The subject proposed. Addressed to Mr. Onslow. A prospect of the fields ready for harvest. Reflections in praise of industry, raised by that view. Reaping. A tale relative to it. A harvest storm. Shooting and hunting; their barbarity. A ludicrous account of fox-hunting. A view of an orchard. Wallfruit. A vineyard. A description of fogs, frequent in the latter part of Autumn; whence a digression, inquiring into the rise of fountains and rivers. Birds of season considered, that now shift their habitation. The prodigious number of them that cover the northern and western isles of Scotland. Hence a view of the country. A prospect of the discoloured, fading woods. After a gentle dusky day, moonlight. Autumnal meteors. Morning; to which succeeds a calm, pure, sunshiny day, such as usually shuts up the season. The harvest being gathered in, the country dissolved in joy. The whole concludes with a panegyric on a philosophical country-life.
rown’d with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
While Autumn nodding o’er the yellow plain
Comes jovial on, the Doric reed once more,
Well pleas’d, I tune. Whate’er the wintry frost
Nitrous prepar’d—the various-blossom’d Spring
Put in white promise forth—and summer suns
Concocted strong—rush boundless now to view,
Full, perfect all, and swell my glorious theme.
Onslow! the muse, ambitious of thy name,
10 To grace, inspire, and dignify her song,170
Would from the public voice thy gentle ear
A while engage. Thy noble cares she knows,
The patriot virtues that distend thy thought,
Spread on thy front, and in thy bosom glow;
While listening senates hang upon thy tongue,
Devolving through the maze of eloquence
A roll of periods sweeter than her song.
But she too pants for public virtue; she,
Though weak of power yet strong in ardent will,
20 Whene’er her country rushes on her heart,
Assumes a bolder note, and fondly tries
To mix the patriot’s with the poet’s flame.
When the bright Virgin gives the beauteous days,
And Libra weighs in equal scales the year,
From heaven’s high cope the fierce effulgence shook
Of parting Summer, a serener blue,
With golden light enliven’d, wide invests
The happy world. Attemper’d suns arise,
Sweet-beam’d, and shedding oft through lucid clouds
30 A pleasing calm; while broad, and brown, below
Extensive harvests hang the heavy head.
Rich, silent, deep, they stand; for not a gale171
Rolls its light billows o’er the bending plain;
A calm of plenty! till the ruffled air
Falls from its poise, and gives the breeze to blow.
Rent is the fleecy mantle of the sky;
The clouds fly different; and the sudden sun
By fits effulgent gilds the illumin’d field,
And black by fits the shadows sweep along.
40 A gaily chequer’d, heart-expanding view,
Far as the circling eye can shoot around,
Unbounded tossing in a flood of corn.
These are thy blessings, industry! rough power!
Whom labour still attends, and sweat, and pain;
Yet the kind source of every gentle art,
And all the soft civility of life:
Raiser of human kind! by Nature cast,
Naked, and helpless, out amid the woods
And wilds, to rude inclement elements;
50 With various seeds of art deep in the mind
Implanted—and profusely pour’d around
Materials infinite; but idle all.
Still unexerted, in the unconscious breast,
Slept the lethargic powers; corruption still,172
Voracious, swallow’d what the liberal hand
Of bounty scatter’d o’er the savage year;
And still the sad barbarian, roving, mix’d
With beasts of prey; or for his acorn-meal
Fought the fierce tusky boar. A shivering wretch!
60 Aghast and comfortless when the bleak north,
With winter charg’d, let the mix’d tempest fly,
Hail, rain, and snow, and bitter-breathing frost—
Then to the shelter of the hut he fled;
And the wild season, sordid, pin’d away.
For home he had not: home is the resort173
Of love, of joy, of peace and plenty, where,
Supporting and supported, polish’d friends,
And dear relations, mingle into bliss.
But this the rugged savage never felt,
70 Even desolate in crowds; and thus his days
Roll’d heavy, dark, and unenjoy’d, along:
A waste of time! till industry approach’d,
And rous’d him from his miserable sloth;
His faculties unfolded; pointed out
Where lavish Nature the directing hand
Of art demanded; show’d him how to raise
His feeble force by the mechanic powers;
To dig the mineral from the vaulted earth,
On what to turn the piercing rage of fire,
80 On what the torrent, and the gather’d blast;
Gave the tall ancient forest to his axe;
Taught him to chip the wood, and hew the stone,
Till by degrees the finish’d fabric rose;
Tore from his limbs the blood-polluted fur,
And wrapt them in the woolly vestment warm,
Or bright in glossy silk, and flowing lawn;
With wholesome viands fill’d his table, pour’d174
The generous glass around, inspir’d to wake
The life-refining soul of decent wit:
90 Nor stopp’d at barren bare necessity;
But, still advancing bolder, led him on
To pomp, to pleasure, elegance, and grace;
And, breathing high ambition through his soul,
Set science, wisdom, glory, in his view,
And bade him be the lord of all below.
Then gathering men their natural powers combin’d,
And form’d a public; to the general good
Submitting, aiming, and conducting all.
For this the patriot council met, the full,
100 The free, and fairly represented whole;
For this they plann’d the holy guardian laws,
Distinguish’d orders, animated arts,
And with joint force oppression chaining, set
Imperial justice at the helm—yet still
To them accountable: nor slavish dream’d
That toiling millions must resign their weal,
And all the honey of their search, to such
As for themselves alone themselves have rais’d.
Hence every form of cultivated life175
110 In order set, protected, and inspir’d,
Into perfection wrought. Uniting all,
Society grew numerous, high, polite,
And happy. Nurse of art! the city rear’d
In beauteous pride her tower-encircled head;
And, stretching street on street, by thousands drew,
From twining woody haunts, or the tough yew
To bows strong-straining, her aspiring sons.
Then commerce brought into the public walk
The busy merchant; the big warehouse built;
120 Rais’d the strong crane; chok’d up the loaded street
With foreign plenty; and thy stream, O Thames,
Large, gentle, deep, majestic, king of floods!
Chose for his grand resort. On either hand,176
Like a long wintry forest, groves of masts
Shot up their spires; the bellying sheet between
Possess’d the breezy void; the sooty hulk
Steer’d sluggish on; the splendid barge along
Row’d regular to harmony; around,
The boat, light-skimming, stretch’d its oary wings;
130 While deep the various voice of fervent toil
From bank to bank increas’d; whence, ribb’d with oak,
To bear the British thunder, black and bold
The roaring vessel rush’d into the main.
Then too the pillar’d dome, magnific, heav’d
Its ample roof: and luxury within
Pour’d out her glittering stores: the canvass smooth,
With glowing life protuberant, to the view
Embodied rose; the statue seem’d to breathe,
And soften into flesh, beneath the touch
140 Of forming art, imagination-flush’d.
All is the gift of industry; whate’er
Exalts, embellishes, and renders life
Delightful. Pensive Winter, cheer’d by him,
Sits at the social fire, and happy hears
The excluded tempest idly rave along;177
His harden’d fingers deck the gaudy Spring;
Without him, Summer were an arid waste;
Nor to the autumnal months could thus transmit
Those full, mature, immeasurable stores,
150 That, waving round, recall my wandering song.
Soon as the morning trembles o’er the sky,
And, unperceiv’d, unfolds the spreading day,
Before the ripen’d field the reapers stand,
In fair array; each by the lass he loves,
To bear the rougher part, and mitigate
By nameless gentle offices her toil.178
At once they stoop and swell the lusty sheaves;
While through their cheerful band the rural talk,
The rural scandal, and the rural jest,
160 Fly harmless, to deceive the tedious time,
And steal unfelt the sultry hours away.
