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Sometimes, with early morn, he mounted gay The hunter-steed, exulting o'er the dale, And drew the roseate breath of orient day; Sometimes, retiring to the secret vale, Yclad in steel, and bright with burnish'd mail, He strain'd the bow, or toss'd the sounding spear, Or darting on the goal outstripp'd the gale, Or wheel'd the chariot in its mid career, Or strenuous wrestled hard with many a tough com
At other times he pry'd through Nature's store,
Or else he scann'd the globe, those small domains,
Those moral seeds whence we heroic actions reap.
Nor would he scorn to stoop from high pursuits Of heavenly Truth, and practise what she taught. Vain is the tree of knowledge without fruits. Sometimes in hand the spade or plow he caught, Forth-calling all with which boon Earth is fraught; Sometimes he ply'd the strong mechanic tool, Or rear'd the fabric from the finest draught; And oft he put himself to Neptune's school, Fighting with winds and waves on the vext ocean pool.
To solace then these rougher toils, he try'd
Or verses fram'd that well might wake Apollo's lyre.
Accomplish'd thus he from the woods issued, Full of great aims, and bent on bold emprize; The work, which long he in his breast had brew'd, Now to perform he ardent did devise; To wit, a barbarous world to civilize. Earth was till then a boundless forest wild; Nought to be seen but savage wood, and skies; No cities nourish'd arts, no culture smil'd, No government, no laws, no gentle manners mild.
A rugged wight, the worst of brutes, was man; On his own wretched kind he, ruthless, prey'd : The strongest still the weakest over-ran; In every country mighty robbers sway'd, And guile and ruffian force were all their trade. Life was a scene of rapine, want, and woe; Which this brave knight, in noble anger, made To swear, he would the rascal rout o'erthrow, For, by the powers divine, it should no more be so!
It would exceed the purport of my song,
Successive had; but now in ruins grey They lie, to slavish sloth and tyranny a prey.
To crown his toils, Sir Industry then spread The swelling sail, and made for Britain's coast. A sylvan life till then the natives led,
In the brown shades and greenwood forest lost, All careless rambling where it lik'd them most: Their wealth the wild-deer bouncing through the glade;
They lodg'd at large, and liv'd at Nature's cost; Save spear, and bow, withouten other aid; Yet not the Roman steel their naked breast dismay'd
But now, alas! we live too late in time:
When as the knight had fram'd, in Britain-land,
For this he chose a farm in Deva's vale,
He walk'd his rounds, and cheer'd his blest domain!
His days, the days of unstain'd nature, roll'd, Replete with peace and joy, like patriarchs of old.
Witness, ye lowing herds, who gave him milk;
Or of September moons the radiance mild.
From Heaven this life ysprung, from Hell thy glories vild!
Nor from this deep retirement banish'd was
And woods imbrown the steep, or wave along the shore.
As nearer to his farm you made approach,
Here too brisk gales the rude wild common fann'd,
But in prime vigor what can last for aye?
He pranc'd along, disdaining gate or bar. Meantime, the bard on milk-white palfrey rode; An honest sober beast, that did not mar His meditations, but full softly trode; And much they moraliz'd as thus yfere they yode
They talk'd of virtue, and of human bliss. What else so fit for man to settle well? And still their long researches met in this, This truth of truths, which nothing can refel: "From virtue's fount the purest joys out-well, Sweet rills of thought that cheer the conscious soul;
While vice pours forth the troubled streams of Hell, The which, howe'er disguis'd, at last with dole Will, through the tortur'd breast, their fiery torrent roll."
At length it dawn'd, that fatal valley gay,
On the cool height awhile our palmers stay, And spite ev'n of themselves their senses cheer; Then to the wizard's wonne their steps they steer. Like a green isle, it broad beneath them spread, With gardens round, and wandering currents clear, And tufted groves to shade the meadow bed, Sweet airs and song; and without hurry all seem'd glad.
"As God shall judge me, knight, we must forgive" (The half-enraptur'd Philomelus cried) "The frail good man deluded here to live, And in these groves his musing fancy hide. Ah! nought is pure. It cannot be denied, That virtue still some tincture has of vice, And vice of virtue. What should then betide But that our charity be not too nice? Come, let us those we can to real bliss entice."
Ay, sicker," quoth the knight, "all flesh is frail, To pleasant sin and joyous dalliance bent; But let not brutish vice of this avail, And think to 'scape deserved punishment. Justice were cruel weakly to relent;
From Mercy's self she got her sacred glaive; Grace be to those who can, and will, repent; But penance long, and dreary, to the slave, Who must in floods of fire his gross foul spirit lave."
Thus, holding high discourse, they came to where The cursed carle was at his wonted trade; Still tempting heedless men into his snare, In witching wise, as I before had said. But when he saw, in goodly gear array'd, The grave majestic knight approaching nigh, And by his side the bard so sage and staid, His countenance fell; yet oft his anxious eye Mark'd them, like wily fox who roosted cock doth spy.
Nathless, with feign'd respect, he bade give back The rabble-rout, and welcom'd them full kind; Struck with the noble twain, they were not slack His orders to obey, and fall behind. Then he resum'd his song; and unconfin'd, Pour'd all his music, ran through all his strings: With magic dust their eyne he tries to blind, And virtue's tender airs o'er weakness flings. What pity base his song who so divinely sings!
Elate in thought, he counted them his own, They listen'd so intent with fix'd delight: But they instead, as if transmew'd to stone, Marvell'd he could with such sweet art unite The lights and shades of manners, wrong and right. Meantime, the silly crowd the charm devour, Wide pressing to the gate. Swift on the knight He darted fierce, to drag him to his bower, Who backening shunn'd his touch, for well he knew its power.
As in throng'd amphitheatre of old, The wary Retiarius trapp'd his foe; Ev'n so the knight, returning on him bold, At once involv'd him in the net of woe, Whereof I mention made not long ago. Enrag'd at first, he scorn'd so weak a jail, And leapt, and flew, and flounced to and fro; But when he found that nothing could avail, He set him felly down, and gnaw'd his bitter nail
Alarm'd, th' inferior demons of the place
Huge crowds on crowds out-pour'd, with blemish'd
As if on time's last verge this frame of things had shook.
Soon as the short-liv'd tempest was yspent, Steam'd from the jaws of vex'd Avernus' hole, And hush'd the hubbub of the rabblement, Sir Industry the first calm moment stole. "There must," he cried, "amid so vast a shoal, Be some who are not tainted at the heart, Not poison'd quite by this same villain's bowl: Come then, my bard, thy heavenly fire impart; Touch soul with soul, till forth the latent spirit start
The bard obey'd; and taking from his side, Where it in seemly sort depending hung, His British harp, its speaking strings he tried, The which with skilful touch he deftly strung, Till tinkling in clear symphony they rung. Then, as he felt the Muses come along. Light o'er the chords his raptur'd hand he flung, And play'd a prelude to his rising song: The whilst, like midnight mute, ten thousands round him throng.
Thus, ardent, burst his strain,
"Ye helpless race, Dire-laboring here to smother reason's ray, That lights our Maker's image in our face, And gives us wide o'er Earth unquestion'd sway, What is th' ador'd Supreme Perfection, say? What, but eternal never-resting soul, Almighty power, and all-directing day; By whom each atom stirs, the planets roll; Who fills, surrounds, informs, and agitates the whole
"Come, to the beaming God your hearts unfold!
"Dumb too had been the sage historic Muse,
"But should your hearts to fame unfeeling be,
O leaden-hearted men to be in love with death!