While wind and rain drive through the half-stripped trees,
Fanners and flails go merrily in the barn.
Each brook and river sweeps along deep tinged,
While down the glen, louder and quicker, sounds
The busy mill-clack. On the woodland paths
No more the leaves rustle, but matted lie,
All drenched and soiled; the foliage of the oak,
Blent with the lowliest leaves that decked the brier,
Or creeping bramble, mouldering to decay.
Oft at this season, near an oozy spring,
O’erhung by alder boughs, the woodcock haunts;
(Sure harbinger, when thus so early come,
Of early winter tedious and severe)
There he imbibes his watery food; till, scared
By man and dog, upward, on pinion strong,
He springs, and o’er the summits of the grove,
Flies far, unless, flashing, the quick-aimed tube
Arrest his flight, and bring him lifeless down,
With his long bleeding bill sunk in the marsh.
From hawless thorn to brier, the chirping flocks
Flit shivering, while, behind yon naked hedge,
Drooping, the cattle stand, waiting the hour
When to the shed or stall they shall return.
Ye who, on Spring’s return, a smooth thick sward
Upon your fields would see, must spare them now.
At sunny intervals, you may indulge
Your prisoned herd to pick the withering blade,
And the fresh breeze inhale, or to the bank
Of the swollen river wend, to quench their thirst.
But if your soil be clay, let not a hoof
E’er cross your fields, save when the frosty power
Has hardened them against the poaching hoof.
Old leas may now be ploughed, though on the plough
Patters the hail shower, whitening all the ridge.
But loose betimes, and through the shallow pond
Drive the tired team; then bed them snug and warm;
And with no stinting hand their toil reward.
Assiduous care the waning year requires,
For then all animated nature tends
To sickliness and death. Much it imports
To cleanse each hoof and pastern; but beware
Of clipping close the fetlock, robbing thus
The fretted skin of Nature’s simple fence
Against the contact of the encrusting soil.
While on the turnip field, in portions due
Staked off, the bleating flock their juicy meal,
Nibbling, partake, let not their nightly lair
Be on the mould; but give them free access
To some adjoining field, where, on the sward,
A drier bed shortens the winter night.
Oft, after boisterous days, the rack glides off,
And night serene succeeds, cloudless and calm,
Unrolling all the glories of the sky.
Who would regret the shortened winter day,
Which shrouds, in light, that spectacle sublime!
Who would regret the summer landscape’s charm!
O bounteous night! to every eye that rolls,–
Whether retired in rural solitudes,
Or to thronged cities, or to desert shores
Exiled,– thou spread’st that sight superb,
And through the hopeless heart shoot’st gleams of joy.
Thou shew’st to weary man his glorious home.
As on that happy eve, when peals of peace
(Ah, short-lived peace!) rang through Britannia’s realms,
The homeward veteran, as he weary gained
Some mountain brow, beheld, far through the gloom,
His native city all one blaze of light;
Joy filled his eyes with tears, joy nerved his limbs,
That now, at last, to all whom he held dear,
He should return, and never more depart.
Sometimes November nights are thick bedimmed
With hazy vapours, floating o’er the ground,
Or veiling from the view the starry host.
At such a time, on plashy mead or fen
A faintish light is seen, by southern swains
Called Will-a-Wisp: Sometimes, from rushy bush
To bush it leaps, or, cross a little rill,
Dances from side to side in winding race;
Sometimes, with stationary blaze, it gilds
The heifer’s horns; or plays upon the mane
Of farmer’s horse returning from the fair,
And lights him on his way; yet often proves
A treacherous guide, misleading from the path
To faithless bogs, and solid-seeming ways.
Sometimes it haunts the church-yard; up and down
The tomb-stone’s spiky rail streaming, it shews
Faint glimpses of the rustic sculptor’s art,–
Time’s scythe and hour-glass, and the grinning skull,
And bones traverse, which, at an hour like this,
To him, who, passing, casts athwart the wall
A fearful glance, speak with a warning knell.–
Sometimes to the lone traveller it displays
The murderer’s gibbet, and his tattered garb,
As lambently along the links it gleams.
While harmlessly, in northern regions, play
These fires phosphoric, in the tropic climes
The midnight hours are horribly illumed
With sheeted lightning; bright the expanding flame
Reddens the boiling ocean wave, and clear
Displays the topmast cordage, where on high
The ship-boy, trembling, hands the gleaming ropes;
While at the helm, appalled, the steersman scans
The reeling compass, or, despairing, sees
The shivered mast; or, in his eyes, receives
The searing flash, and rolls the extinguished orbs,
And wishes, but in vain, that once again
He could behold the horrors of the storm.
