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But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, And sensual bliss is all the nation knows. In florid beauty groves and fields appear, Man seems the only growth that dwindles here. Contrasted faults through all his manners reign; Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain; Though grave, yet trifling ; zealous, yet untrue; And ev’n in penance planning sins anew. All evils here contaminate the mind, That opulence departed leaves behind; For wealth was theirs, not far remov'd the date, When commerce proudly flourish'd thro’ the state; At her command the palace learnt to rise, Again the long-fall’n column sought the skies; The canvass glow'd, beyond e'en Nature warm, The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form: Till, more unsteady than the southern gale, Commerce on other shores display'd her sail ; While nought remain'd of all that riches gave, But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave : And late the nation found, with fruitless skill, Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet, still the loss of wealth is here supply'd By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride; From these the feeble heart and long-fall’n mind An easy compensation seem to find. Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd, The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade: Processions form’d for piety and love, A mistress or a saint in ev'ry grove. By sports like these are all their cares beguild, The sports of children satisfy the child : Each nobler aim, represt by long control, Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul; While low delights, succeeding fast behind, In happier meanness occupy the mind : As in those domes, where Cæsars once bore sway, Defac'd by time, and tottring in decay, There in the ruin, heedless of the dead, The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed; And, wond'ring man could want the larger pile, Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul turn from them, turn we to survey Where rougher climes a nobler race display,
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread,
Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm,