Page images

gone the same way, and then that Charley Cruickshanks might have got hold of the rope. It is said that the neighbours felt at once so thoroughly convinced that this might have been done, that they walked away without answering a word. One only of them made some observation about “wisdom coming out of the mouths of fools.”

But when we consider the suddenness of the danger, the horrible state of the flood, the rain, the wind, the darkness, and the general confusion and distress, we cannot but admire the great exertions made, wherever the flood prevailed, by those who were in safety, to save those who were in danger: so true is it, that misfortunes often show us that there is much more kindness in the world than we are always willing to believe.


THE glad harvest-time has not been neglected by the Poets.
Thomson takes us into “ the ripened field” with his solemn cadences:-

Soon as the morning trembles o'er the sky,
And, unperceived, unfolds the spreading day;
Before the ripen'd field the reapers

In fair array; each by the lass he loves,
To bear the rougher part, and mitigate
By nameless gentle offices her toil.
At once they stoop, and swell the lusty sheaves ;
While through their cheerful band the rural talk,
The rural scandal, and the rural jest,
Fly harmless, to deceive the tedious time,
And steal unfelt the sultry hours away.
Behind the master walks, builds up the shocks ;
And, conscious, glancing oft on every side
His sated eye, feels his heart heave with joy,
The gleaners spread around, and here and there,
Spike after spike, their scanty harvest pick.
Be not too narrow, husbandman! but fling
From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth,
The liberal handful. Think, oh! think,

How good the God of harvest is to you,
Who pours abundance o'er your flowing fields;
While these unhappy partners of your kind
Wide hover round you, like the fowls of heaven,
And ask their humble dole. The various turns
Of fortune ponder; that your sons may want
What now, with hard reluctance, faint, ye give.

The prosaic character of the field-work is somewhat changed when we hear the song of Wordsworth's solitary reaper :

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass !
Alone she cuts, and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers, in some shady haunt
Among Arabian sands :
Such thrilling voice was never heard
In spring-time, from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings ?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago :
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day ?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate'er the theme the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;

I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending ;-
I listened—motionless and still ;
And when I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

But all the practical poetry of Harvest-Home belongs to a past time. Will it ever come again as Herrick has described it?

Come, sons of summer, by whose toil
We are the lords of wine and oil;
By whose tought labours and rough hands
We rip up first, then reap our lands.
Crown'd with the ears of corn, now come,
And to the pipe sing harvest-home.
Come forth, my lord, and see the cart


with all the country art.
See, here a maukin, there a sheet,
As spotless pure as it is sweet;
The horses, mares, and frisking fillies,
Clad all in linen white as lilies.
The harvest swains and wenches bound
For joy, to see the hock-cart crown'd.
About the cart hear how the rout
Of rural younglings raise the shout,
Pressing before, some coming after,
Those with a shout, and these with laughter.
Some bless the cart, some kiss the sheaves,
Some prank them up with oaken leaves ;
Some cross the fill-horse, some with great
Devotion stroke the home-borne wheat;
While other rustics, less attent
To prayers than to merriment,
Run after with their breeches rent.
Well, on, brave boys, to your lord's hearth,
Glittring with fire, where, for your mirth,
Ye shall see first the large and chief
Foundation of your feast, fat beef;



Next to your

With upper stories, mutton, veal,
And bacon, which makes full the meal,
With sev'ral dishes standing by,
As, here a custard, there a pie,
And here all-tempting frumentie.
And for to make the merry cheer,
If smirking wine be wanting here,
There 's that which drowns all care, stout beer;
Which freely drink to your lord's health,
Then to the plough, the commonwealth,

flails, your fanes, your fatts ;
Then to the maids with wheaten hats ;
To the rough sickle, and crook'd scythe,
Drink, frolic, boys, till all be blythe.
Feed and grow fat, and as ye eat,
Be mindful that the lab'ring neat,
As you, may have their full of meat;
And know, besides, ye must revoke
The patient ox unto the yoke,
And all go back unto the plough
And harrow, though they're hang'd up now.
And, you must know, your lord's word 's true,
Feed him ye must, whose food fills you.
And that this pleasure is like rain,
Not sent ye for to drown your pain,
But for to make it spring again.

We want the spirit of brotherhood to bring back the English country. life which gladdened the hearts of the old poets :

Sweet country life, to such unknown,
Whose lives are others', not their own;
But serving courts and cities, be
Less happy, less enjoying thee.
Thou never plough'st the ocean's foam
To seek and bring rough pepper home;
Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove
To bring from thence the scorched clove ;

Nor, with the loss of thy loved rest,
Bring'st home the ingot from the west :
No, thy ambition's master-piece
Flies no thought higher than a fleece;
Or how to pay thy hinds, and clear
All scores, and so to end the year :
But walk'st about thine own dear bounds,
Not envying others' larger grounds ;
For well thou know'st 't is not the extent
Of land makes life, but sweet content.
When now the cock, the ploughman's hom,
Calls forth the lily-wristed morn:
Then to thy 'corn-fields thou dost go,
Which, though well soil'd, yet thou dost know
That the best compost for the lands
Is the wise master's feet and hands :
There at the plough thou find'st thy team,
With a hind whistling there to them;
And cheer'st them up, by singing how
The kingdom's portion is the plough:
This done, then to th' enamelld meads
Thou goʻst, and as thy foot there treads,
Thou seest a present god-like power
Imprinted in each herb and flower ;
And smell'st the breath of great-eyed kine,
Sweet as the blossoms of the vine ;
Here thou behold'st thy large sleek neat
Unto the dew-laps up in meat ;
And as thou look'st the wanton steer,
The heifer, cow,

and ox draw near,
To make a pleasing pastime there ;
These seen, thou go'st to view thy flocks
Of sheep safe from the wolf and fox,
And find'st their bellies there as full
Of short sweet grass, as backs with wool ;
And leav'st them, as they feed and fill,
A shepherd piping on a hill.


« PreviousContinue »