1 DOWN sunk the sun, nor shed one golden ray,
2 But rising mists shut in the low'ring day:
3 The tides o'erflown ahd drench'd the swampy turf,
4 And drizzling rains bedew'd the dreary earth;
5 The rising moon a bloody meteor seem'd,
6 And, scarce observ'd, the muffled planets gleam'd;
7 The winds were hush'd in silence most profound,
8 And night's dim shades hung heavily around.
9 HOLBAIN, a youth benighted in his course,
10 Led o'er the marshy plains his fiery horse;
11 Involving treacherous mists delude his sight,
12 While lost he wander'd through the dreary night.
13 With speed his blood grew warm, his pulses beat,
14 The spirits to his panting heart retreat;
15 Where tyrant fear with thrilling horror press'd,
16 Till now a stranger to his daring breast. [Page 37]
17 An unknown, trackless waste before him lay,
18 And boggy marshes intercept his way;
19 His eager pace is check'd by dangerous swamps,
20 Or stopping he is chill'd by mizzling damps.
21 Alone, his active mind conspir'd with fear,
22 And fancied forms impregnated the air:
23 Lightly he stepp'd, of every sound afraid,
24 And often startled by the steed he led,
25 Which as he curb'd unruly rear'd and neigh'd.
26 Clearing the clouds, a sudden gust arose,
27 Sigh'd through the woods, and shook the wat'ry boughs
28 Alarm'd, his hand his courser's rein forsook,
29 Which free, impetuous o'er the meadows broke;
30 In bounding circles strove to heave along,
31 Clogg'd 'mid the slimy mud, and fiercely strong;
32 Snorting with direful rage, he madd'ning flies,
33 Then plung'd, and smother'd in a quagmire dies.
34 Grief pierc'd the youth, while idle terrors flew,
35 And gloomy fancies melted from his view. [Page 38]
36 He look'd around; - no spectres haunt his sight,
37 (For rising winds had swept the misty night)
38 The moon amid the parting vapours rode,
39 And o'er the earth a varying light bestow'd.
40 Mourning his generous friend, while sad he stood,
41 The sound of feet he heard, and turning, view'd
42 Near him a man, quick passing o'er the plain,
43 His aspect peaceful, and his vestments plain;
44 So thin, he look'd the image of decay,
45 And closely wrapp'd to keep night's chills away.
46 HOLBAIN salutes him, and enquires what care
47 Tempts him through damps to trust the midnight air?
48 "Say rather," he replied, "what cause had led
49 " Thy daring feet to cross this dangerous mead,
50 "Where fenny quagmires, shrouded by the night,
51 " Bury the traveller, and delude the sight? -
52 "But well I know the pass and I will set thee right." [Page 39]
53 "O'erjoy'd, the youth his proffer'd aid embrac'd,
54 Pepeats his wanderings, and his fears retrac'd;
55 Tells how 'mid fogs, bewilder'd in his course,
56 He 'mongst the marshes lost his faithful horse;
57 Then names his destin'd journey, and the road,
58 Which he, mistaking, had unwary trod.
59 "Thou'rt far, alas! from home," the senior cried,
60 "The path so intricate I scarce can guide;
61 " But if you'll be the partner of my way,
62 "And deign beneath my humble roof to stay;
63 " Soon as to-morrow shall return to light
64 "My son shall tend thy steps, and set thee right."
65 HOLBAIN his ardent gratitude confess'd,
66 And oft-repeated thanks his joy express'd.
67 Onward together as their course they speed
68 The youth recounts the virtues of his steed;[Page 40]
69 The other patient listen'd, nor reprov'd,
70 For 'midst his warmth he trac'd a mind he lov'd.
71 Quitting the plains, they pass where awful stood,
72 Grown thick with age, a wild majestic wood,
73 Where lofty trees their solemn branches spread,
74 And winds loud whistling sung around their head;
75 Th' autumnal blight the wither'd leaves had strow'd,
76 And bright the moon her awful visage show'd:
77 Rugged and long the way, and late the night,
78 But pleasing converse made the journey light.
79 Beguiling time, the elder thus begun,
80 While native sweetness on his accents hung:
81 "Say, youth, to what profession art thou bred?
