Dick’s Apophthegm.

“ Avoid the man who hates flowers and the voice
of a child.”
I wound along the face of Dover cliffs1
In hot July, and dazzling white the chalk2
Ray’d back the heat : above a dizzy height,3
Hung fearless wild flowers, and the washing wave4
Broke on the beach a dizzy depth below.5
Sick with the noonday blaze, I marked a cave,6
Scoop’d out to witless semblance of a house,7
One room, with crazy door ; and entering in8
Found Dick, the path-cutter. No sinecure9
His office. Year by year the touch of time10
Makes havoc : frost-crabb’d winter and the storms11
Make mimic avalanches of the chalk,12
And spoil his work. Yea, summer scarce re-
frains :
And every wave that lashes on the rock14
Rolls back like milk. I found Dick garrulous ;15
And, being idle, sat an hour and smoked ;16
And watch’d the sails pass by the open door,17
And saw the buoy dip with the battery shot.18
A hale and honest fellow, Dick, content19
With little, gathering samphire, netting prawns ;20
With cheery talk for every passer-by,21
Tho’ sleeping on a mat of straw : his age22
Some three-score years; with tough and sinewy
But softer heart. Two children, on two stools,24
Sat near him : guests, who stay’d out half a day,25
And found in wifeless Dick a friend. The girl,26
Some four years old,—I took her for a boy,—27
Half wild, half shy, and graceful as a goat,28
As native as the sea-wreck to the place,29
Made friends with me, too. Yellow hair she had,30
Unloop’d, and brown bare little legs and feet,31
And wide blue eyes. I liked to talk with Dick :32
A shrewd and travell’d man, and apt at speech.33
He’s the grand master,”—pointing to the sea,34
Dick said,— “ he’s master of all masters here,35
When winter comes : he’s quiet enough now.”36
Who loves not talk like this, from one whose hands37
Sweat with rough toil ?  I listen’d with delight.38
I learn’d some lessons, and acquired some facts :39
That samphire is no longer in demand ;40
That fossils will not sell. He had a stock :41
Shut in a flint a sea-urchin, complete—42
A beauty ! What seas left it on the shore,43
A million years ere God wall’d England round44
With ever-shifting bulwark of the main ?45
Then flints were low in price; he hoarded up :46
He would not let them go, though hoarding up47
Came hard. But one grand lesson, which I knew,—48
But here repeat for such as are more used49
Than I and Dick to measure with the world,—50
The old man’s lips made beautiful. He said,51
Avoid the man who loves not the wild flowers,52
Nor cares to hear the prattling of a child.”53
Pondering the lesson as I went I felt54
How true it was : yea, somehow, with the sense55
Of its deep truth, the sea-gulls dipp’d more glad,56
The lisping wave broke tenderer on the shore,57
The seaman’s oar seem’d human, and Heaven kind.58