Monday, 15 October 2018

Poetry Revisited: The Autumnal Walk by George Crabbe

The Autumnal Walk

(from Tales of the Hall: 1819)

It was a fair and mild autumnal sky,
And earth’s ripe treasures met the admiring eye,
‘As a rich beauty, when her bloom is lost,
Appears with more magnificence and cost;
T3ie wet and heavy grass, where feet had stray’d,
Not yet erect, the wanderer’s way beiray’d;
Showers of the night had swell’d the deepening rill,
The morning breeze had urged the quickening mill;
Assembled roots had wing’d their seaward flight,
By the same passage to return at night,
While proudly o’er them hung the steady Idle,
Then turn’d them back, and left the noisy throng.
Nor deign’d to know them as he sail’d along.
Long yellow leaves, from osiers, strew’d around,
Choked the dull stream, and husb’d its feeble sound,
While the dead foliage dropt from loftier trees,
Our squire beheld not with his wonted ease;
But to his own reflections made reply,
And said aloud, “Yes; doubtless we must die.”

“We must” said Richard; “and we would not live
To feel what dotage and decay will give;
But we yet taste whatever we behold;
The morn is lovely, though the air is cold:
There is delicious quiet in this scene,
At once so rich, so varied, so serene;
Sounds, too, delight us—each discordant tone
Thus mingled, please, that Ml to please alone;
This hollow wind, this rustling of the brook.
The farmyard noise, the woodman at yon oak—
See! the axe falls! —now listen to the stroke;
That gun itself, that murders all this peace,
Adds to the charm, because it soon must cease.”

“No. doubt,” said George, “the country has its charms!”
My farm behold! the model for all farms!
Look at that land — you find not there a weed,
We grub the roots, and suffer none to seed.
To land like this no botanist will come.
To seek the precious ware he hides at home;
Pressing the leaves and flowers with effort nice.
As if they came from herbs in Paradise;
Let them their favourites with my neighbours sec,
They have no — what?— no habitat with me.
Now see my flock, and hear its glory; — none
Have that vast body and that slender hone;
They are the village’s boast, the dealer’s theme,
Fleece of such staple! flesh in such esteem!”

“Brother,” said Richard, “do I hear aright?
Does the land truly give so much delight?”

“So says my bailiff: sometimes I have tried
To catch the joy, but nature has denied;
It will not be — the mind has had a store
Laid up for life, and will admit no more:
Worn out in trials, and about to die,
In vain to these we for amusement fly;
We farm, we garden, we our poor employ,
And much command, though little we enjoy;
Or, if ambitious, we employ our pen.
We plant a desert, or we drain a fen;
And— here, behold my medal! — this will show
What men may merit when they nothing know.”

“Yet reason here,” said Richard, “joins with pride: — ”
“I did not ask th’ alliance,” George replied —
“I grant it true, such trifle may induce
A dull, proud man to wake and be of use;
And there are purer pleasures, that a mind
Calm and uninjured may in villas find;
But where th’ affections have been deeply tried.
With other food that mind must be supplied:
‘Tis not in trees or medals to impart
The powerful medicine for an aching heart;
The agitation dies, but there is still
The backward spirit, the resisting will.
Man takes his body to a country seat,
But minds, dear Richard, have their own retreat;
Oft when the feet are pacing o’er the green
The mind is gone where never grass was seen.
And never thinks of hill, or vale, or plain,
Till want of rest creates a sense of pain.
That calls that wandering mind, and brings it home again.
No more of farms: but here I boast of minds
That make a friend the richer when he finds;
These shalt thou see; — but, Richard, be it known.
Who thinks to see must in his turn be shown: —
But now farewell! to thee will I resign
Woods, walks, and valleys! take them till we dine.”

George Crabbe (1754 -1832)
English poet, surgeon and clergyman

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