Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman
William Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, 2nd edn. (London: Longman, 1800). No. 5 Victoria College Library (Toronto) 1 (c.1,2), 2(c.1). William Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (London: J. and A. Arch, 1798). No. 4 Victoria College Library (Toronto).
2Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall,
3An old Man dwells, a little man,--
4'Tis said he once was tall.
5For five-and-thirty years he lived
6A running huntsman merry;
7And still the centre of his cheek
8Is red as a ripe cherry.
9No man like him the horn could sound,
10And hill and valley rang with glee
11When Echo bandied, round and round
12The halloo of Simon Lee.
13In those proud days, he little cared
14For husbandry or tillage;
15To blither tasks did Simon rouse
16The sleepers of the village.
17He all the country could outrun,
18Could leave both man and horse behind;
19And often, ere the chase was done,
20He reeled, and was stone-blind.
21And still there's something in the world
22At which his heart rejoices;
23For when the chiming hounds are out,
24He dearly loves their voices!
26Of health, strength, friends, and kindred, see!
27Old Simon to the world is left
28In liveried poverty.
29His Master's dead--and no one now
30Dwells in the Hall of Ivor;
31Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead;
32He is the sole survivor.
33And he is lean and he is sick;
34His body, dwindled and awry,
35Rests upon ankles swoln and thick;
36His legs are thin and dry.
37One prop he has, and only one,
38His wife, an aged woman,
39Lives with him, near the waterfall,
40Upon the village Common.
41Beside their moss-grown hut of clay,
42Not twenty paces from the door,
43A scrap of land they have, but they
44Are poorest of the poor.
45This scrap of land he from the heath
46Enclosed when he was stronger;
47But what to them avails the land
48Which he can till no longer?
49Oft, working by her Husband's side,
50Ruth does what Simon cannot do;
51For she, with scanty cause for pride,
52Is stouter of the two.
53And, though you with your utmost skill
54From labour could not wean them,
55'Tis little, very little--all
56That they can do between them.
57Few months of life has he in store
58As he to you will tell,
59For still, the more he works, the more
60Do his weak ankles swell.
61My gentle Reader, I perceive,
62How patiently you've waited,
63And now I fear that you expect
64Some tale will be related.
65O Reader! had you in your mind
66Such stores as silent thought can bring,
67O gentle Reader! you would find
68A tale in every thing.
69What more I have to say is short,
70And you must kindly take it:
71It is no tale; but, should you think,
72Perhaps a tale you'll make it.
73One summer-day I chanced to see
74This old Man doing all he could
75To unearth the root of an old tree,
76A stump of rotten wood.
77The mattock tottered in his hand;
78So vain was his endeavour,
79That at the root of the old tree
80He might have worked for ever.
81"You're overtasked, good Simon Lee,
82Give me your tool," to him I said;
83And at the word right gladly he
84Received my proffered aid.
85I struck, and with a single blow
86The tangled root I severed,
87At which the poor old Man so long
88And vainly had endeavoured.
89The tears into his eyes were brought,
90And thanks and praises seemed to run
91So fast out of his heart, I thought
92They never would have done.
93--I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
94With coldness still returning;
95Alas! the gratitude of men
96Hath oftener left me mourning.
1] First published in 1798, in Lyrical Ballads. Written in the same year. Wordsworth made very considerable changes in the original text; e.g. after line 4, in the first edition we read:
Of years he has upon his back,The poem is based on an actual incident and a real person. Back to Line
No doubt, a burthen weighty;
He says he is three score and ten,
But others say he's eighty.
A long blue livery-coat has he,
That's fair behind, and fair before;
Yet, meet him when you will, you see
At once that he is poor.
25] Cf. Lycidas, 37. Back to Line
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J. R. MacGillivray