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My fancy, ere yet liberty of choice
Had found me, or the hope of being free.
My very dreams were rural, rural too
The first-born efforts of my youthful muse,
Sportive, and jingling her poetic bells
yet her ear was mistress of their pow'rs.
No bard could please me but whose lyre was tun'd
To Nature's praises. Heroes and their feats
Fatigu'd me, never weary of the pipe
Of Tityrus, assembling, as he fang,
The rustic throng beneath his fav’rite beech.
Then Milton had indeed a poet's charms :
New to my taste, his Paradise surpass’d
The struggling efforts of my boyish tongue
To speak its excellence; I danc'd for joy.
I marvel'd much that at so ripe an age
As twice fev’n years, his beauties had then first
Engag'd my wonder, and admiring still,
And still admiring, with regret suppos’d
The joy half loft because not sooner found.
Thee too, enamour'd of the life I lov'd,
Pathetic in its praise, in its pursuit
Determin’d, and poffeffing it at last
With transports such as favor'd lovers feel,
I studied, priz'd, and wish'd that I had known,
Ingenious Cowley! and though now reclaim'd,
By modern lights, from an erroneous taste,
I cannot but lament thy splendid wit
Entangled in the cobwebs of the schools.
I still revere thee, courtly though retir’d,
Though stretch'd at ease in Chertsey's silent bow'rs,
Not unemploy'd, and finding rich amends
For a loft world in folitude and verse.
'Tis born with all : the love of Nature's works
Is an ingredient in the compound, man,
Infus'd at the creation of the kind.
And though th' Almighty Maker has throughout
Discriminated each from each, by strokes
And touches of his hand, with so much art
Diversified, that two were never found
Twins at all points--yet this obtains in all, That all discern a beauty in his works, And all can taste them: minds that have been form'd And tutor’d with a relish more exact, But none without some relish, none unmov'd. It is a flame that dies not even there, Where nothing feeds it : neither business, crowds, Nor habits of luxurious city-life, Whatever else they fmother of true worth In human bosoms, quench it, or abate. The villas with which London stands begirt, Like a swarth Indian with his belt of beads, Prove it. A breath of unadult'rate air, The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer The citizen, and brace his languid frame ! Ev'n in the stiffing bosom of the town, A garden, in which nothing thrives, has charms That soothe the rich possessor; much confold That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint, Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well
He cultivates. These ferve him with a hint
That Nature lives; that light-refreshing green
Is still the liv'ry she delights to wear,
Though sickly samples of th' exub'rant whole.
What are the casements lin’d with creeping herbs,
The prouder falhes fronted with a range
Of orange, myrtle; or the fragrant weed,
The Frenchman's * darling? Are they not all proofs
That man, immur'd in cities, still retains
His inborn inextinguishable thirst
Of rural scenes, compensating his loss
By supplemental shifts, the best he may?
The most unfurnish'd with the means of life,
And they that never pass their brick-wall bounds
To range the fields and treat their lungs with air,
Yet feel the burning instinct: over-head
Suspend their crazy boxes, planted tlfick,
And water'd duly. There the pitcher stands
A fragment, and the spoutless tea-pot there;
Sad witnesses how close-pent man regrets
The country, with what ardour he contrives
peep at nature, when he can no more.
Hail, therefore, patroness of health and ease,
And contemplation, heart-consoling joys
And harmless pleasures, in the throng'd abode
Of multitudes unknown! hail, rural life!
Address himself who will to the pursuit
Of honors, or emolument, or fame,
I shall not add myself to such a chace,
Thwart his attempts, or envy his success.
Some must be great. Great offices will have
Great talents : and God gives to ev'ry man
The virtue, temper, understanding, tafte,
That lifts him in life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordain'd to fill.
To the deliv'rer of an injur'd land
He gives a tongue t' enlarge upon, an heart