Faringdon Hill. Book I

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A Poem In Two Books

Now with meridian force the orb of day
Pours on our throbbing heads his sultry ray;
O'er the wide concave of the blue serene
No fleecy cloud or vapory mist is seen;
The panting flocks and herds, at ease reclin'd,
Catch the faint eddies of the flitting wind;
To silence hush'd is every rural sound;
And noontide spreads a solemn stillness round
Alike our languid limbs would now forsake
The open meadow, and the tangled brake;
Here Sol intensely glows, and there the trees
Mix their thick foliage, and exclude the breeze.—
Come let us quit these scenes, and climb yon brow,
Yon airy summit where the Zephyrs blow;
While waving o'er our heads the welcome shade,
Shuts out the sunbeams from the upland glade:
No steep ascent we scale with feverish toil,
No rocks alarm us, and no mountains foil;
But as we gently tread the rising green,
Large, and more large extends the spacious scene;
Till on the verdant top our labour crown'd,
The wide Horizon is our only bound.

What various objects scatter'd round us lie,
And charm on every side the curious eye!—
Amidst such ample stores, how shall the Muse
Know where to turn her sight, and which to choose?—

Here lofty mountains lift their azure heads;
There it's green lap the grassy meadow spreads;
Enclosures here the sylvan scene divide;
There plains extended spread their harvests wide;
Here oaks, their mossy limbs wide stretching, meet
And form impervious thickets at our feet;
Through aromatic heaps of ripening hay,
There silver Isis wins her winding way;
And many a tower, and many a spire between,
Shoots from the groves, and cheers the rural scene.

Still as I look, fresh objects seem to rise;
And lovelier pictures strike my raptur'd eyes,
As young remembrance paints each sylvan glade,
Where full of glee my careless childhood stray'd.
Though other hills perhaps as large a field
To warm description's fairy powers may yield,
As rich a prospect to the sight display,
O'er meads as verdant, and o'er plains as gay;
Yet, when in Memory's fond mirror shewn,
The country smiles with beauties not it's own;
Her fair reflection new delight supplies,
And every floweret blooms with deeper dyes;
The landscape seems to brighten while I gaze,
And Phoebus shines with more than summer rays;
O'er the high woods a livelier verdure reigns,
And more luxuriant harvests deck the plains;
Even when fell winter spreads his mantle drear,
And big with snow descends the inclement year,
Let but her glass reflect the dismal view,
The wither'd trees their wonted charms renew;
The feather'd tribes resume their chearing lay,
And spring her odors, and his beams the day;
December yields to April's milder power,
And vernal blossoms grace the wintry hour.

O sacred Nature! Nymph divinely bright!
Unfold thy various prospects to my sight;
With thee o'er breezy uplands let me rove,
Or tread the devious labyrinth of the grove;
When from the east the glorious orb of day
Shoots o'er the burnish'd cliff his golden ray,
When splendid in meridian light array'd,
His piercing beams the woodland gloom pervade;
When wrap'd in misty evening's sober reign
The increasing darkness steals across the plain;
When o'er the dusky stole of silent night
The Delian Goddess throws her silver light;
When gently o'er the flower-empurpled vale
The vernal Zephyrs breathe a genial gale;
When, as fierce Summer's sultry beams descend,
With blushing fruit the loaded branches bend;
When Autumn crowns the hills with waving corn,
And pours profusion from his twisted horn;
While deepening shade on shade the woods are seen,
From the full crimson to the faded green;
Or when, it's leafy honors swept away,
The scatter'd forest yields to winter's sway;
When the cascade, by icy fetters tied,
Must cease to murmur, and the stream to glide;
While blows the storm, or falls the chilling rain,
Or fleecy snows o'erspread the whiten'd plain;
In every hour and season let me trace,
Enchanting Nature! thy transcendant grace;
With eager eyes thy lovely form survey,
And bless with grateful voice thy boundless sway.
Happy the youth! on whose high honor'd head
The sacred Nine their fostering influence shed,
Though they refuse the lasting wreath, whose bloom
Shall grace his living brow, and deck his tomb;
For the fresh laurel give a sickly flower,
Boast of a day, and glory of an hour;
Yet taught by them his ravish'd eyes explore
The choicest objects of thy charming store:
For him their strains the sylvan warblers breathe,
For him fair Maia twines her flowery wreath;
Fragrant for him the morning breezes blow,
The poplar trembles, and the fountains flow;
Thy various beauties strike his raptur'd breast,
And Nature doubly charms by Fancy dress'd.

Enough has Fancy, frantic with delight,
O'er the gay region stretch'd her vagrant flight;
Let sage Experience now of brow severe
Arrest her soaring in her bold career:
Nor thou, historic Truth, thy aid refuse,
But join the labors of the rural Muse;
With friendly care the pleasing toil divide,
That while she paints the blooming landscape's pride,
Thy voice each storied relick may explain,
And tell the former fortunes of the plain.

First to the north direct your roving eyes,
Where fair Oxonia's verdant hills arise;
There Burford's downs invite the healthful chace,
Or urge the emulous coursers to the race;
While as with agile limbs the ascent they scale,
Rush down the steep, or sweep across the vale,
Exulting Hope, by turns, and chilling Fear
In the pale cheek and eager eye appear;
Each generous fire in every heart is lost,
By fortune favor'd, or by fortune cross'd;
Flies every Virtue, withers every Grace,
And all the selfish Passions take their place.

Emerging from the thicket's bosom, there
See Bamptom's pointed steeple rise in air:
To farther distance now the prospect drawn,
Lo Witney's spire diversifies the lawn!
Whose busy loom to balmy sleep supplies
A guard from wintry cold and freezing skies:
There Whichwood's oaks thick-waving o'er the glade
Yield to the salvage tribe an ample shade:
And in the horizon faintly ting'd with blue
Thy woods, imperial Blenheim! close the view,
Nature between one verdant carpet spreads
Of fruitful pastures and enamel'd meads;
Whose bending reeds, and osier'd banks among,
Fair Isis rolls her virgin waves along;
Her horn while Plenty pours on every side,
And Pales revels where her waters glide.

Hail, lovely Isis! dear parental stream!
The pride of Commerce, and the Poet's theme:
Though, vain of borrow'd pomp, imperious Thame,
Deck'd with the praise which ought to wait thy name,
Triumphant pours his swelling waves along,
Hail'd by the bard, and dignified in song;
Thy silver urn the affluent tide bestows,
And from thy source the plenteous current flows:
Such is the fate that female honors find,
When to a mate unequal fondly join'd.
O had thy stream! like Arethuse of old,
It's virgin waters unpolluted roll'd,
Old Thame through humble vales had pass'd alone,
Sung by no bard, unnoticed, and unknown;
While thine had been confess'd the unrival'd pride,
To waft in commerce with each rising tide,
With foreign spoils Augusta's walls to greet,
And lay the nations tribute at her feet:
Thine been the boast to flow, with current clear,
Through meads to British Freedom ever dear,
Where the bold Barons in a happy hour
Wrested her charter from a tyrant's power;
While grateful bards contended to rehearse
Thy virgin glories in no vulgar verse:
For long as Windsor rais'd her sylvan shade
Or Cooper's swelling hill o'erlook'd the glade,
Sacred to fame thy stream had flow'd along,
In Pope's soft lays, or Denham's sounding song.
Then as thy lucid current gently stray'd
Through fair Etona's academic shade;
While by thy side his silver Lyre he strung,
Gray to thy wave his dulcet notes had sung:
And many a bard in Granta's vale who strays,
And tunes to hoary Cam his votive lays,
Whose youthful Fancy and Invention new
Cull'd the fresh flowers that on thy borders grew,
Had join'd to celebrate thy classic fame,
And half his tribute paid to Isis' name.

