Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRUANT DOVE FROM PILPAY, by CHARLOTTE SMITH

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THE TRUANT DOVE FROM PILPAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A mountain stream its channel deep
Last Line: "so love your wife, and know when you are well."
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Charlotte Turner
Subject(s): Fables; Pigeons; Allegories

A MOUNTAIN stream, its channel deep
Beneath a rock's rough base had torn;
The cliff, like a vast castle wall, was steep
By fretting rains in many a crevice worn;
But the fern wav'd there, and the mosses crept,
And o'er the summit, where the wind
Peel'd from their stems the silver rind,
Depending birches wept----
There, tufts of broom a footing used to find,
And heath and straggling grass to grow,
And half-way down from roots enwreathing, broke
The branches of a scathed oak,
And seem'd to guard the cave below,
Where each revolving year,
Their twins, two faithful doves were wont to rear;
Choice never join'd a fonder pair;
To each their simple home was dear,
No discord ever enter'd there;
But there the soft affections dwell'd,
And three returning springs beheld
Secure within their fortress high
The little happy family.
"Toujours perdrix, messieurs, ne valent rien"--
So did a Gallic monarch once harangue,
And evil was the day whereon our bird
This saying heard,
From certain new acquaintance he had found,
Who at their perfect ease,
Amid a field of peas
Boasted to him, that all the country round,
The wheat, and oats, and barley, rye and tares,
Quite to the neighbouring sea, were theirs;
And theirs the oak, and beech-woods, far and near,
For their right noble owner was a peer,
And they themselves, luxuriantly were stored
In a great dove-cote--to amuse my lord!
"Toujours perdrix ne valent rien." That's strange!
When people once are happy, wherefore change?
So thought our stock-dove, but communication,
With birds in his new friend's exalted station,
Whose means of information,
And knowledge of all sorts, must be so ample;
Who saw great folks, and follow'd their example,
Made on the dweller of the cave, impression;
And soon, whatever was his best possession,
His sanctuary within the rock's deep breast,
His soft-eyed partner, and her nest,
He thought of with indifference, then with loathing;
So much insipid love was good for nothing.--
But sometimes tenderness return'd; his dame
So long belov'd, so mild, so free from blame,
How should he tell her, he had learn'd to cavil
At happiness itself, and longed to travel?
His heart still smote him, so much wrong to do her,
He knew not how to break the matter to her.
But love, tho' blind himself, makes some discerning;
His frequent absence, and his late returning,
With ruffled plumage, and with alter'd eyes,
His careless short replies,
And to their couplets, coldness or neglect
Had made his gentle wife suspect,
All was not right; but she forbore to teaze him,
Which would but give him an excuse to rove:
She therefore tried by every art to please him,
Endur'd his peevish starts with patient love,
And when "like other husbands from a tavern"
Of his new notions full, he sought his cavern
She with dissembled cheerfulness, "beguiled
"The thing she was," and gaily coo-ed and smiled.
'Tis not in this most motley sphere uncommon,
For man, "and so of course more feeble woman"
Most strongly to suspect, what they're pursuing
Will lead them to inevitable ruin,
Yet rush with open eyes to their undoing;
Thus felt the dove; but in the cant of fashion
He talk'd of fate, and of predestination,
And in a grave oration,
He to his much affrighted mate related,
How he, yet slumbering in the egg, was fated,
To gather knowledge, to instruct his kind,
By observation elevate his mind,
And give new impulse to Columbian life;
"If it be so," exclaim'd his hapless wife,
"It is my fate, to pass my days in pain,
"To mourn your love estrang'd, and mourn in vain;
"Here in our once dear hut, to wake and weep,
"When thy unkindness shall have 'murder'd sleep;'
"And never that dear hut shall I prepare,
"And wait with fondness your arrival there,
"While me, and mine forgetting, you will go
"To some new love." "Why, no, I tell you no ,--
"What shall I say such foolish fears to cure?
"I only mean to make a little tour,
"Just--just to see the world around me; then
"With new delight, I shall come home again;
"Such tours are quite the rage--at my return
"I shall have much to tell, and you to learn;
"Of fashions--some becoming, some grotesque
"Of change of empires, and ideas novel;
"Of buildings, Grecian, Gothic, Arabesque,
"And scenery sublime and picturesque;
"And all these things with pleasure we'll discuss--"
"Ah, me! and what are all these things to us?"
"So then, you'd have a bird of genius grovel,
"And never see beyond a farmer's hovel?
"Even the sand-martin, that inferior creature,
"Goes once a year abroad." "It is his nature,
"But yours how different once!" and then she sigh'd,
"There was a time, Ah! would that I had died,
"E'er you so chang'd! when you'd have perish'd rather
"Than this poor breast should heave a single feather
"With grief and care. And all this cant of fashion
"Would but have rais'd your anger, or compassion,--
"O my dear love! You sought not then to range,
"But on my changeful neck as fell the light,
"You sweetly said, you wish'd no other change
"Than that soft neck could shew; to berries bright
"Of mountain ash, you fondly could compare
"My scarlet feet and bill; my shape and air,
"Ah! faithless flatterer, did you not declare
"The soul of grace and beauty center'd there?
"My eyes you said, were opals, brightly pink,
"Enchas'd in onyx; and you seem'd to think,
"Each charm might then the coldest heart enthrall:
"Those charms were mine. Alas! I gave you all--
"Your farthest wanderings then were but to fetch
"The pea, the tare, the beechmast, and the vetch,
"For my repast; within my rocky bower,
