Market-Night: a Ballad
MARKET-NIGHT. A BALLAD
‘O Winds, howl not so long and loud;
Nor with your vengeance arm the snow:
Bear hence each heavy-loaded cloud;
And let the twinkling Star-beams glow.
Now sweeping floods rush down the slope,5
Wide scattering ruin.—Stars, shine soon!
No other light my Love can hope;
Midnight will want the joyous Moon.
O guardian Spirits!—Ye that dwell
Where woods, and pits, and hollow ways,10
The lone night-trav’ler’s fancy swell
With fearful tales, of older days,—
Press round him:—guide his willing steed
Through darkness, dangers, currents, snows;
Wait where, from shelt’ring thickets freed,15
The dreary Heath’s rude whirlwind blows.
From darkness rushing o’er his way,
The Thorn’s white load it bears on high!
Where the short furze all shrouded lay,
Mounts the dried grass;—Earth’s bosom dry.20
Then o’er the Hill with furious sweep
It rends the elevated tree—
Sure-footed beast, thy road thou’lt keep;
Nor storm nor darkness startles thee!
O blest assurance, (trusty steed,)25
To thee the buried road is known;
Home, all the spur thy footsteps need,
When loose the frozen rein is thrown,
Between the roaring blasts that shake
The naked Elder at the door,30
Though not one prattler to me speak,
Their sleeping sighs delight me more.
Sound is their rest:—they little know
What pain, what cold, their Father feels;
But dream, perhaps, they see him now,35
While each the promis’d Orange peels.
Would it were so!—the fire burns bright,
And on the warming trencher gleams;
In Expectation’s raptur’d sight
How precious his arrival seems!40
I’ll look abroad!—’tis piercing cold!—
How the bleak wind assails his breast!
Yet some faint light mine eyes, behold:
The storm is verging o’er the West.
There shines a Star!—O welcome sight!—45
Through the thin vapours brightening still!
Yet, ’twas beneath the fairest night
The murd’rer stain’d yon lonely Hill.
Mercy, kind Heav’n! such thoughts dispel!
No voice, no footstep can I hear!’50
(Where Night and Silence brooding dwell,
Spreads thy cold reign, heart-chilling Fear.)
Distressing hour! uncertain fate!
O Mercy, Mercy, guide him home!—
Hark!—then I heard the distant gate;—55
Repeat it, Echo; quickly, come!
One minute now will ease my fears . . . .
Or, still more wretched must I be?
No: surely Heaven has spar’d our tears:
I see him, cloath’d in snow; . . . ’tis he.—60
Where have you stay’d? put down your load.
How have you borne the storm, the cold?
What horrors did I not forebode—
That Beast is worth his weight in gold.’
Thus spoke the joyful Wife;—then ran65
And hid in grateful steams her head:
Dapple was hous’d, the hungry Man
With joy glanc’d o’er the Children’s bed.
‘What, all asleep!’—so best; he cried:
‘O what a night I’ve travell’d through!70
Unseen, unheard, I might have died;
But Heaven has brought me safe to you.
Dear Partner of my nights and days,
That smile becomes thee!—Let us then
Learn, though mishap may cross our ways,75
It is not ours to reckon when.’ 
 [1st edn, 1st state adds note:] I judge not for other readers; and it is needless; but to me Market-Night is exquisitely and almost singularly pleasing, by the natural force and tenderness of the sweetness of the numbers, the easy yet animated and characteristic beauty of the style and manner. C. L. Sept. 1801.] omitted in 1st edn, 2nd state and later edns BACK