82 " By glory fir'd, or by the Muses led?
83 "Or does philosophy thy mind pervade?
84 " Or seek you riches in the world of trade? " [Page 41]
85 "Glory," reply'd the youth, has spread its charms;
86 "I caught its rays, and chose to follow arms;
87 " Impatient grew to signalize my name,
88 "And took the brightest road that led to fame."
89 "And what is fame?" the senior calm replies;
90 "Distinctly speak, that I may prove thee wise."
91 "Fame," HOLBAIN cried, "like a celestial light,
92 " Irradiates truth, and makes e'en virtue bright;
93 "The soul of mighty deeds, whose fires impart,
94 " Beams which through length of ages glorious dart. "
95 "Ardent thou speak'st," with smiles rejoin'd the sire,
96 "Yet be not dazzled while thou dost aspire;
97 " Though those whom Fame 'midst her bright glories place
98 "Shine forth examples to the human race,[Page 42]
99 " Whose every act the crowd with transports view,
100 "And indiscriminate their paths pursue,
101 " Whether their tract a noble end displays,
102 "Or splendent vices catch fame's dazzling rays:
103 " But be it thine to check ambition's flame,
104 "And closely link with justice love of fame;
105 " Which shining with intrinsic lustre bright,
106 "With virtue's beams will dart th' immortal light.
107 " Heroes too long, of human glory proud,
108 "Insatiable have drench'd the world with blood;
109 " Too loud the bards their frantic deeds resound,
110 "While blinded mortals ravish'd listen round.
111 " Detested race! yet oft I feel the fire
112 "Which urg'd them on, and mental strength admire;
113 " For, wanting strength, none e'er can reach the heights
114 "Where Virtue sits, and Genius wings her flights;
115 " But monstrous crimes in soils luxuriant grow,
116 "Strong powers ill govern'd sink us deep below.
117 " Civilization, as it taught mankind,
118 "To individuals different tasks assign'd:[Page 43]
119 " No more the appetites absorb our cares,
120 "The mind breaks forth, and nobler functions shares;
121 " The polish'd arts with active fancy rise,
122 "And Nature's mazes draw our wondering eyes;
123 " Genius finds wider scope, and mounting high
124 "Exploring truth dawns with divinity!
125 " But shame, deep shame to the inventive mind,
126 "'Mid heavenly studies still to blood inclin'd,
127 "And, hunting not our food, we hunt mankind!
128 " Nature has countless wonders strow'd around,
129 "Through air, the pregnant earth, and vast profound;
130 " Where latent truths, evading common view,
131 "Open pure lessons to the thinking few;
132 " Who, truly wise, while fiercer passions die,
133 "Learn the frail state of their mortality.
134 " The finer arts my admiration claim,
135 "As inoffensive paths to boundless fame;
136 " Hence Poesy supreme in glory soars,
137 "Whose searching eye the heavens and earth explores! [Page 44]
138 "Its rapid flight nor space nor time can bound,
139 " The world of spirits, or the pow'rs of sound.
140 "Nor does the painter vain exert his art,
141 " Who, tracing Nature through each varying part,
142 "Arrests the strongest passions in their course,
143 " And gives us time ot contemplate their force.
