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But faster far, and more than all the rest, A noble cause, which none who bears a spark Of public virtue, ever wish'd remov’d, Works the deplor'd and mischievous effect. 'Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d 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 ballotted, 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 perform’d, That instant he becomes the sergeant'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 form’d 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 plum'd helmet, with a grace; And, his three years of heroship expir’d,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
Man in society is like a flow'r 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 leagu'd with man By regal warrant, or self-join'd by bond For int’rest-sake, or swarming into clans Beneath one head for purposes of war, Like flow’rs selected from the rest, and bound And bundled close to fill some crowded vase, Fades rapidly, and, by compression marr’d, Contracts defilement not to be endur'd. Hence charter'd boroughs are such public plagues ; And burghers, men immaculate perhaps In all their private functions, once combin'd, Become a loathsome body, only fit For dissolution, hurtful to the main.
Hence merchants, unimpeachable of sin
But, slighted as it is, and by the great Abandon'd, and, which still I more regret, Infected with the manners and the modes I knew not once, the country wins me still. I never fram'd a wish, or form'd a plan, That flatter'd me with hopes of earthly bliss, But there I laid the scene. There early stray'd 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 pow'rs. No bard could please me but whose lyre was tun'd To nature's praises. Heroes and their feats Fatigu'd me, never weary of the pipe
Of Tityrus, assembling, as he sang, The rustic throng beneath his fav’rite beech. Then Milton had indeed a poet's charms: New to my taste, his Paradise surpass'd The struggling efforts of my boyish tongue To speak its excellence. I danc'd for joy. I marvel'd much, that, at so ripe an age As twice seven years, his beauties had then first Engag’d my wonder; and, admiring still, And still admiring, with regret suppos'd The joy half lost because not sooner found. There, too, enamor'd of the life I lov'd, Pathetic in its praise, in its pursuit Determin'd, and possessing it at last With transports such as favor'd lovers feel, I studied, priz'd, and wish'd that I had known, Ingenious Cowley! and, though now reclaim'd 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 retir'd; Though stretch'd at ease in Chertsey's silent bow'rs, Not unemploy’d; 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, Infus'd 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,