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THE TASK,

BOOK WI.

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 musick 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 its pleasures and its pains.
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,

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Short as in retrospect the journey seems,
It seem’d not always short; the rugged path,
And prospect oft so dreary and forlorn, -
Mov'd many a sigh at its 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 mustring all its 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 its darkest frown,
Threatoning at once and nourishing the plant.
We lov’d, but not enough, the gentle hand
That rear'd us. At a thoughtlessage, 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 feel a parent’s presence no restraint.

But not to understand a treasure’s worth,
Till time has stol’n 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 to improve the prize they hold,
Would urge a wiser suit than asking more.
The might 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,
The season smiles, resigning all its 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 musick. 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 moveable through all its length
As the wind sways it, has yet well suffic'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 its place,
Does but encumber whom it seems to 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 magick art of shrewder wits
Holds an unthinking multitude enthrall’d.
Some to the fascination of a name
Surrender judgment, hoodwink'd. Some the styre
Infatuates, and through labyrinths and wilds
Oferrour leads them, by a tune entranc'd.
While sloth seduces more, too weak to bear
The insupportable fatigue of thought,
And swallowing therefore without pause or choice
The total grist unsisted, husks and all.
But trees and rivulets, whose rapid course
Defies the check of winter, haunts of deer,
And sheep-walks populous with bleating lambs,
&nd lanes in which the primrose ere her time

Peeps through the moss, that clothes the hawthorn
root,
Deceive no student. Wisdom there, and truth,
Not shy, as in the world, and to be won
By slow solicitation, seize at once
The roving thought, and fix it on themselves.
What prodigies can pow'r divine perform
More grapd than it produces year by year,
And all in sight of inattentive man?
Familiar with the effect we slight the cause,
And in the constancy of nature's course,
The regular return of genial months,
And renovation of a faded world,
See nought to wonder at. Should God again,
As once in Gibeon, interrupt the race
Of the undeviating and punctual sun,
llow would the world admire! but speaks it less
An agency divine, to make him know
His moment when to sink and when to rise,
Age after age, than to arrest his course?
All we behold is miracle; but seen
So duly, all is miracle in vain.
Where now the vital energy, that mov’d,
While summer was, the pure and subtle lymph
Through th’ imperceptible meand'ring veins
Of leaf and flow'r? It sleeps; and th’ icy touch
Of unprolifick winter has impress'd
A cold stagnation on th’ intestine tide.
But let the months go round, a few short months,
And all shall be restor’d. These naked shoots,
Barren as lances, among which the wind
Makes wintry musick, sighing as it goes,
WOL. II. 15

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