FIVE ENGLISH POETS
EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
MARY E. LITCHFIELD
I. DRYDEN A SONG FOR ST. CECILIA'S DAY
II. GRAY ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD
III. GOLDSMITH THE TRAVELLER THE DESERTED VILLAGE
IV. BURNS THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT
V. COLERIDGE THE ANCIENT MARINER
When a poem is read aloud it is easy to realize that poetry is closely related to music. Like music it awakens vague, mysterious feelings which cannot be expressed in ordinary speech; and the person who fails to catch the subtle melody of a poem gets but little from it even though he understands perfectly the meaning of the words. To illustrate this, put into commonplace prose a passage of beautiful verse,—for instance, lines 358-372 of The Ancient Mariner, beginning, "Sometimes a-dropping from the sky,"—and then compare the prose version with the original. The two will be found as unlike as the flower after it has been dissected by the botanist, and the same flower still on the stalk, opening its petals to the morning sun.
The Greeks divided all poetry into three kinds,—lyric, epic, and dramatic poetry, and there is no better general division. The lyric, which is properly a song, expresses the transient feeling or mood of the writer, and therefore is never very long. One must be sensitive to the music of verse to care for a poem of this kind, because it tells no story. Dryden's _Song for St. Cecilia's Day_ and Gray's _Elegy_, both included in the present volume, are lyrics. Among the most beautiful of English lyrics are Milton's _Lycidas_, Wordsworth's _Ode on Intimations of Immortality_, and Shelley's _To a Skylark_ and _Adonais_; while of American poems of the same kind none is nobler than Lowell's _Commemoration Ode_. Short lyrics, among which are songs and sonnets, can be found in the works of almost every poet of note, whether English or American. Under the head of epic or narrative poetry are included long productions like the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ of Homer and the _Paradise Lost_ of Milton, and shorter poems, such as Coleridge's _Ancient Mariner_ and _Longfellow's _Evangeline_. Indeed, every piece of verse that tells a story, however short it may be, belongs with the epics or narratives. Dramatic poetry includes well-known plays like Shakespeare's _Merchant of Venice_ and _Julius Caesar_, and also certain poems not written for the stage, such as Browning's _Pippa Passes_ and Shelley's _Prometheus Unbound_. In a dramatic production the poet goes out of himself for the time being, and expresses the thoughts and feelings of other characters.
It may have been noticed that in this description of the principal kinds of poetry, only three of the poems included in this book have been mentioned. This is because the other three—The Traveller, The Deserted Village, and The Cotter's Saturday Night—do not fit exactly into any of the divisions. One would class them with the epics rather than with the lyrics or the dramas, but they are not properly narratives, because they tell no story; they are really descriptive and reflective poems. One often comes upon a difficulty of this kind when attempting to classify a poem, and the truth is that several smaller divisions are necessary if every production is to be placed where it belongs. But while it is desirable to know whether one is reading a lyric, an epic, or a drama, it is far more important to enjoy a beautiful poem than to be able properly to classify it.
The following list may prove useful to those who wish to know more of the poets represented in this volume than can be learned from the short sketches of their lives which it includes:
J. R. Green: Short History of the English People; Stopford Brooke: English Literature; Frederick Ryland: Chronological Outlines of English Literature; Edmund Gosse: A History of Eighteenth-Century Literature; Dictionary of National Biography (British); G. Saintsbury: Dryden (English Men of Letters Series); James Russell Lowell: essay on Dryden in Among my Books, vol. i; W. L. Phelps: Gray (Athenaeum Press Series); Matthew Arnold: essay on Gray in Essays in Criticism, second series; James Russell Lowell: essay on Gray in Latest Literary Essays; Austin Dobson: Life of Goldsmith (Great Writers Series), William Black: Goldsmith (E. M. L. Series); J. C. Shairp: Burns (E. M. L. Series); Thomas Carlyle: essay on Burns in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, and [Burns] "The Hero as Man of Letters" in Heroes and Hero Worship; H. D. Traill: Coleridge (E. M. L. Series); T. Hall Caine: Life of Coleridge (Great Writers Series); J. C. Shairp: "Coleridge as Poet and Philosopher" in Studies in Poetry and Philosophy; James Russell Lowell: "Address in Westminster Abbey, 7th May, 1885" [Coleridge], in Democracy and Other Essays; A. C. Swinburne; Essays and Studies; Walter Pater: "Coleridge," in Appreciations.
FIVE ENGLISH POETS
Although Dryden is but little read in these days, he fills an important place in the history of English literature. As the foremost writer of the last third of the seventeenth century, he is the connecting link between Milton, "the last of the Elizabethans," and Pope, the chief poet of the age of Queen Anne. He was born in Northamptonshire, and had the good fortune to live in the country until his thirteenth year, when he was sent to the famous Westminster School, in what is now the heart of London. A few years after finishing his course at Cambridge University he went back to London, and lived there chiefly during the rest of his long and busy life. At the age of thirty-nine he was made poet-laureate and historiographer-royal, although his best work was not done until after he was fifty years old. From Milton's death, 1674, until his own in 1700, "Glorious John," as he was called, reigned without a rival in English letters; and one can picture him as a short, stout, somewhat ruddy-faced gentleman, sitting in Will's Coffee House surrounded by younger authors who vie with one another for the honor of a pinch out of his snuffbox. He died at the age of sixty-nine, and was buried in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, near Chaucer and Cowley.
Dryden is often called "the first of the moderns." This is because he was one of the earliest to write clear, strong English prose, and because as a poet he was thoughtful and brilliant rather than highly imaginative. Lowell says of him: "He had, beyond most, the gift of the right word. . . . In ripeness of mind and bluff heartiness of expression he takes rank with the best." Beside prose works and dramas he wrote poems of many kinds, including translations and paraphrases. His satires are unrivaled. The finest is, perhaps, the first part of Absalom and Achitophel. He is now best known by two lyric poems, Alexander's Feast and the Song for St. Cecilia's Day; while his Palamon and Arcite, a paraphrase of Chaucer's Knightes Tale, still delights the reader who cares for a good story in verse.
A SONG FOR ST. CECILIA'S DAY
From harmony, from heavenly harmony This universal frame began. When Nature underneath a heap Of jarring atoms lay, And could not heave her head, 5 The tuneful voice was heard from high: "Arise, ye more than dead!" Then cold and hot and moist and dry In order to their stations leap, And Music's power obey. 10 From harmony, from heavenly harmony This universal frame began; From harmony to harmony Through all the compass of the notes it ran, The diapason closing full in Man. 15
What passion cannot Music raise and quell? When Jubal struck the corded shell, His list'ning brethren stood around, And, wond'ring, on their faces fell To worship that celestial sound, 20 Less than a god they thought there could not dwell Within the hollow of that shell That spoke so sweetly and so well. What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
The trumpet's loud clangor 25 Excites us to arms, With shrill notes of anger And mortal alarms. The double double double beat Of the thundering drum 30 Cries, "Hark, the foes come! Charge, charge, 't is too late to retreat!"
The soft complaining flute In dying notes discovers The woes of hopeless lovers, 35 Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.
Sharp violins proclaim Their jealous pangs and desperation, Fury, frantic indignation, Depth of pains and height of passion, 40 For the fair disdainful dame.
But oh! what art can teach, What human voice can reach The sacred organ's praise? Notes inspiring holy love, 45 Notes that wing their heavenly ways To mend the choirs above.
Orpheus could lead the savage race, And trees unrooted left their place, Sequacious of the lyre; 50 But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher: When to her organ vocal breath was given, An angel heard, and straight appeared— Mistaking earth for heaven.
As from the power of sacred lays 55 The spheres began to move, And sung the great Creator's praise To all the blest above: So, when the last and dreadful hour This crumbling pageant shall devour, 60 The trumpet shall be heard on high, The dead shall live, the living die, And Music shall untune the sky.
NOTE.—Dryden wrote this song in 1687 for the festival of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. To be appreciated it must be read aloud, for it is full of musical effects, especially stanzas 3-6. St. Cecilia has been represented by Raphael and other artists as playing upon some instrument, surrounded by listening angels.
[1.] From harmony, etc. Some of the ancients believed that music helped in the creation of the heavenly bodies, and that their motions were accompanied by a harmony known as "the music of the spheres."
[2.] This universal frame, the visible universe.
[3.] The diapason, etc. The diapason means here the entire compass of tones. The idea is that in man, the highest of God's creatures, are included all the virtues and powers of the lower creation.
[4.] Jubal. It is said of Jubal: "He was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ."—Genesis iv, 21.
[5.] The corded shell, i.e. the lyre. The first lyre was supposed to have been formed by drawing strings over a tortoise shell.
[6.] Mortal alarms, i.e. notes that rouse men to deadly conflict.
[7.] Discovers, reveals.
[8.] Mend, amend, improve.
[9.] Orpheus is said to have been a Thracian poet who moved rocks and trees and tamed wild beasts by playing upon his lyre.
[10.] Straight, straightway, immediately.
[11.] The last and dreadful hour, the Day of Judgment.
In speaking of Gray, some one has said that no other writer has come down to posterity with such a small book under his arm; and to this may be added the statement that every piece in his book shows careful finish. His fame rests mainly on three poems: the Elegy, The Progress of Poesy, and The Bard. Of these the Elegy is by far the most popular, because it expresses in simple and beautiful language sentiments which appeal to all, whatever their condition.
In character Gray was high-minded, and in temperament reserved and shy. It is said that after he was acknowledged to be the greatest poet living in England, people used to watch eagerly for a glimpse of him; but he usually managed to elude them and to slip away unnoticed. His sensitiveness may have been due in part to the fact that his health was delicate and that he was much alone when a child—for all his brothers and sisters died in infancy. Although unfortunate in his father, he was blessed with a devoted mother, who by her exertions enabled him to go to Cambridge University. It is pleasant to know that he warmly returned her love and that he now rests by her side in the churchyard at Stoke Poges, which is always associated with the Elegy. On her tomb he placed the inscription "—mother of many children, one of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her." Gray's friends were warmly attached to him. With one of them, Horace Walpole, the well-known author and collector, he traveled on the continent soon after leaving the university; and although they quarreled and separated the friendship was renewed later. Gray never married. In 1742 he returned to Cambridge and lived there during the rest of his life, with the exception of two years spent in London. After he became famous the laureateship was offered to him, but his dislike of publicity caused him to refuse it. In 1768 he was made Professor of Modern History and Languages at Cambridge. All his life he was a student; indeed he was the most learned of the English poets, except possibly Milton. In some respects he was in advance of his age. He appreciated certain kinds of poetry that no one else liked in his time, and he cared greatly for wild nature. In these days, when almost every one loves rugged mountains and remote regions by the sea, it is hard to realize that there ever was a time when most persons preferred to look upon trim or even stiff gardens or the cultivated grounds of a country seat; but such was the case. Gray's admiration for wild nature comes out in his prose, especially in his letters, and in his Journal in the Lakes written in 1769; but later writers, Wordsworth above all, have expressed the same feeling in delightful verse.
As a poet Gray stands for beauty of form rather than for depth of thought or breadth of sympathy. He is first of all an artist, and his poems are among the most perfect in the English language.
WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, 5 And all the air a solemn stillness holds, Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r The moping owl does to the moon complain 10 Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r, Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade, Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap, Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, 15 The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn, The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed, The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. 20
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn, Or busy housewife ply her evening care; No children run to lisp their sire's return, Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, 25 Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team afield! How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; 30 Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th' inevitable hour. 35 The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault, If Mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise, Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. 40
Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust, Or Flatt'ry sooth the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid 45 Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed, Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll; 50 Chill Penury repressed their noble rage, And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, 55 And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast, The little Tyrant of his fields withstood, Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood. 60
Th' applause of list'ning senates to command, The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone 65 Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined; Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne, And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide, To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame, 70 Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learned to stray; Along the cool sequestered vale of life 75 They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect, Some frail memorial still erected nigh, With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked, Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. 80
Their name, their years, spelt by th' unlettered Muse, The place of fame and elegy supply: And many a holy text around she strews, That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey, 85 This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned, Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies, Some pious drops the closing eye requires; 90 Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries, Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of th' unhonored Dead Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; If chance, by lonely Contemplation led, 95 Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say, "Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn Brushing with hasty steps the dews away, To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. 100
"There at the foot of yonder nodding beech, That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, His listless length at noontide would he stretch, And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
"Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, 105 Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove; Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn, Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love.
"One morn I missed him on the customed hill, Along the heath and near his fav'rite tree; 110 Another came; nor yet beside the rill, Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
"The next, with dirges due in sad array Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borne. Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay 115 Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth, A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown. Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth, And Melancholy marked him for her own. 120
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, Heav'n did a recompense as largely send: He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear, He gained from Heaven ('t was all he wished) a friend.
No farther seek his merits to disclose, 125 Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, (There they alike in trembling hope repose,) The bosom of his Father and his God.
NOTE.—The Elegy was finished at Stoke Poges in 1750, when the poet was thirty-four years old. It was so popular that one edition followed quickly upon another, and it was even translated into foreign languages.
Notice that throughout the poem the lines are of equal length, each consisting of five feet or measures, and that in a stanza the alternate lines rhyme.
[1.] The curfew was an evening bell which originally warned people to cover their fires, put out their lights, and go to bed. It was instituted in England after the Norman Conquest. The word comes from the French couvrir (cover) and feu (fire).
[2.] Incense-breathing Morn. The poet regards the morning as a person; that is, he personifies morning. Personification is seldom used now, but the eighteenth-century poets delighted in it. It is frequently employed in this poem.
[3.] Glebe, soil, ground.
[4.] The boast of heraldry, i.e. whatever has to do with high rank or pride of birth.
[5.] Where through the long-drawn aisle, etc. It was the custom to bury the poorer people of a village in the churchyard, and the rich or high-born in the church.
[6.] Storied urn. Funeral urns such as were used by the ancients were frequently decorated with scenes from the life of the deceased.
[7.] Animated, i.e. life-like.
[8.] Provoke, call forth, call back to life.
[9.] Full many a gem, etc. One of the best-known stanzas in English poetry.
[10.] Village-Hampden. John Hampden was an English patriot who refused to pay taxes levied by the king without the consent of Parliament, and who died in 1643 from a wound received while fighting for the liberties of England.
[11.] Milton. John Milton (1608-1674), the author of Paradise Lost, is generally ranked as the greatest English poet after Shakespeare.
[12.] Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the famous Protector, is now regarded by historians in general as one of the foremost champions of English liberty.
[13.] Still, always.
[14.] Th' unlettered Muse. In Greek mythology the Muses were nine goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences, song, and the different kinds of poetry. The true poet was supposed to be inspired by them. Gray imagines a new kind of Muse who inspires the writers of crude epitaphs.
[15.] For thee, who mindful, etc. Gray refers to himself as the writer of this poem.
[16.] Chance, perchance.
[17.] Swain, countryman. By swain the poets usually mean a country gallant or lover.
[18.] Lawn, a cleared place in a wood, not cultivated. Now, of course, the word always means grassland near a house which is kept closely cut.
[19.] Science, knowledge in general, not natural science only.
Goldsmith was born in Pallas, an out-of-the-way hamlet in Longford County, Ireland, where his father, the curate, was looked upon as "passing rich, with forty pounds a year." Not long after, the family removed to Lissoy, in the County of Westmeath, where they lived in much comfort. Here Oliver passed his childhood and youth, and it is doubtless to Lissoy that his thoughts returned when he wrote of "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain." As a boy he had his share of troubles. In school he was pronounced "a stupid, heavy blockhead," and he was often made sport of by his companions on account of his awkward figure and his homely face, pitted with the smallpox. In his eighteenth year he entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar, that is, a poor student who pays in part for his tuition by doing certain kinds of work. After four years devoted to study—spiced with a good deal of fun—he graduated at the foot of his class.
