William Crowe ( )

Lewesdon Hill

  Up to thy Summit, LEWESDON, to the brow
  Of yon proud rising, where the lonely thorn
  Bends from the rude South-east with top cut sheer
  By his keen breath, along the narrow track,
  By which the scanty-pastured sheep ascend
  Up to thy furze-clad summit, let me climb,
  My morning exercise,and thence look round
  Upon the variegated scene, of hills
  And woods and fruitful vales, and villages
  Half hid in tufted orchards, and the sea
  Boundless, and studded thick with many a sail.

    Ye dew-fed vapours, nightly balm, exhaled
  From earth, young herbs and flowers, that in the morn
  Ascend as incense to the Lord of day,
  I come to breathe your odours; while they float
  Yet near this surface, let me walk embathed
  In your invisible perfumes, to health
  So friendly, nor less grateful to the mind,
  Administering sweet peace and cheerfulness.

    How changed is thy appearance, beauteous hill!
  Thou hast put off thy wintry garb, brown heath
  And russet fern, thy seemly-colourd cloak
  To bide the hoary frosts and dripping rains
  Of chill December, and art gaily robed
  In livery of the spring: upon thy brow
  A cap of flowery hawthorn, and thy neck
  Mantled with new-sprung furze and spangles thick
  Of golden bloom: nor lack thee tufted woods
  Adown thy sides: tall oaks of lusty green,
  The darker fir, light ash, and the nesh tops
  Of the young hazel join, to form thy skirts
  In many a wavy fold of verdant wreath:
  So gorgeously hath Nature drest thee up
  Against the birth of May: and, vested so,
  Thou dost appear more gracefully arrayd
  Than Fashions worshippers, whose gaudy shows,
  Fantastical as are a sick mans dreams,
  From vanity to costly vanity
  Change ofter than the moon. Thy comely dress,
  From sad to gay returning with the year,
  Shall grace thee still till Natures self shall change.

    These are the beauties of thy woodland scene
  At each return of spring: yet some delight
  Rather to view the change; and fondly gaze
  On fading colours, and the thousand tints
  Which Autumn lays upon the varying leaf:
  I like them not, for all their boasted hues
  Are kin to Sickliness; mortal Decay
  Is drinking up their vital juice; that gone,
  They turn to sear and yellow. Should I praise
  Such false complexions, and for beauty take
  A look consumption-bred? As soon, if gray
  Were mixt in young Louisas tresses brown,
  Id call it beautiful variety,
  And therefore dote on her. Yet I can spy
  A beauty in that fruitful change, when comes
  The yellow Autumn and the hopes o the year
  Brings on to golden ripeness; nor dispraise
  The pure and spotless form of that sharp time,
  When January spreads a pall of snow
  Oer the dead face of th undistinguishd earth.
  Then stand I in the hollow comb beneath,
  And bless this friendly mount, that weather-fends
  My reed-roofd cottage, while the wintry blast
  From the thick north comes howling: till the Spring
  Return, who leads my devious steps abroad,
  To climb, as now, to LEWESDONS airy top.

    Above the noise and stir of yonder fields
  Uplifted, on this height I feel the mind
  Expand itself in wider liberty.
  The distant sounds break gently on my sense,
  Soothing to meditation: so methinks,
  Even so, sequesterd from the noisy world,
  Could I wear out this transitory being
  In peaceful contemplation and calm ease.
  But Conscience, which still censures on our acts,
  That awful voice within us, and the sense
  Of an Hereafter, wake and rouse us up
  From such unshaped retirement; which were else
  A blest condition on this earthly stage.
  For who would make his life a life of toil
  For wealth, oerbalanced with a thousand cares;
  Or power, which base compliance must uphold;
  Or honour, lavishd most on courtly slaves;
  Or fame, vain breath of a misjudging world;
  Who for such perishable gaudes would put
  A yoke upon his free unbroken spirit,
  And gall himself with trammels and the rubs
  Of this worlds business; so he might stand clear
  Of judgment and the tax of idleness
  In that dread audit, when his mortal hours
  (Which now with soft and silent stealth pace by)
  Must all be counted for? But, for this fear,
  And to remove, according to our power,
  The wants and evils of our brothers state,
  Tis meet we justle with the world; content,
  If by our sovereign Master we be found
  At last not profitless: for worldly meed,
  Given or withheld, I deem of it alike.

