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Reclaim'd, her wild licentious youth
Confess'd the potent voice of truth,
And felt its just control;
The passions ceased their loud alarms,
And virtue's soft persuasive charms
O'er all their senses stole.
Thy breath inspires the poet's song,
The patriot's free unbiass'd tongue,
The hero's generous strife;
Thine are retirement's silent joys,
And all the sweet endearing ties
Of still domestic life!
No more to fabled names confined,
To thee, Supreme, All-Perfect Mind,
My thoughts direct their flight;
Wisdom's thy gift, and all her force,
From thee derived, unchanging source
Of intellectual light!
O! send her sure, her steady ray,
To regulate my doubtful way
Through life's perplexing road;
The mists of error to control,
And through its gloom direct my soul To happiness and good!
Beneath her clear discerning eye,
The visionary shadows fly
Of folly's painted show;
She sees, through every fair disguise,
That all, but virtue's solid joys,
Is vanity and woe.
Soon as the morning trembles o'er the sky,
And, unperceived, unfolds the spreading day,
Before the ripen'd field the reapers stand
In fair array; each by the lass he loves,
To bear the rougher part, and mitigate,
By nameless gentle offices, her toil.
At once they stoop and swell the lusty sheaves;
While through their cheerful band the rural talk,
The rural scandal, and the rural jest,
Fly harmless, to deceive the tedious time,
And steal, unfelt, the sultry hours away.
Behind the master walks, builds up the shocks,
And, conscious, glancing oft on every side
His sated eye, feels his heart heave with joy.
The gleaners spread around, and here and there,
Spike after spike, their scanty harvest pick.
Be not too narrow, husbandmen! but fling
From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth,
The liberal handful. Think, oh, grateful, think
How good the God of harvest is to you,
Who pours abundance o'er your flowing fields;
While these unhappy partners of your kind
Wide-hover round you, like the fowls of heaven,
And ask their humble dole. The various turns
Of fortune ponder; that your sons may want
What now, with hard reluctance, faint ye give.
The lovely young Lavinia once had friends,
And fortune smiled deceitful on her birth:
For in her helpless years deprived of all,
Of every stay, save Innocence and Heaven,
She with her widowed mother, feeble, old,
And poor, lived in a cottage, far retired
Among the windings of a woody vale;
By solitude and deep surrounding shades,
But more by bashful modesty conceal'd.
Together thus they shunn'd the cruel scorn
Which Virtue, sunk to poverty, would meet
From giddy passion and low-minded pride;
Almost on Nature's common bounty fed;
Like the gay birds that sung them to repose,
Content, and careless of to-morrow's fare.
Her form was fresher than the morning rose,
When the dew wets its leaves; unstain'd and pure,
As is the lily or the mountain snow.
The modest Virtues mingled in her eyes, Still on the ground dejected, darting all Their humid beams into the blooming flowers; Or when the mournful tale her mother told, Of what her faithless fortune promised once, Thrill'd in her thought, they, like the dewy star Of evening, shone in tears. A native grace Sat fair proportion'd on her polished limbs, Veil'd in a simple robe, their best attire, Beyond the pomp of dress; for loveliness Needs not the foreign aid of ornament, But is, when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most. Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty's self, Recluse amid the close embowering woods: As in the hollow breast of Apennine, Beneath the shelter of encircling hills, A myrtle rises, far from human eye, And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild; So flourish'd, blooming, and unseen by all, The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compell'd By strong Necessity's supreme command, With smiling patience in her looks, she went To glean Palemon's fields. The pride of swains Palemon was, the generous, and the rich; Who led the rural life in all its joy And elegance, such as Arcadian song Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times, When tyrant custom had not shackled man,
But free to follow nature was the mode.
He then, his fancy with autumnal scenes
Amusing, chanced beside his reaper-train
To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye,
Uuconscious of her power, and turning quick,
With unaffected blushes, from his gaze:
He saw her charming, but he saw not half
The charms her downcast modesty conceal'd.
That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail'd, and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn,
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field:
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh'd:
"What pity! that so delicate a form,
By beauty kindled, where enlivening sense,
And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown! She looks, methinks,
Of old Acasto's line, and to my mind
Recalls that patron of my happy life,
From whom my liberal fortune took its rise,
Now to the dust gone down, his houses, lands,
And once fair-spreading family, dissolved.
Tis said, that in some lone obscure retreat,
Urged by remembrance sad, and decent pride,
Far from those scenes which knew their better days,
His aged widow and his daughter live,
Whom yet my frutless search could never find.