At twenty-one he showed no special bent. For a while he lived with his mother, now a widow, and idled his time away with gay companions. After being refused a position in the church, he resolved to try teaching; but this occupation proved so little to his taste that he decided to give it up and study medicine. With the help of a generous uncle he entered the medical school at Edinburgh, leaving Ireland never to return. At the end of a year and a half he concluded that foreign travel would do more for him than a longer stay in Scotland. His uncle sent him twenty pounds, and with this he reached Leyden, where, if he possibly attended a few lectures, he certainly associated with wild companions who helped him to get rid of his money. Having succeeded in borrowing a small sum, he was about to leave Leyden, when in a florist's garden he saw a rare, high-priced flower which he felt sure would delight his kind uncle, who was an enthusiast in flower culture. Without a thought of his own needs he ran in, bought a parcel of the roots, and sent them off to Ireland; then, with a guinea in his pocket, he started on his travels. Although his uncle may have sent him small sums occasionally, it is not easy to see how he managed to wander as he did from country to country. It is said that he paid his way among the peasants by flute playing, and that he returned the hospitality of convents by disputing on learned subjects; but these stories are doubtless fictitious. One thing is certain, he arrived in London in February, 1756, having reached the age of twenty-eight, with a medical degree, but with no money in his pocket.
For two years he lived in the great city poor and unknown. He was in turn apothecary's assistant, poor physician, proof-reader, usher in a "classical school," and hack writer. At last, almost discouraged, he decided to obtain if possible the position of factory surgeon on the Coromandel coast, in India. He failed to get the place, and was also unsuccessful in his efforts to pass the examination at Surgeon's Hall for the humble post of hospital mate.
At this point there was a turn in the tide of his fortunes. While seeking employment as a physician, he had been engaged upon a work called Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe, and with its publication in 1759 his career as an author began. His essays, which appeared in numerous magazines, brought him into further notice, especially a series collected later under the title, The Citizen of the World. In 1764 he became a member of Dr. Johnson's famous "Literary Club" that met at the "Turk's Head." It was to Johnson that he once said, alluding to his heavy style,—"If you were to make little fishes talk, they would talk like whales." But there was no malice in this remark, for the doctor was one of his stanch friends. Among the other nine original members of the club were Sir Joshua Reynolds, the artist, and Edmund Burke, the noted statesman. Before long The Traveller and The Deserted Village gave Goldsmith a foremost place among the poets of the time, and The Vicar of Wakefield, published in 1776, brought him fame as a novelist. This book remains to-day, after the lapse of nearly a century and a half, one of the most widely read of English novels. Two comedies, The Good-natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer, complete the list of his well-known works, while he wrote many others that were enjoyed by his contemporaries. He died of a fever at the age of forty-six, and was buried in the burial ground of the Temple Church. Two years later a monument was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey.
This short sketch of Goldsmith's life makes it clear that he lacked strength of character and was wanting also in practical wisdom. Even after he became a successful author his extravagance kept him poor, and he died largely in debt. Many stories are told illustrating his innocent vanity and the love of gay clothing which made him conspicuous even in an age of ruffled shirts and silver knee-buckles. One of his biographers describes him as arriving at a friend's house where he was to dine, "with his new wig, with his coat of Tyrian bloom and blue silk breeches, with a smart sword at his side, his gold-headed cane in his hand, and his hat under his elbow." But while he had more than his share of weaknesses, it must be granted that "e'en his failings leaned to Virtue's side." He was sensitive, open-hearted, generous, and kindly—always ready to help those less fortunate than himself. If in Parson Primrose and in the "village preacher" of The Deserted Village he has painted portraits of his father, the country curate, there is something of himself as well in these lovable characters. Both in poetry and in prose his style is easy and delightful; his humor has no sting. Everything that comes from his pen has the flavor of his quaint personality. In spite of his failings—or possibly in part because of them—this son of Ireland is one of the most popular of English writers.
OR, A PROSPECT OF SOCIETY
Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow, Or by the lazy Scheld or wandering Po; Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor Against the houseless stranger shuts the door; Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies, 5 A weary waste expanding to the skies; Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see, My heart untravelled fondly turns to thee; Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain, And drags at each remove a lengthening chain. 10
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend, And round his dwelling guardian saints attend: Blest be that spot where cheerful guests retire To pause from toil, and trim their ev'ning fire: Blest that abode where want and pain repair, 15 And every stranger finds a ready chair: Blest be those feasts, with simple plenty crowned, Where all the ruddy family around Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail, Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale; 20 Or press the bashful stranger to his food, And learn the luxury of doing good.
But me, not destined such delights to share, My prime of life in wand'ring spent and care; Impelled, with steps unceasing, to pursue 25 Some fleeting good that mocks me with the view; That, like the circle bounding earth and skies, Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies; My fortune leads to traverse realms alone, And find no spot of all the world my own. 30
Even now, where Alpine solitudes ascend, I sit me down a pensive hour to spend; And placed on high above the storm's career, Look downward where an hundred realms appear; Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide, 35 The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride.
When thus Creation's charms around combine, Amidst the store should thankless pride repine? Say, should the philosophic mind disdain That good which makes each humbler bosom vain? 40 Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can, These little things are great to little man; And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind Exults in all the good of all mankind. Ye glitt'ring towns, with wealth and splendor crowned; 45 Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round; Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale; Ye bending swains, that dress the flow'ry vale; For me your tributary stores combine: Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine. 50
As some lone miser, visiting his store, Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er; Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill, Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still: Thus to my breast alternate passions rise, 55 Pleased with each good that Heaven to man supplies: Yet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall, To see the hoard of human bliss so small; And oft I wish amidst the scene to find Some spot to real happiness consigned, 60 Where my worn soul, each wand'ring hope at rest, May gather bliss to see my fellows blest.
But where to find that happiest spot below Who can direct, when all pretend to know? The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone 65 Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own; Extols the treasures of his stormy seas, And his long nights of revelry and ease: The naked negro, panting at the line, Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine, 70 Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave, And thanks his gods for all the good they gave. Such is the patriot's boast where'er we roam; His first, best country ever is at home. And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare, 75 And estimate the blessings which they share, Though patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find An equal portion dealt to all mankind; As different good, by Art or Nature given, To different nations makes their blessings even. 80
Nature, a mother kind alike to all, Still grants her bliss at Labor's earnest call: With food as well the peasant is supplied On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side; And though the rocky crested summits frown, 85 These rocks by custom turn to beds of down. From Art more various are the blessings sent; Wealth, commerce, honor, liberty, content. Yet these each other's power so strong contest, That either seems destructive of the rest. 90 Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails And honor sinks where commerce long prevails. Hence every state, to one loved blessing prone, Conforms and models life to that alone. Each to the favorite happiness attends, 95 And spurns the plan that aims at other ends: Till carried to excess in each domain, This fav'rite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes, And trace them through the prospect as it lies: 100 Here for a while my proper cares resigned, Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind; Like yon neglected shrub at random cast, That shades the steep, and sighs at every blast.
Far to the right, where Apennine ascends, 105 Bright as the summer, Italy extends: Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side, Woods over woods in gay theatric pride; While oft some temple's mould'ring tops between With venerable grandeur mark the scene, 110
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast, The sons of Italy were surely blest. Whatever fruits in different climes were found, That proudly rise, or humbly court the ground; Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear, 115 Whose bright succession decks the varied year; Whatever sweets salute the northern sky With vernal lives, that blossom but to die; These, here disporting, own the kindred soil, Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil; 120 While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, And sensual bliss is all the nation knows. In florid beauty groves and fields appear; 125 Man seems the only growth that dwindles here. Contrasted faults through all his manners reign: Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain; Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue; And ev'n in penance planning sins anew. 130 All evils here contaminate the mind That opulence departed leaves behind; For wealth was theirs, not far removed the date When commerce proudly nourished through the state, At her command the palace learnt to rise, 135 Again the long-fallen column sought the skies, The canvas glowed, beyond e'en nature warm, The pregnant quarry teemed with human form; Till, more unsteady than the southern gale, Commerce on other shores displayed her sail; 140 While nought remained of all that riches gave, But towns unmanned, and lords without a slave: And late the nation found with fruitless skill Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet still the loss of wealth is here supplied 145 By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride; From these the feeble heart and long-fall'n mind An easy compensation seem to find. Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp arrayed, The paste-board triumph and the cavalcade, 150 Processions formed for piety and love, A mistress or a saint in every grove. By sports like these are all their cares beguiled; The sports of children satisfy the child. Each nobler aim, repressed by long control, 155 Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul; While low delights, succeeding fast behind, In happier meanness occupy the mind: As in those domes where Caesars once bore sway, Defaced by time and tottering in decay, 160 There in the ruin, heedless of the dead, The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed; And, wond'ring man could want the larger pile, Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile. My soul, turn from them, turn we to survey, 165 Where rougher climes a nobler race display; Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread, And force a churlish soil for scanty bread. No product here the barren hills afford, But man and steel, the soldier and his sword: 170 No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array, But winter ling'ring chills the lap of May: No Zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast, But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet, still, even here content can spread a charm, 175 Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm. Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts tho' small, He sees his little lot the lot of all; Sees no contiguous palace rear its head To shame the meanness of his humble shed; 180 No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal To make him loath his vegetable meal; But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil, Each wish contracting fits him to the soil. Cheerful at morn he wakes from short repose, 185 Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes; With patient angle trolls the finny deep; Or drives his venturous plowshare to the steep; Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way, And drags the struggling savage into day. 190 At night returning, every labor sped, He sits him down the monarch of a shed; Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze; While his loved partner, boastful of her hoard, 195 Displays her cleanly platter on the board: And haply too some pilgrim, thither led, With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
Thus every good his native wilds impart Imprints the patriot passion on his heart; 200 And ev'n those ills that round his mansion rise Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies. Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms, And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms; And as a child, when scaring sounds molest, 205 Clings close and closer to the mother's breast, So the loud torrent and the whirlwind's roar But bind him to his native mountains more.
