« PreviousContinue »
as well as sights delightful. Another walk. These for the rich; the rest whom Fate had plac' Mistake concerning the charms of solitude cor- In modest mediocrity, content rected. Colonnades commended. Alcove, and With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides, the view from it. The wilderness. The grove. Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth, The thresher. The necessity and the bene- With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn, fits of exercise. The works of nature superior Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix'd, to, and, in some instances, inimitable by, art. If cushion might be call'd, what harder seem d The wearisomeness of what is commonly called 'Than the firm oak, of which the frame was form'd a life of pleasure. Change of scene sometimes No want of timber then was felt or fear'd expedient. A common described, and the cha- In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood racter of Crazy Kate introduced. Gypsies. Pond'rous and fix'd by its own massy weight. The blessings of civilized life. The state most But elbows still were wanting; these, some say, favorable to virtue. The South-Sea islanders An alderman of Cripplegate contriv'd; compassionated, but chiefly Omai. His present And some ascribe th' invention to a priest, state of mind supposed. Civilized life friendly Burly, and big, and studious of his ease. to virtue, but not great cities. Great cities, and But rude at first, and not with easy slope London in particular, allowed their due praises, Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs, but censured. Fête-champêtre. The book con- And bruis'd the side; and, elevated high, cludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of Taught the rais'd shoulders to invade the ears. dissipation and effeminacy upon our public mea- Long time elaps'd or ere our rugged sires Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in, And ill at ease behind. The ladies first 'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex. Ingenious Fancy, never better pleas'd
I SING the Sofa. I, who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity, and touch'd with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escap'd with pain from that advent'rous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
Th' occasion-for the Fair commands the song.
Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use,
Save their own painted skins, our sires had none.
As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth,
Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile:
The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Wash'd by the sea, or on the grav❜ly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearless of wrong, repos'd his weary strength.
Those barb'rous ages past, succeeded next
The birth-day of Invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created; on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms :
And such, in ancient halls and mansions drear,
May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eaten through and through.
At length a generation more refin'd
Improv'd the simple plan; made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuff'd,
Induc'd a splendid cover, green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tap'stry richly wrought
And woven close, or needle-work sublime.
There might ye see the piony spread wide,
The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.
Now came the cane from India smooth and bright
With Nature's varnish; sever'd into stripes,
That interlac'd each other, these supplied
Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd
The new machine, and it became a chair.
But restless was the chair; the back erect
Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease,
The slipp'ry seat betray'd the sliding part
'That press'd it, and the feet hung dangling down,
Anxious in vain to find the distant floor.
Than when employ'd t' accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis'd
The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow it received,
United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne,
And so two citizens who take the air,
Close-pack'd, and smiling, in a chaise and one
But relaxation of the languid frame,
By soft recumbency of out-stretch'd limbs,
Was bliss reserv'd for happier days. So slow
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
T" attain perfection in this nether world
Thus first Necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs,
And Luxury th' accomplish'd Sofa last.
The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick,
Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he,
Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour,
To sleep within the carriage more secure;
His legs depending at the open door.
Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk,
The tedious rector drawling o'er his head;
And sweet the clerk below. But neither sleep
Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead ;
Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour,
To slumber in the carriage more secure;
Nor sleep enjoy'd by curate in his desk;
Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, as sweet,
Compar'd with the repose the Sofa yields.
O may I live exempted (while I live
Guiltless of pamper'd appetite obscene)
From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe
Of libertine Excess. The Sofa suits
The gouty limb, 'tis true; but gouty limb,
Though on a Sofa, may I never feel:
For I have lov'd the rural walk through lanes
Of grassy swarth, close-cropp'd by nibbling sheep,
And skirted thick with intertexture firm
Of thorny boughs; have lov'd the rural walk
O'er hills, through valleys, and by rivers' brink
E'er since a truant boy. I pass'd my bounds,
T' enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames;
And still remember, nor without regret,
Of hours, that sorrow since has much endear'd
How oft, my slice of pocket-store consum d
Still hung'ring pe iniless, and far from home, I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
Or blushing crabs, or berries, that emboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere
Hard fare! but such as boyish appetite
Disdains not; nor the palate, undeprav'd
By culinary arts, unsav'ry deems.
