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“Temptation lurks among your words ;
But, while these pleasures you ’re pursuing
Without impediment or let,
No wonder if you quite forget
What on the Earth is doing.
“ There was a time when all mankind
Did listen with a faith sincere
To tuneful tongues in mystery versed :
Then Poets fearlessly rehearsed
The wonders of a wild career.
“Go, — (but the world's a sleepy world,
And ’t is, I fear, an age too late,)—
Take with you some ambitious Youth!
For, restless Wanderer ! I, in truth,
Am all unfit to be your mate.
“ Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers ;
The common growth of Mother Earth
Suffices me, — her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.
“ The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power.
“ These given, what more need I desire
To stir, to soothe, or elevate ?
What nobler marvels than the mind
May in life's daily prospect find,
May find or there create ?
“ A potent wand doth Sorrow wield; What spell so strong as guilty Fear! Repentance is a tender Sprite; If aught on earth have heavenly might "T is lodged within her silent tear.
“ But grant my wishes, — let us now
Descend from this ethereal height;
Then take thy way, adventurous Skiff,
More daring far than Hippogriff,
And be thy own delight!
“ To the stone-table in my garden,
Loved haunt of many a summer hour,
The Squire is come: his daughter Bess
Beside him in the cool recess
Sits blooming like a flower.
“ With these are many more convened ;
They know not I have been so far; -
I see them there, in number nine,
Beneath the spreading Weymouth pine !
I see them, - there they are !
“There sits the Vicar and his Dame ;
And there my good friend, Stephen Otter;
And, ere the light of evening fail,
To them I must relate the Tale
Of Peter Bell the Potter."
Off flew the Boat, -away she flees,
Spurning her freight with indignation !
And I, as well as I was able,
On two poor legs, toward my stone table
Limped on with sore vexation.
“O, here he is !” cried little Bess, –
She saw me at the garden door ;
“ We've waited anxiously and long,"
They cried, and all around me throng,
Full nine of them or more !
“ Reproach me not, your fears be still,
Be thankful we again have met ; —
Resume, my Friends! within the shade
Your seats, and quickly shall be paid
The well-remembered debt.”
I spake with faltering voice, like one
Not wholly rescued from the pale
Of a wild dream, or worse illusion;
But, straight, to cover my confusion,
Began the promised Tale,
All by the moonlight river-side
Groaned the poor Beast, — alas ! in vain ;
The staff was raised to loftier height,
And the blows fell with heavier weight
As Peter struck, and struck again.
“ Hold !” cried the Squire, “against the rules
Of common sense you're surely sinning :
This leap is for us all too bold ;
Who Peter was, let that be told,
And start from the beginning."
- "A Potter,* Sir, he was by trade," Said I, becoming quite collected ; “ And wheresoever he appeared, Full twenty times was Peter feared For once that Peter was respected.
“ He two-and-thirty years or more
Had been a wild and woodland rover;
Had heard the Atlantic surges roar
On farthest Cornwall's rocky shore,
And trod the cliffs of Dover.
“ And he had seen Caernarvon's towers, And well he knew the spire of Sarum ;
And he had been where Lincoln bell
Flings o'er the fen that ponderous knell,
A far-renowned alarum.
“ At Doncaster, at York, and Leeds,
And merry Carlisle, had he been ;
And all along the Lowlands fair,
All through the bonny shire of Ayr;
And far as Aberdeen.
“ And he had been at Inverness ;
And Peter, by the mountain rills,
Had danced his round with Highland lasses;
And he had lain beside his asses
On lofty Cheviot Hills :
“ And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding scars;
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars :
“ And all along the indented coast,
Bespattered with the salt-sea foam ;
Where'er a knot of houses lay,
On headland, or in hollow bay; —
Sure never man like him did roam !
“ As well might Peter in the Fleet
Have been fast bound, a begging debtor;