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Bliss Carman, et al., eds. The World’s Best Poetry. 1904.

IV. Wooing and Winning

The Hermit

Oliver Goldsmith (1730–1774)

From “The Vicar of Wakefield”

“TURN, gentle Hermit of the dale,

And guide my lonely way

To where yon taper cheers the vale

With hospitable ray.

“For here forlorn and lost I tread,

With fainting steps and slow;

Where wilds, immeasurably spread,

Seem lengthening as I go.”

“Forbear, my son,” the Hermit cries,

“To tempt the dangerous gloom;

For yonder faithless phantom flies

To lure thee to thy doom.

“Here to the houseless child of want

My door is open still;

And though my portion is but scant,

I give it with good will.

“Then turn to-night, and freely share

Whate’er my cell bestows;

My rushy couch and frugal fare,

My blessing and repose.

“No flocks that range the valley free

To slaughter I condemn;

Taught by that Power that pities me,

I learn to pity them:

“But from the mountain’s grassy side

A guiltless feast I bring;

A scrip with herbs and fruits supplied,

And water from the spring.

“Then, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego;

All earth-born cares are wrong:

Man wants but little here below,

Nor wants that little long.”

Soft as the dew from heaven descends,

His gentle accents fell:

The modest stranger lowly bends,

And follows to the cell.

Far in a wilderness obscure

The lonely mansion lay;

A refuge to the neighboring poor,

And strangers led astray.

No stores beneath its humble thatch

Required a master’s care:

The wicket, opening with a latch,

Received the harmless pair.

And now, when busy crowds retire

To take their evening rest,

The Hermit trimmed his little fire,

And cheered his pensive guest;

And spread his vegetable store,

And gayly pressed and smiled;

And, skilled in legendary lore,

The lingering hours beguiled.

Around, in sympathetic mirth,

Its tricks the kitten tries;

The cricket chirrups on the hearth;

The crackling fagot flies.

But nothing could a charm impart

To soothe the stranger’s woe;

For grief was heavy at his heart,

And tears began to flow.

His rising cares the Hermit spied,

With answering care opprest:

“And whence, unhappy youth,” he cried,

“The sorrows of thy breast?

“From better habitations spurned,

Reluctant dost thou rove?

Or grieve for friendship unreturned,

Or unregarded love?

“Alas! the joys that fortune brings

Are trifling, and decay;

And those who prize the paltry things

More trifling still than they.

“And what is friendship but a name,

A charm that lulls to sleep;

A shade that follows wealth or fame,

And leaves the wretch to weep?

“And love is still an emptier sound,

The modern fair one’s jest;

On earth unseen, or only found

To warm the turtle’s nest.

“For shame, fond youth! thy sorrows hush,

And spurn the sex,” he said;

But while he spoke, a rising blush

His lovelorn guest betrayed.

Surprised, he sees new beauties rise,

Swift mantling to the view;

Like colors o’er the morning skies,

As bright, as transient too.

The bashful look, the rising breast,

Alternate spread alarms:

The lovely stranger stands confest

A maid in all her charms.

“And, ah! forgive a stranger rude,

A wretch forlorn,” she cried;

“Whose feet unhallowed thus intrude

Where heaven and you reside.

“But let a maid thy pity share,

Whom love has taught to stray;

Who seeks for rest, but finds despair

Companion of her way.

“My father lived beside the Tyne,

A wealthy lord was he;

And all his wealth was marked as mine,—

He had but only me.

“To win me from his tender arms,

Unnumbered suitors came;

Who praised me for imputed charms,

And felt, or feigned, a flame.

“Each hour a mercenary crowd

With richest proffers strove:

Among the rest young Edwin bowed,

But never talked of love.

“In humble, simplest habit clad,

No wealth or power had he;

Wisdom and worth were all he had,

But these were all to me.

“And when beside me in the dale

He carolled lays of love,

His breath lent fragrance to the gale

And music to the grove.

“The blossom opening to the day,

The dews of heaven refined,

Could naught of purity display

To emulate his mind.

“The dew, the blossoms of the tree,

With charms inconstant shine;

Their charms were his, but, woe to me!

Their constancy was mine.

“For still I tried each fickle art,

Importunate and vain;

And while his passion touched my heart,

I triumphed in his pain:

“Till, quite dejected with my scorn,

He left me to my pride;

And sought a solitude forlorn,

In secret, where he died.

“But mine the sorrow, mine the fault,

And well my life shall pay;

I ’ll seek the solitude he sought,

And stretch me where he lay.

“And there forlorn, despairing, hid,

I ’ll lay me down and die;

’T was so for me that Edwin did,

And so for him will I.”

“Forbid it, Heaven!” the Hermit cried,

And clasped her to his breast:

The wondering fair one turned to chide,—

’T was Edwin’s self that pressed.

“Turn, Angelina, ever dear,

My charmer, turn to see

Thy own, thy long-lost Edwin here,

Restored to love and thee.

“Thus let me hold thee to my heart,

And every care resign:

And shall we never, never part,

My life,—my all that ’s mine?

“No, never from this hour to part,

We ’ll live and love so true:

The sigh that rends thy constant heart

Shall break thy Edwin’s too.”