Amwell: A Descriptive Poem

There dwells a fond desire in human minds,
When pleas'd, their pleasure to extend to those
Of kindred taste; and thence the' enchanting arts
Of Picture and of Song, the semblance fair
Of Nature's forms produce. This fond desire
Prompts me to sing the lonely silvan scenes
Of A MWELL , which, so oft in early youth,
While novelty enhanc'd their native charms,
Gave rapture to my soul; and often, still,
On life's calm moments shed serener joy.
Descriptive Muse! whose hand along the stream
Of ancient Thames, through Richmond's shady groves,
And Sheen's fair vallies, once thy Thomson led;
And once o'er green Carmarthen's woody dales,
And sunny landscapes of Campania's plain,
Thy other favour'd bard; thou, who so late,
In bowers by Clent's wild peaks, to Slienstone's ear.
Didst bring sweet strains of rural melody,
(Alas, no longer heard!)—vouchsafe thine aid:
From all our rich varieties of view,
What best may please, assist me to select,
With art dispose, with energy describe,
And its full image on the mind impress.
And ye, whoe'er in these delightful fields
Consum'd with me the social hour, while I
Your walk conducted o'er their loveliest spots,
And on their fairest objects fix'd your sight;
Accept this verse, which may to memory call
That social hour, and sweetly varied walk!
And Thou, by strong connubial umon mine;
Mine by the stronger union of the heart;
In whom the loss of parents and of friends,
And Her, the first fair partner of my joys,
All recompens'd I find; whose presence cheers
The soft domestic scene; Maria come!
The Country calls us forth; blithe Summer's hand
Sheds sweetest flowers, and morning's brightest smile
Illumines earth and air; Maria, come!
By winding pathways through the waving corn,
We reach the airy point that prospect yields,
Not vast and awful, but confin'd and fair;
Not the black mountain and the foamy main;
Not the throng'd city and the busy port;
But pleasant interchange of soft ascent,
And level plain, and growth of shady woods,
And twining course of rivers clear, and sight
Of rural towns and rural cots, whose roofs
Rise scattering round, and animate the whole.
Far towards the west, close under sheltering hills,
In verdant meads, by Lee's cerulean stream,
Hertford's grey towers ascend; the rude remains
Of high antiquity, from waste escap'd
Of envious Time, and violence of War.
For War there ouce, so tells the' historic page,
Led Desolation's steps: the hardy Dane,
By Avarice lur'd, o'er Ocean's stormy wave,
To ravage Albion's plains, his favourite seat,
There fix'd awhile; and there his castles rear'd
Among the trees, and there, beneath yon ridge
Of piny rocks, his conquering navy moor'd,
With idle sails furl'd on the yard, and oars
Recumbent on the flood, and streamers gay
Triumphant fluttering on the passing winds.
In fear, the shepherd on the lonely heath
Tended his scanty flock; the ploughman turn'd,
In fear, his hasty furrow: oft the din
Of hostile arms alarm'd the ear, and fiames
Of plunder'd towns through night's thick gloom from far
Gleam'd dismal on the sight: till Alfred came,
Till Alfred, father of his people, came,
Lee's rapid tide into new channels turn'd,
And left a ground the Daman fleet, and forc'd
The foe to speedy flight. Then Freedom's voice
Reviv'd the drooping swain: then Plenty's hand
Recloth'd the desert fields, and Peace and Love
Sat smiling by; as now they smiling sit,
Obvious to Fancy's eye, upon the side
Of yon bright sunny theatre of hills,
Where Bengeo's villas rise, and Ware-park's iawn
Spread their green surface, interspers'd with groves
Of broad umbrageous oak, and spiry pine,
Tall elm, and linden pale, and blossom'd thorn,
Breathing mild fragrance, like the spicy gales
Of Indian islands. On the ample brow,
Where that white temple rears its pillar'd front
Half hid with glossy foliage, many a chief
Renown'd for martral deeds, and many a bard
Renown'd for song, have pass'd the rural hour,
The gentle Fanshaw there, from‘noise of camps,
From courts disease retir'd’, delighted view'd
The gaudy garden, fam'd in Wotton's page.
