A SUMMER'S DAY.
1 THE dark-blue clouds of night, in dusky lines
2 Drawn wide and streaky o'er the purer sky,
3 Wear faintly morning purple on their skirts.
4 The stars that full and bright shone in the west,
5 But dimly twinkle to the stedfast eye,
6 And seen and vanishing and seen again,
7 Like dying tapers winking in the socket,
8 Are by degrees shut from the face of heaven;
9 The fitful lightning of the summer cloud,
10 And every lesser flame that shone by night;
11 The wandering fire that seems, across the marsh,
12 A beaming candle in a lonely cot,
13 Cheering the hopes of the benighted hind,
14 Till, swifter than the very change of thought,[Page 18]
15 It shifts from place to place, eludes his sight,
16 And makes him wondering rub his faithless eyes;
17 The humble glow-worm and the silver moth,
18 That cast a doubtful glimmering o'er the green, —
19 All die away.
20 For now the sun, slow moving in his glory,
21 Above the eastern mountains lifts his head;
22 The webs of dew spread o'er the hoary lawn,
23 The smooth, clear bosom of the settled pool,
24 The polished ploughshare on the distant field,
25 Catch fire from him and dart their new got beams
26 Upon the gazing rustic's dazzled sight.
27 The wakened birds upon the branches hop,
28 Peck their soft down, and bristle out their feathers,
29 Then stretch their throats and trill their morning song,
30 While dusky crows, high swinging over head,
31 Upon the topmost boughs, in lordly pride,
32 Mix their hoarse croaking with the linnet's note,
33 Till in a gathered band of close array,
34 They take their flight to seek their daily food. [Page 19]
35 The villager wakes with the early light,
36 That through the window of his cot appears,
37 And quits his easy bed; then o'er the fields
38 With lengthened active strides betakes his way,
39 Bearing his spade or hoe across his shoulder,
40 Seen glancing as he moves, and with good will
41 His daily work begins.
42 The sturdy sun-burnt boy drives forth the cattle,
43 And, pleased with power, bawls to the lagging kine
44 With stern authority, who fain would stop
45 To crop the tempting bushes as they pass.
46 At every open door, in lawn or lane,
47 Half naked children, half awake are seen
48 Scratching their heads and blinking to the light,
49 Till, rousing by degrees, they run about,
50 Roll on the sward and in some sandy nook
51 Dig caves, and houses build, full oft defaced
52 And oft begun again, a daily pastime.
53 The housewife, up by times, her morning cares
54 Tends busily; from tubs of curdled milk
55 With skilful patience draws the clear green whey
56 From the pressed bosom of the snowy curd,[Page 20]
57 While her brown comely maid, with tucked-up sleeves
58 And swelling arm, assists her. Work proceeds,
59 Pots smoke, pails rattle, and the warm confusion
60 Still more confused becomes, till in the mould
61 With heavy hands the well-squeezed curd is placed.
62 So goes the morning till the powerful sun,
63 High in the heavens, sends down his strengthened beams,
64 And all the freshness of the morn is fled.
65 The idle horse upon the grassy field
66 Rolls on his back; the swain leaves off his toil,
67 And to his house with heavy steps returns,
68 Where on the board his ready breakfast placed
69 Looks most invitingly, and his good mate
70 Serves him with cheerful kindness.
71 Upon the grass no longer hangs the dew;
72 Forth hies the mower with his glittering scythe,
73 In snowy shirt bedight and all unbraced.
74 He moves athwart the mead with sideling bend,
75 And lays the grass in many a swathey line;[Page 21]
76 In every field in every lawn and meadow
77 The rousing voice of industry is heard;
78 The hay-cock rises and the frequent rake
79 Sweeps on the fragrant hay in heavy wreaths.
80 The old and young, the weak and strong are there,
81 And, as they can, help on the cheerful work.
82 The father jeers his awkward half-grown lad,
83 Who trails his tawdry armful o'er the field,
84 Nor does he fear the jeering to repay.
85 The village oracle and simple maid
86 Jest in their turns and raise the ready laugh;
87 All are companions in the general glee;
88 Authority, hard favoured, frowns not there.
89 Some, more advanced, raise up the lofty rick,
90 Whilst on its top doth stand the parish toast
91 In loose attire and swelling ruddy cheek.
92 With taunts and harmless mockery she receives
93 The tossed-up heaps from fork of simple youth,
94 Who, staring on her, takes his aim awry,
95 While half the load falls back upon himself.
