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Till some fierce tide, with more imperious sway
Sweeps the low hut and all it holds away;
When the sad tenant weeps from door to door,
And begs a poor protection from the poor!'
But these are scenes where Nature's niggard hand
Gave a spare portion to the famished land;
Hers is the fault, if here mankind complain
Of fruitless toil and labour spent in vain;
But yet in other scenes more fair in view,
Where Plenty smiles-alas! she smiles for few-
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore-
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.
Or will you deem them amply paid in health,
Labour's fair child, that languishes with wealth?
Go, then! and see them rising with the sun,
Through a long course of daily toil to run;
See them beneath the Dog-star's raging heat,
When the knees tremble and the temples beat;
Behold them, leaning on their scythes, look o'er
The labour past, and toils to come explore;
See them alternate suns and showers engage,
And hoard up aches and anguish for their age;
Through fens and marshy moors their steps pursue,
When their warm pores imbibe the evening dew;
Then own that labour may as fatal be
To these thy slaves, as thine excess to thee.
Amid this tribe too oft a manly pride
Strives in strong toil the fainting heart to hide;
There may you see the youth of slender frame
Contend with weakness, weariness, and shame;
Yet, urged along, and proudly loth to yield,
He strives to join his fellows of the field;
Till long-contending, nature droops at last,
Declining health rejects his poor repast,
His cheerless spouse the coming danger sees,
And mutual murmurs urge the slow disease.
Yet grant them health, 'tis not for us to tell, Though the head droops not, that the heart is well; Or will you praise that homely, healthy fare, Plenteous and plain, that happy peasants share!
Oh! trifle not with wants you cannot feel,
Nor mock the misery of a stinted meal;
Homely, not wholesome, plain, not plenteous, such
As you who praise, would never deign to touch.
Ye gentle souls, who dream of rural ease,
Whom the smooth stream and smoother sonnet please;
Go! if the peaceful cot your praises share,
Go look within, and ask if peace be there;
If peace be his, that drooping weary sire;
Or theirs, that offspring round their feeble fire;
Or hers, that matron pale, whose trembling hand
Turns on the wretched hearth th' expiring brand.
Nor yet can Time itself obtain for these
Life's latest comforts, due respect and ease;
For yonder see that hoary swain, whose age
Can with no cares except its own engage;
Who, propped on that rude staff, looks up to see
The bare arms broken from the withering tree,
On which, a boy, he climbed the loftiest bough,
Then his first joy, but his sad emblem now.
He once was chief in all the rustic trade;
His steady hand the straightest furrow made;
Full many a prize he won, and still is proud
To find the triumphs of his youth allowed;
A transient pleasure sparkles in his eyes,
He hears and smiles, then thinks again and sighs;
For now he journeys to his grave in pain;
The rich disdain him; nay, the poor disdain:
Alternate masters now their slave command,
Urge the weak efforts of his feeble hand,
And, when his age attempts its task in vain,
With ruthless taunts, of lazy poor complain.
Oft may you see him, when he tends the sheep,
His winter charge, beneath the hillock weep;
Oft hear him murmur to the winds that blow
O’er his white locks and bury them in snow,
When, roused by rage and muttering in the morn,
He mends the broken hedge with icy thorn:-
“Why do I live, when I desire to be
At once from life and life's long labour free?
Like leaves in spring, the young are blown away,
Without the sorrows of a slow decay;
I, like yon withered leaf, remain behind,
Nipped by the frost, and shivering in the wind;
There it abides till younger buds come on
As I, now all my fellow-swains are gone;
Then from the rising generation thrust,
It falls, like me, unnoticed to the dust.
“These fruitful fields, these numerous flocks I see,
Are others' gain, but killing cares to me;
To me the children of my youth are lords,
Cool in their looks, but hasty in their words:
Wants of their own demand their care; and who
Feels his own want and succours others too?
A lonely, wretched man, in pain I go,
None need my help, and none relieve my woe;
Then let my bones beneath the turf be laid,
And men forget the wretch they would not aid.'
Thus groan the old, till by disease oppressed, They taste a final woe, and then they rest.