144 "Friend to such arts as Nature's works pourtray,
145 " No stormy passions cloud my evening ray:
146 "Sorrow in vain has strove to break a heart
147 " Whose wishes ne'er for simple truth depart;
148 "The charm of life, its griefs, its date I know,
149 " And from these lights my inward comforts flow;
150 "For, while my reason Nature's ways explores,
151 " Religion strengthens, and my soul adores! "
152 They now had reach'd the confines of the wood,
153 Where, girt with trees, the stranger's mansion stood,
154 To which they bend; the shining moon was gone,
155 And scatter'd stars beam'd through the heavens alone. [Page 45]
156 Soft at the door his stick the sire applies,
157 Which opening quick, light glanc'd against their eyes:
158 His children ran with eager arms t' embrace
159 Their welcome sire, and kiss his much-lov'd face;
160 Anxious to know what cause could him detain,
161 In a drear night, chill'd by autumnal rain.
162 Answering by turns, in pleasing tones he greets,
163 While he and HOLBAIN 'midst them take their seats.
164 His daughters tend him with assiduous care,
165 And cheerful smiles domestic joys declare;
166 Artless their forms, with modest plainness dress'd,
167 And education's power their mien confess'd.
168 His eldest son the youthful stranger greets,
169 While he, with smiles, his happy chance repeats;
170 Two younger boys obey their sister's word,
171 And with refereshing viands spread the board.
172 Now HOLBAIN'S eyes attentively survey
173 Th' instructive partner of his rugged way:
174 Wasted by care, he view'd the placid sire,
175 His large light eyes still beam'd with mental fire;[Page 46]
176 Submissively serene his pleasing brow,
177 His lips, though pale, with genial smiles could glow;
178 His manners simple, but his thoughts refin'd,
179 Nor elegance was wanting to his mind.
180 His guest he welcomes, and with pleasing voice
181 Prays him to share his board and homely joys:
182 The artless youth with cheerful smiles partook,
183 Then round the table threw a happy look.
184 As he observes the family by turns
185 His fine eyes sparkle, and his bosom burns;
186 The elder youth, more silent than the rest,
187 Seem'd with the recent marks of grief impress'd.
188 One daughter near her father took her place,
189 Filial affection beaming in her face;
190 Her features plain, her cheeks no roses die,
191 No radiance kindles in her modest eye;
192 But feeling, sense, and purity combine,
193 A powerful charm, and with expression shine:
194 Amid her sister's locks the Graces stray,
195 Soften'd her eyes, and flush'd her cheeks like May. [Page 47]
196 HOLBAIN delighted shar'd the sweet repast,
197 Which filial love, good sense, and beauty grac'd;
198 Unwilling he at last retir'd to rest,
199 With love for the whole family impress'd.
200 Soon as the beams which chace the glowing dawn
201 Play'd o'er the hills, and mark'd distinct the morn,
202 He sprung from rest, all eager to survey
203 The mansion where so many virtues lay:
204 Delighted he beheld the bless'd retreat,
205 Where useful plainness, taste, and order meet.
206 Neat was the bounteous garden, pal'd around,
207 Which Autumn with her ripening tributes crown'd.
208 As 'mid the thick-grown trees some fruits he sought,
209 The elder youth he met, absorb'd in thought,
210 Perturb'd within, irregular his pace,
211 And gushing tears stream'd o'er his strong-mark'd face:
212 Striving to pass unseen, he met his eyes,
213 Nor could his heaving breast repress deep sighs. [Page 48]
214 HOLBAIN confus'd strove quickly to depart
215 (Sacred he deem'd the feelings of the heart.)
216 The other, following, said, "With shame I glow,
217 " To be surpris'd in this unmanly woe:
218 "Serene my father each affliction bears,
219 " But larger griefs impel my copious tears:
220 "Fall'n low from state and envied happiness,
221 " Deeply does grief this sanguine heart impress;
222 "Bitter remorse 'mid sad reflections rise,
223 " And joy in vain would shine to glad these eyes;
224 "But listen, while my faultering lips impart
225 " What may excuse this weakness of my heart;
226 "Just woke from madness, thought astonish'd turns,
227 " Feels the dire hand of fate, and inward burns: -
228 "There stood a fabric, deeply wrapt in woods,
229 " Where hoarse resounded loud impetuous floods,
230 "Which from the hills in rapid torrents gush'd
231 "'Mid the dark trees, and down the vallies rush'd;[Page 49]
232 "The ruin'd walls were round with ivy spread,
233 " And gloomy shades wild Gothic grandeur shed.
