« EdellinenJatka »
Fierce the dispute, whate'er the theme; while she,
Fell discord, arbitress of such debate,
Perch'd on the sign-post, holds with even hand,
Her undecisive scales. In this she lays
A weight of ignorance ; in that, of pride ;
And smiles, delighted with the eternal poise.
Dire is the frequent curse, and its twin sound,
The cheek-distending oath, not to be prais d
As ornamental, musical, polite,
Like those which modern senators employ,
Whose oath is rhetoric, and who swear for fame !
Behold the schools in which plebeian minds,
Once simple, are initiated in arts,
Which some may practise with politer grace,
But none with readier skill !-'tis here they learn
The road that leads, from competence and peace,
To indigence and rapine ; till at last
Society grown weary of the load,
Shakes her encumber'd lap, and casts them out.
But censure profits little : vain the attempt
To advertise, in verse, a public pest,
That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds
His hungry acres, stinks, and is of use.
The excise is fattend with the rich result
Of all this riot; and ten thousand casks,
For ever dribbling out their base contents,
Touch'd by the Midas finger of the state,
Bleed gold for ministers to sport away.
Drink, and be mad, then ; 'ts your country bids !
Gloriously drunk, obey the important call!
Her cause demands the assistance of your throats ;-
Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.
Would I had fallen upon those happier days
That poets celebrate ; those golden times,
And those Arcadian scenes, that Maro sings,
And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose.
Nymphs were Dianas then, and swains had hearts
That felt their virtues : innocence, it seems,
From courts dismiss'd, found shelter in the groves.
The footsteps of simplicity, impress'd
Upon the yielding herbage, (so they sing)
Then were not all effac'd : then speech profane,
And manners profligate, were rarely found ;
Observ'd as prodigies, and soon reclaim'd.
Vain wish I those days were never : airy dreams
Sat for the pi&ture ; and the poet's hand,
Imparting substance to an empty shade,
Impos'd a gay delirium for a truth.
Grant it :-I still must envy them an age
That favour'd such a dream ; in days like these
Impossible, when virtue is so scarce,
That to suppose a scene where she presides,
Is tramontane, and stumbles all belief.
No: we are polish'd now! The rural lass,
Whom once her yirgin modesty and grace,
Her artless manners, and her neat attire,
So dignified, that she was hardly less
Than the fair shepherdess of old romance,
Is seen no more. The character is lost !
Her head, adorn'd with lappets pinn'd aloft,
And ribbands streaming gay, superbly rais’d,
And magnified beyond all human size,
Indebted to some smart wig-weaver's hand
For more than half the tresses it sustains ;
Her elbows ruffled, and her tottering form
Ill propp'd upon French heels; she might be deem'd
(But that the basket dangling on her arm
Interprets her more truly) of a rank
Too proud for daily work, or sale of eggs.
Expect her soon with foot-boy at her heels,
No longer blushing for her awkward load,
Her train and her umbrella all her care !
The town has ting'd the country ; and the stain
Appears a spot upon a vestal's robe,
The worse for what it soils. The fashion runs
Down into scenes still rural ; but, alas,
Scenes rarely grac'd with rural manners now!
Time was when, in the pastoral retreat,
The unguarded door was safe ; men did not watch
To invade another's right, or guard their own.
Then sleep was undisturb'd by fear, unscar’d
By drunken howlings ; and the chilling tale
Of midnight murder was a wonder, heard
With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes.
But farewell now to unsuspicious nights,
And slumbers unalarm'd! Now, ere you sleep,
See that your polish'd arms be prim'd with care,
And drop the night-bolt ;-ruffians are abroad ;
And the first laruni of the cock's shrill throat
May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear
To horrid sounds of hostile feet within.
Even daylight has its dangers; and the walk
Thro' pathless wastes and woods, unconscious once
Of other tenants than melodious birds,
Or harmless flocks, is hazardous and bold.
Lamented change! to which full many a cause
Inveterate, hopeless of a cure, conspires.
