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Disfigures earth : and, plotting in the dark,
Toils much to earn a monumental pile,
That may record the mischiefs he has done.
The summit gain’d, behold the proud alcove,
That crowns it ! yet not all its pride secures
The grand retreat from injuries impress'd
By rural carvers, who with knives deface
The pannels, leaving an obscure, rude name,
In characters uncouth, and spelt amiss.
So strong the zeal immortalize himself
Beats in the breast of man, that ev'n a few,
Few transient years, won from th' abyss abhorr'd
Of blank oblivion, seem a glorious prize,
And even to a clown. Now roves the eye;
And, posted on this speculative height,
Exults in its command. The sheepfold here
Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.
At first, progressive as a stream, they seek
The middle field; but, scatter'd by degrees,
Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land.
There from the sunburnt hayfield homeward creeps
The loaded wain ; while, lighten’d of its charge,
The wain that meets it passes swiftly by ;
The boorish driver leaning o'er his team
Vocif'rous, and impatient of delay.
Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,
Diversified with trees of ev'ry growth,
Alike, yet various. Here the gray smooth trunks
Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine,
Within the twilight of their distant shades; -,
There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood
Seems sunk, and shorten’d to its topmost boughs.
No tree in all the grove but has its charms,
Though each its hue peculiar; paler some,
And of a wannish gray; the willow such,
And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf,
And ash far-stretching his umbrageous arm;
Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still,
Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak.
Some glossy-leav'd, and shining in the sun,
The maple, and the beech of oily nuts
Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve
Diffusing odours: nor unnoted pass
The sycamore, capricious in attire,
Now green, now tawny, and, ere autumn yet
Have chang'd the woods, in scarlet honours bright.
O'er these, but far beyond (a spacious map
Of hill and valley interpos'd between),
The Ouse, dividing the well-water'd land,
Now glitters in the sun, and now retires,
As bashful, yet impatient to be seen.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short,
And such the re-ascent; between them weeps
A little naiad her impov'rish'd urn
All summer long, which winter fills again.
The folded gates would bar my progress now,
But that the lord of this inclos'd demesne,
Communicative of the good he owns,
Admits me to a share; the guiltless eye
Commits no wrong, nor wastes what it enjoys.
Refreshing change! where now the blazing sun? By short transition we have lost his glare, And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime. Ye fallen avenues ! once more I mourn Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice, That yet a remnant of your race survives. How airy and how light the graceful arch, Yet awful as the consecrated roof Re-echoing pious anthems! while beneath The checker'd earth seems restless as a flood Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance, Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick, And dark’ning and enlight’ning, as the leaves Play wanton, ev'ry moment, ev'ry spot. · And now, with nerves new-brac'd and spirits
cheer'd, . We tread the wilderness, whose well-rollid walks, With curvature of slow and easy sweepDeception innocent-give ample space To narrow bounds. The grove receives us next; Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms We may discern the thresher at his task. Thump after thump resounds the constant fail, That seems to swing uncertain, and yet falls Full on the destin'd ear. Wide flies the chaff, The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist Of atoms, sparkling in the noonday beam. Come hither, ye that press your beds of down, And sleep not; see him sweating o'er his bread
Before he eats it.—'Tis the primal curse,
But soften’d into mercy; made the pledge
Of cheerful days, and nights without a groan.
By ceaseless action all that is subsists.
Constant rotation of th’ unwearied wheel,
That Nature rides upon, maintains her health,
Her beauty, her fertility. She dreads
An instant's pause, and lives but while she moves.
Its own revolvency upholds the World.
Winds from all quarters agitate the air,
And fit the limpid element for use,
Else noxious; oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams,
All feel the fresh'ning impulse, and are cleans'd
By restless undulation : ev’n the oak
Thrives by the rude concussion of the storm:
He seems indeed indignant, and to feel
Th' impression of the blast with proud disdain,
Frowning, as if in his unconscious arm
He held the thunder: but the monarch owes
His firm stability to what he scorns,
More fix'd below, the more disturb'd above.
The law, by which all creatures else are bound,
Binds man, the lord of all. Himself derives ...,
No mean advantage from a kindred cause,
From strenuous toil his hours of sweetest ease.
The sedentary stretch their lazy length
When Custom bids, but no refreshment find,
For none they need: the languid eye, the cheek
Deserted of its bloom, the flaccid, shrunk, w
And wither'd muscle, and the vapid soul, :..
VOL. VI. :
Reproach their owner with that love of rest,
To which he forfeits ev'n the rest he loves.
Not such the alert and active. Measure life
By its true worth, the comforts it affords,
And theirs alone seems worthy of the name.
Good health, and, its associate in the most,
Good temper; spirits prompt to undertake,
And not soon spent, though in an arduous task;
The pow'rs of fancy and strong thought are theirs;
Ev'n age itself seems privileg'd in them
With clear exemption from its own defects.
A sparkling eye beneath a wrinkled front
The vet’ran shows, and, gracing a gray beard
With youthful smiles, descends toward the grave
Sprightly, and old almost without decay.
OPENING OF THE SECOND BOOK OF THE TASK. .
O FOR a lodge in some vast wildnerness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more. My ear is pain’d,
My soul is sick, with ev'ry day's report
Of wrong and outrage, with which earth is fill’d.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart,
It does not feel for man; the nat’ral bond
Of brotherhood is sever'd as the flax,
That falls asunder at the touch of fire.