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Clifton Grove Post by :jmintuck Category :Poems Author :Henry Kirk White Date :May 2011 Read :1588

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Clifton Grove

A SKETCH.


Lo! in the west, fast fades the lingering light,
And day's last vestige takes its silent flight.
No more is heard the woodman's measured stroke,
Which with the dawn from yonder dingle broke;
No more, hoarse clamouring o'er the uplifted head,
The crows assembling seek their wind-rock'd bed;
Still'd is the village hum--the woodland sounds
Have ceased to echo o'er the dewy grounds,
And general silence reigns, save when below
The murmuring Trent is scarcely heard to flow;
And save when, swung by 'nighted rustic late,
Oft, on its hinge, rebounds the jarring gate;
Or when the sheep-bell, in the distant vale,
Breathes its wild music on the downy gale.

Now, when the rustic wears the social smile,
Released from day and its attendant toil,
And draws his household round their evening fire,
And tells the ofttold tales that never tire;
Or, where the town's blue turrets dimly rise,
And manufacture taints the ambient skies,
The pale mechanic leaves the labouring loom,
The air-pent hold, the pestilential room,
And rushes out, impatient to begin
The stated course of customary sin:
Now, now my solitary way I bend
Where solemn groves in awful state impend:
And cliffs, that boldly rise above the plain,
Bespeak, bless'd Clifton! thy sublime domain.
Here lonely wandering o'er the sylvan bower,
I come to pass the meditative hour;
To bid awhile the strife of passion cease,
And woo the calms of solitude and peace.
And oh! thou sacred Power, who rear'st on high
Thy leafy throne where wavy poplars sigh!
Genius of woodland shades! whose mild control
Steals with resistless witchery to the soul,
Come with thy wonted ardour, and inspire
My glowing bosom with thy hallow'd fire.
And thou, too, Fancy, from thy starry sphere,
Where to the hymning orbs thou lend'st thine ear,
Do thou descend, and bless my ravish'd sight,
Veil'd in soft visions of serene delight.
At thy command the gale that passes by
Bears in its whispers mystic harmony.
Thou wavest thy wand, and lo! what forms appear!
On the dark cloud what giant shapes career!
The ghosts of Ossian skim the misty vale,
And hosts of sylphids on the moonbeams sail.
This gloomy alcove darkling to the sight,
Where meeting trees create eternal night;
Save, when from yonder stream the sunny ray,
Reflected, gives a dubious gleam of day;
Recalls, endearing to my alter'd mind,
Times, when beneath the boxen hedge reclined,
I watch'd the lapwing to her clamorous brood;
Or lured the robin to its scatter'd food;
Or woke with song the woodland echo wild,
And at each gay response delighted smiled.
How oft, when childhood threw its golden ray
Of gay romance o'er every happy day,
Here, would I run, a visionary boy,
When the hoarse tempest shook the vaulted sky,
And, fancy-led, beheld the Almighty's form
Sternly careering on the eddying storm;
And heard, while awe congeal'd my inmost soul,
His voice terrific in the thunders roll.
With secret joy I view'd with vivid glare
The vollied lightnings cleave the sullen air;
And, as the warring winds around reviled,
With awful pleasure big,--I heard and smiled.
Beloved remembrance!--Memory which endears
This silent spot to my advancing years,
Here dwells eternal peace, eternal rest,
In shades like these to live is to be bless'd.
While happiness evades the busy crowd,
In rural coverts loves the maid to shroud.
And thou too, Inspiration, whose wild flame
Shoots with electric swiftness through the frame,
Thou here dost love to sit with upturn'd eye,
And listen to the stream that murmurs by,
The woods that wave, the gray owl's silken flight,
The mellow music of the listening night.
Congenial calms more welcome to my breast
Than maddening joy in dazzling lustre dress'd,
To Heaven my prayers, my daily prayers I raise,
That ye may bless my unambitious days,
Withdrawn, remote, from all the haunts of strife,
May trace with me the lowly vale of life,
And when her banner Death shall o'er me wave,
May keep your peaceful vigils on my grave.
Now as I rove, where wide the prospect grows,
A livelier light upon my vision flows.
No more above the embracing branches meet,
No more the river gurgles at my feet,
But seen deep down the cliff's impending side,
Through hanging woods, now gleams its silver tide.
Dim is my upland path,--across the green
Fantastic shadows fling, yet oft between
The chequer'd glooms the moon her chaste ray sheds,
Where knots of bluebells droop their graceful heads.
And beds of violets, blooming 'mid the trees,
Load with waste fragrance the nocturnal breeze.