Such are the charms to barren states assigned; Their wants but few, their wishes all confined. 210 Yet let them only share the praises due: If few their wants, their pleasures are but few; For every want that stimulates the breast Becomes a source of pleasure when redressed; Whence from such lands each pleasing science flies 215 That first excites desire, and then supplies; Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy, To fill the languid pause with finer joy; Unknown those powers that raise the soul to flame, Catch every nerve, and vibrate 'through the frame. 220 Their level life is but a smould'ring fire, Unquenched by want, unfanned by strong desire; Unfit for raptures, or, if raptures cheer On some high festival of once a year, In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire, 225 Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire.
But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow: Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low; For, as refinement stops, from sire to son Unaltered, unimproved, the manners run, 230 And love's and friendship's finely-pointed dart Fall blunted from each indurated heart. Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast May sit, like falcons, cow'ring on the nest; But all the gentler morals, such as play 235 Thro' life's more cultured walks, and charm the way, These, far dispersed, on timorous pinions fly, To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.
To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign, I turn; and France displays her bright domain. 240 Gay, sprightly land of mirth and social ease, Pleased with thyself, whom all the world can please, How often have I led thy sportive choir, With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire? Where shading elms along the margin grew, 245 And freshened from the wave the Zephyr flew; And haply, though my harsh touch, faltering still, But mocked all tune, and marred the dancer's skill, Yet would the village praise my wonderous power, And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour. 250 Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days Have led their children through the mirthful maze, And the gay grandsire, skilled in gestic lore, Has frisked beneath the burthen of threescore.
So blest a life these thoughtless realms display; 255 Thus idly busy rolls their world away; Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear, For honor forms the social temper here. Honor, that praise which real merit gains, Or even imaginary worth obtains, 260 Here passes current: paid from hand to hand, It shifts in splendid traffic round the land; From courts to camps, to cottages, it strays, And all are taught an avarice of praise. They please, are pleased; they give to get esteem; 265 Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem.
But while this softer art their bliss supplies, It gives their follies also room to rise; For praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought, Enfeebles all internal strength of thought, 270 And the weak soul, within itself unblest, Leans for all pleasure on another's breast. Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art, Pants for the vulgar praise which fools impart; Here vanity assumes her pert grimace, 275 And trims her robes of frieze with copper lace; Here beggar pride defrauds her daily cheer, To boast one splendid banquet once a year; The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws, Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause. 280
To men of other minds my fancy flies, Embosomed in the deep where Holland lies. Methinks her patient sons before me stand, Where the broad ocean leans against the land, And, sedulous to stop the coming tide, 285 Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride. Onward methinks, and diligently slow, The firm connected bulwark seems to grow; Spreads its long arms amidst the wat'ry roar, Scoops out an empire, and usurps the shore. 290 While the pent ocean, rising o'er the pile, Sees an amphibious world beneath him smile: The slow canal, the yellow blossomed vale, The willow tufted bank, the gliding sail, The crowded mart, the cultivated plain,— 295 A new creation rescued from his reign.
Thus while around the wave-subjected soil Impels the native to repeated toil, Industrious habits in each bosom reign, And industry begets a love of gain. 300 Hence all the good from opulence that springs, With all those ills superfluous treasure brings, Are here displayed. Their much-loved wealth imparts Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts: But view them closer, craft and fraud appear; 305 E'en liberty itself is bartered here. At gold's superior charms all freedom flies; The needy sell it, and the rich man buys; A land of tyrants and a den of slaves, Here wretches seek dishonorable graves, 310 And calmly bent, to servitude conform, Dull as their lakes that slumber in the storm. Heavens! how unlike their Belgic sires of old, Rough, poor, content, ungovernably bold; War in each breast, and freedom on each brow; 315 How much unlike the sons of Britain now!
Fired at the sound, my genius spreads her wing, And flies where Britain courts the western spring; Where lawns extend that scorn Arcadian pride, And brighter streams than famed Hydaspis glide. 320 There all around the gentlest breezes stray; There gentle music melts on every spray; Creation's mildest charms are there combined, Extremes are only in the master's mind! Stern o'er each bosom Reason holds her state, 325 With daring aims irregularly great; Pride in their port, defiance in their eye, I see the lords of human kind pass by; Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band, By forms unfashioned, fresh from Nature's hand, 330 Fierce in their native hardiness of soul, True to imagined right, above control, While even the peasant boasts these rights to scan, And learns to venerate himself as man.
Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictured here; 335 Thine are those charms that dazzle and endear: Too blest indeed, were such without alloy: But fostered even by Freedom ills annoy: That independence Britons prize too high Keeps man from man, and breaks the social tie; 340 The self-dependent lordlings stand alone, All claims that bind and sweeten life unknown. Here, by the bonds of nature feebly held, Minds combat minds, repelling and repelled; Ferments arise, imprisoned factions roar, 345 Repressed ambition struggles round her shore, Till, over-wrought, the general system feels Its motions stop, or frenzy fire the wheels.
Nor this the worst. As nature's ties decay, As duty, love, and honor fail to sway, 350 Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law, Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe. Hence all obedience bows to these alone, And talent sinks, and merit weeps unknown: Till time may come, when, stripped of all her charms, 355 The land of scholars and the nurse of arms, Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame, Where kings have toiled and poets wrote for fame, One sink of level avarice shall lie, And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonored die. 360
Yet think not, thus when Freedom's ills I state, I mean to flatter kings, or court the great: Ye powers of truth that bid my soul aspire, Far from my bosom drive the low desire. And thou, fair Freedom, taught alike to feel 365 The rabble's rage and tyrant's angry steel; Thou transitory flower, alike undone By proud contempt or favor's fostering sun, Still may thy blooms the changeful clime endure! I only would repress them to secure: 370 For just experience tells, in every soil, That those who think must govern those that toil; And all that Freedom's highest aims can reach Is but to lay proportioned loads on each. Hence, should one order disproportioned grow, 375 Its double weight must ruin all below.
O then how blind to all that truth requires, Who think it freedom when a part aspires! Calm is my soul, nor apt to rise in arms, Except when fast approaching danger warms; 380 But when contending chiefs blockade the throne, Contracting regal power to stretch their own, When I behold a factious band agree To call it freedom when themselves are free, Each wanton judge new penal statutes draw, 385 Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law, The wealth of climes where savage nations roam Pillaged from slaves to purchase slaves at home, Fear, pity, justice, indignation start, Tear off reserve, and bare my swelling heart; 390 Till half a patriot, half a coward grown, I fly from petty tyrants to the throne.
Yes, brother, curse with me that baleful hour When first ambition struck at regal power; And thus polluting honor in its source, 395 Gave wealth to sway the mind with double force. Have we not seen, round Britain's peopled shore, Her useful sons exchanged for useless ore, Seen all her triumphs but destruction haste, Like flaring tapers brightening as they waste? 400 Seen opulence, her grandeur to maintain, Lead stern depopulation in her train, And over fields where scattered hamlets rose In barren solitary pomp repose? Have we not seen at pleasure's lordly call 405 The smiling long-frequented village fall? Beheld the duteous son, the sire decayed, The modest matron, and the blushing maid, Forced from their homes, a melancholy train, To traverse climes beyond the western main; 410 Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around, And Niagara stuns with thund'ring sound?
Even now, perhaps, as there some pilgrim strays Through tangled forests and through dangerous ways, Where beasts with man divided empire claim, 415 And the brown Indian marks with murderous aim; There, while above the giddy tempest flies, And all around distressful yells arise, The pensive exile, bending with his woe, To stop too fearful, and too faint to go, 420 Casts a long look where England's glories shine, And bids his bosom sympathize with mine.
Vain, very vain, my weary search to find That bliss which only centers in the mind: Why have I strayed from pleasure and repose, 425 To seek a good each government bestows? In every government, though terrors reign, Though tyrant kings or tyrant laws restrain, How small, of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure; 430 Still to ourselves in every place consigned, Our own felicity we make or find: With secret course, which no loud storms annoy, Glides the smooth current of domestic joy. The lifted ax, the agonizing wheel, 435 Luke's iron crown, and Damiens' bed of steel, To men remote from power but rarely known, Leave reason, faith, and conscience all our own.
NOTE.—Although many of the poet's statements are greatly exaggerated, The Traveller is interesting because it contains beautiful descriptions and apt expressions of thought. The verse employed is the heroic couplet, the favorite verse of the eighteenth-century poets. The lines rhyme in pairs, and often a couplet expresses a complete thought. Each line contains five feet, or measures.
[1.] Scheld. The Schelde, or Scheldt, empties into the North Sea near Antwerp.
[2.] Carinthian boor. Carinthia is a province of Austria.
[3.] Campania's plain. Campania includes, among other districts, the province of Naples.
[4.] My brother. Probably the poet alludes to his elder brother, Henry, who lived in Ireland. To him he is said to have sent the first part of his poem, from Switzerland.
[5.] Let school-taught pride, etc. i.e. let the philosopher pretend, if he will, that material things are of small importance.
[6.] Swains, a name used by poets for young men living in the country, especially lovers.
[7.] The line, the equinoctial line, the equator.
[8.] Idra's cliffs. Idria is a town among the mountains in Camiola, Austria. Near it are mines of quicksilver.
[9.] Arno's shelvy side. Shelvy, or shelving, means sloping gradually. Florence is on the Arno.
[10.] Either seems, etc. Either properly signifies one of two; it has occasionally been used for one of several, as Goldsmith uses it here.
[11.] And honor sinks, etc., a sentiment common in the poet's day, but entertained by few persons in these times. Formerly, in many European countries, trade, even on a large scale, was considered belittling. A gentleman's son might enter the Church, the army, or the navy, but he must not become a merchant.
[12.] My proper cares, my own, my personal cares.
[13.] Gelid, cold.
[14.] To winnow, to fan.
[15.] Sensual bliss is all the nation knows. This has never been true of the Italians. At the end of the fifteenth century Italy was the center of European civilization; at the close of the sixteenth she was exhausted and helpless; in 1748, by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, she was divided among various European powers; after a long struggle the greater part of the country was united under Victor Emmanuel, who was proclaimed king in 1861. Italy has now, besides elementary and higher schools, twenty-one universities.
[16.] For wealth was theirs. Venice, Genoa, and Florence were cities of great wealth during the latter part of the Middle Ages.
[17.] The palace learnt to rise. Beside palaces, there are in Italy many noted buildings which the poet must have seen. Among these are St. Peter's in Rome, the cathedral in Milan, and St. Mark's in Venice.
[18.] Again the long-fallen column, etc. When architecture began to flourish anew in Italy, early in the Middle Ages, many of the columns used were taken from the ruins of buildings erected during the days of the Roman Empire.
[19.] The canvas glowed. Giotto, born about 1266, was one of the first of the Italian painters who gained distinction. Later came Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, and many others. Michelangelo (1475-1564) was sculptor, architect, and writer, as well as painter. Benvenuto Cellini, born in 1500, was noted as goldsmith, sculptor, and writer.
[20.] More unsteady than the southern gale, etc. The discovery of America and the opening of a route to India by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, seriously affected the commerce of the Italian seaports.
[21.] Plethoric ill, ill caused by excess.
[22.] Caesars. The name Caesar was assumed by all the Roman emperors. Kaiser and tsar, or csar, come from the word.
[23.] A churlish soil. Nearly three-quarters of the soil of Switzerland is productive. [Transcriber's note: the word "productive" may be incorrect, given Switzerland's mountainous terrain, but it is what was printed in the original book.]
[24.] The soldier and his sword. In former times the Swiss frequently served as soldiers in different European countries as a means of earning a living. Many monarchs had Swiss guards for their personal safety.
[25.] Sees no contiguous palace. The peasant now sees hotels, if not palaces. The Swiss hotels, like the Swiss roads, are among the best in the world.
[26.] Bred in ignorance and toil. Switzerland has at present, beside lower schools, seven institutions of higher learning, five of which are universities.
[27.] Savage, savage beast. Few of these can be found in Switzerland now.
[28.] With many a tale, etc. Possibly the poet alludes to his own experiences.
[29.] Such are the charms, etc. In this and the following lines the poet paints a picture that has not for centuries been true of the Swiss a people. Their principal cities have long been centers of refinement and of intellectual activity.
[30.] Gestic lore, the art of dancing.
[31.] Thus idly busy, etc. The French peasant has always been noted for his industry and economy. This picture was drawn before the French revolution, when the lower classes were miserably poor and the nobles reckless in their extravagance. France has now a remarkable system of public instruction and many large institutions of higher learning. In matters where taste is concerned she still leads the world.
[32.] Frieze, coarse woolen cloth.
[33.] Holland is now known as The Netherlands. The sovereign is the young queen Wilhelmina, who began to reign in 1898.
[34.] Rampire, a dam or dike.
[35.] From opulence that springs. Holland was a great commercial power during the seventh [Transcriber's note: should probably be "seventeenth"] century; then her commerce dwindled, and after 1713 she was of small political importance. Of course the poet's description is greatly exaggerated.
[36.] Dull as their lakes. The Netherlands can at present boast of four public universities.
[37.] Belgic sires. Belgae was the name given to the early inhabitants of Holland and certain regions near that country.
[38.] Lawns, cleared places in a wood; not cultivated grassland near a house, as now.
[39.] Arcadian pride. Arcadia is an inland country in Greece, often mentioned by poets as a place of ideal beauty.
[40.] Famed Hydaspis. The river Jhelum, or Jhelam, in India, about which many fabulous stories used to be told. One was, that its sands were of gold.
[41.] The self-dependent lordlings. Probably in no country in the world have the nobility been so popular as in England. It has been said that an Englishman "dearly loves a lord."
[42.] Repelling and repelled. Goldsmith, who grew up among the warm-hearted people of Lissoy, was doubtless often hurt by the apparent coldness of his English friends.
[43.] One sink of level avarice. At the time The Traveller was written many noted English statesmen had low moral standards and were willing to use corrupt means to gain their ends. Still, the great body of the people were but slightly affected by this state of things, and England was soon to enter upon a new and better era.
[44.] Those who think, etc. Americans believe that the thinkers should toil and the toilers think. When Goldsmith's line was written great ignorance prevailed among the working classes in all European countries.
[45.] Rich men rule the law. Bribery was common in England at the time. Although conditions gradually improved, many abuses remained until they were swept away by the famous Reform Bill of 1832.
[46.] The wealth of climes, etc. It will be remembered that England was having serious trouble at the time this poem was written, both with the people of India and with the American colonists.
[47.] Her useful sons, etc. The slave trade was not abolished in the British Empire until 1807.
[48.] Decayed, fallen as to social condition.
[49.] Forced from their homes. Many Englishmen came to America willingly. The poet fails to understand the adventurous spirit of the emigrant.
