Cloud shadows drift across the barren moor,
And climb the slopes of granite-crested hills ;
Deep silence broods the stern, weird landscape o’er,
And with a quiet awe the spirit fills :
Far from the hum of restless trade that makes
His dwelling in the busy haunts of men,
No sound upon the solemn stillness breaks
Save Ockment rushing down the rocky glen.
Tor after tor uprears against the sky,
Graven in form grotesque by Nature’s hand;
Here stands the ruined keep—there crouching lie
The sphinx and lion watching o’er the land,
That land of dusky heath and splintered rock,
Of brawling stream and mist-swept moorland vast ;
A lonely desert riven by the shock
Of earth’s convulsion countless ages past.
Crowned with the relics of the mighty dead,
The stony cairn, the kistvaen’s narrow tomb,
Great Cosdon lifts on high his rounded head,
Gray now in sunshine, purple now in gloom ;
About his feet Taw hurries on his course,
Impatient of the rocks that bar his way ;
‘Twixt banks of verdant whin or golden gorse
To merge his waters with the northern bay.
His moving shadow darkening crag and stream,
Yestor upheaves a rugged cloud-capt crest ;
A giant buttress blue against the gleam
Where Phoebus weary drives adown thewest ;
Two thousand feet above the distant sea,
Cold now in vapour, now in sunlight warm ;
He towers steadfast o’er the sheltered lea,
Heedless of summer gale or winter storm.
Time was when savage hunter roved the moor,
And slew the prowling wolf or nimble deer ;
Time was when miners sought the shining ore,
Where now the mountain rivulet flows clear ;
Time was when echoing from tor to tor,
The victim’s cry rang through the silent night—
That victim consecrate to Pagan Thor ;
Doomed by a demon worship’s cruel rite.
|But snarling wolf no longer haunts the fell,
Fit target for the savage chieftain’s spear ;
Nor bounding hart seeks shelter in the dell.
Once clothed with forest, now a desert drear ;
The wild beast dies where treads the step of man ;
The wild man dies where treads the step of Time ;
The hills alone unchanged from span to span,
In silence lift their granite crowns sublime.
Where is the Druid hoar erstwhile who stood
On Mistor’s rocky brow to chant his god ;
Or sought the horrid shade of Wistman’s Wood,
To stain with captive blood the barren sod ?
Still springs that grove accursed—the priest is gone,
No death-cry rings among the boulders gray,
Or rises from the gorge where Dart glides on
Mourning his long and solitary way.
Unchanged, unchangeable—the ages glide ;
The Celt is not ; the dark Phoenician band
That delved long since the rippling brook beside
Has mouldered ;tons gone beneath its strand ;
Or sleeps perchance, lulled by the eastern surge,
Where ruined Tyre mourns her banished state,
Or where the shattered walls of Sidon verge
Towards the sea their bastions desolate.
Unchanged, unchangeable, fair kingdoms fall,
And cities rise, but blossom to decay,
Proud monarchs see the common lot of all,
And man’s creations pass for aye away ;
Yet still the granite wilderness defies
The wasting hand of Time, the howling blast,
Its weathered ramparts stern against the skies
Rise dauntless ever, and shall ever last !
John Lloyd Warden Page