Behind, the master walks; builds up the shocks;
And, conscious, glancing oft on every side
His sated eye, feels his heart heave with joy.
The gleaners spread around; and here and there,
Spike after spike, their sparing harvest pick.
Be not too narrow, husbandmen! but fling
From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth,
The liberal handful. Think, oh grateful think!
170 How good the God of Harvest is to you;
Who pours abundance o’er your flowing fields—
While these unhappy partners of your kind
Wide-hover round you, like the fowls of heaven,
And ask their humble dole. The various turns
Of fortune ponder; that your sons may want
What now, with hard reluctance, faint, ye give.
The lovely young Lavinia once had friends;
And fortune smil’d, deceitful, on her birth.179
For, in her helpless years depriv’d of all,
180 Of every stay save innocence and Heaven,
She, with her widow’d mother, feeble, old,
And poor, liv’d in a cottage, far retir’d
Among the windings of a woody vale;
By solitude and deep surrounding shades,
But more by bashful modesty, conceal’d.
Together thus they shunn’d the cruel scorn
Which virtue, sunk to poverty, would meet
From giddy fashion and low-minded pride;
Almost on Nature’s common bounty fed,
190 Like the gay birds that sung them to repose,
Content, and careless of to-morrow’s fare.
Her form was fresher than the morning rose,
When the dew wets its leaves; unstain’d and pure,
As is the lily, or the mountain snow.
The modest virtues mingled in her eyes,
Still on the ground dejected, darting all
Their humid beams into the blooming flowers;
Or when the mournful tale her mother told,
Of what her faithless fortune promis’d once,
200 Thrill’d in her thought, they, like the dewy star180
Of evening, shone in tears. A native grace
Sat fair-proportion’d on her polish’d limbs,
Veil’d in a simple robe, their best attire,
Beyond the pomp of dress; for loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
But is when unadorn’d adorn’d the most.
Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty’s self,
Recluse amid the close-embowering woods.
As in the hollow breast of Apennine,
210 Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o’er the wild,
So flourish’d blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compell’d
By strong necessity’s supreme command,
With smiling patience in her looks, she went
To glean Palemon’s fields. The pride of swains
Palemon was, the generous, and the rich;
Who led the rural life in all its joy
220 And elegance, such as Arcadian song
Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times—
When tyrant custom had not shackled man,181
But free to follow nature was the mode.
He then, his fancy with autumnal scenes
Amusing, chanc’d beside his reaper-train
To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye;
Unconscious of her power, and turning quick
With unaffected blushes from his gaze:182
He saw her charming, but he saw not half
230 The charms her downcast modesty conceal’d.
That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail’d, and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn,
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field;
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh’d:
“What pity! that so delicate a form,
By beauty kindled, where enlivening sense
And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,
240 Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown! She looks, methinks,
Of old Acasto’s line; and to my mind
Recalls that patron of my happy life,
From whom my liberal fortune took its rise;
Now to the dust gone down—his houses, lands,
And once fair-spreading family, dissolv’d.
’Tis said that in some lone obscure retreat,
Urg’d by remembrance sad, and decent pride,
Far from those scenes which knew their better days,
250 His aged widow and his daughter live,183
Whom yet my fruitless search could never find.
Romantic wish, would this the daughter were!”
When, strict inquiring, from herself he found
She was the same, the daughter of his friend,
Of bountiful Acasto—who can speak
The mingled passions that surpris’d his heart,
And through his nerves in shivering transport ran?
Then blaz’d his smother’d flame, avow’d and bold;
And as he view’d her, ardent, o’er and o’er,
260 Love, gratitude, and pity wept at once.
Confus’d, and frighten’d at his sudden tears,
Her rising beauties flush’d a higher bloom,
As thus Palemon, passionate and just,
Pour’d out the pious rapture of his soul:
“And art thou then Acasto’s dear remains?
She whom my restless gratitude has sought
So long in vain? Oh yes! the very same,
The soften’d image of my noble friend;
Alive, his every feature, every look,
270 More elegantly touch’d. Sweeter than Spring!
Thou sole surviving blossom from the root
That nourish’d up my fortune, say, ah where,184
In what sequestered desert, hast thou drawn
The kindest aspect of delighted heaven?
Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair;
Though poverty’s cold wind, and crushing rain,
Beat keen, and heavy, on thy tender years!
Oh let me now, into a richer soil,
Transplant thee safe! where vernal suns and showers
280 Diffuse their warmest, largest influence;
And of my garden be the pride and joy!
It ill befits thee, oh, it ill befits
Acasto’s daughter—his whose open stores,
Though vast, were little to his ampler heart,
The father of a country, thus to pick
The very refuse of those harvest-fields
Which from his bounteous friendship I enjoy.
Then throw that shameful pittance from thy hand,
But ill-applied to such a rugged task:
290 The fields, the master, all, my fair, are thine;
If to the various blessings which thy house
Has on me lavish’d, thou wilt add that bliss,
That dearest bliss, the power of blessing thee!”
Here ceas’d the youth: yet still his speaking eye185
Express’d the sacred triumph of his soul,
With conscious virtue, gratitude, and love,
Above the vulgar joy divinely rais’d.
Nor waited he reply. Won by the charm
Of goodness irresistible, and all
300 In sweet disorder lost, she blush’d consent.
The news immediate to her mother brought,
While, pierc’d with anxious thought, she pin’d away
The lonely moments for Lavinia’s fate—
Amaz’d, and scarce believing what she heard,
Joy seiz’d her wither’d veins, and one bright gleam
Of setting life shone on her evening-hours:
Not less enraptur’d than the happy pair;
Who flourish’d long in tender bliss, and rear’d
A numerous offspring, lovely like themselves,
310 And good, the grace of all the country round.
Defeating oft the labours of the year,
The sultry south collects a potent blast.
At first, the groves are scarcely seen to stir
Their trembling tops, and a still murmur runs
Along the soft-inclining fields of corn;
But as the aërial tempest fuller swells,186
And in one mighty stream, invisible,
Immense, the whole excited atmosphere
Impetuous rushes o’er the sounding world,
320 Strain’d to the root, the stooping forest pours
A rustling shower of yet untimely leaves.
High-beat, the circling mountains eddy in,
From the bare wild, the dissipated storm,
And send it in a torrent down the vale.
Expos’d, and naked, to its utmost rage,
Through all the sea of harvest rolling round,
The billowy plain floats wide; nor can evade,
Though pliant to the blast, its seizing force—
Or whirl’d in air, or into vacant chaff
330 Shook waste. And sometimes too a burst of rain,
Swept from the black horizon, broad, descends
In one continuous flood. Still over head
The mingling tempest weaves its gloom, and still
The deluge deepens; till the fields around
Lie sunk, and flatted, in the sordid wave.
Sudden, the ditches swell; the meadows swim.
Red, from the hills, innumerable streams,
Tumultuous roar; and high above its banks187
The river lift; before whose rushing tide,
340 Herds, flocks, and harvests, cottages, and swains,
Roll mingled down: all that the winds had spar’d,
In one wild moment ruin’d; the big hopes,
And well-earn’d treasures, of the painful year.
Fled to some eminence, the husbandman,
Helpless, beholds the miserable wreck
Driving along; his drowning ox at once
Descending, with his labours scatter’d round,
He sees; and instant o’er his shivering thought
Comes Winter unprovided, and a train
350 Of clamant children dear. Ye masters, then,
Be mindful of the rough laborious hand
That sinks you soft in elegance and ease;
Be mindful of those limbs, in russet clad,
Whose toil to yours is warmth and graceful pride;
And, oh, be mindful of that sparing board
Which covers yours with luxury profuse,
Makes your glass sparkle, and your sense rejoice!
