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Anna Jane Vardill

The Blind Traveller

A Sketch

“It is the craggy covert of a bourne,
Where only moss, dank fern, and sedges grow,
While thro’ its crevice in a rock-built urn
A weeping rill drops silently and slow
On the green tangled boughs that stretch below:
There, where the nestling eagle sits alone,
Thrice nine times he has seen the sun return
Since in her hovel dwelt a nameless crone,
That nightly spins and sings behind her threshold-stone.

Through the broad crag that overhangs the glade,
All rent and blacken’d by the thunder-stroke,
The water’s fall a shelving stair has made,
Cross’d by the bare arm of a blasted oak-
Pause there, and thou may’st see her cottage-smoke.”—
“Be thou my guide,” the sightless traveller said,
“For long and lone my weary way has been,
By toppling crag, deep dell, and roaring linn;—
Together let us toil, and we may win
‘Our path beyond the misty mountain’s head,
Ere morning’s dews and yellow lights begin.”

“Now we are treading where the eagles cower—
Rest warily thy foot, for it may seem
Cities of Palaces have fallen here,
So broad in pomp these scatter’d rocks appear—
Columns and ramparts such as wizards rear:
Of such strange wrecks fantastic poets dream,
Who tell us rebel giants once had power,
When Nature’s eldest work was overthrown,
To build for their abode this wilderness of stone.

“Is there no print of human chisel near
No trace of mortal greatness in this plain?”—
“None but a giant’s axe could strive to rear
The pillars that this mighty wall sustain:
An hundred fathom deep the waters sleep,
Untouch’d by ought of earth except the tree
That drops its hoary branches from the steep,
Stooping like weary Age towards Eternity.

Now measur’d be thy steps upon the ridge
Of this scant path that leans towards the tide—
Above us hangs the solitary bridge,
And now we climb upon the steep rock’s side:
Tread slowly, and my staff shall be thy guide,
For all is loneliness and silence now—
The castle towers above in scowling pride,
The glen is deep and dark and desolate below.

“Is there no music coming on the breeze?”—
“Thou hear’st the rippling of the distant rill,
That hidden far beneath these tangled trees
Creeps from its covert:—and with such strange skill
The twining elms their canopy have spread,
That we untrembling here may listen still,
Tho’ on this shaking arch of woven boughs we tread.

Lean warily—and pause—for now the root,
Of this bald oak is all thy resting-place:
The torrent rolls unfathom’d at thy foot,
The giant-mountain leans beyond its base,
To meet its kindred crag’s unbending face—
And darkness sits above, below, and round!—
Now on the lone and nameless woman’s hut
A moonlight glimmering rests;—but not a sound
Breaks on the sheep of Night in yonder depth profound.”

“It is the hour!” the sightless traveller said—
“It is the oak for lovers’ leisure hewn;
So crept the tide along the woodland-glade,
So on her casement shone the summer-moon,
When such an hour I ask’d for life’s last boom—
The hour, the boon is given!—And thou wilt aid
To lend a stranger’s grave this nameless stone,
That lingers yet, a solitary thing,
Like him, surviving all that beautified its spring.”

“Have none remember’d thee?” a voice replied—
“Remember’st thou the oak, the flood, the bower,
And not the voice that gave thee promise ere
To wait from youth to age for such an hour!—
O! not alone the giant-rock has power
To hear the wintry siege of year on year—
Faith has its rock of ages—”—By her side
The traveller sunk—“—It is the hour, my Bride,
The hour, the boon I crav’d!”—he said, and died.


The European Magazine, Vol. 76, October 1819, p. 356