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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 plied the strong mechanic tool, Or rear'd the fabric from the finest draught; And oft he put himself to Neptune's 1 school, Fighting with winds and waves on the vex'd ocean
To solace then these rougher toils, he tried
He roused the trumpet, and the martial fife,
Or verses framed that well might wake Apollo's lyre.
Accomplish'd thus, he from the woods issued,
Full of great aims, and bent on bold emprise ; 3
Earth was still then a boundless forest wild;
1 The school of the sea.
2 Pygmalion was a sculptor of Cypress, who fell in love with his own marble statue of Venus. At his earnest prayer the statue was endowed with life, and he married it.
A rugged wight, the worst of brute, was man ;
And guile and ruffian force were all their trade.
It would exceed the purport of my song To say how this best sun from orient climes, Came beaming life and beauty all along, Before him chasing indolence and crimes. Still as he pass'd, the nations he sublimes, And calls forth arts and virtues with his ray: Then Egypt, Greece, and Rome their golden times, Successive had; but now in ruins gray They lie, to slavish sloth and tyranny a prey.
To crown his toils, Sir Industry then spread
In the brown shades and greenwood forest lost,
They lodged at large, and lived at native's cost,
Yet not the Roman steel their naked breast dismay'd.
He liked the soil, he liked the clement skies, He liked the verdant hills and flowery plains: "Be this my great, my chosen isle," he cries,
"This, whilst my labor Liberty sustains, This queen of oceans all assault disdains." Nor liked he less the genius of the land, To freedom apt and persevering pains, Mild to obey, and generous to command, Temper'd by forming Heaven with kindest firmest
Here, by degrees, his master-work arose,
Fair queen of arts! from heaven itself who came,
Then towns he quicken'd by mechanic arts, And bade the fervent city glow with toil; Bade social commerce raise renowned marts, Join land to land, and marry soil to soil; Unite the poles, and without bloody spoil Bring home of either Ind1 the gorgeous stores; Or, should despotic rage the world embroil, Bade tyrants tremble on remotest shores, While o'er the encircling deep Britannia's thunder roars.
The drooping muses then he westward called,
What time the Turk the enfeebled Grecian thralled;
1 Either the East Indies or the West Indies.
And brought them to another Castalie,1 Where Isis2 many a famous nursling breeds; Or where old Cam3 soft-paces o'er the lea In pensive mood, and tunes his Doric reeds, The whilst his flocks at large the lonely shepherd feeds.
Yet the fine arts were what he finished least.
That mighty patrons the coy sisters 5 call
Where no rude care the mounting thought may thrall,
Ah! gracious God! thou knowest they ask no other
But now, alas! we live too late in time:
Our patrons now e'en grudge that little claim,
1 Castalian fountain, whose waters had the power of inspiring with the gift of poetry.
2 Oxford University, situated on the Isis.
8 Cambridge University, on the Cam River.
4 Pastoral poetry.
5 The useful and the fine arts.
6 A patron of letters. From C. Clinius Mæcenas, a special friend and patron of Horace and Virgil. The name has been applied to the Earl of Halifax and to the poet-banker, Samuel Rogers.
When as the knight had framed in Britain-land A matchless form of glorious government, In which the sovereign laws alone command, Laws, 'stablished by the public free consent, Whose majesty is to the scepter lent; When this great plan, with each dependent art, Was settled firm, and to his heart's content, Then sought he from the toilsome scene to part, And let life's vacant eve breathe quiet through the heart.
For this he chose a farm in Deva's vale,1
Where his long alleys peeped upon the main :
Here, sided by the guardians of the fold,
He walked his rounds, and cheered his blest domain : His days, the days of unstained nature, rolled Replete with peace and joy, like patriarchs, of old.
JAMES THOMSON, distinguished chiefly as the author of "The Seasons," was born in Ednam, in Roxburghshire, in 1700. His first published work was that portion of "The Seasons" entitled "Winter," which appeared in 1726. Summer was published in 1727, “Spring” in 1728, and “Autumn" in 1730. "The Castle of Indolence," his last work, was published in 1748, two years before his death. "Making allowance for the time over which his influence has extended," says George Saintsbury, "no poet has given the special pleasure which poetry is capable of giving to so large a number of persons in so large a measure as Thomson." Of Thomson's indolent habits, it is related that much of his best poetry was composed while lying in bed; and an anecdote is told of his having been seen in Lord Burlington's garden, with his hands in his waistcoat pockets, biting off the riper sides of the peaches that hung in his way.
1 The valley of the river Dee, in Cheshire, noted for its pastures and dairy products.