Chapter 8

An amour, which promises little good fortune, yet may be productive of much

The next morning we were again visited by Mr. Burchell, though I began, for certain reasons, to be displeased with the frequency of his return; but I could not refuse him my company and my fire-side. It is true his labour more than requited his entertainment; for he wrought among us with vigour, and either in the meadow or at the hay-rick put himself foremost. Besides, he had always something amusing to say that lessened our toil, and was at once so out of the way, and yet so sensible, that I loved, laughed at, and pitied him. My only dislike arose from an attachment he discovered to my daughter: he would, in a jesting manner, call her his little-mistress, and when he bought each of the girls a set of ribands, hers was the finest. I knew not how, but he every day seemed to become more amiable, his wit to improve, and his simplicity to assume the superior airs of wisdom.

Our family dined in the field, and we sate, or rather reclined, round a temperate repast, our cloth spread upon the hay, while Mr. Burchell gave cheerfulness to the feast. To heighten our satisfaction, two blackbirds answered each other from opposite hedges, the familiar red-breast came and pecked the crumbs from our hands, and every sound seemed but the echo of tranquillity. “I never sit thus,” says Sophia, “but I think of the two lovers so sweetly described by Mr. Gay, who were struck dead in each other’s arms. There is something so pathetic in the description, that I have read it a hundred times with new rapture.”—“In my opinion,” cried my son, “the finest strokes in that description are much below those in the Acis and Galatea of Ovid. The Roman poet understands the use of contrast better, and upon that figure artfully managed all strength in the pathetic depends.”—“It is remarkable,” cried Mr. Burchell, “that both the poets you mention have equally contributed to introduce a false taste into their respective countries, by loading all their lines with epithet. Men of little genius found them most easily imitated in their defects, and English poetry like that in the latter empire of Rome, is nothing at present but a combination of luxuriant images, without plot or connexion; a string of epithets that improve the sound, without carrying on the sense. But perhaps, madam, while I thus reprehend others, you’ll think it just that I should give them an opportunity to retaliate, and indeed I have made this remark only to have an opportunity of introducing to the company a ballad, which, whatever be its other defects, is, I think, at least free from those I have mentioned.”


“Turn, gentle Hermit of the Dale,
  And guide my lonely way,
To where yon taper cheers the vale
  With hospitable ray.

“For here forlorn and lost I tread,
  With fainting steps and slow;
Where wilds, immeasurably spread,
  Seem length’ning as I go.”

“Forbear, my son,” the Hermit cries,
  “To tempt the dangerous gloom;
For yonder faithless phantom flies
  To lure thee to thy doom.

“Here to the houseless child of want
  My door is open still;
And though my portion is but scant,
  I give it with good will.

“Then turn to-night, and freely share
  Whate’er my cell bestows;
My rushy couch and frugal fare,
  My blessing and repose.

“No flocks that range the valley free,
  To slaughter I condemn;
Taught by that Power that pities me,
  I learn to pity them:

“But from the mountain’s grassy side
  A guiltless feast I bring;
A scrip with herbs and fruit supply’d,
  And water from the spring.

“Then, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego;
  All earth-born cares are wrong;
Man wants but little here below,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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