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Scenes rarely grac'd with rural manners now!
Time was when in the pastoral retreat
Th’ unguarded door was safe ; men did not watch
T' invade another's right, or guard their own.
Then sleep was undisturb'd by fear, unscar'd
By drunken howlings; and the chilling tale
of midnight murder was a wonder beard
With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes.
But farewell now to unsuspicious nights,
And slumbers unalarm'd! Now, ere you sleep,
See that your polish'd arms be prim'd with care,
And drop the night-bolt ;-ruffians are abroad ;
And the first larum of the cock's shrill throat
May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear
To horrid sounds of hostile feet within.
E’en daylight has its dangers ; and the walk
Through pathless wastes and woods, unconscious once
of other tenants than melodious birds,
Or barmless flocks, is hazardous and bold.
Lamented change! to which full many a cause
Invet'rate, hopeless of a cure, conspires,
The course of human things from good to ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
Increase of puw'r begets increase of wealth ;
Wealth luxury, and luxury excess ;
Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague,
That seizes first the opulent, descends
To the next rank contagious, and in time
Taints downward all the graduated scale
of order, from the chariot to the plough.
The rich, and they that have an arm to check
T'he license of the lowest in degree,
Desert their office; and themselver, intent
On pleasure, haunt the capital, and thus
To all the violence of lawless hands
Resign the seedes their presence might protect.
Authority herself not seldom sleeps,
Though resident, and witness of the wrong.
The plump convivial parson often bears
The magisterial sword in vain, and lays
Ilis rev'rence and his worship both to rest
On the same cushion of habitual sloth.
Perhaps timidity restrains his arm;
When he should strike he trembles, and sets free,
Hiinself enslav'd hy terrour of the band -
Th'audacious convict whom he dares not bind.
Perhaps though by profession ghostly pure,
He, too, may have his vice, and sometimes prove
Less dainty than becomes his grave outside
in lucrative concerns. Examine well
His milk-white hand; the palm is hardly clean-
But here and there an ugly sinutch appears.
Fon! 'twas a bribe that left it: he has touch'd
Corruption. Whoso seeks an audit here
Propitious, pays his tribute, game or fish,
Wild fowl or venison: and his errand speeds.
But faster far, and more than all the rest,
A noble cause, which none, who bears a spark
Of publick virtue, ever wisli'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 doff's his hat, and mumbiing 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,
ris 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.
He hates the field, in which no fife or drum
Attends him; drives his cattle to a march;
And sighs tor the smart comrades he has iest.
"Twere well if his exterior change were all-
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance and harmless manners too.
To swear, io game, to drink ; to show at home
By lewdness, idleness, and sabbath breach,
The great proficiency he made abroad ;
T'astonish, and to grieve his gazing friends;
To break some maiden's and his mother's heart:
To be a pest where he was useful once ;
Are his soul aim, and all his glory, now.
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 leagued with man
By regal warrant or self- join'd by bond
For intrest sake, or swarming into clans
Beneath one head for purposes of war,
Like flower's 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 publick 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
Against the charities of domestick life,
Incorporated, seem at once to lose
Their naturé; and, disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword's point, and dying the white robe
of innocent commercial Justice red.
Hence, too, the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all its majesty of thund'ring pomp,
Enchanting musick, and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school, where thoughtlessness is taught
On principle, where foppery atones
For folly, gallantry for ev'ry vice.
But slighled as it is, and by the great
Abandon'd, and, which still [ more regret,
Infected with the manners and the modes
It 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 lier poetick 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 .
Fatigued me, never weary of the pipe
of Tityrus, assembling, as he sang,
The rustick throng beneath his favirite 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 marvell'd much that, at so ripe an age
As twice seven years, his beauties had then first
Engag'd my wonder; and admiring stiil,
And still admiring, with regret suppos'd
The joy half lost, because not sooner found.
There, too, enamour'd of the life I lov'd,
Pathetick 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 reclaiin'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