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Pastorals

George Meredith 1828 (Portsmouth, Hampshire) – 1909 (Box Hill, Surrey)

I

How sweet on sunny afternoons,
For those who journey light and well,
To loiter up a hilly rise
Which hides the prospect far beyond,
And fancy all the landscape lying
Beautiful and still;

Beneath a sky of summer blue,
Whose rounded cloudlets, folded soft,
Gaze on the scene which we await
And picture from their peacefulness;
So calmly to the earth inclining
Float those loving shapes!

Like airy brides, each singling out
A spot to love and bless with love,
Their creamy bosoms glowing warm,
Till distance weds them to the hills,
And with its latest gleam the river
Sinks in their embrace.

And silverly the river runs,
And many a graceful wind he makes,
By fields where feed the happy flocks,
And hedge-rows hushing pleasant lanes,
The charms of English home reflected
In his shining eye:

Ancestral oak, broad-foliaged elm,
Rich meadows sunned and starred with flowers,
The cottage breathing tender smoke
Against the brooding golden air,
With glimpses of a stately mansion
On a woodland sward;

And circling round, as with a ring,
The distance spreading amber haze,
Enclosing hills and pastures sweet;
A depth of soft and mellow light
Which fills the heart with sudden yearning
Aimless and serene!

No disenchantment follows here,
For nature's inspiration moves
The dream which she herself fulfils;
And he whose heart, like valley warmth,
Steams up with joy at scenes like this
Shall never be forlorn.

And O for any human soul
The rapture of a wide survey -
A valley sweeping to the West,
With all its wealth of loveliness,
Is more than recompense for days
That taught us to endure.

II

Yon upland slope which hides the sun
Ascending from his eastern deeps,
And now against the hues of dawn
One level line of tillage rears;
The furrowed brow of toil and time;
To many it is but a sweep of land!

To others 'tis an Autumn trust,
But unto me a mystery; -
An influence strange and swift as dreams;
A whispering of old romance;
A temple naked to the clouds;
Or one of nature's bosoms fresh revealed,

Heaving with adoration! there
The work of husbandry is done,
And daily bread is daily earned;
Nor seems there ought to indicate
The springs which move in me such thoughts,
But from my soul a spirit calls them up.

All day into the open sky,
All night to the eternal stars,
For ever both at morn and eve
Men mellow distances draw near,
And shadows lengthen in the dusk,
Athwart the heavens it rolls its glimmering line!

When twilight from the dream-hued West
Sighs hush! and all the land is still;
When, from the lush empurpling East,
The twilight of the crowing cock
Peers on the drowsy village roofs,
Athwart the heavens that glimmering line is seen.

And now beneath the rising sun,
Whose shining chariot overpeers
The irradiate ridge, while fetlock deep
In the rich soil his coursers plunge -
How grand in robes of light it looks!
How glorious with rare suggestive grace!

The ploughman mounting up the height
Becomes a glowing shape, as though
'Twere young Triptolemus, plough in hand,
While Ceres in her amber scarf
With gentle love directs him how
To wed the willing earth and hope for fruits!

The furrows running up are fraught
With meanings; there the goddess walks,
While Proserpine is young, and there -
'Mid the late autumn sheaves, her voice
Sobbing and choked with dumb despair -
The nights will hear her wailing for her child!

Whatever dim tradition tells,
Whatever history may reveal,
Or fancy, from her starry brows,
Of light or dreamful lustre shed,
Could not at this sweet time increase
The quiet consecration of the spot.

Blest with the sweat of labour, blest
With the young sun's first vigorous beams,
Village hope and harvest prayer, -
The heart that throbs beneath it holds
A bliss so perfect in itself
Men's thoughts must borrow rather than bestow.

III

Now standing on this hedgeside path,
Up which the evening winds are blowing
Wildly from the lingering lines
Of sunset o'er the hills;
Unaided by one motive thought,
My spirit with a strange impulsion
Rises, like a fledgling,
Whose wings are not mature, but still
Supported by its strong desire
Beats up its native air and leaves
The tender mother's nest.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:38 min read
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George Meredith

George Meredith was an English novelist and poet of the Victorian era. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times. more…

All George Meredith poems | George Meredith Books

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