« PreviousContinue »
Not slothful he, though seeming unemploy'd,
And censur'd oft as useless. Stillest streams
Oft water fairest meadows, and the bird,
That flutters least, is longest on the wing:
Ask him, indeed, what trophies he has rais’d,
Or what achievements of immortal fame
He purposes, and he shall answer-None.
His warfare is within. There unfatigu'd
His fervent spirit labours. There he fights,
And there obtains fresh triumphs o'er himself,
And never with’ring wreaths, compard with which,
T'he laurels that a Cæsar reaps are weeds.
Perhaps the self-approving haughty world
That as she sweeps him with her whistling silks
Scarce deigns to notice him, or, if she see,
Deems him a cipher in the works of God,
Receives advantage from his noiseless hours,
Of which she little dreams. Perhaps she owes
Her sunshine and her rain, her blooming spring
And plenteous harvest, to the pray’r he makes,
When, Isaac like, the solitary saint
Walks forth to meditate at eventide,
And think on her, who thinks not for herself.
Forgive him then, thou bustler in concerns
Of little worth, an idler in the best,
If, author of no mischief and some good,
He seek his proper happiness by means
That may advance, but cannot hinder, thine.
Nor, though he tread the secret path of life,
Engage no notice, and enjoy much ease,
Account him an encumbrance on the state,
Receiving benefits, and rend'ring none,
His sphere though humble, if that humble sphere Shine with his fair example, and though small His influence, if that influence all be spent In soothing sorrow, and in quenching strife, In aiding helpless indigence, in works, From which at least a grateful few derive Some taste of comfort in a world of wo; Then let the supercilious great confess He serves his country, recompenses well The state, beneath the shadow of whose vine He sits secure, and in the scale of life Holds no ignoble, though a slighted, place. The man, whose virtues are more felt than seen, Must drop indeed the hope of publick praise ; But he may boast, what few that win it can, That, if his country stand not by his skill, At least his follies have not wrought her fall. Polite Refinement offers him in vain Her golden tube, through which a sensual world Draws gross impurity, and likes it well, The neat conveyance hiding all th' offence. Not that he peevishly rejects a mode Because that world adopts it. If it bear The stamp and clear impression of good sense, And be not costly more than of true worth, He puts it on, and for decorum sake Can wear it e'en as gracefully as she. She judges of refinement by the eye, He by the test of conscience, and a heart Not soon deceiv'd ; aware that what is base No polish can make sterling; and that vice, Though well perfum'd and elegantly dress’d, Like an unburied carcase trick'd with flow'rs,
Le but a garnish'd nuisance, fitter far
For cleanly riddance, than for fair attire.
So life glides smoothly and by stealth away,
More golden than that age of fabled gold
Renown'd in ancient song ; not vex'd with care
Or stain'd with guilt, beneficent, approv'd
Of God and man, and peaceful in its end.
So glide my life away, and so at last,
My share of duties decently fulfill’d,
May some disease, not tardy to perform
Its destin'd office, yet with gentle stroke,
Dismiss me weary to a safe retreat,
Beneath the turf, that I have often trod.
It shall not grieve me then, that once, when call'd
To dress a Sofa with the flow’rs of verse,
I play'd a while, obedient to the fair,
With that light task; but soon, to please her more,
Whom flow’rs alone I knew would little please,
Let fall th' unfinish'd wreath, and rov'd for fruit;
Rov'd far, and gather'd much: some harsh, 'tis true,
Pick'd from the thorns and briers of reproof,
But wholesome, well-digested; grateful some
To palates that can taste immortal truth;
Insipid else, and sure to be despis’d.
But all is in His band, whose praise I seek.
In vain the poet sings, and the world hears,
If he regard not, though divine the theme.
'Tis not in artful measures, in the chime
And idle tinkling of a minstrel's lyre,
To charm his ear, whose eye is on the heart;
Whose frown can disappoint the proudest strain,
Whose approbation--prosper even mine.
DEAR JOSEPH--five and twenty years ago Alas how time escapes !--?tis even so— With frequent intercourse, and always sweet, And always friendly, we were wont to cheat A tedious hour and now we never meet! As some grave gentleman in Terence says, ('Twas therefore much the same in ancient days) Good lack, we know not what to-morrow bringsStrange fluctuation of all human things ! True. Changes will befall, and friends may part, But distance only cannot change the heart: And, were I call’d to prove th’assertion true, One proof should serve a reference to you.
Whence comes it then, that in the wane of life, Though nothing have occurr'd to kindle strife, We find the friends we fancied we had won, Though num'rous once, reduc'd to few or none? Can gold grow worthless, that has stood the touch ? No; gold they seem'd, but they were never such