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THE CHOICE. It Heaven the grateful liberty would give, that I might choose my inethod how to live; and all those hours propitious Fate should lend, in blissful ease and satisfaction spend;
Near some fair townI'd have a private seat, built uniforin, not little, nor too great; better, if on a rising ground it stood; on this side fields, on that a neighbouring wood. It should within no other things contain, but what are useful, necessary, plain: methinks 'tis nauseous; and I'd ne'er endure the needless pomp of gaudy furniture. A little garden, grateful to the eye; and a cool rivulet run murmuring by: on whose delicious banks a stately row of shady limes, or sycąmores, should grow. At th' end of which a silent study plac'd, should be with all the noblest authors grac'd; Horace and Virgil, in whose mighty lines immortal wit, and solid learning, shines; sharp Juvenal, and amorous Ovid too, who all the turns of love's soft passion knew: he that with judgınent reads his charming lines, in which strong art with stronger nature joins, must grant his fancy does the best excel; his thoughts so tender, and express'd so well: with all those moderns, men of steady sense, esteem'd for learning, and for eloquence. In some of these, as fancy should advise, I'd always take my morning exercises
for sure no minutes bring us more content, than those in pleasing, useful studies spent.
I'd have a clear and competent estate, that I might live genteely, but not great: as much as I could moderately spend; a little more, sometimes t oblige a friend. Nor should the sons of poverty repine too much at fortune, they should taste of mine; and all that objects of true pity were, should be relier'd with what my wants could spare; for that our Maker has too largely given, should be return'd in gratitude to Heaven, A frugal plenty should my table spread; with healthy, not luxurious, dishes spread; enough to satisfy, and something more, to feed the stranger, and the neighbouring poor. Strong meat indulges vice, and pampering food creates diseases, and inflames the blood. But what's sufficient to make nature strong, and the bright lamp of life continue long, I'd freely take; and, as I did possess, the bounteous Author of my plenty bless.
I'd have a little vault, but always stor'd with the best wines each vintage could afford. Wine whets the wit, improves it's native force, and gives a pleasant flavour to discourse; by making all our spirits debonair, throws off the lees, the sediment of care. But as the greatest blessing heaven lends may be debauch'd, and serve ignoble ends; so, but too oft, the grape's refreshing juice does many mischievous effects produce. My house should no such rude disorders know, as from high drinking consequently flow;
nor would I use what was so kindly given, to the dishonour of indulgent Heaven. If any neighbour came, he should be free, us'd with respect, and not uneasy be, in my retreat, or to himself or me. What freedom, prudence, and right reason gave, all men may, with impunity, receive; but the least swerving from their rule 's too much; for what's forbidden us, 't is death to touch.
That life may be more comfortable yet, and all my joys retin'd, sincere, and great; I'd choose two friends, whose company would be a great advance to my felicity: well-born, of humours suited to my own, discreet, and men as well as books have known: brave, generous, witty, and exactly free froin loose behaviour, or formality: airy and prudent; merry, but not light; quick in discerning, and in judging right: secret they should be, faithful to their trust; in reasoning cool, strong, temperate, and just; obliging, open, without huffing, brave; brisk in gay talking, and in sober, grave: close in dispute, but not tenacious; try'd by solid reason, and let that decide: not prone to lust, revenge, or envious bate; nor busy medlers with intrigues of state: strangers to slander, and sworn foes to spite; not quarrelsome, but stout enough to fight; loyal, and pious, friends to Cæsar; true as dying Martyrs, to their Maker too. In their society I could not miss a permanent, sincere, substantial bliss.
[choose Would bounteous Heaven once more indulge, I'd
(for who would so much satisfaction lose
up the spring of life, and does impart fresh vital heat to the transported heart.
I'd have her reason all her passions sway: easy in company, in private gay: coy to a fop, to the deserving free; still constant to herself, and just to me. A soul she should have for great actions fit; prudence and wisdom to direct her wit: courage to look bold danger in the face; no fear, but only to be proud, or base; quick to advise, by an emergence prest, to give good counsel, or to take the best. I'd have th’expression of her thoughts be soch, she might not seem reserv'd, nor talk too much: that shews a want of judgment, and of sense; more than enough is but impertinence. Her conduct regular, her mirth refin’d; civil to strangers, to her neighbours kind: averse to vanity, revenge, and pride; in all the methods of deceit untry'd ; so faithful to her friend, and good to all, no censure might upon her actions fall: then would ev'n envy be compellid to say, she goes
the least of womankind astray. To this fair creature I'd sometimes retire; her conversation would new joys inspire; give life an edge so keen, no surly care would venture to assault my soul, or dare,
near my retreat, to hide one secret snare.
I'd be concern'd in no litigious jar; belov'd by all, not vainly popular. Whate'er assistance I had power to bring, t'oblige my country, or to serve my king, whene'er they call, I'd readily afford my tongue, my pen, my counsel, or my sword. Law suits I'd shun, with as much studious care, as I would dens where hungry lions are; and rather put up injuries, than be a plague to him, who'd be a plague to me. I value quiet at a price too great, to give for my revenge so dear a rate: for what do we by all our bustle gain, but counterfeit delight for real pain?
If Heaven a date of many years would give, thus I'd in pleasure, ease, and plenty live. And as I near approach'd the verge of life, some kind relation (for I'd have no wife) should take upon him all my worldly care, whilst I did for a better state prepare. Then I'd not be with any trouble verd, nor have the evening of my days perplex'd; but by a silent and a peaceful death, without a sigh, resign my aged breath. And when committed to the dust, I'd have few tears, but'friendly, dropt into my grave; then would my exit so propitious be, all men would wish to live and die like me.