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THE TASK.

BOOK II.

THE TIME-PIECE.

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Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness',
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war
Might never reach me more! My ear is pain'd,
My soul is sick with every day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which earth is fill’d.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart,
It does not feel for man. The natural bond
Of brotherhood is sever'd as the flax
That falls asunder at the touch of fire.
He finds his fellow guilty of a skin
Not colour'd like his own”, and having power
To inforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause
Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey.
Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other. Mountains interposed,

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1 Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place, that I might leave my people and go from them.— Jeremiuh, ix. 2.

: Not remembering that he is (as old Fuller says) “ the image of God cut in ebony."

$. C.-9.

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Make enemies of nations who had else
Like kindred drops been mingled into one.
Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
And worse than all, and most to be deplored
As human nature's broadest, foulest blot,
Chains him, and tasks him, and exacts his sweat
With stripes, that mercy with a bleeding heart
Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast.
Then what is man? And what man seeing this,
And having human feelings, does not blush
And hang his head, to think himself a man?
I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To carry me, to fan me while I sleep,
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
That sinews bought and sold have ever earn'd.
No: dear as freedom is, and in

my

heart's
Just estimation prized above all price,
I had much rather be myself the slave
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.
We have no slaves at home.—Then why abroad?
And they themselves once ferried o'er the wave
That parts us, are emancipate and loosed.
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free,
They touch our country and their shackles fall.
That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through every vein
Of all your empire! that where Britain's power
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too.

Sure there is need of social intercourse,
Benevolence and peace and mutual aid

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Between the nations, in a world that seems

50 To toll the death-bell of its own decease, And by the voice of all its elements To preach the general doom? When were the winds Let slip with such a warrant to destroy ? When did the waves so haughtily o’erleap Their ancient barriers, deluging the dry ? Fire from beneath, and meteors5 from above Portentous, unexampled, unexplained, Have kindled beacons in the skies; and the old And crazy earth has had her shaking fits More frequent, and foregone her usual rest. Is it a time to wrangle, when the props And pillars of our planet seem to fail, And Nature? with a dim and sickly eye To wait the close of all ? But grant her end 65 More distant, and that prophecy demands A longer respite, unaccomplished yet; Still they are frowning signals, and bespeak Displeasure in his breast who smites the earth Or heals it, makes it languish or rejoice.

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3 Alluding to the late calamities at Jamaica. C. * Cry havock, and let slip the dogs of war.

Julius Cæsar, act iii. August 18, 1783. C. 6 Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, &c.

2 Kings, v. 26. Are not you moved, when all the sway of earth

Shakes, like a thing unfirm ? Julius Casar. Act i. ? Alluding to the fog that covered both Europe and Asia during the whole summer of 1783. C.

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And 'tis but seemly, that where all deserve
And stand exposed by common peccancy
To what no few have felt, there should be peace,
And brethren in calamity should love.
Alas for Sicily! rude fragments now

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Lie scatter'd where the shapely column stood.
Her palaces are dust. In all her streets
The voice of singing and the sprightly chord
Are silent. Revelry and dance and show
Suffer a syncope and solemn pause,

80 While God performs upon the trembling stage Of his own works, his dreadful part alone. How does the earth receive him ?—with what signs Of gratulation and delight, her king ? Pours she not all her choicest fruits abroad, 85 Her sweetest flowers, her aromatic gums, Disclosing paradise where'er he treads ? She quakes at his approach. Her hollow womb Conceiving thunders, through a thousand deeps And fiery caverns roars beneath his foot.

90 The hills move lightly 10 and the mountains smoke,

8 Where cattle pastured late, now scattered lies

With carcasses and arms, the ensanguined field
Deserted.

Par. Lost, xi, 659.
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold.

Milton. Sonnet 18. 9 All the merry hearted do sigh. The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. The city of confusion is broken down.

Isaiah, xxiv. 10 I beheld the mountains, and they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.-- Jeremiah, iv. 24.

For He has touch'd them. From the extremest point
Of elevation down into the abyss,
His wrath is busy and his frown is felt.
The rocks fall headlong and the valleys rise ; 95
The rivers die into offensive pools,
And charged with putrid verdure, breathe a gross
And mortal nuisance into all the air.
What solid was, by transformation strange
Grows fluid; and the fixt and rooted earth

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Tormented into billows heaves and swells,
Or with vortiginous and hideous whirl
Sucks down its

prey

insatiable. Immense The tumult and the overthrow, the pangs And agonies of human and of brute

105 Multitudes, fugitive on every side, And fugitive in vain. The sylvan scene Migrates uplifted, and with all its soil Alighting in far distant fields, finds out A new possessor, and survives the change. 110 Ocean has caught the frenzy, and upwrought To an enormous and o’erbearing height, Not by a mighty wind, but by that voice Which winds and waves obey, invades the shore Resistless. Never such a sudden flood, Upridged so high, and sent on such a charge, Possess'd an inland scene. Where now the throng That press'd the beach, and hasty to depart Look’d to the sea for safety? They are gone, Gone with the refluent wave into the deep, 120 A prince with half his people. Ancient towers, And roofs embattled high, the gloomy scenes Where beauty oft and letter'd worth consume

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