No Sofa then awaited my return!
Nor Sofa then I needed. Youth repairs
His wasted spirits quickly, by long toil
Incurring short fatigue; and, though our years,
As life declines, speed rapidly away,
And not a year but pilfers as he goes
Their length and color from the locks they spare;
The elastic spring of an unwearied foot,
That mounts the stile with ease, or leaps the fence,
That play of lungs, inhaling and again
Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes
Swift pace or steep ascent no toil to me,
Mine have not pilfer'd yet; nor yet impair'd
My relish of fair prospect; scenes that sooth'd
Or charm'd me young, no longer young, I find
Still soothing, and of pow'r to charm me still.
and witness, dear companion of my walks,
Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive
Fast lock'd in mine, with pleasure such as love,
Confirm'd by long experience of thy worth
And well-tried virtues, could alone inspire-
Witness a joy that thou hast doubted long.
Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjur'd up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slacken'd to a pause, and we have borne
The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While Admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Thence with what pleasure have we just discern'd
The distant plow slow-moving, and beside
His lab'ring team, that swerv'd not from the track,
The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy!
Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er,
Conducts the eye along his sinuous course
Delighted. There, fast rooted in their bank,
Stand, never overlook'd, our fav'rite elms,
That screen the herdsman's solitary hut;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream,
That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale,
The sloping land recedes into the clouds;
Displaying on its varied side the grace
And all their leaves fast flutt'ring, all at once.
Nor less composure waits upon the roar
Of distant floods, or on the softer voice
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tow'r,
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the list'ning ear,
Groves, heaths, and smoking villages, remote.
Scenes must be beautiful, which daily view'd
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years,
Praise justly due to those that I describe.
Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit, and restore
The tone of languid Nature. Mighty winds,
That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood
Of ancient growth, make music not unlike
The dash of Ocean on his winding shore,
And lull the spirit while they fill the mind;
Unnumber'd branches waving in the blast,
Some youthful grace, that age would gladly keep; Nice-finger'd Art must emulate in vain, A tooth, or auburn lock, and by degrees
Of neighb'ring fountain, or of rills that slip
Through the cleft rock, and, chiming as they fall
Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length
In matted grass, that with a livelier green
Betrays the secret of their silent course.
Nature inanimate employs sweet sounds,
But animated nature sweeter still,
To soothe and satisfy the human ear.
Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one The livelong night: nor these alone, whose notes
But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime
In still repeated circles, screaming loud,
The jay, the pie, and ev'n the boding owl,
That hails the rising moon, have charms for me.
Sounds inharmonious in themselves and harsh,
Yet heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns
And only there, please highly for their sake.
Peace to the artist, whose ingenious thought
Devis'd the weather-house, that useful toy!
Fearless of humid air and gath'ring rains,
Forth steps the man-an emblem of myself!
More delicate his tim'rous mate retires.
When Winter soaks the fields, and female feet,
Too weak to struggle with tenacious clay,
Or ford the rivulets, are best at home,
The task of new discov'ries falls on me.
At such a season, and with such a charge,
Once went I forth; and found, till then unknown,
A cottage, whither oft we since repair :
"Tis perch'd upon the green hill top, but close
Environ'd with a ring of branching elms,
That overhang the thatch, itself unseen
Peeps at the vale below; so thick beset
With foliage of such dark redundant growth,
I call'd the low-roof'd lodge the Peasant's Nest
And, hidden as it is, and far remote
From such unpleasing sounds, as haunt the ear
In village or in town, the bay of curs
Incessant, clinking hammers, grinding wheels,
And infants clam'rous whether pleas'd or pain'd
Oft have I wish'd the peaceful covert mine.
