THE TASK AND OTHER POEMS
INTRODUCTION THE TASK BOOK I. THE SOFA BOOK II. THE TIMEPIECE BOOK III. THE GARDEN. BOOK IV. THE WINTER EVENING. BOOK V. THE WINTER MORNING WALK. BOOK VI. THE WINTER WALK AT NOON. THE DIVERTING HISTORY OF JOHN GILPIN. AN EPISTLE TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ. TO MARY.
After the publication of his "Table Talk" and other poems in March, 1782, William Cowper, in his quiet retirement at Olney, under Mrs. Unwin's care, found a new friend in Lady Austen. She was a baronet's widow who had a sister married to a clergyman near Olney, with whom Cowper was slightly acquainted. In the summer of 1781, when his first volume was being printed, Cowper met Lady Austen and her sister in the street at Olney, and persuaded Mrs. Unwin to invite them to tea. Their coming was the beginning of a cordial friendship. Lady Austen, without being less earnest, had a liveliness that satisfied Cowper's sense of fun to an extent that stirred at last some jealousy in Mrs. Unwin. "She had lived much in France," Cowper said, "was very sensible, and had infinite vivacity."
The Vicar of Olney was in difficulties, with his affairs in the hands of trustees. The duties of his office were entirely discharged by a curate, and the vicarage was to let. Lady Austen, in 1782, rented it, to be near her new friends. There was only a wall between the garden of the house occupied by Cowper and Mrs. Unwin and the vicarage garden. A door was made in the wall, and there was a close companionship of three. When Lady Austen did not spend her evenings with Mrs. Unwin and Cowper, Mrs. Unwin and Cowper spent their evenings with Lady Austen. They read, talked, Lady Austen played and sang, and they all called one another by their Christian names, William, Mary (Mrs. Unwin), and Anna (Lady Austen). In a poetical epistle to Lady Austen, written in December, 1781, Cowper closes a reference to the strength of their friendship with the evidence it gave,—
"That Solomon has wisely spoken,— 'A threefold cord is not soon broken.'"
One evening in the summer of 1782, when Cowper was low-spirited, Lady Austen told him in lively fashion the story upon which he founded the ballad of "John Gilpin." Its original hero is said to have been a Mr. Bayer, who had a draper's shop in London, at the corner of Cheapside. Cowper was so much tickled by it, that he lay awake part of the night rhyming and laughing, and by the next evening the ballad was complete. It was sent to Mrs. Unwin's son, who sent it to the Public Advertiser, where for the next two or three years it lay buried in the "Poets' Corner," and attracted no particular attention.
In the summer of 1783, when one of the three friends had been reading blank verse aloud to the other two, Lady Austen, from her seat upon the sofa, urged upon Cowper, as she had urged before, that blank verse was to be preferred to the rhymed couplets in which his first book had been written, and that he should write a poem in blank verse. "I will," he said, "if you will give me a subject." "Oh," she answered, "you can write upon anything. Write on this sofa." He playfully accepted that as "the task" set him, and began his poem called "The Task," which was finished in the summer of the next year, 1784. But before "The Task" was finished, Mrs. Unwin's jealousy obliged Cowper to give up his new friend—whom he had made a point of calling upon every morning at eleven—and prevent her return to summer quarters in the vicarage.
Two miles from Olney was Weston Underwood with a park, to which its owner gave Cowper the use of a key. In 1782 a younger brother, John Throckmorton, came with his wife to live at Weston, and continued Cowper's privilege. The Throckmortons were Roman Catholics, but in May, 1784, Mr. Unwin was tempted by an invitation to see a balloon ascent from their park. Their kindness as hosts won upon Cowper; they sought and had his more intimate friendship, till in his correspondence he playfully abused the first syllable of their name and called them Mr. and Mrs. Frog.
Cowper's "Task" went to its publisher and printing was begun, when suddenly "John Gilpin," after a long sleep in the Public Advertiser, rode triumphant through the town. A favourite actor of the day was giving recitations at Freemason's Hall. A man of letters, Richard Sharp, who had read and liked "John Gilpin," pointed out to the actor how well it would suit his purpose. The actor was John Henderson, whose Hamlet, Shylock, Richard III., and Falstaff were the most popular of his day. He died suddenly in 1785, at the age of thirty-eight, and it was thus in the last year of his life that his power of recitation drew "John Gilpin" from obscurity and made it the nine days' wonder of the town. Pictures of John Gilpin abounded in all forms. He figured on pocket-handkerchiefs. When the publisher asked for a few more pages to his volume of "The Task," Cowper gave him as makeweights an "Epistle to Joseph Hill," his "Tirocinium," and, a little doubtfully, "John Gilpin." So the book was published in June, 1785; was sought by many because it was by the author of "John Gilpin," and at once won recognition. The preceding volume had not made Cowper famous. "The Task" at once gave him his place among the poets.
Cowper's "Task" is to this day, except Wordsworth's "Excursion," the best purely didactic poem in the English language. The "Sofa" stands only as a point of departure:—it suits a gouty limb; but as the poet is not gouty, he is up and off. He is off for a walk with Mrs. Unwin in the country about Olney. He dwells on the rural sights and rural sounds, taking first the inanimate sounds, then the animate. In muddy winter weather he walks alone, finds a solitary cottage, and draws from it comment upon the false sentiment of solitude. He describes the walk to the park at Weston Underwood, the prospect from the hilltop, touches upon his privilege in having a key of the gate, describes the avenues of trees, the wilderness, the grove, and the sound of the thresher's flail then suggests to him that all live by energy, best ease is after toil. He compares the luxury of art with wholesomeness of Nature free to all, that brings health to the sick, joy to the returned seafarer. Spleen vexes votaries of artificial life. True gaiety is for the innocent. So thought flows on, and touches in its course the vital questions of a troubled time. "The Task" appeared four years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, and is in many passages not less significant of rising storms than the "Excursion" is significant of what came with the breaking of the clouds.
["The history of the following production is briefly this:—A lady, fond of blank verse, demanded a poem of that kind from the author, and gave him the SOFA for a subject. He obeyed, and having much leisure, connected another subject with it; and, pursuing the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him, brought forth, at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended, a serious affair—a volume.]
I sing the Sofa. I, who lately sang Truth, Hope, and Charity, and touched with awe The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand, Escaped with pain from that advent'rous flight, Now seek repose upon a humbler theme: The theme though humble, yet august and proud The occasion—for the Fair commands the song.
Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use, Save their own painted skins, our sires had none. As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth, Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile: The hardy chief upon the rugged rock Washed by the sea, or on the gravelly bank Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud, Fearless of wrong, reposed his weary strength. Those barbarous ages past, succeeded next The birthday of invention; weak at first, Dull in design, and clumsy to perform. Joint-stools were then created; on three legs Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm A massy slab, in fashion square or round. On such a stool immortal Alfred sat, And swayed the sceptre of his infant realms; And such in ancient halls and mansions drear May still be seen, but perforated sore And drilled in holes the solid oak is found, By worms voracious eating through and through.
At length a generation more refined Improved the simple plan, made three legs four, Gave them a twisted form vermicular, And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuffed, Induced a splendid cover green and blue, Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought And woven close, or needlework sublime. There might ye see the peony spread wide, The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass, Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes, And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.
Now came the cane from India, smooth and bright With Nature's varnish; severed into stripes That interlaced each other, these supplied, Of texture firm, a lattice-work that braced The new machine, and it became a chair. But restless was the chair; the back erect Distressed the weary loins that felt no ease; The slippery seat betrayed the sliding part That pressed it, and the feet hung dangling down, Anxious in vain to find the distant floor. These for the rich: the rest, whom fate had placed In modest mediocrity, content With base materials, sat on well-tanned hides Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth, With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn, Or scarlet crewel in the cushion fixed: If cushion might be called, what harder seemed Than the firm oak of which the frame was formed. No want of timber then was felt or feared In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood Ponderous, and fixed by its own massy weight. But elbows still were wanting; these, some say, An alderman of Cripplegate contrived, And some ascribe the invention to a priest Burly and big, and studious of his ease. But rude at first, and not with easy slope Receding wide, they pressed against the ribs, And bruised the side, and elevated high Taught the raised shoulders to invade the ears. Long time elapsed or e'er our rugged sires Complained, though incommodiously pent in, And ill at ease behind. The ladies first Gan murmur, as became the softer sex. Ingenious fancy, never better pleased Than when employed to accommodate the fair, Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devised The soft settee; one elbow at each end, And in the midst an elbow, it received, United yet divided, twain at once. So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne; And so two citizens who take the air, Close packed and smiling in a chaise and one. But relaxation of the languid frame By soft recumbency of outstretched limbs, Was bliss reserved for happier days; so slow The growth of what is excellent, so hard To attain perfection in this nether world. Thus first necessity invented stools, Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs, And luxury the accomplished Sofa last.
The nurse sleeps sweetly, hired to watch the sick, Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour To sleep within the carriage more secure, His legs depending at the open door. Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk, The tedious rector drawling o'er his head, And sweet the clerk below; but neither sleep Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead, Nor his who quits the box at midnight hour To slumber in the carriage more secure, Nor sleep enjoyed by curate in his desk, Nor yet the dozings of the clerk are sweet, Compared with the repose the Sofa yields.