[50.] Oswego; Niagara. At this time the regions named were in the wilderness. Note the poet's pronunciation of Niagara.
[51.] A good each government bestows. It would not be easy to mention the special good bestowed by certain governments; by that of Turkey, for instance.
[52.] Luke's iron crown. George Dosia, with his brother Luke, headed an unsuccessful revolt in Hungary in the sixteenth century. George—not Luke—was put to death by means of a red-hot iron crown. In the Middle Ages this punishment was sometimes employed in the case of persons who had attempted to seize the royal power.
[53.] Damiens' bed of steel. Robert Francois Damiens attempted to assassinate Louis XV in 1757. Before being put to death he was cruelly tortured, but the "bed of steel" was not used.
THE DESERTED VILLAGE
Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain; Where health and plenty cheered the laboring swain, Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid, And parting summer's lingering blooms delayed: Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease, 5 Seats of my youth, when every sport could please, How often have I loitered o'er thy green, Where humble happiness endeared each scene! How often have I paused on every charm, The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm, 10 The never-failing brook, the busy mill, The decent church that topped the neighboring hill, The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, For talking age and whispering lovers made! How often have I blessed the coming day, 15 When toil remitting lent its turn to play, And all the village train, from labor free, Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree, While many a pastime circled in the shade, The young contending as the old surveyed; 20 And many a gambol frolicked o'er the ground, And sleights of art and feats of strength went round. And still, as each repeated pleasure tired, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired, The dancing pair that simply sought renown 25 By holding out to tire each other down; The swain mistrustless of his smutted face, While secret laughter tittered round the place; The bashful virgin's sidelong looks of love, The matron's glance that would those looks reprove, 30 These were thy charms, sweet village! sports like these, With sweet succession, taught even toil to please: These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed: These were thy charms—but all these charms are fled.
Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, 35 Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn; Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, And desolation saddens all thy green: One only master grasps the whole domain, And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain. 40 No more thy glassy brook reflects the day, But, choked with sedges, works its weedy way; Along thy glades, a solitary guest, The hollow sounding bittern guards its nest; Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, 45 And tires their echoes with unvaried cries; Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all, And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall; And trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, Far, far away thy children leave the land. 50
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay: Princes and lords may nourish, or may fade; A breath can make them, as a breath has made: But a bold peasantry, their country's pride, 55 When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England's griefs began, When every rood of ground maintained its man; For him light labor spread her wholesome store, Just gave what life required, but gave no more: 60 His best companions, innocence and health; And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are altered; trade's unfeeling train Usurp the land and dispossess the swain; Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose, 65 Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose, And every want to opulence allied, And every pang that folly pays to pride. These gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom, Those calm desires that asked but little room, 70 Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene, Lived in each look, and brightened all the green; These, far departing, seek a kinder shore, And rural mirth and manners are no more.
Sweet Auburn! parent of the blissful hour, 75 Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power. Here, as I take my solitary rounds Amidst thy tangling walks and ruined grounds, And, many a year elapsed, return to view Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew, 80 Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain, In all my wanderings round this world of care, In all my griefs—and GOD has given my share— I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown, 85 Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down; To husband out life's taper at the close, And keep the flame from wasting by repose: I still had hopes, for pride attends us still, Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill, 90 Around my fire an evening group to draw, And tell of all I felt, and all I saw; And, as an hare whom hounds and horns pursue Pants to the place from whence at first she flew, I still had hopes, my long vexations past, 95 Here to return—and die at home at last.
O blest retirement, friend to life's decline, Retreats from care, that never must be mine, How happy he who crowns in shades like these A youth of labor with an age of ease; 100 Who quits a world where strong temptations try, And, since 't is hard to combat, learns to fly! For him no wretches, born to work and weep, Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep; No surly porter stands in guilty state, 105 To spurn imploring famine from the gate; But on he moves to meet his latter end, Angels around befriending Virtue's friend; Bends to the grave with unperceived decay, While resignation gently slopes the way; 110 And, all his prospects brightening to the last, His heaven commences ere the world be past!
Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close Up, yonder hill the village murmur rose. There, as I passed with careless steps and slow, 115 The mingling notes came softened from below; The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung, The sober herd that lowed to meet their young, The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool, The playful children just let loose from school, 120 The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind, And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind;— These all in sweet confusion sought the shade, And filled each pause the nightingale had made. But now the sounds of population fail, 125 No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale, No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread, For all the bloomy flush of life is fled. All but yon widowed, solitary thing, That feebly bends beside the plashy spring: 130 She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread, To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread, To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn, To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn; She only left of all the harmless train, 135 The sad historian of the pensive plain.
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, And still where many a garden flower grows wild; There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. 140 A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a year; Remote from towns he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change his place; Unpracticed he to fawn, or seek for power, 145 By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour; Far other aims his heart had learned to prize, More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise. His house was known to all the vagrant train; He chid their wanderings but relieved their pain: 150 The long-remembered beggar was his guest, Whose beard descending swept his aged breast; The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud, Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed; The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay, 155 Sat by his fire, and talked the night away, Wept o'er his wounds or tales of sorrow done, Shouldered his crutch and shewed how fields were won, Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow, And quite forgot their vices in their woe; 160 Careless their merits or their faults to scan, His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride, And e'en his failings leaned to Virtue's side; But in his duty prompt at every call, 165 He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all; And, as a bird each fond endearment tries To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies, He tried each art, reproved each dull delay, Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way. 170
Beside the bed where parting life was laid, And sorrow, guilt, and pain by turns dismayed, The reverend champion stood. At his control Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul; Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise, 175 And his last faltering accents whispered praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace, His looks adorned the venerable place; Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway, And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray. 180 The service past, around the pious man, With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran, Even children followed with endearing wile, And plucked his gown to share the good man's smile. His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed; 185 Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed: To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given, But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven. As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm, 190 Tho' round its breast the rolling clouds are spread, Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way, With blossomed furze unprofitably gay, There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule, 195 The village master taught his little school. A man severe he was, and stern to view; I knew him well, and every truant knew: Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace The day's disasters in his morning face; 200 Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee At all his jokes, for many a joke had he; Full well the busy whisper circling round Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned. Yet he was kind, or, if severe in aught, 205 The love he bore to learning was in fault; The village all declared how much he knew: 'Twas certain he could write, and cypher too; Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, And even the story ran that he could gauge: 210 In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill, For, even though vanquished, he could argue still; While words of learned length and thundering sound Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around; And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, 215 That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot Where many a time he triumphed is forgot. Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high, Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye, 220 Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired, Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired, Where village statesmen talked with looks profound, And news much older than their ale went round. Imagination fondly stoops to trace 225 The parlor splendors of that festive place: The white-washed wall, the nicely sanded floor, The varnished clock that clicked behind the door; The chest contrived a double debt to pay, A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day; 230 The pictures placed for ornament and use, The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose; The hearth, except when winter chilled the day, With aspen boughs and flowers and fennel gay; While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for shew, 235 Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row.
Vain transitory splendors! could not all Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall? Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart An hour's importance to the poor man's heart. 240 Thither no more the peasant shall repair To sweet oblivion of his daily care; No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale, No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail; No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear, 245 Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear; The host himself no longer shall be found Careful to see the mantling bliss go round; Nor the coy maid, half willing to be pressed, Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest. 250
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain, These simple blessings of the lowly train; To me more dear, congenial to my heart, One native charm, than all the gloss of art; Spontaneous joys, where Nature has its play, 255 The soul adopts, and owns their firstborn sway; Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind, Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined. But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade, With all the freaks of wanton wealth arrayed— 260 In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain, The toiling pleasure sickens into pain; And, e'en while fashion's brightest arts decoy, The heart distrusting asks if this be joy.
Ye friends to truth, ye statesman who survey 265 The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay, 'T is yours to judge how wide the limits stand Between a splendid and an happy land. Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore, And shouting Folly hails them from her shore; 270 Hoards e'en beyond the miser's wish abound, And rich men flock from all the world around. Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name That leaves our useful products still the same. Not so the loss. The man of wealth and pride 275 Takes up a space that many poor supplied; Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds, Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds: The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth Has robbed the neighboring fields of half their growth; 280 His seat, where solitary sports are seen, Indignant spurns the cottage from the green: Around the world each needful product flies, For all the luxuries the world supplies; While thus the land adorned for pleasure all 285 In barren splendor feebly waits the fall.