Here," I have said, "at least I should possess
The poet's treasure, silence, and indulge
The dreams of fancy, tranquil and secure."
Vain thought! the dweller in that still retreat
Dearly obtains the refuge it affords.
Its elevated site forbids the wretch
To drink sweet waters of the crystal well:
He dips his bowl into the weedy ditch,
And, heavy laden, brings his bev'rage home,
Far fetch'd and little worth; nor seldom waits
Dependent on the baker's punctual call,
To hear his creaking panniers at the door,
Angry, and sad, and his last crust consum'd.
So farewell envy of the Peasant's Nest!
If solitude make scant the means of life
Society for me!-thou seeming sweet,
Be still a pleasing object in my view;
My visit still, but never mine abode.
Not distant far a length of colonnade
Invites us. Monument of ancient taste,
Now scorn'd, but worthy of a better fate.
Our fathers knew the value of a screen
From sultry suns; and in their shaded walks
And long-protracted bow'rs, enjoy'd at noon
The gloom and coolness of declining day
We bear our shades about us: self-depriv'd
Of other screen, the thin umbrella spread,
And range an Indian waste without a tree.
Thanks to Benevolus*-he spares me yet
These chestnuts rang'd in corresponding lines;
And, though himself so polish'd, still reprieves
The obsolete prolixity of shade.
Descending now (but cautious, lest too fast)
A sudden steep upon a rustic bridge,
We pass a gulf, in which the willows dip
Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink.
Hence, ancle-deep in moss and flow'ry thyme, '
We mount again, and feel at ev'ry step
Our foot half-sunk in hillocks green and soft,
Rais'd by the mole, the miner of the soil.
He, not unlike the great ones of mankind,
Disfigures Earth; and, plotting in the dark,
Toils much to earn a monumental pile,
That may record the mischiefs he has done.
The summit gain'd, behold the proud alcove That crowns it! yet not all its pride secures The grand retreat from injuries impress'd By rural carvers, who with knives deface The panels, leaving an obscure, rude name, In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss. So strong the zeal t' immortalize himself Beats in the breast of man, that ev'n a few, Few transient years, won from th' abyss abhorr'd' Of blank oblivion, seem a glorious prize, And even to a clown. Now roves the eye; And, posted on his speculative height, Exults in its command. The sheep-fold here Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe. At first progressive as a stream, they seek The middle field; but, scatter'd by degrees, Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land. There from the sun-burnt hay-field homeward creeps The loaded wain; while, lighten'd of its charge, The wain that meets it passes swiftly by; The boorish driver leaning o'er his team Vocif'rous, and impatient of delay. Nor less attractive is the woodland scene, Diversified with trees of ev'ry growth, Alike, yet various. Here the grey smooth trunks Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine, Within the twilight of their distant shades; There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood Seems sunk, and shorten'd to its topmost boughs. No tree in all the grove but has its charms, Though each its hue peculiar; paler some, And of a wannish gray; the willow such, And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf, And ash, far-stretching his umbrageous arm; Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still, Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak. Some glossy-leav'd, and shining in the sun, The maple, and the beach of oily nuts Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve Diffusing odors: nor unnoted pass The sycamore, capricious in attire, Now green, now tawny, and, ere Autumn yet Have chang'd the woods, in scarlet honors bright. O'er these, but far beyond (s spacious map Of hill and valley interpos'd between,) The Ouse, dividing the well-water'd land, Now glitters in the sun, and now retires, As bashful, yet impatient to be seen.
* John Courtney Throckmorton, Esq. of Weston Underwood.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short, And such the re-ascent; between them weeps A little naiad her impov'rish'd urn All summer long, which winter fills again. The folded gates would bar my progress now, But that the lordt of this inclos'd demesne, Communicative of the good he owns, Admits me to a share; the guiltless eye Commits no wrong, nor wastes what it enjoys. Refreshing change! where now the blazing Sun By short transition we have lost his glare, And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime. Ye fallen avenues! once moie I mourn Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice That yet a remnant of your race survives How airy and how light the graceful arch, Yet awful as the consecrated roof Re-echoing pious anthems! while beneath The chequer'd earth seems restless as a flood Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance Shadow and sun-shine intermingling quick, And dark'ning and enlight'ning, as the leaves Play wanton, ev'ry moment, ev'ry spot.
