Mr Elliott

Prize Essay

By Atticus Scriblerus Esquire Junior

The full orb’d Sun now sloped his downward road,
And, veil’d in purple clouds, his glory show’d
Above the hill where pious Martha’s fane
Looks down on Holmsdale, and athwart the plain
The yellow radiance of his setting beam
Glanced on the valley’s pure transparent stream,
Or lent the clust’ring woods a mellow glow,
Gilding th’ imbosom’d spire, or humble cot below;
When Darcy paus’d upon the upland heath
Freely his native air once more to breathe,
Each spot well known, tho’ distant long, to trace,
While tears of joy and sorrow dew’d his fall.

“Yes, there the old half-ruin’d chapel still
Crowns the full bosom of that swelling hill;
The breezy down’s green carpet still is there
O’er which so oft I chased the timid hare,
Yonder the wood beneath whose friendly shade
In hours of bliss with Rosalind I stray’d,
And there th’ embow’ring elms which wont to screen
My Father’s house beside the village green.
These are the same — but I, alas, how chang’d
Since o’er these lovely scenes I careless rang’d!
They shine so bright beneath the summer eve,
That little lacks of fancy to believe
All that has past was but a feverish dream,
Since last I gazed upon that winding stream.
But that a sad foreboding wakes the fear
Of every ill that may have happen’d here
While I at distance suffer’d many a year!”

How chang’d indeed was Darcy, since his last
O’er this brown heath in youthful glee had passed!
’Stead of the rising that then begun
To shade his cheek, just rip’ning into man;
’Stead of those laughing eyes; that comely face,
Where all were wont his honest soul to trace;
’Stead of that form young Hercules might own,
Which deck’d in naval pride then gallant shone:
A coal-black beard its bushy tangle spread
Wide o’er his face, in which the rose, long fled,
Gave place to want and sickness squalid tinge;
His eyes no more beam’d through their dusky fringe,
His open brow was furrow’d o’er with care
His manly form was sickly, bent and spare,
This mean and tatter’d garb scarce screen’d him from the air.

Would ye not this some wandering felon deem?
But tho’ he thus forlorn and wretched seem,
Ne’er in the pats of crime had stray’s his feet,
A heart more brave and loyal never beat,
His breast a soul of truth and honor warm’d,
For liveliest, softest, fond affection form’d.
When life and hope were young, his ardent mind,
With thoughts of honor, wealth, and fame combin’d,
Prompted the naval hero’s path to tread,
And his fond hopes with high distinction fed.
“Ah! could his father hear each tongue proclaim
Amongst the glorious few his boy’s lov’d name;
His sister own her girlish fears were vain
When rich and honor’d he return’d again,
And might he, fearing no repulsive scron,
Demand his Rosalind, who, highly born,
Was strictly kept by jealous parents’ care
To be the bride of some o’erweening heir!”

Vain hope! too soon thy flatt’ring dream is o’er!
He’s cast by shipwreck on that hostile shore,
Where by the iron despots stern decree,
A pris’ner once should ne’er again be free.
Some liberty was there, on street parole
Of honor giv’n, but Darcy’s fiery soul
Urged him both boon and promise to refuse,
And rather chance of dang’rous flight to choose.
’Twere long to tell how oft in vain he tried,
Now single, now with comrades at his side,
To cheat the watchful eyes that still would wake
The massy wall or sev’nfold door to break;
’Twere said of all his wants and woes to tell
In Verdun’s walls, or Bitche’s lonely cell:
But ’twas not these that shook his firm resolve,
Or could his manly heart in grief dissolve;
’Twas that no tidings of his much-lov’d home
Might e’er to cheer his prison’s sadness come.
And now when peace deliverance gave to all
Who long had groan’d beneath the Tyrant’s thrall,
With trembling hopes and anxious fears possessed,
His falt’ring step but mocks his lab’ring breast;
Unknown and poor he speeds his lonely way,
And Home just glads his sight, as sinks the closing day.

His fancy scenes of early years portray’d,
Beneath the hollow lane’s o’erarching shade
As on he passed; his father’s dwellings grac’d
With rustic elegance and native taste;
The garden’s flow’rs, the porch where wont to twine
The fragrant jasmine and luxuriant vine;
The orchard’s bloom, and hazel hedge that join’d
To shelter these, and screen the farm behind;
And, lovelier far, his sister’s opening youth,
Sincere affection, tenderness, and truth;
His father’s gen’rous hand and honest heart,
Which aid or pity would to all impart;
And, sketch’d in tints of fainter, tenderer hue,
That other long-lost parent rose to view,
Who left in early youth this blooming pair,
When scarce they knew to prize a mother’s care.

