« PreviousContinue »
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix'd,
If cushion might be call’d, what harder seem'd 55
Than the firm oak, of which the frame was formed.
No want of timber then was felt or fear'd
In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood
Pond'rous and fix'd by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say,
An alderman of Cripplegate contrived;
And some ascribe th' invention to a priest
Burly, and big, and studious of his ease.
But rude at first, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs, 65
And bruis’d the side; and, elevated high,
Taught the rais'd shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elaps'd or e’er our rugged sires
Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease behind. The ladies first
70 'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex. Ingenious Fancy, never better pleas'd Than when employ'd taccommodate the fair, Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis’d The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
75 And in the midst an elbow it receiv'd, 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. 80 But relaxation of the lanquid frame, By soft recumbency of outstretch'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.
85 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. Aş sweetly he,
90 Who quits the coach-box at a 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;
95 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;
100 Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, are 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
105 Of libertine Excess. The Sofa suits The gouty limb, 'tis le: 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, 110 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;
115 And still remember, not without regret, Of hours, that sorrow since has much endear’d, How oft, my slice of pocket store consum’d, Still hung'ring, pennyless, and far from home, I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
120 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
Some youthful grace, that age would gladly keep;
A tooth or auburn lock, and by degrees
Their length and colour from the locks they spare;
The elastick 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 140
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 145
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 doubled long.
Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere, 150
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 155
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 plough slow moving, and beside 160
His lab’ring team, that swery'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
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,
Exhilirate the spirit, and restore
The tone of languid Nature. Mighty winds,
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,
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 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 sooth and satisfy the human ear.
Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one
The livelong night; nor these alone, whose notes
Nice-finger'd Art must emulate in vain,
But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime,
In still-repeated circles, screaming loud,
The jay, the pie, and e'en the boding owl,
That hails the rising moon, þave 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 weatherhouse, 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 coverft 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 seite forbids the wretch