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Historical deduction of seats, from the stool to the Sofa.-A school-boy's ramble.--A walk in the country.The scene described. --Rural sounds as well as sights delightful.-Another walk.-Mistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected.Colonnades commended.--- Alcove, and the view from it.-The wilderness.--The grove.-The thresher.-The necessity and the benefits of exercise. --The works of nature snperior to, and in some instances inimitable by, art.-The wearisomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure.-Change of scene sometimes expedient.-A common described, and the character of crazy Kate introduced.-Gipsies.--The blessing of civilized life.-That state most favourable to virtue.- The South Sea Islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai.-His present state of mind supposed.-Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities.-Great cities, and London in particnlar, allowed iheir due praise, but censured.-tête champêtre.-The book conclndes with a reflection ou the fatal etfects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public measures.
I SING the Sofa. I who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity, and touched with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escaped with pain from that adventurous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
Th’ occasion for the Fair commands the song.
Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use,
Save their own painted skins, our sires had none.
As yet black breeches were not, satin smooth,
Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile :
The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Washed by the sea, or on the gravelly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearless of wrong, reposed his weary strength,
Those barbarous ages past, succeeded next
The birth-day of invention ; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created ; on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And swayed the sceptre of his infant realms :
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear
May still be seen, but perforated sore,
And drilled in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through.
At length a generation more refined
Improved the simple plan; made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
And o'er the seat, with plenteons wadding stuffed,
Induced a splendid cover, green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought
And woven close, or needle-work sublime.
There might ye see the piony spread wide,
The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lap-dog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.
Now came the cane from India smooth and bright With Nature's varnish, severed into stripes, That interlaced each other, these supplied Of texture firm a lattice-work, that braced The new machine, and it became a chair. But restless was the chair; the back erect Distressed the weary loins, that felt no ease;
The slippery seat betrayed the sliding part,
That pressed it, and the feet hung dangling down,
Anxions in vain to find the distant floor.
These for the rich : the rest, whom fate had placed
In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tanned hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fixt,
If cushion might be called, what harder seemed
Than the firm oak, of which the frame was formed.
No want of timber then was felt or feared
In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood
Ponderous and fixt by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say,
An alderman of Cripplegate contrived ;
And some ascribe th' invention to a priest
Burly and big, and studious of his ease.
But, rude at first, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they pressed against the ribs,
And bruised the side, and, elevated high,
Taught the raised shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elapsed or ere our rugged sires
Complained, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease bebind. The ladies first
'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex.
Ingenious fancy, never better pleased
Than when employed t accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devised
The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow it received,
United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne ;
And so two citizens who take the air,
Close packed, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame,
By soft recumbency of outstretched limbs,
Was bliss reserved for happier days. So slow
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
T' attain perfection in this nether world.
Thus first necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs,
And luxury th' accomplished sofa last.
The nurse sleeps sweetly, hired to watch the sick,
Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he,
Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour
To sleep within the carriage more secure,
His legs depending at the open door.
Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk;
The tedious rector drawling o'er his head;
And sweet the clerk below. But neither sleep
Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead,
Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour
To slumber in the carriage more secure,
Nor sleep enjoyed by curate in his desk,
Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, are sweet,
Compared with the repose tẶe sofa yields.
Oh may I live exempted (while I live
Guiltless of pampered appetite obscene)
From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe
Of libertine excess. The sofa snits
The gouty limb, 'tis true; but gouty limb,
Though on a sofa, may I never feel :
For I have loved the rural walk through lanes
Of grassy swarth, close cropped by nibbling sheep,
And skirted thick with intertexture firm
Of thorny boughs; have loved the rural walk
O'er hills, through valleys, and by rivers' brink,
E’er since a truant boy I passed my bounds
T' enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames;
And still remember, nor without regret
Of hours, that sorrow since has much endeared,
How oft, my slice of pocket store consumed,
Still hungering, pennyless, and far from home,
I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
Or blushing crabs, or berries, that emboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere.
Hard fare! but such as boyish appetite
Disdains not; nor the palate, undepraved
By culinary arts, unsavory deems.
No sofa then awaited my return;
Nor sofa then I needed. Youth repairs
His wasted spirits quickly, by long toil
Incurring short fatigue ; and, though our years,
As life declines, speed rapidly away,
And not a year but pilfers as he goes
Some youthful grace, that age would gladly keep;
A tooth or auburn lock, and by degrees
Their length and colour from the locks they spare ;
The elastic spring of an unwearied foot,
That mounts the stile with ease, or leaps the fence,
That play of lungs, inhaling and again
Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes
Swift pace or steep ascent no toil to me,
Mine have not pilfered yet; nor yet impaired
My relish of fair prospect; scenes that soothed
Or charmed me young, no longer young, I find
Still soothing, and of power to charm me still.
And witness, dear companion of my walks,
Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive
Fast locked in mine, with pleasure such as love,
Confirmed by long experience of thy worth
And well tried virtues, could alone inspire-
Witness a joy that thou hast doubled long.
Thou knowest my praise of nature mo sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjured up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.