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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Poems. I. An Evening Walk in Bengal

Reginald Heber (1783–1826)

OUR task is done! on Gunga’s breast

The sun is sinking down to rest;

And, moored beneath the tamarind bough,

Our bark has found its harbour now.

With furlèd sail and painted side,

Behold the tiny frigate ride:

Upon her deck, ’mid charcoal gleams,

The Moslem’s savoury supper steams,

While all apart, beneath the wood,

The Hindoo cooks his simpler food.

Come walk with me the jungle through:

If yonder hunter told us true,

Far off, in desert dank and rude,

The tiger holds its solitude;

Nor (taught by recent harm to shun

The thunders of the English gun)

A dreadful guest but rarely seen,

Returns to scare the village green.

Come boldly on! no venomed snake

Can shelter in so cool a brake.

Child of the Sun! he loves to lie

’Midst Nature’s embers, parched and dry,

Where o’er some tower in ruin laid,

The peepul spreads its haunted shade;

Or round a tomb his scales to wreathe

Fit warder in the gate of Death.

Come on!—yet pause! Behold us now

Beneath the bamboo’s archèd bough,

Where, gemming oft that sacred gloom,

Glows the geranium’s scarlet bloom,

And winds our path through many a bower

Of fragrant tree and giant flower;

The ceiba’s crimson pomp displayed

O’er the broad plantain’s humbler shade

And dusk anana’s prickly glade;

While o’er the brake, so wild and fair,

The betel waves his crest in air.

With pendent train and rushing wings

Aloft the gorgeous peacock springs;

And he, the bird of hundred dyes,

Whose plumes the dames of Ava prize.

So rich a shade, so green a sod

Our English fairies never trod!

Yet who in Indian bowers has stood

But thought on England’s “good green wood!”

And blessed, beneath the palmy shade,

Her hazel and her hawthorn glade,

And breathed a prayer (how oft in vain!)

To gaze upon her oaks again?

A truce to thought,—the jackal’s cry

Resounds like Sylvan revelry;

And through the trees yon failing ray

Will scantly serve to guide our way.

Yet mark! as fade the upper skies,

Each thicket opes ten thousand eyes.

Before, beside us, and above,

The fire-fly lights his lamp of love,

Retreating, chasing, sinking, soaring,

The darkness of the copse exploring,

While to this cooler air confest,

The broad Dhatura bares her breast,

Of fragrant scent, and virgin white,

A pearl around the locks of night!

Still, as we pass, in softened hum

Along the breezy alleys come

The village song, the horn, the drum.

Still, as we pass, from bush and briar,

The shrill Cigala strikes his lyre;

And, what is she whose liquid strain

Thrills through yon copse of sugar-cane?

I know that soul-entrancing swell,

It is—it must be—Philomel!

Enough, enough! the rustling trees

Announce a shower upon the breeze;

The flashes of the summer sky

Assume a deeper, ruddier dye;

Yon lamp that trembles on the stream,

From forth our cabin sheds its beam;

And we must early sleep, to find

Betimes the morning’s healthy wind.

But, oh! with thankful hearts confess

E’en here there may be happiness;

And He, the bounteous Sire, has given

His peace on earth,—His hope of heaven!