An ODE to the late Duchess of SOMERSET. Written 1750.
1 WHILE orient skies restore the day,
2 And dew-drops catch the lucid ray;
3 Amid the sprightly scenes of morn,
4 Will aught the Muse inspire?
5 Oh! peace to yonder clamorous horn
6 That drowns the sacred lyre!
7 Ye rural Thanes that o'er the mossy down
8 Some panting, timorous hare pursue;
9 Does nature mean your joys alone to crown?
10 Say, does she smoothe her lawns for you?
11 For you does Echo bid the rocks reply,
12 And urg'd by rude constraint resound the jovial cry?
13 See from the neighbouring hill, forlorn
14 The wretched swain your sport survey;
15 He finds his faithful fences torn,
16 He finds his labour'd crops a prey;
17 He sees his flock — no more in circles feed;
18 Haply beneath your ravage bleed,
19 And with no random curses loads the deed.
20 Nor yet, ye swains, conclude
21 That Nature smiles for you alone;
22 Your bounded souls, and your conceptions crude,
23 The proud, the selfish boast disown:
24 Yours be the produce of the soil;
25 O may it still reward your toil!
26 Nor ever the defenceless train
27 Of clinging infants, ask support in vain!
28 But tho' the various harvest gild your plains,
29 Does the mere landschape feast your eye?
30 Or the warm hope of distant gains
31 Far other cause of glee supply?[Page 3]
32 Is not the red-streak's future juice
33 The source of your delight profound,
34 Where Ariconium pours her gems profuse,
35 Purpling a whole horizon round?
36 Athirst ye praise the limpid stream, 'tis true:
37 But tho', the pebbled shores among,
38 It mimick no unpleasing song,
39 The limpid fountain murmurs not for you.
40 Unpleas'd ye see the thickets bloom,
41 Unpleas'd the Spring her flowery robe resume;
42 Unmov'd the mountain's airy pile,
43 The dappled mead without a smile.
44 O let a rural conscious Muse,
45 For well she knows, your froward sense accuse:
46 Forth to the solemn oak you bring the square,
47 And span the massy trunk, before you cry, 'tis fair.
48 Nor yet ye learn'd, not yet ye courtly train,
49 If haply from your haunts ye stray
50 To waste with us a summer's day,
51 Exclude the taste of every swain,
52 Nor our untutor'd sense disdain:
53 'Tis Nature only gives exclusive right
54 To relish her supreme delight;
55 She, where she pleases kind or coy,
56 Who furnishes the scene, and forms us to enjoy.
57 Then higher bring the fair ingenuous mind,
58 By her auspicious aid refin'd;
59 Lo! not an hedge-row hawthorn blows,
60 Or humble hare-bell paints the plain,
61 Or valley winds, or fountain flows,
62 Or purple heath is ting'd in vain:
63 For such the rivers dash their foaming tides,
64 The mountain swells, the dale subsides;
65 Ev'n thriftless furze detains their wandering sight,
66 And the rough barren rock grows pregnant with delight.
67 With what suspicious fearful care
68 The sordid wretch secures his claim,
69 If haply some luxurious heir
70 Should alienate the fields that wear his name!
71 What scruples lest some future birth
72 Should litigate a span of earth!
73 Bonds, contracts, feoffments, names unmeet for prose,
74 The towering Muse endures not to disclose;
75 Alas! her unrevers'd decree,
76 More comprehensive and more free,
77 Her lavish charter, Taste, appropriates all we see.
78 Let gondolas their painted flags unfold,
79 And be the solemn day enroll'd,[Page 5]
80 When, to confirm his lofty plea,
81 In nuptial sort, with bridal gold,
82 The grave Venetian weds the sea:
83 Each laughing Muse derides the vow;
84 Ev'n Adria scorns the mock embrace,
85 To some lone hermit on the mountain's brow,
86 Allotted, from his natal hour,
87 With all her myrtle shores in dow'r.
88 His breast to admiration prone
89 Enjoys the smile upon her face,
90 Enjoys triumphant every grace,
91 And finds her more his own.
92 Fatigu'd with form's oppressive laws,
93 When SOMERSET avoids the Great;
94 When cloy'd with merited applause,
95 She seeks the rural calm retreat;
96 Does she not praise each mossy cell,
97 And feel the truth my numbers tell?
98 When deafen'd by the loud acclaim,
99 Which genius grac'd with rank obtains,
100 Could she not more delighted hear
101 Yon throstle chaunt the rising year?
102 Could she not spurn the wreaths of fame,
103 To crop the primrose of the plains?
104 Does she not sweets in each fair valley find,
105 Lost to the sons of pow'r, unknown to half mankind?
