[THE FARMER'S BOY; A RURAL POEM.]
Invocation, &c. Seed time. Harrowing. Morning walks. Milking. The Dairy. Suffolk Cheese. Spring coming forth. Sheep fond of changing. Lambs at play. The Butcher, &c.
v. 9. Invocation .... Simple character of Giles. v. 27. Euston in Suffolk, and its neighbourhood, the Scene. v. 45. Benevolent character of Giles's Master .... Spring begins. v. 63. Giles goes out to plow. v. 81. Harrowing .... Giles and his Horses rest. v. 99. Rooks. v. 117. Wood Scenery. v. 135. Various Birds .... Their song and appearance. v. 153. Bringing in of Cows to be milked. v. 171. Order of the Cows returning. v. 189. Milking. v. 207. The Dairy. v. 225. Suffolk Cheese. v. 243. Suffolk Cheese. v. 261. The procession of Spring. v. 279. Sheep .... Range of pasture. v. 297. Lambs at play. v. 315. Lambs at play. v. 333. Contrast of their near approaching fate. v. 351. Conclusion of the first Book.
1 O COME, blest Spirit! whatsoe'er thou art,
2 Thou rushing warmth that hovers round my heart,
3 Sweet inmate, hail! thou source of sterling joy,
4 That poverty itself cannot destroy,
5 Be thou my Muse; and faithful still to me,
6 Retrace the paths of wild obscurity.
7 No deeds of arms my humble lines rehearse,
8 No Alpine wonders thunder through my verse,[Page 4]
9 The roaring cataract, the snow-topt hill,
10 Inspiring awe, till breath itself stands still:
11 Nature's sublimer scenes ne'er charm'd mine eyes,
12 Nor Science led me through the boundless skies;
13 From meaner objects far my raptures flow:
14 O point these raptures! bid my bosom glow!
15 And lead my soul to ecstacies of praise
16 For all the blessings of my infant days!
17 Bear me through regions where gay Fancy dwells;
18 But mould to Truth's fair form what Memory tells.
19 Live, trifling incidents, and grace my song,
20 That to the humblest menial belong;
21 To him whose drudgery unheeded goes,
22 His joys unreckon'd as his cares or woes:
23 Though joys and cares in every path are sown,
24 And youthful minds have feelings of their own;
25 Quick springing sorrows, transient as the dew;
26 Delights from trifles, trifles ever new. [Page 5]
27 'Twas thus with GILES: meek, fatherless, and poor;
28 Labour his portion, but he felt no more;
29 No stripes, no tyranny his steps pursu'd;
30 His life was constant, cheerful, servitude;
31 Strange to the world, he wore a bashful look,
32 The Fields his study, Nature was his book;
33 And, as revolving SEASONS chang'd the scene
34 From heat to cold, tempestuous to serene,
35 Though every change still varied his employ,
36 Yet each new duty brought its share of joy.
37 Where noble GRAFTON spreads his rich domains,
38 Round Euston's water'd vale, and sloping plains,
39 Where woods and groves in solemn grandeur rise,
40 Where the kite brooding, unmolested flies;
41 The woodcock and the painted pheasent race,
42 And sculking foxes, destin'd for the chace;
43 There Giles, untaught and unrepining, stray'd
44 Through every copse, and grove, and winding glade;[Page 6]
45 There his first thoughts to Nature's charms inclin'd,
46 That stamps devotion on th' inquiring mind.
47 A little farm his generous Master till'd,
48 Who with peculiar grace his station fill'd;
49 By deeds of hospitality endear'd,
50 Serv'd from affection, for his worth rever'd:
51 A happy offspring blest his plenteous board,
52 His fields were fruitful, and his barns well stor'd,
53 And fourscore ewes he fed, a sturdy team,
54 And lowing kine that grazed beside the stream:
55 Unceasing industry he kept in view;
56 And never lack'd a job for Giles to do.
57 FLED now the sullen murmurs of the North,
58 The splendied raiment of the SPRING peeps forth;
59 Her universal green, and the clear sky,
60 Delight still more and more the gazing eye.
61 Wide o'er the fields, in rising moisture strong,
62 Shoots up the simple flower, or creeps along[Page 7]
63 The mellow'd soil; imbibing as it goes
64 Fresh sweets from frequent showers and evening dews;
65 That summon from its shed the slumb'ring ploughs,
66 While health impregnates every breeze that blows.
67 No wheels support the diving pointed share;
68 No groaning ox is doom'd to labour there;
69 No helpmates teach the docile steed his road;
70 (Alike unknown the plow-boy and the goad;)
