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But there I láid 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 marvellid 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 enamour'd of the life I loy'd,
Pathetic in its praise, in its pursuit
Determin’d, and possessing it at last
With transports, such as favour'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 th’ 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,
And all can taste them: minds that have been formid
And tutor'd, with a relish more exact,
But none without some relish, none unmov'd.
It is a flame, that dies not even there,
Where nothing feeds it; neither business, crowds,
Nor habits of luxurious city-life,
Whatever else they smother of true worth
In human bosoms, quench it or abate.
The villas with which London stands begirt,
Like a swarth Indian with his belt of beads,
Prove it. A breath of unadult'rate air,
The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer
The citizen, and brace his languid frame!
E'en in the stifling bosom of the town
A garden, in which nothing thrives, has charms,
That sooth the rich possessor; much consolid,
That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint,
Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well
He cultivates. These serve him with a hint,
That nature lives ; that sight-refreshing green
Is still the liv'ry she delights to wear,
Though sickly samples of th’exub'rant whole.
What are the casements lin'd with creeping herbs,
The prouder sashes fronted with a range
Of orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed,
The Frenchman's darling ?* are they not all proofs,
That man, immur'd in cities, still retains
His in-born, inextinguishable thirst
Of rural scenes, compensating his loss
By supplemental shifts, the best he may ?
The most unfurnish'd with the means of life,
And they, that never pass their brick-wall bounds,
To range the fields, and treat their lungs with air,
Yet feel the burning instinct: over head
Suspend their crazy boxes, planted thick
And water'd duly. There the pitcher stands
A fragment, and the spoutless tea-pot there;
Sad witnesses how close-pent man regrets
The country, with what ardour he contrives
at Nature, when he can no more.
Hail, therefore, patroness of health and ease,
And contemplation, heart-consoling joys,
And harmless pleasures, in the throngd abode
Of multitudes unknown; hail, rural life!
Address himself who will to the pursuit
Of honours, or emolument, or fame;
I shall not add myself to such a chase,
Thwart his attempts, or envy
Some must be great. Great offices will have
Great talents. And God gives to ev'ry man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche be was ordain'd to fill.
To the deliv’rer of an injur'd land
He gives a tongue t' enlarge upon, a heart
To feel, and courage to redress her wrongs;
To monarchs dignity ; to judges sense;
To artists ingenuity and skill;
To me, an unambitious mind, content
In the low vale of life, that early felt
A wish for ease and leisure, and ere long
Found here that leisure, and that ease I wish'd.
ARGUMENT OF THE FIFTH BOOK.
A frosty morning. The foddering of cattle. The woodman and his dog.
---The poultry ---Whimsical effects of frost at a waterfall --The Empress of Russia's palace of ice.--Amusements of monarchs.--War, one of them.--Wars, whence.---And whence monarchy. The evils of it.---English and French loyalty contrasted.---The Bastile, and a pris oner 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 free.--His relish of the works of God. --Address to the Creator.
'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
Slides 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 That I myself am but a fleeting shade, Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance I view the muscular proportion'd limb 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, Prepostrous sight! the legs without the man. 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, And, fledg’d with icy feathers, nod superb. The cattle mourn in corners, where the fence Screens them, and seem half petrified to sleep In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait Their wonted fodder; not like hung’ring man, Fretful if unsupplied; but silent, meek, And patient of the slow-pac'd swain's delay. He from the stack carves out th' 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 needless care, Lest storms should overset the leaning pile Deciduous, or its own unbalanc'd weight. Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcern'd The cheerful haunts of man; to wield the axe, And drive the wedge, in yonder forest drear, From morn to eve his solitary task. Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears, 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