Oh, may I live exempted (while I live Guiltless of pampered appetite obscene) From pangs arthritic that infest the toe Of libertine excess. The Sofa suits The gouty limb, 'tis true; but gouty limb, Though on a Sofa, may I never feel: For I have loved the rural walk through lanes Of grassy swarth, close cropped by nibbling sheep, And skirted thick with intertexture firm Of thorny boughs: have loved the rural walk O'er hills, through valleys, and by river's brink, E'er since a truant boy I passed my bounds To enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames. And still remember, nor without regret Of hours that sorrow since has much endeared, How oft, my slice of pocket store consumed, Still hungering penniless and far from home, I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws, Or blushing crabs, or berries that emboss The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere. Hard fare! but such as boyish appetite Disdains not, nor the palate undepraved By culinary arts unsavoury deems. No Sofa then awaited my return, No Sofa then I needed. Youth repairs His wasted spirits quickly, by long toil Incurring short fatigue; and though our years, As life declines, speed rapidly away, And not a year but pilfers as he goes Some youthful grace that age would gladly keep, A tooth or auburn lock, and by degrees Their length and colour from the locks they spare; The elastic spring of an unwearied foot That mounts the stile with ease, or leaps the fence, That play of lungs inhaling and again Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes Swift pace or steep ascent no toil to me, Mine have not pilfered yet; nor yet impaired My relish of fair prospect; scenes that soothed Or charmed me young, no longer young, I find Still soothing and of power to charm me still. And witness, dear companion of my walks, Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive Fast locked in mine, with pleasure such as love, Confirmed by long experience of thy worth And well-tried virtues, could alone inspire— Witness a joy that thou hast doubled long. Thou know'st my praise of Nature most sincere, And that my raptures are not conjured up To serve occasions of poetic pomp, But genuine, and art partner of them all. How oft upon yon eminence, our pace Has slackened to a pause, and we have borne The ruffling wind scarce conscious that it blew, While admiration feeding at the eye, And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene! Thence with what pleasure have we just discerned The distant plough slow-moving, and beside His labouring team, that swerved not from the track, The sturdy swain diminished to a boy! Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er, Conducts the eye along his sinuous course Delighted. There, fast rooted in his bank Stand, never overlooked, our favourite elms That screen the herdsman's solitary hut; While far beyond and overthwart the stream That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale, The sloping land recedes into the clouds; Displaying on its varied side the grace Of hedgerow beauties numberless, square tower, Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells Just undulates upon the listening ear; Groves, heaths, and smoking villages remote. Scenes must be beautiful which daily viewed Please daily, and whose novelty survives Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years: Praise justly due to those that I describe.
Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds Exhilarate the spirit, and restore The tone of languid Nature. Mighty winds, That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood Of ancient growth, make music not unlike The dash of ocean on his winding shore, And lull the spirit while they fill the mind, Unnumbered branches waving in the blast, And all their leaves fast fluttering, all at once. Nor less composure waits upon the roar Of distant floods, or on the softer voice Of neighbouring fountain, or of rills that slip Through the cleft rock, and, chiming as they fall Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length In matted grass, that with a livelier green Betrays the secret of their silent course. Nature inanimate employs sweet sounds, But animated Nature sweeter still To soothe and satisfy the human ear. Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one The livelong night: nor these alone whose notes Nice-fingered art must emulate in vain, But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime In still repeated circles, screaming loud, The jay, the pie, and even the boding owl That hails the rising moon, have charms for me. Sounds inharmonious in themselves and harsh, Yet heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns, And only there, please highly for their sake.
Peace to the artist, whose ingenious thought Devised the weather-house, that useful toy! Fearless of humid air and gathering rains Forth steps the man—an emblem of myself! More delicate his timorous mate retires. When Winter soaks the fields, and female feet, Too weak to struggle with tenacious clay, Or ford the rivulets, are best at home, The task of new discoveries falls on me. At such a season and with such a charge Once went I forth, and found, till then unknown, A cottage, whither oft we since repair: 'Tis perched upon the green hill-top, but close Environed with a ring of branching elms That overhang the thatch, itself unseen Peeps at the vale below; so thick beset With foliage of such dark redundant growth, I called the low-roofed lodge the PEASANT'S NEST. And hidden as it is, and far remote From such unpleasing sounds as haunt the ear In village or in town, the bay of curs Incessant, clinking hammers, grinding wheels, And infants clamorous whether pleased or pained, Oft have I wished the peaceful covert mine. Here, I have said, at least I should possess The poet's treasure, silence, and indulge The dreams of fancy, tranquil and secure. Vain thought! the dweller in that still retreat Dearly obtains the refuge it affords. Its elevated site forbids the wretch To drink sweet waters of the crystal well; He dips his bowl into the weedy ditch, And heavy-laden brings his beverage home, Far-fetched and little worth: nor seldom waits Dependent on the baker's punctual call, To hear his creaking panniers at the door, Angry and sad and his last crust consumed. So farewell envy of the PEASANT'S NEST. If solitude make scant the means of life, Society for me! Thou seeming sweet, Be still a pleasing object in my view, My visit still, but never mine abode.
Not distant far, a length of colonnade Invites us; monument of ancient taste, Now scorned, but worthy of a better fate. Our fathers knew the value of a screen From sultry suns, and, in their shaded walks And long-protracted bowers, enjoyed at noon The gloom and coolness of declining day. We bear our shades about us; self-deprived Of other screen, the thin umbrella spread, And range an Indian waste without a tree. Thanks to Benevolus—he spares me yet These chestnuts ranged in corresponding lines, And, though himself so polished, still reprieves The obsolete prolixity of shade.
Descending now (but cautious, lest too fast) A sudden steep, upon a rustic bridge We pass a gulf, in which the willows dip Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink. Hence ankle-deep in moss and flowery thyme We mount again, and feel at every step Our foot half sunk in hillocks green and soft, Raised by the mole, the miner of the soil. He, not unlike the great ones of mankind, Disfigures earth, and plotting in the dark Toils much to earn a monumental pile, That may record the mischiefs he has done.
The summit gained, behold the proud alcove That crowns it! yet not all its pride secures The grand retreat from injuries impressed By rural carvers, who with knives deface The panels, leaving an obscure rude name In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss. So strong the zeal to immortalise himself Beats in the breast of man, that even a few Few transient years, won from the abyss abhorred Of blank oblivion, seem a glorious prize, And even to a clown. Now roves the eye, And posted on this speculative height Exults in its command. The sheepfold here Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe. At first, progressive as a stream, they seek The middle field; but scattered by degrees, Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land. There, from the sunburnt hay-field homeward creeps The loaded wain; while, lightened of its charge, The wain that meets it passes swiftly by, The boorish driver leaning o'er his team, Vociferous, and impatient of delay. Nor less attractive is the woodland scene Diversified with trees of every growth, Alike yet various. Here the gray smooth trunks Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine, Within the twilight of their distant shades; There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood Seems sunk, and shortened to its topmost boughs. No tree in all the grove but has its charms, Though each its hue peculiar; paler some, And of a wannish gray; the willow such, And poplar that with silver lines his leaf, And ash far-stretching his umbrageous arm; Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still, Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak. Some glossy-leaved and shining in the sun, The maple, and the beech of oily nuts Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve Diffusing odours; nor unnoted pass The sycamore, capricious in attire, Now green, now tawny, and ere autumn yet Have changed the woods, in scarlet honours bright. O'er these, but far beyond (a spacious map Of hill and valley interposed between), The Ouse, dividing the well-watered land, Now glitters in the sun, and now retires, As bashful, yet impatient to be seen.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short, And such the re-ascent; between them weeps A little Naiad her impoverished urn, All summer long, which winter fills again. The folded gates would bar my progress now, But that the lord of this enclosed demesne, Communicative of the good he owns, Admits me to a share: the guiltless eye Commits no wrong, nor wastes what it enjoys. Refreshing change! where now the blazing sun? By short transition we have lost his glare, And stepped at once into a cooler clime. Ye fallen avenues! once more I mourn Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice That yet a remnant of your race survives. How airy and how light the graceful arch, Yet awful as the consecrated roof Re-echoing pious anthems! while beneath, The chequered earth seems restless as a flood Brushed by the wind. So sportive is the light Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance, Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick, And darkening and enlightening, as the leaves Play wanton, every moment, every spot.
And now, with nerves new-braced and spirits cheered, We tread the wilderness, whose well-rolled walks, With curvature of slow and easy sweep— Deception innocent—give ample space To narrow bounds. The grove receives us next; Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms We may discern the thresher at his task. Thump after thump resounds the constant flail, That seems to swing uncertain and yet falls Full on the destined ear. Wide flies the chaff, The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist Of atoms, sparkling in the noonday beam. Come hither, ye that press your beds of down And sleep not: see him sweating o'er his bread Before he eats it.—'Tis the primal curse, But softened into mercy; made the pledge Of cheerful days, and nights without a groan.
By ceaseless action, all that is subsists. Constant rotation of the unwearied wheel That Nature rides upon, maintains her health, Her beauty, her fertility. She dreads An instant's pause, and lives but while she moves. Its own revolvency upholds the world. Winds from all quarters agitate the air, And fit the limpid element for use, Else noxious: oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams All feel the freshening impulse, and are cleansed By restless undulation: even the oak Thrives by the rude concussion of the storm: He seems indeed indignant, and to feel The impression of the blast with proud disdain, Frowning as if in his unconscious arm He held the thunder. But the monarch owes His firm stability to what he scorns, More fixed below, the more disturbed above. The law, by which all creatures else are bound, Binds man the lord of all. Himself derives No mean advantage from a kindred cause, From strenuous toil his hours of sweetest ease. The sedentary stretch their lazy length When custom bids, but no refreshment find, For none they need: the languid eye, the cheek Deserted of its bloom, the flaccid, shrunk, And withered muscle, and the vapid soul, Reproach their owner with that love of rest To which he forfeits even the rest he loves. Not such the alert and active. Measure life By its true worth, the comforts it affords, And theirs alone seems worthy of the name Good health, and, its associate in the most, Good temper; spirits prompt to undertake, And not soon spent, though in an arduous task; The powers of fancy and strong thought are theirs; Even age itself seems privileged in them With clear exemption from its own defects. A sparkling eye beneath a wrinkled front The veteran shows, and gracing a gray beard With youthful smiles, descends towards the grave Sprightly, and old almost without decay.
