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- studiis florens ignobilis oti.–VIRG. GEOR. Lib. iv.
Retirement from busy life generally desired, 1–Rarely improved, 40—Happy,
if consecrated to the service of God and to meditation on his works, 45– Retirement favourable to spiritual improvement, 117—Panorama of human life, 147—Various motives for courting retirement, 169—The poet's motives, 187—The lover's, 219–Hypochondria, 279–Meets with little sympatby, 301–Cure to be sought in the favour of God, 343–The retired statesman, 365—His anticipations of enjoyment, 381–Set free from the cares of life, 391-Requires society, and selects a friend, 437—His employments begin to pall, 457—Returns to the world, 479—Suburban villas, 481—The citizen's of country life, 487—Seaside enjoyments, 515— The ocean, 525—The spendthrift's involuntary retirement, 559—The sportsman turned ostler, 575—Difficulty of managing leisure, 611-Its responsibilities, 649—Good books necessary to retirement, 683—Friends, 719—And divine communion, 743—Religion does not forbid harmless enjoyments, 783—The poet's own employment of retirement, 801.
HACKNEY'D in business, wearied at that oar
Which thousands, once fast chain’d to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego ;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er,
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having lived a trifler, die a man.
Thus Conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell’d against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form'd for God alone,
For Heaven's high purposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain ;
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker's power and love.
'Tis well if, look'd for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls that have long despised their heavenly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ'd with ceaseless care
In catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Inveterate habits choke the unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tenderest part,
And, draining its nutritious powers to feed
Their noxious growth, starve every better seed.
Happy, if full of days—but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life's evening star,
Sick of the service of a world that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from Custom's idiot sway,
To serve the Sovereign we were born to obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display'd
(Infinite skill !) in all that he has made !
To trace in Nature's most minute design
The signature and stamp of power divine,
Contrivance intricate, express'd with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint,
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks and it is done,
The invisible in things scarce seen reveald,
To whom an atom is an ample field;
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch'd, and those resuscitated worms,
New life ordain'd, and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now buoyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size,
More hideous foes than fancy can devise ;
With helmet heads and dragon scales adorn'd,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn'd,
Would mock the majesty of man's high birth,
Despise bis bulwarks, and unpeople earth :
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
Far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour'd at his command,
From urns that never fail, through every
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course ;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales ;
Seas on which every nation spreads her sails ;
The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light,
The crescent moon, the diadem of night :
Stars countless, each in his appointed place,
Fast anchor'd in the deep abyss of space-
At such a sight to catch the poet's flame,
And with a rapture like his own exclaim,
These are thy glorious works, thou Source of Good !
How dimly seen, how faintly understood !
Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care,
This universal frame, thus wondrous fair ;
Thy power divine, and bounty beyond thought,
Adored and praised in all that thou hast wrought.
Absorb’d in that immensity I see,
I shrink abased, and yet aspire to thee ;
Instruct me, guide me to that heavenly day
Thy words, more clearly than thy works, display,
That, while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine, 97
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
O blest proficiency ! surpassing all
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompence that arts or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compared with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to show ?
Thus studied, used, and consecrated thus,
On earth what is, seems form'd indeed for us ;
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguiled,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires,
But as a scale by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends,
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferior beings up to God,
And sees, by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for Him.
Not that I mean to approve, or would enforce,
A superstitious and monastic course ;
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffic and the shades,
be fear'd amid the busiest scenes,
Or scorn'd where business never intervenes.
But 'tis not easy with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest powers,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit Thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish Fancy points the way ;
To bid the pleadings of Self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker's will ;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there ;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by that sacred test ;
To dive into the secret deeps within,
Το spare no passion and no favourite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves, and our recovery from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind released
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increased;
How to secure, in some propitious hour,
The point of interest or the post of
A soul serene, and equally retired
From objects too much dreaded or desired,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
Opening the map of God's extensive plan,
We find a little isle, this life of man ;