alone, with that his faithful Dog,
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.
The length of full seven years from time to time
He at the building of this Sheep-fold wrought,
And left the work unfinished when he died.
Three years, or little more, did Isabel,
Survive her Husband: at her death the estate
Was sold, and went into a Stranger's hand.
The Cottage which was nam'd The Evening Star
Is gone, the ploughshare has been through the ground
On which it stood; great changes have been wrought
In all the neighbourhood, yet the Oak is left
That grew beside their Door; and the remains
Of the unfinished Sheep-fold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Gill.
NOTES TO THE POEM of THE BROTHERS.
Page 26--line 20 "There were two springs that bubbled side by side."
The impressive circumstance here described, actually took place some
years ago in this country, upon an eminence called Kidstow Pike, one
of the highest of the mountains that surround Hawes-water. The
summit of the pike was stricken by lightning; and every trace of one
of the fountains disappeared, while the other continued to flow as
Page 29--line 5 "The thought of death sits easy on the man," &c.
There is not any thing more worthy of remark in the manners of the
inhabitants of these mountains, than the tranquillity, I might say
indifference, with which they think and talk upon the subject of
death. Some of the country church-yards, as here described, do not
contain a single tombstone, and most of them have a very small number.
NOTES TO THE POEM OF MICHAEL.
Page 213--line 14 "There's Richard Bateman," &c. This story alluded
to here is well known in the country. The chapel is called Ings
Chapel; and is on the right hand side of the road leading from
Kendal to Ambleside.
Page 217--line 4 "--had design'd to build a sheep-fold." etc. It
may be proper to inform some readers, that a sheep-fold in these
mountains is an unroofed building of stone walls, with different
divisions. It is generally placed by the side of a brook, for the
convenience of washing the sheep; but it is also useful as a shelter
for them, and as a place to drive them into, to enable the shepherds
conveniently to single out one or more for any particular purpose.
[Transcriber's note: the errata have all been corrected in this copy.]