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ANCIENT of days ! that midst the dead
Thy verdant crest still rears, Tell us thy wondrous history,
Sage of a thousand years !
Hid in thy forest sanctuary,
Unreach'd by light divine,
Thou may'st have view'd the unholy rites
That stain'd the Druid's shrine ;
Wild tribes of wandering strangers seen
Invade thine island home; Scatter'd thy leaves o’er savage Pict;
Shelter'd Imperial Rome;
Seen Dane and Saxon pass ;
Till, by the rural Swale,
The conquering Norman paused, entranced,
And claim'd the lovely vale.
Then shone the axe, the forest falls ;
Slow rise the massy piles ;
The lordly castle crowns the hill ;
Below, the cloister smiles.
Thine, the safe home of sacred walls;
And oft, beneath thy veil,
Rose the deep sigh from burthen'd heart,
The trembling sinner's wail !
In these calm, hallowd bowers,
For contemplation made,
Has many a lofty thought had birth,
To wither in thy shade.
And thou hast shadow'd worldly schemes,
Unscath'd by kingly hate ;
Ambition's dreams! that heard unmoved
The martyr'd Becket's fate !
And now the crumbling walls decay,
Their relics strew the ground; While monumental ivy hangs
Its mournful garlands round.
Thou, midst the wreck, in changeless youth,
Still mock’st the wintry blast ; Empires are crush'd,—thou ling’rest on,
Historian of the past !
And though the levelling scythe of Time
Past glories may o'erwhelm,
Woe to the wretch, whose caitiff hand
Shall strike the Abbot's Elin !
Can he be fair, that withers at a blast ?
Or he be strong, that airy breath can cast ?
Can he be wise, that knows not how to live ?
Or he be rich, that nothing hath to give ?
Can he be young, that's feeble, weak, and wan ?
So fair, strong, wise, so rich, so young is man.
So fair is man, that death (a parting blast)
Blasts his fair flower, and makes him earth at last;
So strong is man, that with a gasping breath
He totters, and bequeaths his strength to death ;
So wise is man, that if with death he strive,
His wisdom cannot teach him how to live ;
So rich is man, that (all his debts being paid)
His wealth's the winding-sheet wherein he's laid ;
So young is man, that, broke with care and sorrow,
He's old enough to-day to die to-morrow :
Why bragg'st thou then, thou worm of five feet long,
Thou’rt neither fair, nor strong, nor wise, nor rich, nor
The warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the year
On the earth her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Come, months, come away,
From November to May,
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold year,
And, like dim shadows, watch by her sepulchre.
The chill rain is falling, the night-worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the year ;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling;
Come, months, come away ;
Put on white, black, and gray,
Let your light sisters play,
Ye follow the bier
Of the dead cold year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.
CLEAR, placid Leman ! thy contrasted lake,
With the wide world I dwelt in, is a thing
Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake
Earth's troubled waters for a purer spring.
This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing
To waft me from distraction ; once I loved
Torn ocean's roar, but thy soft murmuring
Sounds sweet as if a sister's voice reproved
That I with stern delights should e'er have been so moved.
It is the hush of night, and all between
Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear,
Mellow'd and mingling, yet distinctly seen,
Save darken'd Jura, whose capt heights appear
Precipitously steep; and drawing near,
There breathes a living fragrance from the shore,
Of flowers yet fresh with childhood ; on the ear
Drops the light drip of the suspended oar,
Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more ;
He is an evening reveller, who makes
His life an infancy, and sings his fill :
At intervals, some bird from out the brakes
Starts into voice a moment, then is still.
There seems a floating whisper on the hill,