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Poem by Alexander Wilson

The Solitary Tutor

   Whoe'er across the Schuylkill's winding tide,
   Beyond Gray's Ferry half a mile has been;
   Down at a bridge, built hollow, must have spy'd,
   A neat stone school-house on a sloping green;
   There tufted cedars scatter'd round are seen,
   And stripling poplars planted in a row;
   Some old grey white oaks overhang the scene,
   Pleas'd to look down upon the youths below,
Whose noisy noontide sports no care or sorrow know.

   On this hand rise the woods, in deep'ning shade,
   Resounding with the sounds of warblers sweet;
   And there a waving sign-board hangs display'd
   From mansion fair,the thirsty soul's retreat:
   There way-worn pilgrims rest their weary feet,
   When noontide heats, or evening shades prevail;
   The widow's fare still plentiful and neat,
   Can nicest guest deliciously regale,
And make his heart rejoice the Sorrel Horse to hail.

   Adjoining this, old Vulcan's shop is seen,
   Where winds, and fires, and thumping hammers roar;
   White-wash'd without, but black enough within,
   Emblem of modern patriots many a score;
   The restive steed impatient at the door,
   Starts at his thundering voice, and brawny arm;
   While yellow Jem with horse-tail fans him o'er,
   Drawing aloof, the ever-buzzing swarm,
Whose shrill blood-sucking pipes, his restless fears alarm.

   An ever-varying scene the road displays,
   With horsemen, thundering stage, and stately team;
   Now burning with the sun's resplendent rays,
   Now lost in clouds of dust the traveller's seen;
   And now a lengthen'd pond or miry stream,
   Deep sink the wheels, and slow they drag along;
   Journeying to town with butter, apples, cream,
   Fowls, eggs, and fruit, in many a motley throng,
Cooped in their little carts their various truck among.

   And yonder nestled in enclust'ring trees,
   Where many a rose-bush round the green yard glows;
   Wall'd from the road with seats for shade and ease,
   A yellow-fronted cottage, sweetly shows:
   The tow'ring poplars rise in spiry rows,
   And green catalphas, white with branchy flowers;
   Her matron arms, a weeping willow throws
   Wide o'er the dark green grass, and pensive low'rs,
'Midst plum trees, pillar'd hops, and honeysuckle bowers.

   Here dwells the guardian of these younglings gay,
   A strange, recluse, and solitary wight;
   In Britain's isle, on Scottish mountains gray,
   His infant eyes first open'd to the light;
   His parents saw, with partial fond delight,
   Unfolding genius crown their fostering care;
   And talk'd with tears of that enrapturing sight,
   When clad in sable gown, with solemn air,
The walls of God's own house should echo back his pray'r.

   Dear smiling Hope, to thy enchanting hand,
   What cheering joys, what ecstacies we owe;
   Touch'd by the magic of thy fairy wand,
   Before us spread, what heavenly prospects glow!
   Thro' life's rough thorny wild we lab'ring go,
   And, though a thousand disappointments grieve,
   Ev'n from the grave's dark verge we forward throw
   Our straining wishful eyes on those we leave,
And with their future fame our sinking hearts relieve.

   But soon, too soon, these fond illusions fled,
   In vain they pointed out that pious height;
   By Nature's strong resistless impulse led,
   These dull dry doctrines ever would he slight;
   Wild Fancy formed him for fantastic flight,
   He lov'd the steep's high summit to explore,
   To watch the splendour of the orient bright,
   The dark deep forest and the sea-beat shore,
Where thro' resounding rocks the liquid mountains pour,

   When gath'ring clouds the vaults of heaven o'erspread,
   And opening streams of livid lightning flew;
   From some o'erhanging cliff, the uproar dread,
   Transfix'd in rapt'rous wonder, he would view
   When the red torrent, big and bigger grew;
   Or deep'ning snows, for days obscur'd the air,
   Still with the storm his transports would renew:
   Roar, pour away, was still his eager pray'r,
While shiv'ring swains around were sinking in despair.

   That worldly gift, which misers merit call,
   But wise men cunning, and the art of trade;
   That scheming foresight, how to scrape up all,
   How pence may groats, and shillings pounds be made,
   As little knew he, as the moorland maid,
   Who ne'er beheld a cottage but her own;
   Sour Parsimony's words he seldom weigh'd,
   His heart's warm impulse was the guide alone,
When suffering friendship sigh'd, or weeping wretch did moan.

