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My share of duties decently fulfilled,
May some disease, not tardy to perform
Its destined office, yet with gentle stroke,
Dismiss me weary to a safe retreat
Beneath the turf that I have often trod.
It shall not grieve me, then, that once when called
To dress a Sofa with the flowers of verse,
I play'd awhile, obedient to the fair,
With that light task; but soon to please her more
Whom flowers alone I knew would little please, 1010
Let fall the unfinish'd wreath, and roved for fruit.
Roved far and gather'd much. Some harsh, 'tis true,
Pick'd from the thorns and briers of reproof,
But wholesome, well-digested. Grateful some
To palates that can taste immortal truth,
1015 Insipid else, and sure to be despised. But all is in His hand whose praise I seek. In vain the poet sings, and the world hears, If he regard not, though divine the theme. Tis not in artful measures, in the chime
1020 And idle tinkling of a minstrel's lyre To charm His ear, whose eye is on the heart, Whose frown can disappoint the proudest strain, Whose approbation-prosper even mine.
Quit a worn being without pain,
Perhaps to blossom soon again.
Beg to lay it down
Glad to be so dismissed in peace. Par. Lost, ii. 506.
AN EPISTLE TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
Dear Joseph,-five and twenty years ago
Alas ! how time escapes—’tis even so !--
With frequent intercourse and always sweet
And always friendly we were wont to cheat
A tedious hour,—and now we never meet.
As some grave gentleman in Terence says,
('Twas therefore much the same in ancient days)
Good lack, we know not what to-morrow brings,-
Strange fluctuation of all human things !
True. Changes will befall, and friends may part,
But distance only cannot change the heart:
And were I call’d to prove the assertion true,
One proof should serve, a reference to you.
Whence comes it then, that in the wane of life,
Though nothing have occurr'd to kindle strife,
We find the friends we fancied we had won,
Though numerous once, reduced to few or none ?
Can gold grow worthless that has stood the touch ?
No. Gold they seemed, but they were never such.
Horatio's servant once, with bow and cringe
Swinging the parlour door upon its hinge,
Dreading a negative, and overawed
Lest he should trespass, begg'd to go abroad.
Go, fellow !-whither ?-turning short about-
Nay. Stay at home ;-you're always going out.
'Tis but a step, sir, just at the street's end.-
For what?—An please you, sir, to see a friend.
A friend ? Horatio cried, and seem'd to start,-
marry shalt thou, and with all
And fetch my cloak, for though the night be raw
I'll see him too—the first I ever saw.
I knew the man, and knew his nature mild,
And was his plaything often when a child;
But somewhat at that moment pinch'd him close,
Else he was seldom bitter or morose:
Perhaps his confidence just then betray'd,
His grief might prompt him with the speech he made ;
Perhaps 'twas mere good humour gave it birth,
The harmless play of pleasantry and mirth.
Howe'er it was, his language in my
Bespoke at least a man that knew mankind.
But not to moralize too much, and strain
To prove an evil of which all complain,
(I hate long arguments, verbosely spun,)
One story more, dear Hill, and I have done.
Once on a time, an Emperor, a wise man,
No matter where, in China or Japan,
Decreed that whosoever should offend
Against the well-known duties of a friend,
Convicted once, should ever after wear
But half a coat, and show his bosom bare ;
The punishment importing this, no doubt,
That all was naught within, and all found out.
Oh happy Britain ! we have not to fear
Such hard and arbitrary measure here;
Else could a law like that which I relate,
Once have the sanction of our triple state,
Some few that I have known in days of old
Would run most dreadful risk of catching cold.
' In a letter to Mr. Newton, (July 9, 1785,) Cowper tells him that Thurlow and Colman are the former friends to whom
While you, my friend, whatever wind should blow,
Might traverse England safely to and fro,
An honest man, close-button'd to the chin,
Broad-cloth without, and a warm heart within.
he particularly alludes in these lines, " and it is possible,” he adds,“ that they may take to themselves a censure that they so well deserve. If not, it matters not; for I shall never have any communication with them hereafter.” After the success of his second volume, however, their acquaintance was renewed, and Cowper forgave the unkindness of their neglect.
Κεφαλαιον δη παιδειας ορθη τροφη.
Αρχη πολιτειας απασης, νεων τροφα.