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

Robert Leighton 1822–69

The Dried-up Fountain

OUTSIDE the village, by the public road,

I know a dried-up fountain, overgrown

With herbs, the haunt of legendary toad,

And grass, by Nature sown.

I know not where its trickling life was still’d;

No living ears its babbling tongue has caught;

But often, as I pass, I see it fill’d

And running o’er with thought.

I see it as it was in days of old,

The blue-ey’d maiden stooping o’er its brim,

And smoothing in its glass her locks of gold,

Lest she should meet with him.

She knows that he is near, yet I can see

Her sweet confusion when she hears him come.

No tryst had they, though every evening he

Carries her pitchers home.

The ancient beggar limps along the road

At thirsty noon, and rests him by its brink;

The dusty pedlar lays aside his load,

And pauses there to drink.

And there the village children come to play,

When busy parents work in shop and field.

The swallows, too, find there the loamy clay

When ’neath the eaves they build.

When cows at eve come crooning home, the boy

Leaves them to drink, while his mechanic skill

Within the brook sets up, with inward joy,

His tiny water-mill.

And when the night is hush’d in summer sleep,

And rest has come to laborer and team,

I hear the runnel through the long grass creep,

As ’t were a whispering dream.

Alas! ’t is all a dream. Lover and lass,

Children and wanderers, are in their graves;

And where the fountain flow’d a greener grass—

Its In Memoriam—waves.