71 But, unassisted through each toilsome day,
72 With smiling brow the plowman cleaves his way,
73 Draws his fresh parallels, and wid'ning still,
74 Treads slow the heavy dale, or climbs the hill:
75 Strong on the wing his busy followers play,
76 Where writhing earth-worms meet th' unwelcome day;
77 Till all is chang'd, and hill and level down
78 Assume a livery of sober brown:
79 Again disturb'd, when Giles with wearying strides
80 From ridge to ridge the ponderous harrow guides;[Page 8]
81 His heels deep sinking every step he goes,
82 Till dirt usurp the empire of his shoes.
83 Welcome green headland! firm beneath his feet;
84 Welcome the friendly bank's refreshing seat!
85 There, warm with toil, his panting horses browse.
86 Their shelt'ring canopy of pendent boughs,
87 Till rest, delicious, chase each transient pain,
88 And new-born vigour swell in every vein.
89 Hour after hour, and day to day succeeds,
90 Till every clod and deep-drawn furrow spreads
91 To crumbling mould; a level surface clear,
92 And strew'd with corn to crown the rising year;
93 And o'er the whole Giles once transverse again,
94 In earth's moist bosom buries up the grain.
95 The work is done; no more to man is give;
96 The grateful farmer trusts the rest to Heaven.
97 Yet oft with anxious heart he looks around,
98 And marks the first green blade that breaks the ground:[Page 9]
99 In fancy sees his trembling oats uprun,
100 His tufted barley yellow with the sun;
101 Sees clouds propitious shed their timely store,
102 And all his harvest gather'd round his door.
103 But still unsafe the big sowln grain below,
104 A fav'rite morsel with the rook and crow;
105 From field to field the flock increasing goes;
106 To level crops most formidable foes:
107 Their danger well the wary plunderers know,
108 And place a watch on some conspicuous bough;
109 Yet oft the sculking gunner by surprise
110 Will scatter death amongst them as they rise.
111 These, hung in triumph round the spacious field,
112 At best will but a short-lived terror yield:
113 Nor guards of property; (not penal law,
114 But harmless riflemen of rags and straw);
115 Familiariz'd to these, they boldly rove,
116 Nor heed such centinels that never move. [Page 10]
117 Let then your birds lie prostrate on the earth,
118 In dying posture, and with wings stretch'd forth;
119 Shift them at eve or morn from place to place,
120 And death shall terrify the pilfering race;
121 In the mid air, while circling round and round,
122 They'll call their lifeless comrades from the ground;
123 With quick'ning wing, and notes of loud alarm,
124 Warn the whole flock to shun the impending harm.
125 This task had Giles, in fields remote from home:
126 Oft has he wish'd the rosy morn to come.
127 Yet never fam'd was he nor foremost found
128 To break the seal of sleep; his sleep was sound:
129 But when at day-break summon'd from his bed,
130 Light as the lark that carol'd o'er his head,
131 His sandy way deep-worn by hasty showers,
132 O'er-arch'd with oaks that form'd fantastic bow'rs,
133 Waving aloft their tow'ring branches proud,
134 In borrow'd tinges from the eastern cloud,[Page 11]
135 (Whence inspiration, pure as ever flow'd,
136 And genuine transport in his bosom glow'd)
137 His own shrill matin join'd the various notes
138 Of Nature's music, from a thousand throats:
139 The blackbird strove with emulation sweet,
140 And Echo answer'd from her close retreat;
141 The sporting white-throat on some twig's end borne,
142 Pour'd hymns to freedom and the rising morn;
143 Stopt in her song perchance the starting thrush
144 Shook a white shower from the black-thorn bush,
145 Where dew-drops thick as early blossoms hung,
146 And trembled as the minstrel sweetly sung.
147 Across his path, in either grove to hide,
148 The timid rabbit scouted by his side;
149 Or bold cock-pheasant stalk'd along the road,
150 Whose gold and purple tints alternate glow'd.
151 But groves no further fenc'd the devious way;
152 A wide-extended heath before him lay,[Page 12]
153 Where on the grass the stagnant shower had run,
154 And shone a mirror to the rising sun,
155 (Thus doubly seen) lighting a distant wood,
156 Giving new life to each expanding bud;
157 Effacing quick the dewy foot-marks found,
158 Where prowling Reynard trod his nightly round;
159 To shun whose thefts 'twas Giles's evening care,
160 His feather'd victims to suspend in air,
161 High on the bough that nodded o'er his head,
162 And thus each morn to strew the field with dead.
163 His simple errand done, he homeward hies;
164 Another instantly its place supplies.
165 The clatt'ring dairy-maid immers'd in steam,
166 Singing and scrubbing midst her milk and cream,
167 Bawls out, "Go fetch the cows: ..." he hears no more;
168 For pigs, and ducks, and turkies, throng the door,
169 And sitting hens, for constant war prepar'd;
170 A concert strange to that which late he heard. [Page 13]
171 Straight to the meadow then he whistling goes:
172 With well-known halloo calls his lazy cows:
173 Down the rich pasture heedlessly they graze,
174 Or hear the summon with an idle gaze;
175 For well they know the cow-yard yields no more
176 Its tempting fragrance, nor its wint'ry store.
177 Reluctance marks their steps, sedate and slow;
178 The right of conquest all the law they know:
179 Subordinate they one by one succeed;
180 And one among them always takes the lead,
181 Is ever foremost, wheresoe'er they stray;
182 Allow'd precedence, undisputed sway;
183 With jealous pride her station is maintain'd,
184 For many a broil that post of honour gain'd.
185 At home, the yard affords a grateful scene,
186 For Spring makes e'en a miry cow-yard clean.
187 Thence from its chalky bed behold convey'd
188 The rich manure that drenching winter made,[Page 14]
189 Which pil'd near home, grows green with many a weed,
190 A promis'd nutriment for Autumn's seed.
191 Forth comes the Maid, and like the morning smiles;
192 The Mistress too, and follow'd close by Giles.
193 A friendly tripod forms their humble seat,
194 With pails bright scour'd, and delicately sweet.
195 Where shadowing elms obstruct the morning ray,
196 Begins their work, begins the simple lay;
197 The full-charg'd udder yields its willing streams,
198 While Mary sings some lover's amorous dreams;
199 And crouching Giles beneath a neighbouring tree
200 Tugs o'er his pail, and chants with equal glee:
201 Whose hat with tatter'd brim, of knap so bare,
202 From the cow's side purloins a coat of hair,
203 A mottled ensign of his harmless trade,
204 An unambitious, peaceable cockade.
205 As unambitious too that cheerful aid
206 The mistress yields beside her rosy maid;[Page 15]
207 With joy she views her plenteous reeking store,
208 And bears a brimmer to the dairy door;
209 Her cows dismiss'd, the luscious mead to roam,
210 Till eve again recall them loaded home.
211 And now the DAIRY claims her choicest care,
212 And half her household find employment there:
213 Slow rolls the churn, its load of clogging cream
214 At once foregoes its quality and name;
215 From knotty particles first floating wide
216 Congealing butter's dash'd from side to side;
217 Streams of new milk through flowing coolers stray,
218 And snow-white curd abounds, and wholesome whey.
219 Due north th' unglazed windows, cold and clear,
220 For warning sunbeams are unwelcome here.
221 Brisk goes the work beneath each busy hand,
222 And Giles must trudge, whoever gives command;
223 A Gibeonite, that serves them all by turns:
224 He drains the pump, from him the faggot burns;[Page 16]
225 From him the noisy hogs demand their food;
226 While at his heels run many a chirping brood,
227 Or down his path in expectation stand,
228 With equal claims upon his strewing hand.
229 Thus wastes the morn, till each still pleasure sees
230 The bustle o'er, and press'd the new-made cheese.
231 Unrivall'd stands thy country CHEESE, o Giles!
232 Whose very name alone engenders smiles;
233 Whose fame abroad by every tongue is spoke,
234 The well-known butt of many a flinty joke,
235 That pass like current coin the nation through;
236 And, ah! experience proves the satire true.
237 Provision's grave, thou ever craving mart,
238 Dependant, huge Metropolis! where Art
239 Her poring thousands stows in breathless rooms,
240 Midst pois'nous smokes and steams, and rattling looms;
241 Where Grandeur revels in unbounded stores;
242 Restraint, as slighted stranger at their doors! [Page 17]
243 Thou, like a whirlpool, drain'st the countries round,
244 Till London market, London price, resound
245 Through every town, round every passing load,
246 And dairy produce throngs the eastern road:
247 Delicous veal, and butter, every hour,
248 From Essex lowlands, and the banks of Stour;
249 And further far, where numerous herds repose,
250 From Orwell's brink, from Weveny, or Ouse.
251 Hence Suffolk dairy-wives run mad for cream,
252 And leave their milk with nothing but its name;
253 Its name derision and reproach pursue,
254 And strangers tell of "three times skim'd sky-blue."
255 To cheese converted, what can be its boast?
256 What, but the common virtues of a post!
257 If drought o'ertake if faster than the knife,
258 Most fair it bids for stubborn length of life,
259 And, like the oaken shelf whereon 'tis laid,
260 Mocks the weak efforts of the bending blade;[Page 18]
261 Or in the hog-trough rests in perfect spite,
262 Too big to swallow, and too hard to bite.
263 Inglorious victory! Ye Cheshire meads,
264 Or Severn's flow'ry dales, where plenty treads,
265 Was your rich milk to suffer wrongs like these,
266 Farewell your pride! farewell renowned cheese!
267 The skimmer dread, whose ravages alone
268 Thus turn the mead's sweet nectar into stone.
269 NEGLECTED now the early daisy lies;
270 Nor thou, pale primrose, bloom'st the only prize:
271 Advancing SPRING profusely spreads abroad
272 Flow'rs of all hues, with sweetest fragrance stor'd;
273 Where'er she treads, LOVE gladdens every plain,
274 Delight on tiptoe bears her lucid train;
275 Sweet Hope with conscious brow before her flies,
276 Anticipating wealth from Summer skies;
277 All Nature feels her renovating sway;
278 The sheep-fed pasture, and the meadow gay;[Page 19]
279 And trees, and shrubs, no longer budding seen,
280 Display the new-grown branch of lighter green;
281 On airy downs the shepherd idling lies,
282 And sees to-morrow in the marbled skies.
283 Here then, my soul, thy darling theme pursue,
284 For every day was Giles a SHEPHERD too.
285 Small was his charge; no wilds had tay to roam,
286 But bright enclosures circling round their home.
287 Nor yellow-blossom'd furze, nor stubborn thorn,
288 The heath's rough produce, had their fleeces torn;
289 Yet ever roving, ever seeking thee,
290 Enchanting spirit, dear Variety!
291 O happy tenants, prisoners of a day!
292 Releas'd to ease, to pleasure, and to play;
293 Indulg'd through every field by turns to range,
294 And taste them all in one continual change.
295 For through luxuriant their grassy food,
296 Sheep long confin'd but loathe the present good;[Page 20]
297 Instinctively they haunt the homeward gate,
298 And starve, and pine, with plenty at their feet.
299 Loos'd from the winding lane, a joyful throng,
300 See, o'er yon pasture how they pour along!
301 Giles round their boundaries takes his usual stroll:
302 Sees every pass secur'd, and fences whole;
303 High fences, pround to charm the gazing eye,
304 Where many a nestling first assays to fly;
305 Where blows the woodbine, faintly streak'd with red,
306 And rests on every bough its tender head;
307 Round the young ash its twining branches meet,
308 Or crown the hawthorn with its odours sweet.
309 Say, ye that know, ye who have felt and seen
310 Spring's morning smiles, and soul-enliv'ning green,
311 Say, did you give the thrilling transport way?
312 Did your eye brighten, when young lambs at play
313 Leap'd o'er your path with animated pride,
314 Or gaz'd in merry clusters by your side? [Page 21]
315 Ye who can smile, to wisdom no disgrace,
316 At the arch meaning of a kitten's face;
317 If spotless innocence, and infant mirth,
318 Excites to praise, or gives reflection birth;
319 In shades like these pursue your fav'rite joy,
320 Midst Nature's revels, sports that never cloy.
321 A few begin a short but vigorous race,
322 And indolence abash'd soon flies the place;
323 Thus challeng'd forth, see thither one by one,
324 From every side assembling playmates run;
325 A thousand wily anties mark their stay,
326 A starting crowd, impatient of delay.
327 Like the fond dove from fearful prison freed,
328 Each seems to say, "Come, let us try our speed;"
329 Away they scour, impetuous, ardent, strong,
330 The green turf trembling as they bound along;
331 Adown the slope, then up the hillock climb,
332 Where every molehill is a bed of thyme;[Page 22]
333 There panting stop; yet scarcely can refrain;
334 A bird, a leaf, will set them off again:
335 Or, if a gale with strength unusual blow.
336 Scatt'ring the wild-brier roses into snow,
337 Their little limbs increasing efforts try,
338 Like the torn flower the fair assemblage fly.
339 Ah, fallen rose! sad emblem of their doom;
340 Frail as thyself, they perish while they bloom!
341 Though unoffending innocence may plead,
342 Though frantic ewes may mourn the savage deed,
343 Their shepherd comes, a messenger of blood,
344 And drives them bleating from their sports and food.
345 Care loads his brow, and pity wrings his heart,
346 For lo, the murd'ring BUTCHER with his cart
347 Demands the firstlings of his flock to die,
348 And makes a sport of life and liberty!
349 His gay companions Giles beholds no more;
350 Clos'd are their eyes, their fleeces drench'd in gore;[Page 23]
351 Nor can Compassion, with her softest notes,
352 Withhold the knife that plunges through their throats.
353 Down, indignation! hence, ideas foul!
354 Away the shocking image from my soul!
355 Let kindlier visitants attend my way,
356 Beneath approaching Summer's fervid ray;
357 Nor thankless glooms obtrude, nor cares annoy,
358 Whilst the sweet theme is universal joy.
Turnip sowing. Wheat ripening. Sparrows. Insects. The sky-lark. Reaping, &c. Harvest-field, Dairy-maid, &c. Labours of the barn. The gander. Night; a thunder storm. Harvest-home. Reflections, &c.
v. 11. Provident turn of the Farmer's mind. v. 29. Showers softening the soil. v. 47. Green Corn .... Sparrows. v. 65. Scenery .... full of life, and inspiring contemplation. v. 83. The Sky-lard. v. 101. Sky-lark .... Corn ripening. v. 119. Pleasure from the views of Nature. v. 137. Reapers .... Gleaning. v. 155. The joy of the Farmer. v. 173. The Country Maid. v. 191. Harvest-field refreshment .... The Cart-horse. v. 209. Docking of Horses condemned. v. 227. The Gander. v. 245. Swine .... Repose of Twilight. v. 263. Midnight .... Tempest. v. 281. Harvest-home. v. 299. Freedom and equal joy of the Feast. v. 317. Ancient equality of this Festival. v. 335. Contrast of modern usage. v. 353. Subject continued. v. 371. Continued. v. 389. Continued.
