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THE TASK.

BOOK IV.

THE WINTER EVENING.

Hark! 'tis the twanging horn o'er yonder bridge,
That with it's wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright;—
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks;News from all nations lumb'ring at his back.
True to his charge, the close pack'd load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destin'd inn;
And, having dropp'd th'expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indiff'rent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charg'd with am'rous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But O th'important budget! usher'd in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are it's tidings? have our troops awak'd?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg'd,
Snore to the murmurs of th' Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does she wear her plum'd
And jewell'd turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh—I long to know them all;
I burn to set th' imprison'd wranglers free,
And give them voice and utt'rance once again.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful ev'ning in.
Not such his ev'ning, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeez'd
And bor'd with elbow-points through both his sides,
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage:Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
This folio of four pages, happy work!Which not cv'n critics criticise; that holds
Inquisitive Attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break;What is it, but a map of busy life,
It's fluctuations, and it's vast concerns?Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge,
That tempts Ambition. On the summit see
The seals of office glitter in his eyes;

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He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels, Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends, And with a dext'rous jerk soon twists him down, And wins them, but to lose them in his turn. Here rills of oily eloquence in soft Meanders lubricate the course they take;The modest speaker is asham'd and griev'd,

T engross a moment's notice; and yet begs, Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts, However trivial all that he conceives. Sweet bashfulness! it claims at least this praise;The dearth of information and good sense,

That it foretells us, always comes to pass,

Cat'racts of declamation thunder here;There forests of no meaning spread the page, In which all comprehension wanders lost;While fields of pleasantry amuse us there With merry descants on a nation's woes. The rest appears a wilderness of strange But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks, And lilies for the brows of faded age, Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald, Heav'n, earth, and ocean, plunder'd of their sweets, Nectareous essences, Olympian dews,

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Sermons, and city feasts, and fav'rite airs,
^Ethereal journeys, submarine exploits,
And Katerfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wond'ring for his bread.

Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
To peep at such a world; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd;
T i hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on th' uninjur'd ear.
Thus sitting, and surveying thus at ease
The globe and it's concerns, I seem advanced
To some secure and more than mortal height,
That lib'rates and exempts me from them all.
It turns submitted to my view, turns round
With all it's generations; I behold
The tumult, and am still. The sound of war
Has lost it's terrours ere it reaches me;
Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride
And av'rice, that make man a wolf to man;
Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats,
% which he speaks the language of his heart,
And sigh, but never tremble at the sound.

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