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THE TASK.

BOOK VI.

THE WINTER WALK AT NOON.

There is in souls a sympathy with sounds,
And as the mind is pitch'd the ear is pleas'd
With melting airs or martial, brisk or grave;
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touch'd within us, and the heart replies.
How soft the music of those village bells,
Falling at intervals upon the ear
In cadence sweet, now dying all away,
Now pealing loud again, and louder still,
Clear and sonorous, as the gale comes on!
With easy force it opens all the cells
Where Mem'ry slept. Wherever I have heard
A kindred melody, the scene recurs,
And with it all it's pleasures and it's pains.

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Such comprehensive views the spirit takes, That in a few short moments I retrace (As in a map the voyager his course) The windings of my way through many years.

Short as in retrospect the journey seems, It seem'd not alway short; the rugged path, And prospect oft so dreary and forlorn, Mov'd many a sigh at it's disheart'ning length.

Yet feeling present evils, while the past Faintly impress the mind, or not at all, How readily we wish time spent revok'd, That we might try the ground again, where once (Through inexperience, as we now perceive) We miss'd that happiness we might have found!Some friend is gone, perhaps his son's best friend, A father, whose authority, in show When most severe, and must'ring all it's force,

Was but the graver countenance of love;Whose favour, like the clouds of spring, might low'r,

And utter now and then an awful voice, But had a blessing in it's darkest frown, Threat'ning at once and nourishing the plant. We lov'd, but not enough, the gentle hand,

That rear'd us. At a thoughtless age, allur'd
By ev'ry gilded folly, we renounc'd
His shelt'ring side, and wilfully forewent
That converse, which we now in vain regret.
How gladly would the man recall to life
The boy's neglected sire! a mother too,
That softer friend, perhaps more gladly still,
Might he demand them at the gates of death.
Sorrow has, since they went, subdu'd and tam'd
The playful humour; he could now endure,
(Himself grown sober in the vale of tears)
And feels a parent's presence no restraint.
But not to understand a treasure's worth,
Till time has stolen away the slighted good,
Is cause of half the poverty we feel,
And makes the World the wilderness it is.
The few that pray at all pray oft amiss,
And, seeking grace t' improve the prize they hold,
Would urge a wiser suit than asking more.

The night was winter in his roughest mood;
The morning sharp and clear. But now at noon
Upon the southern side of the slant hills,
And where the woods fence off the northern blast,

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The season smiles, resigning all it's rage,
And has the warmth of May. The vault is blue
Without a cloud, and white without a speck
The dazzling splendour of the scene below.
Again the harmony comes o'er the vale;And through the trees I view th' embattled tow'r,
Whence all the music. I again perceive
The soothing influence of the wafted strains,
And settle in soft musings as I tread
The walk, still verdant,under oaks and elms,
Whose outspread branches overarch the glade.
The roof, though movable through all it's length
As the wind sways it, has yet well sutiie'd,
And, intercepting in their silent fall
The frequent flakes, has kept a path for me.
No noise is here, or none that hinders thought.
The redbreast warbles still, but is content
With slender notes, and more than half suppress'd:
Pleas'd with his solitude, and flitting light
From spray to spray, where'er he rests he shakes
From many a twig the pendent drops of ice,
That tinkle in the wither'd leaves below.
Stillness, accompanied with sounds so soft,
Charms more than silence. Meditation here
May think down hours to moments. Here the heart May give a useful lesson to the head, And Learning wiser grow without his books. Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one, Have ofttimes no connexion. Knowledge dwells In heads replete with thoughts of other men;Wisdom in minds attentive to their own. Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, The mere materials with which Wisdom builds, Till smooth'd, and squar"d, and fitted to it's place. Does but encumber whom it seems t' enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learn'd so much;Wisdom is humble that he knows no more. Books are not seldom talismans and spells, By which the magic art of shrewder wits Holds an unthinking multitude enthrall'd. Some to the fascination of a name Surrender judgment hood-wink'd. Some the style Infatuates, and through labyrinths and wilds Of errour leads them, by a tune entrane'd. While sloth seduces more, too weak to bear The insupportable fatigue of thought, And swallowing therefore without pause or choice The total grist unsifted, husks and all.

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