1 THE FARMER'S life displays in every part
2 A moral lesson to the sensual heart.
3 Though in the lap of Plenty, thoughtful still,
4 He looks beyond the present good or ill;
5 Nor estimates alone one blessing's worth,
6 From changeful seasons, or capricious earth;
7 But views the future with the present hours,
8 And looks for failures as he looks for show'er;
9 For casual as for certain want prepares,
10 And round his yard the reeking haystack rears;[Page 28]
11 Or clover, blossom'd lovely to the sight,
12 His team's rich store through many a wint'ry night.
13 What though abundance round his dwelling spreads,
14 Though ever moist his self-improving meads
15 Supply his dairy with a copious flood,
16 And seem to promise unexhausted food,
17 That promise fails, when buried deep in snow,
18 And vegetative juices cease to flow.
19 For this, his plough turns up the destin'd lands,
20 Whence stormy Winter draws its full demands;
21 For this, the seed minutely small he sows,
22 Whence, sound and sweet, the hardy turnip grows.
23 But how unlike to APRIL'S closing days!
24 High climbs the Sun, and darts his pow'rful rays;
25 Whitens the fresh-drawn mould, and pierces through
26 The cumb'rous clods that tumble round the plough.
27 O'er heaven's bright azure hence with joyful eyes
28 The Farmer sees dark clouds assembling rise;[Page 29]
29 Borne o'er his fields a heavy torrent falls,
30 And strikes the earth in hasty driving squalls.
31 "Right welcome down, ye precious drops," he cries;
