We talked with open heart, and tongue
Affectionate and true,
A pair of friends, though I was young,
And Matthew seventy-two.
We lay beneath a spreading oak,
Beside a mossy seat;
And from the turf a fountain broke
And gurgled at our feet.
`Now, Matthew! ‘ said I, `let us match
This water’s pleasant tune
With some old border-song, or catch
That suits a summer’s noon;
`Or of the church-clock and the chimes
Sing here beneath the shade
That half-mad thing of witty rhymes
Which you last April made! ‘
In silence Matthew lay, and eyed
The spring beneath the tree;
And thus the dear old man replied,
The grey-haired man of glee:
`No check, no stay, this streamlet fears,
How merrily it goes!
‘Twill murmur on a thousand years
And flow as now it flows.
`And here, on this delightful day,
I cannot choose but think
How oft, a vigorous man, I lay
Beside this fountain’s brink.
`My eyes are dim with childish tears,
My heart is idly stirred,
For the same sound is in my ears
Which in those days I heard.
`Thus fares it still in our decay:
And yet the wiser mind
Mourns less for what Age takes away,
Than what it leaves behind.
`The blackbird amid leafy trees,
The lark above the hill,
Let loose their carols when they please,
Are quiet when they will.
`With Nature never do they wage
A foolish strife; they see
A happy youth, and their old age
Is beautiful and free:
`But we are pressed by heavy laws;
And often, glad no more,
We wear a face of joy, because
We have been glad of yore.
`If there be one who need bemoan
His kindred laid in earth,
The household hearts that were his own, –
It is the man of mirth.
`My days, my friend, are almost gone,
My life has been approved,
And many love me; but by none
Am I enough beloved.’
`Now both himself and me he wrongs,
The man who thus complains!
I live and sing my idle songs
Upon these happy plains:
`And, Matthew, for thy children dead
I’ll be a son to thee! ‘
At this he grasped my hand and said
`Alas! that cannot be.’
We rose up from the fountain-side;
And down the smooth descent
Of the green sheep-track did we glide;
And through the wood we went;
And ere we came to Leonard’s Rock
He sang those witty rhymes
About the crazy old church-clock,
And the bewildered chimes.
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