Nor cruelly demand what the deep rains
And all-involving winds have swept away.
360 Here the rude clamour of the sportsman’s joy,188
The gun fast-thundering, and the winded horn,
Would tempt the muse to sing the rural game:
How, in his mid-career, the spaniel struck,
Stiff, by the tainted gale, with open nose,
Outstretched and finely sensible, draws full,
Fearful, and cautious, on the latent prey;
As in the sun the circling covey bask
Their varied plumes, and, watchful every way,
Through the rough stubble turn the secret eye.
370 Caught in the meshy snare, in vain they beat
Their idle wings, entangled more and more:189
Nor on the surges of the boundless air,
Though borne triumphant, are they safe; the gun,
Glanc’d just and sudden from the fowler’s eye,
O’ertakes their sounding pinions; and, again,
Immediate brings them from the towering wing,
Dead to the ground; or drives them wide-dispers’d,
Wounded, and wheeling various, down the wind.
These are not subjects for the peaceful muse,
380 Nor will she stain with such her spotless song;
Then most delighted, when she social sees
The whole mix’d animal creation round
Alive and happy. ’Tis not joy to her,
This falsely cheerful, barbarous game of death;
This rage of pleasure, which the restless youth
Awakes, impatient, with the gleaming morn;
When beasts of prey retire, that all night long,
Urg’d by necessity, had rang’d the dark,
As if their conscious ravage shunn’d the light,
390 Asham’d. Not so the steady tyrant man,
Who with the thoughtless insolence of power
Inflam’d, beyond the most infuriate wrath
Of the worst monster that e’er roam’d the waste,190
For sport alone pursues the cruel chase,
Amid the beamings of the gentle days.
Upbraid, ye ravening tribes, our wanton rage,
For hunger kindles you, and lawless want;
But lavish fed, in Nature’s bounty roll’d,
To joy at anguish, and delight in blood,
400 Is what your horrid bosoms never knew.
Poor is the triumph o’er the timid hare!
Scar’d from the corn, and now to some lone seat
Retir’d: the rushy fen; the ragged furze,
Stretch’d o’er the stony heath; the stubble chapp’d;
The thistly lawn; the thick entangled broom;
Of the same friendly hue, the wither’d fern;
The fallow ground laid open to the sun,
Concoctive; and the nodding sandy bank,
Hung o’er the mazes of the mountain brook.
410 Vain is her best precaution; though she sits
Conceal’d, with folded ears; unsleeping eyes,
By Nature rais’d to take the horizon in;
And head couch’d close betwixt her hairy feet,
In act to spring away. The scented dew
Betrays her early labyrinth; and deep,191
In scatter’d sullen openings, far behind,
With every breeze she hears the coming storm.
But nearer, and more frequent, as it loads
The sighing gale, she springs amaz’d, and all
The savage soul of game is up at once:
The pack full-opening, various; the shrill horn,
Resounded from the hills; the neighing steed,
420 Wild for the chase; and the loud hunter’s shout;192
O’er a weak, harmless, flying creature, all
Mix’d in mad tumult, and discordant joy.
The stag too, singled from the herd, where long
He rang’d the branching monarch of the shades,
Before the tempest drives. At first, in speed
He, sprightly, puts his faith; and, rous’d by fear,
430 Gives all his swift aërial soul to flight.
Against the breeze he darts, that way the more
To leave the lessening murderous cry behind:
Deception short! though, fleeter than the winds
Blown o’er the keen-air’d mountain by the north,
He bursts the thickets, glances through the glades,
And plunges deep into the wildest wood—
If slow, yet sure, adhesive to the track
Hot-steaming, up behind him come again
The inhuman rout, and from the shady depth
440 Expel him, circling through his every shift.
He sweeps the forest oft; and sobbing sees
The glades, mild-opening to the golden day,
Where, in kind contest, with his butting friends
He wont to struggle, or his loves enjoy.
Oft in the full-descending flood he tries193
To lose the scent, and lave his burning sides;
Oft seeks the herd: the watchful herd, alarm’d,
With selfish care avoid a brother’s woe.
What shall he do? His once so vivid nerves,
450 So full of buoyant spirit, now no more
Inspire the course; but fainting breathless toil,
Sick, seizes on his heart: he stands at bay;
And puts his last weak refuge in despair.
The big round tears run down his dappled face;
He groans in anguish; while the growling pack,
Blood-happy, hang at his fair jutting chest,194
And mark his beauteous chequer’d sides with gore.
Of this enough. But if the sylvan youth
Whose fervent blood boils into violence
460 Must have the chase—behold, despising flight,
The rous’d-up lion, resolute and slow,
Advancing full on the protended spear,
And coward band, that circling wheel aloof.
Slunk from the cavern, and the troubled wood,
See the grim wolf—on him his shaggy foe
Vindictive fix, and let the ruffian die;
Or, growling horrid, as the brindled boar
Grins fell destruction, to the monster’s heart
Let the dart lighten from the nervous arm.
470 These Britain knows not; give, ye Britons, then
Your sportive fury, pitiless, to pour
Loose on the nightly robber of the fold:
Him, from his craggy winding haunts unearth’d,
Let all the thunder of the chase pursue.
Throw the broad ditch behind you; o’er the hedge
High-bound, resistless; nor the deep morass
Refuse, but through the shaking wilderness
Pick your nice way; into the perilous flood195
Bear fearless, of the raging instinct full—
480 And as you ride the torrent, to the banks
Your triumph sound sonorous, running round,
From rock to rock, in circling echo toss’d;
Then scale the mountains to their woody tops;
Rush down the dangerous steep; and o’er the lawn,
In fancy swallowing up the space between,
Pour all your speed into the rapid game.
For happy he who tops the wheeling chase;
Has every maze evolv’d, and every guile
Disclos’d; who knows the merits of the pack;
490 Who saw the villain seiz’d, and dying hard,
Without complaint, though by an hundred mouths
Relentless torn: oh glorious he, beyond
His daring peers! when the retreating horn
Calls them to ghostly halls of grey renown,
With woodland honours grac’d; the fox’s fur,
Depending decent from the roof; and, spread
Round the drear walls, with antic figures fierce,
The stag’s large front: he then is loudest heard,
When the night staggers with severer toils,
500 With feats Thessalian centaurs never knew,196
And their repeated wonders shake the dome.
But first the fuel’d chimney blazes wide;
The tankards foam; and the strong table groans
Beneath the smoking sirloin, stretch’d immense
From side to side; in which, with desperate knife,
They deep incision make, and talk the while
Of England’s glory, ne’er to be defac’d197
While hence they borrow vigour: or amain
Into the pasty plung’d, at intervals,
510 If stomach keen can intervals allow,
Relating all the glories of the chase.
Then sated hunger bids his brother thirst
Produce the mighty bowl; the mighty bowl,
Swell’d high with fiery juice, steams liberal round
A potent gale, delicious as the breath
Of Maia to the love-sick shepherdess,
On violets diffus’d, while soft she hears
Her panting shepherd stealing to her arms.
Nor wanting is the brown october, drawn,
520 Mature and perfect, from his dark retreat
Of thirty years; and now his honest front
Flames in the light refulgent, not afraid
Even with the vineyard’s best prodúce to vie.
To cheat the thirsty moments, whist a while
Walks his grave round, beneath a cloud of smoke,
Wreath’d fragrant from the pipe; or the quick dice,
In thunder leaping from the box, awake
The sounding gammon; while romp-loving miss
Is haul’d about, in gallantry robust.
530 At last these puling idlenesses laid
Aside, frequent and full, the dry divan
Close in firm circle; and set, ardent, in
For serious drinking. Nor evasion sly,
Nor sober shift, is to the puking wretch
Indulg’d apart; but earnest, brimming bowls
Lave every soul, the table floating round,
And pavement, faithless to the fuddled foot.
