F. N. C. Mundy's Needwood Forest enjoyed a considerable reputation, and is indeed a triumph of the provincial verse beginning to makes itself felt in the later eighteenth century. The octosyllabic couplets, unusual in topographical poetry, are taken from Milton's companion poems, to which Mundy has planted allusions, as also to the landscapes of Spenser, Denham, and Pope. The poem unfolds in five parts: a description of Mundy's estate, a night-piece, an account of society in the forest, a georgic hunt, and a concluding tribute to the ancient Swilcar Oak. The anonymously-published volume includes commendatory verses from two other Lichfield poets, Erasmus Darwin and Anna Seward.
Romance threads its way through Mundy's poem, including a salute to Edmund Spenser, who catalogues the trees in the first book of the Faerie Queene: "Such shades by mazy paths perplex'd, | Where strays the traveller inly vex'd | Inspir'd the Muse of SPENCER'S pe | The wandering wood, and Errors den | Dwarfs, Palfreys, Dames, and Giants rise | Full on Imaginations eyes!" p. 14.
Anna Seward to Francis Noel Clarke Mundy: "When Mrs. Knowles, who knows the difficulties and the merits of the pencil, saw Romney's Circe, she exclaimed, 'What a number of bad, indifferent, moderate, good, and very good pictures must the hand paint ere it attains the sublimity of that figure!" So may it be said of Allegro Penseroso, the Triumphs of Temper, and the Needwood Forest. If I am any judge of poetry, the last-named work is, as a descriptive poem, little inferior to the two first. Publish it at large, I adjure you, yet again; and reflect upon this truth for your comfort, respecting the publication of your juvenile compositions, — that they have not, by many degrees, the inferiority to your Needwood, that the poems in the 2d volume of Milton, which were written between his eighteenth and twenty-third years, have to his Allegro and Il Penseroso. Poems that are pretty, though not perhaps first-rate, move, in the eyes of posterity, like satellites round the orb of a great work, and adorn its appearance, though they may not increase its lustre. Remember! — and do not continue to wrap your talents in a napkin unfolding them only to individual inspection" 10 October 1787; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:343.
In a note to a verse epistle she addressed to Mundy, Anna Seward recalls Needwood Forest as "one of the sweetest poems in our language, of which Mr. Mundy, in 1776, printed 500 copies for presents to his friends. He has resisted all solicitations to publish it at large; but such a beautiful work cannot die" Poetical Works (1810) 3:394.
Anna Seward: "Needwood Forest is one of the most beautiful local poems that has been written. Its landscapes vivid and appropriate; its episodes sweet and interesting; its machinery well fancied and original; its numbers spirited, correct, and harmonious; while an infusion of sweet and gentle morality pervades the whole, and renders it dear to the heart as to the eye and ear. Great is the loss to poetic literature, that, of this delightful composition, only a few copies were privately printed, for presents to the author's friends and acquaintance; that he cannot overcome his reluctance to expose it to the danger of illiberal criticism from some of the self-elected censors in every periodical publication" Memoirs of Dr. Darwin (1804) 59.
Anna Seward also gives Mundy high praise in "Epistle to F. N. C. Mundy," in her Poems (1810) 2:199-206, and "To F. N. C. Mundy, Esq. on his Poem, The Fall of Needwood Forest" in Poems (1810) 3:394-97. See also the elegiac Spenserians by C. A. H., "To the Memory of F. N. C. Mundy, Author of Needwood Forest," in Gentleman's Magazine 86 (August 1816) 158. Walter Scott praises Mundy as "one of our best descriptive poets" "Living Poets" in Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808 (1810) 2:443.
There was a sequel, The Fall of Needwood (1808).
NEEDWOOD! if e'er my early voice
Hath taught thy echoes to rejoice;
If e'er my hounds in opening cry
Have fill'd thy banks with ecstacy;
If e'er array'd in cheerful green
Our train hath deck'd thy wintry scene;
Ere yet thy wood-wild walks I leave,
My tributary verse receive:
With thy own wreath my brows adorn,
And to thy praises tune my horn!
