Memories of a Dorset Childhood in the 1730s.
The blue expanse of hyacinthine bloom,
Midst whose sweet pendant bells, on crowding stalks,
The wild anemone can scarce find room
To rear in white array its mingled flow’rs,
Attracts our gaze. More still are we amused
To see the frequent nimble rabbit scud
Across our path; and mark the mingled signs
Of caution and of courage in the hare,
Who, popping from the thicket just before us,
Halts as we halt; — and stroking first her face
With dewy paws, upraised on hinder legs
Awhile she stands, one list’ning ear erect,
As singly best to catch the slightest sound.
Then dropping prone, she stamps, with doubtful heels,
Repeatedly and loud against the ground:
And as of perfect safety hence assured,
Calmly begins to crop the way-side grass.
But the least crackling from dry brittle sprigs,
That lightly strew the ground where’er we tread,
Her nibbling checks, and scares her quick from sight.
We linger still to list the various sounds,
Which, wakened by the love-inspiring warmth
Of ether’s genial breath, diffusive spread
Through ev’ry quarter of the breeding woods.
And, hark! we hear the slow-repeated note
Of cuckoo, never failing to recall
Delightful thoughts, since first, on May-day eve,
Wafted by vernal breeze, it caught our ear;
And made us loiter long at ev’ry stile
That crossed our meadow pathway; whilst around,
In freshest bloom and youthful verdure clad,
All nature smiled. And now, from diff’rent points,
Ring out at once, of loud magpie and jay
The chatt’ring courtship, and more clam’rous love
Of woodpecker, that knocks with hamm’ring bill
The timber tree; detecting, by the sound,
Where latent grubs their caverned passage eat.
In search of these on sharp tenacious claws,
Suspended sure as fly that rambles light
O’er casement pane, he nimbly roves around
The smooth-barked glossy trunk of spreading beech.
Nor heedless do we hear the crowing voice
Of mated pheasant; the protracted moan,
From ivy-mantled lodge with berries fraught,
Of wild wood-pigeon, faithful as the tame;
And tender cooings of the turtle dove,
Emblem of all that’s sacred, pure and true.
© Thomas Cole