Thus as they swim in mutual swill, the talk,
Vociferous at once from twenty tongues,
540 Reels fast from theme to theme; from horses, hounds,
To church or mistress, politics or ghost,
In endless mazes, intricate, perplex’d.
Meantime, with sudden interruption, loud,
The impatient catch bursts from the joyous heart:
That moment, touch’d is each congenial soul;
And, opening in a full-mouth’d cry of joy,
The laugh, the slap, the jocund curse goes round;
While, from their slumbers shook, the kennel’d hounds
Mix in the music of the day again.
550 As when the tempest, that has vex’d the deep
The dark night long, with fainter murmurs falls;199
So gradual sinks their mirth. Their feeble tongues,
Unable to take up the cumbrous word,
Lie quite dissolv’d. Before their maudlin eyes,
Seen dim and blue, the double tapers dance,
Like the sun wading through the misty sky.
Then, sliding soft, they drop. Confus’d above,
Glasses and bottles, pipes and gazetteers,
As if the table even itself was drunk,
560 Lie a wet broken scene; and wide, below,
Is heap’d the social slaughter—where astride
The lubber power in filthy triumph sits,
Slumbrous, inclining still from side to side,
And steeps them drench’d in potent sleep till morn.
Perhaps some doctor, of tremendous paunch,
Awful and deep, a black abyss of drink,
Outlives them all; and from his buried flock
Retiring, full of rumination sad,
Laments the weakness of these latter times.
570 But if the rougher sex by this fierce sport
Is hurried wild, let not such horrid joy
E’er stain the bosom of the British fair.
Far be the spirit of the chase from them!200
Uncomely courage, unbeseeming skill,
To spring the fence, to rein the prancing steed—
The cap, the whip, the masculine attire,
In which they roughen to the sense, and all
The winning softness of their sex is lost.
In them ’tis graceful to dissolve at woe;
580 With every motion, every word, to wave
Quick o’er the kindling cheek the ready blush;
And from the smallest violence to shrink,
Unequal, then the loveliest in their fears—
And by this silent adulation, soft,
To their protection more engaging man.
Oh may their eyes no miserable sight,
Save weeping lovers, see! a nobler game,
Through love’s enchanting wiles pursu’d, yet fled,
In chase ambiguous. May their tender limbs
590 Float in the loose simplicity of dress!
And, fashion’d all to harmony, alone
Know they to seize the captivated soul,
In rapture warbled from love-breathing lips;
To teach the lute to languish; with smooth step,
Disclosing motion in its every charm,201
To swim along, and swell the mazy dance;
To train the foliage o’er the snowy lawn;
To guide the pencil, turn the tuneful page;
To lend new flavour to the fruitful year,
600 And heighten Nature’s dainties; in their race,
To rear their graces into second life;
To give society its highest taste;202
Well-order’d home, man’s best delight to make;
And by submissive wisdom, modest skill,
With every gentle care-eluding art,
To raise the virtues, animate the bliss,
Even charm the pains to something more than joy,
And sweeten all the toils of human life:
This be the female dignity, and praise.
610 Ye swains, now hasten to the hazel bank;
Where, down yon dale, the wildly winding brook
Falls hoarse from steep to steep. In close array,
Fit for the thickets and the tangling shrub,
Ye virgins, come. For you their latest song
The woodlands raise; the clustering nuts for you
The lover finds amid the secret shade;
And, where they burnish on the topmost bough,
With active vigour crushes down the tree;
Or shakes them ripe from the resigning husk,
620 A glossy shower, and of an ardent brown,
As are the ringlets of Melinda’s hair:
Melinda, form’d with every grace complete,
Yet these neglecting, above beauty wise,
And far transcending such a vulgar praise.
Hence from the busy joy-resounding fields,
In cheerful error, let us tread the maze
Of Autumn, unconfin’d; and taste, reviv’d,
The breath of orchard big with bending fruit.
Obedient to the breeze and beating ray,
630 From the deep-loaded bough a mellow shower
Incessant melts away. The juicy pear
Lies, in a soft profusion, scatter’d round.
A various sweetness swells the gentle race;
By Nature’s all-refining hand prepared,
Of temper’d sun, and water, earth, and air,
In ever-changing composition mix’d.
Such, falling frequent through the chiller night,
The fragrant stores, the wide-projected heaps204
Of apples, which the lusty-handed year,
640 Innumerous, o’er the blushing orchard shakes.
A various spirit, fresh, delicious, keen,
Dwells in their gelid pores; and, active, points
The piercing cider for the thirsty tongue:
Thy native theme, and boon inspirer too,
Philips, Pomona’s bard, the second thou
Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfetter’d verse,
With British freedom sing the British song;
How, from Silurian vats, high-sparkling wines
Foam in transparent floods—some strong, to cheer
650 The wintry revels of the labouring hind,
And tasteful some, to cool the summer hours.
In this glad season, while his sweetest beams
The sun sheds equal o’er the meeken’d day,
Oh lose me in the green delightful walks
Of, Dodington! thy seat, serene and plain;
Where simple nature reigns; and every view,
Diffusive, spreads the pure Dorsetian downs,
In boundless prospect—yonder shagg’d with wood,
Here rich with harvest, and there white with flocks!
660 Meantime the grandeur of thy lofty dome,205
Far-splendid, seizes on the ravish’d eye.
New beauties rise with each revolving day;
New columns swell; and still the fresh Spring finds
New plants to quicken, and new groves to green.
Full of thy genius all! the muses’ seat;
Where in the secret bower, and winding walk,
For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay.
Here wandering oft, fir’d with the restless thirst
Of thy applause, I solitary court
670 The inspiring breeze; and meditate the book
Of Nature, ever open—aiming thence,
Warm from the heart, to learn the moral song.
And, as I steal along the sunny wall,
Where Autumn basks, with fruit empurpled deep,
My pleasing theme continual prompts my thought:
Presents the downy peach; the shining plum,
With a fine bluish mist of animals
Clouded; the ruddy nectarine; and, dark
Beneath his ample leaf, the luscious fig.
680 The vine too here her curling tendrils shoots;
Hangs out her clusters, glowing to the south;
And scarcely wishes for a warmer sky.206
Turn we a moment fancy’s rapid flight
To vigorous soils, and climes of fair extent;
Where, by the potent sun elated high,
The vineyard swells refulgent on the day;
Spreads o’er the vale; or up the mountain climbs,
Profuse; and drinks amid the sunny rocks,
From cliff to cliff increas’d, the heighten’d blaze.
690 Low bend the weighty boughs. The clusters clear,
Half through the foliage seen, or ardent flame,
Or shine transparent; while perfection breathes
White o’er the turgent film the living dew.
As thus they brighten with exalted juice,
Touch’d into flavour by the mingling ray,
The rural youth and virgins o’er the field,207
Each fond for each to cull the autumnal prime,
Exulting rove, and speak the vintage nigh.
Then comes the crushing swain; the country floats,
700 And foams unbounded with the mashy flood;
That by degrees fermented, and refin’d,
Round the rais’d nations pours the cup of joy:
The claret smooth, red as the lip we press
In sparkling fancy, while we drain the bowl;
The mellow-tasted burgundy; and, quick
As is the wit it gives, the gay champagne.