What green rob'd Nymph, all loose her hair,
With buskin'd leg, and bosom bare,
Steps lightly down the turfy glades,
And beckons tow'rd yon opening shades?—
No harlot-form, dissembling guile
With wanton air and painted smile,
Lures to enchanted halls or bowers,
Where festive Vice consumes his hours.
Her mild and modest looks dispense
The simple charm of innocence:
And a sweet wildness in her eye
Sparkles with young sincerity.—
Lead on, fair guide, ere wakes the dawn,
With thee I'll climb the steepy lawn,
With thee the leafy labyrinths trace,
Where dwells the Genius of the place.—
His large limbs press a prim-rose bed,
A moss-grown root sustains his head,
And, list'ning to a Druids rhimes,
He bends his eye on distant times:
While troops of sylvan Vestals meet
To cast their garlands at his feet,
And pipe and frisk in rings about,
Or parly with the Hunter's shout.
And now a fragrant show'r he throws
Of blossoms from his curled brows,
And rising waves his oaken wand,
And bids yon magic scenes expand!—
First blush the hills with orient light,
And pierce the sable veil of night,
Green bends the waving shade above,
And glist'ring dew-drops gem the grove:
Next shine the shelving lawns around,
Bright threads of silver net the ground;
And down, the entangled brakes among,
The white rill sparkling winds along:
Then, as the pausing zephyrs breathe,
The billowy mist recedes beneath;
Slow, as it rolls away, unfold
The vale's fresh glories green and gold;
DOVE laughs, and shakes his tresses bright,
And trails afar a line of light.
Now glows the illumin'd landscape round!
Ye Vulgar hence! — 'tis sacred ground!
Hence to the flimsy walks of art,
That lull, but not transport the heart.
Nature, O Muse, here sits alone,
And marks these regions for thy own;
Here her variety of joys
Nor season bounds, nor change destroys:
Be mine the pride, tho' weak my strains,
That first I woo'd thee to these plains;
Where Spring, in all her beauty drest,
But promises a brighter guest:
Where Summer yields her greens and flowers
To Autumn's variegated bowers:
Smiles Winter, as their honours fall,
And bids his hollies shame them all.
Ye sage Professors of design,
Whom system's stubborn rules confine,
Can science here one blemish show?
Or one deficient grace bestow?
EMES, who yon desart wild explor'd,
And to it's name the scene restor'd;
Whose art is nature's law maintain'd,
Whose order negligence restrain'd,
Here, fir'd by native beauty, trac'd
The foot-steps of the Goddess, Taste:
Won from her coy retreats she came,
And led him up these paths to fame.
Here ev'ry flower improves the gale
From the meek violet of the vale
To her, who flaunts in air sublime,
The woodbine, queen of summer's prime:
While each delicious shade may vie
With those of boasted Arcady.
There sweet varieties appear
Of thickets, shap'd by nibbling Deer,
Of hills, that swell with gradual ease,
Wood-skirted lawns, and scatter'd trees;
Of vallies, seen down distant glades,
That break the mass of mingling shades;
While natures attribute, extent,
Crowns each inferior ornament!—
On this green unambitious brow,
Fair Mistress of the vale below,
With sloping hills enclos'd around,
Their heads with oaks and hollies crown'd,
With lucky choice, by happy hands,
Plac'd in good hour, my dwelling stands;
And draws the distant trav'ler's eye,
Enamour'd of it's scenery;
Where all things give, what all express,
Content and rural happiness.
Where far retir'd from life's dull form
Comes no intruder but the storm;
The storm, that with contrasted low'r
Endears the fair the silent hour.
Thus their wise days our fathers led,
Fleet ran their hounds, their arrows sped,
And jocund Health with rosy smile
Look'd on, companion of their toil:
Till tyrant Law usurp'd the land,
Stretch'd o'er the woods his iron hand,
Forbad the echoing horn to blow,
Maim'd the staunch hound, and snapp'd the bow.
Here with fair peace and modest fame
They dwelt, who boasted Bagot's name,—
Go, BAGOT, plead your country's cause,
While senates listen with applause,
With fearless truth and manly sense
Detecting specious eloquence:
Great talents to the world are due,
Retirement were a crime in you.
Go, and receive your oaken crown!
Here, with no title to renown,
Leave me to loiter at my door
Beneath the spreading sycamore,
That canopies the sloping lawn;
And view the deer at early dawn
In troops come winding down the hill
To taste fresh herbage near the rill;
Or count at noon their slum'bring heaps;
At evening watch their playful leaps;
Or hear the quiring of the grove
Give breath to harmony and love;
Or listen to the hum profound,
In the still air that floats around;
Or mark yon hills extended side,
Where turf and shade the space divide;—
Here the wood straggles tow'rd the plain,
The pasture there prevails again;
The heifer grazes on it's brow,
Clamours the rook on trees below;
Gay golden furze and purple ling
Around their mixt embroidery fling,
O'er all, irregularly join'd,
Th' according outline waves behind.
No dusky Cares o'er-hang the bower,
No Passions wreck the halcyon hour;
Nurs'd in the shade Reflection springs,
Smooths her white plumes, and tries her wings.
No leaf of autumn falls in vain,
No flower-bell droops beneath the rain,
No bubble down the current flows,
But life's uncertain tenure shows.
Those thorns protect the forest's hopes;
That tree the slender ivy props:
Thus rise the mighty on the mean!
Thus on the strong the feeble lean!
In yonder holly — blush mankind!—
A rare fidelity I find;
Like yours tho' summer's flatteries end,
My winter here hath found a friend.—
Hail faithful fav'rite tree! to you
The Muse shall pay observance due:
Whether in horrent files you stand
Round sapling oaks a guardian band;
Or form aloft a shelt'ring bower
Impervious to the sun or shower;
Whether to yon hill-side you throng
Ranging in various groups along;
Or on the plain, maturely grown,
You boldly brave the storm alone,
Or tapering high, with woodbines hid,
Rise in a fragrant pyramid;
Your vigorous youth with upright shoots,
Your verdant age, your glowing fruits,
Your glossy leaves, and columns gray
Shall live the favorites of my lay!
Alas! in vain with warmth and food
You cheer the songsters of the wood,
The barbarous boy from you prepares
On treacherous twigs his viscous snares.
Yes, the poor bird, you nurs'd, shall find
Destruction in your rifled rind.
Thus good and ill too often meet,
And bitter mingles with the sweet!
—Ye pedagogues! let truant youth
Imbibe from you this gen'rous truth;
That one humane, one tender thought
Is worth the whole, that schools have taught.
With what fond gaze my eye pursues,
NEEDWOOD, thy sweetly-varying views!
Satyr, or Nymph, or sylvan God
A fairer circuit never trod!
Charm'd, as I turn, thy pictures seem
The golden fabricks of a dream.
Where Fiction stands with prism bright,
Rays forth her many-colour'd light,
Dyes the green herb, and purple flower,
Gives glittering lustres to the shower;
Then gilds with livelier tints the sky,
Or bends her radiant bow on high.
To scenes so elegantly wild
Fancy, of old, her darling child
From AVON'S flowery margin brought,
And ARDEN boasts what NEEDWOOD taught.
Such shades by mazy paths perplex'd,
Where strays the traveller inly vex'd,
Inspir'd the Muse of SPENCER'S pen
The wandering wood, and Errors den,
Dwarfs, Palfreys, Dames, and Giants rise
Full on Imaginations eyes!
See, See the Sarazin advance
The red-cross Knight hath couch'd his lance!
They meet, the Christian wins the field,
And bears away the faithless shield!
With such companions fond to rove.
I venerate each hill and grove,
To Phoebus as to Dian dear,
And find a new Parnassus here.
Here might the sacred sisters dwell
By pebbly brook, or gushing well:
O let me listen, as they sing,
In some close vale beside a spring,
Whose stream the intruding alder chides,
Where the wild-bee her treasure hides!—
Or sit in high imbowering shade
With Contemplation, heav'n-ey'd maid,
Where the scant sun through branches thin
Chequers the dark green floor within;
Where ev'ry leaf is wisdom's page,
And each gray trunk a hoary sage.
Nor motion, human form, or noise
This solemn pause of life destroys;
Save where the playful squirrel bounds,
Or ring-dove pours her plaintive sounds,
Or lurking peasant lops an oak
Restraining half his pilfering stroke,
Or with his faggot stoops to rest
Both by his years and burthen prest.
