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His ready smile a parent's warmth exprest,
Their welfare pleas'd him, and their cares distrest:
To them his heart, his love, his griefs, were giv'n,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heav'n.
As some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Tho'round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way
With blossom'd furze, unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion, skill'd to rule,
The village master taught his little school :
A man severe he was, and stern to view,
I knew him well, and every truant knew;
Well had the boding tremblers learn’d to trace
The day's disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laugh'd with counterfeited glee
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd;,
Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault;
The village all declar'd how much he knew;
'Twas certain he could write and cypher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And ev'n the story ran that he could gauge:
In arguing, too, the parson own’d his skill,
For ev'n though vanquish'd he could argue still;
While words of learned length, and thund'ring
Amaz’d the gazing rustics rang'd around;
And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew
That one small head should carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot,
Where many a time he triumph’d, is forgot.
Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high, Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye, Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts
inspird, Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retird, Where village statesmen talk'd with looks profound, And news much older than their ale went round. Imagination fondly stoops to trace The parlour splendours of that festive place ;
The white-wash'd wall, the nicely sanded floor,
The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door:
The chest contriv'd a double debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures plac'd for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose;
The hearth, except when winter chilld the day,
With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel, gay;
While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show,
Rang’d o'er the chimney, glisten’d in a row.
Vain transitory splendors! could not all
Reprieve the totưring mansion from its fall!
Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart
An hour's importance to the poor man's heart;
Thither no more the peasant shall repair
To sweet oblivion of his daily care;
No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale,
No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail;
No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear,
Relax his pond'rous strength, and lean to hear;
The host himself no longer shall be found
Careful to see the mantling bliss go round;
Nor the coy maid, half willing to be prest,
Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest.
Yes ! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,
These simple blessings of the lowly train;
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art;
Spontaneous joys, where Nature has its play,
The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway;
Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind,
Unenvy'd, unmolested, unconfin'd.
But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade,
With all the freaks of wanton wealth array'd,
In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain,
The toiling pleasure sickens into pain;
And, e’en while fashion's brightest arts decoy,
The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy?
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen, who survey The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay, 'Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand Between a splendid and a happy land. Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore, And shouting Folly hails them from her shore;
Hoards e'en beyond the miser's wish abound,
And rich men flock from all the world around.
Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name
That leaves our useful products still the same.
Not so the loss. The man of wealth and pride
Takes up a space that many poor supply'd;
Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds,
Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth
Has robb’d the neighb’ring fields of half their
His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
Afround the world each needful product flies,
For all the luxuries the world supplies :
While thus the land, adorn'd for pleasure all,
In barren splendor feebly waits the fall.
As some fair female, unadorn'd and plain, Secure to please while youth confirms her reign, Slights ev'ry borrow'd charm that dress sup
plies, Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes;