No spade for leagues had won a rood of earth

No spade for leagues had won a rood of earth
From that bleak common, of all covert bare;
From travellers' half-way house no genial hearth
Scented with its turf smoke the desart air,
Through which the plover wings his lonely course,
Nor aught that might detain the sight was there,
Only a blossomed slope of dazzling gorse
Gave back the deep light of the setting sun;
All else was dreary dark--sad course her feet must run.

The road's white surface fresh indented showed
The self-provided waggoner gone by,
Yet oft her eye retraced the backward road
Some coal-team or night-going wain to spy;
At last for nearer path she turned aside
And strayed where numerous sheep tracks green and dry
The sharp furze thridding did all choice divide.
And now with slanted course again she sought
The road whose winding reach was now a mile remote.

Her heart recovered but the time allowed
No further stay and, less, her late affright,
And from the rainy east a bellying cloud
Met the first star and hurried on the night;
The shower o'erblown, the air was cold and clear,
The desart opening in the moon's pale light,
Nor sound save her own steps she seemed to hear
For ten long miles; from the Minster tower
The distant clock tolled out the morning's second hour.

And at a hill's impending brow she viewed
A taper twinkling through a wicker hole,
Whence through the still depth of the air subdued
Forthwith a sound of singing upward stole
So plaintive-sad, the cadence might agree
With one who sang from very grief of soul;
More likely at such hour the lullaby
Of some poor mother o'er a sleepless child;
The house was soon attained--it was a dwelling wild.

Gently she knocked and prayed they would not blame
A Traveller weary-worn and needing rest;
Strait to the door a ragged woman came
Who, with arms linked and huddling elbows pressed
By either hand, a tattered jacket drew
With modest care across her hollow breast,
That showed a skin of sickly yellow hue.
'With travel spent', she cried, 'you needs must be
If from the heath arrived; come in and rest with me.

How could I fear that I, whose winter nights
Won many a merry festival from sleep,
Should pine, in youth outliving youth's delights,
Here in the eye of hunger doomed to weep?
Here of my better days no trace is seen;
Yet in my breast the shadow still I keep
Of Happiness gone by, with years between;
And but that Nature feels these corporal aches
My life might seem a dream--the thing a vision makes.'

So, praying her to come more near, she threw
A knot of heath upon the embers cold,
Which with her breath [ ] anon she blew,
And talked between of that unfriendly wold.
Then from a mat of straw a boy she raised
Who seemed, though weak in growth, three winters old,
And with a fruitless look of fondness gazed
On his pale face; she held him at her breast
If nourishment thence drawn might lead at length to rest.

The stranger, whom such sight not failed to touch,
Tenderly said, 'In truth you are to blame
For you are feeble and 'twill waste you much;
That office asks indeed a stronger frame.'
At this meek proof of sympathy so given
Into the mother's eye a big tear came.
'To wean the boy', she said, 'I long have striven
But we are poor, and when no bread is nigh
It is a piteous thing to hear an infant's cry.'

At once a thousand Dreams through memory rushed,
And from the heart its present sorrow chased,
While down her cheek, by feverish watching flushed,
The o'erflow of inmost weakness trickled fast,
--Her cheek, the beauty of whose doubtful hues
Showed like a rose, its time of blowing past,
Wet with the morning's ineffectual dews.
Then, while the stranger warmed her torpid feet,
So willing seemed her ear, she gan her tale repeat.

'A little farm, my husband's own demesne,
Beheld the promise of my bridal day,
And when the dancing eddy of the brain
Was past, through many months that rolled away
Their calmer progress, sober reason blest
Each hope that Youth can feed or years betray.
Our farm was sheltered like a little nest,
No greener fields than ours could eye survey,
Pleasant the fields without, and all within as gay.

From homely labour and appearance plain
Round the light heart such steady pleasure shone,
Thankful I lived nor tongue pronounced me vain.
I bore my fortunes meekly and was one
Whom softener envy might have learned to bless,
Nor needed that my summer should be flown
To teach my heart the claims of wretchedness
But [ ]
Nor may it well be said by one so fallen as I. [cetera desunt]
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