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THE TASK.

BOOK IV.

ARGUMENT OF THE FOURTH BOOK

The post comes in.... The news-paper is read.... The

world contemplated at a distance.... Address to Winter.... The rural amusements of a winter evening compared with the fashionable ones....Address to evening.... A brown study....Fall of snow in the evening.... The waggoner...A poor family-piece.... The rural thief.... Public houses.... The multitude of them censured.... The farmer's daughter: what she was....what she is....The simplicity of country manners almost lost....Causes of the change...De. sertion of the country by the rich...Neglect of magistrates.... The militia principally in fault.... The new recruit and his transformation....Reflection on bodies corporate.... The love of rural objects natural to all, and never to be totally extinguished:

THE TASK.

BOOK IV.

THE WINTER EVENING.

HARK! 'tis the 'twanging horn o'er yonder bridge, That with its wearisome but needful length Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright; -"He comes, the herald of a noisy world, With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen

locks ; News from all nations lumb'ring at his back. True to his charge, the close-pack'd load behind, Yet careless what he brings, his one concern Is to conduct it to the destin'd inn; And, having dropp'd th' expected bag, pass on. He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch, Cold and yet cheerful : messenger of grief Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some ; To him indiff'rent whether grief or joy. Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks, Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet

Cat'racts of declamation thunder here ;
There forests of no meaning spread the page,
In which all comprehension wanders, lost;
While fields of pleasantry amuse us there
With
merry

descants on a nation's woes.
The rest appears a wilderness of strange
But gay confusion ; roses for the cheeks,
And lillies for the brows of faded age,
Tveth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald,
Heav'n, earth, and ocean, plunder'd of their sweets,
Nectareous essences, Olympian dews,
Sermons, and city feasts, and fav’rite airs,
Æthereal journies, submarine exploits,
And Katterfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wond'ring for his bread.

'Tis pleasant through the loop-holes of retreat To

peep at such a world ; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd ;
To hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on th’ uninjur'd ear.
Thus sitting, and surveying thus at ease
The globe and its concerns, I seem advanc'd
To some secure and more than mortal height,
That lib'rates and exempts me from them all
It turns submitted to my view, turns round
With all its generations ; I behold

The tumult, and am still. The sound of war
Has lost its terrors ere it reaches me ;
Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride
And av’rice that make man a wolf to man;
Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats
By which he speaks the language of his heart,
And sigh, but never tremble at the sound.
He travels and expatiates, as the bee
From flow'r to flow'r, so he from land to land ;
The manners, customs, policy, of all
Pay contribution to the store he gleans;
He sucks intelligence in ev'ry clime,
And spreads the honey of his deep research
At his return....a rich

repast
He travels, and I too. I tread his deck,
Ascend his topmast, through his peering eyes
Discover countries, with a kindred heart
Suffer his woes, and share in his escapes ;
While fancy, like the finger of a clock;
Runs the great circuit, and is still at home.

for me.

Oh Winter, ruler of th' inverted year, Thy scatter'd hair, with sleet like ashes fill'd, Thy breath congeal'd upon thy lips, thy cheeks Fring'd with a beard made white with other snows Than those of age, thy forehead wrapt in clouds, A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne A sliding car, indebted to no wheels;

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