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Colonel Meadows Taylor writes, in The Story of my Life ...





Giles The Shepherd And Spectre






* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Giles, ere he sleeps, his little flock must tell.
From the fire-side with many a shrug he hies,
Glad if the full-orb'd moon salute his eyes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And down a narrow lane, well known by day,
With all his speed pursues his sounding way,
In thought still half absorb'd, and chill'd with cold,
When, lo! an object frightful to behold,
A grisly spectre, cloth'd in silver grey,
Around whose feet the waving shadows play,
Stands in his path! He stops, and not a breath
Heaves from his heart, that sinks almost to death.
Loud the owl hallooes o'er his head unseen;
All else is silence, dismally serene:
Some prompt ejaculation, whisper'd low,
Yet bears him up against the threat'ning foe;
And thus poor Giles, though half inclin'd to fly,
Mutters his doubts, and strains his stedfast eye.
"'Tis not my crimes thou com'st here to reprove;
No murders stain my soul, no perjur'd love:
If thou'rt indeed what here thou seem'st to be,
Thy dreadful mission cannot reach to me.
By parents taught still to mistrust mine eyes,
Still to approach each object of surprise,
Lest fancy's formful vision should deceive
In moonlight paths, or glooms of falling eve,
'Tis then's the moment when my mind should try
To scan the motionless deformity;
But oh, the fearful task!--yet well I know
An aged ash, with many a spreading bough,
(Beneath whose leaves I've found a summer's bow'r,
Beneath whose trunk I've weather'd many a show'r)
Stands singly down this solitary way,
But far beyond where now my footsteps stay.
'Tis true, thus far I've come with heedless haste;
No reck'ning kept, no passing objects trac'd:
And can I then have reach'd that very tree?
Or is its rev'rend form assum'd by thee?"
The happy thought alleviates his pain;
He creeps another step; then stops again;
Till slowly as his noiseless feet drew near,
Its perfect lineaments at once appear;
Its crown of shiv'ring ivy whispering peace,
And its white bark that fronts the moon's pale face.
Now, while his blood mounts upward, now he knows
The solid gain that from conviction flows;
And strengthen'd confidence shall hence fulfil
(With conscious innocence, more valued still)
The dreariest task that winter nights can bring,
By church-yard dark, or grove, or fairy ring;
Still buoying up the timid mind of youth,
Till loit'ring reason hoists the scale of truth.
With those blest guardians, Giles his course pursues,
Till numbering his heavy-sided ewes,
Surrounding stilness tranquillize his breast,
And shape the dreams that wait his hours of rest.

BLOOMFIELD'S Farmer's Boy.





Next: A Man With His Head On Fire And Covered With Blood

Previous: Poor Mary The Maid Of The Inn



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