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THE TALKING OAK.
ONCE more the gate behind me falls; Once more before
face I see the mouldered Abbey-walls,
That stand within the chace.
Beyond the lodge the city lies,
Beneath its drift of smoke; And ah! with what delighted eyes
For when my passion first began,
Ere that which in me burned,
Could hope itself returned;
To yonder oak within the field
I spoke without restraint,
Than Papist unto Saint.
For oft I talked with him apart,
And told him of my choice, Until he plagiarized a heart,
And answered with a voice.
Though what he whispered under Heaven
None else could understand; I found him garrulously given,
A babbler in the land.
But since I heard him make reply
Is many a weary hour; 'T were well to question him, and try
If yet he keeps the power.
Hail, hidden to the knees in fern,
Broad oak of Sumner-chace, Whose topmost branches can discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!
Say thou, whereon I carved her name,
If ever maid or spouse, As fair as my Olivia, came
To rest beneath thy boughs ?
“ O Walter, I have sheltered here
Whatever maiden grace The good old Summers, year by year,
“Old Summers, when the monk was fat,
And, issuing shorn and sleek, Would twist his girdle tight, and pat
The girls upon the cheek,
“ Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence,
And numbered bead, and shrift, Bluff Harry broke into the spence,
And turned the cowls adrift:
“And I have seen some score of those
Fresh faces, that would thrive When his man-minded offset rose
To chase the deer at five;
“ And all that from the town would stroll,
Till that wild wind made work, In which the gloomy brewer's soul
Went by me, like a stork :
“ The slight she-slips of loyal blood,
And others, passing praise, Strait-laced, but all-too-full in bud
For puritanic stays:
" And I have shadowed many a group
Of beauties, that were born
Or while the patch was worn;
“ And, leg and arm with love-knots gay,
About me leaped and laughed The modish Cupid of the day,
And shrilled his tinsel shaft.
“I swear (and else may
insects prick Each leaf into a gall) This girl, for whom your heart is sick,