The Fountain, a conversation


A Conversation.

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,5
Beside a mossy seat;
And from the turf a fountain broke,
And gurgled at our feet.
“Now, Matthew! let us try to match
This water’s pleasant tune10
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 rhymes15
Which you last April made!”
In silence Matthew lay, and eyed
The spring beneath the tree;
And thus the dear old man replied,
The gray-haired man of glee:20
“Down to the vale this water steers,
How merrily it goes!
’Twill murmur on a thousand years,
And flow as now it flows.
“And here, on this delightful day,25
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,30
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 away35
Than what it leaves behind.
“The Blackbird in the summer trees,
The Lark upon the hill,
Let loose their carols when they please,
Are quiet when they will.40
“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;45
And often, glad no more,
We wear a face of joy, because
We have been glad of yore.
“If there is one who need bemoan
His kindred laid in earth,50
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 none55
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,60
“And, Matthew, for thy Children dead
I’ll be a son to thee!”
At this he grasped his hands, and said
“Alas! that cannot be.”
We rose up from the fountain-side;65
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 rhymes70
About the crazy old church clock
And the bewildered chimes.