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Poem by Robert Southey

Brough Bells

Concerning these bells at Brough, there is a tradition that they were given by one Branskill, who lived upon Stanemore, in the remotest part of the parish, and had a great many cattle. One time it happened that his bull fell a-bellowing, which in the dialect of the country is called cruning, this being the genuine Saxon word to denote that vociferation. Thereupon he said to one of his neighbors, “Hearest thou how loud this bull crunes? If these cattle should all crune together, might they not be heard from Brough hither?” He answered, “Yea.”—“Well then,” says Brunskill, “I ’ll make them all crune together.” And he sold them all, and with the price thereof he bought the said bells.

*        *        *        *        *
“ON Stanemore’s side, one summer eve,
  John Brunskill sate to see
His herds in yonder Borrodale
  Come winding up the lea.

“Behind them, on the lowland’s verge,
  In the evening light serene,
Brough’s silent tower, then newly built
  By Blenkinsop, was seen.

“Slowly they came in long array,
  With loitering pace at will;
At times a low from them was heard,
  Far off, for all was still.

“The hills returned that lonely sound
  Upon the tranquil air:
The only sound it was which then
  Awoke the echoes there.

“‘Thou hear’st that lordly bull of mine,
  Neighbor,’ quoth Brunskill then:
‘How loudly to the hills he crunes,
  That crune to him again!

“‘Think’st thou if yon whole herd at once
  Their voices should combine,
Were they at Brough, that we might not
Hear plainly from this upland spot
  That cruning of the kine?’

“‘That were a crune indeed,’ replied
  His comrade, ‘which, I ween,
Might at the Spital well be heard,
  And in all dales between.

“‘Up Mallerstang to Eden’s springs,
The eastern wind upon its wings
  The mighty voice would bear;
And Appleby would hear the sound,
  Methinks, when skies are fair.’

“‘Then shall the herd,’ John Brunskill cried,
  ‘From yon dumb steeple crune;
And thou and I, on this hillside,
  Will listen to their tune.

“‘So, while the merry Bells of Brough
  For many an age ring on,
John Brunskill will remembered be,
  When he is dead and gone,—

“‘As one who, in his latter years,
  Contented with enough,
Gave freely what he well could spare
  To buy the Bells of Brough.’

“Thus it hath proved: three hundred years
  Since then have passed away,
And Brunskill’s is a living name
  Among us to this day.”

“More pleasure,” I replied, “shall I
  From this time forth partake,
When I remember Helbeck woods,
  For old John Brunskill’s sake.

“He knew how wholesome it would be,
  Among these wild, wide fells
And upland vales, to catch, at times,
  The sound of Christian bells;—

“What feelings and what impulses
  Their cadence might convey
To herdsman or to shepherd-boy,
Whiling in indolent employ
  The solitary day;—

“That, when his brethren were convened
  To meet for social prayer,
He too, admonished by the call,
  In spirit might be there;

“Or when a glad thanksgiving sound,
  Upon the winds of heaven,
Was sent to speak a nation’s joy,
  For some great blessing given,—

“For victory by sea or land,
  And happy peace at length;
Peace by his country’s valor won,
  And stablished by her strength;—

“When such exultant peals were borne
  Upon the mountain air,
The sound should stir his blood, and give
  An English impulse there.”

Such thoughts were in the old man’s mind,
  When he that eve looked down
From Stanemore’s side on Borrodale,
  And on the distant town.

And had I store of wealth, methinks,
  Another herd of kine,	 
John Brunskill, I would freely give,
  That they might crune with thine.

Robert Southey

Robert Southey's other poems:
  1. For the Cenotaph at Ermenonville
  2. St. Bartholomew’s Day
  3. For a Tablet at Penshurst
  4. For a Tablet at Silbury Hill
  5. For a Monument at Taunton

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