Like a coy maiden, Ease, when courted most, Farthest retires—an idol, at whose shrine Who oftenest sacrifice are favoured least. The love of Nature and the scene she draws Is Nature's dictate. Strange, there should be found Who, self-imprisoned in their proud saloons, Renounce the odours of the open field For the unscented fictions of the loom; Who, satisfied with only pencilled scenes, Prefer to the performance of a God The inferior wonders of an artist's hand. Lovely indeed the mimic works of Art, But Nature's works far lovelier. I admire, None more admires, the painter's magic skill, Who shows me that which I shall never see, Conveys a distant country into mine, And throws Italian light on English walls. But imitative strokes can do no more Than please the eye, sweet Nature every sense. The air salubrious of her lofty hills, The cheering fragrance of her dewy vales, And music of her woods—no works of man May rival these; these all bespeak a power Peculiar, and exclusively her own. Beneath the open sky she spreads the feast; 'Tis free to all—'tis ev'ry day renewed, Who scorns it, starves deservedly at home. He does not scorn it, who, imprisoned long In some unwholesome dungeon, and a prey To sallow sickness, which the vapours dank And clammy of his dark abode have bred Escapes at last to liberty and light; His cheek recovers soon its healthful hue, His eye relumines its extinguished fires, He walks, he leaps, he runs—is winged with joy, And riots in the sweets of every breeze. He does not scorn it, who has long endured A fever's agonies, and fed on drugs. Nor yet the mariner, his blood inflamed With acrid salts; his very heart athirst To gaze at Nature in her green array. Upon the ship's tall side he stands, possessed With visions prompted by intense desire; Fair fields appear below, such as he left Far distant, such as he would die to find— He seeks them headlong, and is seen no more.
The spleen is seldom felt where Flora reigns; The lowering eye, the petulance, the frown, And sullen sadness that o'ershade, distort, And mar the face of beauty, when no cause For such immeasurable woe appears, These Flora banishes, and gives the fair Sweet smiles, and bloom less transient than her own. It is the constant revolution, stale And tasteless, of the same repeated joys That palls and satiates, and makes languid life A pedlar's pack that bows the bearer down. Health suffers, and the spirits ebb; the heart Recoils from its own choice—at the full feast Is famished—finds no music in the song, No smartness in the jest, and wonders why. Yet thousands still desire to journey on, Though halt and weary of the path they tread. The paralytic, who can hold her cards But cannot play them, borrows a friend's hand To deal and shuffle, to divide and sort Her mingled suits and sequences, and sits Spectatress both and spectacle, a sad And silent cipher, while her proxy plays. Others are dragged into the crowded room Between supporters; and once seated, sit Through downright inability to rise, Till the stout bearers lift the corpse again. These speak a loud memento. Yet even these Themselves love life, and cling to it as he, That overhangs a torrent, to a twig. They love it, and yet loathe it; fear to die, Yet scorn the purposes for which they live. Then wherefore not renounce them? No—the dread, The slavish dread of solitude, that breeds Reflection and remorse, the fear of shame, And their inveterate habits, all forbid.
Whom call we gay? That honour has been long The boast of mere pretenders to the name. The innocent are gay—the lark is gay, That dries his feathers saturate with dew Beneath the rosy cloud, while yet the beams Of day-spring overshoot his humble nest. The peasant too, a witness of his song, Himself a songster, is as gay as he. But save me from the gaiety of those Whose headaches nail them to a noonday bed; And save me, too, from theirs whose haggard eyes Flash desperation, and betray their pangs For property stripped off by cruel chance; From gaiety that fills the bones with pain, The mouth with blasphemy, the heart with woe.
The earth was made so various, that the mind Of desultory man, studious of change, And pleased with novelty, might be indulged. Prospects however lovely may be seen Till half their beauties fade; the weary sight, Too well acquainted with their smiles, slides off Fastidious, seeking less familiar scenes. Then snug enclosures in the sheltered vale, Where frequent hedges intercept the eye, Delight us, happy to renounce a while, Not senseless of its charms, what still we love, That such short absence may endear it more. Then forests, or the savage rock may please, That hides the sea-mew in his hollow clefts Above the reach of man: his hoary head Conspicuous many a league, the mariner, Bound homeward, and in hope already there, Greets with three cheers exulting. At his waist A girdle of half-withered shrubs he shows, And at his feet the baffled billows die. The common overgrown with fern, and rough With prickly gorse, that, shapeless and deformed And dangerous to the touch, has yet its bloom, And decks itself with ornaments of gold, Yields no unpleasing ramble; there the turf Smells fresh, and, rich in odoriferous herbs And fungous fruits of earth, regales the sense With luxury of unexpected sweets.
There often wanders one, whom better days Saw better clad, in cloak of satin trimmed With lace, and hat with splendid ribbon bound. A serving-maid was she, and fell in love With one who left her, went to sea and died. Her fancy followed him through foaming waves To distant shores, and she would sit and weep At what a sailor suffers; fancy too, Delusive most where warmest wishes are, Would oft anticipate his glad return, And dream of transports she was not to know. She heard the doleful tidings of his death, And never smiled again. And now she roams The dreary waste; there spends the livelong day, And there, unless when charity forbids, The livelong night. A tattered apron hides, Worn as a cloak, and hardly hides, a gown More tattered still; and both but ill conceal A bosom heaved with never-ceasing sighs. She begs an idle pin of all she meets, And hoards them in her sleeve; but needful food, Though pressed with hunger oft, or comelier clothes, Though pinched with cold, asks never.—Kate is crazed!
I see a column of slow-rising smoke O'ertop the lofty wood that skirts the wild. A vagabond and useless tribe there eat Their miserable meal. A kettle slung Between two poles upon a stick transverse, Receives the morsel; flesh obscene of dog, Or vermin, or, at best, of cock purloined From his accustomed perch. Hard-faring race! They pick their fuel out of every hedge, Which, kindled with dry leaves, just saves unquenched The spark of life. The sportive wind blows wide Their fluttering rags, and shows a tawny skin, The vellum of the pedigree they claim. Great skill have they in palmistry, and more To conjure clean away the gold they touch, Conveying worthless dross into its place; Loud when they beg, dumb only when they steal. Strange! that a creature rational, and cast In human mould, should brutalise by choice His nature, and, though capable of arts By which the world might profit and himself, Self-banished from society, prefer Such squalid sloth to honourable toil. Yet even these, though feigning sickness oft They swathe the forehead, drag the limping limb, And vex their flesh with artificial sores, Can change their whine into a mirthful note When safe occasion offers, and with dance, And music of the bladder and the bag, Beguile their woes, and make the woods resound. Such health and gaiety of heart enjoy The houseless rovers of the sylvan world; And breathing wholesome air, and wandering much, Need other physic none to heal the effects Of loathsome diet, penury, and cold.
Blest he, though undistinguished from the crowd By wealth or dignity, who dwells secure Where man, by nature fierce, has laid aside His fierceness, having learnt, though slow to learn The manners and the arts of civil life. His wants, indeed, are many; but supply Is obvious; placed within the easy reach Of temperate wishes and industrious hands. Here virtue thrives as in her proper soil; Not rude and surly, and beset with thorns, And terrible to sight, as when she springs (If e'er she spring spontaneous) in remote And barbarous climes, where violence prevails, And strength is lord of all; but gentle, kind, By culture tamed, by liberty refreshed, And all her fruits by radiant truth matured. War and the chase engross the savage whole; War followed for revenge, or to supplant The envied tenants of some happier spot; The chase for sustenance, precarious trust! His hard condition with severe constraint Binds all his faculties, forbids all growth Of wisdom, proves a school in which he learns Sly circumvention, unrelenting hate, Mean self-attachment, and scarce aught beside. Thus fare the shivering natives of the north, And thus the rangers of the western world, Where it advances far into the deep, Towards the Antarctic. Even the favoured isles So lately found, although the constant sun Cheer all their seasons with a grateful smile, Can boast but little virtue; and inert Through plenty, lose in morals what they gain In manners, victims of luxurious ease. These therefore I can pity, placed remote From all that science traces, art invents, Or inspiration teaches; and enclosed In boundless oceans, never to be passed By navigators uninformed as they, Or ploughed perhaps by British bark again. But far beyond the rest, and with most cause, Thee, gentle savage! whom no love of thee Or thine, but curiosity perhaps, Or else vain-glory, prompted us to draw Forth from thy native bowers, to show thee here With what superior skill we can abuse The gifts of Providence, and squander life. The dream is past. And thou hast found again Thy cocoas and bananas, palms, and yams, And homestall thatched with leaves. But hast thou found Their former charms? And, having seen our state, Our palaces, our ladies, and our pomp Of equipage, our gardens, and our sports, And heard our music; are thy simple friends, Thy simple fare, and all thy plain delights As dear to thee as once? And have thy joys Lost nothing by comparison with ours? Rude as thou art (for we returned thee rude And ignorant, except of outward show), I cannot think thee yet so dull of heart And spiritless, as never to regret Sweets tasted here, and left as soon as known. Methinks I see thee straying on the beach, And asking of the surge that bathes the foot If ever it has washed our distant shore. I see thee weep, and thine are honest tears, A patriot's for his country. Thou art sad At thought of her forlorn and abject state, From which no power of thine can raise her up. Thus fancy paints thee, and, though apt to err, Perhaps errs little when she paints thee thus. She tells me too that duly every morn Thou climb'st the mountain-top, with eager eye Exploring far and wide the watery waste, For sight of ship from England. Every speck Seen in the dim horizon turns thee pale With conflict of contending hopes and fears. But comes at last the dull and dusky eve, And sends thee to thy cabin, well prepared To dream all night of what the day denied. Alas, expect it not. We found no bait To tempt us in thy country. Doing good, Disinterested good, is not our trade. We travel far, 'tis true, but not for naught; And must be bribed to compass earth again By other hopes, and richer fruits than yours.
But though true worth and virtue, in the mild And genial soil of cultivated life Thrive most, and may perhaps thrive only there, Yet not in cities oft. In proud and gay And gain-devoted cities, thither flow, As to a common and most noisome sewer, The dregs and feculence of every land. In cities, foul example on most minds Begets its likeness. Rank abundance breeds In gross and pampered cities sloth and lust, And wantonness and gluttonous excess. In cities, vice is hidden with most ease, Or seen with least reproach; and virtue, taught By frequent lapse, can hope no triumph there, Beyond the achievement of successful flight. I do confess them nurseries of the arts, In which they flourish most; where, in the beams Of warm encouragement, and in the eye Of public note, they reach their perfect size. Such London is, by taste and wealth proclaimed The fairest capital in all the world, By riot and incontinence the worst. There, touched by Reynolds, a dull blank becomes A lucid mirror, in which nature sees All her reflected features. Bacon there Gives more than female beauty to a stone, And Chatham's eloquence to marble lips. Nor does the chisel occupy alone The powers of sculpture, but the style as much; Each province of her art her equal care. With nice incision of her guided steel She ploughs a brazen field, and clothes a soil So sterile with what charms soe'er she will, The richest scenery and the loveliest forms. Where finds philosophy her eagle eye, With which she gazes at yon burning disk Undazzled, and detects and counts his spots? In London. Where her implements exact, With which she calculates, computes, and scans All distance, motion, magnitude, and now Measures an atom, and now girds a world? In London. Where has commerce such a mart, So rich, so thronged, so drained, and so supplied, As London, opulent, enlarged, and still Increasing London? Babylon of old Not more the glory of the earth, than she A more accomplished world's chief glory now.
