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A time there was, ere England's griefs began, When every rood of ground maintain’d its man; For him light labour spread her wholesome store, Just gave what life requir'd, but gave no more: His best companions, innocence and health ; And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are alter'd; trade's unfeeling train Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain ; Along the lawn, where scatter'd 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 ask'd but little room, Those healthful sports that grac'd the peaceful
scene, Liv'd in each look, and brighten'd 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 pow'r. Here, as I take my solitary rounds, Amidst thy tangling walks and ruin'd grounds, And, many a year elaps’d, 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 round this world of care, In all my griefs—and God has given my shareI still had hopes my latest hours to crown, Amidst 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-learn'd skill,
Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt, and all I saw;
And, as a hare, whom bounds 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 bless'd 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 temptation 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 unperceiv'd decay,
While resigna ion gently siopes 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 pass’d with careless steps and slow, The mingling notes came soften'd from below; The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung, The saber herd that low'd 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 bay'd the whispering
wind, And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind;
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
And filld 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 widow'd, solitary thing,
That feebly bends beside the splashing spring ;
She, wretched matron, forc'd, in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry faggot 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 smil'd,
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,
Nore'er had chang'd, nor wish'd to change his place;
Unpractis'd he to fawn, or seek for pow'r,
By doctrines fashion'd to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learn’d to prize,
More skill'd to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train,
He chid their wanderings, but reliev'd their pain ;
The long remember'd beggar was his guest,
Whose beard descending swept his aged breast;
The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claim'd kindred there, and had his claim allow'd;
The broken soldier, kindly bid to stay,
Sat by his fire, and talk'd the night away;
Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done, Shoulder'd his crutch, and show'd how fields were
Pleas'd with his guests, the good man learn’d to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And ev'n his failings lean'd to virtue's side ;
But in his duty prompt, at every call,
He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt, for al:
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt the new-fledg'd offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reprov'd each dull delay,
Allur'd to brighter worlds, and led the way.
Beside the bed where parting life was laid, And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismay'd, The reverend champion stood. At his control, Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul; Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise, And his last faltering accents whisper'd praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace, His looks adorn'd the venerable place ; Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway, And fools, who came to scoff, remain'd to pray. The service past, around the pious man, With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran; Ev’n children follow'd, with endearing wile, And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's
smile. His ready smile a parent's warmth express'd, Their welfare pleas'd him, and their cares distress'd: To them his heart, his love, his griefs, were giv'n, But all his serious thoughts had rest in Heav'n.
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
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way
With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skilld 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 learn'd to trace
The day's disasters in his morning face ;
Full well they laugh’d with counterfeited glee
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd;
Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault;
The village all declar'd how much he knew;
'Twas certain he could write and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And ev'n the story ran, that he could gauge :
In arguing, too, the parson own'd his skill,
For ev’n though vanquish'd he could argue still ;
While words of learned length, and thundering
Amaz'd the gazing rustics rang'd around ;
And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame : the very spot,
Where many a time he triumph’d, is forgot.
Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high, Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye,