My fancy's queen, the muse, one day,
Pressed me upon her harp to play;
She bade me fear not want of words, She'd find them, if I'd strike the chords;
So, yielding to her sweet request,
I slung the lyre across my breast.
'Twas summer then: the skies were blue;
The breezes onward softly flew;
The hills and vales were dressed in green,
And beauty ev'rywhere was seen;
The willow kissed the sparkling brook,
That playful leaped from nook to nook.
The woods their arms inviting spread,
Off'ring cool shadow for my head;
And there, 'mid silent bowers, I knew
The tree of contemplation grew;
This I could always climb with ease,
Whence nature's charms were sure to please.
Embosomed there, around I glanced,
But all with equal pow'r entranced;
With head inclined, I listened long
For the first dictates of my song;
The goddess now my bosom fired,
And bade me sing as she inspired.
I saw the squirrel leap the tree;
I heard the humming of the bee;
I saw the robin leave the scrub,
And bear away the captive grub;
From distant cote I heard the dove,
And said, my strain, too, must be love!
Just then the wild flow'rs fixed my eyes,
Pleading their cause with tears and sighs;
"We live," they said, "and feed the air,
And yield our riches without care;
Our humble origin and birth
Unnoticed by the sons of earth!"
A hawthorn, white with pearly bloom,
Shed o'er the spot its sweet perfume;
Fired to possess it on my breast,
I seized, and its fair blossoms pressed;
But virtue can resist, I found,
Wounded, I fell upon the ground!
A wild rose, now, as if afraid,
Bent forward from its thorny shade;
Its blush of modest, conscious claim
To my regard, filled me with shame;
I saw it, delicate and fair,
Emblem of beauty in despair!
Striking my harp, I raised my voice,
And said, "Wild flow'rs shall be my choice;
Their virtues, loveliness, and grace,
Adorn the earth in ev'ry place;
Whate'er the soil, whate'er the scene, There the poor innocents are seen!"
I had not now long time to wait,
For all around began to prate;
Each had some whisper for my ear,
Of past neglect, contempt, or fear.
To listen I could not refuse,
So sang their stories to my muse.
With arms entwined around an oak,
A woodbine thus pathetic spoke;
"Though wealth and beauty I have got,
Behold in me frail woman's lot;
For, but for the support I've found,
I should be prostrate on the ground!"
A bluebell, with harmonious tongue,
Told why its head dejected hung;
That, though its bells were all in tune,
They were as silent as the moon;
Or if in sun, or if in shade,
Its beauty soon was sure to fade!
And now a primrose, ashy pale,
Murmured its sad and stirring tale;
That though with thousands it might come,
It never rested long at home;
No sooner its arrival spread,
Than it was snatched from out its bed!
Low at my feet with downcast eye,
I saw a gentle suppliant lie;
With haste I seized the trembling pet,
And asked what ailed my violet?
"Oh!" it exclaimed, "I've scarcely breathed,
Ere of existence I'm bereaved!"
And now with bags brimful of gold,
Their woes, the sturdy cowslips told;
How, when above the meaner craft,
The boys and girls, they only laughed;
Seized them, and ere a moment lost,
Their heads unto each other tossed.
Bounding my narrow circle's view,
The fern and heath together grew;
The one, its graceful plume displayed,
The other, floral wreaths arrayed;
Like prince and princess, they appeared,
So bowing low, I loudly cheered!
Some roughs, as guardians stationed near,
With loyal shouts now rent the air;
With bayonets, and lances armed,
I, to approach them, felt alarmed;
For ruthless thistle well I knew,
And nettle, fiercest of the two.
A foxglove startled by the sound,
Broke from its cover with a bound;
With stately attitude erect,
Bade me on its deserts reflect:
How that it bore in every vein,
An antidote for mortal pain!
An orchis, fairy of the flowers,
Now fixed me with its magic powers;
Spellbound, I watched its witchery,
And saw it change--now man--now bee;
Or, like a butterfly on wing,
Taking its flight in joyous spring!
I thought that now I'd quit my seat,
And whisper to the ears of wheat,
If they of aught had to complain,
And what to bear against their grain;
"No, no," they all exultant said,
"Before the reaper comes, we're dead!"
Hearing a voice repeat the same,
I looked to see from whence it came,
And saw a poppy all in rags
Waving aloft its crimson flags,
And heard it say, or rather sing,
"I am as happy as a king!"
Not to fat pastures I repaired,
To ask the daisies how they fared:
"Although in clover we are bred,
Content is not our forte," they said;
For if we've vast estates from birth,
We can't enjoy them long on earth."
With bowls of polished gold upraised,
The buttercups thus fortune praised:
"Though cast among the vulgar crew,
We are as wealthy as a Jew;
And as we've flourished through the past,
We shall, as long as time shall last!"
Beside them, cow'ring 'mid the grass,
Some dandelions (bold as brass),
Caught up the strain, and, roaring, said,
"Though all around will soon have fled,
Nothing can drive us from our lair,
Do what you will, we're always there!"
I stopped to ask my muse to say,
If she approved my humble lay;
"Yes, yes," she said, "indeed I do,
For ev'ry word you've sung is true,
And men who boast of higher pow'rs,
May see their mirrors in wild flowers."
Well pleased, I turned to quit the spot,
When a voice said, "Forget-me-not!"
With eager eyes I glanced about,
And soon the loving flow'r found out;
A snapped its stem, and quick as thought,
Unto my muse the off'ring brought!