234 "The aweful ocean's wond'rous space was nigh,
235 " Whose roarings wak'd a deep solemnity! -
236 "Often, with youth's romantic raptures fraught,
237 " In meditation lost, these scenes I sought;
238 "Here mus'd, here read; the Muses courted here,
239 " And strove to draw them from their tuneful sphere:
240 "Thus fir'd, my genius boundless scope employ'd,
241 " Glanc'd o'er all nature, and her works enjoy'd.
242 "My mother (ever honour'd be her name!
243 " Warm'd by whose force my spirit burst to flame;
244 "Whose stronger passions, chasten'd by our sire,
245 " Still fill her children's pulses with her fire)
246 "Listen'd, whilst I its various beauties told,
247 " And sought the Gothic structure to behold;
248 "Her breast maternal in my joys took part,
249 " My feelings were congenial to her heart;
250 "At her request we went, nor mark'd on high
251 " A threatening storm which gather'd o'er the sky. [Page 50]
252 "I led my mother through the devious wood,
253 " To where, involv'd with trees, the fabric stood;
254 "With equal awe she view'd the solemn place,
255 " While warmly I romantic dreams re-trace;
256 "The songs I here had tun'd enrapt I read,
257 " And hours upon their swiftest pinions fled:
258 "Nature, in her still warm, diffus'd the fire
259 " Which in her youth loud woke th' harmonic lyre.
260 "I saw her charm'd, and warmly urg'd her stay,
261 " To blend her wisdom with my youthful lay,
262 "Devoting to her son the th' instructive day.
263 " When from her lips a forc'd consent I drew,
264 "I caught her words, and for refreshments flew;
265 " While she within the tottering castle stays,
266 "And all the grandeur of the scene surveys,
267 " Stupendous clouds were rolling o'er the heav'n,
268 "Strong rush'd large torrents, by quick eddies driv'n.
269 "In curious choice of dainty viands bent,
270 " (O never pardon'd folly!) far I went:[Page 51]
271 "Too far, alas!-a friend partook the way,
272 " With whom in converse thoughtlessly I stray:
273 "Pleas'd with myself, while partial praise I sought,
274 " The best of mothers vanish'd from my thought;
275 "Till rouz'd by a tremendous storm, which broke
276 " Thro' the vast heavens, and my remembrance woke.
277 "Strong gather'd thro' the trees the whirling gale,
278 " Blew bleak a while, then whistled in the vale;
279 "Then on it came, and with redoubl'd force
280 " Strove 'midst contending trees to wing its course;
281 "Driv'n back again, loud roaring it complains,
282 " Or blustering thunders o'er the neighboring plains:
283 "Wildly I heard the stormy ocean roar,
284 " Wave dash'd on wave flew bellowing to the shore;
285 "Grief for my mother fills my labouring breast:
286 " Precipitate I flew, with fears oppress'd.
287 "The storm with tenfold fury stil persists,
288 " Scarce the strong oak its dreadful power resists;[Page 52]
289 "Borne by its ravings, tost aloft in air,
290 " Uprooted, torn, the mangled wood lies bare:
291 "Trembling and horror-struck, I rapid flew,
292 " Nor could my friend my hasty steps pursue;
293 "As I advance th' o'erwhelming tide arose,
294 " Delug'd the plains, and round in surges flows;
295 "So fierce the winds, my feet were scarcely staid,
296 " While through encroaching waters on I wade;
297 "My pulses with strong agitation beat,
298 " While present death with thousand horrors threat.
299 "And art thou, O my mother! 'mid this storm?
300 "What from the winds shall guide thy sacred form?
301 " The ruin'd fabric totters at each breath,
302 "Perhaps already has conspir'd thy death!
