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THE TASK,

BOOK III.

THE GARDEN.

As one, who long in thickets and in brakes Entangled winds now this way and now that His devious course uncertain, seeking home;Or, having long in miry ways been foil'd And sore discomfited, from slough to slough Plunging and half despairing of escape; If chance at length he find a greensward smooth And faithful to the foot, his spirits rise, He cherups brisk his ear-erecting steed, And winds his way with pleasure and with ease;So I, designing other themes, and call'd

T adorn the Sofa with eulogium due, To tell it's slumbers, and to paint it' dreams,

Have rambled wide. In country, city, seat
Of academic fame (howe'er deserv'd),
Long held, and scarcely disengag'd at last.
But now with pleasant pace a cleanlier road
I mean to tread. I feel myself at large,
Courageous, and refresh'd for future toil,
If toil await me, or if dangers new.

Since pulpits fail, and sounding boards reflect
Most part an empty ineffectual sound,
What chance that I, to fame so little known,
Nor conversant with men or manners much,
Should speak to purpose, or with better hope
Crack the satiric thong? 'Twere wiser far
For me, enamour'd of sequester'd scenes,
And charm'd with rural beauty, to repose,
Where chance may throw me, beneath elm or vine,
My languid limbs, when summer sears the plains;
Or, when rough winter rages, on the soft
And shelter'd Sofa, while the nitrous air
Feeds a blue flame, and makes a cheerful hearth;
There, undisturb'd by Folly, and appris'd
How great the danger of disturbing her,
To muse in silence, or at least confine
Remarks, that gall so many, to the few
My partners in retreat. Disgust conceal'd
Is ofttimes proof of wisdom, when the fault
Is obstinate, and cure beyond our reach.

Domestic Happiness, thou only bliss
Of Paradise, that hast surviv'd the fall!
Though few now taste thee unimpair'd and pure,
Or tasting long enjoy thee! too infirm,
Or too incautious, to preserve thy sweets
Unmix'd with drops of bitter, which neglect
Or temper sheds into thy crystal cup;
Thou art the nurse of Virtue, in thine arms
She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is,
Heav'n-born, and destin'd to the skies again.
Thou art not known where Pleasure is ador'd,
That reeling goddess with the zoneless waist
And wand'ring eyes, still leaning on the arm
Of Novelty, her fickle, frail support;
For thou art meek and constant, hating change,
And finding in the calm of truth-tried love
Joys, that her stormy raptures never yield.
Forsaking thee what shipwreck have we made
Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!

Vol. Ii. e

Till prostitution elbows us aside
In all our crowded streets; and senates seem
Conven'd for purposes of empire less,
Than to release th' adultress from her bond.
Th' adultress! what a theme for angry verse!
What provocation to th' indignant heart,
That feels for injur'd love! but I disdain
The nauseous task, to paint her as she is,
Cruel, abandon'd, glorying in her shame!
No:—let her pass, and, chariotted along
In guilty splendour, shake the public ways;
The frequency of crimes has wash'd them white,
And verse of mine shall never brand the wretch,
Whom matrons now of character unsmirch'd,
And chaste themselves, are not asham'd to own.
Virtue and vice had bound'ries in old time,
Not to be pass'd: and she, that had renouuc'd
Her sex's honour, was renounc'd herself
By all that priz'd it; not for prud'ry's sake,
But dignity's, resentful of the wrong.
'Twas hard perhaps on here and there a waif,
Desirous to return, and not receiv'd:
But was a wholesome rigour in the main,
And taught th' unbleuiish'd to preserve with care
That purity, whose loss was loss of all. Men too were nice in honour in those days, And judg'd offenders well. Then he that sharp'd,

And pocketted a prize by fraud obtain'd, Was mark'd and shunn'd as odious. He that sold His Country, or was slack when she requir'd His ev'ry nerve in action and at stretch, Paid with the blood, that he had basely spar'd, The price of his default. But now—yes, now We are become so candid and so fair, So lib'ral in construction, and so rich In christian charity, (good-natur'd age!)

That they are safe, sinners of either sex, Transgress what laws they may. Well dress'd, well bred,
Well equipag'd, is ticket good enough,
To pass us readily through ev'ry door.
Hypocrisy, detest her as we may,
(And no man's hatred ever wrong'd her yet)
May claim this merit still—that she admits
The worth of what she mimics with such care,
And thus gives virtue indirect applause;But she has burnt her mask not needed here,
Where vice has such allowance, that her shifts
And specious semblances have lost their use.

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