Even such a man I’ve seen by cottage fire,
Relating to the child, that on his knee
Played with his visage sorrowful, yet mild,
The wonders of the deep, while busy wheels
And distaffs stop, and every ear and eye
Drinks in the dreadful tale, and many a tear
Is shed by her whose truelove ploughs the main.
Then homebred histories but sport appear :–
Some tell how witches, circling mossy cairns,
Far o’er the heath, dance till the moon arise,
Or on the martyr’s stone their horrid feast
Set out, in dead men’s skulls for dishes ranged.
Perhaps the fairy gambols are the theme,–
How hand in hand, around the broomy knowe,
Beneath the silver moon, they featly trip;
Or, by some roofless mill, their revels hold
Upon the millstone lying on the green;
Or o’er the filmy ice (to their light steps
A floor of adamant) thrid through the dance,
With shadowy heel to heel reflected clear,–
Till, harsh, the tower-perched howlet screeched a note
Discordant with aerial minstrelsy,
Or o’er the moon a cloud begins to float,
Then, with the flying beam, before the shade,
In gleamy dance, they shoot o’er hill and dale.
Amid November’s gloom, a more serene
Will sometimes intervene, o’er cottage roof,
And grassy blade, spreading the hoarfrost bright,
That crackles crisp when marked by early foot;
But soon, beneath the sun-beam, melts away
The beauteous crustwork, leaving the blanched sward
Hung, as with dew-drops on a summer’s morn.
Alas, the impearled sward no summer tint
Displays; withered it lies, or faintly tinged
With sickly verdure, save by fountain brink,
Or margin of some slowly flowing rill:
There, through the Winter’s cold and Summer’s heat,
A vivid verdure winds, in contrast marked
With Nature’s faded charms, like fresh festoons
Of summer-flowers on waning Beauty’s brow.
In spots like these, the last of Autumn’s flowers
Droop, lingering; there the earliest snow-drop peeps.
Hence Irrigation’s power at first was learnt,
A custom ancient, yet but rarely used
In cold and watery climes; though even there
No mode of melioration has been found
Of more effect, or with more ease obtained.
Through various regions of Britannia’s isle,
In every field are found abundant means
Of irrigation: every brawling brook,
Or tinkling runnel, offers copious draughts
Of watery nutriment, the food of plants.
But only then ’tis useful, when the land
Is dry by nature, art, or seasons fair;
And chiefly when in herbage for the scythe,
Or browsing lip.
A free and porous soil
Upon a gravelly bed, at all times drinks,
Yet ne’er is quenched.– Who owns a soil like this,
If through his fields a little mountain-stream,
Not sunk in channel deep, but murmuring down
‘Tween gently-sloping banks, a mine of wealth
Possesses in that stream: A dam, half stone
Half turf, athwart he rears, then from each side,
Along his fields he slanting conduits draws,
Which, with a flow scarce visible, supply
The smaller branches, till o’er all his leas,
And meadows green, he, in a summer day,
Spreads the whole stream, leaving the channel bare,–
Save at some little pools, where, lurking, lie
The fearful trouts, that from the schoolboy’s hand
Seek refuge vain, ‘neath stones or shelving rock.
Nor is it only in the sultry months
He leads the freshening fertilizing lymph.
Even in this humid month he overflows
The withering grass, but soon again withdraws
The streams prolific: deep the verdure sprouts
In close luxuriance; daisies bud anew,
And to the sloping wintry beam half ope
Their crimson-tinted flow’rets, closing soon;
For soon they, shrinking, feel ’tis not the breath
Of early Spring, that woos them to unfold.
In grounds, by art laid dry, the aqueous bane
That marred the wholesome herbs, is turned to use;
And drains, while drawing noxious moisture off,
Serve also to diffuse a due supply.
Some soils of clay, obdurately compact,
Foil every effort of the draining art.
Deluged in weeping seasons, they retain
The falling floods; each furrow is a pool.
There irrigation serves no useful end,
Unless in summer drouths, and, at such times,
No land more needs the irrigating aid.
For clay, though ranked among the humid soils,
Is in itself the driest of them all:
The cloud-descended water it retains,
But yet excludes, and on the surface bears;
Which soon, as by the fervid summer beam
Exhaled, leaves the unmoistened soil to cling
Around each root, and yawn with many a cleft.
Some level fields, through all the winter months,
Are covered warmly with a watery sheet:
Here a rich sward upshoots of lively green,
Till stopt by contact with its icy roof;
And, when at last, upon a sunny morn,
While vernal breezes curl the smooth expanse,
The liquid veil withdraws,– a reeking mist
Mantles the plain, till Zephyr gently sweep
The rolling wreaths away, unfolding wide
A verdant carpet broider’d o’er with flowers.
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Based on Keywords: conduits, spiky, woodcock, porous, flails, nutriment, topmast, gleamy, snow-drop, screeched, phosphoric