32 But soon, too soon, the partial blessing flies.
33 "Boy, bring thy harrows, try how deep the rain
34 Has fore'd its way." He comes, but comes in vain;
35 Dry dust beneath the bubbling surface lurks,
36 And mocks his pains the more, the more he works:
37 Still midst huge clods he plunges on forlorn,
38 That laugh his harrows and the shower to scorn.
39 E'en thus the living clod, the stubborn fool,
40 Resists the stormy lectures of the school,
41 Till tried with gentler means, the dunce to please,
42 His head imbibes right reason by degrees;
43 As when from eve till morning's wakeful hour,
44 Light, constant rain, evinces secret pow'r,
45 And ere the day resume its wouted smiles,
46 Presents a cheerful easy task for Giles. [Page 30]
47 Down with a touch the mellow'd soil is laid,
48 And you tall crop next claims his timely aid;
49 Thither well pleas'd he hies, assur'd to find
50 Wild trackless haunts, and objects to his mind.
51 Shot up from broad rank blades that droop below,
52 The nodding WHEAT-EAR forms a graceful bow,
53 With milky kernels starting full, weigh'd down,
54 Ere yet the sun hath ting'd its head with brown;
55 Whilst thousands in a flock, for every gay,
56 Loud chirping sparrows welcome on the day,
57 And from the mazes of the leafy thorn
58 Drop one by one upon the bending corn;
59 Giles with a pole assails their close retreats,
60 And round the grass-grown dewy border beats,
61 On either side completely overspread,
62 Here branches bend, there corn o'ertops his head.
63 Green covert, hail! for through the varying year
64 No hours so sweet, no scene to him so dear. [Page 31]
65 Here Wisdom's placid eye delighted sees
66 His frequent intervals of lonely case,
67 And with one ray his infant soul inspires,
68 Just kindling there her never-dying fires,
69 Whence solitude derives peculiar charms,
70 And heaven-directed thought his bosom warms.
71 Just where the parting bough's light shadows play,
72 Scarce in the shade, nor in the scorching day,
73 Stretch'd on the turf he lies, a peopled bed,
74 Where swarming insects creep around his head.
75 The small dust-colour'd beetle climbs with pain
76 O'er the smooth plantain-leaf, a spacious plain!
77 Thence higher still, by countless steps convey'd,
78 He gains the summit of a shiv'ring blade,
79 And flirts his filmy wings, and looks around,
80 Exulting in his distance from the ground.
81 The tender speckled moth here dancing seen,
82 The vaulting grasshopper of glossy green,[Page 32]
83 And all prolific Summer's sporting train,
84 Their little lives by various pow'rs sustain.
85 But what can unassisted vision do?
86 What, but recoil where most it would pursue;
87 His patient gaze but finish with a sigh,
88 When music waking speaks the sky-lark nigh.
89 Just starting from the corn she cheerly sings,
90 And trusts with conscious pride her downy wings;
91 Still louder breathes, and in the face of day
92 Mounts up, and calls on Giles to mark her way.
93 Close to his eyes his hat he instant bends,
94 And forms a friendly telescope, that lends
95 Just aid enough to dull the glaring light,
96 And place the wand'ing bird before his sight;
97 Yet oft beneath a cloud she sweeps along,
98 Lost for awhile, yet pours her varied song:
99 He views the spot, and as the cloud moves by,
100 Again she stretches up the clear blue sky;[Page 33]
101 Her form, her motion, undistinguish'd quite,
102 Save when she wheels direct from shade to light:
103 The flutt'ring songstress a mere speck became,
104 Like fancy's floating bubbles in a dream;
105 He sees her yet, but yielding to repose,
106 Unwittingly his jaded eyelids close.
107 Delicious sleep! From sleep who could forbear,
108 With no more guilt than Giles, and no more care?
109 Peace o'er his slumbers waves her guardian wing,
110 Nor conscience once disturbs him with a sting;
111 He wakes refresh'd from every trivial pain,
112 And takes his pole and brushes round again.
113 Its dark-green hue, its sicklier tints all fail,
114 And rip'ening harvest rustles in the gale.
115 A glorious sight, if glory dwells below,
116 Where Heaven's munificence makes all the show,
117 O'er every field and golden prospect found,
118 That glads the ploughman's Sunday morning's round,[Page 34]
119 When on some eminence he takes his stand,
120 To judge the smiling produce of the land.
121 Here Vanity slinks back, her head to hide:
122 What is there here to flatter human pride?
123 The tow'ring fabric, or the dome's loud roar,
124 And stedfast columns, may astonish more,
125 Where the charm'd gazer long delighted stays,
126 Yet trac'd but to the architect the praise;
127 Whilst here, the veriest clown that treads the sod,
128 Without one scruple, gives the praise to GOD;
129 And twofold joys possess his raptur'd mind,
130 From gratitude and admiration join'd.
131 Here, midst the boldest triumphs of her worth,
132 NATURE herself invites the REAPERS forth;
133 Dares the keen sickle from its twelvemonth's rest,
134 And gives that ardour which in every breast
135 From infancy to age alike appears,
136 When the first sheaf its plumy top uprears. [Page 35]
137 No rake takes here what Heaven to all bestows:
138 Children of want, for you the bounty flows!
139 And every cottage from the plenteous store
140 Receives a burden nightly at its door.
141 Hark! where the sweeping scythe now rips along:
142 Each sturdy Mower emulous and strong;
143 Whose writhing form meridian heat defies,
144 Bends o'er his work, and every sinew tries;
145 Prostrates the waving treasure at his feet,
146 But spares the rising clover, short and sweet.
147 Come, HEALTH! come, Jollity! light-footed, come;
148 Here hold your revels, and make this your home.
149 Each heart awaits and hails you as its own;
150 Each moisten'd brow, that scorns to wear a frown:
151 Th' unpeopled dwelling mourns its tenants stray'd;
152 E'en the domestic laughing dairy-maid
153 Hies to the FIELD, the general toil to share.
154 Meanwhile the FARMER quits his elbow-chair,[Page 36]
155 His cool brick-floor, his pitcher, and his ease,
156 And braves the sultry beams, and gladly sees
157 His gates thrown open, and his team abroad,
158 The ready group attendant on his word,
159 To turn the swarth, the quiv'ring load to rear,
160 Or ply the busy rake, the land to clear.
161 Summer's light garb itself now cumb'rous grown,
162 Each his thin doublet in the shade throws down;
163 Where oft the mastiff sculks with half-shut eye,
164 And rouses at the stranger passing by;
165 Whilst unrestrain'd the social converse flows,
166 And every breast Love's pow'rful impulse knows,
167 And rival wits with more than rustic grace
168 Confess the presence of a pretty face;
169 For, lo! encircled there, the lovely MAID,
170 In youth's own bloom and native smiles array'd;
171 Her hat awry, divested of her gown,
172 Her creaking stays of leather, stout and brown; ... [Page 37]
173 Invidious barier! why art thou so high,
174 When the slight cov'ring of her neck slips by,
175 There half revealing to the eager sight
176 Her full, ripe bosom, exquisitely white?
177 In many a local tale of harmless mirth,
178 And many a jest of momentary birth,
179 She bears a part, and as she stops to speak,
180 Strokes back the ringlets from her glowing cheek.
181 Now noon gone by, and four declining hours,
182 The weary limbs relax their boasted pow'rs;
183 Thirst rages strong, the fainting spirits fail,
184 And ask the sov'reign cordial, home-brew'd ale:
185 Beneath some shelt'ring heap of yellow corn
186 Rests the hoop'd keg, and friendly cooling horn,
187 That mocks alike the goblet's brittle frame,
188 Its costlier potions, and its nobler name.
189 To Mary first the brimming draught is given,
190 By toil made welcome as the dews of heaven,[Page 38]
191 And never lip that press'd its homely edge
192 Had kinder blessings or a heartier pledge.
193 Of wholesome viands here a banquet smiles,
194 A common cheer for all; ... e'en humble Giles,
195 Who joys his trivial services to yield
196 Amidst the fragrance of the open field;
197 Oft doom'd in suffocating heat to bear
198 The cobweb'd barn's impure and dusty air;
199 To ride in murky state the panting steed,
200 Destin'd aloft th' unloaded grain to tread,
201 Where, in his path as heaps on heaps are thrown,
202 He rears, and plunges the loose mountain down:
203 Laborious task! with what delight when done
204 Both horse and rider greet th' unclouded sun!
205 Yet by th' unclouded sun are hourly bred
206 The bold assailants that surround thine head,
207 Poor patient Ball! and with insulting wing
208 Roar in thine ears, and dart the piercing sting:[Page 39]
209 In thy behalf the crest-wav'd boughs avail
210 More than thy short-clipt remnant of a tail,
211 A moving mockery, a useless name,
212 A living proof of cruelty shame.
213 Shame to the man, whatever fame he bore,
214 Who took from thee what man can ne'er restore,
215 Thy weapon of defence, thy chiefest good,
216 When swarming flies contending suck thy blood.
217 Nor thine alone the suff'ring, thine the care,
218 The fretful Ewe bemoans an equal share;
219 Tormented into sores, her head she hides,
220 Or angry brushes from her new-shorn sides.
221 Pen'd in the yard, e'en now at closing day
222 Unruly Cows with mark'd impatience stay,
223 And vainly striving to escape their foes,
224 The pail kick down; a piteous current flows.
225 Is't not enough that plagues like these molest?
226 Must still another foe annoy their rest? [Page 40]
227 He comes, the pest and terror of the yard,
228 His full-fledg'd progeny's imperious guard;
229 The GANDER; ... spiteful, insolent, and bold,
230 At the colt's footlock takes his daring hold;
231 There, serpent-like, escapes a dreadful blow;
232 And straight attacks a poor defenceless cow:
233 Each booby goose th' unworthy strife enjoys,
234 And hails his prowess with redoubled noise.
235 Then back he stalks, of self-importance full,
236 Seizes the shaggy foretop of the bull,
237 Till whirl'd aloft he falls; a timely check,
238 Enough to dislocate his worthless neck:
239 For lo! of old, he boasts an honour'd wound;
240 Behold that broken wing that trails the ground!
241 Thus fools and bravoes kindred pranks pursue;
242 As savage quite, and oft as fatal too.
243 Happy the man that foils an envious elf,
244 Using the darts of spleen to serve himself. [Page 41]
245 As when by turns the strolling Swine engage
246 The utmost efforts of the bully's rage,
247 Whose nibbling warfare on the grunter's side
248 Is welcome pleasure to his bristly hide;
249 Gently he stoops, or lays himself along,
250 Endures the insults of the gabbling throng,
251 That march exulting round his fallen head,
252 As human victors trample on their dead.
253 Still TWILIGHT, welcome! Rest, how sweet art thou!
254 Now eve o'erhangs the western cloud's thick brow;
255 The far-stretch'd curtain of retiring light,
256 With fiery treasures fraught, that on the sight
257 Flash from its bulging sides, where darkness lours,
258 In Fancy's eye, a chain of mould'ring tow'rs;
259 Or craggy coasts just rising into view,
260 Midst jav'lins dire, and darts of streaming blue.
261 Anon tir'd labourers bless their shelt'ring homes,
262 When MIDNIGHT, and the frightful TEMPEST comes. [Page 42]
263 The Farmer wakes, and sees with silent dread
264 The angry shafts of Heaven gleam round his bed;
265 The bursting cloud reiterated roars,
266 Shakes his straw roof, and jars his bolted doors:
267 The slow-wing'd storm along the troubled skies
268 Spreads its dark course; the wind begins to rise;
269 And full-leav'd elms, his dwelling's shade by day,
270 With mimic thunder give its fury way:
271 Sounds in his chimney top a doleful peal,
272 Midst pouring rain, or gusts of rattling hail;
273 With tenfold danger low the tempest bends,
274 And quick and strong the sulph'urous flame descends:
275 The fright'ned mastiff from his kennel flies,
276 And cringes at the door with piteous cries ....
277 Where now's the trifler? where the child of pride?
278 These are the moments when the heart is try'd!
279 Nor lives the man with conscience e'er so clear,
280 But feels a solemn, reverential fear;[Page 43]
281 Feels too a joy relieve his aching breast,
282 When the spent storm hath howl'd itself to rest.
283 Still, welcome beats the long continued show'r,
284 And sleep protracted, comes with double pow'r;
285 Calm dreams of bliss bring on the morning sun,
286 For every barn is fill'd, and HARVEST done!
287 Now, ere sweet SUMMER bids its long adieu,
288 And winds blow keen where late the blossom grew,
289 The bustling day and jovial night must come,
290 The long accustom'd feast of HARVEST-HOME.
291 No blood-stain'd victory, in story bright,
292 Can give the philosophic mind delight;
293 No triumph please whilst rage and death destroy:
294 Reflection sickens at the monstrous joy.
295 And where the joy, if rightly understood,
296 Like cheerful praise for universal good?
297 The soul nor cheek nor dubtful anguish knows,
298 But free and pure the grateful current flows.
299 Behold the sound oak table's massy frame
300 Bestride the kitchen floor! the careful dame
301 And gen'rous host invite their friends around,
302 While all that clear'd the crop, or till'd the ground,
303 Are guests by right of custom: ... old and young;
304 And many a neighbouring yeoman join the throng,
305 With artizans that lent their dext'rous aid,
306 When o'er each field the flaming sun-beams play'd. —
307 Yet Plenty reigns, and from her boundless hoard,
308 Though not one jelly trembles on the board,
309 Supplies the feast with all that sense can crave;
310 With all that made our great forefathers brave,
311 Ere the cloy'd palate countless flavours try'd,
312 And cooks had Nature's judgment set aside.
313 With thanks to Heaven, and tales of rustic lore,
314 The mansion echoes when the banquet's o'er;
315 A wider circle spreads, and smiles abound,
316 As quick the frothing horn performs its round;[Page 45]
317 Care's mortal foe; that sprightly joys imparts
318 To cheer the frame and elevate their hearts.
319 Here, fresh and brown, the hazel's produce lies
320 In tempting heaps, and peals of laughter rise,
321 And crackling Music, with the frequent Song,
322 Unheeded bear the midnight hour along.
323 Here once a year Distinction low'rs its crest,
324 The master, servant, and the merry guest,
325 Are equal all; and round the happy ring
326 The reaper's eyes exulting glances fling,
327 And, warm'd with gratitude, he quits his place,
328 With sun-burnt hands and ale-enliven'd face,
329 Refills the jug his honour'd host to tend,
330 To serve at once the master and the friend;
331 Proud thus to meet his smiles, to share his tale,
332 His nuts, his conversation, and his ale.
333 Such were the days, ... of days long past I sing, ...
334 When Pride gave place to mirth without a sting;[Page 46]
335 Ere tyrant customs strength sufficient bore
336 To violate the feelings of the poor;
337 To leave them distanc'd in the mad'ning race,
338 Where'er Refinement shews its hated face:
339 Nor causeless hated; 'tis the peasant's curse,
340 That hourly makes his wretched station worse;
341 Destroys life's intercourse;* * Vide note at the end of this volume. the social plan
"ALLOWING for the imperfect state of sublunary happiness, which is compartive at best, there are not, perhaps, many nations existing whose situatinon is so desirable; where the means of subsistence are so easy, and the wants of the people so few .... The evident distinction of ranks, which subsists at Otahcite, does not so materially affect the felicity of the nation as we might have supposed. The simplicity of their whole life contributes to soften the appearance of distinctions, and to reduce them to a level. Where the climate and the custom of the country do not absolutely require a perfect garment; where it is easy at very step to gather as many plants as form not only a decent, but likewise a customary covering: and where all the necessaries of life are within the reach of every individual, at the expence of a trifting laboar; ... ambition and envy must in a great measure be unknown. It is true, the highest classes of people possess some dainty articles, such as pork, fish, fowl, and cloth, almost exclusively; but the desire of indulging the appetite in a few trifling luxuries can at most render individuals, and not whole nations, unhappy. Absolute want occasions the miseries of the lower class in some civilized states, and is the result of the unbounded voluptuousness of their superiors. At Otahcite there is not, in general, that disparity between the highest and the meanest[Page 102] man, that subjecst, in England between a reputable tradesman and a laboures. The affection of the Otaheitans for their chiefs, which they never failed to express upon all occasions, gave us great reason to suppose that they consider themselves as one family, and respect their eldest born in the persons of their chiefs. The lowest man in the nation speaks as freely with his kings as with his equal, and has the pleasure of seeing him as often as he likes. The king, at time, amuses himself with the occupations of his subjects; and not yet depraved by false notions of empty state, he often paddles his own canoe, without considering such an employment derogatory to his dignity. How long such an happy equality may last is uncertain, and how much the introduction of foreign luxuries may hasten its dissolution cannot be too frequently repeated to Europeans. If the knowledge of a few individuals can only be acquired at such a price as the happiness of nations, it were better for the discoverers and the discovered that the South Sea had still remained unknown to Europe and its restless inhabitants."
REFLECTIONS ON OTAHEITT, Cook's second Voyage.
342 That rank to rank cements, as man to man:
343 Wealth flows around him, fashion lordly reigns;
344 Yet poverty is his, and mental pains.
345 Methinks I hear the mourner thus impart
346 The stifled murmurs of his wounded heart:
347 'Whence comes this change, ungracious, irksome, cold?
348 ' Whence the new grandeur that mine eyes behold?
349 'The wid'ning distance which I daily see,
350 ' Has Wealth done this? ... the wealth's a foe to me;
351 'Foe to our rights; that leaves a pow'rful few
352 ' The paths of emulation to pursue: ... [Page 47]
353 'For emulation stoops to us no more:
354 ' The hope of humble industry is o'er;
355 'The blameless hope, the cheering sweet presage
356 ' Of future comforts for declining age.
357 'Can my sons share from this paternal hand
358 ' The profits with the labours of the land?
359 'No; though indulgent Heaven its blessing deigns,
360 ' Where's the small farm to suit my scanty means?
361 'Content, the poet sings, with us resides,
362 ' In lonely cots like mine the damsel hides;
363 'And will he then in raptur'd visions tell
364 ' That sweet Content with Want can ever dwell?
365 'A barley loaf, 'tis true, my table crowns,
366 'That fast diminishing in lusty rounds,
367 ' Stops Nature's cravings; yet her sighs will flow
368 'From knowing this, ... that once it was not so.
369 'Our annual fest, when Earth her plenty yields,
370 ' When crown'd with boughs the last load quits the fields,[Page 48]
371 'The aspect still of ancient joy puts on;
372 ' The aspect only, with the substance gone:
373 'The self-same Horn is still at our command,
374 ' But serves none now but the plebeian hand:
375 'For home-brew'd Ale, neglected and debas'd,
376 ' Is quite discarded from the realms of taste.
377 'Where unaffected Freedom charm'd the soul,
378 ' The separate table and the costly bowl,
379 'Cool as the blast that checks the budding Spring,
380 ' A mockery of gladness round them fling.
381 ' For oft the Farmer, ere his heart approves,
382 'Yields up the custom which he dearly loves:
383 ' Refinement forces on him like a tide;
384 'Bold innovations down its current ride,
385 ' That bear no peace beneath their shewy dress,
386 'Nor add one tittle to his happiness.