Here, seen of old, the elfin race
With sprightly vigils mark'd the place;
Their gay processions charm'd the sight,
Gilding the lucid noon of night;
Or, when obscure the midnight hour,
With glow-worm lantherns hung the bower.
—Hark! — the soft lute! along the green
Moves with majestic step the queen!
Attendant Fays around her throng,
And trace the dance or raise the song;
Or touch the shrill reed, as they trip,
With finger light and ruby lip.
High, on her brow sublime, is born
One scarlet wood-bine's tremulous horn;
A gaudy bee-bird's triple plume
Sheds on her neck its waving gloom;
With silvery gossamer en'twin'd
Stream the luxuriant locks behind.
Thin folds of tangled network break
In airy waves adown her neck:
Warp'd in his loom, the spider spread
The far-diverging rays of thread,
Then round and round with shuttle fine
Inwrought the undulating line.
One rose-leaf forms her crimson vest,
The loose edge crosses o'er her breast.
And one translucent fold, which fell
From the tall lily's ample bell,
Forms with sweet grace her snowy train,
Flows, as she steps, and sweeps the plain.
Silence and Night inchanted gaze,
And Hesper hides his vanquish'd rays!—
Now the wak'd reed-birds swell their throats,
And night-larks trill their mingled notes:
Yet hush'd in moss with writhed neck
The black-bird hides his golden beak:
Charm'd from his dream of love he wakes,
Opes his gay eye, his plumage shakes,
And stretching wide each ebon wing,
First in low whispers tries to sing;
Then sounds his clarion loud, and thrills
The moon-bright lawns, and shadowy hills.
Silent the choral Fays attend,
And then their silver voices blend,
Each shining thread of sound prolong,
And weave the magic woof of song.
Pleas'd Philomela takes her stand
On high, and leads the fairy band,
Pours sweet at intervals her strain,
And guides with beating wing the train,
Whilst interrupted zephyrs bear
Hoarse murmurs from the distant wear;
And at each pause is heard the swell
Of Echo's soft symphonious shell.
Nor the dread night my mind alarms,
NIGHT and her horrors have their charms.
O'er the wide forest oft I roam,
What time the trav'ler far from home,
Bewilder'd in the pathless brakes,
There his cold bed despairing makes;
And hear the fox with savage bark
Pay distant courtship through the dark;
The owl with fault'ring voice unfold
Her tale, like one who shakes with cold:
And then the alarmed woods resound
Th' upbraidings of the well-train'd hound,
Who with tremendous tongue arraigns
And haunts the plunderer of his plains.
So cries from earth the life-blood spilt,
So waking furies harrass guilt!
Oft have I through this solemn glade
Of old dismember'd hollies stray'd,
Whose bold bare rugged brows are seen
Thrust through the mantling ever-green;
Tall clust'ring columns here ascend,
And there in gothic arches bend;
Whilst, as the silver moon-beams rise,
Imagin'd temples strike my eyes,
With tottering spire, and mouldering wall,
And high roof nodding to it's fall.—
His lantern gleaming down the glade,
One, like a sexton with his spade,
Comes from their caverns to exclude
The mid-night prowlers of the wood.—
Through fields of air while pausing slow,
Yon death-bell tells the village woe!
Born on her clouds when Darkness flings
O'er the still air her raven wings,
Ere yet the watery freight descends,
While Heaven it's purposes suspends,
NIGHT, let me stand in silent trance,
And watch the lightning's kindling glance:
While, stiff'ning at the imagin'd stroke,
Appears behind a brighten'd oak,
From justice, fled to this wild place,
A conscious robber's gastly face!—
Or fancy views with fear-fix'd eye
A mangled spectre gliding by,
Quick with the flash who seems to wave
His pale hand, beck'ning to a grave!—
And, as the fleeting vision dies,
Loud thunders shake the closing skies.
NIGHT, when rude blasts thy scenes deform,
O place me in the perilous storm!
While the moon labouring thro' the clouds
By turns her light reveals and shrouds;
Torn from it's trunk, when whirlwinds bear
The twisted ash aloft in air:
And some vast elms uprooted spoil
Ploughs, in its headlong fall the soil.