Or in the verdant maze, or cool arcade,
Sat musing, and from smooth Italian strains
The soft Guarini's amorous lore transfus'd
Into rude British verse. The warrior's arm
Now rests from toil; the poet's tuneful tongue
In silence lies; frail man his lov'd domains
Soon quits for ever! they themselves, by course
Of Nature often, or caprice of Art,
Experience change: ev'n here, 'tis said of old
Steep rocky cliffs rose where yon gentle slopes
Mix with the vale; and fluctuating waves
Spread wide, where that rich vale with golden flowers
Shines; and where yonder winding crystal rill
Slides through its smooth shorn margin, to the brink
Of Chadwell's azure pool. From Chadwell's pool
To London's plains, the Cambrian artist brought
His ample aqueduct; suppos'd a work
Of matchless skill, by those who ne'er had heard
How from Preneste's heights and Anio's banks,
By Tivoli, to Rome's imperial walls
On marble arches came the limpid store,
And out of jasper rocks in bright cascades
With never-ceasing murmur gush'd; or how,
To Lusitanian Ulysippo's towers,
The silver current o'er Alcant'ra's vale
Roll'd high in air, as ancient poets feign'd
Eridanus to roll through Heaven: to these
Not sordid lucre, but the honest wish
Of future fame, or care for public weal,
Existence gave; and unconfin'd, as dew
Falls from the hand of Evening on the fields,
They flow'd for all. Our mercenary stream,
No grandeur boasting, here obscurely glides
O'er grassy lawns or under willow shades.
As, through the human form, arterial tubes
Branch'd every way, minute and more minute,
The circulating sanguine fluid extend;
So, pipes innumerable to peopled streets
Transmit the purchas'd wave. Old Lee, meanwhile
Beneath his mossy grot o'erhung with boughs
Of poplar quivering in the breeze, surveys
With eye indignant his diminish'd tide,
That laves yon ancient priory's wall, and show
In its clear mirror Ware's inverted roofs.
Ware once was known to fame; to her fair field
Whilom the gothic tournament's proud pomp
Brought Albion's valiant youth and blooming maid
Pleas'd with ideas of the past, the Muse
Bids Fancy's pencil paint the scene, where they
In gilded barges on the glassy stream
Circled the reedy isles, the sportive dance.
Along the smooth lawn led, or in the groves
Wander'd conversing, or reclin'd at ease
To harmony of lutes and voices sweet
Resign'd the' enchanted ear; till sudden heard
The silver trumpet's animating sound
Summon'd the champions forth, on stately steeds,
In splendid armour clad, the pondrous lance
With strenuous hand sustaining, forth they came.
Where gay pavilions rose upon the plain,
Or azure awnings stretch'd from tree to tree,
Mix'd with thick foliage, form'd a mimic sky
Of grateful shade (as oft in Agra's streets
The silken canopy from side to side
Extends to break the sun's impetuous ray,
While monarchs pass beneath;) there sat the Fair,
A glittering train on costly carpets rang'd,
A group of beauties all in youthful prime,
Of various feature and of various grace!
The pensive languish, and the sprightly air,
The' engaging smile, and all the nameless charms
Which transient hope, or fear, or grief, or joy,
Wak'd in the' expressive eye, the' enamour'd heart
Of each young hero rous'd to daring deeds.
