Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

THE TASK.

BOOK I.

THE SOFA.

I sing the Sofa. I who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity*, and touch'd with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escap'd with pain from that advent'rous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
Th’occasion-for the Fair commands the song.

Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use, Save their own painted skins, our sires had none. As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth,

[blocks in formation]

Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy piles
The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Wash'd by the sea, or on the grav'lly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearless of wrong, repos'd his weary strength.
Those barb'rous ages past, succeeded next
The birthday of Invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created; on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms:
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear
May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through.

At length a generation more refin'd Improv'd the simple plan; made three legs four, Gave them a twisted form vermicular, And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuff'd, Induc'd a splendid cover, green and blue, Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought

[ocr errors]

And woven close, or needlework sublime.
There might ye see the piony spread wide,
The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.

[ocr errors]

Now came the cane from India smooth and bright
With Nature's varnish; sever'd into stripes,
That interlac'd each other, these supplied
Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd
The new machine, and it became a chair.
But restless was the chair; the back erect
Distress’d the weary loins, that felt no ease;
The slipp'ry seat betray'd the sliding part,
That press’d it, and the feet hung dangling down,
Anxious in vain to find the distant floor.
These for the rich; the rest, whom Fate had plac'd
In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix'd,
If cushion might be calld, what harder seem'd
Than the firm oak, of which the frame was form’d.

[ocr errors]

No want of timber then was felt or fear'd In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood Pond'rous and fix'd by it's own massy weight. But elbows still were wanting; these, some say, An alderman of Cripplegate contriv'd; And some ascribe th' invention to a priest, Burly, and big, and studious of his ease. But rude at first, and not with easy slope Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs, And bruis'd the side; 'and, elevated high, Taught the rais'd shoulders to invade the ears. Long time elaps'd or e'er our rugged sires Complain’d, though incommodiously pent in, And ill at ease behind. The ladies first 'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex. Ingenious Fancy, never better pleas'd, Than when employ'd t'accomodate the fair, Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis’d The soft settee; one elbow at each end, And in the midst an elbow it receiv’d, United yet divided, twain at once. So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne; And so two citizens, who take the air, Close pack'd, and smiling in a chaise and one,

But relaxation of the languid frame,
By soft recumbency of outstretch'd limbs,
Was bliss reserv'd for happier days. So slow
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
T'attain perfection in this nether world,
Thus first Necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbowchairs,
And Luxury th’accomplish’d sofa last.

The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick, Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he, Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour, To sleep within the carriage more secure, His legs depending at the open door. Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk, The tedious rector drawling o'er his head; And sweet the clerk below. But neither sleep Of lazy nurse, who snores the sick man dead; Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour, To slumber in the carriage more secure; Nor sleep enjoy'd by curate in his desk; Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, are sweet, Compar'd with the repose the sofa yields.

« ПредишнаНапред »