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The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
; having lived a trifler, die a man.
Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell'd against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form'd for God alone,
For Heaven's high purposes and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker's pow'r and love.
'Tis well if look'd for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls that have long despised their heav'nly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years, employ'd with ceaseless care
In catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Invet'rate habits choke th' unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tend’rest part,
And, draining its nutritious pow'rs to feed
Their noxious growth, starve ev'ry better seed.
Not that I meant' approve or would enforce
A superstitious and monastic course :
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffic and the shades,
And may be fear'd amid the busiest scenes,
Or scorn'd where business never intervenes.
But 'tis not easy with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest pow'rs,
And in a world where (other ills apart)
The o: eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish fancy points the way,
To bid the pleadings of self-love be still,
Resign our own, and seek our Maker's will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there,
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by that sacred test;
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no fav'rite sin,
And search the themes important above all,
Ourselves, and our recov'ry from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind released
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increased,
How to secure in some propitious hour
The point of int'rest, or the post of power,
A soul serene, and equally retired,
From objects too much dreaded, or desired,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
Ye groves (the statesman at his desk exclaims, Sick of a thousand disappointed aims), My patrimonial treasure and my pride, Beneath your shades your grey possessor hide, Receive me, languishing for that repose The servant of the public never knows. Ye saw me once (ah, those regretted days, When boyish innocence was all my praise), Hour after hour delightfully allot To studies then familiar, since forgot, And cultivate a taste for ancient song, Catching its ardour as I mused along; Nor seldom, as propitious Heav'n might send, What once I valued and could boast, a friend, Were witnesses how cordially I press'd His undissembling virtue to my breast; Receive me now, not uncorrupt as then, Nor guiltless of corrupting other men, But versed in arts that, while they seem to stay A fallen empire, hasten its decay. To the fair haven of my native home, The wreck of what I was, fatigued I come, For once I can approve the patriot's voice, And make the course he recommends, my choice; We meet at last in one sincere desire, His wish and mine both prompt me to retire. 'Tis done—he steps into the welcome chaise, Lolls at his ease behind four handsome bays, That whirl away from bus'ness and debate The disencumber'd Atlas of the state.
A mind unnerved, and indisposed to bear The weight of subjects worthiest of her care, Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires, Must change her nature, or in vain retires,
An idler is a watch that wants both hands,
As useless if it goes, as when it stands.
Friends (for I cannot stint as some have done,
Too rigid in my views that name to one,
Though one, I grant it, in the gen'rous breast
Will stand advanced a step above the rest;
Flow'rs by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all),
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy's haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well-born, well-disciplined, who, placed apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And (though the world may think th' ingredients odd)
The love of virtue, and the fear of God |
Such friends prevent, what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustic as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene.
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman, his remark was shrewd—
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude 1
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper, Solitude is sweet.
Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumber'd pleasures, harmlessly pursued.
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands,
The grain, or herb, or plant, that each demands;
To cherish virtue in a humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create ;
To mark the matchless workings of the power
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth, the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet—
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of time.
Me poetry (or rather notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetic fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if, thus sequester'd, I may raise
A monitor's, though not a poet's praise,
And while I teach an art, too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
A RAVEN, while with glossy breast
Her new-laid eggs she fondly press'd,
And on her wicker-work high mounted,
Her chickens prematurely counted
(A fault philosopher might blame
If quite exempted from the same),
Enjoy'd at ease the genial day,
'Twas April as the bumpkins say,
The legislature call'd it May.
But suddenly a wind, as high
As ever swept a winter sky,
Shook the young leaves about her ears,
And fill'd her with a thousand fears,