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Anna Jane Vardill

Malham Tarn

The Tarn, or Lake, which often overflows the celebrated circus of rock called Malham Cove, has also an outlet at its base among a few wild flowers.

“Ah! spare thine own!—thine offspring spare,
Nor from thy side my blossoms tear;—
Remember how in earliest spring
I brought my duteous offering;
And every drop thy fullness shed
In bounty on my infant head,
Lodged in my golden cups remain’d
Till sweetness from the sweet they gain’d;
Then the rich dew return’d to thee,
As grateful hearts pay courtesy.—
When thou wert cold and dark, I shew’d
An emblem of youth’s jocund mood;
My whispers and soft movements still
Sent through thy breast a gentle thrill;
And when upon my secret nook
A gale of summer breathed,—I shook
My incense over thee, and waved
The silver leaves thy bounty laved,
Stooping in thankfulness to kiss
Thy face, the mirror of my bliss.
My Parent-stream!—forbear to chide
Because my drooping head I hide,
And fain would linger near the bank
Where first the dew of heaven I drank
In this sweet cleft, where heather-bells
Peep fondly from their mossy cells,
And yellow broom and eglantine
Their wedded wreaths together twine.
They are my kindred all, and grew
With me when life and light were new;
And they a friendly branch will lend
To prop me when with age I bend,
And stretching their green mantles, save
From ruffian hands my quiet grave.”

“Thou abject thing!” the swelling flood
In scorn replied,—“thy stem has stood
By me in frosts and storms upheld,
When oaks and giant-rocks were quell’d.
My spreading tide shall lift thee up,
Till showers of silver fill thy cup;
Queen-lily of my wide domain,
Thy pearly head shall rise and reign
High as the sovereign of thy race,
Whose bowers imperial Asia grace:
And the rich breezes shall be proud
To fan the head that once they bow’d.”

Then from high Malham’s sunny crown
The overflowing Tarn leap’d down,
Spreading before his giant crest
Mists in a thousand rainbows drest;
Columns of sparkling drops, a world
Of diamonds to Earth’s centre hurl’d:
Old Malham’s Genius on his seat
Shook, as the torrent clasp’d his feet:—
The flash, the sound is gone,—and now
It slumbers, desolate and low,
In unavailing pomp reposed
By those eternal rocks enclosed,
Dark, fruitless, comfortless, and lone,
Where never social sunbeam shone.
The Lily, daughter of its pride,
Still lingers, loveliest by its side;
Her root is stedfast on the rock,
Unbroken by the torrent’s shock,
And glittering like a lonely spark
She shines while all around is dark,
As patient Duty stays to bless
A fallen Father’s loneliness:
Yet sometimes on the Lake’s cold breast
A beauteous shadow comes to rest,
Of golden clouds and sunshine bright,
That dwell on Malham’s glorious height,
As shadows vex the wand’rer’s mind
Of that sweet peace he left behind.


The European Magazine, Vol. 81, March 1822, pp. 214-215