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The Task and Other Poems
by William Cowper
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Grudge not, ye rich (since luxury must have His dainties, and the world's more numerous half Lives by contriving delicates for you), Grudge not the cost. Ye little know the cares, The vigilance, the labour, and the skill That day and night are exercised, and hang Upon the ticklish balance of suspense, That ye may garnish your profuse regales With summer fruits, brought forth by wintry suns. Ten thousand dangers lie in wait to thwart The process. Heat and cold, and wind and steam, Moisture and drought, mice, worms, and swarming flies Minute as dust and numberless, oft work Dire disappointment that admits no cure, And which no care can obviate. It were long, Too long to tell the expedients and the shifts Which he, that fights a season so severe, Devises, while he guards his tender trust, And oft, at last, in vain. The learned and wise Sarcastic would exclaim, and judge the song Cold as its theme, and, like its theme, the fruit Of too much labour, worthless when produced.

Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too. Unconscious of a less propitious clime There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug, While the winds whistle and the snows descend. The spiry myrtle with unwithering leaf Shines there and flourishes. The golden boast Of Portugal and Western India there, The ruddier orange and the paler lime, Peep through their polished foliage at the storm, And seem to smile at what they need not fear. The amomum there with intermingling flowers And cherries hangs her twigs. Geranium boasts Her crimson honours, and the spangled beau, Ficoides, glitters bright the winter long, All plants, of every leaf, that can endure The winter's frown if screened from his shrewd bite, Live there and prosper. Those Ausonia claims, Levantine regions these; the Azores send Their jessamine; her jessamine remote Caffraria: foreigners from many lands, They form one social shade, as if convened By magic summons of the Orphean lyre. Yet such arrangement, rarely brought to pass But by a master's hand, disposing well The gay diversities of leaf and flower, Must lend its aid to illustrate all their charms, And dress the regular yet various scene. Plant behind plant aspiring, in the van The dwarfish, in the rear retired, but still Sublime above the rest, the statelier stand. So once were ranged the sons of ancient Rome, A noble show, while Roscius trod the stage; And so, while Garrick, as renowned as he, The sons of Albion, fearing each to lose Some note of Nature's music from his lips, And covetous of Shakespeare's beauty, seen In every flash of his far-beaming eye. Nor taste alone and well-contrived display Suffice to give the marshalled ranks the grace Of their complete effect. Much yet remains Unsung, and many cares are yet behind And more laborious; cares on which depends Their vigour, injured soon, not soon restored. The soil must be renewed, which often washed Loses its treasure of salubrious salts, And disappoints the roots; the slender roots, Close interwoven where they meet the vase, Must smooth be shorn away; the sapless branch Must fly before the knife; the withered leaf Must be detached, and where it strews the floor Swept with a woman's neatness, breeding else Contagion, and disseminating death. Discharge but these kind offices (and who Would spare, that loves them, offices like these?) Well they reward the toil. The sight is pleased, The scent regaled, each odoriferous leaf, Each opening blossom, freely breathes abroad Its gratitude, and thanks him with its sweets.

So manifold, all pleasing in their kind, All healthful, are the employs of rural life, Reiterated as the wheel of time Runs round, still ending, and beginning still. Nor are these all. To deck the shapely knoll That, softly swelled and gaily dressed, appears A flowery island from the dark green lawn Emerging, must be deemed a labour due To no mean hand, and asks the touch of taste. Here also grateful mixture of well-matched And sorted hues (each giving each relief, And by contrasted beauty shining more) Is needful. Strength may wield the ponderous spade, May turn the clod, and wheel the compost home, But elegance, chief grace the garden shows And most attractive, is the fair result Of thought, the creature of a polished mind. Without it, all is Gothic as the scene To which the insipid citizen resorts, Near yonder heath; where industry misspent, But proud of his uncouth, ill-chosen task, Has made a heaven on earth; with suns and moons Of close-rammed stones has charged the encumbered soil, And fairly laid the zodiac in the dust. He, therefore, who would see his flowers disposed Sightly and in just order, ere he gives The beds the trusted treasure of their seeds, Forecasts the future whole; that when the scene Shall break into its preconceived display, Each for itself, and all as with one voice Conspiring, may attest his bright design. Nor even then, dismissing as performed His pleasant work, may he suppose it done. Few self-supported flowers endure the wind Uninjured, but expect the upholding aid Of the smooth-shaven prop, and neatly tied Are wedded thus, like beauty to old age, For interest sake, the living to the dead. Some clothe the soil that feeds them, far diffused And lowly creeping, modest and yet fair; Like virtue, thriving most where little seen. Some, more aspiring, catch the neighbour shrub With clasping tendrils, and invest his branch, Else unadorned, with many a gay festoon And fragrant chaplet, recompensing well The strength they borrow with the grace they lend. All hate the rank society of weeds, Noisome, and very greedy to exhaust The impoverished earth; an overbearing race, That, like the multitude made faction-mad, Disturb good order, and degrade true worth.

Oh blest seclusion from a jarring world, Which he, thus occupied, enjoys! Retreat Cannot, indeed, to guilty man restore Lost innocence, or cancel follies past; But it has peace, and much secures the mind From all assaults of evil; proving still A faithful barrier, not o'erleaped with ease By vicious custom raging uncontrolled Abroad and desolating public life. When fierce temptation, seconded within By traitor appetite, and armed with darts Tempered in hell, invades the throbbing breast, To combat may be glorious, and success Perhaps may crown us, but to fly is safe. Had I the choice of sublunary good, What could I wish that I possess not here? Health, leisure; means to improve it, friendship, peace, No loose or wanton though a wandering muse, And constant occupation without care. Thus blest, I draw a picture of that bliss; Hopeless, indeed, that dissipated minds And profligate abusers of a world Created fair so much in vain for them, Should seek the guiltless joys that I describe, Allured by my report; but sure no less That self-condemned they must neglect the prize, And what they will not taste, must yet approve. What we admire we praise; and when we praise Advance it into notice, that, its worth Acknowledged, others may admire it too. I therefore recommend, though at the risk Of popular disgust, yet boldly still, The cause of piety and sacred truth And virtue, and those scenes which God ordained Should best secure them and promote them most; Scenes that I love, and with regret perceive Forsaken, or through folly not enjoyed. Pure is the nymph, though liberal of her smiles, And chaste, though unconfined, whom I extol. Not as the prince in Shushan, when he called, Vain-glorious of her charms, his Vashti forth, To grace the full pavilion. His design Was but to boast his own peculiar good, Which all might view with envy, none partake. My charmer is not mine alone; my sweets, And she that sweetens all my bitters, too, Nature, enchanting Nature, in whose form And lineaments divine I trace a hand That errs not, and find raptures still renewed, Is free to all men—universal prize. Strange that so fair a creature should yet want Admirers, and be destined to divide With meaner objects even the few she finds. Stript of her ornaments, her leaves and flowers, She loses all her influence. Cities then Attract us, and neglected Nature pines, Abandoned, as unworthy of our love. But are not wholesome airs, though unperfumed By roses, and clear suns, though scarcely felt, And groves, if unharmonious yet secure From clamour and whose very silence charms, To be preferred to smoke—to the eclipse That Metropolitan volcanoes make, Whose Stygian throats breathe darkness all day long, And to the stir of commerce, driving slow, And thundering loud with his ten thousand wheels? They would be, were not madness in the head And folly in the heart; were England now What England was, plain, hospitable, kind, And undebauched. But we have bid farewell To all the virtues of those better days, And all their honest pleasures. Mansions once Knew their own masters, and laborious hands That had survived the father, served the son. Now the legitimate and rightful lord Is but a transient guest, newly arrived And soon to be supplanted. He that saw His patrimonial timber cast its leaf, Sells the last scantling, and transfers the price To some shrewd sharper, ere it buds again. Estates are landscapes, gazed upon awhile, Then advertised, and auctioneered away. The country starves, and they that feed the o'er-charged And surfeited lewd town with her fair dues, By a just judgment strip and starve themselves. The wings that waft our riches out of sight Grow on the gamester's elbows, and the alert And nimble motion of those restless joints, That never tire, soon fans them all away. Improvement too, the idol of the age, Is fed with many a victim. Lo! he comes— The omnipotent magician, Brown, appears. Down falls the venerable pile, the abode Of our forefathers, a grave whiskered race, But tasteless. Springs a palace in its stead, But in a distant spot; where more exposed It may enjoy the advantage of the North And aguish East, till time shall have transformed Those naked acres to a sheltering grove. He speaks. The lake in front becomes a lawn, Woods vanish, hills subside, and valleys rise, And streams, as if created for his use, Pursue the track of his directed wand Sinuous or straight, now rapid and now slow, Now murmuring soft, now roaring in cascades, Even as he bids. The enraptured owner smiles. 'Tis finished. And yet, finished as it seems, Still wants a grace, the loveliest it could show, A mine to satisfy the enormous cost. Drained to the last poor item of his wealth, He sighs, departs, and leaves the accomplished plan That he has touched and retouched, many a day Laboured, and many a night pursued in dreams, Just when it meets his hopes, and proves the heaven He wanted, for a wealthier to enjoy. And now perhaps the glorious hour is come, When having no stake left, no pledge to endear Her interests, or that gives her sacred cause A moment's operation on his love, He burns with most intense and flagrant zeal To serve his country. Ministerial grace Deals him out money from the public chest, Or, if that mine be shut, some private purse Supplies his need with an usurious loan, To be refunded duly, when his vote, Well-managed, shall have earned its worthy price. Oh, innocent compared with arts like these, Crape and cocked pistol and the whistling ball Sent through the traveller's temples! He that finds One drop of heaven's sweet mercy in his cup, Can dig, beg, rot, and perish well-content, So he may wrap himself in honest rags At his last gasp; but could not for a world Fish up his dirty and dependent bread From pools and ditches of the commonwealth, Sordid and sickening at his own success.

Ambition, avarice, penury incurred By endless riot, vanity, the lust Of pleasure and variety, despatch, As duly as the swallows disappear, The world of wandering knights and squires to town; London engulfs them all. The shark is there, And the shark's prey; the spendthrift, and the leech That sucks him. There the sycophant, and he That with bare-headed and obsequious bows Begs a warm office, doomed to a cold jail And groat per diem if his patron frown. The levee swarms, as if in golden pomp Were charactered on every statesman's door, 'BATTERED AND BANKRUPT FORTUNES MENDED HERE.' These are the charms that sully and eclipse The charms of nature. 'Tis the cruel gripe That lean hard-handed poverty inflicts, The hope of better things, the chance to win, The wish to shine, the thirst to be amused, That, at the sound of Winter's hoary wing, Unpeople all our counties of such herds Of fluttering, loitering, cringing, begging, loose And wanton vagrants, as make London, vast And boundless as it is, a crowded coop.

Oh thou resort and mart of all the earth, Chequered with all complexions of mankind, And spotted with all crimes; in whom I see Much that I love, and more that I admire, And all that I abhor; thou freckled fair That pleases and yet shocks me, I can laugh And I can weep, can hope, and can despond, Feel wrath and pity when I think on thee! Ten righteous would have saved a city once, And thou hast many righteous.—Well for thee— That salt preserves thee; more corrupted else, And therefore more obnoxious at this hour Than Sodom in her day had power to be, For whom God heard his Abram plead in vain.



BOOK IV.

THE WINTER EVENING.

Hark! 'tis the twanging horn o'er yonder bridge, That with its wearisome but needful length Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright;— He comes, the herald of a noisy world, With spattered boots, strapped waist, and frozen locks, News from all nations lumbering at his back. True to his charge the close-packed load behind, Yet careless what he brings, his one concern Is to conduct it to the destined inn, And, having dropped the expected bag—pass on. He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch, Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some; To him indifferent whether grief or joy. Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks, Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet With tears that trickled down the writer's cheeks, Fast as the periods from his fluent quill, Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains, Or nymphs responsive, equally affect His horse and him, unconscious of them all. But oh, the important budget! ushered in With such heart-shaking music, who can say What are its tidings? have our troops awaked? Or do they still, as if with opium drugged, Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave? Is India free? and does she wear her plumed And jewelled turban with a smile of peace, Or do we grind her still? The grand debate, The popular harangue, the tart reply, The logic and the wisdom and the wit And the loud laugh—I long to know them all; I burn to set the imprisoned wranglers free, And give them voice and utterance once again.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn Throws up a steamy column, and the cups, That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each, So let us welcome peaceful evening in. Not such his evening, who with shining face Sweats in the crowded theatre, and squeezed And bored with elbow-points through both his sides, Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage; Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath Of patriots bursting with heroic rage, Or placemen all tranquillity and smiles. This folio of four pages, happy work! Which not even critics criticise, that holds Inquisitive attention while I read Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair, Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break, What is it but a map of busy life, Its fluctuations and its vast concerns? Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge That tempts ambition. On the summit, see, The seals of office glitter in his eyes; He climbs, he pants, he grasps them. At his heels, Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends, And with a dextrous jerk soon twists him down And wins them, but to lose them in his turn. Here rills of oily eloquence, in soft Meanders, lubricate the course they take; The modest speaker is ashamed and grieved To engross a moment's notice, and yet begs, Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts, However trivial all that he conceives. Sweet bashfulness! it claims, at least, this praise, The dearth of information and good sense That it foretells us, always comes to pass. Cataracts of declamation thunder here, There forests of no meaning spread the page In which all comprehension wanders lost; While fields of pleasantry amuse us there, With merry descants on a nation's woes. The rest appears a wilderness of strange But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks And lilies for the brows of faded age, Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald, Heaven, earth, and ocean plundered of their sweets. Nectareous essences, Olympian dews, Sermons and city feasts and favourite airs, Ethereal journeys, submarine exploits, And Katterfelto with his hair on end At his own wonders, wondering for his bread.

'Tis pleasant through the loopholes of retreat To peep at such a world; to see the stir Of the great Babel and not feel the crowd; To hear the roar she sends through all her gates At a safe distance, where the dying sound Falls a soft murmur on the uninjured ear. Thus sitting and surveying thus at ease The globe and its concerns, I seem advanced To some secure and more than mortal height, That liberates and exempts me from them all. It turns submitted to my view, turns round With all its generations; I behold The tumult and am still. The sound of war Has lost its terrors ere it reaches me; Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride And avarice that makes man a wolf to man; Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats By which he speaks the language of his heart, And sigh, but never tremble at the sound. He travels and expatiates, as the bee From flower to flower so he from land to land; The manners, customs, policy of all Pay contribution to the store he gleans, He sucks intelligence in every clime, And spreads the honey of his deep research At his return—a rich repast for me. He travels and I too. I tread his deck, Ascend his topmast, through his peering eyes Discover countries, with a kindred heart Suffer his woes and share in his escapes; While fancy, like the finger of a clock, Runs the great circuit, and is still at home.

Oh Winter, ruler of the inverted year, Thy scattered hair with sleet-like ashes filled, Thy breath congealed upon thy lips, thy cheeks Fringed with a beard made white with other snows Than those of age, thy forehead wrapped in clouds, A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne A sliding car indebted to no wheels, But urged by storms along its slippery way, I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st, And dreaded as thou art. Thou hold'st the sun A prisoner in the yet undawning East, Shortening his journey between morn and noon, And hurrying him, impatient of his stay, Down to the rosy west; but kindly still Compensating his loss with added hours Of social converse and instructive ease, And gathering at short notice in one group The family dispersed, and fixing thought Not less dispersed by daylight and its cares. I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fire-side enjoyments, home-born happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturbed retirement, and the hours Of long uninterrupted evening know. No rattling wheels stop short before these gates; No powdered pert proficients in the art Of sounding an alarm, assault these doors Till the street rings; no stationary steeds Cough their own knell, while heedless of the sound The silent circle fan themselves, and quake: But here the needle plies its busy task, The pattern grows, the well-depicted flower, Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn, Unfolds its bosom; buds and leaves and sprigs And curly tendrils, gracefully disposed, Follow the nimble finger of the fair; A wreath that cannot fade, of flowers that blow With most success when all besides decay. The poet's or historian's page, by one Made vocal for the amusement of the rest; The sprightly lyre, whose treasure of sweet sounds The touch from many a trembling chord shakes out; And the clear voice symphonious, yet distinct, And in the charming strife triumphant still, Beguile the night, and set a keener edge On female industry; the threaded steel Flies swiftly, and unfelt the task proceeds. The volume closed, the customary rites Of the last meal commence: a Roman meal, Such as the mistress of the world once found Delicious, when her patriots of high note, Perhaps by moonlight, at their humble doors, And under an old oak's domestic shade, Enjoyed—spare feast!—a radish and an egg. Discourse ensues, not trivial, yet not dull, Nor such as with a frown forbids the play Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth; Nor do we madly, like an impious world, Who deem religion frenzy, and the God That made them an intruder on their joys, Start at His awful name, or deem His praise A jarring note; themes of a graver tone Exciting oft our gratitude and love, While we retrace with memory's pointing wand That calls the past to our exact review, The dangers we have scaped, the broken snare, The disappointed foe, deliverance found Unlooked for, life preserved and peace restored, Fruits of omnipotent eternal love:— Oh evenings worthy of the gods! exclaimed The Sabine bard. Oh evenings, I reply, More to be prized and coveted than yours, As more illumined and with nobler truths, That I, and mine, and those we love, enjoy.

Is Winter hideous in a garb like this? Needs he the tragic fur, the smoke of lamps, The pent-up breath of an unsavoury throng To thaw him into feeling, or the smart And snappish dialogue that flippant wits Call comedy, to prompt him with a smile? The self-complacent actor, when he views (Stealing a sidelong glance at a full house) The slope of faces from the floor to the roof, As if one master-spring controlled them all, Relaxed into an universal grin, Sees not a countenance there that speaks a joy Half so refined or so sincere as ours. Cards were superfluous here, with all the tricks That idleness has ever yet contrived To fill the void of an unfurnished brain, To palliate dulness and give time a shove. Time, as he passes us, has a dove's wing, Unsoiled and swift and of a silken sound. But the world's time is time in masquerade. Theirs, should I paint him, has his pinions fledged With motley plumes, and, where the peacock shows His azure eyes, is tinctured black and red With spots quadrangular of diamond form, Ensanguined hearts, clubs typical of strife, And spades, the emblem of untimely graves. What should be, and what was an hour-glass once, Becomes a dice-box, and a billiard mast Well does the work of his destructive scythe. Thus decked he charms a world whom fashion blinds To his true worth, most pleased when idle most, Whose only happy are their wasted hours. Even misses, at whose age their mothers wore The back-string and the bib, assume the dress Of womanhood, sit pupils in the school Of card-devoted time, and night by night, Placed at some vacant corner of the board, Learn every trick, and soon play all the game. But truce with censure. Roving as I rove, Where shall I find an end, or how proceed? As he that travels far, oft turns aside To view some rugged rock, or mouldering tower, Which seen delights him not; then coming home, Describes and prints it, that the world may know How far he went for what was nothing worth; So I, with brush in hand and pallet spread With colours mixed for a far different use, Paint cards and dolls, and every idle thing That fancy finds in her excursive flights.