She has her praise. Now mark a spot or two That so much beauty would do well to purge; And show this queen of cities, that so fair May yet be foul; so witty, yet not wise. It is not seemly, nor of good report, That she is slack in discipline; more prompt To avenge than to prevent the breach of law: That she is rigid in denouncing death On petty robbers, and indulges life And liberty, and ofttimes honour too, To peculators of the public gold: That thieves at home must hang; but he, that puts Into his overgorged and bloated purse The wealth of Indian provinces, escapes. Nor is it well, nor can it come to good, That through profane and infidel contempt Of holy writ, she has presumed to annul And abrogate, as roundly as she may, The total ordinance and will of God; Advancing fashion to the post of truth, And centring all authority in modes And customs of her own, till Sabbath rites Have dwindled into unrespected forms, And knees and hassocks are wellnigh divorced.
God made the country, and man made the town. What wonder, then, that health and virtue, gifts That can alone make sweet the bitter draught That life holds out to all, should most abound And least be threatened in the fields and groves? Possess ye therefore, ye who, borne about In chariots and sedans, know no fatigue But that of idleness, and taste no scenes But such as art contrives, possess ye still Your element; there only ye can shine, There only minds like yours can do no harm. Our groves were planted to console at noon The pensive wanderer in their shades. At eve The moonbeam, sliding softly in between The sleeping leaves, is all the light they wish, Birds warbling all the music. We can spare The splendour of your lamps, they but eclipse Our softer satellite. Your songs confound Our more harmonious notes. The thrush departs Scared, and the offended nightingale is mute. There is a public mischief in your mirth; It plagues your country. Folly such as yours, Graced with a sword, and worthier of a fan, Has made, which enemies could ne'er have done, Our arch of empire, steadfast but for you, A mutilated structure, soon to fall.
Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness, Some boundless contiguity of shade, Where rumour of oppression and deceit, Of unsuccessful or successful war, Might never reach me more! My ear is pained, My soul is sick with every day's report Of wrong and outrage with which earth is filled. There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart, It does not feel for man. The natural bond Of brotherhood is severed as the flax That falls asunder at the touch of fire. He finds his fellow guilty of a skin Not coloured like his own, and having power To enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey. Lands intersected by a narrow frith Abhor each other. Mountains interposed Make enemies of nations, who had else Like kindred drops been mingled into one. Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys; And worse than all, and most to be deplored, As human nature's broadest, foulest blot, Chains him, and tasks him, and exacts his sweat With stripes, that mercy, with a bleeding heart, Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast. Then what is man? And what man, seeing this, And having human feelings, does not blush And hang his head, to think himself a man? I would not have a slave to till my ground, To carry me, to fan me while I sleep, And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth That sinews bought and sold have ever earned. No: dear as freedom is, and in my heart's Just estimation prized above all price, I had much rather be myself the slave And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him. We have no slaves at home—then why abroad? And they themselves, once ferried o'er the wave That parts us, are emancipate and loosed. Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free, They touch our country and their shackles fall. That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then, And let it circulate through every vein Of all your empire; that where Britain's power Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too.
Sure there is need of social intercourse, Benevolence and peace and mutual aid, Between the nations, in a world that seems To toll the death-bell to its own decease; And by the voice of all its elements To preach the general doom. When were the winds Let slip with such a warrant to destroy? When did the waves so haughtily o'erleap Their ancient barriers, deluging the dry? Fires from beneath and meteors from above, Portentous, unexampled, unexplained, Have kindled beacons in the skies, and the old And crazy earth has had her shaking fits More frequent, and foregone her usual rest. Is it a time to wrangle, when the props And pillars of our planet seem to fail, And nature with a dim and sickly eye To wait the close of all? But grant her end More distant, and that prophecy demands A longer respite, unaccomplished yet; Still they are frowning signals, and bespeak Displeasure in His breast who smites the earth Or heals it, makes it languish or rejoice. And 'tis but seemly, that, where all deserve And stand exposed by common peccancy To what no few have felt, there should be peace, And brethren in calamity should love.
Alas for Sicily, rude fragments now Lie scattered where the shapely column stood. Her palaces are dust. In all her streets The voice of singing and the sprightly chord Are silent. Revelry and dance and show Suffer a syncope and solemn pause, While God performs, upon the trembling stage Of His own works, His dreadful part alone. How does the earth receive Him?—With what signs Of gratulation and delight, her King? Pours she not all her choicest fruits abroad, Her sweetest flowers, her aromatic gums, Disclosing paradise where'er He treads? She quakes at His approach. Her hollow womb, Conceiving thunders, through a thousand deeps And fiery caverns roars beneath His foot. The hills move lightly and the mountains smoke, For He has touched them. From the extremest point Of elevation down into the abyss, His wrath is busy and His frown is felt. The rocks fall headlong and the valleys rise, The rivers die into offensive pools, And, charged with putrid verdure, breathe a gross And mortal nuisance into all the air. What solid was, by transformation strange Grows fluid, and the fixed and rooted earth Tormented into billows, heaves and swells, Or with vortiginous and hideous whirl Sucks down its prey insatiable. Immense The tumult and the overthrow, the pangs And agonies of human and of brute Multitudes, fugitive on every side, And fugitive in vain. The sylvan scene Migrates uplifted, and, with all its soil Alighting in far-distant fields, finds out A new possessor, and survives the change. Ocean has caught the frenzy, and upwrought To an enormous and o'erbearing height, Not by a mighty wind, but by that voice Which winds and waves obey, invades the shore Resistless. Never such a sudden flood, Upridged so high, and sent on such a charge, Possessed an inland scene. Where now the throng That pressed the beach and hasty to depart Looked to the sea for safety? They are gone, Gone with the refluent wave into the deep, A prince with half his people. Ancient towers, And roofs embattled high, the gloomy scenes Where beauty oft and lettered worth consume Life in the unproductive shades of death, Fall prone: the pale inhabitants come forth, And, happy in their unforeseen release From all the rigours of restraint, enjoy The terrors of the day that sets them free. Who then, that has thee, would not hold thee fast, Freedom! whom they that lose thee so regret, That even a judgment, making way for thee, Seems in their eyes a mercy, for thy sake.
Such evil sin hath wrought; and such a flame Kindled in heaven, that it burns down to earth, And, in the furious inquest that it makes On God's behalf, lays waste His fairest works. The very elements, though each be meant The minister of man to serve his wants, Conspire against him. With his breath he draws A plague into his blood; and cannot use Life's necessary means, but he must die. Storms rise to o'erwhelm him: or, if stormy winds Rise not, the waters of the deep shall rise, And, needing none assistance of the storm, Shall roll themselves ashore, and reach him there. The earth shall shake him out of all his holds, Or make his house his grave; nor so content, Shall counterfeit the motions of the flood, And drown him in her dry and dusty gulfs. What then—were they the wicked above all, And we the righteous, whose fast-anchored isle Moved not, while theirs was rocked like a light skiff, The sport of every wave? No: none are clear, And none than we more guilty. But where all Stand chargeable with guilt, and to the shafts Of wrath obnoxious, God may choose His mark, May punish, if He please, the less, to warn The more malignant. If He spared not them, Tremble and be amazed at thine escape, Far guiltier England, lest He spare not thee!
Happy the man who sees a God employed In all the good and ill that chequer life! Resolving all events, with their effects And manifold results, into the will And arbitration wise of the Supreme. Did not His eye rule all things, and intend The least of our concerns (since from the least The greatest oft originate), could chance Find place in His dominion, or dispose One lawless particle to thwart His plan, Then God might be surprised, and unforeseen Contingence might alarm Him, and disturb The smooth and equal course of His affairs. This truth, philosophy, though eagle-eyed In nature's tendencies, oft overlooks; And, having found His instrument, forgets Or disregards, or, more presumptuous still, Denies the power that wields it. God proclaims His hot displeasure against foolish men That live an Atheist life: involves the heaven In tempests, quits His grasp upon the winds And gives them all their fury; bids a plague Kindle a fiery boil upon the skin, And putrefy the breath of blooming health. He calls for Famine, and the meagre fiend Blows mildew from between his shrivelled lips, And taints the golden ear. He springs His mines, And desolates a nation at a blast. Forth steps the spruce philosopher, and tells Of homogeneal and discordant springs And principles; of causes how they work By necessary laws their sure effects; Of action and reaction. He has found The source of the disease that nature feels, And bids the world take heart and banish fear. Thou fool! will thy discovery of the cause Suspend the effect, or heal it? Has not God Still wrought by means since first He made the world, And did He not of old employ His means To drown it? What is His creation less Than a capacious reservoir of means Formed for His use, and ready at His will? Go, dress thine eyes with eye-salve, ask of Him, Or ask of whomsoever He has taught, And learn, though late, the genuine cause of all.