Say, why does Man, while to his opening sight
Each shrub presents a source of chaste delight,
And Nature bids for him her treasures flow,
And gives to him alone his bliss to know,
Why does he pant for Vice's deadly charms?
Why clasp the syren Pleasure to his arms?
And suck deep draughts of her voluptuous breath,
Though fraught with ruin, infamy, and death?
Could he who thus to vile enjoyment clings
Know what calm joy from purer sources springs;
Could he but feel how sweet, how free from strife,
The harmless pleasures of a harmless life,
No more his soul would pant for joys impure,
The deadly chalice would no more allure,
But the sweet potion he was wont to sip
Would turn to poison on his conscious lip.

Fair Nature! thee, in all thy varied charms,
Fain would I clasp for ever in my arms!
Thine are the sweets which never, never sate,
Thine still remain through all the storms of fate.
Though not for me, 't was Heaven's divine command
To roll in acres of paternal land,
Yet still my lot is bless'd, while I enjoy
Thine opening beauties with a lover's eye.

Happy is he, who, though the cup of bliss
Has ever shunn'd him when he thought to kiss,
Who, still in abject poverty or pain,
Can count with pleasure what small joys remain:
Though were his sight convey'd from zone to zone,
He would not find one spot of ground his own,
Yet as he looks around, he cries with glee,
These bounding prospects all were made for me:
For me yon waving fields their burden bear,
For me yon labourer guides the shining share,
While happy I in idle ease recline,
And mark the glorious visions as they shine.
This is the charm, by sages often told,
Converting all it touches into gold.
Content can soothe where'er by fortune placed,
Can rear a garden in the desert waste.

How lovely, from this hill's superior height,
Spreads the wide view before my straining sight!
O'er many a varied mile of lengthening ground,
E'en to the blue-ridged hill's remotest bound,
My ken is borne; while o'er my head serene
The silver moon illumes the misty scene:
Now shining clear, now darkening in the glade,
In all the soft varieties of shade.

Behind me, lo! the peaceful hamlet lies,
The drowsy god has seal'd the cotter's eyes.
No more, where late the social faggot blazed,
The vacant peal resounds, by little raised,
But locked in silence, o'er Arion's(1) star
The slumbering Night rolls on her velvet car:
The church bell tolls, deep sounding down the glade,
The solemn hour for walking spectres made;
The simple ploughboy, wakening with the sound,
Listens aghast, and turns him startled round,
Then stops his ears, and strives to close his eyes,
Lest at the sound some grisly ghost should rise.
Now ceased the long, the monitory toll,
Returning silence stagnates in the soul;
Save when, disturbed by dreams, with wild affright,
The deep mouth'd mastiff bays the troubled night:
Or where the village alehouse crowns the vale,
The creaking signpost whistles to the gale.
A little onward let me bend my way,
Where the moss'd seat invites the traveller's stay.
That spot, oh! yet it is the very same;
That hawthorn gives it shade, and gave it name:
There yet the primrose opes its earliest bloom,
There yet the violet sheds its first perfume,
And in the branch that rears above the rest
The robin unmolested builds its nest.
'T was here, when hope, presiding o'er my breast,
In vivid colours every prospect dress'd:
'T was here, reclining, I indulged her dreams,
And lost the hour in visionary schemes.
Here, as I press once more the ancient seat,
Why, bland deceiver! not renew the cheat!
Say, can a few short years this change achieve,
That thy illusions can no more deceive!
Time's sombrous tints have every view o'erspread,
And thou too, gay seducer, art thou fled?

Though vain thy promise, and the suit severe,
Yet thou couldst guile Misfortune of her tear,
And oft thy smiles across life's gloomy way
Could throw a gleam of transitory day.
How gay, in youth, the flattering future seems;
How sweet is manhood in the infant's dreams;
The dire mistake too soon is brought to light.
And all is buried in redoubled night.
Yet some can rise superior to the pain,
And in their breasts the charmer Hope retain;
While others, dead to feeling, can survey,
Unmoved, their fairest prospects fade away:
But yet a few there be,--too soon o'ercast!
Who shrink unhappy from the adverse blast,
And woo the first bright gleam, which breaks the gloom,
To gild the silent slumbers of the tomb.
So in these shades the early primrose blows,
Too soon deceived by suns and melting snows:
So falls untimely on the desert waste,
Its blossoms withering in the northern blast.

