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The birth-day of Invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created; on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And sway’d the sceptre of his infant realms:
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear
May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eaten through and through.
At length a generation more refin'd
Improv'd the simple plan; made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
And o'er the seat with plenteous wadding stuff’d,
Induc’d 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; sever'd into stripes,
That interlac'd each other, these supplied
Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd
The new machine, and it became a chair.
But restless was the chair; the back erect
Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease;
The slipp'ry seat betray’d the sliding part,
That press'd it, and the feet hung dangling down,
Anxious in vain, to find the distant floor.
These for the rich; the rest, whom Fate had plac’d
In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tann’d hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix’d,
If cushion might be call'd, what harder seem'd
Than the firm oak, of which the frame was form’d,
No want of timber then was felt or fear'd
In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood
Pond’rous and fix’d by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say
An alderman of Cripplegate contriv'd;
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 press'd against the ribs,
And bruis’d the side; and, elevated high,
Taught the rais’d shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elapsid or e^er our rugged sires
Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease behind. The ladies first
'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex.
Ingenious Fancy, never better pleas'd,
Than when employ'd to accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis'd
The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow it receiv'd,
United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne;
And so two citizens, who take the air,
Close pack'd, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
IBut relaxation of the languid frame, By soft recumbency of outstretch'd limbs, Was bliss reserv'd for happier days. So slow The growth of what is excellent; so hard To attain perfection in this nether world. Thus first Necessity invented stools, Convenience next suggested elbow chairs, And Luxury th’ accomplish’d Sofa last. The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick, Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he, Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour, To sleep within the carriage more secure, His legs depending at the open door. Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk, The tedious rector drawling o'er his head; And sweet the clerk below. But neither sleep Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead; Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour, To slumber in the carriage more secure; Nor sleep enjoy’d by curate in his desk; Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, are sweet, Compar'd with the repose the Sofa yields. O may I live exempted (while I live Guiltless of pamper'd appetite obscene) From pangs arthritick, that infest the toe Of libertine Fxcess. The Safa suits The gouty limb, 'tis true; but gouty limb, Though on a Sofa, may I never feel: For I have lov’d the rural walk through lanes Of grassy swarth, close cropp'd by nibbling sheep, And skirted thick with intertexture firm Of thorny boughs; have lov'd the rural walk
O'er hills, through vallies, and by rivers’ brink,
E’er since a truant boy 1 pass'd my bounds,
To enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames;
And still remember, nor without regret
Of hours, that sorrow since has much endear'd,
How oft, my slice of pocket store consum’d,
Still hung’ring, pennyless, and far from home,
I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
Or blushing crabs, or berries, that emboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere.
Hard fare' but such as boyish appetite
Disdains not; nor the palate, undeprav'd
By culinary arts, unsav'ry deems.
No Sofa then awaited my return;
Nor Sofa then I needed. Youth repairs
His wasted spirits quickly, by long toil
Incurring short fatigue ; and, though our years,
As life declines, speeds rapidly away,
And not a year but pilfers as he goes
Some youthful grace, that age would gladly keep;
A tooth or auburn lock, and by degrees
Their length and colour from the locks they spare;
Th’ elastick spring of an unwearied foot,
That mounts the stile with ease, or leaps the fence,
That play of lungs, inhaling and again
Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes
Swift pace or steep ascent, no toil to me,
Mine have not pilfer'd yet, nor yet impair’d
My relish of fair prospect; scenes that sooth'd
Or charm'd me young, no longer young, I find
Still soothing, and of pow'r to charm me still.
And witness, dear companion of my walks,
Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive
Fast lock'd in mine, with pleasure such as love,
Confirm'd by long experience of thy worth –
And well-tried virtues could alone inspire—
Witness a joy that thou hast doubled long.
Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjur'd up
To serve occasions of poetick pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slacken'd to a pause, and we have borne
The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While Admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Thence with what pleasure have we just discern’d
The distant plough slow moving, and beside
His lab’ring team, that swerv’d not from the track,
The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy!
Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er,
Conducts the eye along his sinuous course
Delighted. There, fast rooted in their bank,
Stand, never overlook'd, our fav’rite elms,
That screens the herdsman’s solitary hut ;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream,
That, as with molten glass, inlays the vale, |
The sloping land recedes into the clouds;
Displaying on its varied side the grace
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tow'r,
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the listining ear,
Groves, heaths, and smoking villages, remote.