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THE TASK.

BOOK III.

THE GARDEN. '

ARGUMENT OF THE THIRD BOOK.

Self-recollection and reproof. — Address to domestic happiness. - Some

account of myself. - The vanity of many of their pursuits who are reputed wise. - Justification of my censures. - Divine illumination necessary to most expert philosopher. - The question, What is truth ? answered by other questions. - Domestic happiness addressed again. - Few lovers of the country. - My tame hare. - Occupations of a retired gentleman in his garden. - Pruning. - Framing. -Green-house. - Sowing of flower-seeds. --The country preferable to the town even in winter. - Reasons why it is deserted at that season. - Ruinous effects of gaming, and of expensive improvement. — Book concludes with an apostrophe to the metropolis.

As one, who long in thickets and in brakes
Entangled, winds now this way and now that
His devious course uncertain, seeking home ;
Or, having long in miry ways been foild
And sore discomfited, from slough to slough
Plunging, and half despairing of escape,
If chance at length he find a greensward smooth
And faithful to the foot, his spirits rise,
He cherups brisk his ear-erecting steed,
And winds his way with pleasure and with ease :
So I, designing other themes, and call'd
To adorn the Sofa with eulogium due,
To tell its slumbers, and to paint its dreams,
Have rambled wide: in country, city, seat
Of academic fame (bowe'er deserved)
Long held, and scarcely disengaged at last.
But now with pleasant pace a cleanlier road
I mean to tread: I feel myself at large,

Courageous, and refresh'd for future toil,
If toil await me, or if dangers new.

Since pulpits fail, and sounding boards reflect
Most part an empty, ineffectual sound,
What chance that I, to fame so little known,
Nor conversant with men or manners much,
Should speak to purpose, or with better hope
Crack the satiric thong ? 'Twere wiser far
For me, enamour'd of sequester'd scenes,
And charm'd with rural beauty, to repose,
Where chance may throw me, beneath elm or vine,
My languid limbs, when summer sears the plains,
Or, when rough winter rages, on the soft
And shelter'd sofa, while the nitrous air
Feeds a blue flame, and makes a cheerful hearth ;'
There, undisturb'd by folly, and apprised
How great the danger of disturbing her,
To muse in silence, or at least confine
Remarks that gall so many to the few,
My partners in retreat. Disgust conceald
Is ofttimes proof of wisdom, when the fault
Is obstinate, and cure beyond our reach.

Domestic happiness, thou only bliss Of Paradise that hast survived the fall! Though few now taste thee unimpair'd and pure, Or tasting, long enjoy thee, too infirm, Or too incautious, to preserve thy sweets Unmixt with drops of bitter, which neglect Or temper sheds into thy crystal cup; Thou art the nurse of virtue, in thine arms She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is, Heaven-born, and destined to the skies again. Thou art not known where pleasure is adored, That reeling goddess with the zoneless waist And wandering eyes, still leaning on the arm Of novelty, her fickle, frail support; For thou art meek and constant, hating change, And finding in the calm of truth-tried love Joys that her stormy raptures never yield. Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!

Till prostitution elbows us aside In all our crowded streets; and senates seem Convened for purposes of empire less Than to release the adulteress from her bond. The adulteress! what a theme for angry verse, What provocation to the indignant heart That feels for injured love! but I disdain The nauseous task to paint her as she is, Cruel, abandon'd, glorying in her shame. No. Let her pass, and, charioted along In guilty splendour, shake the public ways; The frequency of crimes has wash'd them white, And verse of mine shall never brand the wretch, Whom matrons now, of character unsmirch'd, And chaste themselves, are not ashamed to own. Virtue and vice had boundaries in old time, Not to be pass’d: and she, that had renounced Her sex's honour, was renounced herself By all that prized it; not for prudery's sake, But dignity's, resentful of the wrong. 'Twas hard perhaps on here and there a waif, Desirous to return, and not received, But 'twas a wholesome rigour in the main, And taught the unblemish'd to preserve with care That purity, whose loss was loss of all. Men, too, were nice in honour in those days, And judged offenders well. Then he that sharp'd, And pocketed a prize by fraud obtain'd, Was mark'd and shunn'd as odious. He that sold His country, or was slack when she required His every nerve in action and at stretch, Paid with the blood that he had basely spared The price of his default. But now, yes, now We are become so candid and so fair, So liberal in construction, and so rich In Christian charity, (good natured age !) That they are safe, sinners of either sex, Transgress what laws they may. Well dress’d, well bred, Well equipaged, is ticket good enough To pass us readily through every door. Hypocrisy, detest her as we may,

(And no man's hatred ever wrong'd her yet,)
May claim this merit still, — that she admits
The worth of what she mimics with such care,
And thus gives virtue indirect applause ;*
But she has burnt her mask, not needed here,
Where vice has such allowance, that her shifts
And specious semblances have lost their use.

I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since; with many an arrow deep infix'd
My panting side was charged, when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There was I found by one who had Himself
Been hurt by th' archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heal'd, and bade me live,
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene
With few associates, and not wishing more.
Here much I ruminate, as much I may,
With other views of men and manners now
Than once, and others of a life to come.
I see that all are wanderers, gone astray
Each in his own delusions; they are lost
In chase of fancied happiness, still woo'd
And never won. Dream after dream ensues,
And still they dream that they shall still succeed,
And still are disappointed ; rings the world
With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind,
And add two-thirds of the remaining half,
And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams - empty dreams. The million flit as gay
As if created only like the fly,
That spreads his motley wings in the eye of noon,
To sport their season, and be seen no more.
The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise,
And pregnant with discoveries new and rare.

* Hypocrisy is the constrained homage which vice pays to virtue. -DLA ROCHEFOUCAULD.

Some write a narrative of wars, and feats
Of heroes little known, and call the rant
A history ; describe the man, of whom
His own coevals took but little note,
And paint his person, character, and views,
As they had known him from his mother's womb.
They disentangle from the puzzled skein,
In which obscurity has wrapp'd them up,
The threads of politic and shrewd design
That ran through all his purposes, and charge
His mind with meanings that he never had,
Or, having, kept conceald. Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata ther
Extract a register, by which we learn,
That He who made it, and reveal'd its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
Some more acute, and more industrious still,
Contrive creation ; travel Nature up
To the sharp peak of her sublimest height,
And tell us whence the stars ; why some are fix'd,
And planetary some; what gave them first
Rotation, from what fountain flow'd their light.
Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life's poor shallow lamp
In playing tricks with Nature, giving laws
To distant worlds, and trifling in their own.
Is 't not a pity now, that tickling rheums
Should ever tease the lungs and blear the sight
Of oracles like these ? Great pity too,
That having wielded the elements, and built
A thousand systems, each in his own way,
They should go out in fume, and be forgot ?
Ah! what is life thus spent ? and what are they
But frantic, who thus spend it ? all for smoke
Eternity for bubbles proves at last
A senseless bargain. When I see such games
Play'd by the creatures of a Power, who swears
That He will judge the earth, and call the fool
To a sharp reckoning that has lived in vain ;

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