While, as he stalks thro' groaning oaks,
At intervals the old deer croaks:
And the lean sow with paps drawn dry
O'er rustling leaves trots whining by.—
Then posts across the blasted plain,
Born on the wild storm, Witchcraft's train,
Aghast with guilt, and shrunk with age,
And yelling with demoniack rage!—
With eyes turn'd back malign and wide
See blood-stain'd Murder silent stride,
A moon-beam's sudden light expands,
He starts, and hides his crimson hands!—
And now the cauldron gleams afar,
Fir'd by a baneful meteor's glare,
Around they dance, they pause, and pour
The mischiefs of the midnight hour;
While trembling fiends with wonder gaze,
Stretch their black wings, and fan the blaze!
Ere Night withdraws her starry train,
I print long traces o'er the plain,
And bend my eyes to yon bright east
To meet the Morning's radiant guest,
As o'er the hill his golden rays
Burst thro' the thicket in a blaze.
Now from my foot the startled fawn
Bounds to its parent on the lawn;
And the wak'd lark exulting springs,
Hangs high in air on quivering wings,
Chaunts his loud transports o'er the heath,
And eyes his list'ning loves beneath.
Oft shall my TALBOT hither stray,
And friendship give new joys to day;
On him his blooming bride attend,
Hither her graceful footsteps bend,
Fresh life her brighter beauties fling
O'er the young dawn, and blossom'd spring.
They come! their eddying wheels resound,
The harness'd coursers proudly bound,
The light-hung chariot floats in air,
And laughing Hymen wreaths the pair!
As o'er the daisy'd lawns they move
By glittering rill or dusky grove,
Old NEEDWOOD calls his softest gale,
Bids all his fragrant buds exhale:
His gazing herds around them throng,
His plighted birds suspend their song,
Each on her urn his Naiads lean,
And Wood-nymphs peep from allies green.
Where this gay mount o'er-looks the wood,
Charm'd with the scene a monarch stood,
Call'd these fair plains the richest gem,
That deck'd his triple diadem,
Awhile the cares of state forgot,
And with it's name adorn'd the spot.
Down yon meridian fields afar
When Mercia led her chiefs to war,
Fell in one hour three monarchs brave,
And LICHFIELD'S bower protects their grave.
Her stately spires amidst the skies
Ting'd by the orient sun arise,
With golden vanes invite the gale,—
Triumphant ladies of the vale!
Down yon mid-vale the british Nile,
Fair DOVE, comes winding many a mile;
And from his copious urn distils
The fatness of a thousand hills.
Swell, generous river, leave thy banks,
The thirsty soil shall give thee thanks!
The generous river swells, and leads
His waters o'er impoverish'd meads,
And lays his ample treasure down,
Rich emblem of thy bounty, BROWN!
Pleas'd on yon high abode I gaze,
Whence C'ANDISH foaming Dove surveys:
And where those humbler vales extend
Of thine, FITZHERBERT, chearful friend.
Or mark upon yon round ascent
The social flag and open tent,
Where life's smooth paths with sweets are strown,
And mirth makes every hour it's own.
Where spreads this grove it's umbrage wide
Late the bold Outlaw fought and died.
Oft in it's dark recess the oak
Had fall'n beneath his secret stroke,
Full many a deer the night's dim ray
Beheld his silent arrow slay,
Deep furze conceal'd the fawns in vain,
And lust of lucre thinn'd the plain.
Here, by no power before controll'd,
He met a forester as bold;
O'er the fierce conflict frown'd the wood,
And drank with thirsty roots his blood.
Yon bank demands a pitying look,
Where life a gentler breast forsook;
Sole comfort of an aged pair!
The true-love of a damsel fair!—
At prime of dawn he stepp'd away;
Long was the journey, short the day;
The wint'ry blast blew loud and chill;
Night caught him on the unshelter'd hill;
Fatigu'd he fell; no help came nigh;
His faithful dog alone was by;
Who, as he fondly lick'd his check,
Heard his expiring master speak.
"Heap not for me thy cottage-fire;
Cold grows my heart, unhappy sire!
But turn to my unfinish'd loom,
And weave the web, and bear it home!
Prepare not, dame, my evening meal;
But bid them ring my passing peal!
Deck not thyself, dear maid, to meet
Thy love; but bring his winding sheet!
I come not to your festive cheer,
Ye comrades, place me on my bier!—"
—The morrow found him stiff and pale:
Mournful the Muse recounts his tale.
Her stately tower there HANBURY rears,
Which proudly looks o'er distant shires;
Down the chill slope and darken'd glade
Projects afar it's length of shade;
Assails the skies with giant force,
And checks the whirlwind in it's course;
Or, when black clouds involve the pole,
Disarms the thunders, as they roll!—
Beneath how Nature throws around
Grand inequalities of ground,
While down the dells and o'er the steeps
The wavy line of Paphos creeps!—
With awful sorrow I behold
Yon cliff, that frowns with ruins old;
Stout FERRERS there kept faithless ward,
And GAUNT perform'd his Castle-guard.
There captive MARY look'd in vain
For NORFOLK, and her nuptial train;
Enrich'd with royal tears the Dove,
But sigh'd for freedom, not from love.
'Twas once the seat of festive state,
Where high born dames and nobles sat;
While minstrels, each in order heard,
Their venerable songs preferr'd.
False memory of it's remains
In the rude sport of brutal swains.
Now serpents hiss, and foxes dwell
Amidst the mould'ring citadel;
And time but spares those broken towers
In mockery of human powers.
Yon hill, that glows with southern rays,
All-conscious of superior praise,
Swells her smooth top and pastures green,
And of her sisters seems the queen;
Proud from her ancient seats to trace
The lineage of a generous race.
"That generous race," fair SUDBURY cries,
"Is mine," and bids her turrets rise,
Lifts from the lap of peace her dome,
Where finds Munificence a home;
Then wide her shining lake she leads
Through blossom'd groves and emerald meads,
Cloaths with dark woods the distant scene,
And pours her dappled herds between.
—Ah me! what sudden sadness lowers
O'er her fair front and vernal bowers!
There sinks to her untimely tomb
A virgin flower in beauty's bloom!
O thou wast all that youth admires,
A parent loves, or friend desires!
I knew thee well! my sorrowing heart
Bears in thy loss a bitter part!—
Whilst the sad Muse in plaintive verse
Strews all her flowers around thy hearse,
Let Pity quit thy grave, and go
A mourner to yon house of woe.
There from thy father's bosom break
Sighs, which too eloquently speak:
Thy mother weeps, but weeps resign'd,
In all things noble, most in mind:
Pale griefs thy sisters' cheeks invade;
And one, alas, too tender maid!
Holds a long melancholy strife
Betwixt her sorrows and her life:
Thy manly brothers strive to cure
In vain, the pangs themselves endure.
Fair Saint! a happier lot is thine
Repos'd beneath the silent shrine!
Now let me seek in pensive mood
The rude recesses of the wood;
And, where congenial gloom extends,
Think of lost hopes and distant friends;
Of scenes, whose pleasures fled too fast,
And hours most valued now they're past!
Beside me lies a dingle deep,
With shaggy banks abrupt and steep;
Through vistas wild my course I bend,
Till day-light opens at the end:
Where from intoxicating height
Bursts the wide prospect on my sight.
The terrace bold, on which I stand,
Steps broad and forward on the land;
Rude hills compose the side-long scene,
With crofts and cottages between:
The various landscape onward spreads
O'er cultur'd plains and verdant meads;
And seats, and towns, and hamlets rise,
Where yon smoke curls into the skies,
And spires, that pierce thro' tufted trees;
Till, faintly fading by degrees,
Beyond, in wild confusion tost,
The hills blue tops in clouds are lost.
Yes, EATON-BANKS, in vain I strive
To hide the grief your oaks revive,
Bow thy tall branches, grateful wood!
Afford me blossom, leaf, and bud!
He, for whose memory these I blend,
Thy late-lost master, was my friend!—
Fall, gentle dews! fresh zephyrs, breathe!
Spread, cooling shades! preserve my wreath!—
Alas, it withers ere its time!—
So faded he in manly prime!—
But Virtue, scorning friendships aid,
Rears her own palms, which never fade!
