To the Honourable and Reverend F. C.
1 IN frolick's hour, ere serious thought had birth,
2 There was a time, my dear C—s, when
3 The Muse would take me on her airy wing[Page 139]
4 And waft to views romantic; there present
5 Some motley vision, shade and sun: the cliff
6 O'erhanging, sparkling brooks, and ruins grey;
7 Bad me meanders trace, and catch the form
8 Of varying clouds, and rainbows learn to paint.
9 Sometimes ambition, brushing by, wou'd twitch
10 My mantle, and with winning look sublime
11 Allure to follow. What tho' steep the track,
12 Her mountain's top wou'd overpay when climb'd
13 The scaler's toil; her temple there was fine,
14 And lovely thence the prospects. She cou'd tell
15 Where laurels grew, whence many a wreath antique;
16 But more advis'd to shun the barren twig,
17 (What is immortal verdure without fruit?)
18 And woo some thriving art: her num'rous mines
19 Were open to the searcher's skill and pains.
20 Caught by th' harangue, heart beat, and flutt'ring pulse
21 Sounded irregular marches to be gone —
22 What, pause a moment when Ambition calls?
23 No, the blood gallops to the distant goal,
24 And throbs to reach it. Let the lame sit still.
25 When Fortune gentle, at the hill's verge extreme,
26 Array'd in decent garb, but somewhat thin,
27 Smiling approach'd, and what occasion ask'd,
28 Of climbing? She already provident
29 Had cater'd well, if stomach cou'd digest
30 Her viands, and a palate not too nice.[Page 140]
31 Unfit she said, for perilous attempt,
32 That manly limb requir'd, and sinews tough.
33 She took, and lay'd me in a vale remote,
34 Amid the gloomy scene of fir and yew,
35 On poppy beds, where Morpheus strew'd the ground:
36 Obscurity her curtain round me drew,
37 And syren Sloth a dull quietus sung.
38 Sithence no fairy lights, no quick'ning ray,
39 Nor stir of pulse, nor objects to entice
40 Abroad the spirits; but the cloyster'd heart
41 Sits squat at home, like pagod in a nitch
42 Obscure, or grandees with nod-watching eye,
43 And folded arms, in presence of the throne,
44 Turk, or Indostan. — Cities, forums, courts
45 And prating sanhedrims, and drumming wars,
46 Affect no more than stories told to bed
47 Lethargic, which at intervals the sick
48 Hears and forgets, and wakes to doze again.
49 Instead of converse and variety,
50 The same trite round, the same stale silent scene:
51 Such are thy comforts, blessed Solitude!
52 But Innocence is there, but Peace all kind,
53 And simple Quiet with her downy couch,
54 Meads lowing, tune of birds, and lapse of streams,
55 And Saunter, with a book, and warbling Muse,
56 In praise of hawthorns. — Life's whole business this!
57 Is it to bask i' th' sun, if so, a snail
58 Were happy crawling on a southern wall.
59 Why sits Content upon a cottage-sill
60 At eventide, and blesseth the coarse meal
61 In sooty corner? why sweet slumbers wait
62 Th' hard pallet? not because from haunt remote
63 Sequester'd in a dingle's bushy lap:
64 'Tis labour makes the peasant's sav'ry fare,
65 And works out his repose: for ease must ask
66 The leave of diligence to be enjoy'd.
67 Oh! listen not to that enchantress Ease
68 With seeming smile, her palatable cup
69 By standing grows insipid; and beware
70 The bottom, for there's poison in the lees.
71 What health impair'd, and crowds inactive maim'd?
72 What daily martyrs to her sluggish cause!
73 Less strict devoir the Russ and Persian claim
74 Despotic; and as subjects long inur'd
75 To servile burden, grow supine and tame,
76 So fares it with our sov'reign and her train.
77 What tho' with lure fallacious she pretend
78 From worldly bondage to set free, what gain
79 Her votaries? What avails from iron chains
80 Exempt, if rosy fetters bind as fast.
81 Bestir, and answer your creation's end.
82 Think we that man with vig'rous pow'r endow'd,
83 And room to stretch, was destin'd to sit still?
84 Sluggards are nature's rebels, slight her laws,
85 Nor live up to the terms on which they hold
86 Their vital lease. Laborious terms and hard,[Page 142]
87 But such the tenure of our earthly state!
88 Riches and fame are Industry's reward;
89 The nimble runner courses Fortune down,
90 And then he banquets, for she feeds the bold.
91 Think what you owe your country, what yourself.
92 If splendor charm not, yet avoid the scorn
93 That treads on lowly stations. Think of some
94 Assiduous booby mounting o'er your head,
95 And thence with saucy grandeur looking down:
96 Think of (Reflection's stab!) the pitying friend
97 With shoulder shrug'd, and sorry. Think that Time
98 Has golden minutes, if discreetly seiz'd:
99 And if some sad example, indolent,
100 To warn and scare be wanting — think of me.