William Wordsworth

Hart-Leap Well

Hart-Leap Well, is a small spring of water, about five miles from Richmond in Yorkshire, and near the side of the road that leads from Richmond to Askrigg.

THE KNIGHT had ridden down from Wensley Moor,
With the slow motion of a summerís cloud;
And now, as he approached a vassalís door,
ďBring forth another horse!Ē he cried aloud.

ďAnother horse!Ē That shout the vassal heard,
And saddled his best steed, a comely gray.
Sir Walter mounted him; he was the third
Which he had mounted on that glorious day.

Joy sparkled in the prancing courserís eyes;
The horse and horseman are a happy pair;
But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,
There is a doleful silence in the air.

A rout this morning left Sir Walterís Hall,
That as they galloped made the echoes roar;
But horse and man are vanished, one and all:
Such race, I think, was never seen before.

Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,
Calls to the few tired dogs that yet remain;
Blanch, Swift, and Music, noblest of their kind,
Follow, and up the weary mountain strain.

The knight hallooed, he cheered and chid them on
With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern;
But breath and eyesight fail, and, one by one,
The dogs are stretched among the mountain fern.

Where is the throng, the tumult of the race?
The bugles that so joyfully were blown?
This chase it looks not like an earthly chase;
Sir Walter and the hart are left alone.

The poor hart toils along the mountain-side;
I will not stop to tell how far he fled,
Nor will I mention by what death he died;
But now the knight beholds him lying dead.

Dismounting, then, he leaned against a thorn;
He had no follower, dog nor man nor boy:
He neither cracked his whip nor blew his horn,
But gazed upon the spoil with silent joy.

Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter leaned
Stood his dumb partner in this glorious feat;
Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yeaned,
And white with foam as if with cleaving sleet.

Upon his side the hart was lying stretched;
His nostril touched a spring beneath a hill,
And with the last deep groan his breath had fetched
The waters of the spring were trembling still.

And now, too happy for repose or rest,
(Never had living man such joyful lot!)
Sir Walter walked all round, north, south, and west,
And gazed and gazed upon that darling spot.

And climbing up the hill (it was at least
Four roods of sheer ascent), Sir Walter found
Three several hoof-marks which the hunted beast
Had left imprinted on the grassy ground.

Sir Walter wiped his face, and cried, ďTill now
Such sight was never seen by human eyes;
Three leaps have borne him from this lofty brow	
Down to the very fountain where he lies.

ďI íll build a pleasure-house upon this spot,
And a small arbor, made for rural joy;
íT will be the travellerís shed, the pilgrimís cot,
A place of love for damsels that are coy.

ďA cunning artist will I have to frame
A basin for that fountain in the dell!
And they who do make mention of the same
From this day forth shall call it Hart-Leap Well.

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