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The Blind Highland Boy

William Wordsworth


The Blind Beggar - Jules Bastien  Lepage

A Tale told by the Fire-side,
after returning to the Vale of Grasmere

Now we are tired of boisterous joy,
We've romp'd enough, my little Boy!
Jane hangs her head upon my breast,
And you shall bring your Stool and rest,
This corner is your own.

There! take your seat, and let me see
That you can listen quietly;
And as I promised I will tell
That strange adventure which befel
A poor blind Highland Boy.

A Highland Boy! ―  why call him so?
Because, my Darlings, ye must know,
In land where many a mountain towers,
Far higher hills than these of ours!
He from his birth had liv'd.

He ne'er had seen one earthly sight;
The sun, the day; the stars, the night;
Or tree, or butterfly, or flower,
Or fish in stream, or bird in bower,
Or woman, man, or child.

And yet he neither drooped nor pined,
Nor had a melancholy mind;
For God took pity on the Boy,
And was his friend; and gave him joy
Of which we nothing know.

His Mother, too, no doubt, above
Her other Children him did love:
For, was she here, or was she there,
She thought of him with constant care,
And more than Mother's love.

And proud she was of heart, when clad
In crimson stockings, tartan plaid,
And bonnet with a feather gay,
To Kirk he on the sabbath day
Went hand in hand with her.

A Dog, too, had he; not for need,
But one to play with and to feed;
Which would have led him, if bereft
Of company or friends, and left
Without a better guide.

And then the bagpipes he could blow;
And thus from house to house would go,
And all were pleas'd to hear and see;
For none made sweeter melody
Than did the poor blind Boy.

Yet he had many a restless dream;
Both when he heard the Eagles scream,
And when he heard the torrents roar,
And heard the water beat the shore
Near which their Cottage stood.

Beside a lake their Cottage stood,
Not small like ours, a peaceful flood;
But one of mighty size, and strange;
That, rough or smooth, is full of change,
And stirring in its bed.

For to this Lake, by night and day,
The great Sea-water finds its way
Through long, long windings of the hills;
And drinks up all the pretty rills
And rivers large and strong:

Then hurries back the road it came ―
Returns, on errand still the same;
This did it when the earth was new;
And this for evermore will do,
As long as earth shall last.

And, with the coming of the Tide,
Come Boats and Ships, that sweetly ride,
Between the woods and lofty rocks;
And to the Shepherds with their Flocks
Bring tales of distant Lands.

And of those tales, whate'er they were,
The blind Boy always had his share;
Whether of mighty Towns, or Vales
With warmer suns and softer gales,
Or wonders of the Deep.

Yet more it pleased him, more it stirr'd,
When from the water-side he heard
The shouting, and the jolly cheers,
The bustle of the mariners
In stillness or in storm.

But what do his desires avail?
For He must never handle sail;
Nor mount the mast, nor row, nor float
In Sailor's ship or Fisher's boat
Upon the rocking waves.

His Mother often thought, and said,
What sin would be upon her head
If she should suffer this: "My Son,
Whate'er you do, leave this undone;
The danger is so great."

Thus lived he by Loch Levin's side
Still sounding with the sounding tide,
And heard the billows leap and dance,
Without a shadow of mischance,
Till he was ten years old.

When one day (and now mark me well,
You soon shall know how this befel)
He's in a vessel of his own,
On the swift water hurrying down
Towards the mighty Sea.

In such a vessel ne'er before
Did human Creature leave the shore:
If this or that way he should stir,
Woe to the poor blind Mariner!
For death will be his doom.

Strong is the current; but be mild,
Ye waves, and spare the helpless Child!
If ye in anger fret or chafe,
A Bee-hive would be ship as safe
As that in which he sails.

But say, what was it? Thought of fear!
Well may ye tremble when ye hear!
― A Household Tub, like one of those
Which women use to wash their clothes,
This carried the blind Boy.

Close to the water he had found
This Vessel, push'd it from dry ground,
Went into it; and, without dread,
Following the fancies in his head,
He paddled up and down.

A while he stood upon his feet;
He felt the motion ― took his seat;
And dallied thus, till from the shore
The tide retreating more and more
Had suck'd, and suck'd him in.

And there he is in face of Heaven!
How rapidly the Child is driven!
The fourth part of a mile I ween
He thus had gone, ere he was seen
By any human eye.

But when he was first seen, oh me!
What shrieking and what misery!
For many saw; among the rest
His Mother, she who loved him best,
She saw her poor blind Boy.

But for the Child, the sightless Boy,
It is the triumph of his joy!
The bravest Traveller in balloon,
Mounting as if to reach the moon,
Was never half so bless'd.

And let him, let him go his way,
Alone, and innocent, and gay!
For, if good Angels love to wait
On the forlorn unfortunate,
This Child will take no harm.

But now the passionate lament,
Which from the crowd on shore was sent,
The cries which broke from old and young
In Gaelic, or the English tongue,
Are stifled ― all is still.

And quickly with a silent crew
A Boat is ready to pursue;
And from the shore their course they take,
And swiftly down the running Lake
They follow the blind Boy.

With sound the least that can be made
They follow, more and more afraid,
More cautious as they draw more near;
But in his darkness he can hear,
And guesses their intent.

"Lei-gha ― Lei-gha" ― then did he cry
"Lei-gha ― Lei-gha" ― most eagerly;
Thus did he cry, and thus did pray,
And what he meant was, "Keep away,
And leave me to myself!"

Alas! and when he felt their hands ―
You've often heard of magic Wands,
That with a motion overthrow
A palace of the proudest shew,
Or melt it into air.

So all his dreams, that inward light
With which his soul had shone so bright,
All vanish'd; ― 'twas a heartfelt cross
To him, a heavy, bitter loss,
As he had ever known.

But hark! a gratulating voice
With which the very hills rejoice:
'Tis from the crowd, who tremblingly
Had watch'd the event, and now can see
That he is safe at last.

And then, when he was brought to land,
Full sure they were a happy band,
Which gathering round did on the banks
Of that great Water give God thanks,
And welcom'd the poor Child.

And in the general joy of heart
The blind Boy's little Dog took part;
He leapt about, and oft did kiss
His master's hands in sign of bliss,
With sound like lamentation.

But most of all, his Mother dear,
She who had fainted with her fear,
Rejoiced when waking she espies
The Child; when she can trust her eyes,
And touches the blind Boy.

She led him home, and wept amain,
When he was in the house again:
Tears flow'd in torrents from her eyes,
She could not blame him, or chastise:
She was too happy far.

Thus, after he had fondly braved
The perilous Deep, the Boy was saved;
And, though his fancies had been wild,
Yet he was pleased, and reconciled
To live in peace on shore.

And in the lonely Highland dell
Still do they keep the Turtle-shell;
And long the story will repeat
Of the blind Boy’s adventurous feat,
And how he was preserved.



NOTE ― It is recorded in Dampier's "Voyages," that a boy, son of the captain of a Man-of-War, seated himself in a Turtle-shell, and floated in it from the shore to his father's ship, which lay at anchor at the distance of half a mile. In deference to the opinion of a Friend, I have substituted such a shell for the less elegant vessel in which my blind Voyager did actually entrust himself to the dangerous current of Loch Leven, as was related to me by an eye-witness.
The Blind Highland Boy
by William Wordsworth [1770-1850]
Writen in December, 1806
Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, 1803


Publicado por MJA