HENRY, O leave, whilst youth is ours,
And health leads on the fleeting hours,
O leave awhile the court you grace,
And urge with me the sylvan chase!
Oft, as I bathe in morning's breath,
Ere wakes the plover on the heath,
Ere the sun robs the woodbine's smell,
Or dries the fox-glove's purple bell,
I hear the deep-mouth'd thunder rise;
The monarch of the woodland flies,
Whilst the loud triumphs of the horn
On breezy wings are backward born.
His subject mates no succour lend;
What tyrant ever found a friend?
He dies! — the satiate echoes cease;
The forest reassumes its peace.
Now sun-burnt Autumn with his spoils
Diana's bleeding altar piles:
Again the slaughtering gun is heard,
And wildly screams the parent bird;
All night she mourns her lessen'd brood,
Still views them fluttering in their blood,
With timorous call the rest collects,
And with quick wing their flight directs.
Now the strong buck his rival drives,
And awes with jealous threats his wives:
Slow move the kine to fresher fields,
The hawthorn to the holly yields:
No twittering swallow skims the plain,
No shrite-cock tunes his echoing strain:
Dumb are the full-plum'd songsters all,
Save the lone red-breast on my wall;
Thy tender lay, sweet bird, prolong,
And sooth old Winter with thy song!
When wintry mists obscure the skies,
His busy nose the spaniel plies,
Where mossy glades and thickets brown
Tempt the far-wandering wood-cock down:
Stretch thy strong wing, thy flight retake,
Nor trust the inhospitable brake!—
Ah, forc'd from the luxuriant ground,
He mounts, and feels the sudden wound.
So transmeridian Zealand views
Adventurous Europe's wandering crews:
Fierce hunger eyes the stranger-guest,
And fraud secures the barbarous feast;
Stain'd are the rocks with human gore,
And white with scatter'd bones the shore.
The leveret — but I spare the rest,
I see compassion touch thy breast—
Come then, and whilst the murderous crew
In harmless blood their hands imbrue,
Rous'd to revenge by ravag'd flocks,
Haste we to find the kennell'd fox.
Hark! those preluding cries he hears;
Thick beats his heart with conscious fears.
Some tyrant thus, in luckless hour
Whom fraud or force has rais'd to pow'r,
With throbbing heart and pale eye stands,
And spreads to heaven his harpy hands,
When Freedom's voice alarms the morn,
And Vengeance winds her echoing horn.
See, with the wind he scours away
Sleek, and in crimes grown old and gray!
Oft has be foil'd our angry pack,
I know his customary track.
Talk not of pity to such foes!
Stern justice claims the life he owes.
No storms arise to screen his flight
'Tis long till interrupting night;
The breathing South his sentence gives,
And not an hour the caitiff lives!
Through woods and hills, and vales, and brakes,
NEEDWOOD with general transport shakes.
Mark how the pack diffusely spread,
And shew me, if you can, their head!
'Tis here — 'tis there — now onward far
Streams down the vales irregular.
As through the furzy brakes they drive
The trembling coverts seem alive.
Thus by the winds o'er bending corn
Loose waves of light and shade are born.
Now winding up yon steep they strain;
Now wheel in silence on the plain:
Again they catch the tainted wind;
No hound disgraceful lurks behind:
All striving with confederate aim,
Their size, their power, their speed the same,
With eager eye and clamorous tongue
In broad career they press along,
Fierce on their victim gathering round—
—He suffers by no single wound!
Thus o'er the azure fields of night
Shoot the quick rays of northern light,
To one bright point converg'd they flow,
And round the silver zenith glow.
So, when a lake surcharg'd by rain
Bursts and o'erwhelms the sloping plain,
The wond'ring rustic flies, nor knows
Which of its currents fastest flows;
Now here the rattling eddies lead,
Now there they foam along the mead,
Till in a silent pool they stand,
Collected on the hollow land.
Go languid fops, go pedants, waste
Your sneers on joys you cannot taste;
And cloak with many a vain pretence
Cold-blooded fear and indolence!
