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THE TASK.

BOOK V

THE WINTER MORNING WALK.

ARGUMENT OF THE FIFTH BOOK, A frosty morning—The foddering of cattle-The woodman and

his dog–The poultry-Whimsical effects of a frost at a waterfall -The empress of Russia's palace of ice--Amusements of mo narchs-War, one of them-Wars, whence And whence monarchy The evils of it-English and French loyalty contrasted — The Bastile, and a prisoner there-Liberty the chief recommendation of this country-Modern patriotism questionable, and why-The perishable nature of the best human institutions -Spiritual liberty not perishable-The slavish state of man by nature-Deliver him, Deist, if you can-Grace must do it-The respective merits of patriots and martyrs stated–Their different treatment—Happy freedom of the man whom grace makes freeHis relish of the works of God-Address to the Creator.

5

'TIS morning; and the sun, with ruddy orb
Ascending, fires th’ 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
Slidos ineffectual down the snowy vale,
And, tinging all with his own rosy hue,
From ev'ry herb and ev'ry spiry blade
Stretches a length of shadow o'er the field.
Mine spindling into longitude immense,
In spite of gravity, and sage remark

10

That I myself am but a fleeting shado,
Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance,
I view the muscular proportion'd limb

15
Transform'd to a lean shank. The shapeless pair,
As they design'd to mock me, at my side,
Take step for step ; and, as I near approach
The cottage, walk along the plaster'd wall,
Prepost'rous sight! the legs without the man. 20
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,

25 And, fledg’d with icy feathers, nod superb.

The cattle mourn in corners, where the fence
Screens tiem, and seem half petrified to sleep
In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait
Their wonted fudder; not like hung'ring man, 30
Fretful if unsupplied; but silent, meek,
And patient of the slow-pac'd swain's delay.
He from the stack carves out the accustom'd 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 ncedless carc,
Lest storm should overset the leaning pilo
Deciduous, or its own unbalanc'd weight.

40
Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcern'd
The cheerful haunts of man; to wield the axo,
And drive the wedge, in yonder forest drear,
From morn to eve his solitary task.
Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears 45
And tail cropp'd 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-scamp'ring, snatches up the drifted snow
With iv'ry teeth, or ploughs it with his snout ; 50

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Then shakes nis powder'd coat, and barkstfor 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
T' adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube, 55
That fumes beneath his nose : the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.
Now from the roost, or from the neighb’ring palo
Where diligent to catch the first faint gleam
Of smiling day, they gossip'd side by side, 60
Come trooping at the housewife's well known call
The feather'd tribes domestick. 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 shelt'ring eaves, 65
To seize the fair occasion ; well they eye
The scatter'd grain, and thievishly resolv'd
T'escape th' iinpending fainine, often scar'd
As oft return-a pert voracious kind.
Clean riddance quickly made, one only care

70
Remains to each, the scarch of sunny nook,
Or shed impervious to the blast. Resign'd
To sad necessity, the cock foregoes
His wonted strut; and, wading at their head
With well-consider'd steps, seems to resent 75
His alter'd gait, and stateliness retrench'd.
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; th' imprison'd worm is
safe

80 Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs Lie cover'd close ; and berry-bearing thorns, That feed the thrush, (whatever some suppese,) Afford the smaller minstrels no supply. The long-protracted rigour of the year

85 Thins all their num'rous 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 90
Repays their labour more ; and perch'd aloft
By the way-side, or stalking in the path,
Lcan pensioners upon the trav'ller’s track,
Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them,
Of voided pulse or half-digested grain.

95
The streams are lost amid the splendid blank,
O'erwhelming all distinction. On the flood,
Indurated and fix'd, the snowy weight
Lies undissolvèd ; while silently beneath,
And unperceiv'd, the current steals away.

100
Not so where, scórnful 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,

105
That in its fall the liquid sheet throws wide.
And see where it has hung the embroider'd banks
With forms so various, that no pow'rs of art,
The pencil, or the pen, may trace the scene !
Here glitt'ring turrets rise, 'upbearing high, 110
(Fantastick misarrangement !) on the roof
Large growth of what may seem the sparkling trees
And shrubs of fairy land. The crystal drops
That trickled down the branches, fast congeald,
Shoot into pillars of pellucid length,

115
And prop the pile they but adorn'd before.
Here grotto within grotto sa fe defies
The sunbeam ; there, emboss'd and fretted wild,
The growing wonder takes a thousand shapes
Capricious, in which fancy seeks in vain

120 The likeness of some object seen before.

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(Thus Nature works as if to mock at Art,

And in defiance of her rival pow'rs ;
By these fortuitous and ran som strokes
Performing such inimitable feats,

125

As she with all her rules can never reach.
Less worthy of applause, though more admir'd,
Because a novelty, the work of man,
Imperial mistress of the fur-clad Russ,
Thy most magnficent and mighty freak,

130
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 Aristæus found

135 Cyrene, when he bore the plaintive tale Of his lost bees to her maturnal car: In such a palace poetry might place The armoury of Winter; where his troops, The gloomy clouds, find weapons, arrowy sleet

140 Skin-piercing volley, blossom-bruising lail, And snow, that often blinds the trav'ller's course, And wraps him in an unexpected tomb. Silently as a dream the fabrick rose ; No sound of hammer or of saw was there : 145 Ice upon ice, the well-adjusted parts Were soon conjoin'd, nor other cement ask'd Than water interfus'd, to make them one. Lamps gracefully dispos'd, and of all hues, Illumind ev'ry side : a wat’ry light

150 Gleam'd through the clear transparency, that soem'd Another moon new ris'n, or meteor sallin From Heav'n to Eartn, of lambent flame serono So stood the brittle prodigy ;, though smooth And slipp’ry the materials, yet frost-bound 155 Firm as a rock. Nor wanted aught within That royal residence might well befit, For grandeur or for use. Long wavy wreaths Of flow'rs that fear'd no enemy but warmth, Blush'd on the pannels. Mirror needed none

16e Where all was vitreous ; but in order due Convivial table and commodious seat (What seem'd at least commodious seat) were thero

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