Now, by the cool declining year condens’d,
Descend the copious exhalations, check’d
As up the middle sky unseen they stole,
710 And roll the doubling fogs around the hill.
No more the mountain, horrid, vast, sublime,
Who pours a sweep of rivers from his sides,
And high between contending kingdoms rears
The rocky long division, fills the view
With great variety; but in a night
Of gathering vapour, from the baffled sense,
Sinks dark and dreary. Thence expanding far,
The huge dusk, gradual, swallows up the plain.208
Vanish the woods. The dim-seen river seems
720 Sullen, and slow, to roll the misty wave.
Even in the height of noon oppress’d, the sun
Sheds weak, and blunt, his wide-refracted ray;
Whence glaring oft, with many a broaden’d orb,
He frights the nations. Indistinct on earth,
Seen through the turbid air, beyond the life
Objects appear—and, wilder’d, o’er the waste
The shepherd stalks gigantic; till at last
Wreath’d dun around, in deeper circles still
Successive closing, sits the general fog
730 Unbounded o’er the world—and, mingling thick,
A formless grey confusion covers all:
As when of old (so sung the Hebrew bard)
Light, uncollected, through the chaos urg’d
Its infant way; nor order yet had drawn
His lovely train from out the dubious gloom.
These roving mists, that constant now begin
To smoke along the hilly country, these,
With weighty rains, and melted alpine snows,
The mountain-cisterns fill, those ample stores
740 Of water, scoop’d among the hollow rocks;209
Whence gush the streams, the ceaseless fountains play,
And their unfailing wealth the rivers draw.
Some sages say, that, where the numerous wave
For ever lashes the resounding shore,
Drill’d through the sandy stratum, every way,
The waters with the sandy stratum rise;
Amid whose angles infinitely strain’d,
They joyful leave their jaggy salts behind,
And clear and sweeten as they soak along.
750 Nor stops the restless fluid, mounting still,
Though oft amidst the irriguous vale it springs;
But to the mountain courted by the sand,
That leads it darkling on in faithful maze,
Far from the parent-main, it boils again
Fresh into day—and all the glittering hill
Is bright with spouting rills. But hence this vain
Amusive dream! why should the waters love
To take so far a journey to the hills,
When the sweet valleys offer to their toil
760 Inviting quiet, and a nearer bed?
Or if, by blind ambition led astray,
They must aspire, why should they sudden stop210
Among the broken mountain’s rushy dells,
And, ere they gain its highest peak, desert
The attractive sand that charm’d their course so long?
Besides, the hard agglomerating salts,
The spoil of ages, would impervious choke
Their secret channels; or, by slow degrees,
High as the hills protrude the swelling vales:
770 Old ocean too, suck’d through the porous globe,
Had long ere now forsook his horrid bed,
And brought Deucalion’s watery times again.
Say then, where lurk the vast eternal springs,
That, like creating Nature, lie conceal’d
From mortal eye, yet with their lavish stores
Refresh the globe, and all its joyous tribes?
O thou pervading genius, given to man
To trace the secrets of the dark abyss,
Oh lay the mountains bare; and wide display
780 Their hidden structure to the astonish’d view!
Strip from the branching Alps their piny load;
The huge incumbrance of horrific woods
From Asian Taurus, from Imaüs stretch’d
Athwart the roving Tartar’s sullen bounds;211
Give opening Hæmus to my searching eye,
And high Olympus1 pouring many a stream!
Oh, from the sounding summits of the north,
The Dofrine hills, through Scandinavia roll’d
To farthest Lapland and the frozen main;
790 From lofty Caucasus, far seen by those
Who in the Caspian and black Euxine toil;
From cold Rhipæan rocks, which the wild Russ
Believes the stony girdle2 of the world;
And all the dreadful mountains, wrapt in storm,
Whence wide Siberia draws her lonely floods—
Oh sweep the eternal snows! Hung o’er the deep,
That ever works beneath his sounding base,
Bid Atlas, propping heaven, as poets feign,
His subterranean wonders spread; unveil
800 The miny caverns, blazing on the day,
Of Abyssinia’s cloud-compelling cliffs,
And of the bending Mountains of the Moon3;
O’ertopping all these giant sons of earth,
Let the dire Andes, from the radiant line
Stretch’d to the stormy seas that thunder round
The southern pole, their hideous deeps unfold!212
Amazing scene! Behold! the glooms disclose:
I see the rivers in their infant beds;
Deep, deep I hear them, labouring to get free.
810 I see the leading strata, artful rang’d;
The gaping fissures to receive the rains,
The melting snows, and ever-dripping fogs.
Strew’d bibulous above I see the sands,
The pebbly gravel next, the layers then
Of mingled moulds, of more retentive earths,
The gutter’d rocks and mazy-running clefts;
That, while the stealing moisture they transmit,
Retard its motion, and forbid its waste.
Beneath the incessant weeping of these drains,
820 I see the rocky siphons stretch’d immense,
The mighty reservoirs, of harden’d chalk,
Or stiff compacted clay, capacious form’d.
O’erflowing thence, the congregated stores,
The crystal treasures of the liquid world,
Through the stirr’d sands a bubbling passage burst:
And welling out, around the middle steep,
Or from the bottoms of the bosom’d hills,
In pure effusion flow. United, thus,213
The exhaling sun, the vapour-burden’d air,
830 The gelid mountains, that to rain condens’d
These vapours in continual current draw,
And send them, o’er the fair-divided earth,
In bounteous rivers to the deep again,
A social commerce hold, and firm support
The full-adjusted harmony of things.
When Autumn scatters his departing gleams,
Warn’d of approaching Winter, gather’d, play
The swallow-people; and toss’d wide around,
O’er the calm sky, in convolution swift,
840 The feather’d eddy floats: rejoicing once,
Ere to their wintry slumbers they retire—
In clusters clung, beneath the mouldering bank,
And where, unpierc’d by frost, the cavern sweats.
Or rather into warmer climes convey’d,
With other kindred birds of season, there
They twitter cheerful, till the vernal months
Invite them welcome back; for, thronging, now
Innumerous wings are in commotion all.
Where the Rhine loses his majestic force
850 In Belgian plains, won from the raging deep214
By diligence amazing, and the strong
Unconquerable hand of liberty,
The stork-assembly meets; for many a day,
Consulting deep, and various, ere they take
Their arduous voyage through the liquid sky.
And now their route designed, their leaders chose,
Their tribes adjusted, clean’d their vigorous wings—
And many a circle, many a short essay,
Wheel’d round and round—in congregation full
860 The figur’d flight ascends; and, riding high
The aërial billows, mixes with the clouds.
Or where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,
Boils round the naked melancholy isles
Of farthest Thulè, and the Atlantic surge
Pours in among the stormy Hebrides—
Who can recount what transmigrations there
Are annual made? what nations come and go?
And how the living clouds on clouds arise?
Infinite wings! till all the plume-dark air,
870 And rude resounding shore, are one wild cry.
Here the plain harmless native his small flock,
And herd diminutive of many hues,215
Tends on the little island’s verdant swell,
The shepherd’s sea-girt reign; or, to the rocks
Dire-clinging, gathers his ovarious food;
Or sweeps the fishy shore; or treasures up
The plumage, rising full, to form the bed
Of luxury. And here a while the muse,
High-hovering o’er the broad cerulean scene,
880 Sees Caledonia, in romantic view:
Her airy mountains, from the waving main,
Invested with a keen diffusive sky,
Breathing the soul acute; her forests huge,
Incult, robust, and tall, by Nature’s hand216
Planted of old; her azure lakes between,
Pour’d out extensive, and of watery wealth
Full; winding deep, and green, her fertile vales—
With many a cool translucent brimming flood
Wash’d lovely, from the Tweed (pure parent-stream,
890 Whose pastoral banks first heard my Doric reed,
With, sylvan Jed, thy tributary brook)
To where the north-inflated tempest foams
O’er Orcas’ or Berubium’s highest peak.
