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

Hart-Leap Well

Hart-Leap Well

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

  • Hart-Leap Well, is a small spring of water, about five miles from Richmond in Yorkshire, and near the side of the road that leads from Richmond to Askrigg.

  • THE KNIGHT had ridden down from Wensley Moor,

    With the slow motion of a summer’s cloud;

    And now, as he approached a vassal’s door,

    “Bring forth another horse!” he cried aloud.

    “Another horse!” That shout the vassal heard,

    And saddled his best steed, a comely gray.

    Sir Walter mounted him; he was the third

    Which he had mounted on that glorious day.

    Joy sparkled in the prancing courser’s eyes;

    The horse and horseman are a happy pair;

    But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,

    There is a doleful silence in the air.

    A rout this morning left Sir Walter’s Hall,

    That as they galloped made the echoes roar;

    But horse and man are vanished, one and all:

    Such race, I think, was never seen before.

    Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,

    Calls to the few tired dogs that yet remain;

    Blanch, Swift, and Music, noblest of their kind,

    Follow, and up the weary mountain strain.

    The knight hallooed, he cheered and chid them on

    With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern;

    But breath and eyesight fail, and, one by one,

    The dogs are stretched among the mountain fern.

    Where is the throng, the tumult of the race?

    The bugles that so joyfully were blown?

    This chase it looks not like an earthly chase;

    Sir Walter and the hart are left alone.

    The poor hart toils along the mountain-side;

    I will not stop to tell how far he fled,

    Nor will I mention by what death he died;

    But now the knight beholds him lying dead.

    Dismounting, then, he leaned against a thorn;

    He had no follower, dog nor man nor boy:

    He neither cracked his whip nor blew his horn,

    But gazed upon the spoil with silent joy.

    Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter leaned

    Stood his dumb partner in this glorious feat;

    Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yeaned,

    And white with foam as if with cleaving sleet.

    Upon his side the hart was lying stretched;

    His nostril touched a spring beneath a hill,

    And with the last deep groan his breath had fetched

    The waters of the spring were trembling still.

    And now, too happy for repose or rest,

    (Never had living man such joyful lot!)

    Sir Walter walked all round, north, south, and west,

    And gazed and gazed upon that darling spot.

    And climbing up the hill (it was at least

    Four roods of sheer ascent), Sir Walter found

    Three several hoof-marks which the hunted beast

    Had left imprinted on the grassy ground.

    Sir Walter wiped his face, and cried, “Till now

    Such sight was never seen by human eyes;

    Three leaps have borne him from this lofty brow

    Down to the very fountain where he lies.

    “I ’ll build a pleasure-house upon this spot,

    And a small arbor, made for rural joy;

    ’T will be the traveller’s shed, the pilgrim’s cot,

    A place of love for damsels that are coy.

    “A cunning artist will I have to frame

    A basin for that fountain in the dell!

    And they who do make mention of the same

    From this day forth shall call it Hart-Leap Well.