A traveller on the skirt of Sarum’s
Pursued his vagrant way, with feet half bare;
Stooping his gait, but not as if to gain
Help from the staff he bore; for mien and air
Were hardy, though his cheek seemed worn with care 5
Both of the time to come, and time long fled:
Down fell in straggling locks his thin grey hair;
A coat he wore of military red
But faded, and stuck o’er with many a patch and shred.
While thus he journeyed, step by step
led on, 10
He saw and passed a stately inn, full sure
That welcome in such house for him was none.
No board inscribed the needy to allure
Hung there, no bush proclaimed to old and poor
And desolate, “Here you will find a friend!” 15
The pendent grapes glittered above the door;—
On he must pace, perchance ’till night descend,
Where’er the dreary roads their bare white lines extend.
The gathering clouds grew red with stormy
In streaks diverging wide and mounting high; 20
That inn he long had passed; the distant spire,
Which oft as he looked back had fixed his eye,
Was lost, though still he looked, in the blank sky.
Perplexed and comfortless he gazed around,
And scarce could any trace of man descry, 25
Save cornfields stretched and stretching without bound;
But where the sower dwelt was nowhere to be found.
No tree was there, no meadow’s pleasant
No brook to wet his lip or soothe his ear;
Long files of corn-stacks here and there were seen, 30
But not one dwelling-place his heart to cheer.
Some labourer, thought he, may perchance be near;
And so he sent a feeble shout—in vain;
No voice made answer, he could only hear
Winds rustling over plots of unripe grain, 35
Or whistling thro’ thin grass along the unfurrowed plain.
Long had he fancied each successive slope
Concealed some cottage, whither he might turn
And rest; but now along heaven’s darkening cope
The crows rushed by in eddies, homeward borne. 40
Thus warned he sought some shepherd’s spreading thorn
Or hovel from the storm to shield his head,
But sought in vain; for now, all wild, forlorn,
And vacant, a huge waste around him spread;
The wet cold ground, he feared, must be his only bed. 45