Theirs is yon house that holds the parish poor, Whose walls of mud scarce bear the broken door; There, where the putrid vapours, flagging, play, And the dull wheel hums doleful through the day; There children dwell who know no parents' care; Parents, who know no children's love, dwell there! Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed, Forsaken wives, and mothers never wed; Dejected widows with unheeded tears, And crippled age with more than childhood fears; The lame, the blind, and, far the happiest they! The moping idiot, and the madman gay. Here too the sick their final doom receive, Here brought, amid the scenes of grief, to grieve, Where the loud groans from some sąd chamber flow, Mixed with the clamours of the crowd below; Here, sorrowing, they each kindred sorrow scan, And the cold charities of man to man: Whose laws indeed for ruined age provide, And strong compulsion plucks the scrap from pride; But still that scrap is bought with many a sigh, And pride embitters what it can't deny.
Say, ye, oppressed by some fantastic woes, Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose;
Who press the downy couch, while slaves advance
With timid eye to read the distant glance;
Who with sad prayers the weary doctor tease
To name the nameless, ever-new, disease;
Who with mock patience dire complaints endure,
Which real pain, and that alone, can cure;
How would ye bear in real pain to lie,
Despised, neglected, left alone to die?
How would ye bear to draw your latest breath
Where all that's wretched paves the way for death?
Such is that room which one rude beam divides,
And naked rafters form the sloping sides;
Where the vile bands that bind the thatch are seen,
And lath and mud are all that lie between,
Save one dull pane that, coarsely patched, gives way
To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day:
Here on a matted flock, with dust o'erspread,
The drooping wretch reclines his languid head;
For him no hand the cordial cup applies,
Or wipes the tear that stagnates in his eyes;
No friends with soft discourse his pain beguile,
Or promise hope till sickness wears a smile.
But soon a loud and hasty summons calls, Shakes the thin roof, and echoes round the walls; Anon, a figure enters, quaintly neat, All pride and business, bustle and conceit; With looks unaltered by these scenes of woe, With speed that, entering, speaks his haste to go, He bids the gazing throng around him fly, And carries fate and physic in his eye: A potent quack, long versed in human ills, Who first insults the victim whom he kills; Whose murderous hand a drowsy Bench protect, And whose most tender mercy is neglect. Paid by the parish for attendance here, He wears contempt upon his sapient sneer; In haste he seeks the bed where misery lies, Impatience marked in his averted eyes; And, some habitual queries hurried o’er, Without reply he rushes on the door: His drooping patient, long inured to pain, And long unheeded, knows remonstrance vain;
He ceases now the feeble help to crave
Of man; and silent sinks into the grave.
But ere his death some pious doubts arise,
Some simple fears, which bold bad' men despise;
Fain would he ask the parish-priest to prove
His title certain to the joys above:
For this he sends the murm'ring nurse, who calls
The holy stranger to these dismal walls:
And doth not he, the pious man, appear,
He, 'passing rich with forty pounds a year?'
Ah! no; a shepherd of a different stock,
And far unlike him, feeds this little flock:
A jovial youth, who thinks his Sunday's task
As much as God or man can fairly ask;
The rest he gives to loves and labours light,
To fields the morning, and to feasts the night;
None better skilled the noisy pack to guide,
To urge their chase, to cheer them or to chide;
sportsman keen, he ots through half the day, And, skilled at whist, devotes the night to play: Then, while such honours bloom around his head, Shall he sit sadly by the sick man's bed, To raise the hope he feels not, or with zeal To combat fears that e'en the pious feel ?
And hark! the riots of the green begin,
That sprang at first from yonder noisy inn;
What time the weekly pay was vanished all,
And the slow stess scored the threatening wall;
What time they asked, their friendly feast to close,
A final cup, and that will make them foes;
When blows ensue that break the arm of toil,
And rustic battle ends the boobies' broil.
Save when to yonder hall they bend their way,
Where the grave justice ends the grievous fray;
He who recites, to keep the poor in awe,
The law's vast volume—for he knows the law:-
To him with anger or with shame repair
The injured peasant and deluded fair.
Lo! at his ne the ilent nymph appears,
Frail by her shape, but modest in her tears;