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Spent on ignoble toils their active powers, And with untimely blasts diseased their vernal hours.
Even they to whom kind Nature did accord
Of beastly Comus loathing they declined,
For choice them needed none, who only sought With vain amusements to beguile the day; And wherefore should they take or care or thought, [play? Whom Nature prompts, and Fortune calls to 'Lords of the earth, be happy as ye may!' So learn'd, so taught the leaders of mankind; The' unreasoning vulgar willingly obey, And leaving toil and poverty behind, Ranforth by different ways the blissful boon to find.
Nor tedious was the search; for every where,
Saluting the return of morning bright
Offering her evening vows to Pleasure's joyous powers.
And ever on the way mote he espy
Men, women, children, a promiscuous throng Of rich, poor, wise and simple, low and high, By land, by water, passing aye along
With mummers, antics, music, dance, and song,
And every gay desire with various joys supplied.
So turning from that beaten road aside,
Whose high-raised brows, with silvan honours Majestically frown'd upon the plain, [graced, And over all an awful horror cast:
Seem'd as those villas gay it did disdain, Which spangled all the vale like Flora's painted train.
The hill ascended straight, erewhile they came To a tall grove, whose thick-embowering shade, Impervious to the sun's meridian flame,
Even at mid-noon a dubious twilight made;
Beneath this high o'er-arching canopy
Of birds sweet echoing through the lonely shade, On to the centre of the grove they stray'd; Which, in a spacious circle opening round, Within its sheltering arms securely laid, Disclosed to sudden view a vale profound, With Nature's artless smiles and tranquil beauties crown'd.
There on the basis of an ancient pile,
Whose cross-surmounted spire o'erlook'd the
A venerable matron they ere-while
The which her changing cheer by turns express'd, Now glowing with disdain, with grief now overkest 52.
Her thus immersed in anxious thought profound, When-as the knight perceived, he nearer drew; To weet what bitter bale did her astound, And whence the' occasion of her anguish grew. For that right noble matron well he knew; And many perils huge, and labours sore, Had for her sake endured; her vassal true, Train❜d in her love, and practised evermore Her honour to respect, and reverence her lore.
O dearest drad! (he cried) fair island queen! Mother of heroes! empress of the main ! What means that stormy brow of troublous teen? Sith 53 heaven-born Peace, with all her smiling Of sciences and arts, adorns thy reign [train With wealth and knowledge, splendour and renown?
Each port how throng'd! how fruitful every plain! How blithe the country! and how gay the town! While liberty secures and heightens every boon!' Awaken'd from her trance of pensive woe
By these fair flattering words, she raised her head; And, bending on the knight her frowning brow, 'Mock'st thou my sorrows, fairy son? (she said) Or is thy judgment by thy heart misled
To deem that certain which thy hopes suggest? To deem them full of life and lustihead 54, Whose cheeks in Hebe's vivid tints are dress'd, And with joy's careless mien and dimpled smiles impress'd?
52 Overkest, for overcast.
54 Lustihead, strong health, vigour.
53 Sith, since.
Thy unsuspecting heart how nobly good I know how sanguine in thy country's cause! And mark'd thy virtue, singly how it stood The' assaults of mighty Custom, which o'erawes The faint and timorous mind, and oft withdraws From Reason's lore the' ambitious and the vain By the sweet lure of popular applause, Against their bitter knowledge to maintain The lawless throne of Vice, or Folly's childish reign. How vast his influence, how wide his sway! Thyself ere-while by proof didst understand; And saw'st, as through his realms thou took'st thy way,
How vice and folly had o'erspread the land. And canst thou then, O fairy son, demand The reason of my woe? or hope to ease The throbbings of my heart with speeches bland, And words more apt my sorrows to increase, The once dear names of wealth, and liberty, and peace?
'Peace, wealth, and liberty, that noblest boon, Are blessings only to the wise and good: To weak and vicious minds their worth unknown, And thence abused, but serve to furnish food For riot and debauch, and fire the blood With high-spiced luxury; whence Strife, Debate, Ambition, Envy, Faction's viperous brood, Contempt of order, manners profligate, The symptoms of a foul, diseased, and bloated state.
Even Wit and Genius, with their learned train Of Arts and Muses, though from heaven above Descended, when their talents they profane To varnish folly, kindle wanton love,