« PreviousContinue »
The naked negro, panting at the line,
Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine,
Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave,
And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam,
His first, best country, ever is at home.
And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare,
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Tho' patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind :
As different good, by art or nature given,
To different nations make their blessings even.
Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Still grants her bliss at labor's earnest call;
With food as well the peasant is supply'd
On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side;
And tho' the rocky-crested summits frown,
These rocks by custom, turn to beds of down.
From art more various are the blessings sent;
Wealth, commerce, honor, liberty, content.
Yet these each other's power so strong contest,
That either seems destructive of the rest.
Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails;
And honor sinks where commerce long prevails.
Hence every state to one lov'd blessing prone,
Conforms and models life to that alone.
Each to the fav'rite happiness attends,
And spurns the plan that aims at other ends;
Till carried to excess in each domain,
This fav'rite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
And trace them thro' the prospect as it lies :
Here for a while my proper cares resign'd,
Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind;
Like yon neglected shrub, at random cast,
That shades the steep, and sighs at every blast.
Far to the right, where Appenine ascends,
Bright as the summer, Italy extends ;-
Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side,
Woods over woods in gay theatric pride;
While oft some temple's mould'ring tops between With memorable grandeur mark the scene.
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast, . The sons of Italy were surely blest. Whatever fruits in different climes are found, That proudly rise, or humbly court the ground; Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear, Whose bright succession decks the varied year; Whatever sweets salute the northern sky With vernal leaves, that blossom but to die; These here disporting own the kindred soil, Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil; While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, And sensual bliss is all the nation knows. In florid beauty, groves and fields appear, Man seems the only growth that dwindles here. Contrasted faults thro' all his manners reign; Tho' poor, luxurious; tho' submissive, vain ; Tho' grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue; And ev'n in penance planning sins anew. All evils here contaminate the mind, That opulence departed leaves behind; For wealth was theirs, nor far remov'd the date, When commerce proudly flourish'd thro' the state: At her command the palace learnt to rise, Again the long-fall’n column sought the skies; The canvas glow'd, beyond e'en Nature warm, The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form: Till, more unsteady than the southern gale, Commerce on other shores display'd her sail ; While nought remain'd of all that riches gave, But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave : And late the nation found, with fruitless skill, Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet, still the loss of wealth is here supply'd By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride; From these the feeble heart and long-fallen mind An easy compensation seem to find.
Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade:
Processions form'd for piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in every grove.
By sports like these are all their cares beguild,
The sports of children satisfy the child :
Each nobler aim represt by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
While low delights succeeding fast behind,
In happier meanness occupy the mind :
As in those domes, where Cæsars once bore sway,
Defac'd by time, and tott'ring in decay,
There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed ;
And, wondering man could want the larger pile,
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul, turn from them, turn we to survey
Where rougher climes a dobler race display,
Where the black Swiss their stormy mansion tread,
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread;
No product here the barren hills afford,
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword.
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
But winter lingering chills the lap of May;
No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm, Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm. Tho'
poor the peasant's hut, his feasts tho' small, He sees his little lot the lot of all; Sees no contiguous palace rear its head, To shame the meanness of his humble shed; No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal, To make him lothe his vegetable meal; But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil, Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil. Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose, Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes; With patient angle trolls the finny deep, Or drives his vent'rous plough-share to the stecpi Vol. II.
Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way,
And drags the struggling sayage into day.
At night returning, every labour sped,
He sits him down the monarch of a shed;
Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys
His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze;
While his lov'd partner, boastful of her hoard,
Displays her cleanly platter on the board :
And haply too some pilgrim thither led,
With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
Thus every good his native wilds impart,
Imprints the patriot passion on his heart;
And e'en those ills that round his mansion rise,
Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies :
Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms,
And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms;
And as a child, when scaring sounds molest,
Clings close and closer to the mother's breast,
So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind's roar,
But bind him to his native mountains more.
Such are the charms to barren states assign'd;
Their wants hut few, their wishes all confin'd:
Yet let them only share the praises due,
If few their wants, their pleasures are but few;
For every want that stimulates the breast,
Becomes a source of pleasure when redrest,
Whence from such lands each pleasing science flies,
That first excites desire and then supplies.
Unknown to them when sensual pleasures cloy,
To fill the languid pause with finer joy;
Unknown those powers that raise the soul to flame,
Catch every nerve, and vibrate thro' the frame.
Their level life is but a mould'ring fire,
Unquench'd by want, unfann'd by strong desire;
Unfit for raptures, or if raptures cheer,
On some high festival of once a year,
In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire,
Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire.
But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow; Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low;
For, as refinement stops, from sire to son
Upalter'd, unimprov'd, the manners run;
And love's and friendship's finely-pointed dart
Fall blunted from each indurated heart.
Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast
May sit, like falcons cowering on the nest;
But all the gentler morals, such as play
Thro' life's more cultur'd walks, and charm the way,
These, far dispers'd on timorous pinions, fly
To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.
To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,
I turn; and France displays her bright domain ;
Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can please.
How often have I led thy sportive choir,
With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire !
Where shading elms along the margin grew,
And freshen'd from the wave the zephyr flew :
And haply, tho' my harsh touch falt'ring still,
But mock'd all tune, and marr'd the dancer's skill;
Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,
And dance forgetful of the noon-tide hour.
Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
Have led their children thro' the mirthful maze,
And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
Has frisk'd beneath the burden of threescore.
So blest a life these thoughtless realms display, Thus idly busy rolls their world away: Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear, For honor forms the social temper bere. Honor, that praise which real merit gains, Or e'en imaginary worth obtains, Here passes current; paid from hand to hand It shifts, in splendid traffic, round the land: From courts to camps, to cottages it strays, And all are taught an avarice of praise ; They please, are pleas'd, they give to get esteem, Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem.
But while this softer art their bliss supplies, It gives their follies also room to rise;