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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 i
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, ankle 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 minor of the soil. .
He, not unlike the great ones of mankind,
Disfigures Earth: and, plotting in the dark,
* John Courtney Throckmorton, Esq. of Weston Underwood.
Toils much to earn a monumental pile
That may record the mischief 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
280 By rural carvers, who with knives deface The panels, leaving an obscure, rude name, In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss. So strong the zeal † immortalize himself Beats in the breast of man, that e'en a few, 285 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 this speculative height, Exults in its command. The sheepfold 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 sunburnt hayfield homeward creeps The loaded wain; while, lighten'd of its charge, 296 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,
300 Diversified with trees of ev'ry growth, Alike, yet various. Here the gray 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 305 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 beech of oily nuts
Prolifick, and the lime at dewy eve
Diffusing odours: nor unnoted pass
The sycamore, capricious in attire,'
Now green, now tawny, and, ere autumn yet
Have chang’d the woods, in scarlet honours bright. 320
O'er those, but, far beyond (a 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.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short;
And such the reascent; 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 lord* of this enclos'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? 335
By short transition we have lost his glare,
And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime.
Ye fallen avenues! once more 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 checker'd earth seems restless as a flood
Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light 345
Shot through the boughs, it dances and they dance,
Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
And dark’ning, and enlightning, as the leaves
Play wanton, ev'ry moment, ev'ry spot.
And now, with nerves new brac'd and spirits cheer'd,
* See the foregoing note.
We tread the wilderness, whose well-rolled walks, 351
With curvature of slow and easy sweep-
Deception innocent-give ample space
To narrow bounds. The grove receives us next;
Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms 355
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 destin'd ear. Wide flies the chaff,
The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist
Of atoms, sparkling in the noonday beam.
Come hither, ye that press your beds of down,
And sleep not; seeing him sweating o'er his bread
Before he eats it.—'Tis the primal curse,
But soften’d into mercy; made the pledge
365 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 whilst 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, 375
All feel the fresh’ning impulse, and are cleans'd
By restless undulation: e’en 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, 380
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, 385
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, 390 For none they need: the languid eye, the cheek Deserted of its bloom, the flaccid, shrunk, And wither'd muscle, and the vapid soul, Reproach their owner with that love of rest, To which he forfeits e’en the rest he loves. 395 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,
400 And not soon spent, though in an arduous task; The pow’rs of fancy and strong thought are theirs; E’en age itself seems privileg'd in them With clear exemption from its own defects. A sparkling eye beneath a wrinkled front
405 The vet’ran shows, and, gracing a gray beard With youthful smiles, descends toward the grave Sprightly, and old almost without decay.
Like a coy maiden, Ease, when courted most, Furthest retires—an idol, at whose shrine
410 Who oft ’nest sacrifice are favour'd least. The love of Nature, and the scenes she draws, Is nature's dictate. Strange! there should be found, Who, sell-imprison'd in their proud saloons, Renounce the odours of the open field
415 For the unscented fictions of the loom; Who, satisfied with only pencill’d scenes, Prefer to the performance of a God Th’ inferiour wonders of artist's hand! Lovely indeed the mimick works of Art; But Nature's works far lovelier. I admire, None more admires the painter's magick 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