Felicia Hemans

Wild Dartmoor! thou that 'midst thy mountains rude
Hast robed thyself with haughty solitude,
As a dark cloud on summer's clear blue sky,—
A mourner circled with festivity!
For all beyond is life!—the rolling sea,
The rush, the swell, whose echoes reach not thee.

Yet who shall find a scene so wild and bare
But man has left his lingering traces there!
E'en on mysterious Afric's boundless plains,
Where noon with attributes of midnight reigns,
In gloom and silence fearfully profound,
As of a world unwaked to soul or sound.
Though the sad wanderer of the burning zone
Feels, as amidst infinity, alone,
And naught of life be near, his camel's tread
Is o'er the prostrate cities of the dead!
Some column, reared by long-forgotten hands,
Just lifts its head above the billowy sands,—
Some mouldering shrine still consecrates the scene,
And tells that glory's footstep there hath been.
There hath the spirit of the mighty passed,
Not without record; though the desert blast,
Borne on the wings of Time, hath swept away
The proud creations reared to brave decay.
But thou, lone region! whose unnoticed name
No lofty deeds have mingled with their fame,
Who shall unfold thine annals? who shall tell
If on thy soil the sons of heroes fell,
In those far ages which have left no trace,
No sunbeam, on the pathway of their race?
Though, haply, in the unrecorded days
Of kings and chiefs who passed without their praise,
Thou might'st have reared the valiant and the free,
In history's page there is no tale of thee.

Yet hast thou thy memorials. On the wild
Still rise the cairns of yore, all rudely piled,
But hallowed by that instinct which reveres
Things fraught with characters of elder years.
And such are these. Long centuries are flown,
Bowed many a crest and shattered many a throne,
Mingling the urn, the trophy, and the bust,
With what they hide,—their shrined and treasured dust.
Men traverse alps and oceans, to behold
Earth's glorious works fast mingling with her mould;
But still these nameless chronicles of death.
Midst the deep silence of the unpeopled heath,
Stand in primeval artlessness, and wear
The same sepulchral mien, and almost share
The eternity of nature with the forms
Of the crowned hills beyond, the dwellings of the storms.

But ages rolled away; and England stood
With her proud banner streaming o'er the flood;
And with a lofty calmness in her eye,
And regal in collected majesty,
To breast the storm of battle. Every breeze
Bore sounds of triumph o'er her own blue seas;
And other lands, redeemed and joyous, drank
The lifeblood of her heroes, as they sank
On the red fields they won; whose wild flowers wave
Now in luxuriant beauty o'er their grave.

'Twas then the captives of Britannia's war
Here for their lovely southern climes afar
In bondage pined; the spell-deluded throng
Dragged at Ambition's chariot-wheels so long
To die,—because a despot could not clasp
A sceptre fitted to his boundless grasp!
Yes! they whose march hath rocked the ancient thrones
And temples of the world,—the deepening tones
Of whose advancing trumpet from repose
Had startled nations, wakening to their woes,—
Were prisoners here. And there were some whose dreams
Were of sweet homes, by chainless mountain streams,
And of the vine-clad hills, and many a strain
And festal melody of Loire or Seine;
And of those mothers who had watched and wept.
When on the field the unsheltered conscript slept,
Bathed with the midnight dews. And some were there
Of sterner spirits, hardened by despair;
Who, in their dark imaginings, again
Fired the rich palace and the stately fane,
Drank in their victim's shriek as music's breath.
And lived o'er scenes, the festivals of death!

Yes! let the waste lift up the exulting voice!
Let the far-echoing solitudes rejoice!
And thou, lone moor! where no blithe reaper's song
E'er lightly sped the summer-hours along,
Bid thy wild rivers, from each mountain source
Rushing in joy, make music on their course!
Thou, whose sole records of existence mark
The scene of barbarous rites, in ages dark,
And of some nameless combat; Hope's bright eye
Beams o'er thee in the light of prophecy!
Yet shalt thou smile, by busy culture drest,
And the rich harvest wave upon thy breast!
Yet shall thy cottage-smoke, at dewy morn,
Rise in blue wreaths above the flowering thorn,
And, 'midst thy hamlet-shades, the embosomed spire
Catch from deep-kindling heavens their earliest fire.