   Dear, dear to him, affection's ardent glow;
   Alas! from all he lov'd, for ever torn,
   E'en now, as Memory's sad reflections flow,
   Deep grief o'erwhelms him, and he weeps forlorn.
   By hopeless thought, by wasting sorrow worn,
   Around on Nature's scenes he turns his eye,
   Charm'd with her peaceful eve, her fragrant morn,
   Her green magnificence, her gloomiest sky,
That fill th'exulting soul with admiration high.

   One charming nymph, with transport he adores,
   Fair Science, crown'd with many a figur'd sign;
   Her smiles, her sweet society implores,
   And mixes jocund with the encircling Nine;
   While Mathematics solve his dark design,
   Sweet Music soothes him with her syren strains;
   Seraphic Poetry, with warmth divine,
   Exalts him far above terrestrial plains,
And Painting's fairy hand his mimic pencil trains.

   Adown each side of his sequester'd cot,
   Two bubbling streamlets wind their rocky way,
   And mingling, as they leave this rural spot,
   Down thro' a woody vale, meand'ring stray;
   Round many a moss-grown rock they dimpling play,
   Where laurel thickets clothe the steeps around,
   And oaks, thick towering, quite shut out the day,
   And spread a venerable gloom profound,
Made still more sweetly solemn by the riv'let's sound.

   Where down smooth glistering rocks it rambling pours,
   Till in a pool its silent waters sleep;
   A dark brown cliff, o'ertopt with fern and flowers,
   Hangs grimly frowning o'er the glassy deep;
   Above, thro' ev'ry chink, the woodbines creep,
   And smooth-bark'd beeches spread their arms around,
   Whose roots cling, twisted, round the rocky steep.
   A more sequester'd scene is nowhere found,
For contemplation deep, and silent thought profound.

   Here many a tour the lonely Tutor takes,
   Long known to Solitude, his partner dear;
   For rustling woods, his empty School forsakes,
   At morn, still noon, and silent evening clear.
   Wild Nature's scenes amuse his wand'rings here;
   The old grey rocks that overhang the stream,
   The nodding flow'rs that on their peaks appear,
   Plants, birds, and insects, are a feast to him,
Howe'er obscure, deform'd, minute, or huge they seem.

   Sweet rural scenes! unknown to poet's song,
   Where Nature's charms in rich profusion lie;
   Birds, fruits, and flowers, an ever-pleasing throng,
   Deny'd to Britain's bleak and northern sky.
   Here Freedom smiles serene with dauntless eye,
   And leads the exil'd stranger thro' her groves;
   Assists to sweep the forest from on high,
   And gives to man the fruitful field he loves,
Where proud imperious lord, or tyrant, never roves.

   In these green solitudes one favourite spot
   Still draws his lone slow wand'rings that way;
   A mossy cliff, beside a little grot,
   Where two clear springs burst out upon the day;
   There, overhead, the beechen branches play,
   And from the rock, the cluster'd columbine;
   While, deep below, the brook is seen to stray,
   O'erhung with alders, briar, and mantling vine,
While on th'adjacent banks the glossy laurels shine.

   Here Milton's heav'nly themes delight his soul,
   Or Goldsmith's simple heart-bewitching lays;
   Now drives with look around the frozen pole,
   Or follows Bruce, with marvel and amaze.
   Perhaps Rome's splendour sadly he surveys,
   Or Britain's scenes of cruelty and kings;
   Thro' Georgia's groves with gentle Bartram strays,
   Or mounts with Newton on archangels' wings;
With manly Smollet laughs, and jovial Dibdin sings.

   The air serene, and breathing odours sweet,
   The sound of falling streams and humming bees;
   Wild choirs of songsters round his rural seat,
   To souls like his have ev'ry pow'r to please.
   The shades of night with rising sigh he sees
   Obscure the sweet and leafy scene around;
   And, homeward bending, thro' the moonlight trees,
   The owl salutes him with her trem'lous sound,
And many a fluttering bat pursues its mazy round.

   Thus, peaceful pass his lonely hours away,
   Thus, in retirement from his school affairs
   He tastes a bliss unknown to worldings gay,
   A soothing antidote to all his cares.
   Adoring Nature's God, he joyous shares,
   With happy millions, Freedom's fairest scene;
   His e'ening hymn, some plaintive Scottish airs,
   Breathed from the flute, or melting violin,
With life-inspiring airs, and wanton jigs between.


Alexander Wilson

Alexander Wilson's other poems:
  1. The Fishermans Hymn
  2. Matilda
  3. Connel and Flora
  4. Auchtertool

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