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Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside you straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skill'd 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 counterfeited 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 declar'd 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,
Amaz'd the gazing ruatics rang'd around,
And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head should 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 inspir'd,
Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retir'd,
Where village statesmen talk'd with looks profound,
And news much older than their ale went round.
Imagination fondly stoops to trace
The parlour splendours of that festive place :
The whitewash'd wall, the nicely sanded floor,
The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door ;
The chest contriv'd a double debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures plac'd for ornament and use,
The Twelve good Rules, the royal Game of Goose ;
The hearth, except when winter chill'd the day,
With aspin boughs, and flowers and fennel gay;
While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show, Rang'd o'er the chimney, glisten’d in a row.
Vain transitory splendours ! could not all Reprieve the tott'ring 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 lean 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,
Unenvy'd, unmolested, unconfin'd.
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 your 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 supply'd;
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 neighbouring 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 splendour feebly waits the 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 chines 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 splendours rise,
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise ;
While, scourg'd by famine from the smiling land,
The mournful peasant leads his humble band;