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THE TASK.

BOOK I.

THE SOFA.

ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST BOOK. Historical deduction of seats, from the Stool to the Sofa-A

Schoolboy's ramble- A walk in the country-The scene described-Rural sounds as well as sights delightful-Another walk-Mistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected Colonnades commended-- Alcove, and the view from it-The wilderness-The grove-The thresher-The necessity and be. nefit of exercise- The works of nature superiour to, and in some instances inimitable by,art-The wearisoineness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure-Change of scene sometimes expedient- A common described, and the character of crazy Kate introduced --Gipsies-The blessings of civilized life-That state most favourable to virtue-The South Sea islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai-His present state of mind supposed-Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities-Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praise, but censured-Fête champêtre- The book concludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our pubic measures.

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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 adventurous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
The 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 gravelly bank

* See Poems, Vol. I.

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Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud, Fearless of wrong, repos’d his weary strength. 15 Those barbarous 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 20 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,

25 And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found, By worms voracious eating 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,

30
And o’er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuff'd,
Induced a plendid cover, green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tapestry 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,
Lap-dog 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 interlaced 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;. 45 The slipp’ry seat betrayed the sliding part That press’d it, and the feet hung dangling down, Anxious in vain to find the distant floor. These for the rich; the rest, whom Fate had plac'd In modest mediocrity, content With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides,

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