387 ' His guests sclected; rank's punctilios known;
388 'What trouble waits upon a casual frown! [Page 49]
389 ' Restraint's foul manacles his pleasures maim;
390 'Selected guests selected phrases claim:
391 ' Nor reigns that joy when hand in hand they join
392 'That good old Master felt in shaking mine.
393 ' HEAVEN bless his memory! bless his honour'd name!
394 '(The poor will speak his lasting worthy fame:)
395 ' To souls fair-purpos'd strength and guidance give;
396 ' In pity to us still let goodness live:
397 'Let labour have its due! my cot shall be
398 ' From chilling want and guilty murmurs free:
399 'Let labour have its due; ... then peace is mine,
400 ' And never, never shall my heart repine. '
Acorns. Hogs in the wood. Wheat-sowing. The Church. Village girls. The mad girl. the bird-boy's hut. Disappointments; reflections, &c. Euston-hall. Fox-hunting. Old Trouncer, Long nights. A welcome to Winter.
v. 9. Wood-scenery .... Swine and pigs feeding on fallen acorns. v. 27. Wild Ducks among the sedges. v. 45. Hogs wandering in the wood ... Husbandman's prospective care. v. 63. Village Bells. v. 81. THE CHURCH. v. 99. Village Girls .... The poor distracted young Woman. v. 117. The subject continued. v. 135. Continued. v. 153. Continued. v. 171. Chicken housed. v. 189. The Hut v. 207. The pleasures of the Hut. v. 225. The Disappointment. v. 243. The cruelty of disappointing expectation. v. 261. Euston Hall .... Fox-hunting. v. 279. The subject continued. v. 297. The Fox-hound. v. 315. Not the worst subject of Poetry. v. 333. Midnight .... Domestic Fowl .... Shortened hours. v. 351. Closing Reflections.
1 AGAIN, the year's decline, midst storms and floods,
2 The thund'ring chase, the yellow fading woods,
3 Invite my song; that fain would boldly tell
4 Of upland coverts, and the echoing dell,
5 By turns resounding loud, at eve and morn
6 The swineherd's halloo, or the huntsman's horn.
7 No more the fields with scatter'd grain supply
8 The restless wand'ring tenants of the STY;[Page 54]
9 From oak to oak they run with eager haste,
10 And wrangling share the first delicious taste
11 Of fallen ACORNS; yet but thinly found
12 Till the strong gale have shook them to the ground.
13 It comes; and roaring woods obedient wave:
14 Their home well pleas'd the joint adventures leave:
15 The trudging sow leads forth her numerous young,
16 Playful, and white, and clean, the briars among,
17 Till briars and thorns increasing, fence them round,
18 Where last year's mould'ring leaves bestrew the ground,
19 And o'er their heads, loud lash'd by furious squalls,
20 Bright from their cups the rattling treasure falls;
21 Hot thirsty food; whence doubly sweet and cool
22 The welcome margin of some rush-grown pool,
23 The wild duck's lonely haunt, whose jealous eye
24 Guards every point; who sits prepar'd to fly,
25 On the calm bosom of her little lake,
26 Too closely screen'd for russian winds to shake;[Page 55]
27 And as the bold intruders press around,
28 At once she starts, and rises with a bound:
29 With bristles rais'd the sudden noise they hear,
30 And ludicrously wild, and wing'd with fear,
31 The herd decamp with more than swinish speed,
32 And snorting dash through sedge, and rush, and reed:
33 Through tangling thickets headlong on they go,
34 Then stop, and listen for their fancied foe;
35 The hindmost still the growing panic spreads,
36 Repeated fright the first alarm succeeds,
37 Till Folly's wages, wounds and thorns, they reap:
38 Yet glorying in their fortunate escape,
39 Their groundless terrors by degrees soon cease,
40 And Night's dark reign restores their wonted peace.
41 For now the gale subsides, and from each bough
42 The roosting pheasant's short but frequent crow
43 Invites to rest; and huddling side by side,
44 The herd in closets ambush seek to hide;[Page 56]
45 Seek some warm slope with shagged moss o'erspread,
46 Dry'd leaves their copious covering and their bed.
47 In vain may Giles, through gath'ring glooms that fall,
48 And solemn silence, urge his piercing call:
49 Whole days and nights they tarry midst their store,
50 Nor quit the woods till oaks can yield no more.
51 Beyond bleak Winter's rage, beyond the Spring
52 That rolling Earth's unvarying course will bring,
53 Who tills the ground looks on with mental eye,
54 And sees next Summer's sheaves and cloudless sky;
55 And even now, whilst Nature's beauty dies,
56 Deposits SEED, and bids new harvests rise;
57 Seed well prepar'd and warm'd with glowing lime,
58 'Gainst earth-bred grubs, and cold, and lapse of time:
59 For searching frosts and various ills invade,
60 Whilst wint'ry months depress the springing blade.
61 The plough moves heavily, and strong the soil,
62 And clogging harrows with augmented toil[Page 57]
63 Dive deep: and clinging, mixes with the mould
64 A fat'ning treasure from the nightly fold,
65 And all the cow-yard's highly valu'd store,
66 That late bestrew'd the blacken'd surface o'er.
67 No idling hours are here, when Fancy trims
68 Her dancing taper over outstretch'd limbs,
69 And in her thousand thousand colours drest,
70 Plays round the grassy couch of noontide rest:
71 Here GILES for hours of indolence atones
72 With strong exertion, and with weary bones,
73 And knows no leisure; till the distant chime
74 Of Sabbath bells he hears at sermon time,
75 That down the brook sound seetly in the gale,
76 Or strike the rising hill, or skim the dale.
77 Nor his alone the sweets of ease to taste:
78 Kind rest extends to all; ... save one poor beast,
79 That true to time and pace, is doom'd to plod,
80 To bring the Pastor to the HOUSE of GOD:[Page 58]
81 Mean structure; where no bones of heroes lie!
82 The rude inelegance of poverty
83 Reigns here alone: else why that roof of straw?
84 Those narrow windows with the frequent flaw?
85 O'er whose low cells the dock and mallow spreads,
86 And rampant nettles lift their spiry heads,
87 Whilst from the hollows of the tower on high
88 The grey-cap'd daws in saucy legions fly.
89 Round these lone walls assembling neighbours meet,
90 And tread departed friends beneath their feet;
91 And new-brier'd graves, that prompt the secret sigh,
92 Shew each the spot where he himself must lie.
93 Midst timely greetings village news goes round,
94 Of crops late shorn, or crops that deck the ground;
95 Experienc'd ploughmen in the circle join;
96 While sturdy boys, in feats of strength to shine,
97 With pride elate their young associates brave
98 To jump from hollow-sounding grave to grave;[Page 59]
99 Then close consulting, each his talent lends
100 To plan fresh sports when tedious service ends.
101 Hither at times, with cheerfulness of soul,
102 Sweet village Maids from neighbouring hamlets stroll,
103 That like the light-heel'd does o'er lawns that rove,
104 Look shyly curious; rip'ning into love;
105 For love's their errand: hence the tints that glow
106 On either cheek, an heighten'd lustre know:
107 When, conscious of their charms, e'en Age looks sly,
108 And rapture beams from Youth's observant eye.
109 THE PRIDE of such a party, Nature's pride,
110 Was lovely POLL;*
* MARY RAYNER, of Ixworth Thorp. who innocently try'd
111 With hat of airy shape and ribbons gay,
112 Love to inspire, and stand in Hymen's way:
113 But, ere her twentieth Summer could expand,
114 Or youth was render'd happy with her hand,
115 Her mind's serenity was lost and gone,
116 Her eye grew languid, and she wept alone;[Page 60]
117 Yet causeless seem'd her grief; for quick restrain'd,
118 Mirth follow'd loud, or indignation reign'd:
119 Whims wild and simple led her from her home,
120 The heath, the common, or the fields to roam:
121 Terror and joy alternate rul'd her hours;
122 Now blithe she sung, and gather'd useless flow'rs;
123 Now pluck'd a tender twig from every bough,
124 To whip the hov'ring demons from her brow.
125 Ill-fated Maid! thy guiding spark is fled,
126 And lasting wretchedness waits round thy bed ...
127 Thy bed of straw! for mark, where even now
128 O'er their lost child afflicted parents bow;
129 Their woe she knows not, but preversely coy,
130 Inverted customs yield her sullen joy;
131 Her midnight meals in secresy she takes,
132 Low mutt'ring to the moon, that rising breaks
133 Through night's dark gloom: ... oh how much more forlorn
134 Her night, that knows of no returning dawn! ... [Page 61]
135 Slow from the threshold, once her infant seat,
136 O'er the cold earth she crawls to her retreat;
137 Quitting the cot's warm walls in filth to lie,
138 where the swine grunting yields up half his sty;
