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Far in a wild, unknown to publick view,
From youth to age a reverend Hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well:
Remote from men, with God he pass’d the days,
Prayer all his business, all his pleasure praise.
A life so sacred, such serene repose,
Seem'd heaven itself, till one suggestion rose;
That vice should triumph, virtue vice obey,
This sprung some doubt of Providence's sway:
His hopes no more a certain prospect boast,
And all the tenour of his soul is lost:
So, when a smooth expanse receives impress'd
Calm nature's image on its watery breast,
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow,
And skies beneath with answering colours glow :
But if a stone the gentle sea divide,
Swift ruffling circles curl on every side,
And glimmering fragments of a broken sun,
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run.
To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
To find if books, or swains, report it right,
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Whose feet came wandering o’er the nightly dew,)
He quits his cell; the pilgrim-staff he bore,
And fix'd the scallop in his hat before ;
Then with the sun a rising journey went,
Sedate to think, and watching each event.
The morn was wasted in the pathless grass, And long and lonesome was the wild, to pass ; But when the southern sun had warm’d the day, A youth came posting o’er a crossing way;
His raiment decent, his complexion fair,
And soft in graceful ringlets waved his hair.
Then near approaching, father, hail! he cried,
And hail, my son, the reverend sire replied ;
Words follow'd words, from question answer flow'd,
And talk of various kind deceived the road;
Till each with other pleased, and loath to part,
While in their age they differ, join in heart.
Thus stands an aged elm in ivy bound,
Thus youthful ivy clasps an elm around.
Now sunk the sun; the closing hour of day
Came onward, mantled o’er with sober gray;
Nature in silence bid the world repose;
When near the road a stately palace rose:
There, by the moon, through ranks of trees they
Whose verdure crown’d their sloping sides of grass.
It chanced, the noble master of the dome
Still made his house the wandering stranger's
Yet still the kindness, from a thirst of praise,
Proved the vain flourish of expensive ease.
The pair arrive; the liveried servants wait;
Their lord receives them at the pompous gate.
The table groans with costly piles of food;
And all is more than hospitably good.
Then led to rest, the day's long toil they drown,
Deep sunk in sleep, and silk, and heaps of down.
At length'tis morn; and at the dawn of day,
Along the wide canals the zephyrs play;
Fresh o'er the gay parterres the breezes creep,
And shake the neighbouring wood, to banish sleep.
Up rise the guests, obedient to the call:
An early banquet deck'd the splendid hall;
Rich luscious wine a golden goblet graced,
Which the kind master forced the guests to taste.
Then pleased and thankful, from the porch they go ;
And, but the landlord, none had cause of woe;
His cup was vanish’d; for, in secret guise,
The younger guest purloin’d the glittering prize.
As one who spies a serpent in his way,
Glistening and basking in the summer ray,
Disorder'd stops, to shun the danger near,
Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear;
So seem'd the sire, when, far upon the road,
The shining spoil his wily partner show'd.
He stopp'd with silence, walk’d with trembling heart,
And much he wish’d, but durst not ask, to part:
Murmuring, he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard, That generous actions meet a base reward.
While thus they pass, the sun his glory shrouds, The changing skies hang out their sable clouds; A sound in air presaged approaching rain, And beasts to covert, scud across the plain. Warn’d by the signs, the wandering pair retreat,
To seek for shelter at a neighbouring seat: "Twas built with turrets, on a rising ground, And strong, and large, and unimproved around; Its owner's temper, timorous and severe, Unkind and griping, caused a desert there. As near the miser's heavy doors they drew, Fierce rising gusts with sudden fury blew; The nimble lightning, mix'd with showers, began, And o'er their heads, loud rolling thunders ran. Here long they knock, but knock or call in vain, Driven by the wind, and batter'd by the rain. At length some pity warm’d the master's breast, ('Twas then his threshold first received a guest,) Slow creeking turns the door, with jealous care, And half he welcomes in, the shivering pair; One frugal fagot lights the naked walls, And nature's fervour, through their limbs, recalls: