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Mine, spindling into longitude immense,
In spite of gravity, and sage remark
That I myself am but a fleeting shade, .
Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance
I view the muscular proportion'd limb
Transform'd to a lean shank. The shapeless pair,
As they design'd to mock me, at my side -
Take step for step; and, as I near approach
The cottage, ...' along the plaster'd wall,
Prepost'rous sight! the legs without the man.
The verdure of the plain lies buried deep
Beneath the dazzling deluge; and the bents,
And coarser s, upspearing o'er the rest,
Of late j and unseen, now shine
Conspicuous, and in bright apparel clad,
And, fledg’d with icy feathers, nod superb.
The cattle mourn in corners, where the fence
Screens them, and seem half petrified to sleep
In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait
Their wonted fodder; not like hung’ring man,
Fretful if unsupplied; but silent, meek,
And patient of the slow-pac'd swain's delay. -
He from the stack carves out th’ accustom'd load,
Deep-plunging, and again deep-plunging oft,
His broad, keen knife into the solid mass: t
Smooth as a wall the upright remnant stands,
With such undeviating and even force
He severs it away; no needless care,
Lest storms should overset the leaning pile
Deciduous, or its own unbalanc'd weight.
Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcern’d
The cheerful haunts of man; to wield the axe,
And drive the wedge, in yonder forest drear,
From morn to eve his solitary task, -
Shaggy, cnd lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears, .
And tail cropp'd short, half lurcher and half cur,
His dog attends him. Close behind his heel -
Now creeps he slow; and now, with many a frisk
Wide-seamp'ring, snatches up the drifted snow
With iv'ry teeth, or ploughs it with his snout;.
Then *:::: his powder'd coat, and barks for joy.
Heedless of all his pranks, the sturdy churl
Moves right .# the mark; nor stops for aught,
But now and then with pressure of his thumb
To adjust the fragrant o: of a short tube,
That fumes beneath his nose: the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.
Now from the roost, or from the neighboring pale,
Where, diligent to catch the first faint gleam
Of smiling day, they gossip’d side by side,
Come trooping at the housewife's well-known call
The feather'd tribes domestic. Half on wing,
And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood,
Conscious and ;...? too deep a plunge.
The sparrows peep, and quit the shelt’ring eaves,
To seize the fair occasion; well they eye
The scatter'd grain, and thievishly resolv’d
To escape th’ impending famine, often scar'd
As oft return, a pert, voracious kind.
Clean riddance quickly made, one only care
Remains to each, the search of sunny nook,
Or shed impervious to the blast. Resign'd
To sad necessity, the cock foregoes
His wonted strut; and, wading at their head
With well-considered steps, seems to resent
His alter'd gait and stateliness retrench’d.
How find the myriads that in summer cheer
The hills and valleys with their ceaseless songs,
e sustenance, or where subsist they now?
Earth yields them naught; th’ imprison'd worm is safe
Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs
Lie cover'd close; and berry-bearing thorns,
That feed the thrush (whatever some suppose),
Afford the smaller minstrels no supply.
The !. rigour of the year
hins all their num’rous flocks. In chinks and holes
Ten thousand seek an unmolested end,
As instinct prompts; self-buried ere they die.
The very rooks and daws forsake the fields.
Where neither grub, nor root, nor earth-nut, now
Repay their labour more; and perch’d aloft
By the way-side, or stalking in the path,
Lean pensioners upon the trav’ller's track, -
Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them,
Of voided pulse or half-digested grain.
The streams are lost amid the splendid blank,
O'erwhelming all distinction. On the flood,
Indurated and fix’d, the snowy weight
Lies undissolv’d; while silently beneath,
And unperceiv'd, the current steals away.
Not so where, scornful of a check, it leaps
The mill-dam, dashes on the restless wheel,
And wantons in the pebbly gulf below:
No frost can bind it there; its utmost force
Can but arrest the light and smoky mist,
That in its fall the liquid sheet throws wide.
And see where it has hung th’ embroider'd banks
With forms so various, that no pow'rs of art,
The pencil or the pen, may trace the scene !
Here glitt’ring turrets rise, upbearing high
(Fantastic misarrangement ' ) on the roof
Large growth of what may seem the sparkling trees
And shrubs of fairy land. The crystal drops,
That trickle down the branches, fast congeal’d,
Shoot into pillars of pellucid length,
And prop the pile they but adorn'd before.
Here grotto within grotto safe defies
The sunbeam; there, emboss'd and fretted wild,
The growing wonder takes a thousand shapes
Capricious, in which Fancy seeks in vain
The likeness of some object seen before.
Thus Nature works as if to mock at Art,
And in defiance of her rival pow'rs;
By these fortuitous and random strokes