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THE TASK.

BOOK I.

THE SOFA.

I

SING the Sofa. I, who lately fang

Truth, Hope, and Charity *, and touched with awe
The folemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escaped with pain from that adventurous flight,
Now feek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet auguft and proud
The occafion-for the Fair commands the fong.

Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use, Save their own painted skins, our fires had none. As yet black breeches were not; fatin smooth, Or velvet foft, or plush with shaggy pile:

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The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Wafhed by the fea, or on the gravelly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearlefs of wrong, repofed his weary strength.
Thofe barbarous ages paft, fucceeded next
The birth-day of invention; weak at first,
Dull in defign, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created; on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A maffy flab, in fashion square or round.
On fuch a ftool immortal Alfred fat,

And fwayed the fceptre of his infant realms:
And fuch in ancient halls and manfions drear
May ftill be feen; but perforated fore,

And drilled in holes, the folid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through.

At length a generation more refined
Improved the fimple plan; made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,

And over the feat, with plenteous wadding stuffed,
Induced a fplendid cover, green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought
And woven clofe, or needle-work fublime.
There might ye fee the piony fpread wide,
The full-blown rofe, the fhepherd and his lafs,

Lap-dog and lambkin with Llack staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.

Now came the cane from India smooth and bright With Nature's varnish; fevered into stripes, That interlaced each other, these supplied Of texture firm a lattice-work, that braced The new machine, and it became a chair. But reftlefs was the chair; the back erect Diftreffed the weary loins, that felt no ease; The flippery seat betrayed the sliding part, That preffed it, and the feet hung dangling down, Anxious in vain to find the diftant floor.

These for the rich; the reft, whom fate had placed
In modeft mediocrity, content

With base materials, fat on well-tanned hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glaffy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or fcarlet crewel, in the cushion fixt,

If cushion might be called, what harder feemed
Than the firm oak, of which the frame was formed,
No want of timber then was felt or feared

In Albion's happy ifle. The lumber ftood
Ponderous and fixt by its own maffy weight.
But elbows ftill were wanting; thefe, fome fay,

An alderman of Cripplegate contrived;
And fome afcribe the invention to a priest
Burly and big, and studious of his eafe.
But rude at firft, and not with easy flope
Feceding wide, they preffed against the ribs,
And bruifed the fide; and, elevated high,
Taught the raifed fhoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elapfed or ever our rugged fires
Complained, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at eafe behind. The ladies firft

'Gan murmur, as became the fofter fex.
Ingenious fancy, never better pleased

Than when employed to accommodate the fair,
Heard the fweet moan with pity, and devised
The foft fettee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midft an elbow it received,
United yet divided, twain at once.

So fit two kings of Brentford on one throne;
And fo two citizens who take the air,

Clofe packed, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame,
By foft recumbency of outftretched limbs,
Was blifs referved for happier days. So flow
The growth of what is excellent; fo hard
To attain perfection in this nether world.

Thus firft neceffity invented ftools,
Convenience next fuggefted elbow-chairs,

And luxury the accomplished sofa laft.

The nurse fleeps fweetly, hired to watch the fick,
Whom snoring the disturbs. As sweetly he,
Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour
To fleep within the carriage more fecure,
His legs depending at the open door.
Sweet fleep enjoys the curate in his desk,
The tedious rector drawling over his head;
And sweet the clerk below. But neither fleep
Of lazy nurse, who fnores the fick man dead,
Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour
To flumber in the carriage more fecure,

Nor fleep enjoyed by curate in his desk,
Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, are sweet,
Compared with the repofe the sOFA yields.

Oh may I live exempted (while I live
Guiltless of pampered appetite obfcene)
From pangs arthritic, that infeft the toe
Of libertine excefs. The SOFA fuits
The gouty limb, 'tis true; but gouty limb,
Though on a SOFA, may I never feel:

For I have loved the rural walk through lanes

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