Nurse of a people, in misfortune’s school
Train’d up to hardy deeds; soon visited
By learning, when before the Gothic rage
She took her western flight. A manly race,
Of unsubmitting spirit, wise and brave;
Who still through bleeding ages struggled hard
900 (As well unhappy Wallace can attest,
Great patriot-hero! ill-requited chief!)
To hold a generous undiminish’d state—
Too much in vain! Hence of unequal bounds
Impatient, and by tempting glory borne
O’er every land, for every land their life
Has flow’d profuse, their piercing genius plann’d,217
And swell’d the pomp of peace their faithful toil:
As from their own clear north, in radiant streams,
Bright over Europe bursts the boreal morn.
910 Oh! is there not some patriot, in whose power
That best, that godlike luxury is plac’d,
Of blessing thousands, thousands yet unborn,
Through late posterity? some, large of soul,
To cheer dejected industry, to give
A double harvest to the pining swain,
And teach the labouring hand the sweets of toil?
How, by the finest art, the native robe
To weave; how, white as hyperborean snow,
To form the lucid lawn; with venturous oar
920 How to dash wide the billow; nor look on,
Shamefully passive, while Batavian fleets
Defraud us of the glittering finny swarms,
That heave our friths, and crowd upon our shores;
How all-enlivening trade to rouse, and wing
The prosperous sail, from every growing port,
Uninjur’d, round the sea-encircled globe;
And thus, in soul united as in name,
Bid Britain reign the mistress of the deep!218
Yes, there are such. And full on thee, Argyle,
930 Her hope, her stay, her darling, and her boast,
From her first patriots and her heroes sprung,
Thy fond imploring country turns her eye;
In thee, with all a mother’s triumph, sees
Her every virtue, every grace combin’d,
Her genius, wisdom, her engaging turn,
Her pride of honour, and her courage tried,
Calm, and intrepid, in the very throat
Of sulphurous war, on Taisniere’s dreadful field.
Nor less the palm of peace inwreathes thy brow:
940 For, powerful as thy sword, from thy rich tongue
Persuasion flows, and wins the high debate;
While mix’d in thee combine the charm of youth,
The force of manhood, and the depth of age.
Thee, Forbès, too, whom every worth attends,
As truth sincere, as weeping friendship kind—
Thee, truly generous, and in silence great,
Thy country feels through her reviving arts,
Plann’d by thy wisdom, by thy soul inform’d;
And seldom has she felt a friend like thee.
950 But see the fading many-colour’d woods,219
Shade deepening over shade, the country round
Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk and dun,
Of every hue from wan declining green
To sooty dark. These now the lonesome muse,
Low-whispering, lead into their leaf-strown walks;
And give the season in its latest view.
Meantime, light-shadowing all, a sober calm
Fleeces unbounded ether; whose least wave
Stands tremulous, uncertain where to turn
960 The gentle current: while, illumin’d wide,
The dewy-skirted clouds imbibe the sun,
And through their lucid veil his soften’d force
Shed o’er the peaceful world. Then is the time
For those whom wisdom and whom nature charm
To steal themselves from the degenerate crowd,
And soar above this little scene of things;
To tread low-thoughted vice beneath their feet,
To soothe the throbbing passions into peace,
And woo lone quiet in her silent walks.
970 Thus solitary, and in pensive guise,
Oft let me wander o’er the russet mead,
And through the sadden’d grove, where scarce is heard220
One dying strain to cheer the woodman’s toil.
Haply some widow’d songster pours his plaint,
Far, in faint warblings, through the tawny copse;
While congregated thrushes, linnets, larks,
And each wild throat, whose artless strains so late
Swell’d all the music of the swarming shades,
Robb’d of their tuneful souls, now shivering sit
980 On the dead tree, a dull despondent flock!
With not a brightness waving o’er their plumes,
And nought save chattering discord in their note.
Oh let not, aim’d from some inhuman eye,
The gun the music of the coming year221
Destroy; and harmless, unsuspecting harm,
Lay the weak tribes, a miserable prey,
In mingled murder, fluttering on the ground!
The pale descending year, yet pleasing still,
A gentler mood inspires; for now the leaf
990 Incessant rustles from the mournful grove—
Oft startling such as, studious, walk below,
And slowly circles through the waving air.
But should a quicker breeze amid the boughs
Sob, o’er the sky the leafy deluge streams;
Till chok’d, and matted with the dreary shower,
The forest-walks, at every rising gale,
Roll wide the wither’d waste, and whistle bleak.
Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields;
And, shrunk into their beds, the flowery race
1000 Their sunny robes resign. Even what remain’d
Of bolder fruits falls from the naked tree;
And woods, fields, gardens, orchards, all around
The desolated prospect thrills the soul.
He comes! he comes! in every breeze the power
Of philosophic melancholy comes!
His near approach the sudden-starting tear,222
The glowing cheek, the mild dejected air,
The soften’d feature, and the beating heart,
Pierc’d deep with many a virtuous pang, declare.
1010 O’er all the soul his sacred influence breathes;
Inflames imagination; through the breast
Infuses every tenderness; and far
Beyond dim earth exalts the swelling thought.
Ten thousand thousand fleet ideas, such
As never mingled with the vulgar dream,
Crowd fast into the mind’s creative eye.
As fast the correspondent passions rise,
As varied, and as high: devotion rais’d
To rapture, and divine astonishment;
1020 The love of nature unconfin’d, and, chief,
Of human race; the large ambitious wish,
To make them blest; the sigh for suffering worth,
Lost in obscurity; the noble scorn
Of tyrant-pride; the fearless great resolve;
The wonder which the dying patriot draws,
Inspiring glory through remotest time;
The awaken’d throb for virtue, and for fame;
The sympathies of love, and friendship dear;223
With all the social offspring of the heart.
1030 Oh! bear me then to vast embowering shades,
To twilight groves, and visionary vales,
To weeping grottos, and prophetic glooms!
Where angel-forms athwart the solemn dusk
Tremendous sweep, or seem to sweep, along;
And voices more than human, through the void
Deep-sounding, seize the enthusiastic ear.
Or is this gloom too much? Then lead, ye powers
That o’er the garden and the rural seat
Preside, which shining through the cheerful land
1040 In countless numbers blest Britannia sees,
Oh lead me to the wide-extended walks,
The fair majestic paradise of Stowe!
Not Persian Cyrus on Ionia’s shore
E’er saw such sylvan scenes; such various art
By genius fir’d, such ardent genius tam’d
By cool judicious art that, in the strife,
All-beauteous Nature fears to be outdone.
And there, O Pitt! thy country’s early boast,
There let me sit beneath the shelter’d slopes,
1050 Or in that temple4 where, in future times,224
Thou well shalt merit a distinguish’d name;
And, with thy converse blest, catch the last smiles
Of Autumn beaming o’er the yellow woods.
While there with thee the enchanted round I walk,
The regulated wild, gay fancy then
Will tread in thought the groves of Attic land;
Will from thy standard taste refine her own,
Correct her pencil to the purest truth
Of Nature, or, the unimpassion’d shades
1060 Forsaking, raise it to the human mind.
Oh if hereafter she, with juster hand,
Shall draw the tragic scene, instruct her thou,
To mark the varied movements of the heart,
What every decent character requires,
And every passion speaks—oh! through her strain
Breathe thy pathetic eloquence! that moulds
The attentive senate, charms, persuades, exalts,
Of honest zeal the indignant lightning throws,
And shakes corruption on her venal throne.