    From this proud eminence on all sides round
  Th unbroken prospect opens to my view,
  On all sides large; save only where the head
  Of Pillesdon rises, Pillesdons lofty Pen:
  So call (still rendering to his ancient name
  Observance due) that rival Height south-west,
  Which like a rampire bounds the vale beneath.
  There woods, there blooming orchards, there are seen
  Herds ranging, or at rest beneath the shade
  Of some wide-branching oak; there goodly fields
  Of corn, and verdant pasture, whence the kine
  Returning with their milky treasure home
  Store the rich dairy: such fair plenty fills
  The pleasant vale of Marshwood, pleasant now,
  Since that the Spring has deckd anew the meads
  With flowery vesture, and the warmer sun
  Their foggy moistness draind; in wintry days
  Cold, vapourish, miry, wet, and to the flocks
  Unfriendly, when autumnal rains begin
  To drench the spungy turf: but ere that time
  The careful shepherd moves to healthier soil,
  Rechasing, lest his tender ewes should coath
  In the dank pasturage. Yet not the fields
  Of _Evesham_, nor that ample valley named
  Of the _White Horse_, its antique monument
  Carved in the chalky bourne, for beauty and wealth
  Might equal, though surpassing in extent,
  This fertile vale, in length from LEWESDONS base
  Extended to the sea, and waterd well
  By many a rill; but chief with thy clear stream,
  Thou nameless Rivulet, who, from the side
  Of LEWESDON softly welling forth, dost trip
  Adown the valley, wandering sportively.
  Alas, how soon thy little course will end!
  How soon thy infant stream shall lose itself
  In the salt mass of waters, ere it grow
  To name or greatness! Yet it flows along
  Untainted with the commerce of the world,
  Nor passing by the noisy haunts of men;
  But through sequesterd meads, a little space,
  Winds secretly, and in its wanton path
  May cheer some drooping flower, or minister
  Of its cool water to the thirsty lamb:
  Then falls into the ravenous sea, as pure
  As when it issued from its native hill.

    So to thine early grave didst thou run on,
  Spotless Francesca, so, after short course,
  Thine innocent and playful infancy
  Was swallowed up in death, and thy pure spirit
  In that illimitable gulf which bounds
  Our mortal continent. But not there lost,
  Not there extinguishd, as some falsely teach,
  Who can talk much and learnedly of life,
  Who know our frame and fashion, who can tell
  The substance and the properties of man,
  As they had seen him made,aye and stood by
  Spies on Heavens work. They also can discourse
  Wisely, to prove that what must be must be,
  And show how thoughts are joggd out of the brain
  By a mechanical impulse; pushing on
  The minds of us, poor unaccountables,
  To fatal resolution. Know they not,
  That in this mortal life, whateer it be,
  We take the path that leads to good or evil,
  And therein find our bliss or misery?
  And this includes all reasonable ends
  Of knowledge or of being; farther to go
  Is toil unprofitable, and th effect
  Most perilous wandering. Yet of this be sure,
  Where freedom is not, there no virtue is:
  If there be none, this world is all a cheat,
  And the divine stability of Heaven
  (That assured seat for good men after death)
  Is but a transient cloud, displayd so fair
  To cherish virtuous hope, but at our need
  Eludes the sense, and fools our honest faith,
  Vanishing in a lie. If this be so,
  Were it not better to be born a beast,
  Only to feel what is, and thus to scape
  The aguish fear that shakes the afflicted breast
  With sore anxiety of what shall be
  And all for nought? Since our most wicked act
  Is not our sin, and our religious awe
  Delusion, if that strong Necessity
  Chains up our will. But that the mind is free,
  The Mind herself, best judge of her own state,
  Is feelingly convinced; nor to be moved
  By subtle words, that may perplex the head,
  But neer persuade the heart. Vain argument,
  That with false weapons of Philosophy
  Fights against Hope, and Sense, and Natures strength!

    See how the Sun, here clouded, afar off
  Pours down the golden radiance of his light
  Upon the enridged sea; where the black ship
  Sails on the phosphor-seeming waves. So fair,
  But falsely-flattering, was yon surface calm,
  When forth for India saild, in evil time,
  That Vessel, whose disastrous fate, when told,
  Filld every breast with horror, and each eye
  With piteous tears, so cruel was the loss.
  Methinks I see her, as, by the wintry storm
  Shatterd and driven along past yonder Isle,
  She strove, her latest hope, by strength or art,
  To gain the port within it, or at worst
  To shun that harbourless and hollow coast
  From Portland eastward to the Promontory,
  Where still St. Albans high built chapel stands.
  But art nor strength avail heron she drives,
  In storm and darkness to the fatal coast:
  And there mong rocks and high-oerhanging cliffs
  Dashd piteously, with all her precious freight
  Was lost, by Neptunes wild and foamy jaws
  Swallowd up quick! The richliest-laden ship
  Of spicy Ternate, or that Annual, sent
  To the Philippines oer the Southern main
  From Acapulco, carrying massy gold,
  Were poor to this;freighted with hopeful Youth,
  And Beauty, and high Courage undismayed
  By mortal terrors, and paternal Love
  Strong, and unconquerable even in death
  Alas, they perishd all, all in one hour!