England, with all thy faults, I love thee still— My country! and while yet a nook is left, Where English minds and manners may be found, Shall be constrained to love thee. Though thy clime Be fickle, and thy year most part deformed With dripping rains, or withered by a frost, I would not yet exchange thy sullen skies And fields without a flower, for warmer France With all her vines; nor for Ausonia's groves Of golden fruitage, and her myrtle bowers. To shake thy senate, and from heights sublime Of patriot eloquence to flash down fire Upon thy foes, was never meant my task; But I can feel thy fortune, and partake Thy joys and sorrows with as true a heart As any thunderer there. And I can feel Thy follies too, and with a just disdain Frown at effeminates, whose very looks Reflect dishonour on the land I love. How, in the name of soldiership and sense, Should England prosper, when such things, as smooth And tender as a girl, all essenced o'er With odours, and as profligate as sweet, Who sell their laurel for a myrtle wreath, And love when they should fight; when such as these Presume to lay their hand upon the ark Of her magnificent and awful cause? Time was when it was praise and boast enough In every clime, and travel where we might, That we were born her children. Praise enough To fill the ambition of a private man, That Chatham's language was his mother tongue, And Wolfe's great name compatriot with his own. Farewell those honours, and farewell with them The hope of such hereafter. They have fallen Each in his field of glory; one in arms, And one in council;—Wolfe upon the lap Of smiling victory that moment won, And Chatham, heart-sick of his country's shame. They made us many soldiers. Chatham, still Consulting England's happiness at home, Secured it by an unforgiving frown If any wronged her. Wolfe, where'er he fought, Put so much of his heart into his act, That his example had a magnet's force, And all were swift to follow whom all loved. Those suns are set. Oh, rise some other such! Or all that we have left is empty talk Of old achievements, and despair of new.
Now hoist the sail, and let the streamers float Upon the wanton breezes. Strew the deck With lavender, and sprinkle liquid sweets, That no rude savour maritime invade The nose of nice nobility. Breathe soft, Ye clarionets, and softer still, ye flutes, That winds and waters lulled by magic sounds May bear us smoothly to the Gallic shore. True, we have lost an empire—let it pass. True, we may thank the perfidy of France That picked the jewel out of England's crown, With all the cunning of an envious shrew. And let that pass—'twas but a trick of state. A brave man knows no malice, but at once Forgets in peace the injuries of war, And gives his direst foe a friend's embrace. And shamed as we have been, to the very beard Braved and defied, and in our own sea proved Too weak for those decisive blows that once Insured us mastery there, we yet retain Some small pre-eminence, we justly boast At least superior jockeyship, and claim The honours of the turf as all our own. Go then, well worthy of the praise ye seek, And show the shame ye might conceal at home, In foreign eyes!—be grooms, and win the plate, Where once your nobler fathers won a crown!— 'Tis generous to communicate your skill To those that need it. Folly is soon learned, And, under such preceptors, who can fail?
There is a pleasure in poetic pains Which only poets know. The shifts and turns, The expedients and inventions multiform To which the mind resorts, in chase of terms Though apt, yet coy, and difficult to win— To arrest the fleeting images that fill The mirror of the mind, and hold them fast, And force them sit, till he has pencilled off A faithful likeness of the forms he views; Then to dispose his copies with such art That each may find its most propitious light, And shine by situation, hardly less Than by the labour and the skill it cost, Are occupations of the poet's mind So pleasing, and that steal away the thought With such address from themes of sad import, That, lost in his own musings, happy man! He feels the anxieties of life, denied Their wonted entertainment, all retire. Such joys has he that sings. But ah! not such, Or seldom such, the hearers of his song. Fastidious, or else listless, or perhaps Aware of nothing arduous in a task They never undertook, they little note His dangers or escapes, and haply find There least amusement where he found the most. But is amusement all? studious of song And yet ambitious not to sing in vain, I would not trifle merely, though the world Be loudest in their praise who do no more. Yet what can satire, whether grave or gay? It may correct a foible, may chastise The freaks of fashion, regulate the dress, Retrench a sword-blade, or displace a patch; But where are its sublimer trophies found? What vice has it subdued? whose heart reclaimed By rigour, or whom laughed into reform? Alas, Leviathan is not so tamed. Laughed at, he laughs again; and, stricken hard, Turns to the stroke his adamantine scales, That fear no discipline of human hands.
The pulpit therefore—and I name it, filled With solemn awe, that bids me well beware With what intent I touch that holy thing— The pulpit, when the satirist has at last, Strutting and vapouring in an empty school, Spent all his force, and made no proselyte— I say the pulpit, in the sober use Of its legitimate peculiar powers, Must stand acknowledged, while the world shall stand, The most important and effectual guard, Support, and ornament of virtue's cause. There stands the messenger of truth; there stands The legate of the skies; his theme divine, His office sacred, his credentials clear. By him, the violated Law speaks out Its thunders, and by him, in strains as sweet As angels use, the Gospel whispers peace. He stablishes the strong, restores the weak, Reclaims the wanderer, binds the broken heart, And, armed himself in panoply complete Of heavenly temper, furnishes with arms Bright as his own, and trains, by every rule Of holy discipline, to glorious war, The sacramental host of God's elect. Are all such teachers? would to heaven all were! But hark—the Doctor's voice—fast wedged between Two empirics he stands, and with swollen cheeks Inspires the news, his trumpet. Keener far Than all invective is his bold harangue, While through that public organ of report He hails the clergy, and, defying shame, Announces to the world his own and theirs, He teaches those to read whom schools dismissed, And colleges, untaught; sells accents, tone, And emphasis in score, and gives to prayer The adagio and andante it demands. He grinds divinity of other days Down into modern use; transforms old print To zigzag manuscript, and cheats the eyes Of gallery critics by a thousand arts.— Are there who purchase of the Doctor's ware? Oh name it not in Gath!—it cannot be, That grave and learned Clerks should need such aid. He doubtless is in sport, and does but droll, Assuming thus a rank unknown before, Grand caterer and dry-nurse of the Church.
I venerate the man whose heart is warm, Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life, Coincident, exhibit lucid proof That he is honest in the sacred cause. To such I render more than mere respect, Whose actions say that they respect themselves. But, loose in morals, and in manners vain, In conversation frivolous, in dress Extreme, at once rapacious and profuse, Frequent in park with lady at his side, Ambling and prattling scandal as he goes, But rare at home, and never at his books Or with his pen, save when he scrawls a card; Constant at routs, familiar with a round Of ladyships, a stranger to the poor; Ambitions of preferment for its gold, And well prepared by ignorance and sloth, By infidelity and love o' the world, To make God's work a sinecure; a slave To his own pleasures and his patron's pride.— From such apostles, O ye mitred heads, Preserve the Church! and lay not careless hands On skulls that cannot teach, and will not learn.
Would I describe a preacher, such as Paul, Were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own, Paul should himself direct me. I would trace His master-strokes, and draw from his design. I would express him simple, grave, sincere; In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain, And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste, And natural in gesture; much impressed Himself, as conscious of his awful charge, And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds May feel it too; affectionate in look And tender in address, as well becomes A messenger of grace to guilty men. Behold the picture!—Is it like?—Like whom? The things that mount the rostrum with a skip, And then skip down again; pronounce a text, Cry—Hem; and reading what they never wrote, Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work, And with a well-bred whisper close the scene.
In man or woman, but far most in man, And most of all in man that ministers And serves the altar, in my soul I loathe All affectation. 'Tis my perfect scorn; Object of my implacable disgust. What!—will a man play tricks, will he indulge A silly fond conceit of his fair form And just proportion, fashionable mien, And pretty face, in presence of his God? Or will he seek to dazzle me with tropes, As with the diamond on his lily hand, And play his brilliant parts before my eyes, When I am hungry for the Bread of Life? He mocks his Maker, prostitutes and shames His noble office, and, instead of truth, Displaying his own beauty, starves his flock! Therefore, avaunt, all attitude and stare And start theatric, practised at the glass. I seek divine simplicity in him Who handles things divine; and all beside, Though learned with labour, and though much admired By curious eyes and judgments ill-informed, To me is odious as the nasal twang Heard at conventicle, where worthy men, Misled by custom, strain celestial themes Through the prest nostril, spectacle-bestrid. Some, decent in demeanour while they preach, That task performed, relapse into themselves, And having spoken wisely, at the close Grow wanton, and give proof to every eye— Whoe'er was edified themselves were not. Forth comes the pocket mirror. First we stroke An eyebrow; next compose a straggling lock; Then with an air, most gracefully performed, Fall back into our seat; extend an arm, And lay it at its ease with gentle care, With handkerchief in hand, depending low: The better hand, more busy, gives the nose Its bergamot, or aids the indebted eye With opera glass to watch the moving scene, And recognise the slow-retiring fair. Now this is fulsome, and offends me more Than in a Churchman slovenly neglect And rustic coarseness would. A heavenly mind May be indifferent to her house of clay, And slight the hovel as beneath her care. But how a body so fantastic, trim, And quaint in its deportment and attire, Can lodge a heavenly mind—demands a doubt.
He that negotiates between God and man, As God's ambassador, the grand concerns Of judgment and of mercy, should beware Of lightness in his speech. 'Tis pitiful To court a grin, when you should woo a soul; To break a jest, when pity would inspire Pathetic exhortation; and to address The skittish fancy with facetious tales, When sent with God's commission to the heart. So did not Paul. Direct me to a quip Or merry turn in all he ever wrote, And I consent you take it for your text, Your only one, till sides and benches fail. No: he was serious in a serious cause, And understood too well the weighty terms That he had ta'en in charge. He would not stoop To conquer those by jocular exploits, Whom truth and soberness assailed in vain.
Oh, popular applause! what heart of man Is proof against thy sweet seducing charms? The wisest and the best feel urgent need Of all their caution in thy gentlest gales; But swelled into a gust—who then, alas! With all his canvas set, and inexpert, And therefore heedless, can withstand thy power? Praise from the riveled lips of toothless, bald Decrepitude, and in the looks of lean And craving poverty, and in the bow Respectful of the smutched artificer, Is oft too welcome, and may much disturb The bias of the purpose. How much more, Poured forth by beauty splendid and polite, In language soft as adoration breathes? Ah, spare your idol! think him human still; Charms he may have, but he has frailties too; Dote not too much, nor spoil what ye admire.
