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THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE.
An Allegorical Poem.
The Castle hight of Indolence,
And its false luxury;
Mortal man, who livest here by toil,
Do not complain of this thy hard estate: That like an emmet thou must ever moil, Is a sad sentence of an ancient date; And, certes, there is for it reason great; For, tho' sometimes it makes thee weep and wail, And curse thy star, and early drudge and late; Withouten that would come an heavier bale, Loose life, unruly passions, and diseases pale.
In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
With woody hill o'er hill encompass'd round,
Than whom a fiend more fell is no where found.
And there a season atween June and May, Half prankt with spring, with summer half imbrown'd,
A listless climate made, where, sooth to say, No living wight could work, ne cared even for play.
Was nought around but images of rest:
Sleep-soothing groves, and quiet lawns between; And flow'ry beds that slumb'rous influence kest, From poppies breath'd; and beds of pleasant green, Where never yet was creeping creature seen. Meantime unnumber'd glittering streamlets play'd, And hurled every where their waters sheen; That, as they bicker'd thro' the sunny glade, Tho' restless still themselves, a lulling murmur made.
Join'd to the prattle of the purling rills
Full in the passage of the vale above,
Where nought but shadowy forms was seen to move,
A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye; And of gay castles in the clouds that pass, For ever flushing round a summer sky: There eke the soft delights that witchingly Instil a wanton sweetness through the breast, And calm the pleasures, always hover'd nigh; But whate'er smack'd of noyance, or unrest, Was far, far off expell'd from this delicious nest.
The landscape such, inspiring perfect ease, Where Indolence (for so the wizard hight) Close hid his castle 'mid embow'ring trees, That half shut out the beams of Phœbus bright, And made a kind of checquer'd day and night: Meanwhile, unceasing at the massy gate, Beneath a spacious palm, the wicked wight Was plac'd; and, to his lute, of cruel fate And labour harsh complain'd, lamenting man's estate.
Thither continual pilgrims crowded still,
From all the roads of earth that pass thereby :
While o'er th' enfeebling lute his hand he flung, And to the trembling chords those tempting verses sung:
Behold! ye pilgrims of this earth, behold! See all but man with unearn'd pleasure gay: 'See her bright robes the butterfly unfold, 'Broke from her wintry tomb in prime of May! 'What youthful bride can equal her array? Who can with her for easy pleasure vie? 'From mead to mead with gentle wing to stray, 'From flow'r to flow'r on balmy gales to fly, 'Is all she hath to do beneath the radiant sky.
Behold the merry minstrels of the morn, 'The swarming songsters of the careless grove, Ten thousand throats! that from the flowering
'Hymn their good God, and carol sweet of love, Such grateful kindly raptures them emove: 'They neither plough nor sow; ne, fit for flail, E'er to the barn the nodding-sheaves they drove; Yet theirs each harvest dancing in the gale, 'Whatever crowns the hill, or smiles along the vale.
'Outcast of nature, man! the wretched thrall Of bitter-dropping sweat, of sweltry pain, 'Of cares that eat away thy heart with gall, 'And of the vices, an inhuman train,
That all proceed from savage thirst of gain: For when hard-hearted interest first began To poison earth, Astræa left the plain; 'Guile, violence, and murder seiz'd on man, 'And,for soft milky streams, with blood the rivers ran.
Come, ye who still the cumbrous load of life Push hard up hill; but, as the farthest steep You trust to gain, and put an end to strife, "Down thunders back the stone with mighty sweep, And hurls your labours to the valley deep, 'For ever vain; come, and withouten fee 'I in oblivion will your sorrows steep,
Your cares, your toils; will steep you in a sea Of full delight: oh come, ye weary wights, to me!
With me you need not rise at early dawn, To pass the joyless day in various sounds; Or, louting low, on upstart fortune fawn, And sell fair honour for some paltry pounds: 'Or thro' the city take your dirty rounds,
To cheat, and dun, and lye, and visit pay, 'Now flattering base, now giving secret wounds; 'Or proul in courts of law for human prey, In venal senate thieve, or rob on broad highway.
'No cocks with me to rustic labour call,
To tardy swains no shrill-voic'd matrons squall; 'No dogs, no babes, no wives, to stun your ear; 'No hammers thump; no horrid blacksmith fear; 'No noisy tradesmen your sweet slumbers start, With sounds that are a misery to hear: But all is calm, as would delight the heart 'Of Sybarite of old, all nature, and all art.
'Here nought but candour reigns, indulgent ease, 'Good-natur'd lounging, saunt'ring up and down. They who are pleas'd themselves must always please;
On others ways they never squint a frown, Nor heed what haps in hamlet or in town. Thus, from the source of tender indolence, With milky blood the heart is overflown, Is sooth'd and sweeten'd by the social sense; 'Forint'rest,envy,pride,and strife are banish'd hence.
What, what is virtue, but repose of mind, A pure ethereal calm, that knows no storm; 'Above the reach of wild ambition's wind, 'Above those passions that this world deform, 'And torture man, a proud malignant worm! But here, instead, soft gales of passion play, 'And gently stir the heart, thereby to form
A quicker sense of joy; as breezes stray 'Across th' enliven'd skies, and make them still more gay.
The best of men have ever lov'd repose;
Where the soul sours, and gradual rancour grows, 'Embitter'd more from peevish day to day. 'Ev'n those whom fame has lent her fairest ray, The most renown'd of worthy wights of yore, From a base world at last have stol'n away : So Scipio, to the soft Cumaan shore 'Retiring, tasted joy he never knew before.
But if a little exercise you choose,
Some zest for ease, 'tis not forbidden here. 'Amid the groves you may indulge the muse ; 'Or tend the blooms, and deck the vernal year; Or softly stealing, with your wat'ry gear, Along the brooks, the crimson-spotted fry You may delude: the whilst amus'd you hear Now the hoarse stream, and now the zephyr's sigh, Attuned to the birds and woodland melody.
O grievous folly! to heap up estate,
Losing the days you see beneath the sun; 'When, sudden, comes blind unrelenting fate, 'And gives th' untasted portion you have won With ruthless toil, and many a wretch undone, To those who mock you gone to Pluto's reign, 'There with sad ghosts to pine, and shadows dun: But sure it is of vanities most vain,
To toil for what you here untoiling may obtain."