Come, Evening, once again, season of peace, Return, sweet Evening, and continue long! Methinks I see thee in the streaky west, With matron-step slow moving, while the night Treads on thy sweeping train; one hand employed In letting fall the curtain of repose On bird and beast, the other charged for man With sweet oblivion of the cares of day; Not sumptuously adorned, nor needing aid, Like homely-featured night, of clustering gems, A star or two just twinkling on thy brow Suffices thee; save that the moon is thine No less than hers, not worn indeed on high With ostentatious pageantry, but set With modest grandeur in thy purple zone, Resplendent less, but of an ampler round. Come, then, and thou shalt find thy votary calm, Or make me so. Composure is thy gift; And whether I devote thy gentle hours To books, to music, or to poet's toil, To weaving nets for bird-alluring fruit, Or twining silken threads round ivory reels When they command whom man was born to please, I slight thee not, but make thee welcome still.

Just when our drawing-rooms begin to blaze With lights, by clear reflection multiplied From many a mirror, in which he of Gath, Goliath, might have seen his giant bulk Whole without stooping, towering crest and all, My pleasures too begin. But me perhaps The glowing hearth may satisfy a while With faint illumination, that uplifts The shadow to the ceiling, there by fits Dancing uncouthly to the quivering flame. Not undelightful is an hour to me So spent in parlour twilight; such a gloom Suits well the thoughtful or unthinking mind, The mind contemplative, with some new theme Pregnant, or indisposed alike to all. Laugh ye, who boast your more mercurial powers That never feel a stupor, know no pause, Nor need one; I am conscious, and confess. Fearless, a soul that does not always think. Me oft has fancy ludicrous and wild Soothed with a waking dream of houses, towers, Trees, churches, and strange visages expressed In the red cinders, while with poring eye I gazed, myself creating what I saw. Nor less amused have I quiescent watched The sooty films that play upon the bars Pendulous, and foreboding in the view Of superstition, prophesying still, Though still deceived, some stranger's near approach. 'Tis thus the understanding takes repose In indolent vacuity of thought, And sleeps and is refreshed. Meanwhile the face Conceals the mood lethargic with a mask Of deep deliberation, as the man Were tasked to his full strength, absorbed and lost. Thus oft reclined at ease, I lose an hour At evening, till at length the freezing blast That sweeps the bolted shutter, summons home The recollected powers, and, snapping short The glassy threads with which the fancy weaves Her brittle toys, restores me to myself. How calm is my recess! and how the frost Raging abroad, and the rough wind, endear The silence and the warmth enjoyed within! I saw the woods and fields at close of day A variegated show; the meadows green Though faded, and the lands, where lately waved The golden harvest, of a mellow brown, Upturned so lately by the forceful share; I saw far off the weedy fallows smile With verdure not unprofitable, grazed By flocks fast feeding, and selecting each His favourite herb; while all the leafless groves That skirt the horizon wore a sable hue, Scarce noticed in the kindred dusk of eve. To-morrow brings a change, a total change, Which even now, though silently performed And slowly, and by most unfelt, the face Of universal nature undergoes. Fast falls a fleecy shower; the downy flakes, Descending and with never-ceasing lapse Softly alighting upon all below, Assimilate all objects. Earth receives Gladly the thickening mantle, and the green And tender blade, that feared the chilling blast, Escapes unhurt beneath so warm a veil.

In such a world, so thorny, and where none Finds happiness unblighted, or if found, Without some thistly sorrow at its side, It seems the part of wisdom, and no sin Against the law of love, to measure lots With less distinguished than ourselves, that thus We may with patience bear our moderate ills, And sympathise with others, suffering more. Ill fares the traveller now, and he that stalks In ponderous boots beside his reeking team; The wain goes heavily, impeded sore By congregating loads adhering close To the clogged wheels, and, in its sluggish pace, Noiseless appears a moving hill of snow. The toiling steeds expand the nostril wide, While every breath, by respiration strong Forced downward, is consolidated soon Upon their jutting chests. He, formed to bear The pelting brunt of the tempestuous night, With half-shut eyes, and puckered cheeks, and teeth Presented bare against the storm, plods on; One hand secures his hat, save when with both He brandishes his pliant length of whip, Resounding oft, and never heard in vain. Oh happy, and, in my account, denied That sensibility of pain with which Refinement is endued, thrice happy thou! Thy frame, robust and hardy, feels indeed The piercing cold, but feels it unimpaired; The learned finger never need explore Thy vigorous pulse, and the unhealthful East, That breathes the spleen, and searches every bone Of the infirm, is wholesome air to thee. Thy days roll on exempt from household care, Thy waggon is thy wife; and the poor beasts, That drag the dull companion to and fro, Thine helpless charge, dependent on thy care. Ah, treat them kindly! rude as thou appearest, Yet show that thou hast mercy, which the great, With needless hurry whirled from place to place, Humane as they would seem, not always show.

Poor, yet industrious, modest, quiet, neat, Such claim compassion in a night like this, And have a friend in every feeling heart. Warmed while it lasts, by labour, all day long They brave the season, and yet find at eve, Ill clad and fed but sparely, time to cool. The frugal housewife trembles when she lights Her scanty stock of brushwood, blazing clear, But dying soon, like all terrestrial joys; The few small embers left she nurses well. And while her infant race with outspread hands And crowded knees sit cowering o'er the sparks, Retires, content to quake, so they be warmed. The man feels least, as more inured than she To winter, and the current in his veins More briskly moved by his severer toil; Yet he, too, finds his own distress in theirs. The taper soon extinguished, which I saw Dangled along at the cold finger's end Just when the day declined, and the brown loaf Lodged on the shelf, half-eaten, without sauce Of sav'ry cheese, or butter costlier still, Sleep seems their only refuge. For alas, Where penury is felt the thought is chained, And sweet colloquial pleasures are but few. With all this thrift they thrive not. All the care Ingenious parsimony takes, but just Saves the small inventory, bed and stool, Skillet and old carved chest, from public sale. They live, and live without extorted alms From grudging hands, but other boast have none To soothe their honest pride that scorns to beg, Nor comfort else, but in their mutual love. I praise you much, ye meek and patient pair, For ye are worthy; choosing rather far A dry but independent crust, hard-earned And eaten with a sigh, than to endure The rugged frowns and insolent rebuffs Of knaves in office, partial in their work Of distribution; liberal of their aid To clamorous importunity in rags, But ofttimes deaf to suppliants who would blush To wear a tattered garb however coarse, Whom famine cannot reconcile to filth; These ask with painful shyness, and, refused Because deserving, silently retire. But be ye of good courage! Time itself Shall much befriend you. Time shall give increase, And all your numerous progeny, well trained, But helpless, in few years shall find their hands, And labour too. Meanwhile ye shall not want What, conscious of your virtues, we can spare, Nor what a wealthier than ourselves may send. I mean the man, who when the distant poor Need help, denies them nothing but his name.

But poverty with most, who whimper forth Their long complaints, is self-inflicted woe, The effect of laziness or sottish waste. Now goes the nightly thief prowling abroad For plunder; much solicitous how best He may compensate for a day of sloth, By works of darkness and nocturnal wrong, Woe to the gardener's pale, the farmer's hedge Plashed neatly and secured with driven stakes Deep in the loamy bank. Uptorn by strength Resistless in so bad a cause, but lame To better deeds, he bundles up the spoil— An ass's burden,—and when laden most And heaviest, light of foot steals fast away. Nor does the boarded hovel better guard The well-stacked pile of riven logs and roots From his pernicious force. Nor will he leave Unwrenched the door, however well secured, Where chanticleer amidst his harem sleeps In unsuspecting pomp; twitched from the perch He gives the princely bird with all his wives To his voracious bag, struggling in vain, And loudly wondering at the sudden change. Nor this to feed his own. 'Twere some excuse Did pity of their sufferings warp aside His principle, and tempt him into sin For their support, so destitute; but they Neglected pine at home, themselves, as more Exposed than others, with less scruple made His victims, robbed of their defenceless all. Cruel is all he does. 'Tis quenchless thirst Of ruinous ebriety that prompts His every action, and imbrutes the man. Oh for a law to noose the villain's neck Who starves his own; who persecutes the blood He gave them in his children's veins, and hates And wrongs the woman he has sworn to love.

Pass where we may, through city, or through town, Village or hamlet of this merry land, Though lean and beggared, every twentieth pace Conducts the unguarded nose to such a whiff Of stale debauch, forth-issuing from the styes That law has licensed, as makes temperance reel. There sit involved and lost in curling clouds Of Indian fume, and guzzling deep, the boor, The lackey, and the groom. The craftsman there Takes a Lethean leave of all his toil; Smith, cobbler, joiner, he that plies the shears, And he that kneads the dough: all loud alike, All learned, and all drunk. The fiddle screams Plaintive and piteous, as it wept and wailed Its wasted tones and harmony unheard; Fierce the dispute, whate'er the theme; while she, Fell Discord, arbitress of such debate, Perched on the sign-post, holds with even hand Her undecisive scales. In this she lays A weight of ignorance, in that, of pride, And smiles delighted with the eternal poise. Dire is the frequent curse and its twin sound The cheek-distending oath, not to be praised As ornamental, musical, polite, Like those which modern senators employ, Whose oath is rhetoric, and who swear for fame. Behold the schools in which plebeian minds, Once simple, are initiated in arts Which some may practise with politer grace, But none with readier skill! 'Tis here they learn The road that leads from competence and peace To indigence and rapine; till at last Society, grown weary of the load, Shakes her encumbered lap, and casts them out. But censure profits little. Vain the attempt To advertise in verse a public pest, That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds His hungry acres, stinks and is of use. The excise is fattened with the rich result Of all this riot; and ten thousand casks, For ever dribbling out their base contents, Touched by the Midas finger of the state, Bleed gold for Ministers to sport away. Drink and be mad then; 'tis your country bids! Gloriously drunk, obey the important call, Her cause demands the assistance of your throats;— Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.

Would I had fallen upon those happier days That poets celebrate; those golden times And those Arcadian scenes that Maro sings, And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose. Nymphs were Dianas then, and swains had hearts That felt their virtues. Innocence, it seems, From courts dismissed, found shelter in the groves; The footsteps of simplicity, impressed Upon the yielding herbage (so they sing), Then were not all effaced. Then speech profane And manners profligate were rarely found, Observed as prodigies, and soon reclaimed. Vain wish! those days were never: airy dreams Sat for the picture; and the poet's hand, Imparting substance to an empty shade, Imposed a gay delirium for a truth. Grant it: I still must envy them an age That favoured such a dream, in days like these Impossible, when virtue is so scarce That to suppose a scene where she presides Is tramontane, and stumbles all belief. No. We are polished now. The rural lass, Whom once her virgin modesty and grace, Her artless manners and her neat attire, So dignified, that she was hardly less Than the fair shepherdess of old romance, Is seen no more. The character is lost. Her head adorned with lappets pinned aloft And ribbons streaming gay, superbly raised And magnified beyond all human size, Indebted to some smart wig-weaver's hand For more than half the tresses it sustains; Her elbows ruffled, and her tottering form Ill propped upon French heels; she might be deemed (But that the basket dangling on her arm Interprets her more truly) of a rank Too proud for dairy-work, or sale of eggs; Expect her soon with foot-boy at her heels, No longer blushing for her awkward load, Her train and her umbrella all her care.

The town has tinged the country; and the stain Appears a spot upon a vestal's robe, The worse for what it soils. The fashion runs Down into scenes still rural, but alas, Scenes rarely graced with rural manners now. Time was when in the pastoral retreat The unguarded door was safe; men did not watch To invade another's right, or guard their own. Then sleep was undisturbed by fear, unscared By drunken howlings; and the chilling tale Of midnight murder was a wonder heard With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes But farewell now to unsuspicious nights, And slumbers unalarmed. Now, ere you sleep, See that your polished arms be primed with care, And drop the night-bolt. Ruffians are abroad, And the first larum of the cock's shrill throat May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear To horrid sounds of hostile feet within. Even daylight has its dangers; and the walk Through pathless wastes and woods, unconscious once Of other tenants than melodious birds, Or harmless flocks, is hazardous and bold. Lamented change! to which full many a cause Inveterate, hopeless of a cure, conspires. The course of human things from good to ill, From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails. Increase of power begets increase of wealth; Wealth luxury, and luxury excess; Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague That seizes first the opulent, descends To the next rank contagious, and in time Taints downward all the graduated scale Of order, from the chariot to the plough. The rich, and they that have an arm to check The licence of the lowest in degree, Desert their office; and themselves, intent On pleasure, haunt the capital, and thus To all the violence of lawless hands Resign the scenes their presence might protect. Authority itself not seldom sleeps, Though resident, and witness of the wrong. The plump convivial parson often bears The magisterial sword in vain, and lays His reverence and his worship both to rest On the same cushion of habitual sloth. Perhaps timidity restrains his arm, When he should strike he trembles, and sets free, Himself enslaved by terror of the band, The audacious convict whom he dares not bind. Perhaps, though by profession ghostly pure, He, too, may have his vice, and sometimes prove Less dainty than becomes his grave outside In lucrative concerns. Examine well His milk-white hand. The palm is hardly clean— But here and there an ugly smutch appears. Foh! 'twas a bribe that left it. He has touched Corruption. Whoso seeks an audit here Propitious, pays his tribute, game or fish, Wildfowl or venison, and his errand speeds.

But faster far and more than all the rest A noble cause, which none who bears a spark Of public virtue ever wished removed, Works the deplored and mischievous effect. 'Tis universal soldiership has stabbed The heart of merit in the meaner class. Arms, through the vanity and brainless rage Of those that bear them, in whatever cause, Seem most at variance with all moral good, And incompatible with serious thought. The clown, the child of nature, without guile, Blest with an infant's ignorance of all But his own simple pleasures, now and then A wrestling match, a foot-race, or a fair, Is balloted, and trembles at the news. Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears A Bible-oath to be whate'er they please, To do he knows not what. The task performed, That instant he becomes the serjeant's care, His pupil, and his torment, and his jest; His awkward gait, his introverted toes, Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks, Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees, Unapt to learn and formed of stubborn stuff, He yet by slow degrees puts off himself, Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well. He stands erect, his slouch becomes a walk, He steps right onward, martial in his air, His form and movement; is as smart above As meal and larded locks can make him: wears His hat or his plumed helmet with a grace, And, his three years of heroship expired, Returns indignant to the slighted plough. He hates the field in which no fife or drum Attends him, drives his cattle to a march, And sighs for the smart comrades he has left. 'Twere well if his exterior change were all— But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost His ignorance and harmless manners too. To swear, to game, to drink, to show at home By lewdness, idleness, and Sabbath-breach, The great proficiency he made abroad, To astonish and to grieve his gazing friends, To break some maiden's and his mother's heart, To be a pest where he was useful once, Are his sole aim, and all his glory now! Man in society is like a flower Blown in its native bed. 'Tis there alone His faculties expanded in full bloom Shine out, there only reach their proper use. But man associated and leagued with man By regal warrant, or self-joined by bond For interest sake, or swarming into clans Beneath one head for purposes of war, Like flowers selected from the rest, and bound And bundled close to fill some crowded vase, Fades rapidly, and by compression marred Contracts defilement not to be endured. Hence chartered boroughs are such public plagues, And burghers, men immaculate perhaps In all their private functions, once combined, Become a loathsome body, only fit For dissolution, hurtful to the main. Hence merchants, unimpeachable of sin Against the charities of domestic life, Incorporated, seem at once to lose Their nature, and, disclaiming all regard For mercy and the common rights of man, Build factories with blood, conducting trade At the sword's point, and dyeing the white robe Of innocent commercial justice red. Hence too the field of glory, as the world Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array, With all the majesty of thundering pomp, Enchanting music and immortal wreaths, Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught On principle, where foppery atones For folly, gallantry for every vice.

But slighted as it is, and by the great Abandoned, and, which still I more regret, Infected with the manners and the modes It knew not once, the country wins me still. I never framed a wish or formed a plan That flattered me with hopes of earthly bliss, But there I laid the scene. There early strayed My fancy, ere yet liberty of choice Had found me, or the hope of being free. My very dreams were rural, rural too The first-born efforts of my youthful muse, Sportive, and jingling her poetic bells Ere yet her ear was mistress of their powers. No bard could please me but whose lyre was tuned To Nature's praises. Heroes and their feats Fatigued me, never weary of the pipe Of Tityrus, assembling as he sang The rustic throng beneath his favourite beech. Then Milton had indeed a poet's charms: New to my taste, his Paradise surpassed The struggling efforts of my boyish tongue To speak its excellence; I danced for joy. I marvelled much that, at so ripe an age As twice seven years, his beauties had then first Engaged my wonder, and admiring still, And still admiring, with regret supposed The joy half lost because not sooner found. Thee, too, enamoured of the life I loved, Pathetic in its praise, in its pursuit Determined, and possessing it at last With transports such as favoured lovers feel, I studied, prized, and wished that I had known, Ingenious Cowley: and though now, reclaimed By modern lights from an erroneous taste, I cannot but lament thy splendid wit Entangled in the cobwebs of the schools. I still revere thee, courtly though retired, Though stretched at ease in Chertsey's silent bowers, Not unemployed, and finding rich amends For a lost world in solitude and verse. 'Tis born with all. The love of Nature's works Is an ingredient in the compound, man, Infused at the creation of the kind. And though the Almighty Maker has throughout Discriminated each from each, by strokes And touches of His hand, with so much art Diversified, that two were never found Twins at all points—yet this obtains in all, That all discern a beauty in His works, And all can taste them: minds that have been formed And tutored, with a relish more exact, But none without some relish, none unmoved. It is a flame that dies not even there, Where nothing feeds it. Neither business, crowds, Nor habits of luxurious city life, Whatever else they smother of true worth In human bosoms, quench it or abate. The villas, with which London stands begirt Like a swarth Indian with his belt of beads, Prove it. A breath of unadulterate air, The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer The citizen, and brace his languid frame! Even in the stifling bosom of the town, A garden in which nothing thrives, has charms That soothe the rich possessor; much consoled That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint, Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well He cultivates. These serve him with a hint That Nature lives; that sight-refreshing green Is still the livery she delights to wear, Though sickly samples of the exuberant whole. What are the casements lined with creeping herbs, The prouder sashes fronted with a range Of orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed, The Frenchman's darling? are they not all proofs That man, immured in cities, still retains His inborn inextinguishable thirst Of rural scenes, compensating his loss By supplemental shifts, the best he may? The most unfurnished with the means of life, And they that never pass their brick-wall bounds To range the fields, and treat their lungs with air, Yet feel the burning instinct: over-head Suspend their crazy boxes planted thick And watered duly. There the pitcher stands A fragment, and the spoutless tea-pot there; Sad witnesses how close-pent man regrets The country, with what ardour he contrives A peep at nature, when he can no more.

Hail, therefore, patroness of health and ease And contemplation, heart-consoling joys And harmless pleasures, in the thronged abode Of multitudes unknown, hail rural life! Address himself who will to the pursuit Of honours, or emolument, or fame, I shall not add myself to such a chase, Thwart his attempts, or envy his success. Some must be great. Great offices will have Great talents. And God gives to every man The virtue, temper, understanding, taste, That lifts him into life, and lets him fall Just in the niche he was ordained to fill. To the deliverer of an injured land He gives a tongue to enlarge upon, a heart To feel, and courage to redress her wrongs; To monarchs dignity, to judges sense; To artists ingenuity and skill; To me an unambitious mind, content In the low vale of life, that early felt A wish for ease and leisure, and ere long Found here that leisure and that ease I wished.



BOOK V.

THE WINTER MORNING WALK.

