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



By Bernard Barton (1784–1849)

A Descriptive Fragment

HAST thou a heart to prove the power

Of a landscape lovely, soft, and serene?

Go, when its fragrance hath left the flower,

When the leaf is no longer glossy and green;

When the clouds are careering across the sky,

And the rising winds tell the tempest nigh,

Though the slanting sunbeams are lingering still

On the tower’s gray top and the side of the hill:

Then go to the village of Playford, and see

If it be not a lovely spot;

And if nature can boast of charms for thee,

Thou wilt love it, and leave it not,

Till the shower shall warn thee no longer to roam,

And then thou wilt carry its picture home,

To feed thy fancy when far away,

A source of delight for a future day.

Its sloping green is verdant and fair,

And between its tuffs of trees

Are white cottages, peeping here and there,

The pilgrim’s eye to please:

A white farm-house may be seen on its brow,

And its gray old hall in the valley below,

By a moat encircled round;

And from the left verge of its hill you may hear,

If you chance on a sabbath to wander near,

A sabbath-breathing sound:

’T is the sound of the bell which is slowly ringing

In that tower, which lifts its turrets above

The wood-fringed bank, where birds are singing,

And from spray to spray are fearlessly springing,

As if in a lonely and untrodden grove;

For the gray church-tower is far overhead;

And so deep is the winding lane below,

They hear not the sound of the traveller’s tread,

If a traveller there should chance to go.

But few pass there, for most who come

At the bell’s last summons have left their home,

That bell which is tolling so slow.

And grassy and green may the path be seen

To the village church that leads;

For its glossy hue is as verdant to view

As you see it in lowly meads.

And he who the ascending pathway scales,

By the gate above and the mossy pales,

Will find the trunk of a leafless tree,

All bleak and barren and bare;

Yet it keeps its station, and seems to be

Like a silent monitor there:

Though wasted and worn, it smiles in the ray

Of the bright warm sun, on a sunny day;

And more than once I have seen

The moonbeams sleep on its barkless trunk

As calmly and softly as ever they sunk

On its leaves, when its leaves were green:

And it seemed to rejoice in their light the while,

Reminding my heart of the patient smile

Resignation can wear in the hour of grief,

When it finds in religion a source of relief,

And, stript of delights which earth had given,

Still shines in the beauty it borrows from heaven!

But the bell hath ceased to ring,

And the birds no longer sing,

And the grasshopper’s carol is heard no more;

Yet sounds of praise and prayer

The wandering breezes bear,

Like the murmur of waves on the ocean shore.

All else is still! but silence can be

More eloquent far than speech!

And the valley below, and that tower and tree

Through the eye to the heart can reach.

Could the sage’s creed, the historian’s tale,

Utter language like that of yon silent vale,

As it basks in the beams of the sabbath-day,

And rejoices in nature’s reviving ray;

While its outstretched meadows and autumn-tinged trees

Seem enjoying the sun and inhaling the breeze?

And hath not that church a lovely look

In the page of this landscape’s open book?

Like a capital letter which catches the eye

Of the reader, and says a new chapter is nigh;

So its tower, by which the horizon is broken,

Of prayer and of praise a beautiful token,

Lifts up its head, and silently tells

Of a world hereafter, where happiness dwells.

While that scathed tree seems a link between

The dead and the living! ’T is barren and bare,

But the grass below it is fresh and green,

Though its roots can find no moisture there:

Yet still on its birthplace it loves to linger,

And evermore points with its silent finger

To the clouds, and the sun, and the sky so fair.