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With rank defilement overspread,
Bewail their flowery beauties dead;
The stream polluted, dark, and dull,
Diffused into a Stygian pool,
Through life's last melancholy years
Is fed with ever-flowing tears,
Complaints supply the zephyr's part,
And sighs that heave a breaking heart.
A POETICAL EPISTLE TO LADY AUSTEN.
DEC. 17, 1781.
Dear Anna--between friend and friend,
Prose answers every common end;
Serves, in a plain and homely way,
To express the occurrence of the day;
Our health, the weather, and the news,
What walks we take, what books we choose,
And all the floating thoughts we find
Upon the surface of the mind.
But when a poet takes the pen,
Far more alive than other men,
He feels a gentle tingling come
Down to his finger and his thumb,
Derived from nature's noblest part,
The centre of a glowing heart :
And this is what the world, who knows
No flights above the pitch of prose,
His more sublime vagaries slighting,
Denominates an itch for writing.
No wonder I, who scribble rhyme
To catch the triflers of the time,
And tell them truths divine and clear,
Which, couch'd in prose, they will not hear;
Who labour hard to allure and draw
The loiterers I never saw,
Should feel that itching and that tingling
With all my purpose intermingling,
To your intrinsic merit true,
When call'd to address myself to you.
Mysterious are His ways, whose power
Brings forth that unexpected hour,
When minds, that never met before,
Shall meet, unite, and part no more :
It is the allotment of the skies,
The hand of the Supremely Wise,
That guides and governs our affections,
And plans and orders our connexions ;
Directs us in our distant road,
And marks the bounds of our abode.
Thus we were settled when you found us,
Peasants and children all around us,
Not dreaming of so dear a friend,
Deep in the abyss of Silver-End. *
Thus Martha, even against her will,
Perch'd on the top of yonder hill;
And you, though you must needs prefer
The fairer scenes of sweet Sancerre, t.
Are come from distant Loire, to choose
A cottage on the banks of Ouse.
This page of Providence quite new,
And now just opening to our view,
Employs our present thoughts and pains
To guess, and spell, what it contains :
But day by day, and year by year,
Will make the dark enigma clear;
And furnish us, perhaps, at last,
Like other scenes already past,
With proof, that we, and our affairs,
Are part of a Jehovah's cares :
For God unfolds, by slow degrees,
The purport of his deep decrees;
Sheds every hour a clearer light
In aid of our defective sight;
And spreads, at length, before the soul
A beautiful and perfect whole,
Which busy man's inventive brain
Toils to anticipate, in vain. * An obscure part of Olney, adjoining to the residence of Cowper, which faced the market-place. † Lady Austen's residence in France.
Say, Anna, had you never known The beauties of a rose full blown, Could you, though luminous your eye, By looking on the bud descry, Or guess, with a prophetic power, The future splendour of the flower ? Just so, the Omnipotent, who turns The system of a world's concerns, From mere minutiæ can educe Events of most important use, And bid a dawning sky display The blaze of a meridian day. The works of man tend, one and all, As needs they must, from great to small; And vanity absorbs at length The monuments of human strength. But who can tell how vast the plan Which this day's incident began ? Too small, perhaps, the slight occasion For our dim-sighted observation ; It pass'd unnoticed, as the bird That cleaves the yielding air unheard, And yet may prove, when understood, A harbinger of endless good.
Not that I deem, or mean to call Friendship a blessing cheap or small; But merely to remark, that ours, Like some of nature's sweetest flowers, Rose from a seed of tiny size, That seem'd to promise no such prize ; A transient visit intervening, And made almost without a meaning, (Hardly the effect of inclination, Much less of pleasing expectation,) Produced a friendship, then begun, That has cemented us in one ; And placed it in our power to prove, By long fidelity and love, That Solomon has wisely spoken,“A threefold cord is not soon broken.”
TO THE REV. MR. NEWTON,
RECTOR OF ST. MARY WOOLNOTH,
MAY 28, 1782.
Says the Pipe to the Snuff-box, I can't understand
What the ladies and gentlemen see in your face, That you are in fashion all over the land,
And I am so much fallen into disgrace. Do but see what a pretty contemplative air
I give to the company,-pray do but note 'em,You would think that the wise men of Greece were
all there, Or, at least, would suppose them the wise men of
Gotham. My breath is as sweet as the breath of blown roses,
While you are a nuisance where'er you appear ; There is nothing but sniveling and blowing of noses,
Such a noise as turns any man's stomach to hear. Then lifting his lid in a delicate way,
And opening his mouth with a smile quite engaging, The Box in reply was heard plainly to say,
What a silly dispute is this we are waging ! If you have a little of merit to claim,
You may thank the sweet-smelling Virginian weed; And I, if I seem to deserve any blame,
The before-mentioned drug in apology plead. Thus neither the praise nor the blame is our own,
No room for a sneer, much less a cachinnus; We are vehicles, not of tobacco alone,
But of any thing else they may choose to put in us.
Close by the threshold of a door nail'd fast
Three kittens sat; each kitten look'd aghast;
I passing swift and inattentive by,
At the three kittens cast a careless eye,
Not much concern’d to know what they did there,
Not deeming kittens worth a poet's care.
But presently a loud and furious hiss
Caused me to stop, and to exclaim “ What's this ?”
When lo! upon the threshold met my view,
With head erect, and eyes of fiery hue,
A viper, long as Count de Grasse's queue.
Fortħ from his head his forked tongue he throws,
Darting it full against a kitten's nose,
Who having never seen, in field or house,
The like, sat still and silent as a mouse ;
Only projecting, with attention due,
Her whisker'd face, she ask'd him, “Who are you ?”
On to the hall went I, with pace not slow,
But swift as lightning, for a long Dutch hoe,
With which well arm’d I hasten’d to the spot,
To find the viper,—but I found him not ;
And turning up the leaves, and shrubs around,
Found only, that he was not to be found.
But still the kittens, sitting as before,
Sat watching close the bottom of the door.
“I hope,” said I, “ the villain I would kill
Has slipp'd between the door and the door sill ;
And if I make despatch, and follow hard,
No doubt but I shall find him in the yard;"
For long ere now it should have been rehearsed,
'Twas in the garden that I found him first.
Even there I found him, there the full-grown cat
His head, with velvet paw, did gently pat,
As curious as the kittens erst had been
To learn what this phenomenon might mean.
Fill’d with heroic ardour at the sight,
And fearing every moment he would bite,
And rob our household of our only cat
That was of age to combat with a rat,
With outstretch'd hoe I slew him at the door,
And taught him NEVER TO COME THERE NO MORE.