And lo! where heathy Cumner's envious height
Hides all thy letter'd triumph from my sight!
Where 'midst fair Rhedicina's gothic towers,
Her hallow'd cloisters, and Pierian bowers,
Isis her silver urn inclines, and views
The votive wreath of every grateful Muse.
No rivulet there from thee their tribute draws,
Usurps thy fame, or shares their just applause:
But gentle Cherwell hears with joy their lays,
And loves the strain that chants a sister's praise;
Pleas'd if the Muse, to grace her head, bestows
One roseate flower that on thy Margin blows.
Nor shall thy reeds in future times complain
Of slighted worth and Thame's usurp'd domain;
That his too favor'd stream with princely waves
The crowded walls of proud Augusta laves;
The votive verse that Pope and Denham raise,
And breathe to him the swelling note of praise;
For him that Gray the strain unequal'd frames,
And sings the moral ode to hoary Thames;
Since fair Oxonia's polish'd sons unite
To vindicate thy classic current's right;
Since every Muse to thee consigns her lays,
And every Science on thy border strays;
And every Grace, and every Art, whose powers
In symmetry have rais'd her dædal towers,
To listening crowds thy parent worth proclaim,
And found their pride on thy maternal name.

Ere yet such scenes of pomp thy channel knows,
While humbly here thy lingering water flows;
While yet thy virgin waves obscurely glide,
Sung by no Muse, nor boast a classic tide;
Say wilt thou here incline thy urn, to heed
The inglorious warbling of my Doric reed?
Though here no city spread her various stores,
No costly villas crown thy peopled shores;
Yet every charm of Peace's rural reign
Attends thy progress through each smiling plain.
The flocks and herds here crowd thy rushy brink,
Graze on thy sides or from thy bosom drink;
And every herb, and every flower that blows
On the green margin where thy current flows;
If a luxuriant bloom they justly boast,
Beyond the produce of another coast;
As in thy glassy wave their charms they see,
Shall own they owe each vivid tint to thee.

Yet glittering spears have here been whilom seen,
And purple war has stain'd thy osiers green;
Here hostile swords have shed a horrid gleam,
And floating corses chok'd thy frighted stream;
While Civil Discord drove with hideous roar
The trembling Naiads from thy widow'd shore.
Ah! ne'er may arms again thy seats invade,
Or shouts of war disturb thy hallow'd shade;
But heaven-born Peace with Plenty in her train
Fix on thy sedgy banks her halcyon reign.

Here too, more fell than war's destructive race,
Has Superstition shewn her gorgon face:
Here where thy chearing stream with gentle waves
These fertile meads and verdant pastures laves,
Where now unwearied Industry resides,
And Toil exulting tills thy fruitful sides;
For Liberty protects the happy swains,
And Property secures what labor gains;
Erst the rich soil, though cultur'd, useless lay,
To monkish ease and luxury a prey,
While distant abbeys with thy wealth were stor'd,
The British subjects of an alien lord.
When bigot John, despotic power to gain,
Found open force and treacherous cunning vain;
His daring nobles fir'd by virtuous pride
His arts eluded, and his force defied;
With Rome's anathemas he arm'd his hand,
And papal thunders shook the trembling land;
Thirsting for lawless sway, he stoop'd to own
His crown dependant on a foreign throne;
To foreign lords ignoble homage gave,
To reign at home a tyrant and a slave.
'Twas then the ravenous monks, a sordid crew,
O'er all the wasted land like locusts flew;
Each rich demesne that to the crown remain'd,
By right, by forfeiture, or conquest gain'd,
Was given to gratify the Church's pride,
And bribe the holy cohorts to his side.
Even 'mid those scenes of devastation wild,
Where William's power the fertile district spoil'd,
The gazing pilgrim saw with strange surprize
Aspiring structures 'midst the desert rise;
And where no trace of man's abode was seen,
No noise disturb'd the tenants of the green,
Save the seas breaking o'er the sounding shore,
Or the faint dashing of the distant oar;
There haughty Beaulieu's gothic arches bend,
And high in air her glittering spires ascend;
While the wild forest's hairy sons around
Start at the unusual anthem's swelling sound.
These fruitful plains, in that unhappy hour
Of papal sway and sacerdotal power,
Were doom'd the new-rais'd abbey to maintain,
And distant Beaulieu rul'd the fair domain.
The famish'd swain beheld with mournful eye
The verdant meadows round him useless lie;
While pamper'd ignorance and priestly pride
The rich productions of the land divide;
Till Henry's haughty soul the bondage broke,
Redeem'd the nation from the servile yoke,
And suffer'd active Industry once more
To dwell, fair Isis! by thy happy shore:
Hence as these blooming fields, (thus heaven decreed,)
A tyrant shackled, so a tyrant freed.