All truth is from the sempiternal source Of light divine. But Egypt, Greece, and Rome Drew from the stream below. More favoured, we Drink, when we choose it, at the fountain head. To them it flowed much mingled and defiled With hurtful error, prejudice, and dreams Illusive of philosophy, so called, But falsely. Sages after sages strove, In vain, to filter off a crystal draught Pure from the lees, which often more enhanced The thirst than slaked it, and not seldom bred Intoxication and delirium wild. In vain they pushed inquiry to the birth And spring-time of the world; asked, Whence is man? Why formed at all? and wherefore as he is? Where must he find his Maker? With what rites Adore Him? Will He hear, accept, and bless? Or does He sit regardless of His works? Has man within him an immortal seed? Or does the tomb take all? If he survive His ashes, where? and in what weal or woe? Knots worthy of solution, which alone A Deity could solve. Their answers vague, And all at random, fabulous and dark, Left them as dark themselves. Their rules of life, Defective and unsanctioned, proved too weak To bind the roving appetite, and lead Blind nature to a God not yet revealed. 'Tis Revelation satisfies all doubts, Explains all mysteries, except her own, And so illuminates the path of life, That fools discover it, and stray no more. Now tell me, dignified and sapient sir, My man of morals, nurtured in the shades Of Academus, is this false or true? Is Christ the abler teacher, or the schools? If Christ, then why resort at every turn To Athens or to Rome for wisdom short Of man's occasions, when in Him reside Grace, knowledge, comfort, an unfathomed store? How oft when Paul has served us with a text, Has Epictetus, Plato, Tully, preached! Men that, if now alive, would sit content And humble learners of a Saviour's worth, Preach it who might. Such was their love of truth, Their thirst of knowledge, and their candour too.
And thus it is. The pastor, either vain By nature, or by flattery made so, taught To gaze at his own splendour, and to exalt Absurdly, not his office, but himself; Or unenlightened, and too proud to learn, Or vicious, and not therefore apt to teach, Perverting often, by the stress of lewd And loose example, whom he should instruct, Exposes and holds up to broad disgrace The noblest function, and discredits much The brightest truths that man has ever seen. For ghostly counsel, if it either fall Below the exigence, or be not backed With show of love, at least with hopeful proof Of some sincerity on the giver's part; Or be dishonoured in the exterior form And mode of its conveyance, by such tricks As move derision, or by foppish airs And histrionic mummery, that let down The pulpit to the level of the stage; Drops from the lips a disregarded thing. The weak perhaps are moved, but are not taught, While prejudice in men of stronger minds Takes deeper root, confirmed by what they see. A relaxation of religion's hold Upon the roving and untutored heart Soon follows, and the curb of conscience snapt, The laity run wild.—But do they now? Note their extravagance, and be convinced.
As nations, ignorant of God, contrive A wooden one, so we, no longer taught By monitors that Mother Church supplies, Now make our own. Posterity will ask (If e'er posterity sees verse of mine), Some fifty or a hundred lustrums hence, What was a monitor in George's days? My very gentle reader, yet unborn, Of whom I needs must augur better things, Since Heaven would sure grow weary of a world Productive only of a race like us, A monitor is wood—plank shaven thin. We wear it at our backs. There, closely braced And neatly fitted, it compresses hard The prominent and most unsightly bones, And binds the shoulders flat. We prove its use Sovereign and most effectual to secure A form, not now gymnastic as of yore, From rickets and distortion, else, our lot. But thus admonished we can walk erect, One proof at least of manhood; while the friend Sticks close, a Mentor worthy of his charge. Our habits costlier than Lucullus wore, And, by caprice as multiplied as his, Just please us while the fashion is at full, But change with every moon. The sycophant, That waits to dress us, arbitrates their date, Surveys his fair reversion with keen eye; Finds one ill made, another obsolete, This fits not nicely, that is ill conceived; And, making prize of all that he condemns, With our expenditure defrays his own. Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour. We have run Through every change that fancy, at the loom Exhausted, has had genius to supply, And, studious of mutation still, discard A real elegance, a little used, For monstrous novelty and strange disguise. We sacrifice to dress, till household joys And comforts cease. Dress drains our cellar dry, And keeps our larder lean; puts out our fires, And introduces hunger, frost, and woe, Where peace and hospitality might reign. What man that lives, and that knows how to live, Would fail to exhibit at the public shows A form as splendid as the proudest there, Though appetite raise outcries at the cost? A man o' the town dines late, but soon enough, With reasonable forecast and despatch, To ensure a side-box station at half-price. You think, perhaps, so delicate his dress, His daily fare as delicate. Alas! He picks clean teeth, and, busy as he seems With an old tavern quill, is hungry yet. The rout is folly's circle which she draws With magic wand. So potent is the spell, That none decoyed into that fatal ring, Unless by Heaven's peculiar grace, escape. There we grow early gray, but never wise; There form connections, and acquire no friend; Solicit pleasure hopeless of success; Waste youth in occupations only fit For second childhood, and devote old age To sports which only childhood could excuse. There they are happiest who dissemble best Their weariness; and they the most polite, Who squander time and treasure with a smile, Though at their own destruction. She that asks Her dear five hundred friends, contemns them all, And hates their coming. They (what can they less?) Make just reprisals, and, with cringe and shrug And bow obsequious, hide their hate of her. All catch the frenzy, downward from her Grace, Whose flambeaux flash against the morning skies, And gild our chamber ceilings as they pass, To her who, frugal only that her thrift May feed excesses she can ill afford, Is hackneyed home unlackeyed; who, in haste Alighting, turns the key in her own door, And, at the watchman's lantern borrowing light, Finds a cold bed her only comfort left. Wives beggar husbands, husbands starve their wives, On Fortune's velvet altar offering up Their last poor pittance—Fortune, most severe Of goddesses yet known, and costlier far Than all that held their routs in Juno's heaven.— So fare we in this prison-house the world. And 'tis a fearful spectacle to see So many maniacs dancing in their chains. They gaze upon the links that hold them fast With eyes of anguish, execrate their lot, Then shake them in despair, and dance again.
Now basket up the family of plagues That waste our vitals. Peculation, sale Of honour, perjury, corruption, frauds By forgery, by subterfuge of law, By tricks and lies, as numerous and as keen As the necessities their authors feel; Then cast them, closely bundled, every brat At the right door. Profusion is its sire. Profusion unrestrained, with all that's base In character, has littered all the land, And bred within the memory of no few A priesthood such as Baal's was of old, A people such as never was till now. It is a hungry vice:—it eats up all That gives society its beauty, strength, Convenience, and security, and use; Makes men mere vermin, worthy to be trapped And gibbeted, as fast as catchpole claws Can seize the slippery prey; unties the knot Of union, and converts the sacred band That holds mankind together to a scourge. Profusion, deluging a state with lusts Of grossest nature and of worst effects, Prepares it for its ruin; hardens, blinds, And warps the consciences of public men Till they can laugh at virtue; mock the fools That trust them; and, in the end, disclose a face That would have shocked credulity herself, Unmasked, vouchsafing this their sole excuse;— Since all alike are selfish, why not they? This does Profusion, and the accursed cause Of such deep mischief has itself a cause.
In colleges and halls, in ancient days, When learning, virtue, piety, and truth Were precious, and inculcated with care, There dwelt a sage called Discipline. His head, Not yet by time completely silvered o'er, Bespoke him past the bounds of freakish youth, But strong for service still, and unimpaired. His eye was meek and gentle, and a smile Played on his lips, and in his speech was heard Paternal sweetness, dignity, and love. The occupation dearest to his heart Was to encourage goodness. He would stroke The head of modest and ingenuous worth, That blushed at its own praise, and press the youth Close to his side that pleased him. Learning grew Beneath his care, a thriving, vigorous plant; The mind was well informed, the passions held Subordinate, and diligence was choice. If e'er it chanced, as sometimes chance it must, That one among so many overleaped The limits of control, his gentle eye Grew stern, and darted a severe rebuke; His frown was full of terror, and his voice Shook the delinquent with such fits of awe As left him not, till penitence had won Lost favour back again, and closed the breach. But Discipline, a faithful servant long, Declined at length into the vale of years; A palsy struck his arm, his sparkling eye Was quenched in rheums of age, his voice unstrung Grew tremulous, and moved derision more Than reverence in perverse, rebellious youth. So colleges and halls neglected much Their good old friend, and Discipline at length, O'erlooked and unemployed, fell sick and died. Then study languished, emulation slept, And virtue fled. The schools became a scene Of solemn farce, where ignorance in stilts, His cap well lined with logic not his own, With parrot tongue performed the scholar's part, Proceeding soon a graduated dunce. Then compromise had place, and scrutiny Became stone-blind, precedence went in truck, And he was competent whose purse was so. A dissolution of all bonds ensued, The curbs invented for the mulish mouth Of headstrong youth were broken; bars and bolts Grew rusty by disuse, and massy gates Forgot their office, opening with a touch; Till gowns at length are found mere masquerade; The tasselled cap and the spruce band a jest, A mockery of the world. What need of these For gamesters, jockeys, brothellers impure, Spendthrifts and booted sportsmen, oftener seen With belted waist, and pointers at their heels, Than in the bounds of duty? What was learned, If aught was learned in childhood, is forgot, And such expense as pinches parents blue And mortifies the liberal hand of love, Is squandered in pursuit of idle sports And vicious pleasures; buys the boy a name, That sits a stigma on his father's house, And cleaves through life inseparably close To him that wears it. What can after-games Of riper joys, and commerce with the world, The lewd vain world that must receive him soon, Add to such erudition thus acquired, Where science and where virtue are professed? They may confirm his habits, rivet fast His folly, but to spoil him is a task That bids defiance to the united powers Of fashion, dissipation, taverns, stews. Now, blame we most the nurselings, or the nurse? The children crooked and twisted and deformed Through want of care, or her whose winking eye And slumbering oscitancy mars the brood? The nurse no doubt. Regardless of her charge, She needs herself correction; needs to learn That it is dangerous sporting with the world, With things so sacred as a nation's trust; The nurture of her youth, her dearest pledge.
All are not such. I had a brother once— Peace to the memory of a man of worth, A man of letters and of manners too— Of manners sweet as virtue always wears, When gay good-nature dresses her in smiles. He graced a college in which order yet Was sacred, and was honoured, loved, and wept, By more than one, themselves conspicuous there. Some minds are tempered happily, and mixt With such ingredients of good sense and taste Of what is excellent in man, they thirst With such a zeal to be what they approve, That no restraints can circumscribe them more Than they themselves by choice, for wisdom's sake. Nor can example hurt them. What they see Of vice in others but enhancing more The charms of virtue in their just esteem. If such escape contagion, and emerge Pure, from so foul a pool, to shine abroad, And give the world their talents and themselves, Small thanks to those whose negligence or sloth Exposed their inexperience to the snare, And left them to an undirected choice.