'Tis morning; and the sun, with ruddy orb Ascending, fires the horizon; while the clouds, That crowd away before the driving wind, More ardent as the disk emerges more, Resemble most some city in a blaze, Seen through the leafless wood. His slanting ray Slides ineffectual down the snowy vale, And, tingeing all with his own rosy hue, From every herb and every spiry blade Stretches a length of shadow o'er the field, Mine, spindling into longitude immense, In spite of gravity, and sage remark That I myself am but a fleeting shade, Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance I view the muscular proportioned limb Transformed to a lean shank; the shapeless pair, As they designed to mock me, at my side Take step for step, and, as I near approach The cottage, walk along the plastered wall, Preposterous sight, the legs without the man. The verdure of the plain lies buried deep Beneath the dazzling deluge, and the bents And coarser grass upspearing o'er the rest, Of late unsightly and unseen, now shine Conspicuous, and, in bright apparel clad, And fledged with icy feathers, nod superb. The cattle mourn in corners, where the fence Screens them, and seem, half petrified, to sleep In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait Their wonted fodder, not, like hungering man, Fretful if unsupplied, but silent, meek, And patient of the slow-paced swain's delay. He from the stack carves out the accustomed load, Deep-plunging, and again deep-plunging oft His broad keen knife into the solid mass: Smooth as a wall the upright remnant stands, With such undeviating and even force He severs it away: no needless care, Lest storms should overset the leaning pile Deciduous, or its own unbalanced weight. Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcerned The cheerful haunts of man, to wield the axe And drive the wedge in yonder forest drear, From morn to eve his solitary task. Shaggy and lean and shrewd, with pointed ears And tail cropped short, half lurcher and half cur, His dog attends him. Close behind his heel Now creeps he slow, and now with many a frisk, Wide-scampering, snatches up the drifted snow With ivory teeth, or ploughs it with his snout; Then shakes his powdered coat and barks for joy. Heedless of all his pranks the sturdy churl Moves right toward the mark; nor stops for aught, But now and then, with pressure of his thumb, To adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube, That fumes beneath his nose; the trailing cloud Streams far behind him, scenting all the air. Now from the roost, or from the neighbouring pale, Where, diligent to catch the first faint gleam Of smiling day, they gossiped side by side, Come trooping at the housewife's well-known call The feathered tribes domestic; half on wing, And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood, Conscious, and fearful of too deep a plunge. The sparrows peep, and quit the sheltering eaves To seize the fair occasion; well they eye The scattered grain, and, thievishly resolved To escape the impending famine, often scared As oft return, a pert, voracious kind. Clean riddance quickly made, one only care Remains to each, the search of sunny nook, Or shed impervious to the blast. Resigned To sad necessity the cock foregoes His wonted strut, and, wading at their head With well-considered steps, seems to resent His altered gait, and stateliness retrenched. How find the myriads, that in summer cheer The hills and valleys with their ceaseless songs, Due sustenance, or where subsist they now? Earth yields them naught: the imprisoned worm is safe Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs Lie covered close, and berry-bearing thorns That feed the thrush (whatever some suppose), Afford the smaller minstrel no supply. The long-protracted rigour of the year Thins all their numerous flocks. In chinks and holes Ten thousand seek an unmolested end, As instinct prompts, self-buried ere they die. The very rooks and daws forsake the fields, Where neither grub nor root nor earth-nut now Repays their labour more; and perched aloft By the way-side, or stalking in the path, Lean pensioners upon the traveller's track, Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them, Of voided pulse, or half-digested grain. The streams are lost amid the splendid blank, O'erwhelming all distinction. On the flood Indurated and fixed the snowy weight Lies undissolved, while silently beneath And unperceived the current steals away; Not so where, scornful of a check, it leaps The mill-dam, dashes on the restless wheel, And wantons in the pebbly gulf below. No frost can bind it there. Its utmost force Can but arrest the light and smoky mist That in its fall the liquid sheet throws wide. And see where it has hung the embroidered banks With forms so various, that no powers of art, The pencil, or the pen, may trace the scene! Here glittering turrets rise, upbearing high (Fantastic misarrangement) on the roof Large growth of what may seem the sparkling trees And shrubs of fairy land. The crystal drops That trickle down the branches, fast congealed, Shoot into pillars of pellucid length And prop the pile they but adorned before. Here grotto within grotto safe defies The sunbeam. There imbossed and fretted wild, The growing wonder takes a thousand shapes Capricious, in which fancy seeks in vain The likeness of some object seen before. Thus nature works as if to mock at art, And in defiance of her rival powers; By these fortuitous and random strokes Performing such inimitable feats, As she with all her rules can never reach. Less worthy of applause though more admired, Because a novelty, the work of man, Imperial mistress of the fur-clad Russ, Thy most magnificent and mighty freak, The wonder of the North. No forest fell When thou wouldst build; no quarry sent its stores To enrich thy walls; but thou didst hew the floods, And make thy marble of the glassy wave. In such a palace Aristaeus found Cyrene, when he bore the plaintive tale Of his lost bees to her maternal ear. In such a palace poetry might place The armoury of winter, where his troops, The gloomy clouds, find weapons, arrowy sleet, Skin-piercing volley, blossom-bruising hail, And snow that often blinds the traveller's course, And wraps him in an unexpected tomb. Silently as a dream the fabric rose. No sound of hammer or of saw was there. Ice upon ice, the well-adjusted parts Were soon conjoined, nor other cement asked Than water interfused to make them one. Lamps gracefully disposed, and of all hues, Illumined every side. A watery light Gleamed through the clear transparency, that seemed Another moon new-risen, or meteor fallen From heaven to earth, of lambent flame serene. So stood the brittle prodigy, though smooth And slippery the materials, yet frost-bound Firm as a rock. Nor wanted aught within That royal residence might well befit, For grandeur or for use. Long wavy wreaths Of flowers, that feared no enemy but warmth, Blushed on the panels. Mirror needed none Where all was vitreous, but in order due Convivial table and commodious seat (What seemed at least commodious seat) were there, Sofa and couch and high-built throne august. The same lubricity was found in all, And all was moist to the warm touch; a scene Of evanescent glory, once a stream, And soon to slide into a stream again. Alas, 'twas but a mortifying stroke Of undesigned severity, that glanced (Made by a monarch) on her own estate, On human grandeur and the courts of kings 'Twas transient in its nature, as in show 'Twas durable; as worthless, as it seemed Intrinsically precious; to the foot Treacherous and false; it smiled, and it was cold.

Great princes have great playthings. Some have played At hewing mountains into men, and some At building human wonders mountain high. Some have amused the dull sad years of life (Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad) With schemes of monumental fame, and sought By pyramids and mausoleum pomp, Short-lived themselves, to immortalise their bones. Some seek diversion in the tented field, And make the sorrows of mankind their sport. But war's a game which, were their subjects wise, Kings should not play at. Nations would do well To extort their truncheons from the puny hands Of heroes whose infirm and baby minds Are gratified with mischief, and who spoil, Because men suffer it, their toy the world.

When Babel was confounded, and the great Confederacy of projectors wild and vain Was split into diversity of tongues, Then, as a shepherd separates his flock, These to the upland, to the valley those, God drave asunder and assigned their lot To all the nations. Ample was the boon He gave them, in its distribution fair And equal, and he bade them dwell in peace. Peace was a while their care. They ploughed and sowed, And reaped their plenty without grudge or strife, But violence can never longer sleep Than human passions please. In every heart Are sown the sparks that kindle fiery war, Occasion needs but fan them, and they blaze. Cain had already shed a brother's blood: The Deluge washed it out; but left unquenched The seeds of murder in the breast of man. Soon, by a righteous judgment, in the line Of his descending progeny was found The first artificer of death; the shrewd Contriver who first sweated at the forge, And forced the blunt and yet unblooded steel To a keen edge, and made it bright for war. Him Tubal named, the Vulcan of old times, The sword and falchion their inventor claim, And the first smith was the first murderer's son. His art survived the waters; and ere long, When man was multiplied and spread abroad In tribes and clans, and had begun to call These meadows and that range of hills his own, The tasted sweets of property begat Desire of more; and industry in some To improve and cultivate their just demesne, Made others covet what they saw so fair. Thus wars began on earth. These fought for spoil, And those in self-defence. Savage at first The onset, and irregular. At length One eminent above the rest, for strength, For stratagem, or courage, or for all, Was chosen leader. Him they served in war, And him in peace for sake of warlike deeds Reverenced no less. Who could with him compare? Or who so worthy to control themselves As he, whose prowess had subdued their foes? Thus war, affording field for the display Of virtue, made one chief, whom times of peace, Which have their exigencies too, and call For skill in government, at length made king. King was a name too proud for man to wear With modesty and meekness, and the crown, So dazzling in their eyes who set it on, Was sure to intoxicate the brows it bound. It is the abject property of most, That being parcel of the common mass, And destitute of means to raise themselves, They sink and settle lower than they need. They know not what it is to feel within A comprehensive faculty, that grasps Great purposes with ease, that turns and wields, Almost without an effort, plans too vast For their conception, which they cannot move. Conscious of impotence they soon grow drunk With gazing, when they see an able man Step forth to notice; and besotted thus Build him a pedestal and say—Stand there, And be our admiration and our praise. They roll themselves before him in the dust, Then most deserving in their own account When most extravagant in his applause, As if exalting him they raised themselves. Thus by degrees, self-cheated of their sound And sober judgment that he is but man, They demi-deify and fume him so That in due season he forgets it too. Inflated and astrut with self-conceit He gulps the windy diet, and ere long, Adopting their mistake, profoundly thinks The world was made in vain if not for him. Thenceforth they are his cattle: drudges, born To bear his burdens, drawing in his gears, And sweating in his service. His caprice Becomes the soul that animates them all. He deems a thousand, or ten thousand lives, Spent in the purchase of renown for him An easy reckoning, and they think the same. Thus kings were first invented, and thus kings Were burnished into heroes, and became The arbiters of this terraqueous swamp; Storks among frogs, that have but croaked and died. Strange that such folly, as lifts bloated man To eminence fit only for a god, Should ever drivel out of human lips, Even in the cradled weakness of the world! Still stranger much, that when at length mankind Had reached the sinewy firmness of their youth, And could discriminate and argue well On subjects more mysterious, they were yet Babes in the cause of freedom, and should fear And quake before the gods themselves had made. But above measure strange, that neither proof Of sad experience, nor examples set By some whose patriot virtue has prevailed, Can even now, when they are grown mature In wisdom, and with philosophic deeps Familiar, serve to emancipate the rest! Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone To reverence what is ancient, and can plead A course of long observance for its use, That even servitude, the worst of ills, Because delivered down from sire to son, Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing. But is it fit, or can it bear the shock Of rational discussion, that a man, Compounded and made up like other men Of elements tumultuous, in whom lust And folly in as ample measure meet, As in the bosoms of the slaves he rules, Should be a despot absolute, and boast Himself the only freeman of his land? Should when he pleases, and on whom he will, Wage war, with any or with no pretence Of provocation given, or wrong sustained, And force the beggarly last doit, by means That his own humour dictates, from the clutch Of poverty, that thus he may procure His thousands, weary of penurious life, A splendid opportunity to die? Say ye, who (with less prudence than of old Jotham ascribed to his assembled trees In politic convention) put your trust I' th' shadow of a bramble, and recline In fancied peace beneath his dangerous branch, Rejoice in him and celebrate his sway, Where find ye passive fortitude? Whence springs Your self-denying zeal that holds it good To stroke the prickly grievance, and to hang His thorns with streamers of continual praise? We too are friends to loyalty; we love The king who loves the law, respects his bounds. And reigns content within them; him we serve Freely and with delight, who leaves us free; But recollecting still that he is man, We trust him not too far. King though he be, And king in England, too, he may be weak And vain enough to be ambitious still, May exercise amiss his proper powers, Or covet more than freemen choose to grant: Beyond that mark is treason. He is ours, To administer, to guard, to adorn the state, But not to warp or change it. We are his, To serve him nobly in the common cause True to the death, but not to be his slaves. Mark now the difference, ye that boast your love Of kings, between your loyalty and ours. We love the man; the paltry pageant you: We the chief patron of the commonwealth; You the regardless author of its woes: We, for the sake of liberty, a king; You chains and bondage for a tyrant's sake.