Yet now, as thro' the abbey's mouldering dome
The Muses oft with wandering footsteps roam,
And, while with silver radiance Luna's beam
Shoots through the lengthening isles a trembling gleam,
As pensive Meditation points the way,
By ruin'd piles and nodding towers they stray:
See o'er the impending arch the ivy spread,
And gothic pillars threat the passer's head,
Struck with the awful scene, the astonish'd train
Bewail the fall of Superstition's reign.
Hence many a bard has o'er the ruins hung,
And mourn'd the devastation as he sung;
Has Error's fate in plaintive verse deplor'd,
And wept the day that Reason's rights restor'd.

As bending upward near her scanty source
We backward trace the river's narrowing course,
Her pointed spire see Lechlade proudly rears!
And lowly Cricklade on her banks appears;
Cricklade, where first, when Grecia's letter'd train,
By Slavery exil'd from their native plain,
To fair Hesperia's vales their science bore,
To Gallia's fields, and Albion's distant shore;
Those strains Ilissus' stream was wont to hear
Were pour'd, O Isis, on thy raptur'd ear:
While Grecia's Muse, around whose matron brow
Had twin'd the Athenian olive's fruitful bough,
Forc'd by the rage of Mahomet's savage host
To quit with lingering step Byzantium's coast;
Her drooping forehead with thy osiers bound,
And on thy brink a new Lyceum found;
Till woo'd by princely gifts, these peaceful bowers
She left for Granta's and Oxonia's towers.
And here thy waves, by learning now unknown,
To busy Commerce sacred flow alone,
Where first the loaded raft, and cumberous barge,
Trust to thy placid breast their weighty charge.

Ah, Isis! can the Muse forget that hand,
Whose wanton cruelty thy ruin plann'd?
Or not forgetting, from resentment free,
Recall the hours that threaten'd fate to thee?—
When vain projectors doom'd thy stream to flow
Through meads, neglected, lingering, sad, and slow;
Till the o'er-loaded wave should scarcely force
Through gathering sand, and sedge, it's laboring course;
While in thy stead their plastic power should guide
The stagnate lake by wintry rains supplied.
Perish such schemes! nor by their use be lost
The noblest river, Britain's Isle can boast!—
Let channels, form'd by art, be ever led
Where no fair current wears a native bed;
Then through the obstructing hill, and o'er the vale,
Like Egerton conduct the swelling sail:
Even Isis shall applaud, if from her source,
To where Sabrina pours her amber course,
They bid the smooth canal it's length display,
And feed with copious springs the tedious way:
Till the fraught barge the extended line explores
From Bristol's crowded wharf to London's princely shores.

More westward when we cast our wandering eyes,
Level as ocean's bed the champaign lies:
While, like some promontory's rugged brow,
Proud Badbury's height o'erlooks the plain below,
Where, in yon Saxon camp, the mill its sails
Spreads to the wind, and courts the rising gales.
Beneath how open lies the spacious scene!
No lofty mountains envious intervene;
But o'er the extended lawns our fancies stray,
Till lost in hazy mists they fade away;
By faint degrees the distant prospect dies,
And the blue landscape melts into the skies.