See, then, the quiver broken and decayed, In which are kept our arrows. Rusting there In wild disorder and unfit for use, What wonder if discharged into the world They shame their shooters with a random flight, Their points obtuse and feathers drunk with wine. Well may the Church wage unsuccessful war With such artillery armed. Vice parries wide The undreaded volley with a sword of straw, And stands an impudent and fearless mark.
Have we not tracked the felon home, and found His birthplace and his dam? The country mourns— Mourns, because every plague that can infest Society, that saps and worms the base Of the edifice that Policy has raised, Swarms in all quarters; meets the eye, the ear, And suffocates the breath at every turn. Profusion breeds them. And the cause itself Of that calamitous mischief has been found, Found, too, where most offensive, in the skirts Of the robed pedagogue. Else, let the arraigned Stand up unconscious and refute the charge. So, when the Jewish leader stretched his arm And waved his rod divine, a race obscene, Spawned in the muddy beds of Nile, came forth Polluting Egypt. Gardens, fields, and plains Were covered with the pest. The streets were filled; The croaking nuisance lurked in every nook, Nor palaces nor even chambers 'scaped, And the land stank, so numerous was the fry.
As one who, long in thickets and in brakes Entangled, winds now this way and now that His devious course uncertain, seeking home; Or, having long in miry ways been foiled And sore discomfited, from slough to slough Plunging, and half despairing of escape, If chance at length he find a greensward smooth And faithful to the foot, his spirits rise, He chirrups brisk his ear-erecting steed, And winds his way with pleasure and with ease; So I, designing other themes, and called To adorn the Sofa with eulogium due, To tell its slumbers and to paint its dreams, Have rambled wide. In country, city, seat Of academic fame, howe'er deserved, Long held, and scarcely disengaged at last. But now with pleasant pace, a cleanlier road I mean to tread. I feel myself at large, Courageous, and refreshed for future toil, If toil await me, or if dangers new.
Since pulpits fail, and sounding-boards reflect Most part an empty ineffectual sound, What chance that I, to fame so little known, Nor conversant with men or manners much, Should speak to purpose, or with better hope Crack the satiric thong? 'Twere wiser far For me, enamoured of sequestered scenes, And charmed with rural beauty, to repose, Where chance may throw me, beneath elm or vine My languid limbs, when summer sears the plains; Or when rough winter rages, on the soft And sheltered Sofa, while the nitrous air Feeds a blue flame and makes a cheerful hearth; There, undisturbed by folly, and apprised How great the danger of disturbing her, To muse in silence, or at least confine Remarks that gall so many to the few, My partners in retreat. Disgust concealed Is ofttimes proof of wisdom, when the fault Is obstinate, and cure beyond our reach.
Domestic happiness, thou only bliss Of Paradise that has survived the fall! Though few now taste thee unimpaired and pure, Or, tasting, long enjoy thee, too infirm Or too incautious to preserve thy sweets Unmixed with drops of bitter, which neglect Or temper sheds into thy crystal cup. Thou art the nurse of virtue. In thine arms She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is, Heaven-born, and destined to the skies again. Thou art not known where Pleasure is adored, That reeling goddess with the zoneless waist And wandering eyes, still leaning on the arm Of Novelty, her fickle frail support; For thou art meek and constant, hating change, And finding in the calm of truth-tried love Joys that her stormy raptures never yield. Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made Of honour, dignity, and fair renown, Till prostitution elbows us aside In all our crowded streets, and senates seem Convened for purposes of empire less, Than to release the adult'ress from her bond. The adult'ress! what a theme for angry verse, What provocation to the indignant heart That feels for injured love! but I disdain The nauseous task to paint her as she is, Cruel, abandoned, glorying in her shame. No; let her pass, and charioted along In guilty splendour shake the public ways; The frequency of crimes has washed them white, And verse of mine shall never brand the wretch Whom matrons now of character unsmirched And chaste themselves, are not ashamed to own. Virtue and vice had boundaries in old time Not to be passed; and she that had renounced Her sex's honour, was renounced herself By all that prized it; not for prudery's sake, But dignity's, resentful of the wrong. 'Twas hard, perhaps, on here and there a waif Desirous to return, and not received; But was a wholesome rigour in the main, And taught the unblemished to preserve with care That purity, whose loss was loss of all. Men, too, were nice in honour in those days, And judged offenders well. Then he that sharped, And pocketed a prize by fraud obtained, Was marked and shunned as odious. He that sold His country, or was slack when she required His every nerve in action and at stretch, Paid with the blood that he had basely spared The price of his default. But now,—yes, now, We are become so candid and so fair, So liberal in construction, and so rich In Christian charity (good-natured age!) That they are safe, sinners of either sex, Transgress what laws they may. Well dressed, well bred, Well equipaged, is ticket good enough To pass us readily through every door. Hypocrisy, detest her as we may (And no man's hatred ever wronged her yet), May claim this merit still—that she admits The worth of what she mimics with such care, And thus gives virtue indirect applause; But she has burnt her mask, not needed here, Where vice has such allowance, that her shifts And specious semblances have lost their use.
I was a stricken deer that left the herd Long since; with many an arrow deep infixt My panting side was charged, when I withdrew To seek a tranquil death in distant shades. There was I found by one who had himself Been hurt by the archers. In his side he bore, And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars. With gentle force soliciting the darts He drew them forth, and healed and bade me live. Since then, with few associates, in remote And silent woods I wander, far from those My former partners of the peopled scene, With few associates, and not wishing more. Here much I ruminate, as much I may, With other views of men and manners now Than once, and others of a life to come. I see that all are wanderers, gone astray Each in his own delusions; they are lost In chase of fancied happiness, still woo'd And never won. Dream after dream ensues, And still they dream that they shall still succeed, And still are disappointed: rings the world With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind, And add two-thirds of the remaining half, And find the total of their hopes and fears Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay As if created only, like the fly That spreads his motley wings in the eye of noon, To sport their season and be seen no more. The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise, And pregnant with discoveries new and rare. Some write a narrative of wars, and feats Of heroes little known, and call the rant A history; describe the man, of whom His own coevals took but little note, And paint his person, character, and views, As they had known him from his mother's womb; They disentangle from the puzzled skein, In which obscurity has wrapped them up, The threads of politic and shrewd design That ran through all his purposes, and charge His mind with meanings that he never had, Or, having, kept concealed. Some drill and bore The solid earth, and from the strata there Extract a register, by which we learn That He who made it and revealed its date To Moses, was mistaken in its age. Some, more acute and more industrious still, Contrive creation; travel nature up To the sharp peak of her sublimest height, And tell us whence the stars; why some are fixt, And planetary some; what gave them first Rotation, from what fountain flowed their light. Great contest follows, and much learned dust Involves the combatants, each claiming truth, And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend The little wick of life's poor shallow lamp In playing tricks with nature, giving laws To distant worlds, and trifling in their own. Is't not a pity now, that tickling rheums Should ever tease the lungs and blear the sight Of oracles like these? Great pity, too, That having wielded the elements, and built A thousand systems, each in his own way, They should go out in fume and be forgot? Ah, what is life thus spent? and what are they But frantic who thus spend it? all for smoke— Eternity for bubbles proves at last A senseless bargain. When I see such games Played by the creatures of a Power who swears That He will judge the earth, and call the fool To a sharp reckoning that has lived in vain, And when I weigh this seeming wisdom well, And prove it in the infallible result So hollow and so false—I feel my heart Dissolve in pity, and account the learned, If this be learning, most of all deceived. Great crimes alarm the conscience, but it sleeps While thoughtful man is plausibly amused. Defend me, therefore, common sense, say I, From reveries so airy, from the toil Of dropping buckets into empty wells, And growing old in drawing nothing up!
'Twere well, says one sage erudite, profound, Terribly arched and aquiline his nose, And overbuilt with most impending brows, 'Twere well could you permit the world to live As the world pleases. What's the world to you?— Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk As sweet as charity from human breasts. I think, articulate, I laugh and weep, And exercise all functions of a man. How then should I and any man that lives Be strangers to each other? Pierce my vein, Take of the crimson stream meandering there, And catechise it well. Apply your glass, Search it, and prove now if it be not blood Congenial with thine own; and if it be, What edge of subtlety canst thou suppose Keen enough, wise and skilful as thou art, To cut the link of brotherhood, by which One common Maker bound me to the kind? True; I am no proficient, I confess, In arts like yours. I cannot call the swift And perilous lightnings from the angry clouds, And bid them hide themselves in the earth beneath; I cannot analyse the air, nor catch The parallax of yonder luminous point That seems half quenched in the immense abyss: Such powers I boast not—neither can I rest A silent witness of the headlong rage, Or heedless folly, by which thousands die, Bone of my bone, and kindred souls to mine.
God never meant that man should scale the heavens By strides of human wisdom. In His works, Though wondrous, He commands us in His Word To seek Him rather where His mercy shines. The mind indeed, enlightened from above, Views Him in all; ascribes to the grand cause The grand effect; acknowledges with joy His manner, and with rapture tastes His style. But never yet did philosophic tube, That brings the planets home into the eye Of observation, and discovers, else Not visible, His family of worlds, Discover Him that rules them; such a veil Hangs over mortal eyes, blind from the birth, And dark in things divine. Full often too Our wayward intellect, the more we learn Of nature, overlooks her Author more; From instrumental causes proud to draw Conclusions retrograde, and mad mistake: But if His Word once teach us, shoot a ray Through all the heart's dark chambers, and reveal Truths undiscerned but by that holy light, Then all is plain. Philosophy, baptised In the pure fountain of eternal love, Has eyes indeed; and, viewing all she sees As meant to indicate a God to man, Gives HIM His praise, and forfeits not her own. Learning has borne such fruit in other days On all her branches. Piety has found Friends in the friends of science, and true prayer Has flowed from lips wet with Castalian dews. Such was thy wisdom, Newton, childlike sage! Sagacious reader of the works of God, And in His Word sagacious. Such too thine, Milton, whose genius had angelic wings, And fed on manna. And such thine, in whom Our British Themis gloried with just cause, Immortal Hale! for deep discernment praised, And sound integrity not more, than famed For sanctity of manners undefiled.
