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Poem by Ebenezer Elliott


The Central Mountain of the Peak of Derbyshire

KING of the Peak, Win-Hill! thou, throned and crowned,
  That reign’st o’er many a stream and many a vale!
Star-loved, and meteor-sought, and tempest-found!
  Proud centre of a mountain-circle, hail!
  The might of man may triumph or may fail;
But, eldest brother of the Air and Light,
  Firm shalt thou stand when demigods turn pale!
For thou, ere science dawned on reason’s night,
Wast, and wilt be when mind shall rule all other might.

To be a crowned and sceptred curse, that makes
  Immortals worms! a wolf, that feeds on souls!
One of the names which vengeance whips with snakes,
  Whose venom cannot die! a king of ghouls,
  Whose drink is blood! To be clear-eyed as owls,
Still calling darkness light, and winter spring!
  To be a tiger-king, whose mercy growls!
To be of meanest things the vilest thing!
Throned asp o’er lesser asps! What grub would be a king?

But, crowned Win-Hill! to be a king like thee!
  Older than death! as God’s thy calm behest!
Only heaven-rivalled in thy royalty!
  Calling the feeble to thy sheltering breast,
  And shaking beauty from thy gorgeous vest,
And loved by every good and happy thing!
  With naught beneath thee that thou hast not blessed,
And naught above thee but the Almighty’s wing!
O, glorious godlike aim! Who would not be a king?

But, lo, the Inn! the mountain-girded Inn!
  Whose amber stream is worth all Helicon!
To pass it fasting were a shame and sin;
  Stop! for the gate hangs well that hinders none;
  Refresh, and pay, then stoutly travel on!
Ay, thou hast need to pree the barley-wine;
  Steep is the ascent, O bard! thou look’st upon:
To reach that cloud-capt seat and throne divine	
Might try a stronger frame and younger limbs than thine.

*        *        *        *        *

High on the topmost jewel of thy crown,
  Win-Hill! I sit bareheaded, ankle-deep
In tufts of rose-cupped bilberries; and look down
  On towns that smoke below, and homes that creep
  Into the silvery clouds, which far off keep
Their sultry state! and many a mountain stream,
  And many a mountain vale “and ridgy steep”;
The Peak, and all his mountains, where they gleam
Or frown, remote or near, more distant than they seem!

There flows the Ashop, yonder bounds the Wye,
  And Derwent here towards princely Chatsworth trends;
But, while the Nough steals purple from the sky,
  Lo! northward far, what giant’s shadow bends?
  A voice of torrents, hark! its wailing sends;	
Who drives yon tortured cloud through stone-still air?
  A rush! a roar! a wing! a whirlwind rends
The stooping larch! The moorlands cry, “Prepare!
It comes! ye gore-gorged foes of want and toil, beware!”

It comes! Behold!—Black Blakelow hoists on high	
  His signals to the blast from Gledhill’s brow.
Them, slowly glooming on the lessening sky,
  The bread-taxed exile sees (in speechless woe,
  Wandering the melancholy main below,
Where round the shores of Man the dark surge heaves),
  And while his children’s tears in silence flow,
Thinks of sweet scenes to which his soul still cleaves,
That home on Etherow’s side, which he forever leaves.

Now expectation listens, mute and pale,
  While, ridged with sudden foam, the Derwent brawls;
Arrow-like comes the rain, like fire the hail;
  And, hark! Mam-Tor on shuddering Stanage calls!
  See what a frown o’er castled Winnat falls!
Down drops the death-black sky! and Kinderscout,
  Conscious of glory, laughs at intervals;
Then lifts his helmet, throws his thunders out,
Bathes all the hills in flame, and hails their stormy shout.

Hark! how my Titan guards laugh kings to scorn!
  See what a fiery circle girds my state!
Hail, mountains! River-Gatherers! Eldest born
  Of Time and Nature, dreadful, dark, and great!
  Whose tempests, winged from brows that threaten fate,
Cast shadows, blackened with intensest light,
  Like the despair of angels fallen, that wait
On God’s long-sleeping wrath, till, roofed with night,
The seas shall burn like oil, and Death be waked with fright.

Ebenezer Elliott

Ebenezer Elliott's other poems:
  1. The Maltby Yews
  2. Cloudless Stanage
  3. Plumpton
  4. The Tree of Rivilin
  5. Roch Abbey

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