There is a Hill

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  There is a hill beside the silver Thames,
  Shady with birch and beech and odorous pine
  And brilliant underfoot with thousand gems
  Steeply the thickets to his floods decline.
  Straight trees in every place
  Their thick tops interlace,
  And pendent branches trail their foliage fine
  Upon his watery face.

  Swift from the sweltering pasturage he flows:
  His stream, alert to seek the pleasant shade,
  Pictures his gentle purpose, as he goes
  Straight to the caverned pool his toil has made.
  His winter floods lay bare
  The stout roots in the air:
  His summer streams are cool, when they have played
  Among their fibrous hair.

  A rushy island guards the sacred bower,
  And hides it from the meadow, where in peace
  The lazy cows wrench many a scented flower,
  Robbing the golden market of the bees:
  And laden barges float
  By banks of myosote;
  And scented flag and golden flower-de-lys
  Delay the loitering boat.

  And on this side the island, where the pool
  Eddies away, are tangled mass on mass
  The water-weeds, that net the fishes cool,
  And scarce allow a narrow stream to pass;
  Where spreading crowfoot mars
  The drowning nenuphars,
  Waving the tassels of her silken grass
  Below her silver stars.

  But in the purple pool there nothing grows,
  Not the white water-lily spoked with gold;

  Though best she loves the hollows, and well knows
  On quiet streams her broad shields to unfold:
  Yet should her roots but try
  Within these deeps to lie,
  Not her long-reaching stalk could ever hold
  Her waxen head so high.

  Sometimes an angler comes, and drops his hook
  Within its hidden depths, and 'gainst a tree
  Leaning his rod, reads in some pleasant book,
  Forgetting soon his pride of fishery;
  And dreams, or falls asleep,
  While curious fishes peep
  About his nibbled bait, or scornfully
  Dart off and rise and leap.

  And sometimes a slow figure 'neath the trees,
  In ancient-fashioned smock, with tottering care
  Upon a staff propping his weary knees.
  May by the pathway of the forest fare:
  As from a buried day
  Across the mind will stray
  Some perishing mute shadow,--and unaware
  He passeth on his way.

  Else, he that wishes solitude is safe,
  Whether he bathe at morning in the stream:
  Or lead his love there when the hot hours chafe
  The meadows, busy with a blurring steam;
  Or watch, as fades the light,
  The gibbous moon grow bright,
  Until her magic rays dance in a dream,
  And glorify the night.

  Where is this bower beside the silver Thames?
  O pool and flowery thickets, hear my vow!
  O trees of freshest foliage and straight stems,
  No sharer of my secret I allow:
  Lest ere I come the while
  Strange feet your shades defile;
  Or lest the burly oarsman turn his prow
  Within your guardian isle.

© Robert Seymour Bridges