96 Loud is her laugh, her voice is heard afar;
97 The mower busied on the distant lawn,[Page 22]
98 The carter trudging on his dusty way,
99 The shrill sound know, their bonnets toss in the air
100 And roar across the field to catch her notice:
101 She waves her arm to them, and shakes her head,
102 And then renews her work with double spirit.
103 Thus do they jest and laugh away their toil
104 Till the bright sun, now past his middle course,
105 Shoots down his fiercest beams which none may brave.
106 The stoutest arm feels listless, and the swart
107 And brawny-shouldered clown begins to fail.
108 But to the weary, lo — there comes relief!
109 A troop of welcome children o'er the lawn
110 With slow and wary steps approach, some bear
111 In baskets oaten cakes or barley scones,
112 And gusty cheese and stoups of milk or whey.
113 Beneath the branches of a spreading tree,
114 Or by the shady side of the tall rick,
115 They spread their homely fare, and seated round,
116 Taste every pleasure that a feast can give.
117 A drowsy indolence now hangs on all;
118 Each creature seeks some place of rest, some shelter
119 From the oppressive heat; silence prevails;
120 Nor low nor bark nor chirping bird are heard.
121 In shady nooks the sheep and kine convene;
122 Within the narrow shadow of the cot
123 The sleepy dog lies stretched upon his side,
124 Nor heeds the footsteps of the passer by,
125 Or at the sound but raises half an eye-lid,
126 Then gives a feeble growl and sleeps again;
127 While puss composed and grave on threshold stone
128 Sits winking in the light.
129 No sound is heard but humming of the bee,
130 For she alone retires not from her labour,
131 Nor leaves a meadow flower unsought for gain.
132 Heavy and slow, so pass the sultry hours,
133 Till gently bending on the ridge's top
134 The drooping seedy grass begins to wave,
135 And the high branches of the aspin tree
136 Shiver the leaves and gentle rustling make.
137 Cool breathes the rising breeze, and with it wakes[Page 24]
138 The languid spirit from its state of stupor.
139 The lazy boy springs from his mossy lair
140 To chase the gaudy butterfly, who oft
141 Lights at his feet as if within his reach,
142 Spreading upon the ground its mealy wings,
143 Yet still eludes his grasp, and high in air
144 Takes many a circling flight, tempting his eye
145 And tiring his young limbs.
146 The drowzy dog, who feels the kindly air
147 That passing o'er him lifts his shaggy ear,
148 Begins to stretch him, on his legs half-raised,
149 Till fully waked with bristling cocked-up tail,
150 He makes the village echo to his bark.
151 But let us not forget the busy maid,
152 Who by the side of the clear pebbly stream
153 Spreads out her snowy linens to the sun,
154 And sheds with liberal hand the crystal shower
155 O'er many a favourite piece of fair attire,
156 Revolving in her mind her gay appearance,
157 So nicely tricked, at some approaching fair.
158 The dimpling half-checked smile and muttering lip[Page 25]
159 Her secret thoughts betray. With shiny feet,
160 There, little active bands of truant boys
161 Sport in the stream and dash the water round,
162 Or try with wily art to catch the trout,
163 Or with their fingers grasp the slippery eel.
164 The shepherd-lad sits singing on the bank
165 To while away the weary lonely hours,
166 Weaving with art his pointed crown of rushes,
167 A guiltless easy crown, which, having made,
168 He places on his head, and skips about,
169 A chaunted rhyme repeats, or calls full loud
170 To some companion lonely as himself,
171 Far on the distant bank; or else delighted
172 To hear the echoed sound of his own voice,
173 Returning answer from some neighbouring rock,
174 Or roofless barn, holds converse with himself.
175 Now weary labourers perceive well pleased
176 The shadows lengthen, and the oppressive day
177 With all its toil fast wearing to an end.
178 The sun, far in the west, with level beam
179 Gleams on the cocks of hay, on bush or ridge,[Page 26]
180 And fields are checkered with fantastic shapes,
181 Or tree or shrub or gate or human form,
182 All lengthened out in antic disproportion
183 Upon the darkened ground. Their task is finished,
184 Their rakes and scattered garments gathered up,
185 And all right gladly to their homes return.
186 The village, lone and silent through the day,
187 Receiving from the fields its merry bands,
188 Sends forth its evening sound, confused but cheerful;
189 Yelping of curs, and voices stern and shrill,