Where gently Cole's pellucid waters glide,
Here Fairford rears her tower with conscious pride;
Whose windows, with historic painting dight,
Attract the curious traveller's wondering sight:
And there, conspicuous 'mid the lawny glade,
Fair Cirencester spreads her ample shade.
Hail happy seat! whose twilight glooms among
Full many a bard has rais'd the tuneful song.
Grows not an oak his hundred arms who spreads
O'er the gay verdure of thy fruitful meads;
Sighs not a grotto to thy murmuring gales,
Nor flows a fountain through thy winding vales,
But seems a classic influence to diffuse,
To Science dear, and haunted by the Muse:
Who oft as morning pours her misty ray,
Or fades the glimmering beam of parting day,
Explores each nodding grove, and every plain,
Sacred to her and all her favorite train.
These scenes could Addison's chaste notes inspire;
Here Pope harmonious struck his silver lyre;
Caught 'midst these solemn shades the glorious plan,
"To vindicate the ways of God to man."
Arbuthnot here, and Swift, with useful art,
Rear'd Satire's dreaded scourge, or steel'd her dart:
Here Prior the Graces form'd thy softer lay
And taught the moral strain to blameless Gay;
Each pleas'd the Master's praises to engage,
The famed Mæcenas of that happier age.

After such bards, O Bathurst, wilt thou deign
To mark the notes of my inglorious strain?
Shall I presume in these degenerate days
To form one humble verse to Bathurst's praise?
Yes, thou wilt deign my artless notes to hear,
Wilt to my strain inglorious bend thine ear;
And as thy patronage, with noontide ray,
Bade to full vigor shoot the verdant bay,
Taught it the storms of Envy to deride,
And spread it's waving boughs with summer pride;
So thy declining beam with milder power
Shall shed it's influence on the autumnal flower.

O blest old man! on thy thrice happy head
Her choicest gifts has smiling Fortune shed;
Has been for once from taste capricious free,
And true to virtue's cause in favoring thee.
As Anna's hand around thy youthful brow
Thy country's fairest honors taught to grow;
So now, while Justice bids exulting Fame
Tell to succeeding times her Apsley's name,
Marking the source from whence his merit flows,
A fresher wreath thy grateful Prince bestows.
Meantime, disarm'd of all his hostile rage,
Lenient on thee descends the weight of Age;
While still thy soul preserves her wonted power,
To charm the letter'd or the social hour:
No sharp Disease attends his gentle reign,
Nor palsied Indolence nor wasting Pain,
But healthful through the woods thy footsteps stray,
Where thy own oaks their gloomy shade display:
For to thy lot of all mankind is given
That joy peculiar by indulgent heaven,
To see, while round the barbarous hand of taste
Deforms the grove, and lays the forest waste,
O'er each uncultur'd hill, and barren glade,
Thy rising thickets spread unusual shade,
And, in their full luxuriance dress'd, display
Their waving foliage to the face of day.

May thy example Britain's lords inspire!
O may they catch from thee the patriot fire!
Then shall the Dryads, and their sprightly train,
Rove o'er the extent of many a barren plain:
O'er the bleak waste, where dreary heath and skies
Fatigue the sight, the forest then should rise;
Again on Windsor's heights the woods be seen,
And all her sable hills be cloth'd with green;
Her russet mountains send their oaks once more
To waft destruction to some hostile shore.

What tho' Britannia's plains manur'd with care
Refuse the plants of every soil to bear;
What though no olive grow among her vales,
No citron groves perfume her balmy gales;
Though India's spicy forests are denied,
Nor spreads Judea's palm her leafy pride;
Yet her thick woods unnumber'd trees produce,
Sacred at once to ornament and use.
With verdant beech her towering hills are spread,
And Scotia's pine erects her gloomy head;
The shapely fir, that graced Olympus'  brow,
Deigns o'er her heights to wave her silver bough;
And, holy Lebanon, thy cedars rise,
Hang o'er her cliffs, nor dread her northern skies;
The elm, and pliant ash, a vigorous train,
Deck with resplendent green the smiling plain;
The bending willow o'er the marshy glade
And shining poplar shed a trembling shade;
And many a hardy plant is wafted o'er,
To grace her forests from the Atlantic shore,
Whose branches, rising from the kindred soil,
Mix with her trees, and pay the planter's toil.
Here too, matur'd by many rolling years,
Above the rest her native oak appears;
Whose giant limbs extend her noblest boast,
Pride of her groves, and bulwark of her coast.

