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A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man.
For him light labour spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more:
His best companions, innocence and health,
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are altered: trade's unfeeling train
Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain;
Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose,
Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose;
And every want to luxury allied,
And every pang that folly pays to pride.
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
Those calm desires that asked but little room,
Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene,
Lived in each look, and brightened all the green-
These, far departing, seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more.
Sweet Auburn! parent of the blissful hour,
Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power.
Here, as I take my solitary rounds,
Amidst thy tangling walks, and ruined grounds-
And, many a year elapsed, return to view
Where once the cottage stood—the hawthorn grew,
Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,
Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.
In all my wanderings
und this world of care,
In all my griefs—and God has given my share
I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,
Ainidst these humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life's taper at the close,
And keep the flame from wasting, by repose:
I still had hopes—for pride attends us still
Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill;
Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt, and all I saw:
And, as a hare whom hounds and horns pursue
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew
I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
Here to return--and die at home at last.
O blest retirement! friend to life's decline-
Retreats from care that never must be mine!
How happy he who crowns, in shades like these,
A youth of labour with an age of ease;
Who quits a world where strong temptations try,
And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly!
For him no wretches, born to work and weep,
Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep;
No surly porter stands, in guilty state,
To spurn imploring famine from the gate:
But on he moves to meet his latter end,
Angels around befriending virtue's friend
Bends to the grave with unperceived decay,
While resignation gently slopes the way;
And all his prospects brightening to the last,
His heaven commences ere the world be past!
Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close Up yonder hill the village murmur rose; There, as I passed with careless steps and slow, The mingling notes came softened from below: The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung, The sober herd that lowed to meet their young; The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool, The playful children just let loose from school;
The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind.
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
And filled each pause the nightingale had made.
But now the sounds of population fail,
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale;
No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread,
For all the blooming flush of life is fled:
All but yon widowed, solitary thing,
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.
Near 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. Unpractised he to fawn or seek for power, By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour: Far other aims his heart had learned to prize More skilled 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 claim allowed:
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sat 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 wo;
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And even his failings leaned to virtue's side.
But in his duty prompt, at every call
He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for 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 controal,
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 steady zeal each honest rustic ran:
Even 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 way
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 view
I 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 even the story ran that he could gauge;
In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill,
For even though vanquished he could argue still
While words of learned strength 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.