Our love is principle, and has its root In reason, is judicious, manly, free; Yours, a blind instinct, crouches to the rod, And licks the foot that treads it in the dust. Were kingship as true treasure as it seems, Sterling, and worthy of a wise man's wish, I would not be a king to be beloved Causeless, and daubed with undiscerning praise, Where love is more attachment to the throne, Not to the man who fills it as he ought.

Whose freedom is by sufferance, and at will Of a superior, he is never free. Who lives, and is not weary of a life Exposed to manacles, deserves them well. The state that strives for liberty, though foiled And forced to abandon what she bravely sought, Deserves at least applause for her attempt, And pity for her loss. But that's a cause Not often unsuccessful; power usurped Is weakness when opposed; conscious of wrong, 'Tis pusillanimous and prone to flight. But slaves that once conceive the glowing thought Of freedom, in that hope itself possess All that the contest calls for; spirit, strength, The scorn of danger, and united hearts, The surest presage of the good they seek. *

* The author hopes that he shall not be censured for unnecessary warmth upon so interesting a subject. He is aware that it is become almost fashionable to stigmatise such sentiments as no better than empty declamation. But it is an ill symptom, and peculiar to modern times.—C.

Then shame to manhood, and opprobrious more To France than all her losses and defeats, Old or of later date, by sea or land, Her house of bondage worse than that of old Which God avenged on Pharaoh—the Bastille! Ye horrid towers, the abode of broken hearts, Ye dungeons and ye cages of despair, That monarchs have supplied from age to age With music such as suits their sovereign ears, The sighs and groans of miserable men! There's not an English heart that would not leap To hear that ye were fallen at last, to know That even our enemies, so oft employed In forging chains for us, themselves were free. For he that values liberty, confines His zeal for her predominance within No narrow bounds; her cause engages him Wherever pleaded. 'Tis the cause of man. There dwell the most forlorn of humankind, Immured though unaccused, condemned untried, Cruelly spared, and hopeless of escape. There, like the visionary emblem seen By him of Babylon, life stands a stump, And filleted about with hoops of brass, Still lives, though all its pleasant boughs are gone. To count the hour bell and expect no change; And ever as the sullen sound is heard, Still to reflect that though a joyless note To him whose moments all have one dull pace, Ten thousand rovers in the world at large Account it music; that it summons some To theatre, or jocund feast, or ball; The wearied hireling finds it a release From labour, and the lover, that has chid Its long delay, feels every welcome stroke Upon his heart-strings trembling with delight;— To fly for refuge from distracting thought To such amusements as ingenious woe Contrives, hard-shifting and without her tools;— To read engraven on the mouldy walls, In staggering types, his predecessor's tale, A sad memorial, and subjoin his own;— To turn purveyor to an overgorged And bloated spider, till the pampered pest Is made familiar, watches his approach, Comes at his call, and serves him for a friend;— To wear out time in numbering to and fro The studs that thick emboss his iron door, Then downward and then upward, then aslant And then alternate, with a sickly hope By dint of change to give his tasteless task Some relish, till the sum, exactly found In all directions, he begins again:— Oh comfortless existence! hemmed around With woes, which who that suffers would not kneel And beg for exile, or the pangs of death? That man should thus encroach on fellow-man, Abridge him of his just and native rights, Eradicate him, tear him from his hold Upon the endearments of domestic life And social, nip his fruitfulness and use, And doom him for perhaps a heedless word To barrenness and solitude and tears, Moves indignation; makes the name of king (Of king whom such prerogative can please) As dreadful as the Manichean god, Adored through fear, strong only to destroy.

'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume, And we are weeds without it. All constraint, Except what wisdom lays on evil men, Is evil; hurts the faculties, impedes Their progress in the road of science; blinds The eyesight of discovery, and begets, In those that suffer it, a sordid mind Bestial, a meagre intellect, unfit To be the tenant of man's noble form. Thee therefore still, blameworthy as thou art, With all thy loss of empire, and though squeezed By public exigence, till annual food Fails for the craving hunger of the state, Thee I account still happy, and the chief Among the nations, seeing thou art free, My native nook of earth! Thy clime is rude, Replete with vapours, and disposes much All hearts to sadness, and none more than mine; Thine unadulterate manners are less soft And plausible than social life requires. And thou hast need of discipline and art To give thee what politer France receives From Nature's bounty—that humane address And sweetness, without which no pleasure is In converse, either starved by cold reserve, Or flushed with fierce dispute, a senseless brawl; Yet, being free, I love thee; for the sake Of that one feature, can be well content, Disgraced as thou hast been, poor as thou art, To seek no sublunary rest beside. But once enslaved, farewell! I could endure Chains nowhere patiently; and chains at home, Where I am free by birthright, not at all. Then what were left of roughness in the grain Of British natures, wanting its excuse That it belongs to freemen, would disgust And shock me. I should then with double pain Feel all the rigour of thy fickle clime; And, if I must bewail the blessing lost For which our Hampdens and our Sidneys bled, I would at least bewail it under skies Milder, among a people less austere, In scenes which, having never known me free, Would not reproach me with the loss I felt. Do I forebode impossible events, And tremble at vain dreams? Heaven grant I may, But the age of virtuous politics is past, And we are deep in that of cold pretence. Patriots are grown too shrewd to be sincere, And we too wise to trust them. He that takes Deep in his soft credulity the stamp Designed by loud declaimers on the part Of liberty, themselves the slaves of lust, Incurs derision for his easy faith And lack of knowledge, and with cause enough. For when was public virtue to be found, Where private was not? Can he love the whole Who loves no part? he be a nation's friend Who is, in truth, the friend of no man there? Can he be strenuous in his country's cause, Who slights the charities for whose dear sake That country, if at all, must be beloved? —'Tis therefore sober and good men are sad For England's glory, seeing it wax pale And sickly, while her champions wear their hearts So loose to private duty, that no brain, Healthful and undisturbed by factious fumes, Can dream them trusty to the general weal. Such were not they of old whose tempered blades Dispersed the shackles of usurped control, And hewed them link from link. Then Albion's sons Were sons indeed. They felt a filial heart Beat high within them at a mother's wrongs, And shining each in his domestic sphere, Shone brighter still once called to public view. 'Tis therefore many, whose sequestered lot Forbids their interference, looking on, Anticipate perforce some dire event; And seeing the old castle of the state, That promised once more firmness, so assailed That all its tempest-beaten turrets shake, Stand motionless expectants of its fall. All has its date below. The fatal hour Was registered in heaven ere time began. We turn to dust, and all our mightiest works Die too. The deep foundations that we lay, Time ploughs them up, and not a trace remains. We build with what we deem eternal rock; A distant age asks where the fabric stood; And in the dust, sifted and searched in vain, The undiscoverable secret sleeps.

