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William And Amelia - Poem by Thomas Cowherd

Near the side of Windermere,
Down a gentle rising hill,
Flowed a murmuring brook so clear
Every portion of the year,
And no doubt is flowing still.

Hard by stood a small, neat house,
Tenanted by peasants poor.
The mother was a loving spouse,
One who never was a blowze,
But most tidy evermore.

The husband was an honest man
Working hard on working days,
Deeming it the wisest plan.
Each day's labor he began
By pure prayer to God always.

We shall call them HUMBLEWORTH;
They such name deserved quite well.
In that country of the north
All would speak their praises forth,
With delight their worth would tell.

Three dear children graced their home,
Lovely were they in their youth.
When they chanced in woods to roam,
Fairies seemed they to become;
Full their hearts of love and truth.

AMIE, BESS and little ANN
We their names at present call;
AMIE'S bloom was richer than
Any rose which zephyrs fan.
She had, too, a lovely soul.

BESS was as a lily pale,
Graceful as a fawn could be.
She was never very hale,
Parents' eyes could see her fail,
And they felt anxiety.

Little ANN, a chubby lass,
Was the youngest and the pet;
Friends all thought naught could surpass
That sweet child in loveliness
Which they in their lives had met.

I have said that they were poor.
This was true of worldly things;
Yet they had an ample store,
They were skilled in Bible lore;
And from this sweet comfort springs.

Very close observers might
Deem them once of higher rank,
They defrauded of their right,
But still blest with gospel light,
Of rich consolation drank.

Near them lived a proud, rich man,
Wide his lands, but small his heart.
Of him a report there ran
That he to be rich began
Practicing a knavish part.

'GRIPEY' was the name he bore
'Mongst the country people round;
They could reckon up a score
Of vile actions, if not more,
And from these this name they found.

Such a name is more genteel;
Had he done one worthy deed
I would not withold the meed
Of sweet praise I truly feel.

He had but an only son,
WILLIAM was his given name;
He to love had not begun,
Yet at times he liked to run
In the woods when AMIE came.

There for her he'd try to find
Hazel nuts and berries, too.
Thus he showed his heart was kind-
That he had no churlish mind
When such actions he could do.

Time flew past; poor BESSIE lay-
On her humble dying bed.
Parents now beside her pray,
AMIE watches her by day-
Moving round with softest tread.

WILLIAM oft some dainty brought
To her by his mother sent,
And returned with sober thought,
Musing as each mortal ought
On a death-bed scene intent.

He had heard fair AMIE speak
Of a place above the sky,
Where dear BESS with spirit meek
Would be taken, though so weak,
If at present she should die.

Now he reaches that fine place
Where he and his parents live.
Marks of sadness on his face
Make his father wish to trace
What could him such trouble give.

WILLIAM, not inclined to guile,
Did the truth at once disclose.
This creates a scornful smile
On that rich man's face the while,
Then unto his wife he goes,

And in stern and angry mood
Asks her why she sent the boy;
Did she call that doing good
Sending one of gentler blood,
Just to watch a cottar die?

He no reasons deigns to hear,
Bids the boy not go again.
WILLIAM drops a silent tear
While his parent still is near,
Yet strict silence does maintain.

BESS has left this earthly scene,
Sorrow therefore fills that home.
They have to the churchyard been,
And its clods are now between
Them and charming BESSIE'S form.

They were not alone in grief,
WILLIAM sorrowed much at heart,
Knew not yet the saint's belief,
And most slowly came relief
To remove from him his smart.

Those who seek to curb the mind
Of their offspring in their youth,
Should show reason why they bind,
Clothed in language very kind,
Lest they tempt them from the truth.

Soon the youth began to feel
Galled by most unjust restraint,
And did oft in secret steal
To enquire of AMIE'S weal,
And to her would make complaint.

Then she told her father all.
Calm but firm was his reply:-
'WILLIAM shall no longer call;
Some great ill might him befall,
And he must himself deny.'

This AMELIA saw was right
And informed the gentle boy.
Tears bedimmed his eyes that night
For the loss of his delight,
Which would all his peace destroy.

Said he now, 'I will refrain
From my visits, AMIE dear,
If you'll true to me remain
Till I can consent obtain
From my father, whom I fear.'

AMIE blushed, her word did pledge.
WILLIAM snatched a parting kiss
As he swiftly climbs the hedge,
Fairest dreams his mind engage
For he tastes of lovers' bliss.

Pass we o'er five tedious years.
Years which saw great changes come
To some thousands in all spheres,
Raised by hopes or sunk by fears,
Now alive, or in the tomb

WILLIAM had just come from school
Summoned to his father's bed
On an Autumn evening cool.
Now dread thoughts began to rule
Him who lay just like the dead.

Why that start, that vacant stare?
Does he know his son is by?
Guilty conscience who can bear?
Hope shut out or blank Despair,
When one's latter end is nigh?

Stood the youth with tearful eyes
Fixed upon the dying man.
He would speak, but when he tries
His young soul within him dies
As he views that face so wan.

Speaks the father now at last,
'WILLIAM, listen to my tale.
I through dreadful crime have passed,
But while life is ebbing fast
Now to you I would unveil

'My base heart, if yet I may
In some measure crime atone.
It is thirty years this day
Since a Will I made away,
To gain riches not my own.

'Him I wronged is HUMBLEWORTH,
Long a neighbor near this house:
His my wealth by right of birth;
All I own upon this earth
Is my family-and disgrace.