190 And true-love ballads in no plaintive strain,
191 By household maid at open window sung;
192 And lowing of the home-returning kine,
193 And herd's dull droning trump and tinkling bell,
194 Tied to the collar of the master-sheep,
195 Make no contemptible variety
196 To ears not over nice.
197 With careless lounging gait the favoured youth
198 Upon his sweetheart's open window leans,
199 Diverting her with joke and harmless taunt. [Page 27]
200 Close by the cottage door with placid mien,
201 The old man sits upon his seat of turf.
202 His staff with crooked head laid by his side,
203 Which oft some tricky youngling steals away,
204 And straddling o'er it, shews his horsemanship
205 By raising clouds of sand; he smiles thereat,
206 But seems to chide him sharply:
207 His silver locks upon his shoulders fall,
208 And not ungraceful is his stoop of age.
209 No stranger passes him without regard,
210 And neighbours stop to wish him a good e'en,
211 And ask him his opinion of the weather.
212 They fret not at the length of his remarks
213 Upon the various seasons he remembers;
214 For well he knows the many divers signs
215 That do foretell high winds, or rain, or drought,
216 Or aught that may affect the rising crops.
217 The silken-clad who courtly breeding boast,
218 Their own discourse still sweetest to their ear,
219 May at the old man's lengthened story fret,
220 Impatiently, but here it is not so.
221 From every chimney mounts the curling smoke,
222 Muddy and grey, of the new evening fire;
223 On every window smokes the family supper,
224 Set out to cool by the attentive housewife,
225 While cheerful groups, at every door convened,
226 Bawl 'cross the narrow lane the parish news,
227 And oft the bursting laugh disturbs the air.
228 But see who comes to set them all agape;
229 The weary-footed pedlar with his pack;
230 Stiffly he bends beneath his bulky load,
231 Covered with dust, slip-shod and out at elbows;
232 His greasy hat set backwards on his head;
233 His thin straight hair, divided on his brow,
234 Hangs lank on either side his glistening cheeks,
235 And woe-begone yet vacant is his face.
236 His box he opens and displays his ware.
237 Full many a varied row of precious stones
238 Cast forth their dazzling lustre to the light,
239 And ruby rings and china buttons, stamped
240 With love devices, the desiring maid
241 And simple youth attract; while streaming garters,
242 Of many colours, fastened to a pole,[Page 29]
243 Aloft in air their gaudy stripes display,
244 And from afar the distant stragglers lure.
245 The children leave their play and round him flock;
246 Even sober, aged grand-dame quits her seat,
247 Where by the door she twines her lengthened threads,
248 Her spindle stops, and lays her distaff by,
249 Then joins with step sedate the curious throng.
250 She praises much the fashions of her youth,
251 And scorns each useless nonsense of the day;
252 Yet not ill-pleased the glossy riband views,
253 Unrolled and changing hues with every fold,
254 Just measured out to deck her grand-child's head.
255 Now red but languid the last beams appear
256 Of the departed sun, across the lawn,
257 Gilding each sweepy ridge on many a field,
258 And from the openings of the distant hills
259 A level brightness pouring, sad though bright;
260 Like farewell smiles from some dear friend they seem,
261 And only serve to deepen the low vale,
262 And make the shadows of the night more gloomy. [Page 30]
263 The varied noises of the cheerful village
264 By slow degrees now faintly die away,
265 And more distinctly distant sounds are heard
266 That gently steal adown the river's bed,
267 Or through the wood come on the ruffling breeze.
268 The white mist rises from the meads, and from
269 The dappled skirting of the sober sky
270 Looks out with steady gleam the evening star.
271 The lover, skulking in some neighbouring copse,
272 (Whose half-seen form, shewn through the dusky air
273 Large and majestic, makes the traveller start,
274 And spreads the story of a haunted grove,)
275 Curses the owl, whose loud ill-omened hoot
276 With ceaseless spite takes from his listening ear
277 The well-known footsteps of his darling maid,
278 And fretful chases from his face the night-fly,
279 That, buzzing round his head, doth often skim
280 With fluttering wings across his glowing cheek;
281 For all but him in quiet balmy sleep
282 Forget the toils of the oppressive day;
283 Shut is the door of every scattered cot,
284 And silence dwells within.