Page images
PDF

One drop of Heav'n's sweet mercy in his cup,
Can dig, beg, rot, and perish, well content, 805
So he may wrap himself in honest rags
At his last gasp; but could not for a world
Fish up his dirty and dependent bread

From pools and ditches of the commonwealth, i Sorded and sick’ning at his own success.

810 Ambition, avarice, penury, incurr'd By endless riot, vanity, the lust Of pleasure and variety, despatch As duly as the swallows disappear, The world of wand'ring knights and squires to town. ' London ingulfs them all! The shark is there, 816 And the shark's prey; the spendthrift and the leech That sucks him; there the sycophant, and he Who, with bareheaded and obsequious bows, Begs a warm office, doom'd to a cold jail

820 And groat per diem, if his patron frown. The levee swarms, as if in golden pomp Were character'd on ev'ry statesman's door, Batter'd and bankrupt fortunes mended here." These are the charms that sully and eclipse 825 The charms of nature.' 'Tis the cruel gripe, That lean, hard-handed poverty inflicts, The hope of better things, the chance to win, The wish to shine, the thirst to be amus’d, That at the sound of Winter's hoary wing 830 Unpeople all our countries of such herds' , Of flutt'ring, loit'ring, cringing, begging, loose, And wanton, vagrants, as make London, vast And boundless as it is, a crowded coop. O thou resort and mart of all the earth,

835 Checker'd with all complexions of mankind, And spotted with all crimes; in whom I see Much that I love, and more that I admire, And all that I abhor; thou freckled fair, That please st and yet shock'st me! I can laugh, 840 And I can weep, can hope and can despond

Feel wrath and pity, when I think on thee!
Ten righteous would have sav'd a city once,
And thou hast many righteous.-Well for thee
That salt preserves thee; more corrupted else,
And therefore more obnoxious, at this hour,
Than Sodom in her day had pow'r to be,
For whom God heard his Abr’ham plead in vain.

[ocr errors]

THE TASK.

BOOK IV.

THE WINTER EVENING.

ARGUMENT OF THE FOURTH BOOK. The post comes in- The newspaper is read-The World contem plated at a distance-Address to Winter-The l'ural amusements of a winter evening compared with the fashionable ones--Address to evening- A brown study-Fall of snow in the evening -The wagoner- A poor family piece-The rural thief-Public houses-The multitude of them censured-The farmer's daughter: what she was,-what she is-The simplicity of country manners almost lost-Causes of the change-Desertion of the country by the rich--Neglect of the magistrates--The militia principally in fault--The new recruit and his transfor mation - Reflection on bodies corporate--The love of rural objects natural to all, and never to be totally extinguished.

daughter: The multitude of themThe rura! thief-Pnk

HARK! 'tis the twanging horn O'er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood; in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright:-
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks,
News from all nations lumb’ring at his back,
True to his charge, the close-pack'd load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destin'd inn;
And having dropp'd th' expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch.

10

25

Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indiff'rent whether grief or joy.

15
Houses in ashes; and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charg'd with am'rous sighs of absent swains, 20
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect :
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But 0, th' important budget! usher'd in
With such heart-shaking musick, who can say
What are its tidings? have our troops awak’d?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg’d,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantick wave
Is India free? and does she wear her plum'd
And jeweld turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,

30 The popular hárangue, the tart reply, "The logick, and the wisdom, and the wit, And the loud laugh-I long to know them all; I burn to set the imprison'd wranglers free, And give them voice and utt'rance once again.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn Throws up a steamy column, and the cups, That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each, So let us welcome peaceful ev'ning in. Not such his ev’ning, who with shining face Sweats in the crowded theatre, and squeez'd And bor'd with elbow points through both his sides, Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage: Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb, Anå his head thumps, to feed upon the breath Of patriots, bursting with hero ick rage, Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Which not e'en criticks criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break;
What is it, but a map of busy life,

55
Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns?
Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge,
That tempts Ambition. On the summit see
The seals of office glitter in his eyes;
He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels 60
Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
And with a dext'rous jerk soon twists him down,
And wins them, but to lose them in his turn.
Here rills of oily eloquence, in soft
Meanders lubricate the course they take;.
The modest speaker is asham'd and griev'd,
Tengross a moment’s notice; and yet begs,
Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts,
However trivial, all that he conceives.
Sweet bashfulness; it claims at least this praise: 70
The dearth of information and good sense
That it foretells us always comes to pass.
Cataracts of declamation thunder here;
Their forest:of no meaning spread the page,
In which all comprehension wanders lost;
While fields of pleasantry amuse us there
With merry descants on a nation's woes.
The rest appears a wilderness of strange
But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks,
And lillies for the brows of faded age,
Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald,
Heav'n, earth, and ocean, plundered of their sweets,
Nectareous essences, Olympian dews,
Sermons, and city feasts, and fav’rite airs,
Ætherial journeys, submarine exploits,
And Katterfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wond'ring for his bread.

'Tis pleasant through the loopholes of retreat,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »