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That feebly bends beside the plashy spring;
She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry fagot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn-
She only left of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.
Ne'er yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, And still where many a garden-flower grows wild, There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place;
Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize-
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train;
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain.
The long-remembered beggar was his guest,
Whose beard, descending, swept his aged breast;
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sate by his fire, and talked the night away—
Wept o'er his wounds, or, tales of sorrow done,
Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won.
Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride.
And e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side;
But in his duty prompt at every call,
He watched and wept, he prayed and felt fr all;
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.
Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismayed,
The reverend champion stood. At his control
Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whispered praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorned the venerable place;
Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With ready zeal, each honest rustic ran;
E'en children followed, with endearing wile,
And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile.
His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed;
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given--
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread, Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the With blossomed furze unprofitably gay, There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule, The village master taught his little school. A man severe he was, and stern to viewI knew him well, and every truant knew ; Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace The day's disasters in his morning face; Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee, At all his jokes, for many a joke had he; Full well the busy whisper, circling round, Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned; Yet he was kind-or, if severe in aught, The love he bore to learning was in fault. The village all declared how much he knew; 'Twas 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 owned his skill, For, e'en though vanquished, he could argue still While words of learned length and thundering sound Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame; the very spot,
Where many a time he triumphed, 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 inspired,
Where graybeard mirth and smiling toil retired,
Where village statesmen talked 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 whitewashed wall, the nicely-sanded floor,
The varnished clock that clicked behind the door,
The chest contrived a double debt to pay—
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day,
The pictures placed for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose;
The hearth, except when winter chilled the day,
With aspen boughs, and flowers and fennel gay;
While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show,
Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row.
Vain, transitory splendour! could not all
Reprieve the tottering 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 ponderous 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,
Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined;
But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade,
With all the freaks of wanton wealth arrayed—
In thèse, 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! 'Tis yours 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 supplied— 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 robbed the neighbouring fields of half their growth;
His seat, where solitary sports are seen.