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1 EARLY the sun his radiant axle guides,
2 Sloping his steep course with the Pleiades;
3 On every fragant briar the flowret blooms,
4 And the wild woodlark chaunts his early song
5 In heedless carol, to the smiling Hours,
6 Young Maia's festive train; their wavy dance
7 She jocund leads, and from her horn profuse
8 Pours roses, violets, woodbines, eglantine,
9 Fair Flora's dower, what time the youthful Spring
10 Clasp'd her all-blushing in a secret bower:
11 Thou the mild offspring of their warm embrace,
12 Oh lovely May, and these thine heritage,
13 Which bounteous thou with an unsparing hand
14 Scatterest to all, tho' chief thou lov'st to deck
15 The village Phaebe's brow, and fairer far
16 Is thy adorning, than the sunny glow
17 Of eastern ruby, ill assorted grace
18 That decks not but deforms the faded cheek
19 Of the wan courtier. Far more raptur'd greets
20 Fancy's sond ear, where'er she musing roves,
21 Thy minstrelsy untutor'd, than the trill
22 And languid descant of Italian art.
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23 Yet sings the woodlark, and the hawthorn blooms,
24 Unheard the song, the fragrance unperceiv'd
25 By me; tho' not among the sons of men
26 There lives, who listens with more raptur'd ear,
27 Or feels more lively, Nature's varied boon.
28 For tho' confined in the city walls
29 To dwell with busy Care, and with him watch
30 The call of Interest, is my lot affix'd,
31 Far happier seems to me the peasant's life,
32 Who treads the furrow labouring, yet his mind
33 Vacant of thought can muse of what around
34 Strikes his rapt eye with beauty, or his ear
35 With pleasing song, than if a golden mine
36 Disclos'd its boundless treasures, but condemn'd
37 My carking thought, to watch the gilded mischief,
38 And cunningly devise t' increase the store.
39 Bereav'd of every pleasure Nature gives
40 Each plain but heart-felt rapture, what is wealth?
41 In artful mazes we but toil for bliss:
42 True Pleasure dwells not in the arched roof,
43 She sings no carol to the midnight ball;
44 The loaded board and Bacchus' flustering draughts
45 In vain are tryed, for ah she dwells not there!
46 She dwells not with such rude ill-manner'd mirth,
47 But seeks with her mild sister Chearfulness
48 The russet plain; there prompts the virgin's song,
49 Breathes the brisk carol from the cottage reed,
50 Strikes the quick tabor glad with echoing pulse,
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51 And animates the village holiday.
52 Nor then alone but when his honest labour
53 Calls the good swain, she early joins his step;
54 For the mild radiance of the opening dawn
55 Gives to her sight the wide-extended view
56 Of hill and dale, hoar forest, flowering heath,
57 Rich harvest, verdant meadow, where the stream
58 Rolls far its plenteous wave, and all around
59 To Pleasure's ear most grateful, thousand birds,
60 Lark, linnet, thrush, and thou of all the grove
61 The sweetest songster, witching Philomel,
62 Art rising to hymn out thy morning song.
63 Thou too at eve, when all his labour o'er,
64 He at the furrow's end unyokes the steer,
65 And seeks with weary step his rest at home,
66 Dost with thy tranquil warble sooth his soul;
67 Best prelude to the peace his cottage gives.
68 There at the door his numerous offspring watch
69 Their sire's return, and eager run to tell
70 The tyding of his coming, while his dame
71 Plys her glad evening care, to deck the board
72 With food uncater'd by the baleful hand
73 Of Luxury, and fittest to refresh
74 His toil-worn spirit, and her smiling welcome
75 Gives its due relish to the simple fare.
76 What are to this the proud luxurious feasts,
77 The City's boast, where distant colonies
78 Of East and Western worlds must be explor'd
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79 To strike the sickly palate's feeble sense