Warm to each elegant delight,
Ingenious, sensible, polite,
Known to the world you know so well,
Lov'd e'en by those whom you excel,
MEYNELL, my leader and my friend,
Stand forth! the manly chase defend!
O raise your animating voice,
And cheer the Dian of your choice!
Not her, whose foul Circean draft,
'Squires of preceding ages quaff'd,
Unletter'd reveller, whose joys
Were rudeness, turbulence, and noise,
But her, no less of British kind,
Well-bred, intelligent, refin'd,
Of younger years and purer mold,
Chaste as the Huntress Queen of old.
Yes, I am thine, enchanting maid!
Come, in thy decent robes array'd!
O bring thy blithe companion, Health,
Who smiles, and mocks the sluggard Wealth;
And Hope, who spleen and care destroys
And Rapture scorning tamer joys;
Young Eagerness with kindling eyes;
And Triumph mingling jocund cries!
Come, as thy cheerful train is seen,
Where FOREMARKE waves his woodlands green;
When hears his vale thy matin song,
And TRENT exulting shouts along:
While wait, thy gay return to greet,
Convivial Mirth and Welcome sweet.—
On me, thy humble votary, shower
The balmy dews of every flower,
Which oft thy curious hand has twin'd
Thy BURDETT'S favour'd brows to bind!
Whence, NEEDWOOD, that tremendous sound!—
—Low dying murmurs run around,
A deeper gloom the wood receives,
And horror shivers on the leaves,
Loud shriekes the hern, the raven croaks—
Destruction's arm arrests thy oaks!
Onward with giant strides he towers,
Dooms with dread voice thy withering bowers,
High o'er his head the broad axe wields,
Stamps with his iron foot, and shakes the fields!
When from her lawless rocks and sands
Arabia pours her ruffian bands,
The village hinds in wild distress
Around some holy hermit press
Orb within orb, their wrongs declare,
And ask his counsel and his prayer;
All white with age, inspir'd he stands,
And lifts to heaven his wrinkled hands!
So seems the affrighted forest, drawn
In crowds around this lonely lawn:
High in the midst with many a frown
Huge SWILCAR shakes his tresses brown.
Out-spreads his bare arms to the skies,
The ruins of six centuries.
Deep groans pervade his rifted rind—
—He speaks his bitterness of mind.
"Your impious hands, barbarians, hold!
Ye pause! but fir'd with lust of gold,
Your leader lifts his axe, and like
Accursed JULIUS, bids you strike.
Deaf are the ruthless ears of gain,
And youth and beauty plead in vain.
—Loud groans the wood with thick'ning strokes!
Yes, ye must perish, filial oaks!
In heaps your wither'd trunks be laid,
And wound the lawns, ye used to shade;
Whilst Avarice on the naked pile
Exulting casts a hideous smile.
Strike here! on me exhaust your rage.
Nor let false pity spare my age!
No pity dwells with sordid slaves;
'Tis want of worth alone that saves.
Yes, ye will leave me with disdain
A mouldring land-mark on the plain,
Where many a reign my trunk hath stood
Proud father of the circling wood.
In freedom's dearest days I grew,
And HENRY'S jealous nobles knew;
I saw them pierce the bounding game,
And heard their horn announce the claim.
No more, beneath my favorite shades
The forest youth and village maid
Shall meet to plight their troth, and mark
Their loves memorial on my bark.
"Yet, yet, fond Hope, thy distant light
Beams unexpected on my sight;
Lo VERNON hastes, the common friend!
The affrighted forest to defend;
Bids the keen axe the saplings spare,
And makes posterity his care.
Yes, Joy shall see these scenes renew'd,
Shall wake his sister Gratitude.
Shall call on lawns and hills and dells
The silent echoes from their cells,
Long trains of golden years proclaim,
And NEEDWOOD ring with VERNON's name."
He ceas'd, and shook his hoary brow:
Glad murmurs fill the vale below,
The deer in gambols bound along,
The plighted birds resume their song.
Thrice-venerable Druid, hail!
O may thy sacred words prevail,
May NEEDWOOD'S oaks successive stand
The lasting wonder of the land!—
And may some powerful bard arise,
Tho' heaven to me that power denies,
The POPE or DENHAM of his days,
Whose lofty verse shall match their praise.