Written at Steephill, in the Isle of Wight,
August, M DCC XC.
1 WHAT joy, escaping from the restless throng,
2 Who in Augusta*
* A name for London. waste their trifling day,
3 To wander, Vecta†
† The ancient name of the Isle of Wight., thy wild rocks among,
4 Or careless o'er thy airy summits stray!
5 Or musing loiter in thy waving groves,
6 Or mark thy limpid streamlets as they flow;
7 Or view thy hamlets, where mild Patience loves
8 To shade with olive Labour's sun-burnt brow!
9 Where the calm villagers content abide,
10 Blest in the sweets of Liberty and Peace,
11 Crop the luxuriant harvest's golden pride,
12 Or spread their nets to catch the finny race.
13 No wild ambition damps the genuine joys
14 Which bounteous Nature to her sons affords;
15 No keen remorse their quiet rest annoys,
16 Or sick disgust attends their frugal boards.
17 Ah! why should Fortune, with deceitful smile,
18 Lure free-born Britons from the rural plain,
19 In courts deprav'd for sordid wealth to toil,
20 And meanly drag a golden idiot's chain?
21 What numbers, Vecta, on thy sea-girt shore,
22 Unpractis'd in the world's pernicious strife,
23 Rich in simplicity, ne'er sought for more,
24 And clos'd where they receiv'd their blameless life!
25 Yet tho' thy hills no costly metals yield,
26 To draw oppressive Avarice from afar,
27 Even here the rustic in his native field
28 Has sunk beneath the iron hand of war.
[Page 95] 29 When banish'd Harold*
* Harold, with his father Earl Goodwin, and brother Tosti, invaded this Island when banished the kingdom. with destructive rage
30 Against thine Isle his vengeful fury turn'd,
31 What crowds, unnoted in the historic page,
32 Here o'er their murder'd friends in anguish mourn'd!
33 The dreadful scene, methinks, even now I see!
34 O Harold, be this cruelty abhorr'd!
35 Spare the low cot of helpless Poverty,
36 And 'gainst the powerful turn thy conquering sword.
37 Here amid sanguine heaps Earl Goodwin stands;
38 Relentless Tosti hears the suppliants cry;
39 Those cries restrain not the fierce victor's hands,
40 And the pale Islanders unpitied die.
41 Unhappy victims, who with fruitless prayers
42 To savage conquerors have sued in vain!
43 To avenge your wrongs, impending Fate prepares
44 For your unfeeling foes an equal pain.
45 Soon civil discord, and fraternal hate,
46 Shall destine Tosti to an early tomb;
47 While madly proud, usurping regal state,
48 Harold on Hastings' plain shall meet his doom.
49 Where the insignia now of kingly pride,
50 The dazzling sceptre and imperial throne?
51 For him each vain distinction's laid aside!
52 "UNHAPPY HAROLD*
* Harold was buried by his Mother at Waltham Abbey, with this emphatic Inscription: "INFELIX HAROLD." Vide Rapia.! "only marks the stone.
53 Thus shall the monarch mingle with the slave,
54 Thus shall the noble and ignoble meet:
55 Death, all-subduing, opens in the grave,
56 To wealth and wretchedness a like retreat.
57 But turn, my mind, from ages long past o'er,
58 Far brighter prospects to thy view remain;
59 Vecta can dread a hostile force no more,
60 While England's navy triumphs o'er the main*
* At this time the English fleet lay off the Isle of Wight, commanded by Lord Howe..
61 Behold the warlike fleet in proud array,
62 Majestic moving o'er the liquid plain:
63 Loose to the wind their flags and streamers play,
64 And menace ruin to insulting Spain.
65 Thrice happy land, where the directing care
66 Of a wise Statesman†
† Our present Minister. in each step we trace;
67 Whose active vigilance prepares for war,
68 Even when reclining in the lap of Peace!
69 Long may he, Albion, near thy throne preside;
70 And ne'er inconstant Fortune's falsehood prove,
71 Humble the Spanish and the Gallic pride,
72 And be rewarded by his country's love!
73 Here pause, my Muse! no more the theme pursue,
74 Fix on the present thine enraptur'd eye:
75 A brighter scene can ne'er attract thy view;
76 O, may its cheering lustre never die!