"With spleenwort shaded, and the blue-bell's flower,
"For prospects then you never wish'd to roam,
"But the best scenery was our happy home;
"And when, beneath my breast, then fair and young,
"Our first dear pair, our earliest nestlings sprung,
"And weakly, indistinctly, tried to coo--
"Were not those moments picturesque to you?"
"Yes, faith, my dear; and all you say is true."
"Oh! hear me then; if thus we have been blest,
"If on these wings it was your joy to rest,
"Love must from habit still new strength be gaining--"
"From habit? 'tis of that, child, I'm complaining
"This everlasting fondness will not be
"For birds of flesh and blood. We sha'nt agree,
"So why dispute? now prithee don't torment me;
"I shall not long be gone; let that content ye:
"Pshaw! what a fuss! Come, no more sighs and groans,
"Keep up your spirits; mind your little ones;
"My journey won't be far--my honour's pledged--
"I shall be back again before they're fledged;
"Give me a kiss; and now my dear, adieu!"
So light of heart and plumes, away he flew;
And, as above the sheltering rock he springs,
She listen'd to the echo of his wings;
Those well-known sounds, so soothing heretofore,
Which her heart whisper'd she should hear no more.
Then to her cold and widow'd bed she crept,
Clasp'd her half-orphan'd young, and wept!
Her recreant mate, by other views attracted,
A very different part enacted;
He sought the dove-cote, and was greeted there
With all that's tonish, elegant, and rare,
Among the pigeon tribes; and there the rover
Lived quite in clover!
His jolly comrades now, were blades of spirit;
Their nymphs possess'd most fascinating merit;
Nor fail'd our hero of the rock to prove,
He thought not of inviolable love
To his poor spouse at home. He bow'd and sigh'd,
Now to a fantail's, now a cropper's bride;
Then cow'ring low to a majestic powter,
Declared he should not suffer life without her;
And then with upturn'd eyes, in phrase still humbler,
Implor'd the pity of an almond tumbler;
Next, to a beauteous carrier's feet he'd run,
And lived a week, the captive of a nun:
Thus far in measureless content he revels,
And blest the hour when he began his travels.
Yet some things soon occurr'd not quite so pleasant;
He had observ'd that an unfeeling peasant,
It silence mounting on a ladder high,
Seiz'd certain pigeons just as they could fly,
Who never figur'd more, but in a pie;
That was but aukward; then, his lordship's son
Heard from the groom, that 'twould be famous fun
To try on others his unpractis'd gun;
Their fall, the rattling shot, his nerves perplex'd;
He thought perhaps it might be his turn next.
It has been seen ere now, that, much elated,
To be by some great man caress'd and fêted,
A youth of humble birth, and mind industrious,
Foregoes in evil hour his independance;
And, charm'd to wait upon his friend illustrious,
Gives up his time to flattery and attendance.
His patron, smiling at his folly, lets him--
Some newer whim succeeds, and he forgets him.
So fared our bird; his new friend's vacant stare,
Told him he scarce remember'd he was there;
And, when he talk'd of living more securely,
This very dear friend, yawning, answered, "Surely!
"You are quite right to do what's most expedient,
"So, au revoir!--Good bye! Your most obedient."
Allies in prosperous fortune thus he prov'd,
And left them, unregretting, unbelov'd;
Yet much his self-love suffer'd by the shock,
And now, his quiet cabin in the rock,
The faithful partner of his every care,
And all the blessings he abandon'd there,
Rush'd on his sickening heart; he felt it yearn,
But pride and shame prevented his return;
So wandering farther--at the close of day
To the high woods he pensive wing'd his way;
But new distress at every turn he found--
Struck by an hawk, and stunn'd upon the ground,
He once by miracle escaped; then fled
From a wild cat, and hid his trembling head
Beneath a dock; recovering, on the wind
He rose once more, and left his fears behind;
And, as above the clouds he soar'd, the light
Fell on an inland rock; the radiance bright
Shew'd him his long deserted place of rest,
And thitherward he flew; his throbbing breast
Dwelt on his mate, so gentle, and so wrong'd,
And on his memory throng'd
The happiness he once at home had known;
Then to forgive him earnest to engage her,
And for his errors eager to atone,
Onward he went; but ah! not yet had flown
Fate's sharpest arrow: to decide a wager,
Two sportsmen shot at our deserter; down
The wind swift wheeling, struggling, still he fell,
Close to the margin of the stream that flow'd
Beneath the foot of his regretted cell,
And the fresh grass was spotted with his blood;
To his dear home he turn'd his languid view,
Deplor'd his folly, while he look'd his last,
And sigh'd a long adieu!
Thither to sip the brook, his nestlings, led
By their still pensive mother, came;
He saw; and murmuring forth her dear lov'd name,
Implor'd her pity, and with shortening breath,
Besought her to forgive him ere his death.--
And now, how hard in metre to relate
The tears and tender pity of his mate!
Or with what generous zeal, his faithful moitie
Taught her now feather'd young, with duteous piety,
To aid her, on their mutual wings to bear,
With stork-like care,
Their suffering parent to the rock above;
There, by the best physician, Love,
His wounds were heal'd.--His wanderings at an end,
And sober'd quite, the husband, and the friend,
In proof of reformation and contrition,
Gave to his race this prudent admonition;
Advice, which this, our fabling muse, presumes
May benefit the biped without plumes:
"If of domestic peace you are possess'd,
"Learn to believe yourself supremely bless'd;
"And gratefully enjoying your condition,
"Frisk not about, on whims and fancies strange,
"For ten to one, you for the worse will change:
"And 'tis most wise, to check all vain ambition--
"By such aspiring pride the angels fell;
"So love your wife, and know when you are well."

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