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Anna Jane Vardill

A Walk to Ilkley

Come then, this summer-walk shall show
Life’s journey thro’ our world below:
First in this valley, hollowed far
Below the ancient house of war,
Gaily we tread the hawthorn lane,
Our busy school-dames green domain:
On leaf and flow’r the dews are bright,
The sun sits on the mountain’s height,
And while his ruby gates unfold,
The mists dissolve to floating gold.
O! now around the rich expanse
How swiftly flies the joyous glance,
Thro’ hedge and copse to catch the beam
That lingers on the lurking stream,
While the glad hum or smoky haze
The village on its bank betrays.
So smiles the landscape when we roam
First from the household gods of Home!—
 Now steeper grows the path, and now
We look beyond the mountain’s brow,
Where clouds of dappled silver hide
Its dizzy brink and chasms wide;
But all is beauteous here—the stream
Trills like the music of a dream:
Now spreading smooth and bright and deep,
It pauses in its pomp to sleep,
And on its bank with head repos’d
On flow’rs that noon-tide heat has clos’d,
While the hush’d woodland whispers calm,
And all is life and light and balm,
Youth snatches one sweet hour from Time,
Then hastes the highest steep to climb.
 But it is distant still—between
Lie yet some spots of dewy green:
The devious paths obscurely wind,
Leaving the gentle stream behind—
Like faithless Hope, it follows near,
The pilgrim on his toil to cheer;
Beyond the wild—below the hill
He sees it sparkling—distant still,
And when the last frail bridge is cross’d,
It sinks, in sordid channels lost.
 Now what remains?—Yon lonely crag,
That cowering like a blighted hag,
Brown, bare, and desolate in age,
Concludes our brief day’s pilgrimage!
A few with years and anguish bent,
Toil slowly up the drear ascent;
A few their weary task fulfill;
Alas! a petrifying rill[1]
Is all they find—as legends tell,
Truth hidden lies in such a well,
And thus life’s summer day we waste,
Experience!—thy cold cup to taste.
 Yet pure and deep, tho’ cold and calm,
It yields a health-restoring balm:
And pausing on the toilsome height,
Ere the dim evening sinks to night,
We turn, and sighing, view the road
That led us to our last abode.
All that in noontide seem’d so fair,
Lies lost in dark confusion there—
How low the vale!—how small the tide
That shone so bright in morning’s pride:
Yet there are spots that lovelier seem
In the soft shade or changing gleam,
The social hall, the village-spire
Catch the warm sun’s departing fire,
While the gay bow’r and golden glade
Once fondly sought in distance fade;
But silver tints are gath’ring fast
O’er rocks and brakes and perils past,
While smiling at the dreams of youth,
We rest beside the fount of Truth.

V.

  1. This celebrated cold spring rises on the top of a rugged mount near the richest part of Wharfdale. 

The European Magazine, Vol. 77, February 1820, pp. 166-167