Lines, Occasioned by a Visit to Whittlebury Forest, Northamptonshire, in August 1800


Genius of the Forest Shades!
Lend thy pow’r, and lend thine ear!
A Stranger trod thy lonely glades,
Amidst thy dark and bounding Deer;
Inquiring Childhood claims the verse, 5
O let them not inquire in vain;
Be with me while I thus rehearse
The glories of thy Sylvan Reign.
Thy Dells by wint’ry currents worn,
Secluded haunts, how dear to me! 10
From all but Nature’s converse borne,
No ear to hear, no eye to see.
Their honour’d leaves the green Oaks rear’d,
And crown’d the upland’s graceful swell;
While answering through the vale was heard 15
Each distant Heifer’s tinkling bell.
Hail, Greenwood shades, that stretching far,
Defy e’en Summer’s noontide pow’r,
When August in his burning Car
Withholds the Cloud, withholds the Show’r.20
The deep-ton’d Low from either Hill,
Down hazel aisles and arches green,
(The Herd’s rude tracks from rill to rill)
Roar’d echoing through the solemn scene.
From my charm’d heart the numbers sprung, 25
Though Birds had ceas’d the choral lay:
I pour’d wild raptures from my tongue,
And gave delicious tears their way.
Then, darker shadows seeking still,
Where human foot had seldom stray’d, 30
I read aloud to every Hill
Sweet Emma’s Love, ‘the Nut-brown Maid.’
Shaking his matted mane on high
The gazing Colt would raise his head;
Or, tim’rous Doe would rushing fly, 35
And leave to me her grassy bed:
Where, as the azure sky appear’d
Through Bow’rs of every varying form.
’Midst the deep gloom methought I heard
The daring progress of the storm.40
How would each sweeping pond’rous bough
Resist, when straight the Whirlwind cleaves,
Dashing in strength’ning eddies through
A roaring wilderness of leaves!
How would the prone descending show’r 45
From the green Canopy rebound!
How would the lowland torrents pour!
How deep the pealing thunder sound!
But Peace was there: no lightnings blaz’d: —
No clouds obscur’d the face of Heav’n: 50
Down each green op’ning while I gaz’d,
My thoughts to home, and you, were giv’n.
O tender minds! in life’s gay morn
Some clouds must dim your coming day;
Yet, bootless pride and falsehood scorn, 55
And peace like this shall cheer your way.
Now, at the dark Wood’s stately side,
Well pleas’d I met the Sun again;
Here fleeting Fancy travell’d wide!
My seat was destin’d to the Main: 60
For, many an Oak lay stretch’d at length,
Whose trunks (with bark no longer sheath’d)
Had reach’d their full meridian strength
Before your Father’s Father breath’d!
Perhaps they’ll many a conflict brave, 65
And many a dreadful storm defy;
Then groaning o’er the adverse wave,
Bring home the flag of victory.
Go, then, proud Oaks; we meet no more!
Go, grace the scenes to me denied, 70
The white Cliffs round my native shore,
And the loud Ocean’s swelling tide.
‘Genius of the Forest Shades,’
Sweet, from the heights of thy domain,
When the grey ev’ning shadow fades, 75
To view the Country’s golden grain!
To view the gleaming Village Spire
’Midst distant groves unknown to me;
Groves, that grown bright in borrow’d fire,
Bow o’er the peopled Vales to thee!80
Where was thy Elfin train that play
Round Wake’s huge Oak, their favourite tree;
May a poor son of Song thus say,
Why were they not reveal’d to me!
Yet, smiling Fairies left behind,85
Affection brought you to my view;
To love and tenderness resign’d,
I sat me down and thought of you.
When Morning still unclouded rose,
Refresh’d with sleep and joyous dreams, 90
Where fruitful fields with woodlands close,
I trac’d the births of various streams.
From beds of Clay, here creeping rills
Unseen to parent Ouse would steal;
Or, gushing from the northward Hills, 95
Would glitter through Toves’ winding dale.
But ah! ye cooling springs, farewell!
Herds, I no more your freedom share;
But long my grateful tongue shall tell
What brought your gazing stranger there. 100
‘Genius of the Forest Shades,
Lend thy power, and lend thine ear;’
Let dreams still lengthen thy long glades,
And bring thy peace and silence here. [1] 


[1] [1st edn, 1st state adds note:] These lyric stanzas have much of the solemn picturesque, and pathetic. And the address to the author’s children gives a new and peculiar interest to the description. C. L. Sept 25. 1801.] omitted in 1st edn, 2nd state and later edns BACK