Too faithful memory to Darcy traced
Fair scenes of bliss he ne’er again shall taste!
The sinking glow of twilight mingled soon
With the soft lustre of the rising moon,
And, like that glow declining, Darcy’s woes
Gave place to hope that sweet and placid rose;
When as he reach’d the well-known village green,
No flow’r-deck’d court nor arbour’d porch was seen,
But in their place a lofty brick-built wall
And cumbrous gate denied access to all.
What may this mean? with falt’ring hand he rung
A massy bell that near the entrance hung.
At length a liveried menial op’d the gate,
But with contemptuous glance scarce deign’d to wait
While Darcy cried, “My father! lives he still?
I come once more with joy his heart to fill.”
“Thy father, here? This house belongs to one
Whose childless age in vain desires a son,
A wealthy merchant whose retirement here
His lovely niece alone has pow’r to cheer.”
“Yet oh, in pity to a seaman come
From long captivity to seek his home,
Give me some clue my anxious friends to trace
Say has thy Master long possessed this place?”
“Five years are passed since this estate he bought
Of one who funds to aid his commerce sought;
To him, ’tis said, it came as heir by law
Of one whose loss with tears the country saw;
Old Darcy “ — “Ha, my father,” wild with grief;
No more he hears, but flies, as if relief
In motion could be found, the village o’er,
Yet seeks no shelter, tries no friendly door,
Nor stops, till on his ear the raven’s croak
From the old churchyard yew tree hoarsely broke.

There mid the long rank grass that o’er the graves
Sighs in the breeze as mournfully it waves,
He sadly stands; at length the climbing moon,
In the full radiance of her highest noon,
Shines on a letter’d stone with beam to bright,
That plain he reads it by the silver light;
It mark’d his father’s grave; and there he threw
His weary length, there shed the bitter dew
Of filial sorrow, there as one entranced
He lay until the rosy dawn advanced,
When one whom rural business call’d abroad
With early step the churchyard pathway trod,
And touch’d with pity for his sad estate,
Urged him his wants and sufferings to relate.
When Darcy told at last his tale in brief,
With wonder he beheld the stranger’s grief,
Who silent long, ’tween doubt and sorrow stood,
While still with tearful eye his form he view’d,
And cried at length, “’Tis he, my master’s son!
Know you not Ralph? You knew him erst as one
Rear’d by the bounty of your father’s hand
When left an orphan in a stranger land.
His generous care secured my happy lot,
And now I joy, within my humble cot
With the chief blessings of a poor man’s life,
A healthy offspring and industrious wife.
Come then — you need refreshment and repose — 
Come seek with me some respite to your woes.”
In Darcy’s ears strange sounds a kindly word,
So long the time since he such accents heard;
Yet had their rustic kindness balmy pow’r
To soothe his soul in that disastrous hour;
For here is one to whom he can impart
The grief that smother’d, almost burst his heart.
Here too is one with tidings to dispel
His dread of what his sister had befell;
Ralph knew the tenor of her peaceful life,
Blest as a mother, cherish’d as a wife;
Nay more he told that from her distant home
A yearly pilgrimage she wont to come,
And o’er the humble sephulchr to weep
Where the lov’d relics of her father sleep.
This was her chosen time — here Darcy may
His long-lost sister meet with least delay.
Here then he’ll rest till she has blest his sight;
And then assert his heritage and right.

It boots not now to tell what happiness
Beam’d thro’ the cot his humble hosts to bless,
Which oft when Darcy mark’d a stifled sigh
Burst from his breast, and swam his tearful eye,
For then he thought how great had been his bliss
Link’d with his Rosalind in cot like this,
And then with devious pace he forth would rove
Amid the lovely woods to dream of love.