Nor this aught strange, that those whom love inspir'd
Prov'd every means the lovely sex to please:
This strange, indeed, how custom thus could teach
The tender breast complacence in the sight
Of barbarous sport, where friend from hand of friend
The fatal wound full oft receiv'd, and fell
A victim to false glory; as that day
Fell gallant Pembroke, while his pompous show
Ended in silent gloom. One pitying tear
To human frailty paid; my roving sight
Pursues its pleasing course o'er neighbouring hills,
Where frequent hedge-rows intersect rich fields
Of many a different form and different hue,
Bright with ripe corn, or green with grass, or dark
With clover's purple bloom; o'er Widbury's mount
With that fair crescent crown'd of lofty elms,
Its own peculiar boast: and o'er the woods
That round immure the deep sequester'd vale
Of Langley, down whose flower-embroider' meads,
Swift Ash through pebbly shores meandering rolls,
Elysian scene! as from the living world
Secluded quite; for of that world, to him
Whose wanderings trace thy winding length, appear
No mark, save one white solitary spire
At distance rising through the tufted trees—
Elysian scene! recluse as that, so fam'd
For solitude, by Warwick's ancient walls,
Where under umbrage of the mossy cliff
Victorious Guy, so legends say, reclin'd
His hoary head beside the silver stream,
In meditation rapt—Elysian scene!
At evening often, while the setting sun
On the green summit of thy eastern groves
Pour'd full his yellow radiance; while the voice
Of zephyr whispering midst the rustling leaves,
The sound of water murmuring through the sedge,
The turtle's plaintive call, and music soft
Of distant bells, whose ever-varying notes
In slow sad measure mov'd, combin'd to soothe
The soul to sweet solemnity of thought;
Beneath thy branchy bowers of thickest gloom,
Much on the' imperfect state of man I have mus'd:
How Pain o'er half his hours her iron reign
Ruthless extends; how Pleasure from the path
Of Innocence allures his steps; how Hope
Directs his eye to distant Joy, that flies
His fond pursuit; how Fear his shuddering heart
Alarms with fancied ill; how Doubt and Care
Perplex his thought; how soon the tender rose
Of Beauty fades, the sturdy oak of Strength
Declines to earth, and over all our pride
Stern Time triumphant stands. From general fate
To private woes then oft has memory pass'd,
And mourn'd the loss of many a friend belov'd;
Of thee, De Horne, kind, generous, wise, and good!
And thee, my Turner, who in vacant youth,
Here oft in converse free, or studious search
Of classic lore, accompanied my walk!
From Ware's green bowers to Devon's myrtle vales,
Remov'd awhile, with prospect opening fair
Of useful life and honour in his view;
As falls the vernal bloom before the breath
Of blasting Euras, immature he fell!
The tidings reach'd my ear, and in my breast,
Aching with recent wounds, new anguish wak'd
When melancholy thus has chang'd to grief,
That grief in soft forgetfulness to lose,
I have left the gloom for gayer scenes, and sough
Through winding paths of venerable shade,
The airy brow where that tall spreading beech
O'ertops surrounding groves, up rocky steeps,
Tree over tree dispos'd; or stretching far
Their shadowy coverts down the' indented side
Of fair corn-fields; or pierc'd with sunny glades
That yield the casual glimpse of flowery meads
And shining silver rills; on these the eye
Then wont to' expatiate pleas'd; or more remo
Survey'd yon vale of Lee, in verdant length
Of level lawn spread out to Kent's blue hills,
And the proud range of glittering spires that rise
In misty air on Thames's crowded shores.
How beautiful, how various, is the view
Of these sweet pastoral landscapes! fair, perhaps
As those renown'd of old, from Tabor's height,
Or Carmel seen; or those, the pride of Greece,
Tempe or Arcady; or those that grac'd
The banks of clear Elorus, or the skirts
Of thymy Hybla, where Sicilia's isle
Smiles on the azure main; there once was heard
The Muse's lofty lay.——How beautiful,
How various is yon view! delicious hills
Bounding smooth vales, smooth vales by wind stream
Divided, thaThere glide through grassy banks
In open sun, there wander under shade
Of aspen tall, or ancient elm, whose boughs
O'erhang grey castles, and romantic farms,
And humble cots of happy shepherd swains.
