Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Arthur Hugh Clough 1819–61

From “The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich”


THERE is a stream, I name not its name, lest inquisitive tourist

Hunt it, and make it a lion, and get it at last into guide-books,

Springing far off from a loch unexplor’d in the folds of great mountains,

Falling two miles through rowan and stunted alder, enveloped

Then for four more in a forest of pine, where broad and ample

Spreads, to convey it, the glen with heathery slopes on both sides:

Broad and fair the stream, with occasional falls and narrows;

But, where the glen of its course approaches the vale of the river,

Met and block’d by a huge interposing mass of granite,

Scarce by a channel deep-cut, raging up, and raging onward,

Forces its flood through a passage so narrow a lady would step it.

There, across the great rocky wharves, a wooden bridge goes,

Carrying a path to the forest; below, three hundred yards, say,

Lower in level some twenty-five feet, through flats of shingle,

Stepping-stones and a cart-track cross in the open valley.

But in the interval here the boiling, pent-up water

Frees itself by a final descent, attaining a basin,

Ten feet wide and eighteen long, with whiteness and fury

Occupied partly, but mostly pellucid, pure, a mirror;

Beautiful there for the color deriv’d from green rocks under;

Beautiful, most of all, where beads of foam up-rising

Mingle their clouds of white with the delicate hue of the stillness.

Cliff over cliff for its sides, with rowan and pendant birch boughs,

Here it lies, unthought of above at the bridge and pathway,

You are shut in, left alone with yourself and perfection of water,

Hid on all sides, left alone with yourself and the goddess of bathing.

Here, the pride of the plunger, you stride the fall and clear it;

Here, the delight of the bather, you stride the fall and clear it;

Here into pure green depth drop down from lofty ledges.

Hither, a month agone, they had come, and discover’d it; hither

(Long a design, but long unaccountably left unaccomplish’d),

Leaving the well-known bridge and pathway above to the forest,

Turning below from the track of the carts over stone and shingle,

Piercing a wood, and skirting a narrow and natural causeway

Under the rocky wall that hedges the bed of the streamlet,

Rounded a craggy point, and saw on a sudden before them

Rounded a craggy point, and saw on a sudden before them

Slabs of rock, and a tiny beach, and perfection of water,

Picture-like beauty, seclusion sublime, and the goddess of bathing.

There they bath’d, of course, and Arthur, the glory of headers,

Leap’d from the ledges with Hope, he twenty feet, he thirty;

There, overbold, great Hobbes from a ten-foot height descended,

Prone, as a quadruped, prone with hands and feet protending;

There in the sparkling champagne, ecstatic, they shriek’d and shouted.

“Hobbes’s gutter” the Piper entitles the spot, profanely,

Hope “the Glory” would have, after Arthur, the glory of headers:

But, for before they departed, in shy and fugitive reflex

Here in the eddies and there did the splendor of Jupiter glimmer;

Adam adjudged it the name of Hesperus, star of the evening.

Hither, to Hesperus, now, the star of the evening above them,

Come in their lonelier walk the pupils twain and Tutor;

Turn’d from the track of the carts, and passing the stone and shingle,

Piercing the wood, and skirting the stream by the natural causeway,

Rounded the craggy point, and now at their ease look’d up; and

Lo, on the rocky ledge, regardant, the Glory of headers,

Lo, on the beach, expecting the plunge, not cigarless, the Piper.—

And they look’d, and wonder’d, incredulous, looking yet once more.

Yes, it was he, on the ledge, bare-limb’d, an Apollo, down-gazing,

Eying one moment the beauty, the life, ere he flung himself in it,

Eying through eddying green waters the green-tinting floor underneath them,

Eying the bead on the surface, the bead, like a cloud, rising to it,

Drinking in, deep in his soul, the beautiful hue and the clearness,

Arthur, the shapely, the brave, the unboasting, the glory of headers;

Yes, and with fragrant weed, by his knapsack, spectator and critic,

Seated on slab by the margin, the Piper, the Cloud-compeller.