And now, with nerves new-brac'd and spirit: We tread the wilderness, whose well-roll'd walks, With curvature of slow and easy sweepDeception innocent-give ample space To narrow bounds. The grove receives us next; Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms We may discern the thresher at his task. Thump after thump resounds the constant flail That seems to swing uncertain, and yet falls Full on the destir d ear. Wide flies the chaff, The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist Of atoms, sparkling in the noon-day beam. Come hither, ye that press your beds of down, And sleep not; see him sweating o'er his bread Before he eats it.-"Tis the primal curse, But soften'd into mercy; made the pledge Of cheerful days, and nights without a groan.
By ceaseless action, all that is subsists.
Constant rotation of th' unwearied wheel,
That Nature rides upon, maintains her health,
Her beauty, her fertility. She dreads
An instant's pause, and lives but while she moves
Its own revolvency upholds the World.
Winds from all quarters agitate the air,
And fit the limpid element for use
Else noxious; oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams.
All feel the fresh'ning impulse, and are cleans'd
By restless undulation: ev'n the oak
Thrives by the rude concussion of the storm:
He seems indeed indignant, and to feel
Th' impression of the blast with proud disdain,
Frowning, as if in his unconscious arm
He held the thunder: but the monarch owes
His firm stability to what he scorns,
More fix'd below, the more disturb'd above.
The law, by which all creatures else are bound,
Binds man, the lord of all. Himself derives
No mean advantage from a kindred cause,
From strenuous toil his hours of sweetest ease.
The sedentary stretch their lazy length
When Custom bids, but no refreshment find,
For none they need: the languid eye, the cheek
Deserted of its bloom, the flaccid, shrunk,
And wither'd muscle, and the vapid soul.
+ See the foregoing note
Reproach their owner with that love of rest,
To which he forfeits ev'n the rest he loves.
Not such the alert and active. Measure life
By its true worth, the comforts it affords,
And theirs alone seems worthy of the name.
Good health, and, its associate in the most,
Good temper; spirits prompt to undertake,
And not soon spent, though in an arduous task;
The pow'rs of fancy and strong thought are theirs;
Ev'n age itself seems privileg'd in them
With clear exemption from its own defects.
A sparkling eye beneath a wrinkled front
The vet'ran shows, and, gracing a grey beard
With youthful smiles, descends toward the grave
Sprightly, and old almost without decay.
Like a coy maiden, Ease, when courted most,
Farthest retires-an idol, at whose shrine
Who oft'nest sacrifice are favor'd least.
The love of Nature, and the scenes she draws,
Is Nature's dictate. Strange! there should be found,
Who, self-imprison'd in their proud saloons,
Renounce the odors of the open field
For the unscented fictions of the loom;
Who, satisfied with only pencil'd scenes,
Prefer to the performance of a God
Th' inferior wonders of an artist's hand!
Lovely indeed the mimic works of Art;
But Nature's works far lovelier. I admire,
None more admires, the painter's magic skill,
Who shows me that which I shall never see,
Conveys a distant country into mine,
And throws Italian light on English walls:
But imitative strokes can do no more
Than please the eye-sweet Nature's, ev'ry sense.
The air salubrious of her lofty hills,
The cheering fragrance of her dewy vales,
And music of her woods-no works of man
May rival these; these all bespeak a pow'r
Peculiar and exclusively her own.
Beneath the open sky she spreads the feast;
"Tis free to all-'tis ev'ry day renew'd ;
Who scorns it starves deservedly at home.