Delightful habitations! with the song
Of birds melodious charm'd, and bleat of flocks
From upland pastures heard, and low of kine
Grazing the rushy mead, and mingled sounds
Of falling waters and of whispering winds—
Delightful habitations! o'er the land
Dispers'd around, from Waltham's osier'd isles
To where bleak Nasing's lonely tower o'erlooks
Her verdant fields; from Raydon's pleasant groves
And Hunsdon's bowers on Stort's irriguous marge,
By Rhye's old walls, to Hodsdon's airy street;
From Haly's woodland to the flowery meads
Of willow-shaded Stansted, and the slope
Of Amwell's Mount, that crown'd with yellow corn
There from the green flat, softly swelling, shows
Like some bright vernal cloud by zephyr's breath
Just rais'd above the' horizon's azure bound.
As one long travell'd on Italia's plains,
The land of pomp and beauty, still his feet
On his own Albion joys to fix again;
So my pleas'd eye, which o'er the prospect wide
Has wander'd round, and various objects mark'd,
On Amwell rests at last, its favourite scene!
How picturesque the view! where up the side
Of that steep bank, her roofs of russet thatch
Rise mix'd with trees, above whose swelling tops
Ascends the tall church tower, and loftier still
The hill's extended ridge. How picturesque!
Where slow beneath that bank the silver stream
Glides by the flowery isle, and willow groves
Wave on its northern verge, with trembling tuft
Of osier intermix'd. How picturesque
The slender group of airy elm, the clump
Of pollard oak, or ash, with ivy brown
Entwin'd; the walnut's gloomy breadth of bough
The orchard's ancient fence of rugged pales,
The haystack's dusky cone, the moss-grown shed
The clay-built barn; the elder-shaded cot,
Whose white-wash'd gable prominent through grey
Of waving branches shows, perchance inscrib'd
With some past owner's name, or rudely grac'd
With rustic dial, that scarcely serves to mark
Time's ceaseless flight; the wall with mantling vit
O'erspread, the porch with climbing woodbi wreath'd,
And under sheltering eves the sunny bench
Where brown hives range, whose busy tenants flow
With drowsy hum, the little garden gay,
Whence blooming beans, and spicy herbs,
Exhale around a rich perfume! Here rests
The empty wain; there idle lies the plough:
By Summer's hand unharness'd, here the steed,
Short ease enjoying, crops the daisied lawn;
Here bleats the nursling lamb, the heifer there
Waits at the yard-gate lowing. By the road,
Where the neat ale-house stands (so once store things)
Deserted Auburn! in immortal song
Consign'd to fame), the cottage sire recounts
The praise he earn'd, when cross the field he die
The straightest furrow, or neatest built the rich
Or led the reaper-band in sultry noons
With unabating strength, or won the prize
At many a crowded wake. Beside her door,
The cottage matron whirls her circling wheel,
And jocund chants her lay. The cottage maid
Feeds from her loaded lap her mingled train
Of clamorous hungry fowls, or o'er the stile
Leaning with downcast look, the artless tale
Of evening courtship hears. The sportive troop
Of cottage children on the grassy waste
Mix in rude gambols, or the bounding ball
Circle from hand to hand, or rustic notes
Wake on their pipes of jointed reed: while near
The careful shepherd's frequent-falling strokes
Fix on the fallow lea his hurdled fold.
Such rural life! so calm, it little yields
Of interesting act, to swell the page
Of history or song; yet much the soul
Its sweet simplicity delights, and oft
From noise of busy towns, to fields and groves,
The Muse's sons have fled to find repose.
Fam'd Walton, erst, the' ingenious fisher swain,
Oft our fair haunts explor'd; upon Lee's shore,
Beneath some green tree oft his angle laid,
His sport suspending to admire their charms.
He, who in verse his Country's story told,
Here dwelt awhile, perchance here sketch'd the scene,
Where his fair Argentile, from crowded courts
For pride self-banish'd, in sequester'd shades
Sojourn'd disguis'd, and met the slighted youth
Who long had sought her love—the gentle bard
Sleeps here, by Fame forgotten; (fickle Fame
Too oft forgets her favourites!) By his side
Sleeps gentle Hassal who with tenderest care
Here watch'd his village charge; in nuptial bonds
Their hands oft join'd: oft heard, and oft reliev'd
Their little wants; oft heard and oft compos'd,
Sole arbiter, their little broils; oft urg'd
Their flight from fol
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