صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

But none without some relish, none unmoved.
It is a flame, that dies not even there,

Where nothing feeds it: neither business, crowds,
Nor habits of luxurious city life,

Whatever else they smother of true worth
In human bosoms, quench it or abate.
The villas with which London stands begirt,
Like a swarth Indian, with his belt of beads,
Prove it. A breath of unadulterate air,
The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer
The citizen, and brace his languid frame!
E'en in the stifling bosom of the town,

A garden, in which nothing thrives, has charms
That soothe the rich possessor; much consoled,
That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint,
Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well
He cultivates. These serve him with a hint,
That nature lives; that sight-refreshing green
Is still the livery she delights to wear,
Though sickly samples of th' exuberant whole
What are the casements lined with creeping herbs,
The prouder sashes fronted with a range
Of orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed,

The Frenchman's darling?* are they not all proofs
That man, immured in cities, still retains
His inborn inextinguishable thirst

Of rural scenes, compensating his loss
By supplemental shifts, the best he may?
The most unfurnished with the means of life,
And they that never pass their brick-wall bounds,
To range the fields, and treat their lungs with air,
Yet feel the burning instinct: over head
Suspend their crazy boxes, planted thick
And watered duly. There the pitcher stands
A fragment, and the spoutless tea-pot there;
Sad witnesses how close-pent man regrets
The country, with what ardour he contrives

* Mignonnette.

[ocr errors]

A peep at Nature, when he can no more.
Hail, therefore, patroness of health and ease,
And contemplation, heart consoling joys,
And harmless pleasures, in the thronged abode
Of multitudes unknown; hail, rural life!
Address himself, who will to the pursuit
Of honours, or emolument, or fame;
I shall not add myself to such a chase,
Thwart his attempts, or envy his success.
Some must be great. Great offices will have
Great talents. And God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordained to fill.
To the deliverer of an injured land

He gives a tongue t' enlarge upon, a heart
To feel, and courage to redress her wrongs;
To monarchs dignity; to judges sense;
To artists ingenuity and skill;

To me, an unambitious mind, content

In the low vale of life, that early felt

A wish for ease and leisure, and ere long

Found here that leisure, and that ease I wished.

22

THE TASK.

BOOK V.

THE WINTER MORNING WALK.

ARGUMENT.

A FROSTY morning. The foddering of cattle.-The woodman and his dog. The poultry.-Whimsical effects of frost at a waterfall.-The empress of Russia's palace of ice.-Amusements of monarchs-War, one of them.-Wars, whence.-And whence monarchy.-The evils of it.English and French loyalty contrasted.-The Bastile, and a prisoner there.-Liberty the chief recommendation of this country.-Modern patriotism questionable, and why.-The perishable nature of the best human institutions.-Spiritual liberty not perishable.-The slavish state of man by nature.-Deliver him, Deist, if you can.-Grace must do it.The respective merits of patriots and martyrs stated.-Their different treatment.-Happy freedom of the man whom grace makes free.-His relish of the works of God.-Address to the Creator.

"Tis morning; and the sun, with ruddy orb Ascending, fires th' horizon; while the clouds, That crowd away before the driving wind, More ardent as the disk emerges more, Resemble most some city in a blaze, Seen through the leafless wood. His slanting ray Slides ineffectual down the snowy vale, And, tinging all with his own rosy hue, From every herb and every spiry blade Stretches a length of shadow o'er the field. Mine, spindling into longitude immense, In spite of gravity, and sage remark That I myself am but a fleeting shade, Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance I view the muscular proportioned limb Transformed to a lean shank. The shapeless pair, As they designed to mock me, at my side Take step for step; and, as I near approach The cottage, walk along the plastered wall, Preposterous sight! the legs without the man. The verdure of the plain lies buried deep Beneath the dazzling deluge: and the bents,

And coarser grass, unspearing o'er the rest,
Of late unsightly and unseen, now shine
Conspicuous, and in bright apparel clad,
And, fledged with icy feathers, not superb.
The cattle mourn in corners, where the fence
Screens them, and seem half petrified to sleep
In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait
Their wonted fodder; not like hungering man,
Fretful if unsupplied; but silent, meek,
And patient of the slow-paced swain's delay.
He from the stack carves out th' accustomed load
Deep-plunging, and again deep-plunging oft,
His broad keen knife into the solid mass;
Smooth as a wall the upright remnant stands,
With such undeviating and even force
He severs it away: no needless care,
Lest storms should overset the leaning pile
Deciduous, or its own unbalanced weight.
Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcerned
The cheerful haunts of man; to wield the axe,
And drive the wedge in yonder forest drear,
From morn to eve his solitary task.

Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears,
And tail cropped short, half lurcher and half cur
His dog attends him. Close behind his heel
Now creeps he slow; and, now with many a frisk
Wide-scampering, snatches up the drifted snow
With ivory teeth, or ploughs it with his snout;
Then shakes his powdered coat, and barks for joy.
Heedless of all his pranks, the sturdy churl
Moves right toward the mark; nor stops for aught
But now and then with pressure of his thumb
T' adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube,
That fumes beneath his nose; the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.
Now from the roots, or from the neighbouring pale,
Where, diligent to catch the first faint gleam
Of smiling day, they gossip side by side.

Come trooping at the housewife's well-known call,
The feathered tribes domestic. Half on wing,
And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood,
Conscious and fearful of too deep a plunge.
The sparrows peep, and quit the sheltering eaves,
To seize the fair occasion; well they eye
The scattered grain, and thievishly resolved
T' escape th' impending famine, often scared,
As oft return, a pert voracious kind.
Clean riddance quickly made, one only care
Remains to each, the search of sunny nook,
Or shed impervious to the blast. Resigned
To sad necessity, the cock foregoes
His wonted strut; and wading at their head
With well-considered steps, seems to resent
His altered gait and stateiiness retrenched.
How find the myriads, that in summer cheer
The hills and valleys with their ceaseless songs,
Due sustenance, or where subsist they now?
Earth yields them naught th' imprisoned worm is

safe

Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs
Lie covered close; and berry-bearing thorns,
That feed the thrush, (whatever some suppose)
Afford the smaller minstrels no supply.

Th' long protracted rigour of the year
Thins all their numerous flocks. In chinks and
holes

Ten thousand seek an unmolested end,
As instinct prompts; self-buried ere they die.
The very rooks and daws forsake the fields,
Where neither grub, nor root, nor earth-nut, now
Repays their labour more; and perched aloft
By the wayside, or stalking in the path,
Lean pensioners upon the traveller's track,
Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them,
Of voided pulse or half-digested grain.
The streams are lost amid the splendid blank,

« السابقةمتابعة »