1070 While thus we talk, and through Elysian vales
Delighted rove, perhaps a sigh escapes:
What pity, Cobham, thou thy verdant files225
Of order’d trees should’st here inglorious range,
Instead of squadrons flaming o’er the field,
And long-embattled hosts! when the proud foe,
The faithless vain disturber of mankind,
Insulting Gaul, has rous’d the world to war;
When keen, once more, within their bounds to press
Those polish’d robbers, those ambitious slaves,
1080 The British youth would hail thy wise command,
Thy temper’d ardour, and thy veteran skill.
The western sun withdraws the shorten’d day;
And humid evening, gliding o’er the sky,
In her chill progress, to the ground condens’d
The vapours throws. Where creeping waters ooze,
Where marshes stagnate, and where rivers wind,
Cluster the rolling fogs, and swim along226
The dusky-mantled lawn. Meanwhile the moon,
Full-orb’d and breaking through the scatter’d clouds,
1090 Shows her broad visage in the crimson’d east.
Turn’d to the sun direct, her spotted disk,
Where mountains rise, umbrageous dales descend,
And caverns deep, as optic tube descries,
A smaller earth, gives all his blaze again,
Void of its flame, and sheds a softer day.
Now through the passing cloud she seems to stoop,
Now up the pure cerulean rides sublime.
Wide the pale deluge floats, and streaming mild
O’er the skied mountain to the shadowy vale,
1100 While rocks and floods reflect the quivering gleam,
The whole air whitens with a boundless tide
Of silver radiance, trembling round the world.
But when half-blotted from the sky her light,
Fainting, permits the starry fires to burn
With keener lustre through the depth of heaven—
Or quite extinct her deaden’d orb appears,
And scarce appears, of sickly beamless white—
Oft in this season, silent from the north
A blaze of meteors shoots: ensweeping first227
1110 The lower skies, they all at once converge
High to the crown of heaven, and all at once
Relapsing quick as quickly re-ascend,
And mix, and thwart, extinguish, and renew—
All ether coursing in a maze of light.
From look to look, contagious through the crowd,
The panic runs, and into wondrous shapes
The appearance throws: armies in meet array,
Throng’d with aërial spears, and steeds of fire;
Till, the long lines of full-extended war
1120 In bleeding fight commix’d, the sanguine flood
Rolls a broad slaughter o’er the plains of heaven.
As thus they scan the visionary scene,
On all sides swells the superstitious din,
Incontinent; and busy frenzy talks
Of blood and battle; cities overturn’d,
And late at night in swallowing earthquake sunk,
Or hideous wrapt in fierce ascending flame;
Of sallow famine, inundation, storm;
Of pestilence, and every great distress;
1130 Empires subvers’d, when ruling fate has struck
The unalterable hour: even Nature’s self228
Is deem’d to totter on the brink of time.
Not so the man of philosophic eye,
And inspect sage; the waving brightness he
Curious surveys, inquisitive to know
The causes, and materials, yet unfix’d,
Of this appearance beautiful and new.
Now black, and deep, the night begins to fall,
A shade immense. Sunk in the quenching gloom,
1140 Magnificent and vast, are heaven and earth.
Order confounded lies; all beauty void;
Distinction lost; and gay variety
One universal blot: such the fair power
Of light, to kindle and create the whole.
Drear is the state of the benighted wretch,
Who then, bewilder’d, wanders through the dark,
Full of pale fancies, and chimeras huge;
Nor visited by one directive ray,
From cottage streaming, or from airy hall.
1150 Perhaps, impatient as he stumbles on,
Struck from the root of slimy rushes, blue
The wild-fire scatters round, or gather’d trails
A length of flame deceitful o’er the moss—229
Whither decoy’d by the fantastic blaze,
Now lost and now renew’d, he sinks absorpt,
Rider and horse, amid the miry gulf;
While still, from day to day, his pining wife
And plaintive children his return await,
In wild conjecture lost. At other times,
1160 Sent by the better genius of the night,230
Innoxious, gleaming on the horse’s mane,
The meteor sits; and shows the narrow path,
That winding leads through pits of death, or else
Instructs him how to take the dangerous ford.
The lengthen’d night elaps’d, the morning shines
Serene, in all her dewy beauty bright,
Unfolding fair the last autumnal day.
And now the mounting sun dispels the fog;
The rigid hoar-frost melts before his beam;
1170 And hung on every spray, on every blade
Of grass, the myriad dewdrops twinkle round.
Ah see where robb’d, and murder’d, in that pit
Lies the still heaving hive! at evening snatch’d,
Beneath the cloud of guilt-concealing night,
And fix’d o’er sulphur; while, not dreaming ill,
The happy people, in their waxen cells,
Sat tending public cares, and planning schemes
Of temperance, for Winter poor—rejoic’d
To mark, full-flowing round, their copious stores.
1180 Sudden the dark oppressive steam ascends;
And, us’d to milder scents, the tender race,
By thousands, tumbles from their honied domes,231
Convolv’d, and agonising in the dust.
And was it then for this you roam’d the Spring,
Intent from flower to flower? for this you toil’d
Ceaseless the burning summer-heats away?
For this in Autumn search’d the blooming waste,
Nor lost one sunny gleam? for this sad fate?
O man! tyrannic lord! how long, how long,
1190 Shall prostrate nature groan beneath your rage,
Awaiting renovation? When oblig’d,
Must you destroy? Of their ambrosial food
Can you not borrow; and, in just return,
Afford them shelter from the wintry winds;
Or, as the sharp year pinches, with their own
Again regale them on some smiling day?
See where the stony bottom of their town
Looks desolate, and wild; with here and there
A helpless number, who the ruin’d state
1200 Survive, lamenting weak, cast out to death.
Thus a proud city, populous and rich,
Full of the works of peace, and high in joy,
At theatre or feast, or sunk in sleep
(As late, Palermo, was thy fate) is seiz’d232
By some dread earthquake, and convulsive hurl’d,
Sheer from the black foundation, stench-involv’d,
Into a gulf of blue sulphureous flame.
Hence every harsher sight! for now the day,
O’er heaven and earth diffus’d, grows warm and high,
1210 Infinite splendour! wide-investing all.
How still the breeze! save what the filmy threads
Of dew evaporate brushes from the plain.
How clear the cloudless sky! how deeply ting’d
With a peculiar blue! the ethereal arch
How swell’d immense! amid whose azure thron’d
The radiant sun how gay! how calm below,
The gilded earth! the harvest-treasures all
Now gather’d in, beyond the rage of storms,
Sure to the swain; the circling fence shut up;
1220 And instant Winter’s utmost rage defied:
While, loose to festive joy, the country round
Laughs with the loud sincerity of mirth,
Shook to the wind their cares. The toil-strung youth,
By the quick sense of music taught alone,
Leaps wildly graceful in the lively dance.
Her every charm abroad, the village-toast,233
Young, buxom, warm, in native beauty rich,
Darts not-unmeaning looks; and, where her eye
Points an approving smile, with double force
1230 The cudgel rattles, and the wrestler, twines.
Age too shines out; and, garrulous, recounts234
The feats of youth. Thus they rejoice; nor think
That, with to-morrow’s sun, their annual toil
Begins again the never-ceasing round.
Oh! knew he but his happiness, of men
The happiest he, who far from public rage,
Deep in the vale, with a choice few retir’d,
Drinks the pure pleasures of the rural life!
What though the dome be wanting, whose proud gate,
1240 Each morning, vomits out the sneaking crowd
Of flatterers false, and in their turn abus’d?
Vile intercourse! What though the glittering robe,
Of every hue reflected light can give,
Or floating loose, or stiff with mazy gold,
The pride and gaze of fools! oppress him not?
What though, from utmost land and sea purvey’d,
For him each rarer tributary life
Bleeds not, and his insatiate table heaps
With luxury, and death? What though his bowl
1250 Flames not with costly juice; nor, sunk in beds,
Oft of gay care, he tosses out the night,
Or melts the thoughtless hours in idle state?