It chanced that once his wandering footsteps led,
As closing eve her fragrant dew-drops shed,
Through the tall copse which erst with friendly screen
Shelter’d from blights his orchard’s tender green,
And strong desire once more those paths to tread,
Witness of pleasure now for ever fled,
Urged him to enter, and by stealth to gaze
Upon the relics of his happy days.
Soon with a vig’rous bound the fence he leapt,
And mid the trees in cautious silence crept,
Till, finding all in friendly loneliness,
He ventur’d onward near the house to press.
To view the scene enough remain’d of light,
And Darcy, struck with wonder and delight,
Saw ev’ry flow’r that once he lov’d to rear
Bloom o’er each spot in recollection dear.
His trees matured now cast a richer shade,
His fav’rite paths in added beauty stray’d,
And e’en the bow’r his youthful fingers wove,
And youthful fancy named the bow’r of love,
With puerile flow’rs, as erst, the air perfum’d;
Save that with added sweets the entrance bloom’d,
Save that before it stood a simple urn
O’er which a waving cypress seem’d to mourn.
It seem’d that taste, tho’ driven from the gate
By love of privacy, or wealthy state,
Had thence retired to this her lov’d domain,
And in the garden fix’d her lasting reign:
Seem’d ev’ry trace of all that Darcy lov’d
By kindred feeling foster’d and improv’d.
Around as still he gazed, a soften’d light
Gleam’d from an open casement on his sight,
Chequ’ring the clematis that o’er it twin’d,
Profusely scatter’d perfumes on the wind;
And trembling notes upon night’s silence broke,
So soft and low they scarce an echo woke.
It was the harp, touch’d with preluding strain,
And now it dies away, now swells again,
While tones more sweet than Philomel’s prolong
In simple notes this sadly-pleasing song.

The fav’ring breezes freshly blew
 O’er the white-curling sea;
In haste my Edward cried, adieu!
And swift the gallant frigate flew
 That bore my love from me!

’Twas honor’s voice that call’d him forth
 The tyrant of the brave!
Ah why must gallantry and worth
In stormy west or frozen north
 Still tempt the dang’rous wave?

Soon lightnings flash and thunders roar,
 Thick clouds the skies deform,
Resistless winds the frigate bore
Where fatal frown’d a rocky shore — 
 She perish’d in the storm!

Bereft of hope, and freed from fear,
 They say that love will die;
But Edward still I hold as dear
As when he stole upon my ear
 With love’s first tender sigh.

How thrill’d each note thro’ Darcy’s list’ning soul!
What tides of rapture o’er his bosom roll!
That touching voice was native to his ear,
And his the name so fondly cherish’d here!
With breathless eagerness he nearer drew
Where thro’ the clust’ring foliage he might view
Above the embower’d windows lowly sill,
That form, half faded now, but lovely still,
Here could his doting eye securely trace
The thought which shone reflected in her face,
While to the song expressive grace she lent,
And, ceas’d the strain, while o’er her harp she bent
And sadly mused, in meditation vain,
O’er hours of rapture paid by years of pain.
His caution all forgot, the streaming light
Now gave him fully to her startled sight,
When broke her musings by the rising breeze
That seem’d to sigh responsive thro’ the trees.
She deem’d him first some robber of the night,
And sought her safety in a rapid flight,
When, at his sudden cry, “Ah calm thy fear,
Turn and behold thy long-lost Edward here!
The well-known voice that ev’ry fear dispell’d
Her senses thrill’d, her flying footsteps held,
But terror passed, and joy unwonted woke
Such conflict in her breast, that scarce she spoke,
And thro’ the casement scarce he’d entrance made
When in his arms devoid of sense she laid.
Yet soon his gentle cares successful prove,
Again she wakes to life and joy and love.

It skills not me to tell what converse passed
’Tween these, so long despairing, blest at last.
Ye who have fondly lov’d, and felt the void
Of hope deferr’d till hope was nigh destroy’d;
Ye who have known long years of sorrow past,
Your wildest fondest wished crown’d at last;
To you can fancy livelier bliss portray
Than all the poet’s art could e’er display.
And ye who ne’er the genial pow’r have felt
A lover’s tale would sooner tire than melt.
Suffice it then to know that Rosalind
Not now her Darcy’s proferr’d hand declin’d.
Those were no more, whose fond misjudging pride
With haughty coldness had his suit denied,
And he her uncle was of nobler mind,
Of views more liberal, of heart more kind.
He deem’d young Edward living, and his reign
But as a steward held o’er his domain.
Gladly he yielded now to Darcy’s claim,
Gave him his lands in friendship’s holy name,
And, when his worth and constancy he knew,
Gave him with joy his lovely heiress too.
In him a father grateful Darcy found,
With him, his sister and his love, he bound
A wreath of joy that long their lives with blessings crown’d!