To a Young Lady
Sweet stream, that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid—
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world’s gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does;
Blessing and blest where’er she goes;
Pure-bosom’d as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.
The lapse of time and rivers is the same,
Both speed their journey with a restless stream;
The silent pace, with which they steal away,
No wealth can bribe, no prayers persuade to stay;
Alike irrevocable both when past,
And a wide ocean swallows both at last.
Though each resemble each in every part,
A difference strikes at length the musing heart;
Streams never flow in vain; where streams abound,
How laughs the land with various plenty crown’d!
But time, that should enrich the nobler mind,
Neglected, leaves a dreary waste behind.
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow'r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
The Negro's Complaint
Forc'd from home, and all its pleasures,
Afric's coast I left forlorn;
To increase a stranger's treasures,
O'er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,
Paid my price in paltry gold;
But, though theirs they have enroll'd me,
Minds are never to be sold.
Still in thought as free as ever,
What are England's rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,
Me to torture, me to task?
Fleecy locks, and black complexion
Cannot forfeit nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same.
Why did all creating Nature
Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water,
Sweat of ours must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters, iron-hearted,
Lolling at your jovial boards;
Think how many backs have smarted
For the sweets your cane affords.
Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
Is there one who reigns on high?
Has he bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from his throne the sky?
Ask him, if your knotted scourges,
Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges
Agents of his will to use?
Hark! He answers!—Wild tornadoes,
Strewing yonder sea with wrecks;
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
Are the voice with which he speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
Afric's sons should undergo,
Fix'd their tyrants' habitations
Where his whirlwinds answer—
For I have loved the rural walk through lanes
Of grassy swarth, close cropped by nibbling sheep
And skirted thick with intertexture firm
Of thorny boughs; have loved the rural walk
O’er hills, through valleys, and by rivers’ brink,
E’er since a truant boy I passed my bounds
To enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames;
And still remember, nor without regret
Of hours that sorrow since has much endeared,
How oft, my slice of pocket store consumed,
Still hungering, penniless and far from home,
I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
Or blushing crabs, or berries that emboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slackened to a pause, and we have borne
The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While admiration feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Survivor sole, and hardly such, of all
That once lived here, thy brethren, at my birth
(Since which I number threescore winters past,)
A shattered veteran, hollow-trunked perhaps
As now, and with excoriate forks deform,
Relicts of ages! Could a mind imbued
With truth from Heaven created thing adore,
I might with reverence kneel and worship thee.
It seems idolatry with some excuse
When our forefather druids in their oaks
Imagined sanctity. The conscience yet
Unpurified by an authentic act
Of amnesty, the meed of blood divine,
Loved not the light, but gloomy into gloom
Of thickest shades, like Adam after taste
Of fruit proscribed, as to a refuge, fled.
Thou wast a bauble once; a cup and ball,
Which babes might play with; and the thievish jay
Seeking her food, with ease might have purloined
The auburn nut that held thee, swallowing down
Thy yet close-folded latitude of boughs
And all thine embryo vastness, at a gulp.
But fate thy growth decreed. Autumnal rains
Beneath thy parent tree mellowed the soil
Designed thy cradle, and a skipping deer
With pointed hoof dibbling the glebe, prepared
The soft receptacle in which secure
Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through.
So Fancy dreams. Disprove it if ye can
Ye reasoners broad awake, whose busy search
Of argument, employed too oft amiss,
Sifts half the pleasures of short life away.
Thou fell'st mature, and in the loamy clod
Swelling, with vegetative force instinct
Didst burst thine egg, as theirs the fabled twins
Now stars, two lobes protruding paired exact.
A leaf succeeded, and another leaf,
And all the elements thy puny growth
Fostering propitious, thou becamest a twig.
Who lived when thou wast such? Oh could’st thou speak
As in Dodona once thy kindred trees
Oracular, I would not curious ask
The future, best unknown, but at thy mouth
Inquisitive, the less ambiguous past.
By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
The clock of history, facts and events
Timing more punctual, unrecorded facts
Recovering, and mis-stated setting right.
Desperate attempt till trees shall speak again!
Time made thee what thou wast, king of the woods.