106 Ah can she covet there to see
107 The splendid slaves, the reptile race,
108 That oil the tongue, and bow the knee,
109 That slight her merit, but adore her place?
110 Far happier, if aright I deem,
111 When from gay throngs, and gilded spires,
112 To where the lonely halcyons play,
113 Her philosophick step retires:
114 While studious of the moral theme,
115 She, to some smooth sequester'd stream
116 Likens the swain's inglorious day;
117 Pleas'd from the flowery margin to survey,
118 How cool, serene, and clear the current glides away.
119 O blind to truth, to virtue blind,
120 Who slight the sweetly-pensive mind!
121 On whose fair birth the Graces mild,
122 And every Muse prophetick smil'd.
123 Not that the poet's boasted fire
124 Should Fame's wide-echoing trumpet swell;
125 Or, on the musick of his lyre
126 Each future age with rapture dwell;
127 The vaunted sweet of praise remove,
128 Yet shall such bosoms claim a part
129 In all that glads the human heart;
130 Yet these the spirits, form'd to judge and prove
131 All nature's charms immense, and Heav'n's unbounded love.
132 And oh! the transport, most ally'd to song,
133 In some fair villa's peaceful bound,
134 To catch soft hints from Nature's tongue,
135 And bid Arcadia bloom around:
136 Whether we fringe the sloping hill,
137 Or smoothe below the verdant mead;
138 Whether we break the falling rill,
139 Or thro' meandering mazes lead;
140 Or in the horrid bramble's room
141 Bid careless groups of roses bloom;
142 Or let some shelter'd lake serene
143 Reflect flow'rs, woods and spires, and brighten all the scene.
144 O sweet disposal of the rural hour!
145 O beauties never known to cloy!
146 While worth and genius haunt the favour'd bow'r,
147 And every gentle breast partakes the joy!
148 While Charity at eve surveys the swain,
149 Enabled by these toils to chear
150 A train of helpless infants dear,
151 Speed whistling home across the plain;
152 Sees vagrant Luxury, her hand-maid grown,
153 For half her graceless deeds attone,
154 And hails the bounteous work, and ranks it with her own.
155 Why brand these pleasures with the name
156 Of soft, unsocial toils, of indolence and shame?
157 Search but the garden, or the wood,
158 Let yon admir'd carnation own,
159 Not all was meant for raiment, or for food,
160 Not all for needful use alone;
161 There while the seed of future blossoms dwell,
162 'Tis colour'd for the sight, perfum'd to please the smell.
163 Why knows the nightingale to sing?
164 Why flows the pine's nectareous juice?
165 Why shines with paint the linnet's wing?
166 For sustenance alone? for use?
167 For preservation? Every sphere
168 Shall bid fair Pleasure's rightful claim appear.
169 And sure there seem, of human kind,
170 Some born to shun the solemn strife;
171 Some for amusive tasks design'd,
172 To soothe the certain ills of life;
173 Grace it's lone vales with many a budding rose,
174 New founts of bliss disclose,
175 Call forth refreshing shades, and decorate repose.
176 From plains and woodlands; from the view
177 Of rural Nature's blooming face,
178 Smit with the glare of rank and place,
179 To courts the sons of Fancy flew;[Page 9]
180 There long had Art ordain'd a rival seat;
181 There had she lavish'd all her care
182 To form a scene more dazling fair,
183 And call'd them from their green retreat
184 To share her proud controul;
185 Had giv'n the robe with grace to flow,
186 Had taught exotick gems to flow;
187 And emulous of nature's pow'r,
188 Mimick'd the plume, the leaf, the flow'r;
189 Chang'd the complexion's native hue,
190 Moulded each rustick limb anew,
191 And warp'd the very soul!
192 Awhile her magick strikes the novel eye,
193 Awhile the faery forms delight;
194 And now aloof we seem to fly
195 On purple pinions thro' a purer sky,
196 Where all is wonderous, all is bright:
197 Now landed on some spangled shore
198 Awhile each dazled maniac roves
199 By saphire lakes, thro' em'rald groves,
200 Paternal acres please no more;
201 Adieu the simple, the sincere delight —
202 Th' habitual scene of hill and dale,
203 The rural herds, the vernal gale,
204 The tangled vetch's purple bloom,
205 The fragrance of the bean's perfume,
206 Be theirs alone who cultivate the soil,
207 And drink the cup of thirst, and eat the bread of toil,
208 But soon the pageant fades away!
209 'Tis Nature only bears perpetual sway.
