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No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread,
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smild, 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 chang'd, 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 reliev'd 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 claims 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 shew'd how fields were
Pleas’dwith his guests, the good man leárn’d to glow,
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-fledg'd offspring to the skies, He tried each art, reprov'd each dull delay, Allur'd 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 controul, 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, ,
with double sway,
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way, With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay, There, in his noisy mansion, skilld to rule, The village master taught his little school :
A man severe he was, and stern to view,
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 sign-post caught the passing eye, Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts in
spir’d, Where grey-beard mirth, and smiling toil retir'd, Where village statesmen talk'd with looks profound, And news much older than their ale went round. Imagination fondly stoops to trace The parlour splendours of that festive place ; The white-wash'd wall, the nicely sanded floor, The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door ; The chest contriv'd a double debt to pay, A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day; The pictures plac'd for ornament and use, The twelve good rules, the royal game
The hearth, except when winter chill'd the day, With aspin boughs, and flowers and fennel gay, While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for shew, Rang'd o'er the chimney, glisten’d in a row.
Vain transitory splendours ! could not all Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall ? Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart An hour's importance to the poor man's heart; Thither no more the peasant shall repair, To sweet obļivion of his daily care ; No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale, No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail ; No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear, Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear; The host himself no longer shall be found Careful to see the mantling bliss go
round; Nor the coy maid, half willing to be prest, Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest.
Yes ! let the rich deride, the proud disdain, These simple blessings of the lowly train, To me more dear, congenial to my heart, One native charm, than all the gloss of art : Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play, The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway ; Lightly they frolic o’er the vacant mind, Unenvied, unmolested, unconfin’d. But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade, With all the freaks of wanton wealth array'd, In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain, The toiling pleasure sickens into pain : And e’en while fashion's brightest arts decay, The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy ?
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay,
'Tis your's to judge, how wide the limits stand
As some fair female, unadorn’d and plain, Secure to please while youth confirms her reign, Slights every borrow'd charm that dress supplies, Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes; But when those charms are past, for charms are frail, When time advances, and when lovers fail, She then shines forth, solicitous to bless, In all the glaring impotence of dress. Thus fares the land, by luxury betray'd; In nature's simplest charms at first array'd, But verging to decline, its splendours rise, Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise ; Whilę, scourg'd by famine from the smiling land, The mournful peasant leads his humble band ; And while he sinks, without one arm to save, The country blooms—a garden and a grave.