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ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST BOOK. Historical deduction of seats, from the Stool to the Sofa-A Schoolboy's ramble-A walk in the country-The scene described --Rural sounds as well as sights delightful-Another walkMistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected-Colonnades commended--Alcove, and the view from it-The wilderness
The grove-The thresher-The necessity and benefit of exercise -The works of nature superiour to, and in some instances inimitable by, art-The wearigomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure--Change of scene sometimes expedient--A common described, and the character of crazy Kate introducedGipsies—The blessings of civilized life-That state most favourable to virtue--The South Sea islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai–His present state of mind supposed--Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities--Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praise, but censured-Fête champêtre-The book concludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public measures.
I SING the Sofa. I, who lately sang
Time was, when clothing, sumptuous or for use,
* See Poems, Vol. I.
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
25 And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found, By worms voracious eating through and through.
At length a generation more refin'd
Now came the cane from India, smooth and bright, With nature's varnish ; sever'd into stripes, 40 That interlac'd each other, these supplied Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd The new machine, and it became a chair. But restless was the chair; the back erect Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease ; 45 The slipp'ry seat betrayed the sliding part That press'd it, and the feet hung dangling down, Anxious in vain to find the distant floor. These for the rich; the rest, whom Fate had plac'd In modest mediocrity, content
50 With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
soft recumbency of outstretch'd limbs,
The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick, Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he, 90 Who quits the coach-box at a midnight hour, To sleep within the carriage more secure, His legs depending at the open door. Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk, The tedious rector drawling o'er his head ; 95 And sweet the clerk below, But neither sleep Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead; Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour To slumber in the carriage more secure; Nor sleep enjoy'd by curate in his desk;
100 Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, are sweet, Compar'd with the repose the Sofa yields.
I live exempted (while I live Guiltless of pamper'd appetite obscene) From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe
105 Of libertine Excess. The Sofa suits The gouty limb, 'tis true : but gouty limb, Though on a Sofa, may I never feel : For I have lov'd the rural walk through lanes Of grassy swarth, close cropp'd by nibbling sheep, 110 And skirted thick with intertexture firm Of thorny boughs; have lov'd the rural walk O'er hills, through valleys, and by rivers' brink, E'er since a truant boy I pass’d my bounds T' enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames ; 115 And still remember, not without regret, Of hours, that sorrow since has much endear'd, How oft, my slice of pocket store consum'd, Still hung'ring, pennyless, and far from home, I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
120 Or blushing crabs, or berries, that emboss The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere. Hard fare! but such as boyish appetite Disdains not; nor the palate, undeprav'd By culinary arts, unsav'ry deems.
No Sofa then awaited my return;
140 My relish of fair prospect; scenes that sooth'd Or charm'd me young, no longer young, I find Still soothing, and of pow'r to charm me still. And witness, dear companion of my walks, Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive 145 Fast lock'd in mine, with pleasure such as love, Confirm'd by long experience of thy worth And well-tried virtues, could alone inspire Witness a joy that thou hast doubled long. Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere, 150 And that my raptures are not conjur'd up To serve occasions of poetic pomp, But genuine, and art partner of them all. How oft upon yon eminence our pace Has slacken'd to a pause, and we have borne 155 The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew, While Admiration, feeding at the eye, And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene. Thence, with what pleasure have we just discern'd The distant plough slow moving, and beside 160 His lab'ring team, that swerv'd not from the track, The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy! Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain