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LINES WRITTEN IN THE BLUE RIDGE, VIRGINIA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A man, an irish man, 'tis true
Last Line: Is living in a treetrunk.
Subject(s): Mountains; Virginia

A man, an Irish man, 'tis true,
Came from his island hither,
Before the later autumn blew
And woods had left to wither,
To breathe an edge of mountain air,
A smack of mountain danger,
And gather fortune, friends, and fare:
A poet and a stranger

Come of that good old stock of old
Who deemed the world suspended
To minister to monks, and rolled
But as their fortunes tended;
Who saved their souls and spent their means,
Knew but one path to heaven,
But well good brawn from pulse and greens
And always char from cheven.

He doubted, thought the world was well
Nor needed priests' redressing,
So left behind the sacring bell
Nor stood for ban or blessing;
He left behind the sacring bell
And "flat meads thatched with stover,"
Sought out a half-manned caravel
And worked his passage over.

Consistent! let us test his claims;
In wealth not worth a dollar,
Only the best now suits his aims:
A churchman and a scholar.
With buzom ale his heart he glads,
Drinks wine instead of water,
Nor cares for Little Iliads
Or Lady day the latter.

Vain, versatile, and fickle, lo!
To each strange pipe he dances,
Now crazed for newest glory, now
Half-mad with old romances;
Now goes unwashed and sinks his tone
To what his toil or trade is,
Now strolls a fop, his time his own,
And a mere man of ladies:

And May dew for a morning face
He thinks more rare confection
Than paints and pargets in their place,
Patches, pots of complexion.
Now half a boy he steals alone
And slow, through sun and shadow,
Looking for gold, the lapwing's stone,
Or mandrake, or right maddow.

And so time went: philosophy
He tried, then claimed invention
Of some new stop in poesy
With matters not to mention.
Too genuine far to make his mark
Mid tricksters and trepanners,
He lectures turned, and theses dark,
Fate, doctrine, men and manners

Most learnedly would talk upon;
And yet as one who jostles
The doers and the deeds in one,
Epistles and apostles:
O'er Scriptural names of Achsah, Ruth,
And Leah, would hitch and hirple
To Lydia, faithful to the truth,
A seller too of purple.

Nicaula, in her robes of state,
Dorcas, Demetrias, Lilias,
And men of might, the scarce known great
From Gilpin back to Gillias:
Strange peers in evil look and life,
Crooked Richard and Constandel,
He knew, and heads with learning rife
In Cork and Coromandel.

Yet never heeding place or kind,
Whate'er he gave his views on,
He all the wealth of all his mind
O'erturned in rich confusion;
Nor parted up his ware in lots
That all might portion fairly,
But proffered pearls and peridots
For better beans and barley:

And so they rent him, story old,
Till he cried, sick with striving,
"Pinchbeck and orsidue are gold!
And Fame is had for diving!"
Yet finding where one came to ground,
The water sure would drown ten,
He left the Mart and left the Sound
For breezes of the mountain.

He left the Mart and left the Strand,
And now our plot commences
To heighten, like the barren land
Beyond the fields and fences.
But more astray and ill at ease
We get, the higher clamber we.
"The morning is dark and smells of cheese"
Quoth Giles with his head in the ambery.

Keep courage! we shall see the light
And breathe the northwind blowing;
The little hamlet is in sight
Towards which our steps are going
Where, hidden in a mountain notch
Like gray bats clung together,
A quiet folk, and chiefly Scotch,
Had huddled from the weather.

A little Paradise it seemed,
Half-shadowed and half-whitened.
The slow cloud sailed, the sunshine gleamed,
The river dusked and brightened:
A little Paradise it seemed,
Worth losing name and fame for,
But ah! they cared not what he dreamed
But only what he came for!

Some said he was a landless lord,
And some a rogue of station,
And every movement, deed, or word
Lacked not interpretation.
And if he nothing did but sleep
Or shift his daily clothing,
"'T was plain," they said, "he'd never keep
So calm a sough for nothing!"

