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No powder'd pert proficient in the art
Of sounding an alarm assaults these doors
Till the street rings; no stationary steeds
Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound,
The silent circle fan themselves, and quake :
But here the needle plies its busy task,
The pattern grows, the well depicted flow'r,
Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
And curling tendrils, gracefully dispos’d,
Follow the nimble finger of the fair ;
A wreath, that cannot fade, of flow'rs, that blow
With most success when all besides decay.
The poet's or historian's page by one
Made vocal for th'amusement of the rest;
The sprightly lyre, whose treasure of sweet sounds
The touch from many a trembling chord shakes out ;
And the clear voice symphonious, yet distinct,
And in the charming strife triumphant still;
Beguile the night, and set a keener edge
On female industry: the threaded steel
Flies swiftly, and unfelt the task proceeds.
The volume clos’d, the customary rites
Of the last meal commence. A Roman meal;
Such as the mistress of the world once found
Delicious, when her patriots of high note,
Perhaps by moonlight, at their humble doors,
And under an olil oak's domestick shade,
Enjoy’d, spare feast! a radish and an egg.
Discourse ensues, not trivial yet not dull,
Nor such as with a frown forbids the play
Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth :
Nor do we madly, like an impious world,
Who deem religion frenzy, and the God
That made them, an intruder on their joys,
Start at his awful name, or deem his praise
A jarring note. Themes of a graver tone,
Exciting oft our gratitude and love,
While we retrace with Mem’ry's pointing wand,
'That calls the past to our exact review,
The dangers we have ’scap’d, the broken snare,
The disappointed foe, deliv'rance found
Unlook'd for, life preserv'd, and peace l'estor'd,
Fruits of omnipotent eternal love.
O ev’nings worthy of the gods! exclaim'd
The Sabine bard. O ev’nings, I reply,
More to be priz'd and coveted than yours,
As more illumin’d, and with nobler truths,
That I, and mine, and those we love, enjoy.
Is Winter hideous in a garb like this?
Needs he the tragick fur, the smoke of lamps,
The pent-up breath of an unsav'ry throng,
To thaw him into feeling; or the smart
And snappish dialogue, that flippant wits
Call comedy, to prompt him with a smile?
The self-complacent actor, when he views
(Stealing a sidelong glance at a full house)
The slope of faces from the floor to th' roof
(As if one master-spring controlld them all)
Relax'd into a universal grin,
Sees not a count'nance there that speaks of joy
Half so refind or so sincere as ours.
Cards were superfluous here, with all the tricks,
That idleness has ever yet contriv'd
To fill the void of an unfurnish'd brain,
To palliate dullness, and give time a shove.
Time, as he passes us, has a dove's wing,
Unsoild, and swist, and of a silken sound;
But the world's Time is Time in masquerade !
Theirs, should I paint him, has his pinions fledg'd
With motley plumes, and, where the peacock shows
His azure eyes, is tinctur'd black and red
With spots quadrangular of diamond form,
Ensanguin'd hearts, clubs typical of strife,
And spades, the emblem of untimely graves.
What should be, and what was an hourglass once,
Becomes a dice-box, and a billiard-mace
Well does the work of his destructive sithe.
Thus deck’d, he charms a world whom fashion
To his true worth, most pleas’d when idle most ;
Whose only happy are their wasted hours.
E’en misses, at whose age their mothers wore
The backstring and the bib, assume the dress
Of womanhood, fit pupils in the school
Of card-devoted Time, and night by night
Plac'd at some vacant corner of the board,
Learn ev'ry trick, and soon play all the game.
But truce with censure. Roving as I rove,
Where shall I find an end, or how proceed ?
As he that travels far oft turns aside,
To view some rugged rock or mould’ring tow'r,
Which seen delights him not; then coming home
Describes and prints it, that the world may know
How far he went for what was nothing worth ;
So I, with brush in hand, and palette spread,
With colours mix'd for a far diff'rent use,
Paint cards, and dolls, and ev'ry idle thing,
That Fancy finds in her excursive flights.
Come, Evning, once again, season of peace; Return, sweet Ev’ning, and continue long! Methinks I see thee in the streaky west, With matron step slow moving, while the Night Treads on thy sweeping train; one hand employ'd In letting fall the curtain of repose On bird and beast, the other charg’d for man With sweet oblivion of the cares of day : Not sumptuously adorn'd, not needing aid, Like homely-featur’d Night, of clust'ring gems; A star or two, just twinkling on thy brow, Suffices thee; save that the moon is thine No less than hers, not worn indeed on high With ostentatious pageantry, but set With modest grandeur in thy purple zone, Resplendent less, but of an ampler round. Come then, and thou shalt find thy vot’ry calm, Or make me so. Composure is thy gift : And, whether I devote thy gentle hours To books, to musick, or the poet's toil; To weaving nets for bird-alluring fruit; Or twining silken threads round iv'ry reels. When they command whom man was born to please I slight thee not, but make thee welcome still.
Just when our drawing-rooms begin to blaze With lights, by clear reflection multiplied From many a mirrour, in which he of Gath, Goliah, might have seen his giant bulk
Whole without stooping, tow’ring crest and all, My pleasures too begin. But me perhaps The glowing hearth may satisfy a while With faint illumination, that uplifts The shadows to the ceiling, there by fits Dancing uncouthly to the quiv’ring flame. Not undelightful is an hour to me So spent in parlour-twilight: such a gloom Suits well the thoughtful or unthinking mind, The mind contemplative, with some new theme Pregnant, or indispos'd alike to all. Laugh ye, who boast your more mercurial pow'rs, That never felt a stupor, know no pause, Nor need one; I am conscious, and confess Fearless, a soul that does not always think. Me oft has Fancy ludicrous and wild Sooth'd with a waking dream of houses, tow ’rs, Trees, churches, and strange visages, express'd In the red cinders, while with poring eye Igaz'd, myself creating what I saw. Nor less amus'd have I quiescent watch'd The sooty films, that play upon the bars Pendulous, and foreboding in the view Of superstition, prophesying still, Though still deceiv’d, some stranger's near apo
proach. 'Tis thus the understanding takes repose In indolent vacuity of thought, And sleeps, and is refresh'd. Meanwhile the face Conceals the mood lethargick with a mask Of deep deliberation, as the man Were task'd to his full strength, absorb’d and lost.