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Tales of a Wayside Inn

Part Second
PRELUDE
A cold, uninterrupted rain,
That washed each southern window-pane,
And made a river of the road;
A sea of mist that overflowed
The house, the barns, the gilded vane,
And drowned the upland and the plain,
Through which the oak-trees, broad and high,
Like phantom ships went drifting by;
And, hidden behind a watery screen,
The sun unseen, or only seen
As a faint pallor in the sky;--
Thus cold and colorless and gray,
The morn of that autumnal day,
As if reluctant to begin,
Dawned on the silent Sudbury Inn,
And all the guests that in it lay.
Full late they slept. They did not hear
The challenge of Sir Chanticleer,
Who on the empty threshing-floor,
Disdainful of the rain outside,
Was strutting with a martial stride,
As if upon his thigh he wore
The famous broadsword of the Squire,
And said, "Behold me, and admire!"
Only the Poet seemed to hear,
In drowse or dream, more near and near
Across the border-land of sleep
The blowing of a blithesome horn,
That laughed the dismal day to scorn;
A splash of hoofs and rush of wheels
Through sand and mire like stranding keels,
As from the road with sudden sweep
The Mail drove up the little steep,
And stopped beside the tavern door;
A moment stopped, and then again
With crack of whip and bark of dog
Plunged forward through the sea of fog,
 
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