Now pass'd whate'er the upland heights display,
Down the steep cliff I wind my devious way;
Oft rousing, as the rustling path I beat,
The timid hare from its accustom'd seat.
And oh! how sweet this walk o'erhung with wood,
That winds the margin of the solemn flood!
What rural objects steal upon the sight!
What rising views prolong the calm delight!

The brooklet branching from the silver Trent,
The whispering birch by every zephyr bent,
The woody island, and the naked mead,
The lowly hut half hid in groves of reed,
The rural wicket, and the rural stile,
And frequent interspersed, the woodman's pile.
Above, below, where'er I turn my eyes,
Rocks, waters, woods, in grand succession rise.
High up the cliff the varied groves ascend,
And mournful larches o'er the wave impend.
Around, what sounds, what magic sounds arise,
What glimmering scenes salute my ravish'd eyes!
Soft sleep the waters on their pebbly bed,
The woods wave gently o'er my drooping head.
And, swelling slow, comes wafted on the wind,
Lorn Progne's note from distant copse behind.
Still every rising sound of calm delight
Stamps but the fearful silence of the night,
Save when is heard between each dreary rest,
Discordant from her solitary nest,
The owl, dull screaming to the wandering moon;
Now riding, cloud-wrapp'd, near her highest noon:
Or when the wild duck, southering, hither rides,
And plunges, sullen in the sounding tides.

How oft, in this sequester'd spot, when youth
Gave to each tale the holy force of truth,
Have I long linger'd, while the milkmaid sung
The tragic legend, till the woodland rung!
That tale, so sad! which, still to memory dear,
From its sweet source can call the sacred tear,
And (lull'd to rest stern Reason's harsh control)
Steal its soft magic to the passive soul.
These hallow'd shades,--these trees that woo the wind,
Recall its faintest features to my mind.
A hundred passing years, with march sublime,
Have swept beneath the silent wing of time,
Since, in yon hamlet's solitary shade,
Reclusely dwelt the far famed Clifton Maid,
The beauteous Margaret; for her each swain
Confess'd in private his peculiar pain,
In secret sigh'd, a victim to despair,
Nor dared to hope to win the peerless fair.
No more the Shepherd on the blooming mead
Attuned to gaiety his artless reed,
No more entwined the pansied wreath, to deck
His favourite wether's unpolluted neck,
But listless, by yon bubbling stream reclined,
He mix'd his sobbings with the passing wind,
Bemoan'd his hapless love; or, boldly bent,
Far from these smiling fields a rover went,
O'er distant lands, in search of ease, to roam,
A self-will'd exile from his native home.

Yet not to all the maid express'd disdain;
Her Bateman loved, nor loved the youth in vain.
Full oft, low whispering o'er these arching boughs,
The echoing vault responded to their vows,
As here deep hidden from the glare of day,
Enamour'd oft, they took their secret way.

Yon bosky dingle, still the rustics name;
'T was there the blushing maid confessed her flame.
Down yon green lane they oft were seen to hie,
When evening slumber'd on the western sky.
That blasted yew, that mouldering walnut bare.
Each bears mementos of the fated pair.

One eve, when Autumn loaded every breeze
With the fallen honours of the mourning trees,
The maiden waited at the accustom'd bower.
And waited long beyond the appointed hour,
Yet Bateman came not;--o'er the woodland drear,
Howling portentous did the winds career;
And bleak and dismal on the leafless woods
The fitful rains rush'd down in sullen floods;
The night was dark; as, now and then, the gale
Paused for a moment--Margaret listen'd pale;
But through the covert to her anxious ear
No rustling footstep spoke her lover near.
Strange fears now fill'd her breast,--she knew not why,
She sigh'd, and Bateman's name was in each sigh.
She hears a noise,--'t is he,--he comes at last,--
Alas! 't was but the gale which hurried past:
But now she hears a quickening footstep sound,
Lightly it comes, and nearer does it bound;
'T is Bateman's self,--he springs into her arms,
'T is he that clasps, and chides her vain alarms.
"Yet why this silence?--I have waited long,
And the cold storm has yell'd the trees among.

