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No surly porter stands, in guilty state,
To spurn imploring famine from the gate;
But on he moves to meet his latter end,
Angels around befriending virtue's friend;
Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay,
While resignation gently slopes the way;
And, all his prospects brightening to the last,
His heaven commences ere the world be pass'd!
Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close.
Up yonder hill the village murmur rose;
There, as I pass'd with careless steps and slow,
The mingling notes came soften'd from below;
The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
The sober herd that low'd to meet their young,
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool,
The playful children just let loose from school,
The watch-dog's voice that bay'd the whispering wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind;
These all, in sweet confusion, sought the shade,
And fill'd each pause the nightingale had made.
But now the sounds of population fail,
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale;
No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread,
For all the bloomy flush of life is fled.
All but yon widow'd, solitary thing,
That feebly bends beside the plashy spring;
She, wretched matron, forced, in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry fagot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn;
She only left, of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, And still where many a garden flower grows wild; There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich, with forty pounds a year; Remote from towns he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had changed, nor wish'd to change his place; Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power, By doctrines fashion'd to the varying hour; Far other aims his heart had learn'd to prize, More bent to raise the wretched than to rise. His house was known to all the vagrant train, He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain; The long-remember'd beggar was his guest, Whose beard descending swept his aged breast;
The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claim'd kindred there, and had his claim allow'd;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sat by his fire, and talk'd the night away;
Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done,
Shoulder'd his crutch, and show'd how fields were won.
Pleased with his guests, the good man learn'd to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And e'en his failings lean'd to virtue's side;
But in his duty prompt at every call,
He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt, for all.
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries,
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.
Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismay'd,
The reverend champion stood. At his control,
Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
Comfort came down, the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whisper'd praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace, His looks adorn'd the venerable place; Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway, And fools, who came to scoff, remain'd to pray. The service pass'd, around the pious man, With steady zeal, each honest rustick ran; E'en children followed, with endearing wile, And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile. His ready smile a parent's warmth express'd, Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distress'd: To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given, But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven. As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm, Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread, Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence, that skirts the way With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay, There, in his noisy mansion, skill'd to rule, The village master taught his little school: A man severe he was, and stern to view, I knew him well, and every truant knew; Well had the boding tremblers learnt to trace The day's disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laugh'd, with counterfeited glee,
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Convey'd the dismal tidings, when he frown'd:
Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault;
The village all declared how much he knew;
Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And e'en the story ran, that he could gauge:
In arguing too, the parson own'd his skill,
For e'en, though vanquish'd, he could argue still;
While words of learned length, and thundering sound,
Amazed the gazing rusticks ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot
Where many a time he triumph'd, is forgot.
Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high,
Where once the signpost caught the passing eye,
Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts
inspired, Where gray-beard mirth, and smiling toil retired, Where village statesmen talk'd, with looks profound, And news much older than their ale went round,