All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades Like the fair flower dishevelled in the wind; Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream; The man we celebrate must find a tomb, And we that worship him, ignoble graves. Nothing is proof against the general curse Of vanity, that seizes all below. The only amaranthine flower on earth Is virtue; the only lasting treasure, truth. But what is truth? 'twas Pilate's question put To truth itself, that deigned him no reply. And wherefore? will not God impart His light To them that ask it?—Freely—'tis His joy, His glory, and His nature to impart. But to the proud, uncandid, insincere, Or negligent inquirer, not a spark. What's that which brings contempt upon a book And him that writes it, though the style be neat, The method clear, and argument exact? That makes a minister in holy things The joy of many, and the dread of more, His name a theme for praise and for reproach?— That, while it gives us worth in God's account, Depreciates and undoes us in our own? What pearl is it that rich men cannot buy, That learning is too proud to gather up, But which the poor and the despised of all Seek and obtain, and often find unsought? Tell me, and I will tell thee what is truth.
Oh, friendly to the best pursuits of man, Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace, Domestic life in rural leisure passed! Few know thy value, and few taste thy sweets, Though many boast thy favours, and affect To understand and choose thee for their own. But foolish man foregoes his proper bliss, Even as his first progenitor, and quits, Though placed in paradise, for earth has still Some traces of her youthful beauty left, Substantial happiness for transient joy. Scenes formed for contemplation, and to nurse The growing seeds of wisdom; that suggest, By every pleasing image they present, Reflections such as meliorate the heart, Compose the passions, and exalt the mind; Scenes such as these, 'tis his supreme delight To fill with riot and defile with blood. Should some contagion, kind to the poor brutes We persecute, annihilate the tribes That draw the sportsman over hill and dale Fearless, and rapt away from all his cares; Should never game-fowl hatch her eggs again, Nor baited hook deceive the fish's eye; Could pageantry, and dance, and feast, and song Be quelled in all our summer months' retreats; How many self-deluded nymphs and swains, Who dream they have a taste for fields and groves, Would find them hideous nurseries of the spleen, And crowd the roads, impatient for the town! They love the country, and none else, who seek For their own sake its silence and its shade; Delights which who would leave, that has a heart Susceptible of pity, or a mind Cultured and capable of sober thought, For all the savage din of the swift pack, And clamours of the field? Detested sport, That owes its pleasures to another's pain, That feeds upon the sobs and dying shrieks Of harmless nature, dumb, but yet endued With eloquence, that agonies inspire, Of silent tears and heart-distending sighs! Vain tears, alas! and sighs that never find A corresponding tone in jovial souls. Well—one at least is safe. One sheltered hare Has never heard the sanguinary yell Of cruel man, exulting in her woes. Innocent partner of my peaceful home, Whom ten long years' experience of my care Has made at last familiar, she has lost Much of her vigilant instinctive dread, Not needful here, beneath a roof like mine. Yes—thou mayst eat thy bread, and lick the hand That feeds thee; thou mayst frolic on the floor At evening, and at night retire secure To thy straw-couch, and slumber unalarmed; For I have gained thy confidence, have pledged All that is human in me to protect Thine unsuspecting gratitude and love. If I survive thee I will dig thy grave, And when I place thee in it, sighing say, I knew at least one hare that had a friend.
How various his employments, whom the world Calls idle, and who justly in return Esteems that busy world an idler, too! Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen, Delightful industry enjoyed at home, And nature in her cultivated trim Dressed to his taste, inviting him abroad— Can he want occupation who has these? Will he be idle who has much to enjoy? Me, therefore, studious of laborious ease, Not slothful; happy to deceive the time, Not waste it; and aware that human life Is but a loan to be repaid with use, When He shall call His debtors to account, From whom are all our blessings; business finds Even here: while sedulous I seek to improve, At least neglect not, or leave unemployed, The mind He gave me; driving it, though slack Too oft, and much impeded in its work By causes not to be divulged in vain, To its just point—the service of mankind. He that attends to his interior self, That has a heart and keeps it; has a mind That hungers and supplies it; and who seeks A social, not a dissipated life, Has business; feels himself engaged to achieve No unimportant, though a silent task. A life all turbulence and noise may seem, To him that leads it, wise and to be praised; But wisdom is a pearl with most success Sought in still water, and beneath clear skies. He that is ever occupied in storms, Or dives not for it or brings up instead, Vainly industrious, a disgraceful prize.
The morning finds the self-sequestered man Fresh for his task, intend what task he may. Whether inclement seasons recommend His warm but simple home, where he enjoys, With her who shares his pleasures and his heart, Sweet converse, sipping calm the fragrant lymph Which neatly she prepares; then to his book Well chosen, and not sullenly perused In selfish silence, but imparted oft As aught occurs that she may smile to hear, Or turn to nourishment digested well. Or if the garden with its many cares, All well repaid, demand him, he attends The welcome call, conscious how much the hand Of lubbard labour needs his watchful eye, Oft loitering lazily if not o'erseen, Or misapplying his unskilful strength. Nor does he govern only or direct, But much performs himself; no works indeed That ask robust tough sinews, bred to toil, Servile employ—but such as may amuse, Not tire, demanding rather skill than force. Proud of his well-spread walls, he views his trees That meet, no barren interval between, With pleasure more than even their fruits afford, Which, save himself who trains them, none can feel. These, therefore, are his own peculiar charge, No meaner hand may discipline the shoots, None but his steel approach them. What is weak, Distempered, or has lost prolific powers, Impaired by age, his unrelenting hand Dooms to the knife. Nor does he spare the soft And succulent that feeds its giant growth, But barren, at the expense of neighbouring twigs Less ostentatious, and yet studded thick With hopeful gems. The rest, no portion left That may disgrace his art, or disappoint Large expectation, he disposes neat At measured distances, that air and sun Admitted freely may afford their aid, And ventilate and warm the swelling buds. Hence Summer has her riches, Autumn hence, And hence even Winter fills his withered hand With blushing fruits, and plenty not his own, Fair recompense of labour well bestowed And wise precaution, which a clime so rude Makes needful still, whose Spring is but the child Of churlish Winter, in her froward moods Discovering much the temper of her sire. For oft, as if in her the stream of mild Maternal nature had reversed its course, She brings her infants forth with many smiles, But, once delivered, kills them with a frown. He therefore, timely warned, himself supplies Her want of care, screening and keeping warm The plenteous bloom, that no rough blast may sweep His garlands from the boughs. Again, as oft As the sun peeps and vernal airs breathe mild, The fence withdrawn, he gives them ev'ry beam, And spreads his hopes before the blaze of day.
To raise the prickly and green-coated gourd, So grateful to the palate, and when rare So coveted, else base and disesteemed— Food for the vulgar merely—is an art That toiling ages have but just matured, And at this moment unessayed in song. Yet gnats have had, and frogs and mice long since, Their eulogy; those sang the Mantuan bard, And these the Grecian in ennobling strains; And in thy numbers, Philips, shines for aye The solitary Shilling. Pardon then, Ye sage dispensers of poetic fame! The ambition of one meaner far, whose powers Presuming an attempt not less sublime, Pant for the praise of dressing to the taste Of critic appetite, no sordid fare, A cucumber, while costly yet and scarce.
The stable yields a stercoraceous heap Impregnated with quick fermenting salts, And potent to resist the freezing blast. For ere the beech and elm have cast their leaf Deciduous, and when now November dark Checks vegetation in the torpid plant Exposed to his cold breath, the task begins. Warily therefore, and with prudent heed He seeks a favoured spot, that where he builds The agglomerated pile, his frame may front The sun's meridian disk, and at the back Enjoy close shelter, wall, or reeds, or hedge Impervious to the wind. First he bids spread Dry fern or littered hay, that may imbibe The ascending damps; then leisurely impose, And lightly, shaking it with agile hand From the full fork, the saturated straw. What longest binds the closest, forms secure The shapely side, that as it rises takes By just degrees an overhanging breadth, Sheltering the base with its projected eaves. The uplifted frame compact at every joint, And overlaid with clear translucent glass, He settles next upon the sloping mount, Whose sharp declivity shoots off secure From the dashed pane the deluge as it falls. He shuts it close, and the first labour ends. Thrice must the voluble and restless earth Spin round upon her axle, ere the warmth Slow gathering in the midst, through the square mass Diffused, attain the surface. When, behold! A pestilent and most corrosive steam, Like a gross fog Boeotian, rising fast, And fast condensed upon the dewy sash, Asks egress; which obtained, the overcharged And drenched conservatory breathes abroad, In volumes wheeling slow, the vapour dank, And purified, rejoices to have lost Its foul inhabitant. But to assuage The impatient fervour which it first conceives Within its reeking bosom, threatening death To his young hopes, requires discreet delay. Experience, slow preceptress, teaching oft The way to glory by miscarriage foul, Must prompt him, and admonish how to catch The auspicious moment, when the tempered heat, Friendly to vital motion, may afford Soft fermentation, and invite the seed. The seed selected wisely, plump and smooth And glossy, he commits to pots of size Diminutive, well filled with well-prepared And fruitful soil, that has been treasured long, And drunk no moisture from the dripping clouds: These on the warm and genial earth that hides The smoking manure, and o'erspreads it all, He places lightly, and, as time subdues The rage of fermentation, plunges deep In the soft medium, till they stand immersed. Then rise the tender germs upstarting quick And spreading wide their spongy lobes; at first Pale, wan, and livid; but assuming soon, If fanned by balmy and nutritious air Strained through the friendly mats, a vivid green. Two leaves produced, two rough indented leaves, Cautious he pinches from the second stalk A pimple, that portends a future sprout, And interdicts its growth. Thence straight succeed The branches, sturdy to his utmost wish, Prolific all, and harbingers of more. The crowded roots demand enlargement now And transplantation in an ampler space. Indulged in what they wish, they soon supply Large foliage, overshadowing golden flowers, Blown on the summit of the apparent fruit. These have their sexes, and when summer shines The bee transports the fertilising meal From flower to flower, and even the breathing air Wafts the rich prize to its appointed use. Not so when winter scowls. Assistant art Then acts in nature's office, brings to pass The glad espousals and insures the crop.