But there is yet a liberty unsung By poets, and by senators unpraised, Which monarchs cannot grant, nor all the power Of earth and hell confederate take away; A liberty, which persecution, fraud, Oppression, prisons, have no power to bind, Which whoso tastes can be enslaved no more: 'Tis liberty of heart, derived from heaven, Bought with His blood who gave it to mankind, And sealed with the same token. It is held By charter, and that charter sanctioned sure By the unimpeachable and awful oath And promise of a God. His other gifts All bear the royal stamp that speaks them His, And are august, but this transcends them all. His other works, this visible display Of all-creating energy and might, Are grand, no doubt, and worthy of the Word That, finding an interminable space Unoccupied, has filled the void so well, And made so sparkling what was dark before. But these are not His glory. Man, 'tis true, Smit with the beauty of so fair a scene, Might well suppose the Artificer Divine Meant it eternal, had He not Himself Pronounced it transient, glorious as it is, And still designing a more glorious far, Doomed it, as insufficient for His praise. These, therefore, are occasional, and pass; Formed for the confutation of the fool Whose lying heart disputes against a God; That office served, they must be swept away. Not so the labours of His love; they shine In other heavens than these that we behold, And fade not. There is Paradise that fears No forfeiture, and of its fruits He sends Large prelibation oft to saints below. Of these the first in order, and the pledge And confident assurance of the rest, Is liberty; a flight into His arms Ere yet mortality's fine threads give way, A clear escape from tyrannising lust, And fill immunity from penal woe.

Chains are the portion of revolted man, Stripes and a dungeon; and his body serves The triple purpose. In that sickly, foul, Opprobrious residence, he finds them all. Propense his heart to idols, he is held In silly dotage on created things Careless of their Creator. And that low And sordid gravitation of his powers To a vile clod, so draws him with such force Resistless from the centre he should seek, That he at last forgets it. All his hopes Tend downward, his ambition is to sink, To reach a depth profounder still, and still Profounder, in the fathomless abyss Of folly, plunging in pursuit of death. But ere he gain the comfortless repose He seeks, and acquiescence of his soul, In heaven renouncing exile, he endures What does he not? from lusts opposed in vain, And self-reproaching conscience. He foresees The fatal issue to his health, fame, peace, Fortune, and dignity; the loss of all That can ennoble man, and make frail life, Short as it is, supportable. Still worse, Far worse than all the plagues with which his sins Infect his happiest moments, he forebodes Ages of hopeless misery; future death, And death still future; not a hasty stroke, Like that which sends him to the dusty grave, But unrepealable enduring death. Scripture is still a trumpet to his fears: What none can prove a forgery, may be true; What none but bad men wish exploded, must. That scruple checks him. Riot is not loud Nor drunk enough to drown it. In the midst Of laughter his compunctions are sincere, And he abhors the jest by which he shines. Remorse begets reform. His master-lust Falls first before his resolute rebuke, And seems dethroned and vanquished. Peace ensues, But spurious and short-lived, the puny child Of self-congratulating Pride, begot On fancied Innocence. Again he falls, And fights again; but finds his best essay, A presage ominous, portending still Its own dishonour by a worse relapse, Till Nature, unavailing Nature, foiled So oft, and wearied in the vain attempt, Scoffs at her own performance. Reason now Takes part with appetite, and pleads the cause, Perversely, which of late she so condemned; With shallow shifts and old devices, worn And tattered in the service of debauch, Covering his shame from his offended sight.

"Hath God indeed given appetites to man, And stored the earth so plenteously with means To gratify the hunger of His wish, And doth He reprobate and will He damn The use of His own bounty? making first So frail a kind, and then enacting laws So strict, that less than perfect must despair? Falsehood! which whoso but suspects of truth, Dishonours God, and makes a slave of man. Do they themselves, who undertake for hire The teacher's office, and dispense at large Their weekly dole of edifying strains, Attend to their own music? have they faith In what, with such solemnity of tone And gesture, they propound to our belief? Nay—conduct hath the loudest tongue. The voice Is but an instrument on which the priest May play what tune he pleases. In the deed, The unequivocal authentic deed, We find sound argument, we read the heart."

Such reasonings (if that name must needs belong To excuses in which reason has no part) Serve to compose a spirit well inclined To live on terms of amity with vice, And sin without disturbance. Often urged (As often as, libidinous discourse Exhausted, he resorts to solemn themes Of theological and grave import), They gain at last his unreserved assent, Till, hardened his heart's temper in the forge Of lust and on the anvil of despair, He slights the strokes of conscience. Nothing moves, Or nothing much, his constancy in ill; Vain tampering has but fostered his disease, 'Tis desperate, and he sleeps the sleep of death. Haste now, philosopher, and set him free. Charm the deaf serpent wisely. Make him hear Of rectitude and fitness: moral truth How lovely, and the moral sense how sure, Consulted and obeyed, to guide his steps Directly to the FIRST AND ONLY FAIR. Spare not in such a cause. Spend all the powers Of rant and rhapsody in virtue's praise, Be most sublimely good, verbosely grand, And with poetic trappings grace thy prose Till it outmantle all the pride of verse.— Ah, tinkling cymbal and high-sounding brass Smitten in vain! such music cannot charm The eclipse that intercepts truth's heavenly beam, And chills and darkens a wide-wandering soul. The still small voice is wanted. He must speak, Whose word leaps forth at once to its effect, Who calls for things that are not, and they come.

Grace makes the slave a freeman. 'Tis a change That turns to ridicule the turgid speech And stately tone of moralists, who boast, As if, like him of fabulous renown, They had indeed ability to smooth The shag of savage nature, and were each An Orpheus and omnipotent in song. But transformation of apostate man From fool to wise, from earthly to divine, Is work for Him that made him. He alone, And He, by means in philosophic eyes Trivial and worthy of disdain, achieves The wonder; humanising what is brute In the lost kind, extracting from the lips Of asps their venom, overpowering strength By weakness, and hostility by love.

Patriots have toiled, and in their country's cause Bled nobly, and their deeds, as they deserve, Receive proud recompense. We give in charge Their names to the sweet lyre. The historic muse, Proud of the treasure, marches with it down To latest times; and sculpture, in her turn, Gives bond in stone and ever-during brass, To guard them, and to immortalise her trust. But fairer wreaths are due, though never paid, To those who, posted at the shrine of truth, Have fallen in her defence. A patriot's blood Well spent in such a strife may earn indeed, And for a time ensure to his loved land, The sweets of liberty and equal laws; But martyrs struggle for a brighter prize, And win it with more pain. Their blood is shed In confirmation of the noblest claim, Our claim to feed upon immortal truth, To walk with God, to be divinely free, To soar, and to anticipate the skies! Yet few remember them. They lived unknown, Till persecution dragged them into fame And chased them up to heaven. Their ashes flew —No marble tells us whither. With their names No bard embalms and sanctifies his song, And history, so warm on meaner themes, Is cold on this. She execrates indeed The tyranny that doomed them to the fire, But gives the glorious sufferers little praise.

He is the freeman whom the truth makes free, And all are slaves beside. There's not a chain That hellish foes confederate for his harm Can wind around him, but he casts it off With as much ease as Samson his green withes. He looks abroad into the varied field Of Nature, and, though poor perhaps compared With those whose mansions glitter in his sight, Calls the delightful scenery all his own. His are the mountains, and the valleys his, And the resplendent river's. His to enjoy With a propriety that none can feel, But who, with filial confidence inspired, Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye, And smiling say—My Father made them all! Are they not his by a peculiar right, And by an emphasis of interest his, Whose eye they fill with tears of holy joy, Whose heart with praise, and whose exalted mind With worthy thoughts of that unwearied love That planned, and built, and still upholds a world So clothed with beauty, for rebellious man? Yes—ye may fill your garners, ye that reap The loaded soil, and ye may waste much good In senseless riot; but ye will not find In feast or in the chase, in song or dance, A liberty like his, who, unimpeached Of usurpation, and to no man's wrong, Appropriates nature as his Father's work, And has a richer use of yours, than you. He is indeed a freeman. Free by birth Of no mean city, planned or e'er the hills Were built, the fountains opened, or the sea With all his roaring multitude of waves. His freedom is the same in every state; And no condition of this changeful life So manifold in cares, whose every day Brings its own evil with it, makes it less. For he has wings that neither sickness, pain, Nor penury, can cripple or confine. No nook so narrow but he spreads them there With ease, and is at large. The oppressor holds His body bound, but knows not what a range His spirit takes, unconscious of a chain; And that to bind him is a vain attempt, Whom God delights in, and in whom He dwells.

Acquaint thyself with God if thou wouldst taste His works. Admitted once to His embrace, Thou shalt perceive that thou wast blind before; Thine eye shall be instructed, and thine heart, Made pure, shall relish, with divine delight Till then unfelt, what hands divine have wrought. Brutes graze the mountain-top with faces prone, And eyes intent upon the scanty herb It yields them; or, recumbent on its brow, Ruminate, heedless of the scene outspread Beneath, beyond, and stretching far away From inland regions to the distant main. Man views it and admires, but rests content With what he views. The landscape has his praise, But not its Author. Unconcerned who formed The paradise he sees, he finds it such, And such well pleased to find it, asks no more. Not so the mind that has been touched from heaven, And in the school of sacred wisdom taught To read His wonders, in whose thought the world, Fair as it is, existed ere it was. Nor for its own sake merely, but for His Much more who fashioned it, he gives it praise; Praise that from earth resulting as it ought To earth's acknowledged Sovereign, finds at once Its only just proprietor in Him. The soul that sees Him, or receives sublimed New faculties or learns at least to employ More worthily the powers she owned before; Discerns in all things what, with stupid gaze Of ignorance, till then she overlooked, A ray of heavenly light gilding all forms Terrestrial, in the vast and the minute The unambiguous footsteps of the God Who gives its lustre to an insect's wing And wheels His throne upon the rolling worlds. Much conversant with heaven, she often holds With those fair ministers of light to man That fill the skies nightly with silent pomp Sweet conference; inquires what strains were they With which heaven rang, when every star, in haste To gratulate the new-created earth, Sent forth a voice, and all the sons of God Shouted for joy.—"Tell me, ye shining hosts That navigate a sea that knows no storms, Beneath a vault unsullied with a cloud, If from your elevation, whence ye view Distinctly scenes invisible to man And systems of whose birth no tidings yet Have reached this nether world, ye spy a race Favoured as ours, transgressors from the womb And hasting to a grave, yet doomed to rise And to possess a brighter heaven than yours? As one who, long detained on foreign shores, Pants to return, and when he sees afar His country's weather-bleached and battered rocks, From the green wave emerging, darts an eye Radiant with joy towards the happy land; So I with animated hopes behold, And many an aching wish, your beamy fires, That show like beacons in the blue abyss, Ordained to guide the embodied spirit home From toilsome life to never-ending rest. Love kindles as I gaze. I feel desires That give assurance of their own success, And that, infused from heaven, must thither tend."