139 The damp night air her shiv'ring limbs assails;
140 In dreams she moans, and fancied wrongs bewails.
141 When morning wakes, none earlier rous'd than she,
142 When pendent drops fall glitt'ring from the tree;
143 But nought her rayless melancholy cheers,
144 Or sooths her breast, or stops her streaming tears.
145 Her matted locks unornamented flow;
146 Clasping her knees, and waving to and fro; ...
147 Her head bow'd down, her faded cheek to hide; ...
148 A piteous mourner by the pathway side.
149 Some tufted molehill through the livelong day
150 She calls her throne; there weeps her life away:
151 And oft the gaily passing stranger stays
152 His well-tim'd step, and takes a silent gaze,[Page 62]
153 Till sympathetic drops unbidden start,
154 And pangs quick springing muster round his heart;
155 And soft he treads with other gazers round
156 And fain would catch her sorrows plaintive sound:
157 One word alone is all that strikes the car,
158 One short, pathetic, simple word, ... " Oh dear!"
159 A thousand times repeated to the wind,
160 That wafts the sigh, but leaves the pang behind!
161 For ever of the proffer'd parley shy,
162 She hears the unwelcome foot advancing nigh;
163 Nor quite unconscious of her wretched plight,
164 Gives one sad look, and hurries out of sight ....
165 Fair promis'd sunbeams of terrestrial bliss,
166 Health's gallant hopes, ... and are ye sunk to this?
167 For in life's road though thorns abundant grow,
168 There still are joys poor Poll can never know;
169 Joys which the gay companions of her prime
170 Sip, as they drift along the stream of time;[Page 63]
171 At eve to hear beside their tranquil home
172 The lifted latch, that speaks the lover come:
173 That love matur'd, next playful on the knee
174 To press the velvet lip of infancy;
175 To stay the tottering step, the features trace; ...
176 Inestimable sweets of social peace!
177 O THOU, who bidst the vernal juices rise!
178 Thou, on whose blasts autumnal foliage flies!
179 Let Peace ne'er leave me, nor my heart grow cold,
180 Whilst life and sanity are mine to hold.
181 Shorn of their flow'rs that shed th' untreasur'd seed,
182 The withering pasture, and the fading mead,
183 Less tempting grown, diminish more and more,
184 The dairy's pride; sweet Summer's flowing store.
185 New cares succeed, and gentle duties press,
186 Where the fire-side, a school of tenderness,
187 Revives the languid chirp, and warms the blood
188 Of cold-nipt weaklings of the latter brood,[Page 64]
189 That from the shell just bursting into day,
190 Through yard or pond pursue their vent'rous way.
191 Far weightier cares and wider scenes expand;
192 What devastation marks the new-sown land!
193 "From hungry woodland foes go, Giles, and guard
194 The rising wheat; ensure its great reward:
195 A future sustenance, a Summer's pride,
196 Demand thy vigilance: then be it try'd:
197 Exert thy voice, and wield thy shotless gun:
198 Go, Tarry there from morn till setting sun."
199 Keen blows the blast, or ceaseless rain descends;
200 The half-stript hedge a sorry shelter lends.
201 O for a HOVEL, e'er so small or low,
202 Whose roof, repelling winds and early snow,
203 Might bring home's comforts fresh before his eyes!
204 No sooner thought, than see the structure rise,
205 In some sequester'd nook, embank'd around,
206 Sods for its walls, and straw in burdens bound:[Page 65]
207 Dried fuel hoarded is his richest store,
208 And circling smoke obscures his little door;
209 Whence creeping forth, to duty's call he yields,
210 And strolls the Crusoe of the lonely fields.
211 On whitethorns tow'ring, and the leafless rose,
212 A frost-nipt feast in bright vermilion glows:
213 Where clust'ring sloes in glossy order rise,
214 He crops the loaded branch; a cumb'rous prize;
215 And o'er the flame the sputt'ring fruit he rests,
216 Placing green sods to seat his coming guests;
217 His guests by promise; playmates young and gay: ...
218 BUT AH! fresh pastimes lure their steps away!
219 He sweeps his hearth, and homeward looks in vain,
220 Till feeling Disappointment's cruel pain,
221 His fairy revels are exchang'd for rage,
222 His banquet marr'd, grown dull his hermitage.
223 The field becomes his prison, till on high
224 Benighted birds to shades and coverts fly. [Page 66]
225 Midst air, health, daylight, can he prisoner be?
226 If fields are prisons, where is Liberty?
227 Here still she dwells, and here her votaries stroll;
228 But disappointed hope untunes the soul:
229 Restraints unfelt whilst hours of rapture flow,
230 When troubles press, to chains and barriers grow.
231 Look then from trivial up to greater woes;
232 From the poor bird-boy with his roasted sloes,
233 To where the dungeon'd mourner heaves the sigh;
234 Where not one cheering sun-beam meets his eye.
235 Though ineffectual pity thine may be,
236 No wealth, no pow'r, to set the captive free;
237 Though only to thy ravish'd sight is given
238 The golden path that HOWARD trod to heaven;
239 Thy slights can make the wretched more forlorn,
240 And deeper drive affliction's barbed thorn.
241 Say not, "I'll come and cheer thy gloomy cell
242 With news of dearest friends; how good, how well:[Page 67]
243 I'll be a joyful herald to thine heart:"
244 Then fail, and play the worthless trifler's part,
245 To sip flat pleasures from thy glass's brim,
246 And waste the precious hour that's due to him.
247 In mercy spare the base unmanly blow:
248 Where can he turn, to whom complain of you?
249 Back to past joys in vain his thoughts may stray,
250 Trace and retrace the beaten worn-out way,
251 The rankling injury will pierce his breast,
252 And curses on thee break his midnight rest.
253 Bereft of song, and ever cheering green,
254 The soft endearments of the Summer scene,
255 New harmony pervades the solemn wood,
256 Dear to the soul, and healthful to the blood:
257 For bold exertion follows on the sound
258 Of distant sportsmen, and the chiding hound;
259 First heard from kennel bursting, mad with joy,
260 Where smiling EUSTON boasts her good FITZROY,[Page 68]
261 Lord of pure alms, and gifts that wide extend;
262 The farmer's patron, and the poor man's friend:
263 Whose mansion glitt'ring with the eastern ray,
264 Whose elevated temple, points the way,
265 O'er slopes and lawns, the park's extensive pride,
266 To where the victims of the chace reside,
267 Ingulf'd in earth, in conscious safety warm,
268 Till lo! a plot portends their coming harm.
269 In earliest hours of dark unhooded morn,
270 Ere yet one rosy cloud bespeaks the dawn,
271 Whilst far abroad THE FOX pursues his prey,
272 He's doom'd to risk the perils of the day,
273 From his strong hold block'd out; perhaps to bleed,
274 Or owe his life to fortune or to speed.
275 For now the pack, impatient rushing on,
276 Range through the darkest coverts one by one;
277 Trace every spot; whilst down each noble glade
278 That guides the eye beneath a changeful shade,[Page 69]
279 The loit'ring sportsman feels th' instinctive flame,
280 And checks his steed to mark the springing game.
281 Midst intersecting cuts and winding ways
282 The huntsman cheers his dogs, and anxious strays
283 Where every narrow riding, even shorn,
284 Gives back the echo of his mellow horn:
285 Till fresh and lightsome, every power untried,
286 The starting fugitive leaps by his side,
287 His lifted finger to his ear he plies,
288 And the view halloo bids a chorus rise
289 Of dogs quick-mouth'd, and shouts that mingle loud,
290 As bursting thunder rolls from cloud to cloud.
291 With ears cropt short, and chest of vig'rous mould,
292 O'er ditch, o'er fence, unconquerably bold,
293 The shining courser lengthens every bound,
294 And his strong foot-locks suck the moisten'd groud,
295 As from the confines of the wood they pour,
296 And joyous villages partake the roar. [Page 70]
297 O'er heath far stretch'd, or down, or valley low,
298 The stiff-limb'd peasant, glorying in the show,
299 Pursues in vain; where youth itself soon tires,
300 Spite of the transports that the chace inspires;
301 For who unmounted long can charm the eye,
302 Or hear the music of the leading cry?
303 Poor faithful TROUNCER! thou canst lead no more;
304 All thy fatigues and all thy triumphs o'er!
305 Triumphs of worth, whose honorary fame
306 Was still to follow true the hunted game;
307 Beneath enormous oaks, Britannia's boast,
308 In thick impenetrable coverts lost,
309 When the warm pack in fault'ring silence stood,
310 Thine was the note that rous'd the list'ning wood,
311 Rekindling every joy with tenfold force,
312 Through all the mazes of the tainted course.
313 Still foremost thou the dashing stream to cross,
314 And tempt along the animated horse;[Page 71]
315 Foremost o'er fen or level mead to pass,
316 And sweep the show'ring dew-drops from the grass;
317 Then bright emerging from the mist below
318 To climb the woodland hill's exulting brow.
319 Pride of thy race! with worth far less than thine,
320 Full many human leaders daily shine!
321 Less faith, less constaney, less gen'rous zeal! ...
322 Then no disgrace mine humble verse shall feel,
323 Where not one lying line to rihes bows,
324 Or poison'd sentiment from rancour flows;
325 Nor flowers are strewn around Ambition's car: ...
326 An honest dog's a nobler theme by far.
327 Each sportsman heard the tidings with a sigh,
328 When Death's cold touch had stopt his tuneful cry;
329 And though high deeds, and fair exalted praise,
330 In memory liv'd, and flow'd in rustic lays,
331 Short was the strain of monumental woe:
332 "Foxes, rejoice! here buried lies your foe.*
* Inscribed on a stone in Euston Park wall. "
333 In safety hous'd, throughout NIGHT'S length'ning reign.
334 The Cock sends forth a loud and piercing strain;
335 More frequent, as the glooms of midnight flee,
336 And hours roll round, that brought him liberty,
337 When Summer's early dawn, mild, clear, and bright,
338 Chased quick away the transitory night: ...
339 Hours now in darkness veil'd; yet loud the scream
340 Of Geese impatient for the playful stream;
341 And all the feather'd tribe imprison'd raise
342 Their morning notes of inharmonious praise;
343 And many a clamorous Hen and cockrel gay,
344 When daylight slowly through the fog breaks way,
345 Fly wantonly abroad: but ah, how soon
346 The shades of twilight follow hazy noon,
347 Short'ning the busy day! ... day that slides by
348 Amidst th' unfinish'd toils of HUSBANDRY;
349 Toils still each morn resum'd with double care,
350 To meet the icy terrors of the year;[Page 73]
351 To meet the threats Boreas undismay'd,
352 And Winter's gathering frowns and hoary head.
353 THEN welcome, COLD; welcome, ye snowy nights!
354 Heaven midst your rage shall mingle pure delights,
355 And confidence of hope the soul sustain,
356 While devastation sweeps along the plain:
357 Nor shall the child of poverty despair,
358 But bless THE POWER that rules the changing year;
359 Assur'd, ... though horrors round his cottage reign, ...
360 That Spring will come, and Nature smile again.
Tenderness to cattle. Frozen turnips. The cow-yard. Night. The farm-house. Fire-side. Farmer's advice and instruction. Nightly cares of the stable. Dobbin. The post-horse. Sheep-stealing dogs. Walks occasioned thereby. The ghost. Lamb time. Returning Spring. Conclusion.
v. 9. Benevolence springing from mutual sufferings and pleasures. v. 27. Ice broken and snow cleared for the cattle. v. 45. Night. v. 63. Christmas Fire. v. 81. Conversation. v. 99. Contrast between the inconvenience at Land and a Sea-storm. v. 117. Effect of the Farmer's kind admonitions. v. 135. Sleep .... renewed labour. v. 153. The Farmer's and Post-horse contrasted. v. 171. The sufferings of the Post-horse continued. v. 189. Patience recommended from comparison. v. 207. The Mastiff. v. 225. A Sheep-biter by night. v. 243. Moon-light .... scattered clouds. v. 261. The Spectre. v. 279. The Explanation. v. 297. The terrors of surprise vanish on the use of recollection. v. 315. Counting of the Sheep in the fold. v. 333. Turn of the season towards Spring .... Ewes and Lambs. v. 351. Adopted Lambs. v. 369. The triumph of GILES as the Year ends. v. 387. CONCLUDING INVOCATION.
