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Fresh o'er the gay parterres the breezes creep,
And shake the neighbouring wood to banish sleep.
Up rise the guests, obedient to the call,
An early banquet decked the splendid hall;
Rich luscious wine a golden goblet graced,
Which the kind master forced the guests to taste.
Then, pleased and thankful, from the porch they go;
And, but the landlord, none had cause of woe;
His cup was vanished; for in secret guise,
The younger guest purloined the glittering prize.
As one who spies a serpent in his way,
Glistening and basking in the summer ray,
Disordered stops to shun the danger near,
Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear;
So seemed the sire, when, far upon
The shining spoil his wily partner showed.
He stopped with silence, walked with trembling heart,
And much he wished, but durst not ask to part;
Murmuring he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard.
That generous actions meet a base reward.
While thus they pass, the sun his glory shrouds,
The changing skies hang out their sable clouds;
A sound in air presaged approaching rain,
And beasts to covert scud across the plain.
Warned by the signs, the wandering pair retreat
To seek for shelter at a neighbouring seat.
"Twas built with turrets on a rising ground,
And strong, and large, and unimproved around;
Its owner's temper, timorous and severe,
Unkind and griping, caused a desert there.
As near the miser's heavy door they drew,
Fierce rising gusts with sudden fury blew;
The nimble lightning, mixed with showers, began,
And o'er their heads loud rolling thunders ran;
Here long they knock, but knock or call in vain,
Driven by the wind, and battered by the rain.
At length some pity warmed the master's breast
('Twas then his threshold first received a guest);
Slow creaking turns the door with jealous care,
And half he welcomes in the shivering pair;
One frugal faggot lights the naked walls,
And Nature's fervour through their limbs recalls;
Bread of the coarsest sort, with meagre wine,
(Each hardly granted), served them both to dine;
And when the tempest first appeared to cease,
A ready warning bid them part in peace.
With still remark, the pondering hermit viewed,
In one so rich, a life so poor and rude;
And why should such (within himself he cried)
Lock the lost wealth a thousand want beside?
But what new marks of wonder soon take place
In every settling feature of his face,
When, from his vest, the young companion bore
That cup, the generous
landlord owned before,
And paid profusely with the precious bowl,
The stinted kindness of this churlish soul!
But now the clouds in airy tumult fly; The sun emerging, opes an azure sky; A fresher green the smelling leaves display, And, glittering as they tremble, cheer the day: The weather courts them from their poor retreat, And the glad master bolts the wary gate.
While hence they walk, the pilgrim's bosom wrought With all the travail of uncertain thought:
His partner's acts without their cause appear;
'Twas there a vice, and seemed a madness here:
Detesting that, and pitying this, he goes,
Lost and confounded with the various shows.
Now night's dim shades again involve the sky;
Again the wanderers want a place to lie;
Again they search, and find a lodging nigh.
The soil improved around, the mansion neat,
And neither poorly low, nor idly great;
It seemed to speak its master's turn of mind;
Content, and not for praise, but virtue, kind.
Hither the walkers turn their weary feet,
Then bless the mansion, and the master greet.
Their greeting fair, bestowed with modest guise,
The courteous master hears, and thus replies :-
"Without a vain, without a grudging heart,
To him who gives us all, I yield a part;
From him you come, for him accept it here,
A frank and sober, more than costly cheer!"
He spoke, and bid the welcome table spread,
Then talked of virtue till the time of bed;
When the grave household round his hall repair,
Warned by a bell, and close the hours with prayer.
At length the world, renewed by calm repose,
Was strong for toil; the dappled morn arose ;
Before the pilgrims part, the younger crept
Near a closed cradle, where an infant slept,
And writhed his neck: the landlord's little pride,
O strange return! grew black, and gasped, and
Horror of horrors! what! his only son!
How looked our hermit when the fact was done'
Not hell, though hell's black jaws in sunder part, And breathe blue fire, could more assault his heart.
Confused, and struck with silence at the deed, He flies, but trembling, fails to fly with speed; His steps the youth pursues: the country lay Perplexed with roads; a servant showed the way; A river crossed the path; the passage o'er Was nice to find; the servant trod before; Long arms of oaks an open bridge supplied, And deep the waves beneath them bending glide. The youth, who seemed to watch a time to sin, Approached the careless guide, and thrust him in; Plunging he falls, and rising, lifts his head, Then flashing turns, and sinks among the dead.
While sparkling rage inflames the father's eyes, He bursts the bands of fear, and madly cries, "Detested wretch !"— but scarce his speech began, When the strange partner seemed no longer man! His youthful face grew more serenely sweet; His robe turned white, and flowed upon his feet; Fair rounds of radiant points invest his hair; Celestial odours breathe through purpled air; And wings, whose colours glittered on the day, Wide at his back their gradual plumes display. The form ethereal bursts upon his sight, And moves in all the majesty of light. Though loud at first the pilgrim's passion grew, Sudden he gazed, and wist not what to do; Surprise, in secret chains, his words suspends, And in a calm, his settling temper ends, But silence here the beauteous angel broke (The voice of Music ravish'd as he spoke) :
"Thy prayer, thy praise, thy life to vice unknown,
In sweet memorial rise before the throne:
These charms success in our bright region find,
And force an angel down to calm thy mind;
For this commissioned, I forsook the sky:
Nay, cease to kneel - thy fellow servant I.
Then know the truth of government divine,
And let these scruples be no longer thine.
The Maker justly claims that world he made;
In this the right of Providence is laid;
Its sacred majesty through all depends
On using second means to work his ends:
'Tis thus, withdrawn in state from human eye,
The power exerts his attributes on high;
Your action uses, nor controls your will,
And bids the doubting sons of men be still.
What strange events can strike with more surprise,
Than those which lately struck thy wondering eyes?
Yet, taught by these, confess the Almighty just,
And, where you can't unriddle, learn to trust.
The great vain man, who fared on costly food,
Whose life was too luxurious to be good;
Who made his ivory stands with goblets shine,
And forced his guests to morning draughts of wine;
Has, with the cup, the graceless custom lost,
And still he welcomes, but with less of cost.
The mean suspicious wretch, whose bolted door
Ne'er moved in pity to the wandering poor;
With him I left the cup, to teach his mind
That Heaven can bless, if mortals will be kind.
Conscious of wanting worth, he views the bowl,
And feels compassion touch his grateful soul.