    Now yonder high way view, wide-beaten, bare
  With ceaseless tread of men and beasts, and track
  Of many indenting wheels, heavy and light,
  That in their different courses as they pass,
  Rush violently down precipitate,
  Or slowly turn, oft resting, up the steep.
  Mark how that road, with mazes serpentine,
  From Shiptons bottom to the lofty down
  Winds like a path of pleasure, drawn by art
  Through park or flowery garden for delight.
  Nor less delightful thisif, while he mounts
  Not wearied, the free Journeyer will pause
  To view the prospect oft, as oft to see
  Beauty still changing: yet not so contrived
  By fancy, or choice, but of necessity,
  By soft gradations of ascent to lead
  The labouring and way-worn feet along,
  And make their toil less toilsome. Half way up,
  Or nearer to the top, behold a cot,
  Oer which the branchy trees, those sycamores,
  Wave gently: at their roots a rustic bench
  Invites to short refreshment, and to taste
  What grateful beverage the house may yield
  After fatigue, or dusty heat; thence calld
  The TRAVELLERS REST. Welcome, embowerd seat,
  Friendly repose to the slow passenger
  Ascending, ere he takes his sultry way
  Along th interminable road, stretchd out
  Over th unshelterd down; or when at last
  He has that hard and solitary path
  Measured by painful steps. And blest are they,
  Who in lifes toilsome journey may make pause
  After a march of glory: yet not such
  As rise in causeless war, troubling the world
  By their mad quarrel, and in fields of blood
  Haild victors, thence renownd, and calld on earth
  Kings, heroes, demi-gods, but in high Heaven
  Thieves, ruffians, murderers; these find no repose:
  Thee rather, patriot Conqueror, to thee
  Belongs such rest; who in the western world,
  Thine own deliverd country, for thyself
  Hast planted an immortal grove, and there,
  Upon the glorious mount of Liberty
  Reposing, sitst beneath the palmy shade.

    And Thou, not less renownd in like attempt
  Of high achievement, though thy virtue faild
  To save thy little country, Patriot Prince,
  Hero, Philosopherwhat more could they
  Who wisely chose thee, PAOLI, to bless
  Thy native Isle, long struggling to be free?
  But Heaven allowd notyet mayst thou repose
  After thy glorious toil, secure of fame
  Well-earnd by virtue: while ambitious France,
  Who stretchd her lawless hand to seize thine isle,
  Enjoys not rest or glory; with her prey
  Gorged but not satisfied, and craving still
  Against th intent of Nature. See Her now
  Upon the adverse shore, her Norman coast,
  Plying her monstrous labour unrestrained!
  A rank of castles in the rough sea sunk,
  With towery shape and height, and armed heads
  Uprising oer the surge; and these between,
  Unmeasurable mass of ponderous rock
  Projected many a mile to rear her wall
  Midst the deep waters. She, the mighty work
  Still urging, in her arrogant attempt,
  As with a lordly voice to the Ocean cries,
  Hitherto come, no farther; here be staid
  The raging of thy waves; within this bound
  Be all my havenand therewith takes in
  A space of amplest circuit, wide and deep,
  Won from the straitend main: nor less in strength
  Than in dimensions, giant-like in both,
  On each side flankd with citadels and towers
  And rocky walls, and arches massy proof
  Against the storm of war. Compared with this
  Less and less hazardous emprize achieved
  Resistless Alexander, when he cast
  The strong foundations of that high-raised mound
  Deep in the hostile waves, his martial way,
  Built on before him up to sea-girt Tyre.
  Nor aught so bold, so vast, so wonderful,
  At Athos or the fetterd Hellespont,
  Imagined in his pride that Asian vain,
  Xerxes,but ere he turnd from Salamis
  Flying through the blood-red waves in one poor bark,
  Retarded by thick-weltering carcasses.
  Nor yet that elder work (if work it were,
  Not fable) raised upon the Phrygian shore,
  (Where lay the fleet confederate against Troy,
  A thousand ships behind the vasty mole
  All shelterd) could with this compare, though built
  It seemd, of greatness worthy to create
  Envy in the immortals; and at last
  Not overthrown without th embattled aid
  Of angry Neptune. So may He once more
  Rise from his troubled bed, and send his waves,
  Urged on to fury by contending winds,
  With horned violence to push and whelm
  This pile, usurping on his watry reign!