303 " Four times I fell, 'midst gushing waters thrown,
304 "Borne on by tides, or dash'd against huge stones;
305 " Yet strong necessity had giv'n me force,
306 "And, spite of obstacles, I speed my course:
307 " When near advanc'd I stopp'd, and dar'd not go,
308 "Arrested by foreboding sense of woe. [Page 53]
309 " I call'd aloud on her who speaks no more,
310 "Aloud the angry torrents thundering roar!
311 " Still nearer on, I trembling call'd again;
312 "Still roar'd the winds, and still my voice was vain!
313 " Mad with despair, wild tow'rds the spot I rush,
314 "Where all around the bellowing torrents gush;
315 " No trace of Gothic arch or roof remains,
316 "By winds and waters swept along the plains.
317 " Deep the contending elements resound,
318 "While, lost to thought, my frantic brain turns round:
319 " Still seeking what I knew I could not find,
320 "My dreadful cries concorded with the wind.
321 " Myself I felt the cause; - grief and dismay
322 "Rush'd on my brain, and snatch my sense away:
323 " My friend preserv'd my life, a thankless load,
324 "And bore me to my father from the wood;
325 " I knew not how he found me, or where sought,
326 "For long suspended were the powers of thought. [Page 54]
327 "I view my father, though worn down by care,
328 " Sublimely virtuous, keenest sufferings bear;
329 "His best affections ravish'd from his breast,
330 " And sanguine hopes by penury suppress'd:
331 "The day my mother died, on tempests tost,
332 " Loaded with wealth, his stranded ships were lost;
333 "Wing'd with our fate one storm relentless blew,
334 " Conspir'd our ruin, and each hope o'erthrew;
335 "Yet strong within, to every ill resign'd,
336 " Nought shakes the stedfast basis of his mind;
337 "For pious Faith, and Hope's seraphic eye,
338 " Unfold the joys of immortality!
339 "Active in all his duties here below,
340 " Strong perseverance blunts the edge of woe.
341 "With industry he heaps our little stores,
342 " And still great Nature's ample page explores;
343 "T' instruct the children in his Maker's ways,
344 " And shew how all by slow degrees decays;
345 "That tho' on earth GOD'S hand is strong impress'd,
346 " Yet higher hopes should fill the human breast. [Page 55]
347 "O! bless'd example of a pious mind!
348 " Yet still my stubborn breast pants unresign'd;
349 "Not guiltlessly I draw this wretched breath,
350 " Nor tranquilly behold the gulf of death. "
351 Thoughtful he paus'd; - while HOLBAIN silent pray'd,
352 And with strong sympathy the youth survey'd:
353 "Mysterious do thy ways, O GOD! appear,
354 " But, born to suffer, man must learn to bear.
355 "Divinely pour religion through the soul,
356 " For that alone the passions can controul! "
357 Each stood absorb'd, till summon'd to repair
358 Within the hall, the morn's repast to share;
359 Th' obtrusion gave them pain-a while they stay,
360 Then, walking slow, wip'd the hot tears away.
361 HOLBAIN again the virtuous father meets,
362 And with the morning's salutation greets;
363 As pensively around his eyes he throws,
364 Strong to his mind their loss and patience rose:[Page 56]
365 Then 'mid the family he took his place,
366 And charm'd beheld the younger daughter's grace:
367 More sweet she looks by day, the lovely die
368 Of her fair cheeks with brightest flowrets vie,
369 Her azure eyes shot forth a lucid ray,
370 O'er her white neck her amber ringlets stray.
371 An anxious wish warm kindled in his breast,
372 Its noble fire his guileless eyes confess'd;
373 A pleas'd remembrance of his wealth arose,
374 His breast benevolent with rapture glows.
375 Lingering he strove to lengthen out his stay,
376 And tore himself at last by force away;
377 But first the sire's permission did obtain
378 To visit this delightful spot again;
379 When friendship strengthening, into union grew,
380 And happier scenes unfolded to their view. [Page 57]