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Weil'd in a simple robe, their best attire,
Beyond the pomp of dress; for loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
But is, when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most.
Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty's self,
Recluse amid the close embowering woods:
As in the hollow breast of Appenine,
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild;
So flourish'd, blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compell'd
By strong Necessity's supreme command,
With smiling Patience in her looks, she went
To glean Palemon's fields. The pride of swains
Palemon was! the generous, and the rich!
Who led the rural life in all its joy
And elegance, such as Arcadian song
Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times,
When tyrant custom had not shackled man,
But free to follow nature was the mode.
He then, his fancy with Autumnal scenes
Amusing, chanc'd beside his reaper-train
To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye,
Unconscious of her power, and turning quick,
With unaffected blushes, from his gaze:
He saw her charming, but he saw not half
The charms her downcast modesty conceal’d.
That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail'd, and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm Philosopher can scorn,
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field:
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh'd :
“What pity! that so delicate a form,
By beauty kindled, where enlivening sense,
And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown! She looks, methinks,
Of old Acasto's line, and to my mind
Recals that patron of my happy life,
From whom my liberal fortune took its rise,
Now to the dust gone down, his houses, lands,
And once fair-spreading family, dissolv’d.
'Tis said, that in some lone obscure retreat,
Urg’d by remembrance sad, and decent pride,
Far from those scenes which knew their better days,
His aged widow and his daughter live,
Whom yet my fruitless search could never find.
Romantic wish! would this the daughter were!"
When, strict enquiring, from herself he found She was the same, the daughter of his friend, Of bountiful Acasto; who can speak The mingled passions that surpris'd his heart, And through his nerves in shivering transport ran Then blaz'd his smother'd flame, avow’d, and bold, And as he view'd her, ardent, o'er and o'er,
Love, Gratitude, and Pity, wept at once.
Confus'd, and frighten’d at his sudden tears,
Her rising beauties flash'd a higher bloom,
As thus Palemon, passionate, and just,
Pour'd out the pious rapture of his soul:
“And art thou then Acasto's dear remains?
She, whom my restless gratitude has sought
So long in vain? O heavens! the very same,
The soften’d image of my noble friend;
Alive his every look, his every feature,
More elegantly touch'd. Sweeter than spring!
Thou sole surviving blossom from the root
That nourish’d up my fortune! Say, ah, where!
In what sequester'd desert, hast thou drawn
The kindest aspect of delighted heaven?
Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair,
Though poverty’s cold wind, and crushing rain,
Beat keen and heavy on thy tender years?
O let me now into a richer soil
Transplant thee safe! where vernal suns and show’rs
Diffuse their warmest, largest influence;
And of my garden be the pride and joy;
It ill befits thee, oh it ill befits
Acasto's daughter, his, whose open stores,
Though vast, were little to his ampler heart,
The father of a country, thus to pick
The very refuse of those harvest-fields,
Which from his bounteous friendship I enjoy!
Then throw that shameful pittance from thy hand,
But ill apply'd to such a rugged task;
The fields, the master, all, my fair! are thine,
If to the various blessings which thy house
Has on me lavish'd, thou wilt add that bliss,
That dearest bliss, the power of blessing thee!
Here ceas'd the youth: yet still his speaking eye
Express'd the sacred triumph of his soul,
With conscious virtue, gratitude, and love,
Above the vulgar joy divinely rais'd.
Nor waited he reply. Won by the charin
Of goodness irresistible, and all
In sweet disorder lost, she blush'd consent.
The news immediate to her mother brought,
While, pierc'd with anxious thought, she pin'd away
The lonely moments for Lavinia's fate?
Amaz'd, and scarce believing what she heard,
Joy seiz'd her wither'd veins, and one bright gleam
Of setting life shone on her evening hours:
Not less enraptur'd than the happy pair;
Who flourish'd long in tender bliss, and rear'd
A numerous offspring, lovely like themselves,
And good, the grace of all the country round.
Thou great first cause, least understood;
Who all my sense confin'd
To know but this, that thou art good,
And that myself am blind.
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And, binding-nature fast in fate,
Left free the human will.
What conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than hell to shun,
That more than heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
To enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth's contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round:
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land
On each I judge thy foe.