    From hostile shores returning, glad I look
  On native scenes again; and first salute
  Thee, Burton, and thy lofty cliff, where oft
  The nightly blaze is kindled; further seen
  Than erst was that love-tended cresset, hung
  Beside the Hellespont: yet not like that
  Inviting to the hospitable arms
  Of Beauty and Youth, but lighted up, the sign
  Of danger, and of ambushd foes to warn
  The stealth-approaching Vessel, homeward bound
  From Havre or the Norman isles, with freight
  Of wines and hotter drinks, the trash of France,
  Forbidden merchandize. Such fraud to quell
  Many a light skiff and well-appointed sloop
  Lies hovering near the coast, or hid behind
  Some curved promontory, in hope to seize
  These contraband: vain hope! on that high shore
  Stationd, th associates of their lawless trade
  Keep watch, and to their fellows off at sea
  Give the known signal; they with fearful haste
  Observant, put about the ship, and plunge
  Into concealing darkness. As a fox,
  That from the cry of hounds and hunters din
  Runs crafty down the wind, and steals away
  Forth from his cover, hopeful so t elude
  The not yet following pack,if chance the shout
  Of eager or unpractised boy betray
  His meditated flight, back he retires
  To shelter him in the thick wood: so these
  Retiring, ply to south, and shun the land
  Too perilous to approach: and oft at sea
  Secure (or ever nigh the guarded coast
  They venture) to the trackless deep they trust
  Their forfeitable cargo, rundlets small,
  Together linkd upon their cables length,
  And to the shelving bottom sunk and fixt
  By stony weights; till happier hour arrive
  To land it on the vacant beach unriskd.

    But what is yonder Hill, whose dusky brow
  Wears, like a regal diadem, the round
  Of ancient battlements and ramparts high,
  And frowns upon the vales? I know thee not
  Thou hast no name, no honourable note,
  No chronicle of all thy warlike pride,
  To testify what once thou wert, how great,
  How glorious, and how feard. So perish all,
  Who seek their greatness in dominion held
  Over their fellows, or the pomp of war,
  And be as thou forgotten, and their fame
  Cancelld like thine! But thee in after times
  Reclaimd to culture, Shepherds visited,
  And calld thee Orgarston; so thee they calld
  Of Orgar, Saxon Earl, the wealthy sire
  Of fair Elfrida; She, whose happy Bard
  Has with his gentle witchery so wrought
  Upon our sense, that we can see no more
  Her mad ambition, treacherous cruelty,
  And purple robes of state with royal blood
  Inhospitably staind; but in their place
  Pure faith, soft manners, filial duty meek,
  Connubial love, and stoles of saintly white.

    Sure tis all false what poets fondly tell
  Of rural innocence and village love;
  Else had thy simple annals, Nethercombe,
  Who bosomd in the vale below dost look
  This morn so cheerful, been unstaind with crimes,
  Which the pale rustic shudders to relate.
  There lived, the blessing of her fathers age,
  I fable not, nor will with fabled names
  Varnish a melancholy tale all true,
  A lowly maid; lowly, but like that flower,
  Which grows in lowly place, and thence has name,
  Lily o the vale, within her parent leaves
  As in retreat she lives; yet fair and sweet
  Above the gaudiest Blooms, that flaunt abroad,
  And play with every wanton breath of Heaven.
  Thus innocent, her beauties caught the eye
  Of a young villager, whose vows of love
  Soon won her easy faith: her sire meantime,
  Alas! nor knowing nor suspecting ought,
  Till that her shape, erewhile so graceful seen,
  (Dian first rising after change was not
  More delicate) betrayd her secret act,
  And grew to guilty fulness: then farewell
  Her maiden dignity, and comely pride,
  And virtuous reputation. But this loss
  Worse followd, loss of shame, and wilful wreck
  Of what was left her yet of good, or fair,
  Or decent: now her meek and gentle voice
  To petulant turnd; her simply-neat attire
  To sluttish tawdry: her once timid eye
  Grew fixd, and parleyd wantonly with those
  It lookd on. Change detestable! For she,
  Erewhile the light of her fond fathers house,
  Became a grievous darkness: but his heart
  Endured not long; all in despair he went
  Into the chambers of the grave, to seek
  A comfortless repose from sorrow and shame.
  What then befell this daughter desolate?
  For He, the partner of her earliest fault,
  Had left her, false perhaps, or in dislike
  Of her light carriage. What could then befall,
  What else, but of her self-injurious life
  The too sad penancehopeless penury,
  Loathsome disease unpitied, and thereto
  The brand of all-avoided infamy
  Set on her, like the fearful token oer
  A plague-infested house:at length to death
  Impatient and distract she made bold way.

