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That seizes first the opulent, descends
To the next rank contagious, and in time
Taints downward all the graduated scale
585 Of order, from the chariot to the plough.
The rich, and they that have an arm to check 1 The license of the lowest in degree,
Desert their office; and themselves, intent
On pleasure, haunt the capital, and thus
To all the violence of lawless hands
Resign the scenes their presence might protect.
Authority herself not seldom sleeps,
Though resident, and witness of the wrong.
The plump convivial parson often bears
The magisterial sword in vain, and lays
His rev’rence and his worship both to rest
On the same cushion of habitual sloth.
Perhaps timidity restrains his arm ;
When he should strike he trembles, and sets free, 600
Himself enslav'd by terrour of the band-
Th' audacious convict whom he dares not bind.
Perhaps though by profession ghostly pure,
He, too, may have his vice, and sometimes proye
Less dainty than becomes his grave outside 605
In lucrative concerns. Examine well
His milk-white hand; the palm is harldly clean-
But here and there an ugly smutch appears.
Foh! 'twas a bribe that left it: he has touch'd
Corruption. Whoso seeks an audit here
Propitious, pays his tribute, game or fish,
Wild fowl or venison : and his errand speeds.
But faster far, and more than all the rest,
A noble cause, which none, who bears a spark
Of publick virtue, ever wish'd remov'd,
Works the deplor'd and mischievous effect.
'Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms, through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them, in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
The clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant's ignorance of all
But his own simple pleasures; now and then 625
A wrestling match, a foot-race, or a fair ;
Is balloted, and trembles at the news:
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears
A bible oath to be whate'er they please,
To do he knows not what. The tasks perform’d, 630
That instant he becomes the sergeant's care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees,
Unapt to learn, and form’d of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well:
He stands erect: his slouch becomes a walk;
He steps right onward, martial in his air,
His form and movement; is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him ; wears
His hat, or his plum'd helmet, with a grace ;
And, his three years of heroship expir’d,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field, in which no fife or drum
Attends him ; drives his cattle to a march;
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
"Twere well if his exteriour change were all —
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost 650
His ignorance and harmless man too.
To swear, to game, to drink ; to show at home
By lewdness, idleness, and sabbath breach,
The great proficiency he made abroad;
T'astonish, and to grieve his gazing friends ; 655
To break some maiden's and his mother's heart:
To be a pest where he was useful once ;
Are his sole aim, and all his glory, now.
Man in society is like a flow'r
Blown in its native bed ; 'tis there alone
His faculties, expanded in full bloom,
Shine out; there only reach their proper use.
But man, associated and leagued with man
By regal warrant or self-join'd by bond
For int’rest sake, or swarming into clans
665 Beneath one head for purposes of war, Like flow'rs selected from the rest, and bound And bundled close to fill some crowded vase, Fades rapidly, and, by compression marr’d, Contracts defilement not to be endur'd.
670 Hence charter'd boroughs are such publick plagues And burghers, men immaculate perhaps In all their private functions, once combin’d, Become a loathsome body, only fit For dissolution, hurtful to the main.
675 Hence merchants, unimpeachable of sin Against the charities of domestick life, Incorporated, seem at once to lose Their nature ; and, disclaiming all regard For mercy and the common rights of man, 680 Build factories with blood, conducting trade At the sword's point, and dying the white robe Of innocent commercial Justice red. Hence, too, the field of glory, as the world Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
685 With all its majesty of thund'ring pomp, Enchanting musick, and immortal wreaths, Is but a school, where thoughtlessness is taught On principle, where foppery atones For folly, gallantry for ev'ry vice.
690 But slighted as it is, and by the great Abandon'd, and, which still I more regret, Infected with the manners and the modes It know not once, the country wins me still. I never fram'd a wish, or form'd a plan,
695 That flatter'd me with hopes of earthly bliss,
But there I laid the scene. There early stray'd
My fancy, ere yet liberty of choice
Had found me, or the hope of being free.
My very dreams were rural; rural too
The first-born efforts of my youthful muse,
Sportive and jingling her poetick bells,
Ere yet her ear was mistress of their pow'rs.
No bard could please me but whose lyre was tun'd
To Nature's praises. Heroes and their feats 705
Fatigu'd me, never weary of the pipe
Of Tityrus, assembling, as he sang,
The rustick throng beneath his fav'rite beech.
Then Milton had indeed a poet's charms :
New to my taste, his Paradise surpass'd
710 The struggling efforts of my boyish tongue To speak its excellence. I danc'd for joy. I marvell’d much that, at so ripe an age As twice seven years, his beauties had then first Engag'd my wonder ; and admiring still,
715 And still admiring, with regret suppos'd The joy half lost, because not sooner found. There, too, enamour'd of the life I lov'd, Pathetick in its praise, in its pursuit Determind and possessing it at last,
720 With transports such as favour'd lovers feel, I studied, priz'd, and wish'd that I had known, Ingenious Cowley! and, though now reclaim'd By modern lights from an erroneous taste, I cannot but lament thy splendid wit
725 Entangled in the cobwebs of the schools. I still revere thee, courtly though retir'd ; Though stretch'd at ease in Chertsey's silent bow'rs, Not unemploy'd ; and finding rich amends For a lost world in solitude and verse.
730 'Tis born with all: the love of Nature's works Is an ingredient in the compound man, Infus'd at the creation of the kind. And, though th' Almighty Maker has throughout
Discriminated each from each; by strokes 735
And touches of his hand, with so much art
Diversified, that two were never found
Twins at all points--yet this obtains in all
That all discern a beauty in his works,
And all can taste them: minds that have been formd
And tutord with a relish more exact,
But none without some relish, none unmovid.
It is a flame that dies not even there,
Where nothing feeds it: neither business, crowds,
Nor habits of luxurious city life,
Whatever else they smother of true worth
In human bosoms, quench it or abate.
The villas, with which London stands begirt,
Like a swarth Indian with his belt of beads
Prove it. A breath of unadult'rate air
The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer
The citizen, and brace his languid frame !
E’en in the stiffing bosom of the town
A garden, in which nothing thrives, has charms
That sooth the rich possessor; much consolid, 755
That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint
Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well
He cultivates. These serve him with a hint
That Nature lives; that sight-refreshing green
Is still the liv'ry she delights to wear,
Though sickly samples of th' exub'rant whole.
What are the casements lin'd with creeping herbs,
The prouder sashes fronted with a range
Of orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed,
The Frenchman's darling ?* are they not all proofs,
That man, immur'd in cites, still retains
His inborn inextinguishable thirst
Of rural scenes, compensating his loss
By supplemental shifts, the best he may ?
The most unfurnish'd with the means of life, 770
And they, that never pass their brick-wall bounds,