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By sports like these are all their cares beguiled ;
The sports of children satisfy the child.
Each nobler aim, repress’d by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
While low delights succeeding fast behind,
In happier meanness occupy the mind.
As in those domes, where Cæsars once bore sway,
Defaced by time, and tottering in decay,
There, in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed;
And wondering, nian could want the larger pile,
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul turn from them, turn we to survey
Where rougher climes a nobler race display,
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread,
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread;
No product here the barren hills afford,
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword.
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
But winter, ling’ring, chills the lap of May;
No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet still, e’en here, content can spread a charm, Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts though
He sees his little lot, the lot of all;
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head,
To shame the meanness of his humble shed;
No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal,
To make him loath his vegetable meal:
But calm, and bred in ignorance, and toil,
Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil.
Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose,
Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes ;
With patient angle, trolls the finny deep,
Or drives his venturous ploughshare to the steep;
Or seeks the den, where snow-tracks mark the
And drags the struggling savage into day.
At night returning, every labour sped,
He sits him down, the monarch of a shed;
Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys
His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze;
While his loved partner, boastful of her hoard:
Displays her cleanly platter on the board:
And haply too some pilgrim, thither led,
With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
Thus every good his native wilds impart, Imprints the patriot passion on his heart ; And e'en those hills that round his mansion rise, Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies. Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms, And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms ; And, as a child, when scaring sounds molest, Clings close and closer to the mother's breast, So the loud torrent and the whirlwind's roar, But bind him to his native mountains more.
Such are the charms to barren states assign'd; Their wants but few, their wishes all confined. Yet let them only share the praises due, If few their wants, their pleasures are but few; For every want that stimulates the breast, Becomes a source of pleasure, when redress’d. Whence, from such lands each pleasing science fies, That first excites desire, and then supplies : Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy, To fill the languid pause with finer joy; Unknown those powers, that raise the soul to flame, Catch every nerve, and vibrate through the frame. Their level life is but a smouldering fire, Unquench’d by want, unfann'd by strong desire ;
Unfit for raptures; or, if raptures cheer,
On some high festival of once a year,
In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire,
Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire.
But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow:
Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low;
For, as refinement stops, from sire to son,
Unalter’d, unimproved, the manners run;
And love's and friendship’s finely pointed dart
Fall blunted, from each indurated heart.
Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast
May sit, like falcons cowering on the nest;
But all the gentler morals, such as play
Through life's more cultured walks, and charm the
way, These, far dispersed, on timorous pinions fly, To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.
To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign, I turn; and France displays her bright domain. Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease, Pleased with thyself, whom all the world can please ; How often have I led thy sportive choir, With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire ? Where shading elms along the margin grew, And, freshen'd from the wave, the zephyr flew;
And haply, though my harsh touch, faultering still,
But mock'd all tune, and marrd the dancer's skill;
Yet would the village praise my wond’rous power,
And dance, forgetful of the noon-tide hour.
Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
Have led their children through the mirthful maze,
And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestick lore,
Has frisk’d, beneath the burden of threescore.
So bless’d a life these thoughtless realms display;
Thus idly busy rolls their world away:
Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear,
For honour forms the social temper here.
Honour, that praise which real merit gains,
Or e'en imaginary worth obtains,
Here passes current; paid from hand to hand,
It shifts in splendid traffick round the land:
From courts, to camps, to cottages it strays,
And all are taught an avarice of praise;
They please, are pleased, they give, to get esteem,
Till, seeming bless'd, they grow to what they seem.
But while this softer art their bliss supplies,
It gives their follies also room to rise;
For praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought,
Enfeebles all internal strength of thought.