And now thou'rt here my fears are fled--yet speak,
Why does the salt tear moisten on thy cheek?
Say, what is wrong?" Now through a parting cloud
The pale moon peer'd from her tempestuous shroud,
And Bateman's face was seen; 't was deadly white,
And sorrow seem'd to sicken in his sight.
"Oh, speak! my love!" again the maid conjured,
"Why is thy heart in sullen woe immured?"
He raised his head, and thrice essay'd to tell,
Thrice from his lips the unfinished accents fell;
When thus at last reluctantly he broke
His boding silence, and the maid bespoke:
"Grieve not, my love, but ere the morn advance
I on these fields must cast my parting glance;
For three long years, by cruel fate's command,
I go to languish in a foreign land.
Oh, Margaret! omens dire have met my view,
Say, when far distant, wilt thou bear me true?
Should honours tempt thee, and should riches fee,
Wouldst thou forget thine ardent vows to me,
And on the silken couch of wealth reclined,
Banish thy faithful Bateman from thy mind?"

"Oh! why," replies the maid, "my faith thus prove,
Canst thou! ah, canst thou, then suspect my love?
Hear me, just God! if from my traitorous heart
My Bateman's fond remembrance e'er shall part,
If, when he hail again his native shore,
He finds his Margaret true to him no more,
May fiends of hell, and every power of dread,
Conjoin'd then drag me from my perjured bed,
And hurl me headlong down these awful steeps,
To find deserved death in yonder deeps!"(2)
Thus spake the maid, and from her finger drew
A golden ring, and broke it quick in two;
One half she in her lovely bosom hides,
The other, trembling, to her love confides.
"This bind the vow," she said, "this mystic charm
No future recantation can disarm,
The right vindictive does the fates involve,
No tears can move it, no regrets dissolve."

She ceased. The death-bird gave a dismal cry,
The river moan'd, the wild gale whistled by,
And once again the lady of the night
Behind a heavy cloud withdrew her light.
Trembling she view'd these portents with dismay;
But gently Bateman kiss'd her fears away:
Yet still he felt conceal'd a secret smart,
Still melancholy bodings fill'd his heart.

When to the distant land the youth was sped,
A lonely life the moody maiden led.
Still would she trace each dear, each well known walk,
Still by the moonlight to her love would talk,
And fancy, as she paced among the trees,
She heard his whispers in the dying breeze.

Thus two years glided on in silent grief;
The third her bosom own'd the kind relief:
Absence had cool'd her love--the impoverish'd flame
Was dwindling fast, when lo! the tempter came;
He offered wealth, and all the joys of life,
And the weak maid became another's wife!
Six guilty months had mark'd the false one's crime,
When Bateman hail'd once more his native clime.
Sure of her constancy, elate he came,
The lovely partner of his soul to claim;
Light was his heart, as up the well known way
He bent his steps--and all his thoughts were gay.
Oh! who can paint his agonizing throes,
When on his ear the fatal news arose!
Chill'd with amazement,--senseless with the blow,
He stood a marble monument of woe;
Till call'd to all the horrors of despair,
He smote his brow, and tore his horrent hair;
Then rush'd impetuous from the dreadful spot,
And sought those scenes (by memory ne'er forgot),
Those scenes, the witness of their growing flame,
And now like witnesses of Margaret's shame.
'T was night--he sought the river's lonely shore,
And traced again their former wanderings o'er.
Now on the bank in silent grief he stood,
And gazed intently on the stealing flood,
Death in his mein and madness in his eye,
He watch'd the waters as they murmur'd by;
Bade the base murderess triumph o'er his grave--
Prepared to plunge into the whelming wave.

Yet still he stood irresolutely bent,
Religion sternly stay'd his rash intent.
He knelt.--Cool play'd upon his cheek the wind,
And fann'd the fever of his maddening mind,
The willows waved, the stream it sweetly swept,
The paly moonbeam on its surface slept,
And all was peace;--he felt the general calm
O'er his rack'd bosom shed a genial balm:
When casting far behind his streaming eye,
He saw the Grove,--in fancy saw her lie,
His Margaret, lull'd in Germain's(3) arms to rest,
And all the demon rose within his breast.
Convulsive now, he clench'd his trembling hand,
Cast his dark eye once more upon the land,
Then, at one spring he spurn'd the yielding bank,
And in the calm deceitful current sank.

