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A Dorset Idyl



_HARCOMBE NEAR LYME_

September: 1878

Before me with one happy heave
Of golden green the hillside curves,
Where slowly, smoothly, rounding swerves
The shadow of each perfect tree,
By slanting shafts of eve
Flame-fringed and bathed in pale transparency.

And that long ridge that crowns the hill
Stands fir-dark 'gainst the falling rays;
Above, a waft of pearly haze
Lies on the sapphire field of air,
So radiant and so still
As though a star-cloud took its station there.

Up wold and wild the valley goes,
'Mid heath and mounded slopes of oak,
And light ash-thicket, where the smoke
Wreathes high in evening's air serene,
Floating in white repose
O'er the blue reek of cottage-hearths unseen.

Another landscape at my feet
Unfolds its nearer grace the while,
Where gorses gleam with golden smile;
Where Inula lifts a russet head
The shepherd's spikenard sweet;
And closing Centaury points her rosy red.

One light cicada's simmering cry,
Survivor of the summer heat,
Chimes faint; the robin, shrill and sweet,
Pipes from green holly; whilst from far
The rookery croaks reply,
Hoarse, deep, as veterans readying for war.

--Grief on a happier future dwells;
The happy present haunts the past;
And those old minstrels who outlast
Our looser-textured webs of song,
Nursed in Hellenic dells,
Sicilian, or Italian, hither throng.

Why care if Turk and Tartar fume,
Barbarian 'gainst barbarian set,
Or how our politic prophets fret,
When on this tapestry-thyme and heath,
Fresh work of Nature's loom,
Thus, thus, we can diffuse ourselves, and breathe

Autumnal sparkling freshness?--while
The page by some bless'd miracle saved
When Goth and Frank 'gainst Hellas raved.
Paints how the wanderer-chief divine,
Snatch'd from Circaean guile,
Led by Nausicaa past Athene's shrine,

In that delicious garden sate
Where summer link'd to summer glows,
Grapes ever ripe, and rose on rose;
And all the wonders of thy tale
--O greatest of the great--
Whose splendour ne'er can fade, nor beauty fail!

Or by the city of God above
In rose-red meadows, where the day
Eternal burns, the bless'd ones stray;
The harp lets loose its silver showers
From the dark incense-grove;
And happiness blooms forth with all her flowers.

O Theban strain,--remote and pure,
Voice of the higher soul, that shames
Our downward, dry, material aims,
The bestial creed of earth-to-earth,--
Owning with insight sure
The signs that speak of Man's celestial birth!

Or white Colonos here through green
Green Dorset winds his holy vale,
Where the divine deep nightingale
Heaps note on note and love on love,
In ivy thick unseen,
While goddesses with Dionysos rove.

Another music then we hear,
A cry from the Sicilian dell,
'Here 'mid sweet grapes and laurel dwell;
Slips by from wood-girt Aetna's dome
Snow-cold the stream and clear:--
Hither to me, come, Galataea, come!'

--Voices and dreams long fled and gone!
And other echoes make reply,
The low Maenalian melody
''Twas in our garth, a twelve-year child,
I saw thee, little one,
Pick the red fruit that to thy fancy smiled,

'Thee and thy mother: I, your guide:'--
O sweet magician! Happy heart!
Content with that unrivall'd art,--
The soul of grace in music shrined,--
And notes of modest pride,
To sing the life he loved to all mankind!

There, shading pine and torrent-song
Breathe midday slumber, sudden, sweet;
Deep meadows woo the wayward feet;
In giant elm the ring-doves moan;
There, peace secure from wrong,
The life that keeps its promise, there, alone!

--O loftier than the wordy strife
That floats o'er capitals; the chase
Of florid pleasure; the blind race
Of gold for gold by gamblers run,
This fair Vergilian life,
Where heaven and we and nature are at one!

On that deep soil great Rome was sown;
Our England her foundations laid:--
Hence, while the nations, change-dismay'd,
To tyrant or to quack repair,
A healthier heart we own,
And the plant Man grows stronger than elsewhere.

Should changeful commerce shun the shore,
And newer, mightier races meet
To push us from our empire-seat,
England will round her call her own,
And as in days of yore
The sea-girt Isle be Freedom's central throne.

Freedom, fair daughter-wife of Law;
One bright face on the future cast,
One reverent fix'd upon the past,
And that for Hope, for Wisdom this:--
While counsels wild and
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:42 min read
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Francis Turner Palgrave

Francis Turner Palgrave was a British critic and poet. more…

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