So reads he Nature whom the lamp of truth Illuminates. Thy lamp, mysterious Word! Which whoso sees, no longer wanders lost With intellect bemazed in endless doubt, But runs the road of wisdom. Thou hast built, With means that were not till by Thee employed, Worlds that had never been, hadst Thou in strength Been less, or less benevolent than strong. They are Thy witnesses, who speak Thy power And goodness infinite, but speak in ears That hear not, or receive not their report. In vain Thy creatures testify of Thee Till Thou proclaim Thyself. Theirs is indeed A teaching voice; but 'tis the praise of Thine That whom it teaches it makes prompt to learn, And with the boon gives talents for its use. Till Thou art heard, imaginations vain Possess the heart, and fables, false as hell, Yet deemed oracular, lure down to death The uninformed and heedless souls of men. We give to chance, blind chance, ourselves as blind, The glory of Thy work, which yet appears Perfect and unimpeachable of blame, Challenging human scrutiny, and proved Then skilful most when most severely judged. But chance is not; or is not where Thou reign'st: Thy providence forbids that fickle power (If power she be that works but to confound) To mix her wild vagaries with Thy laws. Yet thus we dote, refusing, while we can, Instruction, and inventing to ourselves Gods such as guilt makes welcome—gods that sleep, Or disregard our follies, or that sit Amused spectators of this bustling stage. Thee we reject, unable to abide Thy purity, till pure as Thou art pure, Made such by Thee, we love Thee for that cause For which we shunned and hated Thee before. Then we are free: then liberty, like day, Breaks on the soul, and by a flash from heaven Fires all the faculties with glorious joy. A voice is heard that mortal ears hear not Till Thou hast touched them; 'tis the voice of song, A loud Hosanna sent from all Thy works, Which he that hears it with a shout repeats, And adds his rapture to the general praise. In that blest moment, Nature, throwing wide Her veil opaque, discloses with a smile The Author of her beauties, who, retired Behind His own creation, works unseen By the impure, and hears His power denied. Thou art the source and centre of all minds, Their only point of rest, eternal Word! From Thee departing, they are lost and rove At random, without honour, hope, or peace. From Thee is all that soothes the life of man, His high endeavour, and his glad success, His strength to suffer, and his will to serve. But, oh, Thou Bounteous Giver of all good, Thou art of all Thy gifts Thyself the crown! Give what Thou canst, without Thee we are poor, And with Thee rich, take what Thou wilt away.



BOOK VI.

THE WINTER WALK AT NOON.

There is in souls a sympathy with sounds, And as the mind is pitched the ear is pleased With melting airs or martial, brisk or grave; Some chord in unison with what we hear Is touched within us, and the heart replies. How soft the music of those village bells Falling at intervals upon the ear In cadence sweet, now dying all away, Now pealing loud again, and louder still, Clear and sonorous as the gale comes on. With easy force it opens all the cells Where memory slept. Wherever I have heard A kindred melody, the scene recurs, And with it all its pleasures and its pains. Such comprehensive views the spirit takes, That in a few short moments I retrace (As in a map the voyager his course) The windings of my way through many years. Short as in retrospect the journey seems, It seemed not always short; the rugged path, And prospect oft so dreary and forlorn, Moved many a sigh at its disheartening length. Yet feeling present evils, while the past Faintly impress the mind, or not at all, How readily we wish time spent revoked, That we might try the ground again, where once (Through inexperience as we now perceive) We missed that happiness we might have found. Some friend is gone, perhaps his son's best friend A father, whose authority, in show When most severe, and mustering all its force, Was but the graver countenance of love; Whose favour, like the clouds of spring, might lower, And utter now and then an awful voice, But had a blessing in its darkest frown, Threatening at once and nourishing the plant. We loved, but not enough, the gentle hand That reared us. At a thoughtless age allured By every gilded folly, we renounced His sheltering side, and wilfully forewent That converse which we now in vain regret. How gladly would the man recall to life The boy's neglected sire! a mother too, That softer friend, perhaps more gladly still, Might he demand them at the gates of death. Sorrow has since they went subdued and tamed The playful humour; he could now endure (Himself grown sober in the vale of tears) And feel a parent's presence no restraint. But not to understand a treasure's worth Till time has stolen away the slighted good, Is cause of half the poverty we feel, And makes the world the wilderness it is. The few that pray at all, pray oft amiss, And, seeking grace to improve the prize they hold, Would urge a wiser suit than asking more.

The night was winter in his roughest mood, The morning sharp and clear; but now at noon Upon the southern side of the slant hills, And where the woods fence off the northern blast, The season smiles, resigning all its rage, And has the warmth of May. The vault is blue Without a cloud, and white without a speck The dazzling splendour of the scene below. Again the harmony comes o'er the vale, And through the trees I view the embattled tower Whence all the music. I again perceive The soothing influence of the wafted strains, And settle in soft musings, as I tread The walk still verdant under oaks and elms, Whose outspread branches overarch the glade. The roof, though movable through all its length, As the wind sways it, has yet well sufficed, And, intercepting in their silent fall The frequent flakes, has kept a path for me. No noise is here, or none that hinders thought: The redbreast warbles still, but is content With slender notes and more than half suppressed. Pleased with his solitude, and flitting light From spray to spray, where'er he rests he shakes From many a twig the pendant drops of ice, That tinkle in the withered leaves below. Stillness, accompanied with sounds so soft, Charms more than silence. Meditation here May think down hours to moments. Here the heart May give an useful lesson to the head, And learning wiser grow without his books. Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one, Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwells In heads replete with thoughts of other men; Wisdom in minds attentive to their own. Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, The mere materials with which wisdom builds, Till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much, Wisdom is humble that he knows no more. Books are not seldom talismans and spells By which the magic art of shrewder wits Holds an unthinking multitude enthralled. Some to the fascination of a name Surrender judgment hoodwinked. Some the style Infatuates, and, through labyrinths and wilds Of error, leads them by a tune entranced. While sloth seduces more, too weak to bear The insupportable fatigue of thought, And swallowing therefore without pause or choice The total grist unsifted, husks and all. But trees, and rivulets whose rapid course Defies the check of winter, haunts of deer, And sheep-walks populous with bleating lambs, And lanes, in which the primrose ere her time Peeps through the moss that clothes the hawthorn root, Deceive no student. Wisdom there, and truth, Not shy as in the world, and to be won By slow solicitation, seize at once The roving thought, and fix it on themselves.

What prodigies can power divine perform More grand than it produces year by year, And all in sight of inattentive man? Familiar with the effect we slight the cause, And in the constancy of Nature's course, The regular return of genial months, And renovation of a faded world, See nought to wonder at. Should God again, As once in Gibeon, interrupt the race Of the undeviating and punctual sun, How would the world admire! but speaks it less An agency divine, to make him know His moment when to sink and when to rise Age after age, than to arrest his course? All we behold is miracle: but, seen So duly, all is miracle in vain. Where now the vital energy that moved, While summer was, the pure and subtle lymph Through the imperceptible meandering veins Of leaf and flower? It sleeps: and the icy touch Of unprolific winter has impressed A cold stagnation on the intestine tide. But let the months go round, a few short months, And all shall be restored. These naked shoots, Barren as lances, among which the wind Makes wintry music, sighing as it goes, Shall put their graceful foliage on again, And more aspiring and with ampler spread Shall boast new charms, and more than they have lost. Then, each in its peculiar honours clad, Shall publish even to the distant eye Its family and tribe. Laburnum rich In streaming gold; syringa ivory pure; The scented and the scentless rose; this red And of a humbler growth, the other tall, And throwing up into the darkest gloom Of neighbouring cypress, or more sable yew, Her silver globes, light as the foamy surf That the wind severs from the broken wave; The lilac various in array, now white, Now sanguine, and her beauteous head now set With purple spikes pyramidal, as if Studious of ornament, yet unresolved Which hue she most approved, she chose them all; Copious of flowers the woodbine, pale and wan, But well compensating their sickly looks With never-cloying odours, early and late; Hypericum all bloom, so thick a swarm Of flowers like flies, clothing her slender rods, That scarce a leaf appears; mezereon too, Though leafless, well attired, and thick beset With blushing wreaths investing every spray; Althaea with the purple eye; the broom, Yellow and bright as bullion unalloyed Her blossoms; and luxuriant above all The jasmine, throwing wide her elegant sweets, The deep dark green of whose unvarnished leaf Makes more conspicuous, and illumines more The bright profusion of her scattered stars.— These have been, and these shall be in their day, And all this uniform uncoloured scene Shall be dismantled of its fleecy load, And flush into variety again. From dearth to plenty, and from death to life, Is Nature's progress when she lectures man In heavenly truth; evincing, as she makes The grand transition, that there lives and works A soul in all things, and that soul is God. The beauties of the wilderness are His, That make so gay the solitary place Where no eye sees them. And the fairer forms That cultivation glories in, are His. He sets the bright procession on its way, And marshals all the order of the year. He marks the bounds which Winter may not pass, And blunts his pointed fury. In its case, Russet and rude, folds up the tender germ Uninjured, with inimitable art, And, ere one flowery season fades and dies, Designs the blooming wonders of the next.

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