The Recluse

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A fountain issuing into light
Before a marble palace, threw
To heaven its column, pure and bright,
Returning thence in showers of dew;
But soon a humbler course it took,
And glide away a nameless brook.

Flowers on its grassy margin sprang,
Flies o'er its eddying surface play'd,
Birds 'midst the alder-branches sang,
Flocks through the verdant meadows stray'd;
The weary there lay down to rest,
And there the halcyon built her nest.

'Twas beautiful to stand and watch
The fountain's crystal turn to gems,
And from the sky such colours catch
As if 'twere raining diadems;
Yet all was cold and curious art,
That charm'd the eye, but miss'd the heart.

Dearer to me the little stream
Whose unimprison'd waters run,
Wild as the changes of a dream,
By rock and glen, through shade and sun.
Its lovely links had power to bind
In welcome chains my wandering mind.

So thought I when I saw the face
By happy portraiture reveal'd
Of one adorn'd with every grace,
Her name and date from me conceal'd,
But not her story; she had been
The pride of many a splendid scene.

She cast her glory round a court,
And frolick'd in the gayest ring,
Where fashion's high-born minions sport
Like sparkling fire-flies on the wing;
But thence when love had touch'd her soul,
To nature and to truth she stole.

From din, and pageantry, and strife,
'Midst woods and mountains, vales and plains,
She treads the paths of lowly life,
Yet in a bosom-circle reigns,
No fountain scattering diamond-showers,
But the sweet streamlet watering flowers.

© James Montgomery