An ODE to CONTENTMENT.
By Mr. THOMAS COLE.
1 TO these lone shades, where Peace delights to dwell,
2 May Fortune oft permit me to retreat;
3 Here bid the world, with all its cares, farewel,
4 And leave its pleasures to the rich and great.
5 Oft as the summer's sun shall cheer this scene,
6 With that mild gleam which points his parting ray,
7 Here let my soul enjoy each eve serene,
8 Here share its calm, 'till life's declining day.
9 No gladsome image then should 'scape my sight,
10 From these gay flow'rs, which border near my eye,
11 To yon bright cloud, that decks, with richest light,
12 The gilded mantle of the western sky.
13 With ample gaze, I'd trace that ridge remote,
14 Where op'ning cliffs disclose the boundless main;
15 With earnest ken, from each low hamlet note
16 The steeple's summit peeping o'er the plain.
17 What various works that rural landscape fill,
18 Where mingling hedge-rows beauteous fields inclose;
19 And prudent Culture, with industrious skill,
20 Her chequer'd scene of crops and fallows shows?
21 How should I love to mark that riv'let's maze,
22 Through which it works its untaught course along;
23 Whilst near its grassy banks the herd shall graze,
24 And blithsome milkmaid chaunt her thoughtless song?
25 Still would I note the shades of length'ning sheep,
26 As scatter'd o'er the hill's slant brow they rove;
27 Still note the day's last glimm'ring lustre creep
28 From off the verge of yonder upland grove.
29 Nor should my leisure seldom wait to view
30 The slow-wing'd rooks in homeward train succeed;
31 Nor yet forbear the swallow to pursue,
32 With quicker glance, close skimming o'er the mead.
33 But mostly here should I delight t' explore
34 The bounteous laws of Nature's mystic pow'r;
35 Then muse on him who blesseth all her store,
36 And give to solemn thoughts the sober hour.
37 Let Mirth unenvy'd laugh with proud disdain,
38 And deem it spleen one moment thus to waste;
39 If so she keep far hence her noisy train,
40 Nor interrupt those joys she cannot taste.
41 Far sweeter streams shall flow from Wisdom's spring,
42 Than she receives from Folly's costliest bowl;
43 And what delights can her chief dainties bring,
44 Like those which feast the heavenly-pensive soul?
45 Hail Silence then! be thou my frequent guest;
46 For thou art wont my gratitude to raise,
47 As high as wonder can the theme suggest,
48 Whene'er I meditate my Maker's praise.
49 What joy for tutor'd Piety to learn,
50 All that my christian solitude can teach,
51 Where weak-ey'd Reason's self may well discern
52 Each clearer truth the gospel deigns to preach?
53 No object here but may convince the mind,
54 Of more than thoughtful honesty shall need;
55 Nor can Suspense long question here to find
56 Sufficient evidence to fix its creed.
57 'Tis God that gives this bow'r its aweful gloom;
58 His arched verdure does its roof invest;
59 He breathes the life of fragrance on its bloom;
60 And with his kindness makes its owner blest.
61 Oh! may the guidance of thy grace attend
62 The use of all thy bounty shall bestow;
63 Lest folly should mistake its sacred end,
64 Or vice convert it into means of woe.
65 Incline and aid me still my life to steer,
66 As conscience dictates what to shun or chuse;
67 Nor let my heart feel anxious hope or fear,
68 For aught this world can give me or refuse.
69 Then shall not wealth's parade one wish excite,
70 For wretched state to barter peace away;
71 Nor vain ambition's lure my pride invite,
72 Beyond Contentment's humble path to stray.
73 What tho' thy wisdom may my lot deny,
74 The treasur'd plenty freely to dispense;
75 Yet well thy goodness can that want supply
76 With larger portions of benevolence.
77 And sure the heart that wills the gen'rous deed,
78 May all the joys of Charity command;
79 For she best loves from notice to recede,
80 And deals her unsought gifts with secret hand.
81 Then will I sometimes bid my fancy steal,
82 That unclaim'd wealth no property restrains;
83 Soothe with fictitious aid my friendly zeal,
84 And realize each godly act she feigns.
85 So shall I gain the gold without alloy;
86 Without oppression, toil, or treach'rous snares;
87 So shall I know its use, its pow'r employ,
88 And yet avoid its dangers and its cares.
89 And spite of all that boastful wealth can do,
90 In vain would Fortune strive the rich to bless,
91 Were they not flatter'd with some distant view
92 Of what she ne'er can give them to possess.
93 E'en Wisdom's high conceit great wants would feel,
94 If not supply'd from Fancy's boundless store;
95 And nought but shame makes pow'r itself conceal,
96 That she, to satisfy, must promise more.
97 But tho' experience will not fail to show,
98 Howe'er its truth man's weakness may upbraid,
99 That what he mostly values here below,
100 Owes half its relish to kind Fancy's aid;
101 Yet should not Prudence her light wing command,
102 She may too far extend her heedless flight;
103 For Pleasure soon shall quit her fairy-land
104 If Nature's regions are not held in sight.
105 From Truth's abode, in search of kind deceit,
106 Within due limits she may safely roam;
107 If roving does not make her hate retreat,
108 And with aversion shun her proper home.
109 But thanks to those, whose fond parental care
110 To Learning's paths my youthful steps confin'd,
111 I need not shun a state which lets me share
112 Each calm delight that soothes the studious mind.
113 While genius lasts, his fame shall ne'er decay,
114 Whose artful hand first caus'd its fruits to spread;
115 In lasting volumes stampt the printed lay,
116 And taught the Muses to embalm the dead.
117 To him I owe each fair instructive page,
118 Where Science tells me what her sons have known;
119 Collects their choicest works from ev'ry age,
120 And makes me wise with knowledge not my own.
121 Books rightly us'd may ev'ry state secure:
122 From fortune's evils may our peace defend;
123 May teach us how to shun, or to endure,
124 The foe malignant, and the faithless friend.
125 Should rigid Want withdraw all outward aid,
126 Kind stores of inward comfort they can bring;
127 Should keen Disease life's tainted stream invade,
128 Sweet to the soul from them pure health may spring.
129 Should both at once man's weakly frame infest,
130 Some letter'd charm may still relief supply;
131 'Gainst all events prepare his patient breast,
132 And make him quite resign'd to live, or die.
133 For tho' no words can time or fate restrain;
134 No sounds suppress the call of Nature's voice;
135 Tho' neither rhymes, nor spells, can conquer pain,
136 Nor magic's self make wretchedness our choice,
137 Yet reason, while it forms the subtile plan,
138 Some purer source of pleasure to explore,
139 Must deem it vain for that poor pilgrim, man,
140 To think of resting 'till his journey's o'er;
141 Must deem each fruitless toil, by heav'n design'd
142 To teach him where to look for real bliss;
143 Else why should heav'n excite the hope to find
144 What balk'd pursuit must here for ever miss?