The common bed; More than 50,000 are said to have been buried on the site of the Charter House.
Half the giant oak; ’Of the three or four millions who then formed the population of England, more than one-half were swept away’: (Green, B. IV: ch. iii).
It is a dream, I know:—Yet on the past
Of this dear England if in thought we gaze,
About her seems a constant sunshine cast;
In summer calm we see and golden haze
The little London of Plantagenet days;
Quaint labyrinthine knot of toppling lanes,
And thorny spires aflame with starlike vanes.
Our silver Thames all yet unspoil’d and clear;
The many-buttress’d bridge that stems the tide;
Black-timber’d wharves; arcaded walls, that rear
Long, golden-crested roofs of civic pride:—
While flaunting galliots by the gardens glide,
And on Spring’s frolic air the May-song swells,
Mix’d with the music of a thousand bells.
Beyond the bridge a mazy forest swims,
Great spars and sails and flame-tongued flags on high,
Wedged round the quay, a-throng with ruddy limbs
And faces bronzed beneath another sky:
And ’mid the press sits one with aspect shy
And downcast eyes of watching, and, the while,
The deep observance of an inward smile.
In hooded mantle gray he smiled and sate,
With ink-horn at his knees and scroll and pen.
And took the toll and register’d the freight,
’Mid noise of clattering cranes and strife of men:
And all that moved and spoke was in his ken,
With lines and hues like Nature’s own design’d
Deep in the magic mirror of his mind.
Thence oft, returning homeward, on the book,—
His of Certaldo, or the bard whose lays
Were lost to love in Scythia,—he would look
Till his fix’d eyes the dancing letters daze:
Then forth to the near fields, and feed his gaze
On one fair flower in starry myriads spread,
And in her graciousness be comforted:—
Then, joyous with a poet’s joy, to draw
With genial touch, and strokes of patient skill,
The very image of each thing he saw:—
He limn’d the man all round, for good or ill,
Having both sighs and laughter at his will;
Life as it went he grasp’d in vision true,
Yet stood outside the scene his pencil drew.
—Man’s inner passions in their conscience-strife,
The conflicts of the heart against the heart,
The mother yearning o’er the infant’s life,
The maiden wrong’d by wealth and lecherous art,
The leper’s loathsome cell from man apart,
War’s hell of lust and fire, the village-woe,
The tinsel chivalry veiling shame below,—
Not his to draw,—to see, perhaps:—Our
Hold bias with our humour:—His, to paint
With Nature’s freshness, what before him lies:
The knave, the fool; the frolicsome, the quaint:
His the broad jest, the laugh without restraint,
The ready tears, the spirit lightly moved;
Loving the world, and by the world beloved.