1 WITH kindred pleasures mov'd, and cares opprest;
2 Sharing alike our weariness and rest;
3 Who lives the daily partner of our hours,
4 Through every change of heat, and frost, and show'rs;
5 Partakes our cheerful meals, partaking first
6 In mutual labour and in mutual thirst;
7 The kindly intercourse will ever prove
8 A bond of amity and social love. [Page 78]
9 To more than man this generous warmth extends,
10 And oft the team and shiv'ring herd befriends;
11 Tender solicitude the bosom fills,
12 And Pity executes what Reason wills:
13 Youth learns compassion's tale from every tongue,
14 And flies to aid the helpless and the young;
15 When now, unsparing as the scourge of war,
16 Blasts follow blasts, and groves dismantled roar.
17 Around their home the storm-pinch'd CATTLE lows,
18 No nourishment in frozen pastures grows;
19 Yet frozen pastures every morn resound
20 With fair abundance thund'ring to the ground.
21 For though on hoary twigs no buds peep out,
22 And e'en the hardy bramble cease to sprout,
23 Beneath dread WINTER'S level sheets of snow
24 The sweet nutritions Turnip deigns to grow.
25 Till now imperious want and wide-spread dearth
26 Bid Labour claim her treasures from the earth. [Page 79]
27 On GILES, and such as Giles, the labour falls,
28 To strew the frequent load where hungner calls.
29 On driving gales sharp hail indignant flies,
30 And sleet, more irksome still, assails his eyes;
31 Snow clogs his feet; or if no snow is seen,
32 The field with all its juicy store to screen,
33 Deep goes the frost, till every root is found
34 A rolling mass of ice upon the ground.
35 No tender ewe can break her nightly fast,
36 Nor heifer strong begin the cold repast,
37 Till Giles with pond'rous beetle foremost go,
38 And scatt'ring splinters fly at every blow;
39 When pressing round him, eager for the prize,
40 From their mixt breath warm exhalations rise.
41 If now in beaded rows drops deck the spray,
42 While Phoebus grants a momentary ray,
43 Let but a cloud's broad shadow intervence,
44 And stiffen'd into gems the drops are seen;[Page 80]
45 And down the furrow'd oak's broad southern side
46 Streams of dissolving rime no longer glide.
47 THOUGH NIGHT approaching bids for rest prepare,
48 Still the flail echoes throught the frosty air,
49 Nor stops till deepest shades of darkness come,
50 Sending at length the weary laborer home.
51 From him, with bed and nightly food supplied,
52 Throughout the yeard, hous'd round on every side,
53 Deep-plunging Cows their rustling feast enjoy,
54 And snatch sweet mouthfuls from the passing boy,
55 Who moves unseen beneath his trailing load,
56 Fills the tall racks, and leaves a scatter'd road;
57 Where oft the swine from ambush warm and dry
58 Bolt out, and scamper headlong to their sty,
59 When Giles with well-known voice, already there,
60 Deigns them a portion of his evening care.
61 Him, though the cold may pierce, and storms molest,
62 Succeedign hours shall cheer with warmth and rest:[Page 81]
63 Gladness to spread, and raise the grateful smile,
64 He hurls the faggot bursting from the pile,
65 And many a log and rifted trunk conveys,
66 To heap the fire, and to extend the blaze
67 That quiv'ring strong through every opening flies,
68 Whilst smoaky columns unobstructed rise.
69 For the rude architect, unknown to fame,
70 (Nor symmetry nor elegance his aim)
71 Who spread his floors of solid oak on high,
72 On beams rough-hewn, from age to age that lie,
73 Bade his wide Fabric unimpair'd sustain
74 Pomona's store, and cheese, and golden grain;
75 Bade from its central base, capacious laid,
76 The well-wrought chimney rear its lofty head;
77 Where since hath many a savoury ham been stor'd,
78 And tempests howl'd, and Christmas gambols roar'd.
79 FLAT on the hearth the glowing embers lie,
80 And flames reflected dance in every eye:[Page 82]
81 There the long billet, forc'd at last to bend,
82 While frothing sap gushes at either end,
83 Throws round its welcome heat: ... the ploughman smiles,
84 And oft the joke runs hard on sheepish Giles,
85 Who sits joint tenant of the corner-stool,
86 The converse sharing, though in duty's school;
87 For now attentively 'tis his to hear
88 Interrogations from the Master's chair.
89 'LIFT ye your bleating charge, when daylight fled,
90 ' Near where the hay-stack lifts its snowy head?
91 'Whose fence of bushy furze, so close and warm,
92 ' May stop the slanting bullets of the storm.
93 'For, hark! it blows; a dark and dismal night:
94 ' Heaven guide the trav'eller's fearful steps aright!
95 'Now from the woods, mistrustful and sharp-ey'd,
96 ' The Fox in silent darkness seems to glide,
97 'Stealing around us, list'ning as he goes,
98 ' If chance the Cock or stamm'ring capon crows,[Page 83]
99 'Or Goose, or nodding Duck, should darkling cry,
100 ' As if appriz'd of lurking danger night:
101 'Destruction waits them, Giles, if e'er you fail
102 'To bolt their doors against the driving gale.
103 ' Strew'd you (still mindful of the unshelter'd head)
104 'Burdens of straw, the cattle's welcome bed?
105 ' Thine heart should feel, what thou may'st hourly see,
106 'That duty's basis is humanity.
107 ' Of pain's unsavoury cup though thou may'st taste,
108 '(The wrath of Winter from the bleak north-east,)
109 ' Thine utmost suff'rings in the coldest day
110 ' A period terminates, and joys repay.
111 Perhaps e'en now, whilst her those joys we boast,
112 'Full many a bark rides down the neighb'ring coast,
113 Where the high northern waves tremendous roar,
114 ' Drove down by blasts from Norway's icy shore.
115 'The Sea-boy there, less fortunate than thou,
116 ' Feels all thy pains in all the gusts that blow;[Page 84]
117 His freezing hands now drench'd, now dry, by turns;
118 'Now lost, now seen, the distant light that burns,
119 ' On some tall cliff uprais'd, a flaming guide,
120 'That throws its friendly radiance o'er the tide.
121 ' His labours cease not with declining day,
122 'But toils and perils mark his watry way;
123 ' And whilst in peaceful dreams secure we lie,
124 'The ruthless whirlwinds rage along the sky,
125 ' Round his head whistling; ... and shalt thou repine,
126 'Whilst this protecting roof still shelters thine?'
127 Mild, as the vernal show'r, his words prevail,
128 And aid the moral precept of his tale:
129 His wond'ring hearers learn, and ever keep
130 These first ideas of the reatless deep;
131 And, as the opening mind a circuit tries,
132 Present felicities in value rise.
133 Increasing pleasures every hour they find,
134 The warmth more precious, and he shelter kind;[Page 85]
135 Warmth that long reigning bids the eyelids close,
136 As through the blood its balmy influence goes,
137 When the cheer'd heart forgets fatigues and cares,
138 And drowsiness alone dominion bears.
139 Sweet then the ploughman's slumbers, hale and young,
140 When the last topic dies upon his tongue;
141 Sweet then the bliss his transient dreams inspire,
142 Till chilblains wake him, or the snapping fire:
143 He starts, and ever thoughtful of his team,
144 Along the glitt'ring snow a feeble gleam
145 Shoots from his lantern, as he yawning goes
146 To add fresh comforts to their night's repose;
147 Diffusing fragrance as their food he moves,
148 And pats the jolly sides of those he loves.
149 Thus full replenish'd, perfect ease possest,
150 From might till morn alternate food and rest,
151 No rightful cheer withheld, no sleep debar'd,
152 Their each day's labour brings its sure reward. [Page 86]
153 Yet when from plough or lumb'ring cart set free,
154 They taste awhile the sweets of liberty:
155 E'en sober Dobbin lifts his clumsy heels
156 And kicks, disdainful of the dirty wheels;
157 But soon, his frolic ended, yields again
158 To trudge the road, and wear the clinking chain.
159 Short-sighted DOBBIN! ... thou canst only see
160 The trivial hardships that encompass thee:
161 Thy chains were freedom, and thy toils repose,
162 Could the poor post-horse tell thee all his woes;
163 Shew thee his bleeding shoulders, and unfold
164 The dreadful anguish he endures for gold:
165 Hir'd at each call of business, lust, or rage,
166 That prompt the trav'eller on from stage to stage.
167 Still on his strength depends their boasted speed;
168 For them his limbs grow weak, his bare ribs bleed;
169 And though he groaning quickens at command,
170 Their extra shilling in the rider's hand[Page 87]
171 Becomes his bitter scourge: ... 'tis he must feel
172 The double efforts of the lash and steel;
173 Till when, up-hill, the destin'd inn he gains,
174 And trembling under complicated pains,
175 Prone from his nostrils, darting on the ground,
176 His breath emitted floats in clouds around:
177 Drops chase each other down his chest and sides,
178 And spatter'd mud his native colour hides:
179 Through his swoln veins the boiling torrent flows,
180 And every nerve a separate torture knows.
181 His harness loos'd, he welcomes eager-eyed
182 The pail's full draught that quivers by his side;
183 And joys to see the well-known stable door,
184 As the starv'd mariner the friendly shore.
185 Ah, well for him if here his suff'rings ceas'd,
186 And ample hours of rest his pains appeas'd!
187 But rous'd again, and sternly bade to rise,
188 And shake refreshing slumber from his eyes,[Page 88]
189 Ere his exhausted spirits can return,
190 Or through his frame reviving ardour burn,
191 Come forth he must, though limping, maim'd, and sore;
192 He hears the whip; the chaise is at the door: ...
193 The collar tightens, and again he feels
194 His half-heal'd wounds inflam'd; again the wheels
195 With tiresome sameness in his ears resound,
196 O'er blinding dust, or miles of flinty ground.
197 Thus nightly robb'd, and injur'd day by day,
198 His piece-meal murd'rers wear his life away.
199 What say'st thou, Dobbin? what though hounds await
200 With open jaws the moment of thy fate
201 No better fate attends his public race;
202 His life is misery, and his end disgrace.
203 Then freely bear thy burden to the mill,
204 Obey but one short law, ... thy driver's will.
205 Affection, to thy memory ever true,
206 Shall boast of mighty loads that Dobbin drew;[Page 89]
207 And back to childhood shall the mind with pride
208 Recount thy gentleness in many a ride
209 To pond, or field, or village fair, when thou
210 Held'st high thy braided mane and comely brow;
211 And oft the Tale shall rise to homely fame
212 Upon thy gen'rous spirit and thy name.
213 Though faithful to a proverb, we regard
214 The midnight chieftain of the farmer's yard,
215 Beneath whose guardianship all hearts rejoice,
216 Woke by the echo of his hollow voice;
217 Yet as the Hound may fault'ring quit the pack,
218 Snuff the foul scent, and hasten yelping back;
219 And e'en the docile Pointer know disgrace,
220 Thwarting the gen'ral instinct of his race;
221 E'en so the MASTIFF, or the meaner Cur,
222 At times will from the path of duty err,
223 (A pattern of fidelity by day;
224 By night a murderer, lurking for his prey;)[Page 90]
225 And round the pastures or the fold will creep,
226 And, coward-like, attack the peaceful sheep:
227 Alone the wanton mischief he pursues,
228 Alone in reeking blood his jaws embrues;
229 Chasing amain his fright'ned victims round,
230 Till death in wild confusion strews the ground;
231 Then wearied out, to kennel sneaks away,
232 And licks his guilty paws till break of day.
233 The deed discover'd, and the news once spread,
234 Vengeance hangs o'er the unknown culprit's head,
235 And careful Shepherds extra hours bestow
236 In patient watchings for the common foe;
237 A foe most dreaded now, when rest and peace
238 Should wait the season of the flock's increase.
239 In part these nightly terrors to dispel,
240 GILES, ere he sleeps, his little Flock must tell.
241 From the fire-side with many a shrug he hies,
242 Glad if the full-orb'd Moon salute his eyes,[Page 91]
243 And through the unbroken stillness of the night
244 Shed on his path her beams of cheering light.
245 With saunt'ring step he climbs the distant stile,
246 Whilst all around him wears a placid smile;
247 There views the white-rob'd clouds in clusters driv'n,
248 And all the glorious pageantry of heav'n.
249 Low, on the utmost bound'ry of the sight,
250 The rising vapours catch the silver light;
251 Thence Fancy measures, as they parting fly,
252 Which first will throw its shadow on they eye,
253 Passing the source of light; and thence away,
254 Succeeded quick by brighter still than they.
255 For yet above these wafted clouds are seen
256 (In a remoter sky, still more serene,)
257 Others, detach'd in ranges through the air,
258 Spotless as snow, and countless as they're fair;
259 Scatter'd immensely wide from east to west,
260 The beauteous semblance of a Flock at rest. [Page 92]
261 These, to the raptur'd mind, aloud proclaim
262 Their MIGHTY SHEPHERD'S everlasting Name.
263 Whilst thus the loit'rer's utmost stretch of soul
264 Climbs the still clouds, or passes those that roll,
265 And loos'd Imagination soaring goes
266 High o'er his home, and all his little woes,
267 TIME glides away; neglected Duty calls:
268 At once from plainss of light to earth he falls,
269 And down a narrow lane, well known by day,
270 With all his speed pursues his sounding way,
271 In thought still half absorb'd, and chill'd with cold;
272 When, lo! an object frightful to behold;
273 A grisly SPECTRE, cloth'd in silver-grey,
274 Around whose feet the waving shadows play,
275 Stands in his path! ... He stops, and not a breath
276 Heaves from his heart, that sinks almost to death.
277 Loud the owl halloos o'er his head unseen;
278 All else is silent, dismally serene:[Page 93]
279 Some prompt ejaculation, whisper'd low,
280 Yet bears him up against the threat'ning foe;
281 And thus poor Giles, though half inclin'd to fly,
282 Mutters his doubts, and strains his stedfast eye.
283 'Tis not my crimes thou com'st here to reprove;
284 'No murders stain my soul, no perjur'd love:
285 ' If thou'rt indeed what here thou seem'st to be,
286 'Thy dreadful mission cannot reach to me.
287 ' By parents taught still to mistrust mine eyes,
288 'Still to approach each object of surprise,
289 ' Lest Fancy's formful visions should deceive
290 'In moon-light paths, or glooms of falling eve,
291 ' This then's the moment when my heart should try
292 'To scan thy motionless deformity;
293 'But oh, the fearful task! yet well I know
294 ' An aged ash, with many a spreading bough,
295 '(Beneath whose leaves I've found a Summer's bow'r,
296 ' Beneath whose trunk I've weather'd many a show'r,)[Page 94]
297 'Stands singly down this solitary way,
298 ' But far beyond where now my footsteps stay.
299 'Tis true, thus far I've come with heedless haste;
300 'No reck'ning kept, no passing objects trac'd: ...
301 ' And can I then have reach'd that very tree?
302 'Or is its reverend form assum'd by thee?'
303 The happy thought alleviates his pain:
304 He creeps another step; then stops again;
305 Till slowly, as his noiseless feet draw near,
306 Its perfect lineaments at once appear;
307 Its crown of shiv'ring ivy whispering peace,
308 And its white bark that fronts the moon's pale face.
309 Now, whilst his blood mounts upward, now he knows
310 The solid gain that from conviction flows;
311 And strengthen'd Confidence shall hence fulfill
312 (With conscious Innocence more valued still)
313 The dreariest task that winter nights can bring,
314 By church-yard dark, or grove, or fairy ring;[Page 95]
315 Still buoying up the timid mind of youth,
316 Till loit'ring Reason hoists the scale of Truth.
317 With these blest guardians Giles his course pursues,
318 Till numbering his heavy-sided ewes,
319 Surrounding stillness tranquilize his breast,
320 And shape the dreams that wait his hours of rest.
321 As when retreating tempests we behold,
322 Whose skirts at length the azure sky unfold,
323 And full of murmurings and mingled wrath,
324 Slowly unshroud the smiling face of earth,
325 Bringing the bosom joy: so WINTER flies! ...
326 And see the Source of Life and Light uprise!
327 A height'ning arch o'er southern hills he bends;
328 Warm on the cheek the slanting beam descends,
329 And gives the reeking mead a brighter hue,
330 And draws the modest primrose bud to view.
331 Yet frosts succeed, and winds impetuous rush,
332 And hail-storms rattle through the budding bush;[Page 96]
333 And night-fall'n LAMBS require the shepherd's care,
334 And teeming EWES, that still their burdens bear;
335 Beneath whose sides tomorrow's dawn may see
336 The milk-white strangers bow the trembling knee;
337 At whose first birth the pow'rful instinct's seen
338 That fills with champions the daisied green:
339 For ewes that stood aloof with fearful eye,
340 With stamping foot now men and dogs defy,
341 And obstinately faithful to their young,
342 Guard their first steps to join the bleating throng.
343 But casualties and death from damps and cold
344 Will still attend the well-conducted fold:
345 Her tender offspring dead, the dam aloud
346 Calls, and runs wild amidst the unconscious crowd:
347 And orphan'd sucklings raise the piteous cry;
348 No wool to warm them, no defenders nigh.
349 And must her streaming milk then flow in vain?
350 Must unregarded innocence complain? [Page 97]
351 No; ... ere this strong solicitude subside,
352 Maternal fondness may be fresh apply'd,
353 And the adopted stripling still may find
354 A parent most assiduously kind.
355 For this he's doom'd awhile disguis'd to range,
356 (For fraud or force must work the wish'd-for change;)
357 For this his predecessor's skin he wears,
358 Till cheated into tenderness and cares,
359 The unsuspecting dam, contented grown,
360 Cherish and guard the fondling as her own.
361 Thus all by turns to fair perfection rise;
362 Thus twins are parted to increase their size:
363 Thus instinct yields as interest points the way,
364 Till the bright flock, augmenting every day,
365 On sunny hills and vales of springing flow'rs
366 With ceaseless clamour greet the vernal hours.
367 The humbler Shepherd here with joy beholds
368 The approv'd economy of crowded folds,[Page 98]
369 And, in his small contracted round of cares,
370 Adjusts the practice of each hint he hears:
371 For Boys with emulation learn to glow,
372 And boast their pastures, and their healthful show
373 Of well-grown Lambs, the glory of the Spring;
374 And field to field in competition bring.
375 E'en GILES, for all his cares and watchings past,
376 And all his contests with the wintry blast,
377 Claims a full share of that sweet praise bestow'd
378 By gazing neighbours, when along the road,
379 Or village green, his curly-coated throng
380 Suspends the chorus of the spinner's song;
381 When Admiration's unaffected grace
382 Lisps from the tongue, and beams in every face:
383 Delightful moments! ... Sunshine, Health, and Joy,
384 Play round, and cheer the elevated Boy!
385 'Another SPRING!' his heart exulting cries;
386 'Another YEAR! with promis'd blessings rise! ... [Page 99]
387 ' ETERNAL POWER! from whom those blessings flow,
388 'Teach me still more to wonder, more to know:
389 ' Seed-time and Harvest let me see again;
390 'Wander the leaf-strewn wood, the frozen plain:
391 ' Let the first Flower, corn-waving Field, Plain, Tree,
392 'Here round my home, still lift my soul to THEE;
393 ' And let me ever, midst thy bounties, raise
394 'An humble note of thankfulness and praise! —
APRIL 22, 1798.