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The history of the following production is briefly this: A lady, fond of blank verse, demanded a poem of that kind from the Author, and gave him the Sofa for a subject. He obeyed; and, having much leisure, connected another subject with it; and, pursuing the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him, brought forth at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended, a serious affair -a Volume.
In the Poem on the subject of Education, he would be very sorry to stand suspected of having aimed his censure at any particular school. His objections are such as naturally apply themselves to schools in general. If there were not, as for the most part there is, wilful neglect in those who manage them, and an omission even of such discipline as they are susceptible of, the objects are yet too numerous for minute attention; and the aching hearts of ten thousand parents, mourning under the bitterest of all disappointments, attest the truth of the allegation. His quarrel therefore is with the mischief at large, and not with any particular instance of it.
Historical deduction of seats, from the stool to the Sofa, 1-A schoolboy's
ramble, 109-A walk in the country, 140—The scene described, 159— Rural sounds as well as sights delightful, 181—Another walk, 210—Mistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected, 233—Colonnades commended, 252—Alcove, and the view from it, 278—The wilderness, 350— The grove, 354–The thresher, 356—The necessity and the benefits of exercise, 367—The works of nature superior to, and in some instances inimitable by, art, 409—The wearisomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure, 462—Change of scene sometimes expedient, 506—A common described, and the character of Crazy Kate introduced, 526–Gipsies, 557—The blessings of a civilised life, 592—The state most favourable to virtue, 600—The South Sea islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai, 620—His present state of mind supposed, 654—Civilised life friendly to virtue, but not great cities, 678—Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praise, but censured, 693— Fête champêtre, 739—The book concludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public measures, 749.
I sing the Sofa. I who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity, and touch'd with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escaped with pain from that adventurous flight,
Now seek repose upon a humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
The occasion—for the Fair commands the song.
Time was, when clothing, sumptuous or for use,
Save their own painted skins, our sires had none.
As yet black breeches were not ; satin smooth,
Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile :
The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Wash'd by the sea, or on the gravelly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearless of wrong, reposed his weary strength.
Those barbarous ages past, succeeded next
The birthday of Invention ; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created ; on three legs
Upborne they stood—three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms :
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear
May still be seen ; but perforated sore,
And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through.
At length a generation more refined
Improved the simple plan ; made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuff'd,
Induced a splendid cover, green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought
And woven close, or needlework sublime.
There might ye see the peony spread wide,
The fall-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.
Now came the cane from India, smooth and bright
With Nature's varnish ; sever'd into stripes
That interlaced each other; these supplied
Of texture firm a lattice-work, that braced
The new machine, and it became a chair.
But restless was the chair; the back erect
Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease;
The slippery seat betray'd the sliding part
That press’d it, and the feet hung dangling down,
Anxious in vain to find the distant floor.
These for the rich : the rest, whom Fate had placed
In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix'd,
If cushion might be call’d what harder seem'd
Than the firm oak of which the frame was form’d.
No want of timber then was felt or fear'd
In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood
Ponderous, and fix'd by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting ; these, some say,
An alderman of Cripplegate contrived ;
And some ascribe the invention to a priest,
Burly and big, and studious of his ease.
But, rude at first, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs,
And bruised the side ; and elevated high,
Taught the raised shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elapsed or e'er our rugged sires
Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease behind The ladies first
'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex.
Ingenious Fancy, never better pleased
Than when employ’d to accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devised
The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow it received,
United yet divided, twain at once.