210 We pierce the counterfeit delight,
211 Fatigu'd with splendour's irksome beams,
212 Fancy again demands the sight
213 Of native groves, and wonted streams,
214 Pants for the scenes that charm'd her youthful eyes,
215 Where Truth maintains her court, and banishes disguise.
216 Then hither oft ye senators retire,
217 With Nature here high converse hold;
218 For who like STAMFORD her delights admire,
219 Like STAMFORD shall with scorn behold
220 Th' unequal bribes of pageantry and gold;
221 Beneath the British oak's majestick shade,
222 Shall see fair Truth, immortal maid,
223 Friendship in artless guise array'd,
224 Honour, and moral Beauty shine
225 With more attractive charms, with radiance more divine.
226 Yes, here alone did highest Heav'n ordain
227 The lasting magazine of charms,
228 Whatever wins, whatever warms,
229 Whatever fancy seeks to share,
230 The great, the various, and the fair,
231 For ever should remain!
232 Her impulse nothing may restrain —
233 Or whence the joy 'mid columns, tow'rs,
234 'Midst all the city's artful trim,
235 To rear some breathless vapid flow'rs,
236 Or shrubs fuliginously grim:
237 From rooms of silken foliage vain,
238 To trace the dun far distant grove,
239 Where smit with undissembled pain,
240 The wood-lark mourns her absent love,
241 Borne to the dusty town from native air,
242 To mimick rural life, and soothe some vapour'd fair.
243 But how must faithless Art prevail,
244 Should all who taste our joy sincere,
245 To virtue, truth or science dear,
246 Forego a court's alluring pale,
247 For dimpled brook and leafy grove,
248 For that rich luxury of thought they love!
249 Ah no, from these the publick sphere requires
250 Example for it's giddy bands;
251 From these impartial Heav'n demands
252 To spread the flame itself inspires;
253 To sift Opinion's mingled mass,
254 Impress a nation's taste, and bid the sterling pass.
255 Happy, thrice happy they,
256 Whose graceful deeds have exemplary shone
257 Round the gay precincts of a throne,[Page 12]
258 With mild effective beams!
259 Who bands of fair ideas bring,
260 By solemn grott, or shady spring,
261 To join their pleasing dreams!
262 Theirs is the rural bliss without alloy,
263 They only that deserve, enjoy.
264 What tho' nor fabled Dryad haunt their grove,
265 Nor Naiad near their fountains rove,
266 Yet all embody'd to the mental sight,
267 A train of smiling Virtues bright
268 Shall there the wise retreat allow,
269 Shall twine triumphant palms to deck the wanderer's brow.
270 And though by faithless friends alarm'd,
271 Art have with Nature wag'd presumptuous war;
272 By SEYMOUR'S winning influence charm'd,
273 In whom their gifts united shine,
274 No longer shall their counsels jar.
275 'Tis hers to mediate the peace:
276 Near Percy-lodge, with awe-struck mien,
277 The rebel seeks her lawful Queen,
278 And havock and contention cease.
279 I see the rival pow'rs combine,
280 And aid each other's fair design;
281 Nature exalt the mound where Art shall build;
282 Art shape the gay alcove, while Nature paints the field.
283 Begin, ye songsters of the grove!
284 O warble forth your noblest lay;
285 Where SOMERSET vouchsafes to rove
286 Ye leverets freely sport and play.
287 — Peace to the strepent horn!
288 Let no harsh dissonance disturb the morn,
289 No sounds inelegant and rude
290 Her sacred solitudes profane!
291 Unless her candour not exclude
292 The lowly shepherd's votive strain,
293 Who tunes his reed amist his rural chear,
294 Fearful, yet not averse, that SOMERSET should hear.
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About this text
Title (in Source Edition): RURAL ELEGANCE: An ODE to the late Duchess of SOMERSET. Written 1750.
Author: William Shenstone
Themes: rural life; nature
References: DMI 27207
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