He does not scorn it, who, imprison'd long
In some unwholesome dungeon, and a prey
To sallow sickness, which the vapors, dank
And clammy, of his dark abode have bred,
Escapes at last to liberty and light:
His cheek recovers soon its healthful hue;
His eye relumines its extinguish'd fires;
He walks, he leaps, he runs-is wing'd with joy,
And riots in the sweets of ev'ry breeze.
He does not scorn it, who has long endur'd
A fever's agonies, and fed on drugs.
Nor yet the mariner, his blood inflam'd
With acrid salts; his very heart athirst,
To gaze at Nature in her green array,
Upon the ship's tall side he stands, possess'd
With visions prompted by intense desire :
Fair fields appear below, such as he left
Far distant, such as he would die to find-
He seeks them headlong, and is seen no more.
The spleen is seldom felt where Flora reigns;
The low'ring eye, the petulance, the frown,
And sullen sadness, that o'ershade, distort,
And mar, the face of Beauty, when no cause
For such immeasurable woe appears,
That palls and satiates, and makes languid life,
A pedlar's pack, that bows the bearer down.
Health suffers, and the spirits ebb, the heart
Recoils from its own choice-at the full feast
Is famish'd-finds no music in the song,
No smartness in the jest; and wonders why.
Yet thousands still desire to journey on,
Though halt, and weary of the path they tread
The paralytic, who can hold her cards,
But cannot play them, borrows a friend's hand.
To deal and shuffle, to divide and sort
Her mingled suits and sequences; and sits,
Spectatress both and spectacle, a sad
And silent cipher, while her proxy plays.
Others are dragg'd into the crowded room
Between supporters; and, once seated, sit,
Through downright inability to rise,
Till the stout bearers lift the corpse again.
These speak a loud memento. Yet ev'n these
Themselves love life, and cling to it, as he,
That overhangs a torrent, to a twig.
They love it, and yet lothe it, fear to die,
Yet scorn the purposes for which they live.
Then wherefore not renounce them? No-the dread,
The slavish dread of solitude, that breeds
Reflection and remorse, the fear of shame,
And their invet rate habits, all forbid.
Whom call we gay? That honor has been long
The boast of mere pretenders to the name.
The innocent are gay-the lark is gay,
That dries his feathers, saturate with dew,
Beneath the rosy cloud, while yet the beams
Of day-spring over-shoot his humble nest.
The peasant too, a witness of his song,
Himself a songster, is as gay as he.
But save me from the gaiety of those,
Whose head-aches nail them to a noon-day bed;
And save me too from theirs, whose haggard eyes
Flash desperation, and betray their pangs
For property stripp'd off by cruel chance;
From gaiety, that fills the bones with pain,
The mouth with blasphemy, the heart with woe.
The Earth was made so various, that the mind
Of desultory man, studious of change,
And pleas'd with novelty, might be indulg'd.
Prospects, however lovely, may be seen
Till half their beauties fade; the weary sight,
Too well acquainted with their smile, slides off
Fastidious, seeking less familiar scenes.
Then snug inclosures in the shelter'd vale,
Where frequent hedges intercept the eye,
Delight us; happy to renounce awhile,
Not senseless of its charms, what still we love,
That such short absence may endear it more.
Then forests, or the savage rock may please,
That hides the seamew in his hollow clefts
Above the reach of man. His hoary head,
Conspicuous many a league, the mariner,
Bound homeward, and in hope already there,
Greets with three cheers exulting. At his waist
A girdle of half-wither'd shrubs he shows,
And at his feet the baffled billows die.
The common, overgrown with fern, and rough
With prickly gorse, that, shapeless and deform'd
And dangerous to the touch, has yet its bloom,
And decks itself with ornaments of gold,
Yields no unpleasing ramble; there the turf
These Flora banishes, and gives the fair
Sweet smiles, and bloom less transient than her own. Smells fresh, and, rich in odorif'rous herbs
It is the constant revolution, stale
And tasteless, of the same repeated joys,
And fungous fruits of earth, regales the sense
With luxury of unexpected sweets.