The Winter’s Walk

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MARK'D--as the hours should be, Fate bids us spend
With one illustrious, or a cherish'd friend--
Rich in the value of that double claim,
Since Fame allots the friend a Poet's name,--
My "Winter's Walk" asserts its right to live
Amongst the brightest thoughts my life can give,
And leaves a track of light on Memory's way
Which oft shall gild the future Summer's day.

Gleam'd the red sun athwart the misty haze
Which veil'd the cold earth from its loving gaze,
Feeble and sad as Hope in Sorrow's hour,
But for THY soul it still had warmth and power;
Not to its cheerless beauty wert thou blind,
To the keen eye of thy poetic mind

Beauty still lives, tho' nature's flow'rets die,
And wintry sunsets fade along the sky!
And nought escaped thee as we stroll'd along,
Nor changeful ray, nor bird's faint chirping song;
Bless'd with a fancy easily inspired,
All was beheld, and nothing unadmired;
Not one of all God's blessings giv'n in vain,
From the dim city to the clouded plain.

And many an anecdote of other times,--
Good earnest deeds,--quaint wit,--and polished rhymes,--
Many a sweet story of remembered years
Which thrilled the listening heart with unshed tears,--
Unweariedly thy willing tongue rehearsed,
And made the hour seem brief as we conversed.

Ah! who can e'er forget, who once hath heard,
The gentle charm that dwells in every word
Of thy calm converse? In its kind allied
To some fair river's bright abundant tide,
Whose silver gushing current onward goes,
Fluent and varying; yet with such repose

As smiles even through the flashings of thy wit,
In every eddy that doth ruffle it.
Who can forget, who at thy social board
Hath sat,--and seen the pictures richly stored,
In all their tints of glory and of gloom,
Brightening the precincts of thy quiet room;
With busts and statues fall of that deep grace
Which modern hands have lost the skill to trace,
(Fragments of beauty--perfect as thy song
On that sweet land to which they did belong,)
Th' exact and classic taste bv thee displayed;
Not with a rich man's idle fond parade,
Not with the pomp of some vain connoisseur
Proud of his bargains, of his judgment sure,
But with the feelings kind and sad, of one
Who thro' far countries wandering hath gone,
And brought away dear keepsakes, to remind
His heart and home of all he left behind.

But wherefore these, in feeble rhyme recal?
Thy taste, thy wit, thy verse, are known to all;
Such things are for the World, and therefore doth
The World speak of them; loud, and nothing loth

To fancy that the talent stamped by Heaven
Is nought unless their echoed praise be given,
A worthless ore not yet allowed to shine,
A diamond darkly buried in its mine.
These are thy daylight qualities, whereon
Beams the full lustre of their garish sun,
And the keen point of many a famed reply
Is what they would not "willingly let die."
But by a holier light thy angel reads
The unseen records of more gentle deeds,--
And by a holier light thy angel sees
The tear oft shed for humble miseries,--
The alms dropp'd gently in the beggar's hand,
(Who in his daily poverty doth stand
Watching for kindness on thy pale calm brow,
Ignorant to whom he breathes his grateful vow).
Th' indulgent hour of kindness stol'n away
From the free leisure of thy well-spent day,
For some poor struggling Son of Genius, bent
Under the weight of heart-sick discontent;
Whose prayer thou hearest, mindful of the schemes
Of thine own youth;--the hopes, the fever-dreams
Of Fame and Glory which seemed hovering then,
(Nor only seemed) upon thy magic pen;

And measuring not how much beneath thine own
Is the sick mind thus pining to be known,
But only what a wealth of hope lies hushed
As in a grave,--when men like these are crushed!

And by that light's soft radiance I review
Thy unpretending kindness, calm and true,
Not to me only,--but in bitterest hours
To one whom Heaven endowed with varied powers;
To one who died, e'er yet my childish heart
Knew what Fame meant, or Slander's fabled dart!
Then was the laurel green upon his brow,
And they could flatter then, who judge him now;
Who, when the fickle breath of fortune changed,
With equal falsehood held their love estranged;
Nay, like mean wolves, from whelp-hood vainly nurst,
Tore at the easy hand that fed them first.
Not so didst THOU the ties of friendship break--
Not so didst THOU the saddened man forsake;
And when at length he laid his dying head
On the hard rest of his neglected bed,
He found,--(tho' few or none around him came
Whom he had toiled for in his hour of Fame;--

Though by his Prince, unroyally forgot,
And left to struggle with his altered lot;--)
By sorrow weakened,--by disease unnerved,--
Faithful at least the friend he had not served:
For the same voice essayed that hour to cheer,
Which now sounds welcome to his grandchild's ear;
And the same hand, to aid that Life's decline,
Whose gentle clasp so late was linked in mine!

© Caroline Norton