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A healthful mind the longest to maintain.”
'T is hard, in such a strife of rules, to choose
The best, and those of most extensive use;
Harder in clear and animated song
Dry philosophic precepts to convey.
Yet with thy aid the secret wilds I trace
Of Nature, and with daring steps proceed
Through paths the Muses never trod before.
Nor should I wander doubtful of my way,
Had I the lights of that sagacious mind
Which taught to check the pestilential fire,
And quell the deadly Python of the Nile.
O thou belov'd by all the graceful arts,
Thou long the fav'rite of the healing powers,
Indulge, O Mead! a well-design'd essay,
Howe'er imperfect and permit that I
My little knowledge with my country share,
Till you the rich Asclepian stores unlock,
And with new graces dignify the theme.
Ye who amid this feverish world would wear
A body free of pain, of cares a mind;
Fly the rank city, shun its turbid air;
Breathe not the chaos of eternal smoke
And volatile corruption, from the dead,
The dying, sick'ning, and the living world
Exhal'd, to sully Heaven's transparent dome
With dim mortality. It is not air
That from a thousand lungs reeks back to thine,
Sated with exhalations rank and fell,
The spoil of dunghills, and the putrid thaw
Of nature; when from shape and texture she
Itelapses into fighting elements:
It is not air, but floats a nauseous mass
Of all obscene, corrupt, offensive things.
Much moisture hurts; but here a sordid bath,
With oily rancour fraught, relaxes more
The solid frame than simple moisturę can.
Besides, immur'd in many a sullen bay
That never felt the freshness of the breeze,
This slumb'ring deep remains, and ranker grows
With sickly rest: and (though the lungs abhor
To drink the dun fuliginous abyss)
Did not the acid vigour of the mine,
Roll'd from so many thundering chimnies, tame
The putrid steams that overswarm the sky;
This caustic venom would perhaps corrode
Those tender cells that draw the vital air,
In vain with all the unctuous rills bedew'd;
Or by the drunken venous tubes, that yawn
In countless pores o'er all the pervious skin
Imbib'd, would poison the balsamic blood,
And rouse the heart to every fever's rage.
While yet you breathe, away; the rural wilds
Invite; the mountains call you, and the vales;
The woods, the streams, and each ambrosial breeze
That fans the ever-undulating sky;
A kindly sky! whose fost'ring power regales
Man, beast, and all the vegetable reign.
Find then some woodland scene where Nature smiles
Benign, where all her honest children thrive.
To us there wants not many a happy seat!
Look round the smiling land, such numbers rise
We hardly fix, bewilder'd in our choice.
See where enthron'd in adamantine state,
Proud of her bards, imperial Windsor sits;
Where choose thy seat in some aspiring grove
Fast by the slowly-winding Thames; or where
Broader she laves fair Richmond's green retreats,
(Richmond that sees an hundred villas rise
Rural or gay.) O! from the summer's rage,
O! wrap me in the friendly gloom that hides
Umbrageous Ham! But if the busy town
Attract thee still to toil for power of gold,
Sweetly thou may'st thy vacant hours possess
In Hampstead, courted by the western wind;
Or Greenwich, waving o'er the winding flood;
Or lose the world amid the sylvan wilds
Of Dulwich, yet by barbarous arts unspoil'd.
Green rise the Kentish hills in cheerful air;
But on the marshy plains that Lincoln spreads
Build not, nor rest too long thy wandering feet.
For on a rustic throne of dewy turf,
With baneful fogs her aching temples bound,
Quartana there presides; a meagre fiend
Begot by Eurus, when his brutal force
Compress'd the slothful Naiad of the fens.
From such a mixture sprung, this fitful pest
With fev'rish blasts subdues the sick'ning land:
Cold tremours come, with mighty love of rest,
Convulsive yawnings, lassitude, and pains
That sting the burden'd brows, fatigue the loins,
And rack the joints, and every torpid limb;
Then parching heat succeeds, till copious sweats
O'erflow: a short relief from former ills
Beneath repeated shocks the wretches pine.
The vigour sinks, the habit melts away :
The cheerful, pure, and animated bloom
Dies from the face, with squalid atrophy
Devour'd, in sallow melancholy clad.
And oft the sorceress, in her sated wrath,
Resigns them to the furies of her train:
The bloated Hydrops, and the yellow Fiend
Ting'd with her own accumulated gall.
In quest of sites, avoid the mournful plain Where osiers thrive, and trees that love the lake } Where many lazy muddy rivers flow:
Nor for the wealth that all the Indies roll
Fix near the marshy margin of the main.
For from the humid soil and wat❜ry reign
Eternal vapours rise; the spongy air
For ever weeps: or, turgid with the weight
Of waters, pours a sounding deluge down,
Skies such as these let every mortal shun
Who dreads the dropsy, palsy, or the gout,
Tertian, corrosive scurvy, or moist catarrh ;
Or any other injury that grows
From raw-spun fibres idle and unstrung,
Skin ill-perspiring, and the purple flood
In languid eddies loitering into phlegm.
Yet not alone from humid skies we pine;
For air may be too dry. The subtle Heaven,
Th winnows into dust the blasted downs,
Bare and extended wide without a stream,
Too fast imbibes th' attenuated lymph
Which, by the surface, from the blood exhales.
The lungs grow rigid, and with toil essay
Their flexible vibrations! or inflam'd,
Their tender ever-moving structure thaws.
Spoil'd of its limpid vehicle, the blood
A mass of lees remains, a drossy tide
That slow as Lethe wanders through the veins;
Unactive in the services of life,
Unfit to lead its pitchy current through
The secret mazy channels of the brain.
The melancholic fiend (that worst despair
Of physic) hence the rust-complexion'd man
Pursues, whose blood is dry, whose fibres gain
Too stretch'd a tone; and hence in climes adust
So sudden tumults seize the trembling nerves,
And burning fevers glow with double rage.
Fly, if you can, these violent extremes
the wholesome is nor moist nor dry.
But as the power of choosing is deny'd
To half mankind, a further task ensues;
How best to mitigate these fell extremes,
How breathe unhurt the withering element,
Or hazy atmosphere; though custom moulds
To every clime the soft Promethean clay;
And he who first the fogs of Essex breath'd
So kind is native air) may in the fens
Of Essex from inveterate ills revive
At pure Montpelier or Bermuda caught.
But if the raw and oozy Heaven offend;
Correct the soil, and dry the sources up
Of wat❜ry exhalation: wide and deep
Conduct your trenches through the quaking bog;
Solicitous, with all your winding arts,
Betray the unwilling lake into the stream;
And weed the forest, and invoke the winds
To break the toils where strangled vapours lie;