And Time hath made thee what thou art, a cave
For owls to roost in. Once thy spreading boughs
O'erhung the champaign, and the numerous flock
That grazed it stood beneath that ample cope
Uncrowded, yet safe-sheltered from the storm.
No flock frequents thee now; thou hast outlived
Thy popularity, and art become
(Unless verse rescue thee awhile) a thing
Forgotten as the foliage of thy youth.
While thus through all the stages thou hast pushed
Of tree-ship, first a seedling hid in grass,
Then twig, then sapling, and, as century rolled
Slow after century, a giant bulk
Of girth enormous with moss-cushioned root
Upheaved above the soil, and sides embossed
With prominent wens globose, till at the last
The rottenness which Time is charged to inflict
On other mighty ones found also thee -
What exhibitions various hath the world
Witnessed of mutability in all
That we account most durable below!
Change is the diet on which all subsist
Created changeable, and change at last
Destroys them. Skies uncertain, now the heat
Transmitting cloudless, and the solar beam
Now quenching in a boundless sea of clouds,
Calm and alternate storm, moisture and drought,
Invigorate by turns the springs of life
In all that live, plant, animal, and man,
And in conclusion mar them. Nature's threads,
Fine, passing thought, even in her coarsest works,
Delight in agitation, yet sustain
The force that agitates not unimpaired,
But worn by frequent impulse, to the cause
Of their best tone their dissolution owe.
Thought cannot spend itself comparing still
The great and little of thy lot, thy growth
From almost nullity into a state
Of matchless grandeur, and declension thence
Slow into such magnificent decay.
Time was, when settling on thy leaf a fly
Could shake thee to the root, and time has been
When tempests could not. At thy firmest age
Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents
That might have ribbed the sides or planked the deck
Of some flagged admiral, and tortuous arms,
The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present
To the four-quartered winds, robust and bold,
Warped into tough knee-timber, many a load.
But the axe spared thee; in those thriftier days
Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply
The bottomless demands of contest waged
For senatorial honours. Thus to Time
The task was left to whittle thee away
With his sly scythe, whose ever-nibbling edge
Noiseless, an atom and an atom more
Disjoining from the rest, has unobserved
Achieved a labour, which had far and wide,
(By man performed) made all the forest ring.
Embowelled now, and of thy ancient self
Possessing nought but the scooped rind that seems
An huge throat calling to the clouds for drink
Which it would give in riv’lets to thy root,
Thou temptest none, but rather much forbidd'st
The feller's toil, which thou couldst ill requite.
Yet is thy root sincere, sound as the rock,
A quarry of stout spurs and knotted fangs
Which crook'd into a thousand whimsies, clasp
The stubborn soil, and hold thee still erect.
So stands a kingdom whose foundations yet
Fail not, in virtue and in wisdom laid,
Though all the superstructure by the tooth
Pulverised of venality, a shell
Stands now, and semblance only of itself.
Thine arms have left thee. Winds have rent them off
Long since, and rovers of the forest wild
With bow and shaft, have burnt them. Some have left
A splintered stump bleached to a snowy white,
And some memorial none where once they grew.
Yet life still lingers in thee, and puts forth
Proof not contemptible of what she can
Even where death predominates. The spring
Thee finds not less alive to her sweet force
Than yonder upstarts of the neighbour wood
So much thy juniors, who their birth received
Half a millennium since the date of thine.
But since, although well-qualified by age
To teach, no spirit dwells in thee, nor voice
May be expected from thee, seated here
On thy distorted root, with hearers none
Or prompter save the scene, I will perform
Myself the oracle, and will discourse
In my own ear such matter as I may.
One man alone, the Father of us all,
Drew not his life from woman; never gazed
With mute unconsciousness of what he saw
On all around him; learned not by degrees,
Nor owed articulation to his ear;
But moulded by his maker into man
At once, upstood intelligent, surveyed
All creatures, with precision understood
Their purport, uses, properties, assign'd
To each his name significant, and, filled
With love and wisdom, rendered back to heaven
In praise harmonious the first air he drew.
He was excused the penalties of dull
Minority; no tutor charged his hand
With the thought-tracing quill, or tasked his mind
With problems. History, not wanted yet,
Leaned on her elbow, watching Time, whose course
Eventful should supply her with a theme....