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THE TASK.

BOOK II.

THE TIME-PIECE.

O For a lodge in some vast wilderness, Some boundless contiguity of shade, Where rumour of oppression and deceit, Of unsuccessful or successful war,

Might never reach me more. My ear is pain'd, My soul is sick, with ev'ry day's report Of wrong and outrage, with which Earth is fill'd. There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart, It does not feel for man; the natural bond

Of brotherhood is sever'd as the flax, That falls asunder at the touch of fire. He finds his fellow guilty of a skin Not colour'd like his own; and having pow'r

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T' enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause
Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey.
Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other. Mountains interpos'd
Make enemies of nations, who had else
Like kindred drops been mingled into one.
Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
And worse than all, and most to be deplor'd
As human nature's broadest, foulest blot,
Chains him, and tasks him, and exacts his sweat
With stripes, that Mercy with a bleeding heart
Weeps, when she sees inflicted on a beast.
Then what is man? And what man, seeing this,
And having human feelings, does not blush,
And hang his head, to think himself a man?
I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To carry me, to fan me while I sleep,
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth,
That sinews bought and sold have ever earn'd.
No: dear as freedom is, and in my heart's
Just estimation priz'd above all price,
I had much rather be myself the slave,
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.
We have no slaves at home—Then why abroad I
And they themselves once ferried o'er the wave,
That parts us, are emancipate and loos'd.
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free;
They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
That ' s noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through ev'ry vein
Of all your empire; that, where Britain's pow'r
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too. Sure there is need of social intercourse,
Benevolence, and peace, and mutual aid,
Between the nations in a world, that seems
To toll the deathbell of it's own decease,
And by the voice of all it's elements
To preach the gen'ral doom*. When were the winds
Let slip with such a warrant to destroy?
When did the waves so haughtily o'erleap
Their ancient barriers, deluging the dry?
Fires from beneath, and meteors f from above,

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* Alluding to the calamities in Jamaica,
t August 18, 1783.

Portentous, unexampled, unexplain'd, Have kindled beacons in the skies; and th' old And crazy Earth has had her shaking fits More frequent, and foregone her usual rest. Is it a time to wrangle, when the props And pillars of our planet seem to fail, And Nature* with a dim and sickly eye To wait the close of all 1 But grant her end More distant, and that prophecy demands A longer respite, unaccomplish'd yet;

Still they are frowning signals, and bespeak Displeasure in His breast, who smites the Earth

Or heals it, makes it languish or rejoice. And 'tis but seemly, that, where all deserve And stand expos'd by common peccancy To what no few have felt, there should be peace, And brethren in calamity should love. Alas for Sicily! rude fragments now
Lie scatter'd, where the shapely column stood.
Her palaces are dust. In all her streets
The voice of singing and the sprightly chord

• A]luding to the fog, that covered both Europe and Asia during the whole summer of i7&3.

Are silent. Revelry, and dance, and show Suffer a syncope and solemn pause;While God performs upon the trembling stage Of his own works his dreadful part alone. How does the Earth receive him ?—with what signs Of gratulation and delight her king?Pours she not all her choicest fruits abroad, Her sweetest flow'rs, her aromatic gums, Disclosing Paradise where'er he treads? She quakes at his approach. Her hollow womb, Conceiving thunders, through a thousand deeps And fiery caverns, roars beneath his foot. The hills move lightly, and the mountains smoke, For he has touch'd them. From th' extremest point Of elevation down into the abyss His wrath is busy, and his frown is felt. The rocks fall headlong, and the vallies rise, The rivers die into offensive pools, And, charg'd with putrid verdure, breathe a gross And mortal nuisance into all the air. What solid was, by transformation strange, Grows fluid; and the fix'd and rooted earth, Tormented into billows, heaves and swells, Or with vortigiuous and hideous whirl

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