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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
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charg'd with am'rous sighs of absent swains, 20
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But O, th' important budget ! usher'd in
With such heart-shaking musick, who can say
What are its tidings ? have our troops awak'd ? 25
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg’d,
Snore to the murmurs of th' Atlantick wave
Is India free? and does she wear her plum'd
And jeweld turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still ? The grand debate, 30
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logick, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh-I long to know them all;
I burn to set th' imprison'd wranglers free,
And give them voice and uttrance once again.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful ev'ning in.
Not such his ev’ning, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeez'd
And bor'd with elbow points through both his sides,
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage :
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroick rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
This folio of four pages happy work!
Which not e'en criticks criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break ;
What is it, but a map of busy life,
Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns ?
Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge,
That tempts Ambition. On the summit see
The seals of office glitter in his eyes ;
He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels 60
Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
And with a dextrous jerk soon twists him down,
And wins them, but to lose them in his turn.
Here rills of oily eloquence, in soft
Meanders lubricate the course they take;
65 The modest speaker is asham'd and griev'd, T'engross a moment's notice; and yet begs, Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts, However trivial, all that he conceives. Sweet bashfulness; it claims at least this praise : 70 The dearth of information and good sense That it foretells us always comes to pass. Cataracts of declamation thnnder 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 lilies for the brows of faded age,
80 Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald, Heav'n, earth, and ocean, plundered of their sweets, Nectareous essences, Olympian dews, Sormons, and city feasts, and fav'rite airs, Æthereal journeys, submarine exploits,
85 And Katterfelto, with his hair on end At his own wonders, wond'ring for his bread.
'Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
To peep at such a world ; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd ; 90
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 advanced 95
To some secure and more than mortal height,
That liberates 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 100
Has lost its terrours 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, 105
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 for me.
He travels, and I too. I tread his deck,
Ascend his topmast through his peering eyes 115
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.
O Winter, ruler of th' inverted year,
120 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 wrapp'd in clouds, A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne 125 A sliding car, indebted to no wheels,
But urg'd by storms along its slipp'ry way,
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st,
And dreaded as thou art! Thou hold'st the sun
A pris’ner in the yet undawning east,
Short'ning his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west : but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gath’ring, at short notice, in one group
The family dispers’d, and fixing thought,
Not less dispers’d by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, homeborn happiness, 140
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturh'd Retirement, and the hours
Of long, uninterrupted ev’ning know.
No rattling wheels stop short before these gates;
No powderd pert proficient in the art
Of sounding an alarm, assaults these doors
Till the street rings; no stationary steeds
Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound,
The silent circle fan themselves, and quake;
But here the needle plies its busy task,
The pattern grows, the well-depicted flow'r,
Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
And curling tendrils, gracefully dispos'd,
Follow the nimble finger of the fair ;
A wreath, that cannot fade, or flow'rs that blow
With most success when all besides decay.
The poet's or historian's page by one
Made vocal for th' amusement of the rest : 159
The sprightly lyre, whose treasure of sweet sounds
The touch from many a trembling chord shakes out;
And the clear voice symphonious, yet distinct,
And in the charming strife triumphant still,
Beguile the night, and set a keener edge
On female industry: the threaded steel
Flies swiftly, and unfelt the task proceeds.
The volume clos'd, the customary rites
Of the last meal commence.
A Roman meal:
Such as the mistress of the world once found
Delicious, when her patriots of high note,
Perhaps by moonlight, at their humble doors,
And under an old oak's domestick shade,
Enjoy'd, spare feast ! a radish and an egg.
Discourse ensues, not trivial, yet not dull,
Nor such as with a frown forbids the play
Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth:
Nor do we madly, like an impious World,
Who deem religion frenzy, and the God
That made them an intruder on their joys,
Start at his awful name, or deem his praise
A jarring note. Themes of a graver tone
Exciting oft our gratitude and love,
While we retrace with Mem'ry's pointing wand,
That calls the past to our exact review,
The dangers we have 'scaped, the broken snare,
The disappointed foe, deliv'rance found
Unlook'd for, life preserv'd, and peace restor'da
Fruits of omnipotent eternal love.
O ev'nings worthy of the gods! exclaim'd
The Sabine bard. O ev'nings, I reply,
More to be priz'd and coveted than yours,
As more illumin'd, and with nobler truths,
That I, and mine, and those we love, enjoy.
Is Winter hideous in a garb like this?
Needs he the tragick fur, the smoke of lamps,
The pent-up breath of an unsav'ry throng,
To thaw him into feeling, or the smart
And snappish dialogue, that flippant wits
Call comedy, to prompt him with a smile ?
The self-complacent actor, when he views
(Stealing a sidelong glance at a full house)
The slope of faces, from the floor to th' roof,