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THE TASK.

BOOK II.

THE TIME-PIECE.

ARGUMENT OF THE SECOND BOOK.

Reflections suggested by the conclusion of the former book

Peace among the nations recommended on the ground of their common fellowship in sorrow-Prodigies enumerated-Sicilian earthquakes-Man rendered obnoxious to these calamities by sin-God the agent in them-The philosophy that stops at secondary causes reproved-Our own late miscarriages accounted for-Satirical notice taken of our trips to Fontainbleau-But the pulpit, not satire, the proper engine of reformation-The Reverend Advertiser of engraved sermons-Petit.maitre parson-The good preacher--Picture of a theatrical clerical coxcomb--Story-tellers and jesters in the pulpit reproved- Apostrophe to popular applause-Retailers of an. cient philosophy expostulated with--Sum of the whole matter--Effects of sacerdotal mismanagement on the laity--Their folly and extravagance-The mischiefs of profusion--Profusion itself, with all its consequent evils, ascribed, as to its principal cause, to the want of discipline in the

universities.

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O FOR a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more! My ear is pain'd,
My soul is sick with ev'ry day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is fill'd.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart;
It does not feel for man; the natural bond
Of brotherhood is sever'd, as the flax,

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That falls asunder at the touch of fire.
He finds his fellow guilty of a skin
Not colour'd like his own; and having pow'r
T' enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause
Dooms and devotes him as a lawful prey.
Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other. Mountains interpos'd
Make enemies of nations, who had else
Like kindred drops been mingled into one.
Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
And worse than all, and most to be deplor’d,
And human nature's broadest, foulest blot,
Chains him, and tasks him, and exacts his sweat
With stripes, that Mercy with a bleeding heart,
Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast.
Then what is man? And what man, seeing this,
And having human feelings, does not blush,
And hang his head, to think himself a man?
I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To carry me, to fan me while I sleep,
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
That sinews bought and sold have ever earn’d.
No: dear as freedom is, and in my heart's
Just estimation priz'd above all price,
I had much rather be myself the slave,
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.
We have no slaves at home.—Then why abroad?
And they themselves, once ferried o'er the wave
That parts us, are emancipate and loos’d.
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free;
They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing.' Spread it, then,
And let it circulate through ev'ry vein
Of all your empire: that, where Britain's pow'r
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too.

Sure there is need of social intercourse,

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Benevolence, and peace, and mutual aid,
Between the nations, in a world that seems 50
To toll the death-bell of its own decease,
And by the voice of all its elements
To preach the gen’íal doom.* When were the winds
Let slip with such a warrant to destroy?
When did the waves so haughtily o’erleap

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Their ancient barriers, deluging the dry?
Fires from beneath, and meteorst from above,
Portentous, unexampled, unexplain’d,
Have kindled beacons in the skies; and th' old
And crazy Earth has had her shaking fits

60 More frequent, and foregone her usual rest. Is it a time to wrangle, when the props And pillars of our planet seem to fail, And Nature with a dim and sickly eyei To wait the close of all? But grant her end 65 More distant, and that prophecy demands A longer respite, unaccomplish'd yet; Still they are frowning signals, and bespeak Displeasure in his breast who smites the Earth Or heals it, makes it languish or rejoice.

70 And 'tis but seemly, that, where all deserve And stand expos’d by common peccancy To what no few have felt, there should be peace; And brethren in calamity should love. Alas for Sicily! rude fragments now

75 Lie scatter'd, where the shapely columns stood. Her palaces are dust. In all her streets The voice of singing and the sprightly chord Are silent. Revelry; and dance, and show, Suffer a syncope and solemn pause;

80 While God performs upon the trembling stage Of his own works his dreadful part alone. How does the earth receive him? with what signs

* Alluding to the calamities in Jamaica. † August 18, 1783.

Alluding to the fog that covered both Europe and Asia dar. ing the whole summer of 1783.

Op gratulation and delight her king?
Pours she not all her choicest fruits abroad,

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Her sweetest flow'rs, her aromatick gums,
Disclosing Paradise where'er he treads?
She quakes at his approach. Her hollow womb,
Conceiving thunders, through a thousand deeps
And fiery caverns roars beneath his foot.

90 The hills move lightly, and the mountains smoke, For he has touch'd them. From th’ extremest point Of elevation down into the abyss His wrath is busy, and his frown is felt. The rocks fall headlong, and the valleys rise,

95 The rivers die into offensive pools, And, charg'd with putrid verdure, breathe a gross And mortal nuisance into all the air. What solid was, by transformation strange, Grows fluid; and the fix'd rooted earth,

100 Tormented into billows, heaves and swells, Or with vortiginous and hideous whirl Sucks down its prey insatiable. Immense The tumult and the overthrow, the pangs And agonies of human and of brute

105 Multitudes, fugitive on ev'ry side, And fugitive in vain. The sylvan scene Migrates uplifted: and, with all its soil Alighting in far distant fields, finds out A new possessor, and survives the change.

110 Ocean has caught the frenzy, and upwrought To an enormous and o'erbearing height, Not by a mighty wind, but by that voice Which winds and waves obey, invades the shore Resistless. Never such sudden flood,

115 Upridg'd so high, and sent on such a charge, Possess'd an inland scene Where. now the throng That press’d the beach, and, hasty to depart, Look'd to the sea for safety? They are gone, Gone with the refluent wave into the deep- 120 A prince with half his people! Ancient tow’rs,

And roofs embattled high, the gloomy scenes
Where beauty oft and letter'd worth consume
Life in the unproductive shades of death,
Fall prone: the pale inhabitants come forth, 125
And, happy in their unforeseen release
From all the rigours of restraint, enjoy
The terrours of the day that sets them free.
Who, then, that has thee, would not hold thee fast,
Freedom! whom they that lose thee so regret,

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That e'en a judgment, making way for thee,
Seems in their eyes a mercy for thy sake?
Such evil Sin hath wrought; and such a flame
Kindled in Heav'n, that it burns down to Earth,
And in the furious inquest that it makes

135 On God's behalf, lays waste his fairest works. The very elements, though each he meant The minister of man, to serve his wants, Conspire against him. With his breath be draws A plague into his blood; and cannot use

140 Life's necessary means, but he must die. Storms rise t o'erwhelm him; or if stormy winds Rise not, the waters of the deep shall rise, And, needing none assistance of the storm, Shall roll themselves ashore, and reach him there. 145 The earth shall shake him out of all his holds, Or make his house kis grave: nor so content, Shall counterfeit the motions of the flood, And drown him in her dry and dusty gulfs. What then!-were they the wicked above all, 150 And we the righteous, whose fast-anchor'd isle Mov'd not, while theirs was rock'a, like a light skiff, The sport of every wave? No; none are clear, And none than we more guilty. But, where all Stand chargeable with guilt, and to the shafts

155 Of wrath obnoxious, God may choose his mark: May punish, if he please, the less, to warn The more malignant. If he spar'd not them,

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