George Wither

11 June 1588 – 2 May 1667 / Bentworth, Hampshire

A Poet's Home

Two pretty rills do meet, and meeting make
Within one valley a large silver lake:
About whose banks the fertile mountains stood
In ages passèd bravely crowned with wood,
Which lending cold-sweet shadows gave it grace
To be accounted Cynthia's bathing-place;
And from her father Neptune's brackish court,
Fair Thetis thither often would resort,
Attended by the fishes of the sea,
Which in those sweeter waters came to plea.
There would the daughter of the Sea God dive,
And thither came the Land Nymphs every eve
To wait upon her: bringing for her brows
Rich garlands of sweet flowers and beechy boughs.
For pleasant was that pool, and near it then
Was neither rotten marsh nor boggy fen,
It was nor overgrown with boisterous sedge,
Nor grew there rudely then along the edge
A bending willow, nor a prickly bush,
Nor broad-leaved flag, nor reed, nor knotty rush.
But here well-ordered was a grove with bowers,
There grassy plots set round about with flowers.
Here you might through the water see the land
Appear, strowed o'er with white or yellow sand;
Yon deeper was it, and the wind by whiffs
Would make it rise and wash the little cliffs
On which, oft pluming, sat unfrighted than
The gaggling wild-goose and the snow-white swan,
With all those flocks of fowls which to this day,
Upon those quiet waters breed and play.
For though those excellences wanting be
Which once it had, it is the same that we
By transposition name the Ford of Arle,
And out of which, along a chalky marle,
That river trills whose waters wash the fort
In which brave Arthur kept his royal court.
North-east, not far from this great pool, there lies
A tract of beechy mountains, that arise,
With leisurely ascending, to such height
As from their tops the warlike Isle of Wight
You in the ocean's bosom may espy,
Though near two furlongs thence it lie.
The pleasant way, as up those hills you climb,
Is strewèd o'er with marjoram and thyme,
Which grows unset. The hedgerows do not want
The cowslip, violet, primrose, nor a plant
That freshly scents: as birch, both green and tall;
Low sallows, on whose blooming bees do fall;
Fair woodbines, which about the hedges twine;
Smooth privet, and the sharp-sweet eglantine,
With many moe whose leaves and blossoms fair
The earth adorn and oft perfume the air.

When you unto the highest do attain
An intermixture both of wood and plain
You shall behold, which, though aloft it lie,
Hath downs for sheep and fields for husbandry,
So much, at least, as little needeth more,
If not enough to merchandise their store.

In every row hath nature planted there
Some banquet for the hungry passenger.
For here the hazel-nut and filbert grows,
There bullice, and, a little farther, sloes.
On this hand standeth a fair weilding-tree,
On that large thickets of blackberries be.
The shrubby fields are raspice orchards there,
The new felled woods like strawberry gardens are,
And had the King of Rivers blessed those hills
With some small number of such pretty rills
As flow elsewhere, Arcadia had not seen
A sweeter plot of earth than this had been.
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