80 With faint delight? Oh what are all our joys,
81 Ev'n those of monarchs, to the thousand beauties
82 That strike the rapt soul of the rudest hind?
83 Can Art's best mimicry their form express?
84 Can rich Loraine mix up the glowing tint
85 Bright as Aurora? Can he form a shade
86 To strike the fancy with a gloom so solemn
87 As every thicket, copse, or secret grove
88 At twilight hour affords? Can savage Rosa
89 With aught so wildly noble fill the mind,
90 As where the ancient oak in the wood's depth
91 Has shed his leafy honours, and around
92 The woodman with fell axe has lower'd the pride
93 Of many a tall tree, he deserted stands
94 A barren trunk, while rude winds howl around,
95 And dreary torrents lash his naked limbs?
96 Mean time the rifting thunder dreadful roars,
97 The livid lightnings flash, and elements
98 Conjoin'd pour out their wrath, as if to rend
99 The lone, defenceless, aged, feeble oak.
100 Such scenes awake Imagination's powers
101 To sacred thought; such Rosa cannot paint;
102 'Tis his alone to show the shatter'd trunk:
103 The winds keen howl, the thunder's aweful sound,
104 The dreary rain, these mock the pencil's power.
105 Can aught of artful music sooth the soul
106 To so serene a temper, as the flight
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107 Of songsters in the grove? or can thy strain,
108 (Tho' there Enchantment strike the magic chord)
109 Oh matchless Purcell! with so wild a charm
110 Transport the mind, as when at dusk of eve
111 From the hoar battlement the lone owl's cry
112 Pierces the awful silence, and the fall'n
113 And time-worn hollow towers convey the sound
114 To the near wood, where in the devious path
115 Retired Fancy wanders, on her ear
116 The faint sound murmurs, strait the distant low
117 Of unyok'd heifer, strait the cuckow's note
118 She hears, while oft the roving Zephyr's tread
119 Rustling alarms her, and the measur'd step
120 Of the slow steer, who brushes thro' the thicket
121 To seek his food, beats duly regular.
122 As on he wanders, thro' the opening bower
123 He sees the pale moon rising; clouds on clouds
124 Pil'd mountainous awhile obstruct her beam,
125 Till labouring thence she lifts her silver brow,
126 And pours her full ray on the ivy'd steeple.
127 And hark its bell now tolls the minute knell,
128 And thro' the churchway path the surplic'd priest
129 Walks slowly forward, while the snowy pall
130 Covering the relicks of some love lorn virgin,
131 Passes with aweful pace along the glade.
132 Wrapt harmonist! what tho' thy studied chord
133 Can sound the slow knell, echo to the note
134 The lone owl utters, breathe the heifer's low,
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135 And mark the funeral step with pausing cadence,
136 And music can no more, where is the tower
137 O'er-hung with-ivy, seen by the pale moon,
138 Whose faint beam glimmers on the snowy pall?
139 Where are the rocky clouds from whence she breaks?
140 Yet do not these, does not the rustling breeze
141 And the slow-treading heifer add delight?
142 Do not accordant senses join to fill
143 The musing mind with calm and holy rapture?
144 And can the city by the utmost force
145 Of mimic art, with labour'd imitation
146 So soothe the soul, or give such mild delight?
147 Ye gay and sportive votaries of Joy,
148 Forgive the thoughtless Muse, for she has led me
149 To talk of pleasing horror, and the bliss
150 Which melancholy gives; ye cannot form
151 Amid the circling follies, which urge on
152 Your laughing hours, perhaps ye cannot form
153 A notion of these joys, and with a taunt
154 Of high contempt, despise the wild enthusiasm.
155 Yet on the well-trod stage have ye not seen
156 Your Roscius fired by the natural bard,
157 Immortal Shakespear, wander the bleak heath
158 A poor and outcast king, nor blame the winds
159 Whose keen tooth seiz'd his age, nor chide the elements
160 For their unkindness, while the ruffling storm
161 Tore the proud garments from his shivering trunk,
162 And the fierce lightnings fir'd his maddening brain?
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163 Have you not then felt horror? Would ye not
164 Change your rich pomp for Edgar's naked hovel,
165 And be the poor king's host? Have ye not wish'd
166 To range with Rosaline the forest wild,
167 Or live beneath the shelter of some oak
168 With melancholy Jaques? Tell me, why then
169 Ye look'd on wealth and greatness with a scorn?
170 Why but because the Muse with native strength
171 Pour'd truth on Fancy's eye; and yet the Muse
172 Can only boast in the most warm description
173 A faint resemblance, nor has she such force
174 To strike as Nature has. Alas! her voice
175 But wakes remembrance of our absent bliss;
176 And when she sings of incense-breathing Spring,
177 She wafts no odours to the longing sense,
178 But only prompts our sigh, that we must dwell
179 Confin'd in the full city, distant far
180 From every scene of rural innocence,
181 Whose woods, whose shades, whose storms, or funerals,
182 Ev'n raise a sense of pleasure. What can then
183 The brighter views, what can the happy hour
184 That gives the blushing bride to the true arms
185 Of faithful Damon? Thenot pleas'd revives
186 To former youth, and gayest of the day
187 Provokes the village mirth, and from his soul
188 Enjoys the spousal of his boy, who scarce
189 (O'ercome with rapture) can himself conduct
190 His festival; and but for busy Thenot,
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191 Each due right were neglected, and the guests
192 Unbidden by the tabor's sprightly sound
193 To seek the green, and in the jocund dance
194 Each maiden with her youth breathe sport and joy,
195 Save the still happier pair: their greater bliss
196 Fills the whole breast, nor leaves a vacant place
197 For lighter mirth. Unnotic'd speaks the pipe:
198 They hear no sound but the endearing voice
199 Of mutual love: they do not mark the joy
200 In every face around; for their attention,
201 Fix'd on each other, watches every glance
202 Diffused by the lovely languid eye.
203 Well may all else be unperceiv'd; for who
204 Observes bright Hesper dart his pointed ray,
205 When riding high mild Cynthia pours serene
206 Her steady beam. Oh tell me, when compar'd
207 To these true raptures, what's the shadowy pomp
208 And artful splendour, when the golden shackles
209 Fetter two venal souls, by interest call'd
210 To prostitute the ever-hallow'd rites
211 Of holy Hymen? On the village plain
212 Nought joins but mutual love; no sordid motive
213 Promotes unnatural union; but the flame
214 That first united glows throughout their life
215 A steady fire, whose unabating light
216 Gilds Youth with rapture, and with fostering warmth
217 Chears drooping Age, who smiling sees his offspring
218 Step forth to claim the joys he celebrates
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219 With annual hospitality, what time
220 The circling year brings round the happy day
221 That shower'd down blessings on him, when it gave
222 To his fond vow the willing Sylvia's charms,
223 Then blooming young, now hoary, but her heart
224 Unchang'd by time; for still the same desire
225 To add to every joy, or fondly soothe
226 Each woe he feels, reigns unabated there.
227 His social roof receives each welcome guest,
228 His open heart diffuses round his pleasure,
229 And each plain neighbour with unfeigning tongue
230 Congratulates his bliss. Who would not leave
231 For these sincere delights, the pageant pomp,
232 The rich array, the courtly formal speech
233 Unutter'd by the heart, the birth-day wish
234 Of venal hirelings, who for interest croud
235 The glittering levee? Happier (Reason deems
236 View'd in each light) the simple village life,
237 Than all that courtiers wish, or kings bestow.
238 Kings cannot give a boon of so rich price
239 As are thy smiles, O lovely Health! and thou
240 Shunning the tumult, to the rural green
241 Retirest. There, not built by mortal hand,
242 Stands on the southern slope of the fresh hill
243 Thy temple, from whose roof the eglantine
244 And vagrant woodbine hang; and at the porch
245 Sits thy good priestess Ease, administring
246 To Exercise (who up the gentle slope
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247 By moderate footing moves) the holy cup
248 Of Temperance, nymph of the crystal spring
249 That dwells beneath thy altar; and from thence
250 Warbling with gentle lapse joins the full stream,
251 That winding wild delays its silver course
252 In the rich mead, whose bank the peasant oft
253 Approaches to allay his thirst, and quaffs
254 The simple beverage from the limpid fount.
255 Bright virgin, thee of all the Powers who range
256 The rural plain, I woo with constant vow
257 Most ardent! Deign around my temples bind
258 Thy fragrant wreath, and deck my purpled cheek
259 With thy rich glow. Then undisturb'd the mind
260 Musing pursues its holy meditation,
261 And rapt in trance, can trace a thousand gifts
262 Shower'd by the gracious hand of Nature's King
263 To deck the various field. The wondering eye
264 Roams o'er the fair creation; then to heaven
265 Unbidden soars; for the full soul imprest
266 With holy transport, there directs its view
267 From whence its blessings flow, and the rapt voice
268 Accordant hymns the grateful song of praise.
269 The rapid gusts of passion, which or pride,
270 Or folly, or the thousand varying forms
271 Of courtly affectation ever raise,
272 Here all subside, and the composed breast
273 Expands with love, and to its utmost power
274 Diffuses blessings to mankind, nor fears
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275 Ingratitude should check, or pride should spurn
276 The offer'd bounties of the generous heart.
277 Bless'd be the day, and doubly bless'd the hour,
278 When my Fidele with unfeigned vow
279 Gave her fond hand, and own'd her constant love:
280 Tho' since that hour already thrice the sun
281 From every sign has seen our growing bliss;
282 And tho' thy smile of unaffected love
283 Adds joy to every joy, and charms to ease
284 The brow of Care; tho' thou art all that heaven
285 Could give in woman, tenderness, and truth,
286 And all my heart e'er wish'd, when warmest Fancy
287 Form'd the fond future view of houshold bliss;
288 Yet happier still perhaps our lot had been,
289 Hadst thou beneath the rural thatch receiv'd
290 My faithful vow, and we had never heard
291 Of town or city life; a Marian thou,
292 And rustic Corin I. Then on the plain
293 Contented we had pass'd Life's little day.
294 While Youth with sprightly beam illum'd her hours,
295 They would move on with joy; and when at noon
296 Firm Manhood call'd us forth to till the soil,
297 And with our labouring hand direct the plough,
298 We would be ready, nor refuse the task,
299 Due tribute to the public; till at eve
300 Our vigour lost, when Age came creeping on,
301 We would unyoke our heifers, and retire
302 To welcome ease, our best skill then employ'd
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303 At our own home; attentive there to thatch
304 The chinks which Time had made, and to root up
305 Each foul weed that deform'd our little plot.
306 This business over, calm we should attend
307 Th' approaching hour of our eternal rest;
308 And when it came, borne to our peaceful grave
309 By the plain villager; what tho' no tomb
310 Of sculptur'd marble call'd the passing eye
311 To read our story, yet the cottage tear
312 Should on our ashes fall, and the good heart
313 O'erflow sincerely for a neighbour lost:
314 Upon our bier the virgin troop would hang
315 Fresh-woven chaplets of the sweetest flowers:
316 Green turf should deck our grave; and every year
317 In spring-time would some friendly hand with care
318 Bind the fresh briar around, to guard the place
319 From the rude insult of the careless step;
320 And faithful Memory to late time record,
321 We were the happiest pair of human kind.


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About this text

Author: Anonymous
Themes: rural life; happiness; contentment; nature
Genres: blank verse; meditation
References: DMI 32506

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Source edition

Pearch, G. A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. II. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770, pp. 139-150. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1135; OTA K093079.002) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [(OC) 280 o.789].)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.