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SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
I can have no expectations in an address of this kind, either to add to your reputation, or to establish my own. You can gain nothing from my admiration, as I am ignorant of that art in which you are said to excel; and I may lose much by the severity of your judgment, as few have a juster taste in poetry than you. Setting interest therefore aside, to which I never paid much attention, I must be indulged at present in following my affections. The only dedication I ever made was to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. Permit me to inscribe this poem to you.
How far you may be pleased with the versification and mere mechanical parts of this attempt, I do not pretend to enquire: but I know you will object (and indeed several of our best and wisest friends concur in the opinion) that the depopulation it deplores is no where to be seen, and the disorders it laments are only to be found in the poet's own imagination. To this I can scarce make any other answer, than that I sincerely believe what I have written ; that I have taken all possible pains in my country excurşions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I alledge; and that all my views and enquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display. But this is not the place to enter into an enquiry, whether the country be depopulating or not; the discussion would take up much room, and I should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the reader with a long preface, when I want his unfatigued attention to a long poem.
In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the increase of our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern politicians against me. For twenty or thirty years past it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity, in that particular, as erroneous. Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and continue to think those luxuries prejudicial to states by which so many vices are introduced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed so much has been poured out of late on the other side of the question, that, merely for the sake of novelty and variety, one would sometimes wish to be in the right.
I am, DEAR SIR,
Your sincere friend,
and ardent admirer
Sweet AUBURN! loveliest village of the plain, Where health and plenty cheer'd the lab'ring swain, Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid, And parting summer's lingʻring blooms delay'd : Dear lovely bow'rs of innocence and ease, Seats of my youth, when ev'ry sport could please : How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green, Where humble happiness endear'd each scene! How often have I paus’d on ev'ry charm, . The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm, The never failing brook, the busy mill, The decent church that topt the neighboring hill, The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, For talking age and whisp’ring lovers made! How often have I bless'd the coming day, When toil remitting lent its turn to play,