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Yet wanting sensibility,) the man
Task, vi. 560.
Some seek diversion in the tented field,
Task, v. 185.
'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower
Tazk, v. 446.
Hark! 'tis the twanging horn! o'er yonder bridge, That with its wearisome but needful length Bestrides the wintry flood; in which the moon Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright :He comes, the herald of a noisy world, With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks, News from all nations lumbering at his back. True to his charge, the close-pack'd load behind, Yet careless what he brings, his one concern Is to conduct it to the destined inn; And having dropp'd the expected bag, pass on. He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch, Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some; To him indifferent whether grief or joy. Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks, Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks Fast as the periods from his fluent quill, Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains, Or nymphs responsive, equally affect His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
Task, fv. 1.
PLEASURES OF A WINTER EVENING.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn Throws up a steamy column, and the cups, That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each, So let us welcome peaceful evening in. Not such his evening, who with shining face Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeezed And bored with elbow points through both his sides, Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage: Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb, And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage, Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles. This folio of four pages, happy work ! Which not even critics criticise; that holds Inquisitive attention, while I read, Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair, Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break; What is it but a map of busy life, Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns? Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge That tempts Ambition. On the summit see The seals of office glitter in his eyes; He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels, Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
1 The Newspaper.
And with a dexterous jerk soon twists him down,
'Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, 1 crown thee King of intimate delights, Fireside enjoyments, homeborn happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof, Of undisturb'd Retirement, and the hours Of long, uninterrupted evening, know. No rattling wheels stop short before these gates: No powder'd pert, proficient in the art Of sounding an alarm, assaults these doors Till the street rings: no stationary steeds Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound, The silent circle fan themselves, and quake. But here the needle plies its busy task, The pattern grows, the well-depicted flower, Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn," Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs, And curling tendrils, gracefully disposed, Follow the nimble finger of the fair;
A wreath, that cannot fade, of flowers that blow
Is Winter hideous in a garb like this? Needs he the tragic fur, the smoke of lamps, The pent-up breath of an unsavory throng, To thaw him into feeling; or the smart And snappish dialogue, that flippant wits Call comedy, to prompt him with a smile? The self-complacent actor when he views (Stealing a sidelong glance at a full house) The slope of faces, from the floor to the roof, (As if one master-spring controll’d them all,) Relax'd into a universal grin, Sees not a countenance there that speaks of joy Half so refined or so sincere as ours. Cards were superfluous here, with all the tricks That idleness has ever yet contrived To fill the void of an unfurnish'd brain, To palliate dulness, and give time a shove. Time, as he passes us, has a dove's wing, Unsoild, and swift, and of a silken sound; But the world's time is Time in masquerade! Theirs, should I paint him, has his pinions fledged With motley plumes; and where the peacock shows His azure eyes, is tinctured black and red With spots quadrangular of diamond form; Ensanguined hearts, clubs typical of strife, And spades, the emblem of untimely graves. What should be, and what was an hour-glass once, Becomes a dice-box, and a billiard mace Well does the work of his destructive scythe. Thus deck’d, he charms a world whom Fashion blinds To his true worth, most pleased when idle most: Whose only happy, are their idle hours. E'en misses, at whose age their mothers wore The backstring and the bib, assume the dress Of womanhood, sit pupils in the school Of card-devoted time, and, night by night, Placed at some vacant corner of the board, Learn every trick, and soon play all the game.
Task, iv. 36. THE GUILT OF MAKING MAN PROPERTY.
Canst thou, and honor’d with the Christian name, Buy what is woman-born, and feel no shame ?1 Trade in the blood of innocence, and plead Expedience as a warrant for the deed? So may the wolf, whom famine has made bold To quit the forest and invade the fold; So may the ruffian, who with ghostly glide, Dagger in hand, steals close to your bedside; Not he, but bis emergence forced the door, He found it inconvenient to be poor. Has God then given its sweetness to the cane Unless His laws be trampled on-in vain? Built a brave world, which cannot yet subsist, Unless His right to rule it be dismiss'd? Impudent blasphemy! So Folly pleads, And, Avarice being judge, with ease succeeds.2
Written in the autumn of 1793.
1 Says the Rev. Albert Bar nes, in his Inquiry into the Scriptural Views of Slavery, " There is no power OUT or the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it." Nothing can be more true: and what a sad reflection it is that there can be found professed disciples of Him who came “to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and good-will toward men," guilty of, or apologizing for, any practices or any systems of wrong-doing that degrade and brutalize their fellow-men. It is enough to make angels weep. Christianity can never fulfil its great and glorious design, unless those who profess it act upon its principles fully and entirely in all their relations, personal, social, business, civil, and political. What a momentous responsibility therefore, rests upon the members of the Christian church! ? See the lines from Milton, in the note on page 280.