'I would make amends to him,
But grim death now shakes his dart;
Breathing fails me, eyes grow dim,
Spectres 'fore my vision skim,
And with terrors fill my heart.

'List, my son, your's be the task,
When I'm past this earthly scene,
Pardon for my sin to ask,
My vile conduct to unmask,
And make known what I have been.

'But, my boy, in pity spare,
Spare your mother's feelings dear.
Warning take, from me, nor dare
Sport with sin; of that beware,
For great danger lurketh near.

'I more would say, but now again
Death's strong fetters bind my tongue.'
Soon his struggles are in vain;
WILLIAM'S heart is wrung with pain,
And his nerves are all unstrung.

Startling groans break on his ear
Now that ill-spent life has fled.
WILLIAM sees his mother near
And attempts her heart to cheer,
As she sinks upon the bed.

Seems this stroke too hard to bear.
In the lack of Christian hope,
Her weak heart from grief and care
Droops too soon to dire despair;
With such foe she cannot cope.

Now the youth feels greatest need
To curb well his ardent grief,
Calls he loud for help with speed.
His commands the servants heed,
They obey his mandates brief.

First the mistress they convey
To her room and lay her down.
There would WILLIAM with her stay,
But he could not brook delay
Till his father's crime he own.

Goes he to the house once more
Where his dear AMELIA lives.
With a heart most truly sore,
Reaches he the cottage door,
Knocks; no one admittance gives.

Why is all so still around?
This place they did occupy!
'Where can HUMBLEWORTHS be found?'
Asks he loud, nor heeds the sound
Of man's footsteps passing by.

Turns the man in haste his head
And the youth does recognize,
Tells him, 'In the lake's clean bed
Some one found poor AMIE dead!'
And that thitherward he hies.

This like thrust of dagger came,
Near depriving him of sense.
In his breast's a raging flame,
Calls he AMIE'S lovely name
As he rushes o'er the fence.

Down toward the deep lake's side
Flies he now with greatest speed.
Forms among the bushes glide,
Sorely is the lover tried
In this saddest hour of need.

Who can paint his grief of mind
As the lifeless form he views?
Vainly strives he peace to find,
This stroke seems the most unkind;
He all comfort does refuse.

AMIE'S face has lost its bloom,
Though her countenance is fair.
Little ANN within the room
Deeply shares the general gloom,
In a dim lit corner there.

Some make efforts to restore
That sweet girl they loved so well.
Too long time elapsed before
Her dear form was drawn to shore.
Death has cast o'er her his spell.

Women kind now lay her out,
In pure white her corpse invest.
WILLIAM then, by nature taught,
With poetic feeling fraught,
This warm song to her addressed:


Still like to Luna wading,
Beneath yon silvery cloud,
Thy beauties are unfading,
Though mantled in a shroud.

As thou in death art lying,
Thy lovely form I view,
And ask if aught in dying
Has made thy charms seem new.

Say, wert thou conscious ever
That I to thee was true?
That naught but death could sever
The bond 'twixt me and you?

I came with heart nigh bursting
From thee to get relief.
My very soul was thirsting
To let thee share its grief.

And now this stroke has fallen
Like thunderbolt on me,
And my poor heart is swollen
With saddest misery.

Oh, where can I be flying
For strength and succor now?
If there were hope in dying,
I soon to death would bow.

But now my duty strongly
Bids me my task fulfil;
Thy family suffered wrongly,
To right them I've the will.

And then I would be leaving
Each bitter scene of woe,
Haply my loss retrieving,
If that can be below.

Thou wert to me oft speaking
Of God's sweet place of Rest,
I would that place be seeking,
To be with thee most blest.

Farewell, my young life's charmer,
A long, a last farewell;
I feel my heart grow warmer
As on thy love I dwell.

Calls he HUMBLEWORTH aside,
Speaks to him with faltering tongue:
'Father's sin I dare not hide;
Me he bade before he died,
Soon redress your grievous wrong.

'He destroyed your uncle's will,
When you were a little boy,
And did not his part fulfil
As your proper guardian still,
Losing peace of mind and joy.

'I'm prepared to give a deed
To you of that large estate,
But I strongly intercede
For my mother in her need,
In her sad affliction great.'

'My dear friend,' the good man said,
'Let some time now pass away.
I am not of you afraid,
His command you have obeyed,
Let us talk some other day.

'Go, my boy, and cheer the heart
Of your mother, still my friend;
See, I bid you now depart,
Lest delay increase her smart;
I will soon to it attend.

'Learn to place in Christ your trust;
Seek for pardon through His blood.
God alone can keep you just,
For we are at best but dust;
Naught have we ourselves of good.'

WILLIAM hastens to the Hall
With a somewhat easier mind.
Fearing that it might appal
Mother's heart, he tells not all
That befel their friends so kind.

Now an inquest has been held
O'er AMELIA'S corpse so fair,
Tears have from their fountains welled,
Grief immoderate has been quelled,
Which has brought of peace a share.

Now arrangements have been made
Suiting all who are concerned.
HUMBLEWORTHS such love displayed,
As proved all that I have said,
Showing in whose school they learned.

To the Hall, as theirs of right,
All the family removed;
And they strove with all their might
To make the widow's burden light,
For she was by them, beloved.

As assistant on the farm
WILLIAM proved of greatest use.
With a heart both young and warm,
He soon found that ANNIE'S charm
For lost time was some excuse.

Why should I prolong this tale?
All my object may divine.
Christian love will still prevail
O'er its foes when they assail,
And it will forever shine.

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