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And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enriched with the discoveries ye have made;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employed on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And, after poising her adventurous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
Than ye, when happiest, and enlightened most,
And highest in renown, can justly boast.
A mind unnerved, or indisposed to bear
The weight of subjects worthiest of her care,
Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires,
Must change her nature, or in vain retires.
An idler is a watch that wants both hands,
As useless if it goes as when it stands.
Books therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves;
Nor those in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners show;
Nor his who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laughed his word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side-thrust;
Nor those of learned philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah's ark;
But such as learning without false pretence,
The friend of truth, the associate of sound sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment labouring in the scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use;
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars Invention, and makes Fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune,
And novels (witness every month's Review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends, (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the generous breast,
Will stand advanced a step above the rest:
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)-
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy's haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well born, well disciplined, who, placed apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, though the world may think the ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustic as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman,* his remark was shrewd-
How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper, solitude is sweet.'
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away;
Divine communion, carefully enjoyed,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
O sacred art, to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorned in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt, and hardly borne,—
Not knowing thee, we reap with bleeding hands
Flowers of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief;
Murmuring and ungrateful Discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours tart as wines upon the fret,
Which idleness and weariness beget;
These and a thousand plagues that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens the obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah's promised king, bereft of all,
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul.
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant's frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him, o'erwhelmed with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
'Tis manly music, such as martyrs make,
Suffering with gladness for a Saviour's sake:
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with the lion's roar,
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before:
'Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumbered pleasures harmlessly pursued ;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant, that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the power
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth, the daughter of the skies,
To dance on Earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet-
These, these are arts, pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of Time.
Me poetry (or rather notes that aim
Feebly and faintly at poetic fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if thus sequestered I may raise
A monitor's, though not a poet's praise,
And while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
REASONING at every step he treads,
Man yet mistakes his way,
While meaner things, whom instinct
Are rarely known to stray.
One silent eve I wandered late,
And heard the voice of love;
The turtle thus addressed her mate,
And soothed the listening dove:
"Our mutual bond of faith and truth
No time shall disengage,
Those blessings of our early youth
Shall cheer our latest age;
"While innocence without disguise, And constancy sincere, Shall fill the circles of those eyes,
And mine can read them there;
"Those ills, that wait on all below,
Shall ne'er be felt by me,
Or gently felt, and only so,
As being shared with thee.
A RAVEN, while with glossy breast
Her new-laid eggs she fondly pressed,
And, on her wicker-work high mounted,
Her chickens prematurely counted,
(A fault philosophers might blame,
If quite exempted from the same,)
Enjoyed at ease the genial day;
'Twas April, as the bumpkins say,
The legislature called it May.
But suddenly a wind, as high
As ever swept a winter sky,
Shook the young leaves about her ears,
And filled her with a thousand fears,
Lest the rude blast should snap the
And spread her golden hopes below. But just at eve the blowing weather And all her fears were hushed together; 'And now," quoth poor unthinking Ralph,
"Tis over, and the brood is safe;" (For ravens, though, as birds of omen,
"When lightnings flash among the trees,
Or kites are hovering near,
I fear lest thee alone they seize,
And know no other fear.
"Tis then I feel myself a wife,
And press thy wedded side, Resolved a union formed for life Death never shall divide.
"But oh! if, fickle and unchaste,
(Forgive a transient thought,) Thou couldst become unkind at last, And scorn thy present lot,
"No need of lightnings from on high,
Or kites with cruel beak; Denied the endearments of thine eye, This widowed heart would break."
Thus sang the sweet sequestered bird,
Soft as the passing wind,
And I recorded what I heard,
A lesson for mankind.
They teach both conjurers and old
To tell us what is to befall,
Can't prophesy themselves at all).
The morning came, when neighbour
Who long had marked her airy lodge,
And destined all the treasure there
A gift to his expecting fair,
Climbed like a squirrel to his dray,
And bore the worthless prize away.
'Tis Providence alone secures
In every change both mine and yours:
Safety consists not in escape
From dangers of a frightful shape;
An earthquake may be bid to spare
The man that's strangled by a hair.
Fate steals along with silent tread,
Found oftenest in what least we dread,
Frowns in the storm with angry brow,
But in the sunshine strikes the blow.
THE lapse of time and rivers is the same,
Both speed their journey with a restless stream;
The silent pace with which they steal away,
No wealth can bribe, no prayers persuade to stay;
Alike irrevocable both when past,
And a wide ocean swallows both at last.
Though each resemble each in every part,
A difference strikes at length the musing heart;
Streams never flow in vain; where streams abound
How laughs the land with various plenty crowned!
But time, that should enrich the nobler mind,
Neglected, leaves a dreary waste behind.
ADDRESSED TO A YOUNG LADY.
SWEET stream, that winds through
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid!
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng,
With gentle yet prevailing force,
I AM monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute, From the centre all round to the sea,
I am lord of the fowl and the brute. O Solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face? Better dwell in the midst of alarms, Than reign in this horrible place.
SUPPOSED TO BE WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER SELKIRK DURING HIS SOLITARY ABODE ON THE ISLAND OF JUAN FERNANDEZ.
I am out of humanity's reach,
I must finish my journey alone, Never hear the sweet music of speech,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blessed where'er she
I start at the sound of my own. The beasts that roam over the plain,
My form with indifference see; They are so unacquainted with man,
Their tameness is shocking to me.
Pure-bosomed as that watery glass,
And heaven reflected in her face!
Society, friendship, and love,
Divinely bestowed upon man,
Oh, had I the wings of a dove,
How soon would I taste you again!
My sorrows I then might assuage
In the ways of religion and truth, Might learn from the wisdom of age, And be cheered by the sallies of youth.
Religion what treasure untold
Resides in that heavenly word! More precious than silver and gold,
Or all that this earth can afford.
But the sound of the church-going bell
These valleys and rocks never heard
Never sighed at the sound of a knell,
Or smiled when a sabbath appeared.