And thus from hand to hand he flew;
Through tradesmen, herdsmen, mowers
Sped ball-like till he fell into
The Circle of the Sewers
Who weekly strive for charity
And heads to heap abuse on,
Whose lightest touch's profanity,
Whose handling is pollution:

Who fairest fabrics smirch and soil
Without one pleading voice,
Who never heard of Pope and Boyle,
And never read Pomfret's Choice;
Sisters of the consistory
Who make the village histories:
Some said it was a mystery,
Some said it was a mistress.

Poor devils! on their praise or ban
He little built or reckoned,
But fled as if from death he ran
And went where Nature beckoned.
Better to lie the turf below
The water where the moss sips
Than knitting lace like sad Rousseau,
Make peace with country gossips.

And thus upon the hills we met
Like patriots sick of mobrule,
Or mercury-drops of varying weight,
Yet blending in one globule;
And there this record line by line
Of strife, ambition, folly,
He told to me. The rhymes are mine,
The matter his--his wholly.

"And now," he said, "the world is done
For me, no world redressor,
Yet here a man the world might shun
And live his own possessor:
Nor help nor hindrance would he find
In upper world or nether,
Though he should feed him with the wind
And clothe him with the weather;

Here might be found a concave good!
Or made by boring-blasting,
And if Religion was his mood,
How fair a place for fasting!
Or would he pet his carnal sins
Nor take himself to task for;
Wild honey hoards and chinguapins
Are all a man could ask for.

He should not care in wine to wet
His barken loaf or bannock,
While from this ridge of mountain yet
Runs out the Rappahannock;
Nor like the swain who gets no crop
Save where he sets or seeds it,
He should find shelter when to stop
And meat where'er he needs it.

So might the poet cease to roam
Far shores and islands many
For fairer food than grows at home:
But here in Alleghany,
Nipping the verdure here along
These mountain necks and passes,
Hang like a goat to browse among
Poor pines and Indian grasses;

For thou, O Nature, tuft and tree,
A war with want still warrest
To feed thy children grudgingly:
And so these walks of forest
A natural sustenance, bleak and rude,
To mountain sheep and kid owe,
Sheddings and shack of the wild wood,
Woodchuck and chuckwill's widow.

Glean by the moon: and eft and fly;
In shower and sunshine flourish.
And only He, the Master high,
Finds naught or naught to nourish;
And shall it be he may not do
Like these with reason greater?
Perhaps remake himself anew
And be his own creator?

His spirit and his fleshly force
Corroborate so fully,
He should outrun the swiftest horse
And talk with angels duly;
With senses fined, with vision cleansed
From sin and self indulgence,
What light would be to him dispensed!
What glory! what effulgence!"

He ceased. A little wind rose free;
Far off we heard it humming.
"And like that wind," he said, "shall be
My going and my coming.
Here will I build, here fix my bridge
From here to the hereafter."
And fierce old Fell and Grummet Ridge
Shook softly as with laughter.

Too long a tale! We wandered down
To meet not on the morrow,
For he was gone, yet left for one
Some words of love and sorrow.
The little hamlet in the cleft,
Bequeathed his discontent to,
But ah! they cared not what he left
But only where he went to.

But this they never knew or found:
Perhaps across the ocean
He fled again to greener ground,
Found peace if not promotion.
Or if within these hills he stayed
In rest and golden quiet,
I wondered how his bed he made
And how he liked his diet;

And after, when the hills fell bare
And all the grass went reddish,
How fared he with his mountain fare:
Fall-feed and winter eddish?
And did he thus his days prolong?
And was his heaven the nearer?
And whether, while his legs grew strong,
He felt his head get clearer.

I wondered too if peak and wood
United to outbrave him,
Or took him to their brotherhood
With welcome wild and gave him
The freedom of their rocks and earth
And sky, for life a member--
And how he liked their mountain mirth
In snowtime and December.

I wondered then, I wonder now,
When gazing at the Grummet,
Whether alone and gathering snow
He sits upon some summit,
Stylites-like, the storm to mock!
Or packed for Cork his seatrunk;
Or humbler namesake Simon Stock
Is living in a treetrunk.

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