What though he knows not those fantastic joys,235
That still amuse the wanton, still deceive;
A face of pleasure, but a heart of pain;
Their hollow moments undelighted all?
Sure peace is his; a solid life, estrang’d
To disappointment, and fallacious hope:
Rich in content, in Nature’s bounty rich,
1260 In herbs and fruits; whatever greens the Spring
When heaven descends in showers, or bends the bough
When Summer reddens and when Autumn beams,
Or in the wintry glebe whatever lies
Conceal’d, and fattens with the richest sap—
These are not wanting; nor the milky drove,
Luxuriant, spread o’er all the lowing vale;
Nor bleating mountains; nor the chide of streams,
And hum of bees, inviting sleep sincere
Into the guiltless breast, beneath the shade,
1270 Or thrown at large amid the fragrant hay;
Nor aught besides of prospect, grove, or song,
Dim grottos, gleaming lakes, and fountain clear.
Here too dwells simple truth; plain innocence;
Unsullied beauty; sound unbroken youth,
Patient of labour, with a little pleas’d;236
Health ever-blooming; unambitious toil;
Calm contemplation, and poetic ease.
Let others brave the flood in quest of gain,
And beat, for joyless months, the gloomy wave.
1280 Let such as deem it glory to destroy,
Rush into blood, the sack of cities seek;
Unpierc’d, exulting in the widow’s wail,
The virgin’s shriek, and infant’s trembling cry.
Let some, far-distant from their native soil,
Urg’d or by want or harden’d avarice,
Find other lands beneath another sun.
Let this through cities work his eager way,
By legal outrage and establish’d guile,
The social sense extinct; and that ferment
1290 Mad into tumult the seditious herd,
Or melt them down to slavery. Let these
Ensnare the wretches in the toils of law,
Fomenting discord, and perplexing right,
An iron race! and those of fairer front,
But equal inhumanity, in courts,
Delusive pomp, and dark cabals, delight;
Wreathe the deep bow, diffuse the lying smile,237
And tread the weary labyrinth of state.
While he, from all the stormy passions free
1300 That restless men involve, hears, and but hears,
At distance safe, the human tempest roar,
Wrapt close in conscious peace. The fall of kings,
The rage of nations, and the crush of states,
Move not the man who, from the world escap’d,
In still retreats, and flowery solitudes,
To Nature’s voice attends, from month to month,
And day to day, through the revolving year;
Admiring, sees her in her every shape;
Feels all her sweet emotions at his heart;
1310 Takes what she liberal gives, nor thinks of more.
He, when young Spring protrudes the bursting gems,
Marks the first bud, and sucks the healthful gale
Into his freshen’d soul; her genial hours
He full enjoys; and not a beauty blows,
And not an opening blossom breathes, in vain.
In Summer he, beneath the living shade,
Such as o’er frigid Tempè wont to wave,
Or Hæmus cool, reads what the muse, of these
Perhaps, has in immortal numbers sung;238
1320 Or what she dictates writes; and oft, an eye
Shot round, rejoices in the vigorous year.
When Autumn’s yellow lustre gilds the world,
And tempts the sickled swain into the field,
Seiz’d by the general joy, his heart distends
With gentle throes; and, through the tepid gleams
Deep-musing, then he best exerts his song.
Even Winter wild to him is full of bliss.
The mighty tempest, and the hoary waste,
Abrupt and deep, stretch’d o’er the buried earth,
1330 Awake to solemn thought. At night the skies,
Disclos’d, and kindled, by refining frost,
Pour every lustre on the exalted eye.
A friend, a book, the stealing hours secure,
And mark them down for wisdom. With swift wing,
O’er land and sea imagination roams;
Or truth, divinely breaking on his mind,
Elates his being, and unfolds his powers;
Or in his breast heroic virtue burns.
The touch of kindred too and love he feels;
1340 The modest eye, whose beams on his alone
Ecstatic shine; the little strong embrace239
Of prattling children, twin’d around his neck,
And emulous to please him, calling forth
The fond parental soul. Nor purpose gay,
Amusement, dance, or song, he sternly scorns;
For happiness and true philosophy
Are of the social still, and smiling kind.
This is the life which those who fret in guilt,
And guilty cities, never knew; the life
1350 Led by primeval ages, uncorrupt,
When angels dwelt, and God himself, with man!
O Nature! all-sufficient! over all!
Enrich me with a knowledge of thy works!
Snatch me to heaven; thy rolling wonders there,
World beyond world, in infinite extent,
Profusely scatter’d o’er the void immense,
Show me; their motions, periods, and their laws,
Give me to scan; through the disclosing deep
Light my blind way: the mineral strata there;
1360 Thrust, blooming, thence the vegetable world;
O’er that the rising system, more complex,
Of animals; and, higher still, the mind,
The varied scene of quick-compounded thought,240
And where the mixing passions endless shift—
These ever open to my ravish’d eye;
A search, the flight of time can ne’er exhaust!
But if to that unequal—if the blood,
In sluggish streams about my heart, forbid
That best ambition—under closing shades,
1370 Inglorious, lay me by the lowly brook,
And whisper to my dreams. From thee begin,
Dwell all on thee, with thee conclude my song;
And let me never, never stray from thee!
Note 1. Line 786. p. 211.
High Olympus pouring many a stream!
The mountain called by that name in the lesser Asia.317
Note 2. Line 793. p. 211.
Cold Rhipæan rocks, which the wild Russ
Believes the stony girdle of the world.
The Muscovites call the Rhipæan mountains Weliki Camenypoys, [Pojas Semnoi, says Strahlenberg,] that is, the great stony girdle; because they suppose them to encompass the whole earth.
Note 3. Line 802. p. 211.
The bending Mountains of the Moon.
A range of mountains in Africa, that surround almost all Monomotapa.
Note 4. Line 3 050. p. 223.
That temple where, in future times,
Thou well shalt merit a distinguished name.
The temple of virtue in Stowe gardens.
The illustration surrounding the Argument had to be split along the bottom, because it simply wouldn’t fit any reasonable text size.
178 The lovely young Lavinia
[The Tate Gallery informs me that the Palemon-and-Lavinia story is Thomson’s invention, loosely based on the biblical Ruth and Boaz. This explains why I didn’t recognize the names from any of the usual sources like Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It is characteristic of Thomson’s time—the beginning of the Romantic era—that his version reduces Naomi to a walk-on, recasts her as a never-married Ruth’s mother, makes both of them Boaz’s social equals . . . and eliminates all agency from either woman.]
546 And, opening in a full-mouth’d cry of joy
[I do not profess to understand the editor’s typographic decisions, here or elsewhere.]
654-55 Oh lose me in the green delightful walks / Of, Dodington! thy seat
[The comma makes sense if “Dodington!” is understood as parenthetical: “Of (Dodington!) thy seat”.]
920-22 look on, / Shamefully passive, while Batavian fleets / Defraud us of the glittering finny swarms
[File under: I guess you had to be there.]
923 That heave our friths
[Query: What the heck is a frith? Answer: It’s a parallel or variant form of “firth”, as in the well-known Frith of Froth.]
938 Of sulphurous war, on Taisniere’s dreadful field.
[I can’t help but feel that all these topical references really add nothing to the poem. Today Taisnières-sur-Hon is just a speck on the map. In 1709 it was the site of the battle of Malplaquet, part of the War of the Spanish Succession. Shrug.]
[Note 3] Monomotapa
[Mutapa was one of the biggest African kingdoms of its day (15th to 17th century), covering most of modern Zambia and Malawi along with sizable chunks of modern Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.