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In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix’d;
If cushion might be called, what harder scem’d
Than the firm oak of which the frame was form'd.
No want of timber then was felt or fear'd
In Albion's happy isle. The umber stood
Pond'rous and fix'd by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say,
An alderman of Cripplegate contriv'd:
And some ascribe th' invention to a priest,
Burly and big, and studious of his ease.
But, rude at firsi, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs,
And bruis'd the side ; and, elevated high,
Taught the rais'd shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elaps'd or e'er our rugged sires
Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease behind. The ladies first
'Gan murmur, as became the softer scx.
Ingenious fancy, never better pleas’d,
Than when employ'd t' accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis’d
The soft settce; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow, it receiv'd,
United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne ;
And so two citizens who take the air,
Close pack'd, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame,
By soft recumbency of outstretch'd limbs,
Was bliss reserv'd for happier days. So slow
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
T'attain perfection in this nether world.
Thus first necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow chairs,
And luxury th' accomplished sofa last.
The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick, Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour To sleep within the carriage more secure, His legs depending at the open door. Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk, The tedious rector drawling o'er his head; And sweet the clerk below. But neither sleep Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead, Nor his who quits the box at midnight hour To slumber in the carriage more secure, Nor sleep enjoy'd by curate in his desk, Nor yet the dosings of the clerk, are sweet, Compar'd with the repose the sofa yields. Oh may I live exempted (while I live Guiltless of pamper'd appetite obscene) From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe Of libertine excess. The sofa suits The gouty limb, 'tis true ; but gouty limb, Though on a sofa, may I never feel: For I have lov'd the rural walk through lanes of grassy swarth, close cropt by nibbling sheep, And skirted thick with intertexture firm Of thorny boughs; have lov'd the rural walk
O'er hills, through valleys, and by rivers' brink,
Ere since a truant boy I pass’d. my bounds
T'enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames;
And still remember, nor without regret
Of hours that sorrow since has much endear'd,
How oft, my slice of pocket store consum’d,
Still hung'ring, pennyless and far from home,
I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
Or blushing crabs, or berries, that imboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere.
Hard fare! but such as boyish appetite
Disdains not; nor the palate, undeprav'd
By culinary arts, unsav'ry deems.
No SOFA then awaited my return;
Nor sofa then I needed. Youth repairs
His wasted spirits quickly, by long toil
Incurring short fatigue; and, though our years
As life declines speed rapidly away,
And not a year but pilfers as he goes
would gladly keep:
A tooth or auburn lock, and by degrees
Their length and colour from the locks they spare :
Th’ elastic spring of an unwearied foot
That mounts the stile with ease, or leaps the fence,
That play of lungs, inhaling and again
Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes
Swift pace or steep ascent no oil to me,
Mine have not piifer'd yet; nor yet impair'd
My relish of fir prospect; scenes that sooth'd
Or charm’d me young, no longer young, I find
Still soothing, and of pow'r to charm me still.
And witness, dear companion of my walks,
Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive
Fast lock'd in mine, with pleasure such as love,
Contirm'd by long experience of thy worth
And well-tried virtues, could alone inspire....
Witness a joy that thou hast doubled long.
Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjur'd up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slacken'd to a pause, and we have borne
The ruling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Thence with what pleasure have we just descern'd
The distant plough slow moving, and beside
His lab’ring team, that swerv'd not from the track,
The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy!
Here Ouse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meeds with cattle sprinkled o'er,
Conducts the eye along his sinuous course
Delighted. There, fast rooted in their bank,
Stand, never overlook'd, our fav’rite elms,
That screen the herdsman's solitary hut;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream,
That, as with moiten glass, inlays the vale,
The sioping land recedes into the clouds ;
Displaying on its varied side the grace
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tow'r',
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the list’ning ear,
Groves, heaths, and smoking villages, remote.
Scenes must be beautiful, which, daily view'd,
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years.
Praise justly due to those that I describe:
Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds, Exhilerate the spirit, and restore The tone of languid nature. Mighty winds, That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood Of ancient growth, make music not unlike The dash of ocean on his winding shore, And lull the spirit while they fill the mind; Unnumber'd branches waying in the blast, And all their leaves fast fluttring, all at once Nor less composure waits upon the roar Of distant floods, or on the softer voice Of neighb'ring fountain, or of rills that slip Through the cleft rock, and, chiming as they fall Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length In matted grass, that with a livelier green Betrays the secret of their silent course. Nature inanimate employs sweet sounds, But animated nature sweeter still, To sooth and satisfy the human ear. Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one The livelong night: nor these alone, whose notes Nice finger'd art must emulate in vain ; But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime In still repeated circles, screaming loud, The jay, the pie, and ev'n the boding owl, That hails the rising moon, have charms for me. Sounds inharmonious in themselves and harsh,