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Nor ever silence, rest, or peace is here.
As on the smooth expanse of crystal lakes
The sinking stone at first a circle makes;
The trembling surface by the motion stirr'd,
Spreads in a second circle, then a third;
Wide, and more wide, the floating rings advance,
Fill all the watery plain, and to the margin dance:
Thus every voice and sound, when first they break,
On neighbouring air a soft impression make;
Another ambient circle then they move;
That, in its turn, impels the next above;
Through undulating air the sounds are sent,
And spread o'er all the fluid element.
There various news I heard of love and strife, Of peace and war, health, sickness, death, and life, Of loss and gain, of famine, and of store,
Of storms at sea, and travels on the shore,
Of prodigies, and portents seen in air,
Of fires and plagues, and stars with blazing hair,
Of turns of fortune, changes in the state,
The falls of favourites, projects of the great,
Of old mismanagements, taxations new ;
All neither wholly false, nor wholly true.
Above, below, without, within, around,
Confus'd, unnumber'd multitudes are found,
Who pass, repass, advance, and glide away,
Hosts rais'd by fear, and phantoms of a day :
Astrologers, that future fates foreshow,
Projectors, quacks, and lawyers not a few;
And priests, and party zealots, numerous bands,
With home-born lies, or tales from foreign lands:
Each talk'd aloud, or in some secret place,
And wild impatience star'd in every face.
The flying rumours gather'd as they roll'd,
Scarce any tale was sooner heard than told;
And all who told it added something new,
And all who heard it made enlargements too;
In every ear it spread, on every tongue it grew.
Thus flying east and west, and north and south,
News travell'd with increase from mouth to mouth.
So from a spark, that kindled first by chance,
With gathering force the quickening flames ad-
Till to the clouds their curling heads aspire,
And towers and temples sink in floods of fire.
When thus ripe lies are to perfection sprung,
Full grown, and fit to grace a mortal tongue,
Through thousand vents, impatient, forth they flow,
And rush in millions on the world below:
Fame sits aloft, and points them out their course,
Their date determines, and prescribes their force;
Some to remain, and some to perish soon,
Or wane and wax alternate like the moon.
Around, a thousand winged wonders fly,
Borne by the trumpet's blast, and scatter'd through
There, at one passage, oft you might survey
A lie and truth contending for the way;
And long 'twas doubtful, both so closely pent,
Which first should issue through the narrow vent:
At last agreed, together out they fly,
Inseparable now the truth and lie;
The strict companions are for ever join'd,
And this or that unmix'd, no mortal e'er shall find. While thus I stood, intent to see and hear, One came, methought, and whisper'd in my ear: "What could thus high thy rash ambition raise? Art thou, fond youth, a candidate for praise ?"
""Tis true, said I, not void of hopes I came,
For who so fond as youthful bards of fame?
But few, alas! the casual blessing boast,
So hard to gain, so easy to be lost.
How vain that second life in others' breath,
Th' estate which wits inherit after death!
Ease, health, and life, for this they must resign,
(Unsure the tenure, but how vast the fine!)
The great man's curse, without the gains, endure,
Be envied, wretched; and be flatter'd, poor;
All luckless wits their enemies profest,
And all successful, jealous friends at best.
Nor fame I slight, nor for her favours call;
She comes unlook'd for, if she comes at all.
But if the purchase costs so dear a price,
As soothing folly, or exalting vice;
Oh! if the Muse must flatter lawless sway,
And follow still where fortune leads the way;
Or if no basis bear my rising name,
But the fallen ruins of another's fame;
Then teach me, Heaven! to scorn the guilty bays,
Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise;
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown:
Oh, grant an honest fame, or grant me none!”
JANUARY AND MAY.
FROM CHAUCER, 1
THERE liv'd in Lombardy, as authors write,
In days of old, a wise and worthy knight;
Of gentle manners, as of generous race,
Blest with much sense, more riches, and some
Yet, led astray by Venus' soft delights,
He scarce could rule some idle appetites :
For long ago, let priests say what they could,
Weak sinful laymen were but flesh and blood.
But in due time, when sixty years were o'er, He vow'd to lead this vicious life no more; Whether pure holiness inspir'd his mind,
Or dotage turn'd his brain, is hard to find;
But his high courage prick'd him forth to wed,
And try the pleasures of a lawful bed.
This was his nightly dream, his daily care,
And to the heavenly powers his constant prayer,
Once, ere he died, to taste the blissful life
Of a kind husband and a loving wife.
These thoughts he fortified with reasons still (For none want reasons to confirm their will.) Grave authors say, and witty poets sing, That honest wedlock is a glorious thing: 1 The Marchantes Tale.
But depth of judgment most in him appears
Who wisely weds in his maturer years.
Then let him choose a damsel young and fair,
To bless his age, and bring a worthy heir;
To soothe his cares, and free from noise and strife,
Conduct him gently to the verge of life.
Let sinful bachelors their woes deplore,
Full well they merit all they feel, and more:
Unaw'd by precepts, human or divine,
Like birds and beasts, promiscuously they join;
Nor know to make the present blessing last,
To hope the future, or esteem the past:
But vainly boast the joys they never tried,
And find divulg'd the secrets they would hide.
The married man may bear his yoke with ease,
Secure at once himself and Heaven to please;
And pass his inoffensive hours away,
In bliss all night, and innocence all day : Though fortune change, his constant spouse remains,
Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains. But what so pure which envious tongues will spare?
Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair.
With matchless impudence they style a wife
The dear-bought curse, and lawful plague of life;
A bosom serpent, a domestic evil,
A night invasion, and a midday devil.
Let not the wise these slanderous words regard, But curse the bones of every lying bard.