Page images
PDF

Once on a time (so runs the fable) A country mouse, right hospitable, Receiv'd a town mouse at his board, Just as a farmer might a lord ; A frugal mouse upon the whole, Yet lov'd his friend; and had a soul, Knew what was handsome, and would do't, On just occasion, coute qui coute. He brought him bacon (nothing lean), Pudding, that might have pleas'd a dean; Cheese, such as men in Suffolk make, But wish'd it Stilton for his sake; Yet, to his guest tho' no way sparing, He eat himself the rind and paring. Our courtier scarce could touch a bit, But show'd his breeding and his wit ; He did his best to seem to eat, And cry'd, “ I vow you're mighty neat. " But Lord, my friend, this savage scene! les For God's sake, come, and live with men : " Consider, mice, like men, must die, " Both small and great, both you and I : Then spend your life in joy and sport, " (This doctrine, friend, I learn'd at court.").

The veriest hermit in the nation
May yield, God knows, to strong temptation.
Away they come, thro' thick and thin,
To a tall house near Lincoln's-Inn;
( Twas on the night of a debate,
When all their Lordships had sat late.)

Behold the place, where if a poet
Shin'd in description, he might show it;
Tell how the moon-beam trembling falls,
And tips with silver all the walls;
Palladian walls, Venetian doors,
Grotesco roofs, and stucco floors :
But let it, (in a word) be said,
The moon was up, and men a-bed,
The napkins white, the carpet red;
The guests withdrawn had left the treat,
And down the mice sat, tête à tête.

Our courtier walks from dish to dish,
Tastes for his friend of fowl and fish :

Tells all their names, lays down the law,
Que ça est bon ! Ah goutez ça!
" That jelly's rich, this malmsey healing,
“ Pray dip your whiskers and your tail in."
Was ever such a happy swain !
He stuffs and swills, and stuffs again,
" I'm quite asham'd-'tis mighty rude
" To eat so much--but all's so good.
“ I have a thousand thanks to give-
“: My lord alone knows how to live."
No sooner said, but from the ball
Rush chaplain, butler, dogs and all :
" A rat, a rat! clap to the door"-
The cat comes bouncing on the floor.
O for the heart of Homer's mice,
Or gods to save them in a trice!
(It was by providence they think,
For your damn'd stucco has no chink.)
"An't please your honour,” quoth the peasant,
“ This same desert is not so pleasant:
"Give me again my hollow tree,
"A crust of bread, and liberty !"

An Ecery written in a COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD.

(GRAY.) The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the gliinm'ring landscape on the sight, And all the air a solemn stillness holds;

Save where the beetle wings his drony flight, And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r The moping owl does to the moon complain

Of such as, wand'ring near her secret bow'r, Molest her ancient, solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade, · Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,

Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn, The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,

The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn, Or busy housewife ply her ev’ning care, .

No children run to lisp their sire's return, Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke :

How jocund did they drive their team afield ! How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, Their homely joys and destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile, The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Await alike th' inevitable hour :
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise,

Where thro' the long-drawn isle and fretted vault The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?

Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire :

Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd, Or wak'd to extasy the living lyre.

But knowledge to their eyes her ample page, Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;

Chill penury repress'd their noble rage, And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark, unfathom'd caves of ocean bear ;

Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast The little tyrant of his fields withstood :

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, Some CROMWELL guiltless of his country's blood.

Th'applause of list’ning senates to command, The threats of pain and ruin to despise,

To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;

Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide, To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,

Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray ;

Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. .

Yet, ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,

With uncough rhimes and shapeless sculpture deck'd, Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse, The place of fame and elegy supply :

And many a holy text around she strews, That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,

Left the warın precincts of the cheerful day, Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind

On some fond breast the parting soul relies, Some pious drops the closing eye requires :

Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries, Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee who, mindful of th’ unhonour'd dead,

If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall enquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him, at the peep of dawn,

• Brushing with hasty steps the dews away, To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

« There at the foot of yonder nodding beech, That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,

• His listless length at noon-tide would he stretch, * And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

• Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove;

• Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn, • Or crazd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

Along the heath, and near his fav’rite tree :

Another came; nor yet beside the rill, "Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.

" The next, with dirges due, in sad array, • Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.

- Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay, Gravid on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'

The EPITAPH.
HERE rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown:
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

« PreviousContinue »