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XXI

MARY-ANN'S CHILD
Mary-Ann was alone with her baby in arms,

In her house with the trees overhead,
For her husband was out in the night and the storms,

In his business a-toiling for bread ;
And she, as the wind in the elm-heads did roar,
Did grieve to think he was all night out of door.

And her kinsfolk and neighbours did say of her child

(Under the lofty elm-tree), That a prettier never did babble and smile

Up a-top of a proud mother's knee ; And his mother did toss him, and kiss him, and call Him her darling, and life, and her hope and her all.

But she found in the evening the child was not well

(Under the gloomy elm-tree), And she felt she could give all the world for to tell

Of a truth what his ailing could be ; And she thought on him last in her prayers at night, And she look'd at him last as she put out the light.

And she found him grow worse in the dead of the

night (Under the gloomy elm-tree), And she press'd him against her warm bosom so

tight, And she rock'd him so sorrowfully ; And there, in his anguish, a-nestling he lay, Till his struggles grew weak, and his cries died

away.

And the moon was a-shining down into the place

(Under the gloomy elm-tree), And his mother could see that his lips and his

face Were as white as clean ashes could be ; And her tongue was a-tied, and her still heart did

swell Till her senses came back with the first tear that

fell.

Never more can she feel his warm face in her

breast (Under the leafy elm-tree), For his eyes are a-shut, and his hands are at

rest, And he's now from his pain a-set free; For his soul we do know is to heaven a-fled, Where no pain is a-known, and no tears are a-shed.

W. Barnes

XXII

THE USEFUL PLOUGH

A country life is sweet !
In moderate cold and heat,

To walk in the air, how pleasant and fair,
In every field of wheat,

The fairest of flowers adorning the bowers, And every meadow's brow;

So that I say, no courtier may

Compare with them who clothe in grey, And follow the useful plough.

They rise with the morning lark,
And labour till almost dark;

Then folding their sheep, they hasten to sleep;
While every pleasant park
Next morning is ringing with birds that are

singing,
On each green, tender bough.

With what content and merriment,
Their days are spent, whose minds are bent
To follow the useful plough !

Old Song

XXIII

A WREN'S NEST

Among the dwellings framed by birds

In field or forest with nice care,
Is none that with the little wren's

In snugness may compare.
No door the tenement requires,

And seldom needs a laboured roof;
Yet is it to the fiercest sun

Impervious, and storm-proof.

So warm, so beautiful withal,

In perfect fitness for its aim,
That to the Kind, by special grace,

Their instinct surely came.
And when for their abodes they seek

An opportune recess,
The hermit has no finer eye

For shadowy quietness.

These find, 'mid ivied abbey walls,

A canopy in some still nook ; Others are pent-housed by a brae

That overhangs a brook.

There to the brooding bird her mate

Warbles by fits his low clear song ; And by the busy streamlet both

Are sung to all day long.

Or in sequestered lanes they build,

Where, till the flitting bird's return, Her eggs within the nest repose,

Like relics in an urn.

But still, where general choice is good,

There is a better and a best ; And, among fairest objects, some

Are fairer than the rest.

This, one of those small builders proved

In a green covert, where from out The forehead of a pollard oak

The leafy antlers sprout ;

For she who planned the mossy lodge,
Mistrusting her evasive skill

, Had to a primrose looked for aid,

Her wishes to fulfil.

High on the trunk's projecting brow,

And fixed an infant's span above The budding flowers, peeped forth the nest, The prettiest of the grove !

D

The treasure proudly did I show

To some whose minds without disdain Can turn to little things ; but once

Looked up for it in vain :

'Tis gone-a ruthless spoiler's prey,

Who heeds not beauty, love, or song, 'Tis gone! (so seemed it) and we grieved,

Indignant at the wrong.

Just three days after, passing by

In clearer light, the moss-built cell I saw, espied its shaded mouth ;

And felt that all was well.

The primrose for a veil had spread

The largest of her upright leaves ; And thus, for purposes benign,

A simple flower deceives.

Concealed from friends who might disturb

Thy quiet with no ill intent, Secure from evil eyes and hands

On barbarous plunder bent,

Rest, mother-bird ! and when thy young

Take flight, and thou art free to roam, When withered is the guardian flower,

And empty thy late home,
Think how ye prospered, thou and thine,

Amid the unviolated grove,
Housed near the growing primrose tuft
In foresight, or in love.

W. Wordsworth

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