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Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismay'd,
The reverend champion stood. At his control,
Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whisper'd praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
llis looks adorn'd the venerable place ;
Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway,
And fools who came to scoff, remain'd to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With ready zeal, each honest rustic ran;
E’en children follow'd, with endearing wile,
And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile;
His ready smile a parent's warmth express'd ;
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distress'd ;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs, were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossom'd furze, unprofitably gay,
There in his noisy mansion, skilld to rule,
The village master taught his little school.
A man severe he was, and stern to view;
I knew him well, and every truant knew :
Well had the boding tremblers learn’d to trace
The day's disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laugh’d, with countefeited glee,
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd:
Yet he was kind, or, if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.
The village all declared how much he knew,
’T was certain he could write and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And e'en the story ran -
that he could gauge :
In arguing, too, the parson own'd his skill,
For e'en though vanquish’d, he could argue still;
While words of learned length and thund'ring sound,
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame.
The very spot
Where many a time he triumph'd, is forgot.
Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high, Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye, Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired, Where graybeard mirth, and smiling toil, retired, Where village statesmen talk'd with looks profound, And news much older than their ale went round. Imagination fondly stoops to trace The parlor splendors of that festive place: The white-wash'd wall, the nicely-sanded floor, The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door; The chest, contrived a double debt to pay, A bed by night, a chest of draws by day; The pictures placed for ornament and use, The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose;
The hearth, except when winter chill'd the day, With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel gay; While broken tea cups, wisely kept for show, Ranged o'er the chimney, glisten’d in a row.
Vain, transitory splendors! Could not all Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall? Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart An hour's importance to the poor man's heart: Thither no more the peasant shall repair, To sweet oblivion of his daily care; No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale, No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail ; No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear, Relax his pond'rous strength, and learn to hear; The host himself no longer shall be found Careful to see the mantling bliss go round; Nor the coy maid, half willing to be prest, Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest.
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain, These simple blessings of the lowly train ; To me more dear, congenial to my heart, One native charm, than all the gloss of art. Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play, The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway; Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind, Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined : But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade, With all the freaks of wanton wealth array'd, In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain, The toiling pleasure sickens into pain; And, e'en while fashion's brightest arts decoy,
The heart, distrusting, asks if this be joy ?
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen, who survey
The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay,
’T is yours to judge how wide the limits stand
Between a splendid and a happy land.
Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore,
And shouting Folly hails them from her shore ;
Hoards, e'en beyond the miser's wish, abound,
And rich men flock from all the world around.
Yet count our gains : this wealth is but a name
That leaves our useful products still the same.
Not so the loss: the man of wealth and pride
Takes up a space that many poor supplied ;
Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds,
Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds :
The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth,
Has robb’d the neighboring fields of half their growth :
His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
Around the world each needful product flies,
For all the luxuries the world supplies
While thus the land, adorn'd for pleasure all,
In barren splendor feebly waits its fall.
As some fair female, unadorn’d and plain,
Secure to please while youth confirms her reign,
Slights every borrow'd charm that dress, supplies,
Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes;
But when those charms are past
for charms are frail
When time advances, and when lovers fail,
She then shines forth, solicitous to bless,
In all the glaring impotence of dress:
Thus fares the land, by luxury betray'd ;
In nature's simplest charms at first array'd :
But verging to decline, its splendors rise,
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise ;
While, scourged by famine from the smiling land,
The mournful peasant leads his humble band ;
And while he sinks, without one arm to save,
The country blooms a garden and a grave.
Where, then, ah! where shall poverty reside,
To 'scape the pressure of contiguous pride?
If to some common's fenceless limits stray’d,
He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade,
Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide,
And e'en the bare-worn common is denied.
If to the city sped, what waits him there?
To see profusion that he must not share;
To see ten thousand baneful arts combined
To pamper luxury, and thin mankind;
To see each joy the sons of pleasure know
Extorted from his fellow-creatures' wo.
Here while the courtier glitters in brocade,
There the pale artist plies his sickly trade;
Here while the proud their long-drawn pomps display,
There the black gibbet glooms beside the way.
The dome where Pleasure holds her midnight reign,
Here, richly deck’d, admits the gorgeous train;
Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square,
The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare.
Sure scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy !
Sure these denote one universal joy !
Are these thy serious thoughts ? - Ah, turn thine eyes