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


Dorchester Hills

By John Kenyon (1784–1856)

(From Dorchester Amphitheatre)

WHO may misprize Dorchestrian hills? What though

They tower to no such height as looks with scorn

Over a dwindled plain; what though no crags

Be there to fortify; no forest belts

To gird them midway round; yet theirs, instead,

Are graceful slopes with shadowy dips between,

And theirs are breezy summits, not too high

To recognize familiar sights, and catch

Familiar sounds of life,—the ploughman’s call,

Or tinkling from the fold. Yet thence the eye

Feeds on no stinted landscape, sky and earth

And the blue sea; and thence may wingéd thought,

Which ever loves the vantage-ground of hills,

Launch amid buoyant air, and soar at will.

Fair, amid these, art thou, camp-crested Mount,

In some far time, for some forgotten cause,

Named of the Maiden. Nor doth surer lore

Attest if Briton or if Roman wound

These triple trenches round thee; regular

As terraces, by architect upbuilt

For princely pleasure-ground, or those, far-famed,

By ancient hunters made—so some have deemed—

Or else by Nature’s self in wild Glenroy.

Along thy sides they stretch, ring above ring,

Marking thee from afar; then vanish round

Like the broad shingly banks which ocean heaves

In noble curves along his winding shore.

The passing wayfarer with wonder views,

E’en at imperfect distance, their bold lines,

And asks the who, the wherefore, and the when;

Wafting his spirit back into far times,

And dreaming as he goes. But whoso stays,

And climbs the turf-way to thy tabled top,

Shall reap a fuller wonder; shall behold

Thy girdled area, of itself a plain,

Where widely feeds the scattered flock; shall mark

Thy trenches, complicate with warlike art,

And deep almost as natural ravine

Cut in the mountain; or some startling rent

In the blue-gleaming glacier; or as clefts,

Severing the black and jagged lava-walls,

Which old Vesuvius round his crater flings,—

Outworks, to guard the mysteries within.

But these are smooth and verdant. Tamed long since,

Breastwork abrupt and palisaded mound

Are, now, but sloping greensward; as if Nature,

Who vainly her mild moral reads to man,

Still strove to realize the blessed days,

By seers avouched, by statesmen turned to dreams,

When war shall be no more.
So mused I there!

As who had failed to muse? But now the sun,

Silently sunken, with departing light

Had fused the whole horizon; not alone

His western realm, but flooded refluent gold

Back to the southern hills, along whose tops

Are seen to stretch, in far continuous line,

Sepulchral barrows. Brightly-verdant cones

I marked them rise beneath his earlier ray;

But now they stood against that orange light

Each of a velvet blackness, like the bier

Before some high-illumined altar spread

When a king lies in state; and well might seem

To twilight fantasy like funeral palls,

Shrouding the bones of aboriginal men,

Who there had lived and died, long ere our tribes

Had heard the name or felt the conquering arms

Of Rome or Roman; or as yet had seen,

Mocking their hearths of clay and turf-built huts,

The prætor’s quaint mosaic or tiled bath;

Or heard our hard school-task, the phrase of Terence

Bandied in common parlance round the land.