Lyrical Ballads Vol II 1800

17. The Two Thieves,
or the last stage of Avarice

Oh now that the genius of Bewick were mine
And the skill which He learn'd on the Banks of the Tyne:
When the Muses might deal with me just as they chose
For I'd take my last leave both of verse and of prose.

What feats would I work with my magical hand!
Book-learning and books should be banish'd the land
And for hunger and thrst and such troublesome calls
Every ale-house should then have a feast on its walls.

The Traveller would hang his wet clothes on a chair
Let them smoke, let them burn, not a straw would he care.
For the Prodigal Son, Joseh's Dream and his Sheaves,
Oh what would they be to my tale of two Thieves!

Little Dan is unbreech'd, he is three birth-days old,
His Grandsire that age more than thirty times told,
There's ninety good seasons of fair and foul weather
Between them, and both go a stealing together.

With chips is the Carpenter strewing his floor?
Is a cart-load of peats at an old Woman's door?
Old Daniel his hand to the treasure will slide,
And his Grandson's as busy at work by his side.

Old Daniel begins, he stops short and his eye
Through the lost look of dotage is cunning and sly,
'Tis a look which at this time is hardly his own,
But tells a plain tale of the days that are flown.

Dan once had a heart which was mov'd by the wires
Of manifold pleasures and many desires:
And what if he cherish'd his purse? 'Twas no more
Than treading a path trod by thousands before.

'Twas a path trod by thousands, but Daniel is one
Who went somethng farther than others have gone;
And now with old Daniel you see how it fares
You see to what end he has brought his grey hairs.

The pair sally forth hand in hand; ere the sun
Has peer'd o'er the beeches their work has begun:
And yet into whatever sin they may fall,
This Child but half knows it and that not at all.

They hunt through the street with deliberate tread,
And each in his turn is both leader and led;
And wherever they carry their plots and their wiles,
Every face in the village is dimpled with smiles.

Neither chek'd by the rich nor the needy they roam,
For grey-headed Dan has a daughter at home;
Who will gladly repair all the damage that's done,
And three, were it ask'd, would be render'd for one.

Old Man! whom so oft I with pity have ey'd,
I love thee and love the sweet boy at thy side:
Long yet may'st thou live, for a teacher we see
That lifts up the veil of our nature in thee.

A whirl-blast from behind the hill
Rush'd o'er the wood wth startling sound:
Then all at once the air was still,
And showers of hail-stones patter'd round.

Where leafless Oaks tower'd high above,
I sate within an undergrove
Of tallest hollies, tall and green,
A fairer bower was never seen.

From year to year the spacious floor
With wither'd leaves is cover'd o'er,
You could not lay a hair between:
And all the year the bower is green.

But see! where'er the hailstones drop
The wither'd leaves all skip and hop,
There's not a breeze - no breath of air -
Yet here, and there, and every where

Along the floor, beneath the shade
By those embowering hollies made,
The leaves in myriads jump and spring,
As if with pipes and music rare
Some Robin Good-fellow were there,
And all those leaves, that jump and spring,
Were each a joyous, living thing.

Oh! grant me Heaven a heart at ease
That I may never cease to find,
Even in appearances like these
Enough to nourish and to stir my mind!