Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

Wales: Coombe-Ellen


By William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)

CALL the strange spirit that abides unseen

In wilds and wastes and shaggy solitudes,

And bid his dim hand lead thee through these scenes

That burst immense around! By mountains, glens,

And solitary cataracts that dash

Through dark ravines; and trees, whose wreathéd roots

O’erhang the torrent’s channelled course; and streams,

That far below, along the narrow vale

Upon their rocky way wind musical.

Stranger! if Nature charm thee, if thou lovest

To trace her awful steps, in glade or glen,

Or under covert of the rocking wood,

That sways its murmuring and massy boughs

Above thy head; now, when the wind at times

Stirs its deep silence round thee, and the shower

Falls on the sighing foliage, hail her here

In these her haunts; and, rapt in musings high,

Think that thou boldest converse with some Power

Invisible and strange; such as of yore

Greece in the shades of piny Menelaus,

The abode of Pan, or Ida’s hoary caves,

Worshipped; and our old Druids, mid the gloom

Of rocks and woods like these, with muttered spell

Invoked, and the loud ring of choral harps.


Now wind we up the glen, and hear below

The dashing torrent, in deep woods concealed,

And now again white-flashing on the view,

O’er the huge craggy fragments. Ancient stream,

That murmurest through the mountain solitudes,

The time has been when no eye marked thy course

Save His who made the world! Fancy might dream

She saw thee thus bound on from age to age

Unseen of man, whilst awful Nature sat

On the rent rocks, and said: “These haunts be mine.

How Taste has marked thy features; here and there

Touching with tender hand, but injuring not,

Thy beauties; whilst along thy woody verge

Ascends the winding pathway, and the eye

Catches at intervals thy varied falls.”

But loftier scenes invite us; pass the hill,

And through the woody hanging, at whose feet

The tinkling Ellen winds, pursue thy way.

Yon bleak and weather-whitened rock, immense,

Upshoots amidst the scene, shaggy and steep,

And like some high-embattled citadel,

That awes the low plain shadowing. Half-way up

The purple heath is seen, but bare its brow,

And deep intrenched, and all beneath it spread

With massy fragments riven from its top.


How through the whispering wood

We steal, and mark the old and mossy oaks

Emboss the mountain slope; or the wild ash,

With rich red clusters mantling; or the birch

In lonely glens light-wavering, till, behold!

The rapid river shooting through the gloom

Its lucid line along; and on its side

The bordering pastures green, where the swinked ox

Lies dreaming, heedless of the numerous flies

That, in the transitory sunshine, hum

Round his broad breast; and further up the cot,

With blue, light smoke ascending;—images

Of peace and comfort!


Pass on to the hoar cataract, that foams

Through the dark fissures of the riven rock;

Prone-rushing it descends, and with white whirl,

Save where some silent shady pool receives

Its dash; thence bursting, with collected sweep

And hollow sound, it hurries, till it falls

Foaming in that wild stream that winds below.

Dark trees, that to the mountain’s height ascend,

O’ershade with pendant boughs its massy course,

And, looking up, the eye beholds it flash

Beneath the incumbent gloom, from ledge to ledge

Shooting its silvery foam, and far within

Wreathing its curve fantastic. If the harp

Of deep poetic inspiration, struck

At times by the pale minstrel, whilst a strange

And beauteous light filled his uplifted eye,

Hath ever sounded into mortal ears,

Here I might think I heard its tones, and saw

Sublime amidst the solitary scene,

With dimly gleaming harp, and snowy stole,

And cheek in momentary frenzy flushed,

The great musician stand.


And now a little onward, where the way

Ascends above the oaks that far below

Shade the rude steep, let Contemplation lead

Our footsteps; from this shady eminence

’T is pleasant and yet fearful to look down

Upon the river roaring, and far off

To see it stretch in peace, and mark the rocks,

One after one, in solemn majesty

Unfolding their wild reaches; here with wood

Mantled, beyond abrupt and bare, and each

As if it strove with emulous disdain

To tower in ruder, darker amplitude.

Pause, ere we enter the long craggy vale;

It seems the abode of solitude. So high

The rock’s bleak summit frowns above our head,

Looking immediate down, we almost fear

Lest some enormous fragment should descend

With hideous sweep into the vale, and crush

The intruding visitant. No sound is here,

Save of the stream that shrills, and now and then

A cry as of faint wailing, when the kite

Comes sailing o’er the crags, or straggling lamb

Bleats for its mother.


Scenes of retired sublimity, that fill

With fearful ecstasy and holy trance

The passing mind! we leave your awful gloom,

And lo! the footway plank, that leads across

The narrow torrent, foaming through the chasm

Below; the rugged stones are washed and worn

Into a thousand shapes, and hollows scooped

By long attrition of the ceaseless surge,

Smooth, deep, and polished as the marble urn,

In their hard forms. Here let us sit, and watch

The struggling current burst its headlong way,

Hearing the noise it makes, and musing much

On the strange chances of this nether world.

How many ages must have swept to dust

The still succeeding multitudes that “fret

Their little hour” upon this restless scene,

Or ere the sweeping waters could have cut

The solid rock so deep! As now its roar

Comes hollow from below, methinks we hear

The noise of generations as they pass,

O’er the frail arch of earthly vanity,

To silence and oblivion. The loud coil

Ne’er ceases; as the remaining river sounds

From age to age, though each particular wave

That made its brief noise as we hurried on,

Even whilst we speak, is past, and heard no more;

So ever to the ear of Heaven ascends

The long, loud murmur of the rolling globe;

Its strifes, its toils, its sighs, its shouts, the same!