Sad, on the solitude of night, the sound,
As in the stream he plunged, was heard around:
Then all was still--the wave was rough no more,
The river swept as sweetly as before;
The willows waved, the moonbeams shone serene,
And peace returning brooded o'er the scene.

Now, see upon the perjured fair one hang
Remorse's glooms and never ceasing pang.
Full well she knew, repentant now too late,
She soon must bow beneath the stroke of fate.
But, for the babe she bore beneath her breast,
The offended God prolong'd her life unbless'd.
But fast the fleeting moments roll'd away,
And near and nearer drew the dreaded day;
That day foredoom'd to give her child the light,
And hurl its mother to the shades of night.
The hour arrived, and from the wretched wife
The guiltless baby struggled into life.--
As night drew on, around her bed a band
Of friends and kindred kindly took their stand;
In holy prayer they pass'd the creeping time,
Intent to expiate her awful crime.
Their prayers were fruitless.--As the midnight came
A heavy sleep oppress'd each weary frame.
In vain they strove against the o'erwhelming load,
Some power unseen their drowsy lids bestrode.
They slept till in the blushing eastern sky
The blooming Morning oped her dewy eye;
Then wakening wide they sought the ravish'd bed,
But lo! the hapless Margaret was fled;
And never more the weeping train were doom'd
To view the false one, in the deeps intomb'd.

The neighbouring rustics told that in the night
They heard such screams as froze them with affright;
And many an infant, at its mother's breast,
Started dismay'd, from its unthinking rest.
And even now, upon the heath forlorn,
They show the path down which the fair was borne,
By the fell demons, to the yawning wave,
Her own, and murder'd lover's, mutual grave.

Such is the tale, so sad, to memory dear,
Which oft in youth has charm'd my listening ear,
That tale, which bade me find redoubled sweets
In the drear silence of these dark retreats;
And even now, with melancholy power,
Adds a new pleasure to the lonely hour.
'Mid all the charms by magic Nature given
To this wild spot, this sublunary heaven,
With double joy enthusiast Fancy leans
On the attendant legend of the scenes.
This sheds a fairy lustre on the floods,
And breathes a mellower gloom upon the woods;
This, as the distant cataract swells around,
Gives a romantic cadence to the sound;
This, and the deepening glen, the alley green,
The silver stream, with sedgy tufts between,
The massy rock, the wood-encompass'd leas,
The broom-clad islands, and the nodding trees,
The lengthening vista, and the present gloom,
The verdant pathway breathing waste perfume:
These are thy charms, the joys which these impart
Bind thee, bless'd Clifton! close around my heart.

Dear Native Grove! where'er my devious track,
To thee will Memory lead the wanderer back.
Whether in Arno's polish'd vales I stray,
Or where "Oswego's" swamps obstruct the day;
Or wander lone, where, wildering and wide,
The tumbling torrent laves St. Gothard's side;
Or by old Tejo's classic margent muse,
Or stand entranced with Pyrenean views;
Still, still to thee, where'er my footsteps roam,
My heart shall point, and lead the wanderer home.
When Splendour offers, and when Fame incites,
I'll pause, and think of all thy dear delights,
Reject the boon, and, wearied with the change,
Renounce the wish which first induced to range;
Turn to these scenes, these well known scenes once more,
Trace once again old Trent's romantic shore,
And tired with worlds, and all their busy ways,
Here waste the little remnant of my days.
But if the Fates should this last wish deny,
And doom me on some foreign shore to die;
Oh! should it please the world's supernal King,
That weltering waves my funeral dirge shall sing;
Or that my corse should, on some desert strand,
Lie stretch'd beneath the Simoom's blasting hand;
Still, though unwept I find a stranger tomb,
My sprite shall wander through this favourite gloom,
Ride on the wind that sweeps the leafless grove,
Sigh on the wood-blast of the dark alcove,
Sit a lorn spectre on yon well known grave,
And mix its moanings with the desert wave.

 

Footnotes:
(1) The constellation Delphinus. For authority for this appelation, see Ovid's Fasti, B. xi. 113.

(2) This part of the Trent is commonly called "The Clifton Deeps."

(3) Germain is the traditionary name of her husband.


(The end)
Henry Kirk White's poem: Clifton Grove

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