As some fair female unadorned and plain, Secure to please while youth confirms her reign, Slights every borrowed charm that dress supplies, Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes; 290 But when those charms are past, for charms are frail, When time advances, and when lovers fail, She then shines forth, solicitous to bless, In all the glaring impotence of dress. Thus fares the land by luxury betrayed: 295 In nature's simplest charms at first arrayed, But verging to decline, its splendors rise; Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise: While, scourged by famine from the smiling land, The mournful peasant leads his humble band, 300 And while he sinks, without one arm to save, The country blooms—a garden and a grave.
Where then, ah! where, shall poverty reside, To scape the pressure of contiguous pride? If to some common's fenceless limits strayed 305 He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade, Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide, And even the bare-worn common is denied.
If to the city sped—what waits him there? To see profusion that he must not share, 310 To see ten thousand baneful arts combined To pamper luxury, and thin mankind; To see those joys the sons of pleasure know Extorted from his fellow-creature's woe. Here while the courtier glitters in brocade, 315 There the pale artist plies the sickly trade; Here while the proud their long-drawn pomps display, There the black gibbet glooms beside the way, The dome where pleasure holds her midnight reign Here, richly decked, admits the gorgeous train: 320 Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square, The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare. Sure scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy! Sure these denote one universal joy! Are these thy serious thoughts?—Ah, turn thine eyes 325 Where the poor houseless shivering female lies. She once, perhaps, in village plenty blessed, Has wept at tales of innocence distressed; Her modest looks the cottage might adorn, Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn: 330 Now lost to all; her friends, her virtue fled, Near her betrayer's door she lays her head, And, pinched with cold, and shrinking from the shower, With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour, When idly first, ambitious of the town, 335 She left her wheel and robes of country brown.
Do thine, sweet Auburn,—thine, the loveliest train,— Do thy fair tribes participate her pain? Even now, perhaps, by cold and hunger led, At proud men's doors they ask a little bread! 340
Ah, no! To distant climes, a dreary scene, Where half the convex world intrudes between, Through torrid tracts with fainting steps they go, Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe. Far different there from all that charmed before 345 The various terrors of that horrid shore; Those blazing suns that dart a downward ray, And fiercely shed intolerable day; Those matted woods, where birds forget to sing, But silent bats in drowsy clusters cling; 350 Those poisonous fields with rank luxuriance crowned, Where the dark scorpion gathers death around; Where at each step the stranger fears to wake The rattling terrors of the vengeful snake; Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey, 355 And savage men more murderous still than they; While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies, Mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies. Far different these from every former scene, The cooling brook, the grassy vested green, 360 The breezy covert of the warbling grove, That only sheltered thefts of harmless love.
Good Heaven! what sorrows gloomed that parting day, That called them from their native walks away; When the poor exiles, every pleasure past, 365 Hung round the bowers, and fondly looked their last, And took a long farewell, and wished in vain For seats like these beyond the western main, And shuddering still to face the distant deep, Returned and wept, and still returned to weep. 370 The good old sire the first prepared to go To new found worlds, and wept for others' woe; But for himself, in conscious virtue brave, He only wished for worlds beyond the grave. His lovely daughter, lovelier in her tears, 375 The fond companion of his helpless years, Silent went next, neglectful of her charms, And left a lover's for a father's arms. With louder plaints the mother spoke her woes, And blessed the cot where every pleasure rose, 380 And kissed her thoughtless babes with many a tear, And clasped them close, in sorrow doubly dear, Whilst her fond husband strove to lend relief In all the silent manliness of grief.
O luxury! thou cursed by Heaven's decree, 385 How ill exchanged are things like these for thee! How do thy potions, with insidious joy, Diffuse their pleasure only to destroy! Kingdoms by thee, to sickly greatness grown, Boast of a florid vigor not their own. 390 At every draught more large and large they grow, A bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe; Till sapped their strength, and every part unsound, Down, down they sink, and spread a ruin round.
Even now the devastation is begun, 395 And half the business of destruction done; Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand, I see the rural virtues leave the land. Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail, That idly waiting flaps with every gale, 400 Downward they move, a melancholy band, Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand. Contented toil, and hospitable care, And kind connubial tenderness, are there; And piety with wishes placed above, 405 And steady loyalty, and faithful love. And thou, sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid, Still first to fly where sensual joys invade; Unfit in these degenerate times of shame To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame; 410 Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried, My shame in crowds, my solitary pride; Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe, That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so; Thou guide by which the nobler arts excel, 415 Thou nurse of every virtue, fare thee well! Farewell, and O! where'er thy voice be tried, On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side, Whether where equinoctial fervors glow, Or winter wraps the polar world in snow, 420 Still let thy voice, prevailing over time, Redress the rigors of the inclement clime; Aid slighted truth with thy persuasive strain; Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain; Teach him, that states of native strength possessed, 425 Though very poor, may still be very blest; That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay, As ocean sweeps the labored mole away; While self-dependent power can time defy, As rocks resist the billows and the sky. 430
NOTE.—The Deserted Village, published in 1770, was immediately popular, and to-day few English poems are so widely read or so often quoted. If the poet had in mind any special place when writing of "Sweet Auburn," it was probably Lissoy, in Ireland, where he grew up; but the village of his imagination is lovelier than any actual spot, and there is no use in hunting for it on the map. See the first note on The Traveller for remarks on metre, etc.
[1.] Decent, appropriate, fitting. Consult the dictionary for the present meanings of the word.
[2.] Lawn, a cleared space in a wood.
[3.] One only master, etc. Sometimes, in England or in Ireland a wealthy man would buy a large tract of land, pull down the house and turn the entire region into parks or hunting grounds. Such a man was not necessarily a tyrant. In many cases the villages demolished were deserted because the inhabitants had left them to seek more comfortable homes across the ocean.
[4.] Decay, i.e. deteriorate, lose their high moral character. Although this is not the inevitable consequence of great wealth, it is certainly one of its dangers.
[5.] A breath can make them. Breath was used by older writers in the sense of words. The poet's meaning is, that kings can easily make new lords by conferring titles upon their favorites. This was a common practice in former times. Now, in England, titles are usually given as a reward for distinguished merit, as in the case of Alfred Lord Tennyson, the famous poet.
[6.] Ere England's griefs began. The student of history finds that there never was such a time. Although there are serious evils in all civilized countries to-day, especially in the condition of the poorest people in large cities, the workingman is, on the whole, far better off than he was hundreds of years ago, or even at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
[7.] To husband out, to use or manage with economy. The out is superfluous in prose.
[8.] An hare. An was formerly used before words beginning with h, even when that letter was sounded, and also before words beginning with a vowel.
[9.] Pants to, eagerly longs for.
[10.] No surly porter, etc. While the poet was exaggerating when he said this, nevertheless it is true that the feeling of responsibility for poor and the unfortunate was less widespread among the well-to-do in his day than it is now.
[11.] The village preacher's, etc. There is no doubt that the poet was thinking of his own father when he drew the sketch that follows—one of the most charming character sketches in English literature. To find its like in poetry one must go back to Chaucer's picture of the "poor parson" in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. Goldsmith's "village preacher" first appeared in the Vicar of Wakefield, in that delightful character, Parson Primrose.
[12.] Passing, surpassingly.
[13.] Unpracticed he, etc. Clergymen have in some instances changed their creeds to gain favor with those in authority.
[14.] His pity gave, etc., i.e. he gave from warm human sympathy rather than from a religious, and perhaps a colder, sentiment.
[15.] Fled the struggling soul. Fled is sometimes used transitively by older writers.
[16.] Awful form. Notice how effective awful is when properly used.
[17.] Cypher, do sums in arithmetic; not often used now.
[18.] Terms and tides presage, i.e. the schoolmaster could tell when courts were to be held and when certain tides (times), such as Whitsuntide or Easter, would come.
[19.] Gauge, measure. The word is applied especially to determining the capacity of casks and other vessels containing alcoholic liquors. These had to be carefully measured, so that the government should receive the specified tax.
[20.] The twelve good rules. Among these are: "Reveal no secrets," "Keep no bad company." They can be found in Hales' Longer English Poems, p. 353.
[24.] Participate, share.
[25.] Altama, the Altamaha, a river in Georgia.
[26.] Crouching tigers. It is evident that the poet is indulging his imagination. The people of Georgia doubtless find this description of their country amusing if not accurate.
[27.] Torno's cliffs. Perhaps the poet refers to some region near the river Torneo, or Tornea, which flows into the Gulf of Bothnia.
[28.] Pambamarca's side. Pambamarca is a mountain in Ecuador.
[29.] Labored mole, carefully constructed breakwater.
Probably the poetry of "Robbie Burns, the Ayrshire Ploughman," is known to more English-speaking people than that of any other writer—not excepting even Shakespeare, for many a person who never reads a book is familiar with John Anderson, My Jo, Auld Lang Syne, and Bonie Doon, though he may not know or care who wrote these famous songs.
The Scotch poet was born at Alloway in Ayrshire, where his father cultivated a small farm. He was the eldest of seven children. Before he was eight years old the family removed to Mt. Oliphant, and later to Lochlea. Here, in 1784, the father died, worn out with incessant toil, which ended only in disappointment. The family were so poor that Robert was obliged to work hard even when very young, and at fifteen he was his father's chief helper. In later years he described his life at Mt. Oliphant as combining "the cheerless gloom of a hermit with the unceasing moil of a galley slave." But poets are given to exaggeration, and doubtless the attractive picture of home life which he afterwards painted in the Cotter's Saturday Night is true in the main of the life in his father's cottage.
In his father, Burns was most fortunate, for he was a man of strict integrity, and strong religious faith. The education of his children was, in his judgment, so important that when they were unable to attend school he taught them himself, notwithstanding his exhausting labors on the farm. The family as a whole were fond of reading. Among their books the poet mentions certain plays of Shakespeare, Pope's works,—including his translation of Homer,—the Spectator, Allan Ramsay's writings, and several volumes on religious and philosophical subjects. Probably in this list the Bible should stand first. He himself studied the art of verse-making in a collection of songs. He says: "I pored over them, driving my cart or walking to labor, song by song, carefully noting the true tender or sublime from affectation or fustian. I am convinced that I owe to this practice much of my critic-craft, such as it is!" His first song, composed when he was fifteen, was inspired by a young girl who worked at his side in the harvest field.
Robert and his brother Gilbert had taken a farm at Mossgiel, not far away, while their father was still living, and after his death they removed there, taking with them the rest of the family. Unfortunately the farm did not prosper. On reaching the age of twenty-seven the poet determined to go to Jamaica where he had been promised a position as overseer of an estate. In order to raise money to pay his passage he published a volume of poems. The returns were small, but the fame of the writer spread so rapidly that he was persuaded to remain in his own country and publish a second edition of his poems in Edinburgh.
The two winters which he spent in the Scotch capital at this time form an interesting episode in his life. He was the lion of the day in literary circles. Many persons who met him have told how he impressed them; but the most interesting account is that of Walter Scott, then a youth of sixteen. He says of Burns: "His person was strong and robust; his manner rustic, not clownish; a sort of dignified plainness and simplicity. His countenance was more massive than it looks in any of the portraits. . . There was a strong expression of sense and shrewdness in all his lineaments; the eye alone, I think, indicated the poetical character and temperament. It was large, and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed), when he spoke, with feeling or interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men of my time."
In 1788 the poet married Jane Armour, and the following year settled with her on a farm at Ellisland, near Dumfries. Finding it impossible to make a living for his increasing family as a farmer, he obtained through friends the place of exciseman for the surrounding region. This position obliged him to ride more than two hundred miles a week, collecting government taxes. In 1791 he moved to the town of Dumfries. The following year he came near losing his place through an act of indiscretion which proved him to be more poet than exciseman. He bought four guns which had come into the possession of the government through the seizure of a smuggling vessel, and sent them with expressions of admiration and sympathy to the French Legislative Assembly. These were the early days of the Revolution when young men in many parts of the world were enthusiastic in their support of the movement. Fortunately the guns failed to reach their destination, and the poet having made his peace with the authorities kept his position until failing health obliged him to give it up. During his later years he wrote little but songs, and for these he would take no money, although he was, as ever, a poor man. He died in 1796, at the age of thirty-seven. In 1815 his remains were transferred to a mausoleum built as a tribute to his genius.
As a man, Burns was far from perfect. His passions were strong and he never learned to control them, and in consequence he had reason to repent bitterly many a rash act. Yet he was brave and honest; he had a righteous hatred of hypocrisy; as the champion of the humble, he claimed for the poorest the full privileges of sturdy manhood; he cared heartily for his fellowmen and had a place in his affections even for the field-mouse and the daisy. Because his verse beats with the passions of his fiery and sympathetic nature, the world loves him as it loves few other poets. Among the best known of his productions are The Cotter's Saturday Night, Tam o' Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To a Mouse, and To a Mountain Daisy. In speaking of his songs, one might mention first, Scots Wha Hae,—composed in the midst of tempests, while the poet was riding over a wild Galloway moor,—and next, Highland Mary and A Man's a Man for a' That; but there is no need of enumerating the songs of Burns. As Emerson has said, "The wind whispers them, the birds whistle them, the corn, barley, and bulrushes hoarsely rustle them. . . . They are the property and the solace of mankind."
THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT[*]
My loved, my honored, much respected friend! No mercenary bard his homage pays; With honest pride I scorn each selfish end, My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise: To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays, 5 The lowly train in life's sequestered scene; The native feelings strong, the guileless ways; What Aikin in a cottage would have been; Ah! tho' his worth unknown, far happier there, I ween!
November chill blaws loud wi' angry sugh; 10 The short'ning winter-day is near a close; The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh; The black'ning trains o' craws to their repose: The toil-worn Cotter frae his labor goes, This night his weekly moil is at an end, 15 Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes, Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, And weary, o'er the moor, his course does homeward bend.
At length his lonely cot appears in view, Beneath the shelter of an aged tree; 20 Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through To meet their dad, wi' flichterin' noise and glee. His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie, His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wine's smile, The lisping infant prattling on his knee, 25 Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile, And makes him quite forget his labor and his toil,
Belyve the elder bairns come drapping in, At service out, amang the farmers roun'; Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin 30 A cannie errand to a neebor town: Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown, In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e, Comes hame, perhaps, to shew a braw new gown, Or deposite her sair-won penny-fee, 35 To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.
With joy unfeigned brothers and sisters meet, And each for other's weelfare kindly spiers: The social hours, swift-winged, unnoticed fleet; Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears. 40 The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years; Anticipation forward points the view; The mother wi' her needle and her sheers Gars auld claes look amaist as weel 's the new; The father mixes a' wi' admonition due. 45
Their master's and their mistress's command The younkers a' are warned to obey; And mind their labors wi' an eydent hand, And ne'er, though out o' sight, to jauk or play: "And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway, 50 And mind your duty, duly, morn and night; Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray, Implore His counsel and assisting might: They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright!"
But hark! a rap comes gently to the door; 55 Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same, Tells how a neebor lad came o'er the moor To do some errands, and convoy her hame. The wily mother sees the conscious flame Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek; 60 With heart-struck, anxious care, inquires his name, While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak; Weel pleased the mother hears, it's nae wild, worthless rake.
With kindly welcome Jenny brings him ben; A strappin' youth, he takes the mother's eye; 65 Blithe Jenny sees the visit's no ill taen; The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye. The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi' joy, But blate and laithfu', scarce can weel behave; The mother, wi' a woman's wiles, can spy 70 What makes the youth sae bashfu' and sae grave; Weel-pleased to think her bairn's respected like the lave.
O happy love! where love like this is found: O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare! I've paced much this weary, mortal round, 75 And sage experience bids me this declare,— "If Heaven a draught of heav'nly pleasure spare, One cordial, in this melancholy vale, 'T is when a youthful, loving, modest pair In other's arms breathe out the tender tale 80 Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the ev'ning gale."