« PreviousContinue »
But dying soon, like all terrestrial joys.
The few small embers left she nurses well,
And, while her infant race, with outspread hands,
And crowded knees, sit cowering o'er the sparks, 385
Retires, content to quake, so they be warmed.
The man feels least, as more inured than she
To winter, and the current in his veins
More briskly moved by his severer toil;
Yet he too finds his own distress in theirs.
The taper soon extinguished, which I saw
Dangled along at the cold finger's end
Just when the day declined: and the brown loaf
Lodged on the shelf half eaten without sauce
Of savory cheese, or butter, costlier still,
Sleep seems their only refuge: for, alas!
Where penury is felt the thought is chained,
And sweet colloquial pleasures are but few.
With all this thrift they thrive not. All the care,
Ingenious parsimony takes, but just
Saves the small inventory, bed, and stool,
Skillet, and old carved chest, from public sale.
They live, and live without extorted alms
From grudging hands: but other boast have none
To soothe their honest pride, that scorns to beg; 405
Nor comfort else, but in their mutual love.
I praise you much, ye meek and patient pair,
For ye are worthy; choosing rather far
A dry but independent crust, hard earned,
And eaten with a sigh, than to endure
The rugged frowns and insolent rebuffs
Of knaves in office, partial in the work
Of distribution; liberal of their aid
To clamorous importunity in rags,
But ofttimes deaf to suppliants, who would blush 415
To wear a tattered garb, however coarse,
Whom famine cannot reconcile to filth;
These ask with painful shyness, and, refused
Because deserving, silently retire.
But be ye of good courage.
Shall much befriend you. Time shall give increase;
And all your numerous progeny, well trained
But helpless, in few years shall find their hands,
And labor too. Meanwhile ye shall not want
What, conscious of your virtues, we can spare,
Nor what a wealthier than ourselves may send.
I mean the mano who, when the distant poor
Need help, denies them nothing but his name.
But poverty with most, who whimper forth
Their long complaints, is self-inflicted woe;
The effect of laziness or sottish waste.
Now goes the nightly thief prowling abroad
For plunder; much solicitous how best
He may compensate for a day of sloth,
By works of darkness and nocturnal wrong.
Woe to the gardener's pale, the farmer's hedge
Plashedo neatly, and secured with driven stakes
Deep in the loamy bank. Uptorn by strength,
Resistless in so bad a cause, but lame
To better deeds, he bundles up the spoil,
440 An ass's burden, and, when laden most And heaviest, light of foot, steals fast away. Nor does the bordered hovel better guard The well-stacked pile of riven logs and roots From his pernicious force. Nor will he leave Unwrenched the door, however well secured, Where Chanticleer amidst his harem sleeps In unsuspecting pomp. Twitched from the perch, He gives the princely bird, with all his wives, To his voracious bag, struggling in vain, And loudly wondering at the sudden change. Nor this to feed his own. 'Twere some excuse Did pity of their sufferings warp aside His principle, and tempt him into sin For their support, so destitute.
455 Neglected, pine at home; themselves, as more Exposed than others, with less scruple made His victims, robbed of their defenceless all. Cruel is all he does. 'Tis quenchless thirst Of ruinous ebriety, that prompts
460 His every action, and imbrutes the man. O for a law to noose the villain's neck Who starves his own; who persecutes the blood He gave them in his children's veins, and hates And wrongs the woman he has sworn to love!
Pass where we may, through city or through town, Village or hamlet, of this merry land, Though lean and beggared, every twentieth pace
Conducts the unguarded nose to such a whiff
Of stale debauch, forth-issuing from the styes 470
That law has licensed, as makes temperance reel.
There sit, involved and lost in curling clouds
Of Indian fume, and guzzling deep, the boor,
The lackey, and the groom; the craftsman there
Takes a Lethean leave of all his toil;
Smith, cobbler, joiner, he that plies the shears,
And he that kneads the dough; all loud alike,
All learned and all drunk. The fiddle screams
Plaintive and piteous, as it wept and wailed
Its wasted tones and harmony unheard,
Fierce the dispute, whate'er the theme; while she,
Fell Discord, arbitress of such debate,
Perched on the signpost, holds with even hand
Her undecisive scales. In this she lays
A weight of ignorance; in that, of pride;
And smiles delighted with the eternal poise.
Dire is the frequent curse, and its twin sound
The cheek distending oath, not to be praised
As ornamental, musical, polite,
Like those which modern senators employ,
Whose oath is rhetoric, and who swear for fame.
Behold the schools, in which plebeian minds,
Once simple, are initiated in arts
Which some may practise with politer grace,
But none with readier skill! 'Tis here they learn
The road that leads from competence and peace 496
To indigence and rapine; till at last
Society, grown weary of the load,
Shakes her encumbered lap, and casts them out.
But censure profits little; vain the attempt 500
To advertise in verse a public pest,
That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds
His hungry acres, stinks, and is of use.
The excise is fattened with the rich result
Of all this riot; and ten thousand casks,
505 Forever dribbling out their base contents, Touched by the Midas fingero of the State, Bleed gold for ministers to sport away. Drink, and be mad then; 'tis your country bids ! Gloriously drunk, obey the important call ! Her cause demands the assistance of your throats; Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.
Would I had fallen upon those happier days That poets celebrate; those golden times And those Arcadian scenes that Maroo sings, And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose. Nymphs were Dianas° then, and swains had hearts That felt their virtues: Innocence, it seems, From courts dismissed, found shelter in the groves. The footsteps of simplicity, impressed
520 Upon the yielding herbage (so they sing), Then were not all effaced; then speech profane, And manners profligate, were rarely found, Observed as prodigies, and soon reclaimed. Vain wish! those days were never; airy dreams 525 Sat for the picture; and the poet's hand,