The course of human things from good to ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
Increase of power begets increase of wealth ;
Wealth luxury, and luxury excess ;
Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague
That seizes first the opulent, descends
To the next rank contagious, and in time
Taints downward all the graduated scale
Of order, from the chariot to the plough.
The rich, and they that have an arm to check
The license of the lowest in degree,
Desert their office ; and themselves, intent
On pleasure, haunt the capital, and thus
To all the violence of lawless hands
Resign the scenes their presence might prote&t.
Authority herself not seldom sleeps,
Though resident, and witness of the wrong.
The plump convivial parson often bears
The magisterial sword in vain, and lays
His reverence and his worship both to rest
On the same cushion of habitual sloth.
Perhaps timidity restrains his arm;
When he should strike he trembles, and sets free,
Himself enslav'd by terror of the band,
The audacious convict, whim he dares not bind.
Perhaps, though by profession ghostly pure,
He too may have his vice, and sometimes prove
Less dairrty than become his grave outside
In lucrative concerns. Examine well
His milk-white hand; the palny is hardly clean
But here and there an ugly sniutch appears.
Foh! 'twas a bribe that left it: he has touch'd
Corruption! Whoso seeks an audit here
Propitious, pays his tribute, game or fish,
Wild-fowl or venison; and his errand speeds.
But faster far, and more than all the rest,
A noble cause, which none who bears a spark
Of public virtue, ever wish'd remov'd,
Works the deplor'd and mischievous effect.
"Tis universal soldiership has stabb'd
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms, through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them, in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
T'he clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant's ignorance of all
But his own simple pleasures,-now and then
A wrestling match, a foot.race, or a fair,
Is ballotted, and trembles at the news:
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and, mumbling, swears
A bible-oath to be whate'er they please,
To do he knows not what! The task perform’d,
That instant he becomes the serjeant's care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees,
Unapt to learn, and form'd of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it wel:-
He stands erect; his slouch becomes a walk;
He steps right onward, martial in his air,
His form, and movement: is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him ; wears
His hat, or his plum'd helmet, with a grace;
And, his three years of heroship expir d,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field, in which no fife or drum
Attends him; drives his cattle to a march;
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
'Twere well if his exterior change were all
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance, and harmless manners too!
To swear, to game, to drink; to show at home,
By lewdness, idleness, and sabbath-breach,
The great proficiency he made abroad;
To astonish and to grieve his gazing friends ;
To break some maiden's and his mother's heart;
To be a pest where he was useful once ;
Are his sole aim, and all his glory, now!
Man, in society, is like a flower Blown in its native bed: 'tis there alone
His faculties expanded in full bloom,
Shine out; there only reach their proper use.
But man, associated and leagu'd with man
By regal warrant, or self-join'd by bond,
For interest-sake, or swarming into clans
Beneath one head, for purposes of war,
Like flowers selected from the rest, and bound
And bundled close to fill some crowded vase,
Fades rapidly, and, by compression marr'd,
Contracts defilement not to be endur'd.
Hence charter'd boroughs are such public plagues ;
And burghers, men immaculate, perhaps,
In all their private functions, once combin'd,
Become a loathsonie body, only fit
For dissolution, hurtful to the main.
Hence merchants, unimpeachable of sin
Against the charities of domestic life,
Incorporated, seem at once to lose
Their nature ; and, disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword's point, and dyeing the white robe
Of innocent conimercial justice red.
Hence, too, the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all its majesty of thund'ring pomp,
Enchanting music and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught
On principle, where foppery atones
For folly, gallantry for every vice.
But, slighted as it is, and by the great
Abandon'd, and, which still I more regret,
Infected with the manners and the modes
It knew not once, the country wins me stil.
I never fram'd a wish, or form’d a plan,
That flatter'd me with hopes of eartlıly bliss,
But there I laid the scene. There early stray'd
My fancy, ere yet liberty of choice
Had found me, or the hope of being free.
My very dreams were rural ; rural, too,
The first born efforts of my youthful muse,
Sportive, and jingling her poetic bells
Ere yet her ear was mistress of their powers.
No bard could please me but whose lyre was tun'd
*To Nature's praises. Heroes and their feats