Sure when the Druid train with awful rite
In pious orgies past the dreary night;
While, as their steps the hallow'd trunk surround,
The mystic misletoe their foreheads bound;
They meant to teach their sons succeeding race,
To venerate the groves that deck'd the place.
O ever on Britannia's grateful breast,
Unhurt by time, this image be impress'd!
Still may her heart that sacred tree adore,
Which drives Invasion from her peaceful shore:
So shall each storm of war, whose fatal sway
Speeds o'er her neighbouring realms it's bloody way,
Break like the baffled storm against her coast,
It's force unheeded, and it's fury lost;
As her own oak defies the headlong course
Of warring winds, and mocks the tempest's force.

Nor does fair Albion view with envious eye
The ripe productions of a southern sky.
Let the rich vineyard spread it's purple stores
O'er Gallia's coasts, and Lusitania's shores;
Where with hard hands the tawny peasants press
The swelling grape, a foreign board to bless:
Though 'neath our rougher heaven the docile vine
Around the lofty elm refuse to twine,
Yet has Pomona with no niggard hand
Her blushing orchards scatter'd o'er the land;
Whose ruddy fruits a generous stream produce
Strong as the cluster'd grape's inspiring juice.
Our humble vales the hop's green tendrils grace,
Clasping their stays in many a close embrace;
These to the bearded barley's harvest join'd,
By skill concocted, and with care refin'd,
A liquor yield, that Britain's sons draw forth
Mantling, and bright, the vintage of the north!
Which crowns the humble and the haughty board,
And chears alike the Peasant and the Lord;
Regales o'erwearied Labor at his toil,
And teaches fainting Industry to smile.
The thankful swain beholds the goblet shine,
Nor envies other lands their rosy wine,
Where slavish hinds with skilful hands prepare
The luscious beverage, which they must not share.
Refresh'd with this, Britannia's sons sustain
The keenest labors of the toilsome plain;
Nor, when the hours of work are past, employ
The vacant eve in gay luxurious joy,
Trill the loose air, or beat the echoing ground
To the soft flute, or tabor's sprightly sound;
But with knit limbs on rougher pastime bent,
They strain their sinews to their full extent;
Direct the quoit, or hurl the massy bar,
Or wage with brawny arms the sportive war.
In other realms, to humble swains unknown,
While Honor fires Nobility alone,
Our meanest Peasants share the generous flame,
And learn to glow at Freedom's hallow'd name;
Hence have they, led by Glory's call afar,
With hosts unnumber'd wag'd the unequal war;
Hence Cressy's field, Poitier's victorious fray;
Hence glorious Agincourt, thy wonderous day!
Hence Europe sav'd near Danube's distant flood;
And Blenheim's ramparts red with Gallic blood!
And hence those manly deeds renew'd again
On Abraham's heights, and Minden's trophied plain.

O ne'er may fell Corruption's tainting force
Poison of all our pride this happy source!
To false Refinement with destructive pains
Polish the manly roughness of our swains!
Exil'd from other realms, while here alone
Fair Liberty erects her holy throne,
The exulting train, her glorious gifts who share,
Will scorn of foreign crowds the suppliant air:
Who sees our clowns obsequious, sees the day
That gives our Glory and our Rights away.
In vain would laws guard Freedom's sacred shrine,
If Freedom's sons their native worth resign;
In vain shall Fraud attempt, or Force alarm,
While Valor steels the breast, and Labor nerves the arm.

© Henry James Pye