    Fain would I view thee, Corscombe, fain would hail
  The ground where Hollis lies; his choice retreat,
  Where, from the busy world withdrawn, he lived
  To generous Virtue, and the holy love
  Of Liberty, a dedicated spirit;
  And left his ashes there; still honouring
  Thy fields, with title given of patriot names,
  But more with his untitled sepulchre.
  That envious ridge conceals thee from my sight,
  Which, passing oer thy place north-east, looks on
  To Sherburnes ancient towers and rich domains,
  The noble Digbys mansion; where he dwells
  Inviolate, and fearless of thy curse,
  War-glutted Osmund, superstitious Lord!
  Who with Heavens justice for a bloody life
  Madest thy presumptuous bargain; giving more
  Than thy just having to redeem thy guilt,
  And darest bid th Almighty to become
  The minister of thy curse. But sure it fell,
  So bigots fondly judged, full sure it fell
  With sacred vengeance pointed on the head
  Of many a bold usurper: chief on thine
  (Favourite of Fortune once, but last her thrall),
  Accomplishd Raleigh! in that lawless day
  When, like a goodly hart, thou wert beset
  With crafty blood-hounds, lurching for thy life,
  While as they feignd to chase thee fairly down;
  And that foul Scot, the minion-kissing King,
  Pursued with havoc in the tyrannous hunt.

    How is it vanishd in a hasty spleen,
  The Tor of Glastonbury! Even but now
  I saw the hoary pile cresting the top
  Of that north-western hill; and in this Now
  A cloud hath passd on it, and its dim bulk
  Becomes annihilate, or if not, a spot
  Which the straind vision tires itself to find.

    And even so fares it with the things of earth
  Which seem most constant: there will come the cloud
  That shall infold them up, and leave their place
  A seat for Emptiness. Our narrow ken
  Reaches too far, when all that we behold
  Is but the havoc of wide-wasting Time,
  Or what he soon shall spoil. His outspread wings
  (Which bear him like an eagle oer the earth)
  Are plumed in front so downy soft, they seem
  To foster what they touch, and mortal fools
  Rejoice beneath their hovering: woe the while!
  For in that indefatigable flight
  The multitudinous strokes incessantly
  Bruise all beneath their cope, and mark on all
  His secret injury; on the front of man
  Gray hairs and wrinkles; still as Time speeds on
  Hard and more hard his iron pennons beat
  With ceaseless violence; nor overpass,
  Till all the creatures of this nether world
  Are one wide quarry: following dark behind,
  The cormorant Oblivion swallows up
  The carcasses that Time has made his prey.

    But, hark! the village clock strikes ninethe chimes
  Merrily follow, tuneful to the sense
  Of the pleased clown attentive, while they make
  False-measured melody on crazy bells.
  O wondrous Power of modulated sound!
  Which, like the air (whose all-obedient shape
  Thou makest thy slave), canst subtilly pervade
  The yielded avenues of sense, unlock
  The close affections, by some fairy path
  Winning an easy way through every ear,
  And with thine unsubstantial quality
  Holding in mighty chains the hearts of all;
  All, but some cold and sullen-temperd spirits,
  Who feel no touch of sympathy or love.

    Yet what is music, and the blended power
  Of voice with instruments of wind and string?
  What but an empty pageant of sweet noise?
  Tis past: and all that it has left behind
  Is but an echo dwelling in the ear
  Of the toy-taken fancy, and beside,
  A void and countless hour in lifes brief day.

    But ill accords my verse with the delights
  Of this gay month:and see the Villagers
  Assembling jocund in their best attire
  To grace this genial morn. Now I descend
  To join the worldly crowd; perchance to talk,
  To think, to act as they: then all these thoughts,
  That lift th expanded heart above this spot
  To heavenly musing, these shall pass away
  (Even as this goodly prospect from my view)
  Hidden by near and earthy-rooted cares.
  So passeth human lifeour better mind
  Is as a Sundays garment, then put on
  When we have nought to do; but at our work
  We wear a worse for thrift. Of this enough:
  To-morrow for severer thought; but now
  To breakfast, and keep festival to-day.

William Crowe's other poems:
  1. Inscribed beneath the Picture of an Ass
  2. Ode to the Lyric Muse
  3. Verses Intended to Have Been Spoken in the Theatre to the Duke of Portland, at His Installation as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in the Year 1793
  4. Merlin's Glass

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