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A burthen of the earth. 'Tis nature's law
That none, the meanest of created things,
Of forms created the most vile and brute,
The dullest or most noxious, should exist
Divorced from good, a spirit and pulse of good,
A life and soul, to every mode of being
Inseparably linked. While thus he creeps
From door to door, the villagers in him
Behold a record which together binds
Past deeds and offices of charity,
Else unremembered, and so keeps alive
The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years,
And that half-wisdom half-experience gives,
Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign
To selfishness and cold oblivious cares.
Among the farms and solitary huts,
Hamlets, and thinly scattered villages,
Where'er the aged beggar takes his rounds,
The mild necessity of youth compels
To acts of love; and habit does the work
Of reason; yet prepares that after-joy
Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul,
By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursued,
Doth find itself insensibly disposed
To virtue and true goodness. Some there are,
By their good works exalted, lofty minds


And meditative, authors of delight

And happiness, which to the end of time

Will live, and spread, and kindle; minds like these,

In childhood, from this solitary being,

This helpless wanderer, have perchance received,

(A thing more precious far than all that books

Or the solicitudes of love can do!)

That first mild touch of sympathy and thought,

In which they found their kindred with a world

Where want and sorrow were. The easy man

Who sits at his own door,—and, like the pear

Which overhangs his head from the green wall,

Feeds in the sunshine; the robust and young,

The prosperous and unthinking, they who live

Sheltered, and flourish in a little grove

Of their own kindred,—all behold in him

A silent monitor, which on their minds

Must needs impress a transitory thought

Of self-congratulation, to the heart

Of each recalling his peculiar boons,

His charters and exemptions; and perchance,

Though he to no one give the fortitude

And circumspection needful to preserve

His present blessings, and to husband up

The respite of the season, he, at least,

And 'tis no vulgar service, makes them felt.

Yet further Many, I believe, there are

Who live a life of virtuous decency,

Men who can hear the Decalogue and feel

No self-reproach, who of the moral law

Established in the land where they abide

Are strict observers; and not negligent,

Meanwhile, in any tenderness of heart

Or act of love to those with whom they dwell,

Their kindred, and the children of their blood.

Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace!

—But of the poor man ask, the abject poor,

Go, and demand of him, if there be here,

In this cold abstinence from evil deeds,

And these inevitable charities,

Wherewith to satisfy the human soul?

No—man is dear to man: the poorest poor

Long for some moments in a weary life

WTien they can know and feel that they have been

Themselves, the fathers and the dealers-out

Of some small blessings; have been kind to such

As needed kindness, for this single cause,

That we have all of us one human heart.

—Such pleasure is to one kind being known—

My neighbour, when with punctual care, each week

Duly as Friday comes, though pressed herself

By her own wants, she from her chest of meal


Takes one unsparing handful for the scrip
Of this old mendicant, and, from her door
Returning with exhilarated heart,
Sits by her fire and builds her hope in heaven.

Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!
And while, in that vast solitude to which
The tide of things has led him, he appears
To breathe and live but for himself alone,
Unbalmed, uninjured, let him bear about
The good which the benignant law of heaven
Has hung around him: and, while life is his,
Still let him prompt the unlettered villagers
To tender offices and pensive thoughts.
Then let him pass, a blessing on his head!
And, long as he can wander, let him breathe
The freshness of the valleys; let his blood
Struggle with frosty air and winter snows.
And let the chartered wind that sweeps the heath
Beat his gray locks against his withered face.
Reverence the hope whose vital anxiousness
Gives the last human interest to his heart.
May never house, misnamed of industry,
Make him a captive! for that pent-up din,
Those life-consuming sounds that clog the air,,
Be his the natural silence of old age I

Let him be free of mountain solitudes;
And have around him, whether heard or not,
The pleasant melody of woodland birds.
Few are his pleasures; if his eyes, which now
Have been so long familiar with the earth,
No more behold the horizontal sun
Rising or setting, let the light at least
Find a free entrance to their languid orbs.
And let him, where and when he will, sit down
Beneath the trees, or by the grassy bank
Of high-way side, and with the little birds
Share his chance-gathered meal, and, finally,
As in the eye of Nature he has lived,
So in the eye of Nature let him die.



Said to have been written by a Lady of Rank, nearly two centuries ago.

My father is dead, and my mother is dead—
They sleep beneath the church-yard tree:

And my brothers so brave, are all in the grave,
The greedy grave that yawns for me.

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