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ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST BOOK.
Historical deduction of seats, from the stool to the Sofa. -A Schoolboy's ramble.-A walk in the country.— The scene described.-Rural sounds as well as sights delightful.-Another walk.-Mistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected.-Colonnades commended-Alcove, and the view from it.-The wilderness. -The grove.-The thresher.-The necessity and the benefits of exercise.-The works of nature superior to, and in some instances inimitable by, art.-The wearisomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure.-Change of scene sometimes expedient.-A common described, and the character of crazy Kate introduced.-Gipsies.-The blessings of civilized life. -That state most favourable to virtue.-The South Sea islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai.-His present state of mind supposed.-Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities.-Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praises, but censured.-Fete Champetre.-The book concludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public measures.
ISING the Sofa. I, who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity,* and touched with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escaped with pain from that adventurous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
Th' 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
Washed 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 birth-day of invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created; on three legs
*See Poems, Vol. I. pages 56, 100, 126.
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And swayed the sceptre of his infant realms :
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear
May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drilled in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eaten 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 stuffed,
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 piony spread wide,
The full-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; severed 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
Distressed the weary loins, that felt no ease;
The slippery seat betrayed the sliding part
That pressed 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-tanned hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fixed,
If cushion might be called, what harder seemed
Than the firm oak, of which the frame was formed.
No want of timber then was felt or feared
In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood
Ponderous and fixed by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say
An alderman of Cripplegate contrived;
And some ascribe th' invention to a priest,
Burly, and big, and studious of his ease.
But rude at first, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they pressed 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
Complained, 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 employed t' 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.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne;
And so two citizens, who take the air,
Close packed, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame,