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And most attractive, is the fair result
Of thought, the creature of a polish'd mind.
Without it, all is Gothic as the scene
To which the insipid citizen resorts
Near yonder heath; where industry mispent,
But proud of his uncouth ill-chosen task,
Has made a heaven on earth; with suns and moons
Of close-ramm'd stones has charged the incumber'd soil,
And fairly laid the zodiac in the dust.
He therefore who would see his flowers disposed
Sightly and in just order, ere he gives
The beds the trusted treasure of their seeds
Forecasts the future whole; that when the scene
Shall break into its preconceived display,
Each for itself, and all as with one voice
Conspiring, may attest his bright design.
Nor even then, dismissing as perform'd
His pleasant work, may he suppose it done.
Few self-supported flowers endure the wind
Uninjured, but expect the upholding aid 23
Of the smooth-shaven prop, and neatly tied
Are wedded thus like beauty to old age,
For interest sake, the living to the dead.
Some clothe the soil that feeds them, far diffused
23 Man, like the generous vine, supported lives,
The strength he gains is from the embrace he gives.
Essay on Man, iii. 311.
Or they led the vine
To wed her elm; she spoused about him twines
Her marriageable arms, and with her brings
Her dower, the adopted clusters, to adorn
His barren leaves.
And lowly creeping, modest and yet fair,
Like virtue, thriving most where little seen.
Some more aspiring catch the neighbour shrub
With clasping tendrils, and invest his branch
Else unadorn'd, with many a gay festoon
And fragrant chaplet, recompensing well
The strength they borrow with the grace they lend.
All hate the rank society of weeds
Noisome, and ever greedy to exhaust
The impoverish'd earth; an overbearing race,
That like the multitude made faction-mad
Disturb good order, and degrade true worth.
Oh blest seclusion from a jarring world
Which he thus occupied, enjoys! Retreat
Cannot indeed to guilty man restore
Lost innocence, or cancel follies past;
But it has peace, and much secures the mind
From all assaults of evil, proving still
A faithful barrier, not o'erleap'd with ease
By vicious custom, raging uncontrol'd
Abroad, and desolating public life.
When fierce temptation seconded within
By traitor appetite, and arm'd with darts
Temper'd in hell, invades the throbbing breast,
To combat may be glorious, and success
Perhaps may crown us; but to fly is safe 24.
Had I the choice of sublunary good,
What could I wish, that I possess not here?
24 Who quits a world where strong temptations try,
And since 'tis hard to combat learns to fly.
Health, leisure, means to improve it, friendship, peace;
No loose or wanton, though a wandering muse,
And constant occupation without care.
Thus blest, I draw a picture of that bliss;
Hopeless indeed that dissipated minds,
And profligate abusers of a world
Created fair so much in vain for them,
Should seek the guiltless joys that I describe
Allured by my report: but sure no less
That self-condemn'd they must neglect the prize,
And what they will not taste, must yet approve.
What we admire we praise; and when we praise
Advance it into notice, that its worth
Acknowledged, others may admire it too.
I therefore recommend, though at the risk
Of popular disgust, yet boldly still,
The cause of piety and sacred truth
And virtue, and those scenes which God ordain'd
Should best secure them and promote them most;
Scenes that I love, and with regret perceive
Forsaken, or through folly not enjoy'd 25.
Pure is the nymph, though liberal of her smiles,
And chaste, though unconfined, whom I extol;
Not as the prince in Sushan, when he call'd
Vain-glorious of her charms his Vashti forth.
To grace the full pavilion. His design
25 On every thorn delightful wisdom grows,
In every rill a sweet instruction flows;
But some untaught, ne'er hear the whispering rill,
In spite of sacred leisure blockheads still.
Was but to boast his own peculiar good,
Which all might view with envy, none partake.
My charmer is not mine alone; my sweets
And she that sweetens all my bitters too,
Nature, enchanting Nature, in whose form
And lineaments divine I trace a hand
That errs not, and find raptures still renew'd,
Is free to all men, universal prize.
26 Tower'd cities please us then
And the busy hum of men.
Strange that so fair a creature should yet want
Admirers, and be destined to divide
With meaner objects, even the few she finds.
Stript of her ornaments, her leaves and flowers,
She loses all her influence. Cities then 26
Attract us, and neglected Nature pines
Abandon'd, as unworthy of our love.
But are not wholesome airs, though unperfumed
By roses, and clear suns though scarcely felt,
And groves if unharmonious, yet secure
From clamour, and whose very silence charms,
To be preferr'd to smoke, to the eclipse
That metropolitan volcanoes make,
Whose Stygian throats breathe darkness all day long,
And to the stir of commerce, driving slow,
And thundering loud, with his ten thousand wheels?
They would be, were not madness in the head
And folly in the heart; were England now
What England was, plain, hospitable, kind,
And undebauch'd. But we have bid farewell
To all the virtues of those better days,
And all their honest pleasures. Mansions once
Knew their own masters, and laborious hinds
That had survived the father, served the son.
Now the legitimate and rightful Lord
Is but a transient guest, newly arrived
And soon to be supplanted. He that saw
His patrimonial timber cast its leaf,
Sells the last scantling, and transfers the price
To some shrewd sharper, ere it buds again.
Estates are landscapes, gazed upon awhile,
Then advertised, and auctioneer'd away.
The country starves, and they that feed the o'ercharged
And surfeited lewd town with her fair dues,
By a just judgement strip and starve themselves.
The wings that waft our riches out of sight
Grow on the gamester's elbows, and the alert
And nimble motion of those restless joints
That never tire, soon fans them all away.
Improvement too, the idol of the age,
Is fed with many a victim. Lo! he comes,-
The omnipotent magician, Brown appears.
Down falls the venerable pile, the abode
Of our forefathers, a grave whisker'd race,
But tasteless. Springs a palace in its stead,
But in a distant spot; where more exposed
It may enjoy the advantage of the North
And agueish East, till time shall have transformed
Those naked acres to a sheltering grove.
He speaks. The lake in front becomes a lawn,
Woods vanish, hills subside, and valleys rise,
And streams, as if created for his use,
Pursue the track of his directing wand,
Sinuous or straight, now rapid and now slow,