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THE TASK.

BOOK IV.

THE WINTER EVENING.

Hark! 'tis the twanging horn o'er yonder bridge, That with its wearisome but needful length Beftrides the wintry flood, in which the moon Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright; He comes, the herald of a noisy world, With spattered boots, strapped waist, and frozen locks; News from all nations lumbering at his back. True to his charge, the close-packed load behind, Yet careless what he brings, his one concern Is to conduct it to the destined inn; And, having dropped the expected bag, pass on. He whistles as he goes, light-hcarted wretch, Cold and yet cheerful : messenger of grief

Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epiftles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous fighs of abfent (wains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconfcious of them all.
But oh the important budget ! ushered in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings ? have our troops awaked?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugged,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does the wear her plumed
And jewelled turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her ftill? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh-I long to know them all;
I burn to set the imprisoned wranglers free,
And give them voice and utterance once again:

Now Air the fire, and close the fhutters faft, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, And while the bubbling and loud hissing urn

Throws up a fteamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
Not such his evening, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeezed
And bored with elbow-points through both his fides,
Out-scolds the ranting actor on the stage:
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
This folio of four pages, happy work!
Which not ev'n critics criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of filence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break;
What is it, but a map of busy life,
Its fluctuations, and its vaft concerns ?
Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge,
That tempts ambition. On the summit see
The seals of office glitter in his eyes;
He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels,
Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
And with a dexterous jerk soon twifts him down,
And wins them, but to lose them in his turn.
Here rills of oily eloquence in soft

Meanders lubricate the course they take;
The modest speaker is alhamed and grieved
To engross a moment's notice, and yet begs,
Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts,
However trivial all that he conceives.
Sweet bashfulness! it claims at least this praise ;
The dearth of information and good sense,
That it foretells us always comes to pass.
Cataracts of declamation thunder here;
There forests of no meaning spread the page,
In which all comprehension wanders loft;
While fields of pleasantry amufe us there
With merry descants on a nation's woes.
The rest appears a wilderness of strange
But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks,
And lilies for the brows of faded age,
Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald,
Heaven, earth, and ocean, plundered of their sweets,
Nectareous effences, Olympian dews,
Sermons, and city feasts, and favourite airs,
Æthereal journies, submarine exploits,
And Katterfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wondering for his bread.

'Tis pleasant through the loop-holes of retreat To peep at such a world; to see the ftir

Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd;
To hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on the uninjured ear.
Thus fitting, and surveying thus at ease
The globe and its concerns, I seem advanced
To some secure and more than mortal height,
That liberates and exempts me from them all.
It turns submitted to my view, turns round
With all its generations; I behold
The tumult, and am ftill. The sound of war
Has lost its terrors ere

reaches me;
Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride
And avarice, that make man a wolf to man;
Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats,
By which he speaks the language of his heart,
And figh, but never tremble at the found.
He travels and expatiates, as the bee
From flower to flower, so he from land to land;
The manners, customs, policy, of all
Pay contribution to the store he gleans;
He sucks intelligence in every clime,
And spreads the honey of his deep research
At his return--a rich repaft for me.
He travels, and I too. I tread his deck,
Ascend his topmaft, through his peering eyes

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