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Where no prevarication shall avail,
Where eloquence and artifice shall fail,
The pride of arrogant distinctions fall,
And conscience and our conduct judge us all?
Pardon me, ye that give the midnight oil
To learned cares or philosophic toil,
Though I revere your honourable names,
Your useful labours and important aims,
And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enriched with the discoveries ye have made ;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employed on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And after poising her adventurous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
ye, when happiest, and enlightened most, And highest in renown, can justly boast.
A mind unnerved, or indisposed to bear The weight of subjects worthiest of her care, Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires, Must change her nature, or in vain retires. An idler is a watch, that wants both hands, As useless if it goes as when it stands, Books therefore, not the scandal of the shelves, In which lewd sensualists print out themselves; Not those, in which the stage gives vice a blow, With what success let modern manners show; Nor his, who for the bane of thousands born Built God a church, and laugh'd his word to scorn, Skilful alike to seem devout and just, And stab religion with a sly side thrust; Nor those of learned philologists, who chase A painting syllable throngh time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaal, to Greece, and into Noah's ark;
But such as learning without false pretence,
The friend of truth, th' associate of sound sense,
And such as in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment labouring in the scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use :
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And while she polishes, perverts the taste ;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars invention and makes fancy lame,
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels (witness every month’s review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one ;
Though one, I grant it, in the generous breast
Will stand advanced a step above the rest :
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)
Friends, not adopted with a school-boy's haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well-born, well-disciplined, who, placed apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, though the world may think th' ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustic as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs, who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman *, his remark was shrewd -
How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper-solitude is sweet,
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away ;
Divine communion, carefully enjoyed,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
Oh sacred art, to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorned in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt and hardly borne,
Not knowing thee, we reap with bleeding hands
Flowers of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief,
Murmuring and ungrateful discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours tart as wine upon the fret,
'Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues, that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens th' obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah's promised king, bereft of all,
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant's frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him, o'erwhelm'd with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
'Tis manly music, such as martyrs make,
Suffering with gladness for a Saviour's sake;
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion's roar,
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before ;
'Tis love like his, that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumbered pleasures harmlessly pursned;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant, that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create ;
To mark the matchless workings of the power,
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends nature forth the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvass innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet-
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of time.
My poetry (or rather notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetic fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow winding Ouse;
Content if thus sequestered I may raise
A monitor's, though not a poet's praise,
And while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
THE YEARLY DISTRESS;
OR, TITHING-TIME AT STOCK IN ESSEX. Verses addressed a country clergyman complaining of the disagreeableness of the day annually appointed for receiving the dues at the parsonage.
COME, ponder well, for 'tis no jest,
To laugh it would be wrong,
The troubles of a worthy priest
The burden of my song.
This priest he merry is and blithe
Three-quarters of the year,
But oh! it cuts him like a scythe,
When tithing-time draws near.
He then is full of fright and fears,
As one at point to die,
And long before the day appears.
He heaves up many a sigh.
For then the farmers come jog, jog,
Along the miry road,
Each heart as beavy as a log,
To make their payments good.