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And first, let no man charge me, that I mean
To close in sable ev'ry social scene,
And give good company a face severe,
As if they met around a father's bier;
For tell some men, that pleasure all their bent,
And laughter all their work, is life mispent,
Their wisdom bursts into this sage reply,
Then mirth is sin, and we should always cry.
To find the medium asks some share of wit,
And therefore 'tis a mark fools never hit.
But though life's valley be a vale of tears,
A brighter scene beyond that vale appears,
Whose glory with a light, that never fades,
Shoots between scatter'd rocks and op'ning shades,
And, while it shows the land the soul desires,
The language of the land she seeks inspires.
Thus touch’d, the tongue receives a sacred cure
Of all that was absurd, profane, impure;
Held within modest bounds, the tide of speech
Pursues the course, that Truth and Nature teach;
No longer labours merely to produce
of sound, or tinkle without use: Where'er it winds, the salutary stream, Sprightly and fresh, enriches ev'ry theme,
While all the happy man possess'd before,
The gift of nature, or the classic store,
Is made subservient to the grand design,
For which Heav'n form’d the faculty divine.
So should an idiot, while at large he strays,
Find the sweet lyre on which an artist plays,
With rash and awkward force the chords he shakes,
And grins with wonder at the jar he makes;
But let the wise and well-instructed hand
Once take the shell beneath his just command,
In gentle sounds it seems as it complain'd
Of the rude injuries it late sustain'd,
Till tun'd at length to some immortal song,
It sounds Jehovah's name, and pours his praise along.
-studiis florens ignobilis oti.
Virg. Geor. Lib. 4.
HACKNEY'D in business, wearied at that oar,
Which thousands, once fast chain'd to quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er,
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of Ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having liv'd a trifler, die a man.
Thus Conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebelld against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form’d for God alone,
For Heav'n's high purposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and wo,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker's pow'r and love.
"Tis well if, look'd for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
grace his action ere the curtain fall. Souls, that have long despis’d their heav'nly birth, Their wishes all impregnated with Earth,
For threescore years employ’d with ceaseless care
In catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Invet'rate habits choke th’ unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate it's tend'rest part,
And, draining it's nutritious pow'rs to feed
Their noxious growth, starve ev'ry better seed.
Happy, if full of days—but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life's ev’ning star,
Sick of the service of a world, that feeds
It's patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from Custom's idiot
To serve the Sov'reign we were born t obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display'd
(Infinite skill) in all that he has made!
To trace in Nature's most minute design
The signature and stamp of pow'r divine,
Contrivance intricate, express'd with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint,
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks and it is done,