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You, who the sweets of rural life have known,
Despise the' ungrateful hurry of the Town ;
In Windsor groves your easy hours employ,
And undisturb’d, yourself and Muse enjoy :
Thames listens to thy strains, and silent flows,
And no rude wind through rustling osiers blows,
While all his wondering nymps around thee throng,
To hear the Sirens warble in thy song.
But I, who ne'er was bless'd by Fortune's hand,
Nor brighten'd ploughshares in paternal land;
Long in the noisy Town have been immur'd,
Respir'd its smoke, and all its cares endur'd;
Where news and politics divide mankind,
And schemes of state involve the' uneasy mind;
Faction embroils the world, and every tongue
Is mov'd by flattery, or with scandal hung :
Friendship, for silvan shades, the palace flies,
Where all must yield to interest's dearer ties;
Each rival Machiavel with envy burns,
And honesty forsakes them all by turns;
While calumny upon each party's thrown,
Which both promote, and both alike disown.
Fatigu'd at last, a calm retreat I chose,
And sooth'd my harass'd mind with sweet repose,
Where fields, and shades, and the refreshing clime,
Inspire the silvan song, and prompt my rhyme.
My Muse shall rove thro' flowery meads and plains
And deck with Rural Sports her native strains,
And the same road ambitiously pursue,
Frequented by the Mantuan swain and you.
'Tis not that Rural Sports alone invite,
But all the grateful country breathes delight;
Here blooming Health exerts her gentle reign,
And strings the sinews of the industrious swain.
Soon as the morning lark salutes the day,
Through dewy fields I take my frequent way,
Where I behold the farmer's early care,
In the revolving labours of the year.
When the fresh Spring in all her state is crown'd,
And high luxuriant grass o'erspreads the ground,
The labourer with the bending scythe is seen,
Shaving the surface of the waving green ;
Of all her native pride disrobes the land,
And meads lays waste before his sweeping hand;
While with the mounting sun the meadow glows,
The fading herbage round he loosely throws;
But if some sign portend a lasting show'r,
The' experienc'd swain foresees the coming hour,
His sun-burnt hands the scattering fork forsake,
And ruddy damsels ply the saving rake;
In rising hills the fragrant harvest grows,
And spreads along the field in equal rows.
Now when the height of heaven bright Phæbus gains,
And level rays cleave wide the thirsty plains,
When heifers seek the shade and cooling lake,
And in the middle pathway basks the snake,
O lead me, guard me from the sultry hours !
Hide me, ye Forests ! in your closest bowers :
Where the tall oak his spreading arms entwines,
And with the beech a mutual shade combines ;
Where flows the murmuring brook, inviting dreams,
Where bordering hazel overhangs the streams,
Whose rolling current winding round and round,
With frequent falls makes all the wood resound,
Upon the mossy couch my limbs I cast,
And ev’n at noon the sweets of evening taste.
Here I peruse the Mantuan's Georgic strains,
And learn the labours of Italian swains ;
In every page I see new landscapes rise,
And all Hesperia opens to my eyes :
I wander o'er the various rural toil,
And know the nature of each different soil.
This waving field is gilded o'er with corn,
That, spreading trees with blushing fruit adorn;
Here I survey the purple vintage grow,
Climb round the poles, and rise in graceful row:
Now I behold the steed curvet and bound,
And paw with restless hoof the smoking ground :
The dewlap'd bull now chafes along the plain,
While burning love ferments in every vein ;
His weil-arm'd front against his rival aims,
And by the dint of war his mistress claims :
The careful insect midst his works I view,
Now from the flowers exhaust the fragrant dew;
With golden treasures load his little thighs,
And steer his distant journey through the skies ;
Some against hostile drones the hive defend,
Others with sweets the waxen cells distend;
Each in the toil his destin'd office bears,
And in the little bulk a mighty soul appears.
Or when the ploughman leaves the task of day,
And trudging homeward whistle on the way;
When the big-udder'd cows with patience stand,
Waiting the strokings of the damsel's hand;
No warbling cheers the woods; the feather'd choir
To court kind slumbers to their sprays retire ;
When no rude gale disturbs the sleeping trees,
Nor aspen leaves confess the gentlest breeze ;
Engag'd in thought, to Neptune's bounds I stray,
To take my farewell of the parting day ;
Far in the deep the sun his glory hides,
A streak of gold the sea and sky divides ;
The purple clouds their amber linings show,
And edg’d with flame rolls every wave below;
llere pensive I behold the fading light,
And o'er the distant billow lose my sight.
Now Night in silent state begins to rise, And twinkling orbs bestrow the uncloudy skies : Her borrow'd lustre growing Cynthia lends, And on the main a glittering path extends ; Millions of worlds hang in the spacious air, Which round their suns their annual circle steer ; Sweet contemplation elevates my sense, While I survey the works of Providence. O could the Muse loftier strains rehearse, The glorious Author of the universe, Who reins the winds, gives the vast ocean bounds, And circumscribes the floating worlds their rounds, My soul should overflow in sounds of praise, And my Creator's name inspire my lays !
As in successive course the seasons roll, So circling pleasures recreate the soul.
When genial Spring a living warmth bestows,
And o'er the year her verdant mantle throws,
No swelling inundation hides the grounds,
But crystal currents glide within their bounds;
The finny brood their wonted haunts forsake,
Float in the sun, and skim along the lake;
With frequent leap they range the shallow streams,
Their silver coats reflect the dazzling beams :
Now let the fisherman his toils prepare,
And arm himself with every wat’ry snare ;
His hooks, his lines, peruse with careful eye,
Increase his tackle, and his rod re-tie.
When floating clouds their spongy fleeces drain,
Troubling the streams with swift-descending rain,
And waters tumbling down the mountain's side,
Bear the loose soil into the swelling tide,
Then, soon as vernal gales begins to rise,
And drive the liquid burden through the skies,
The fisher to the neighbouring current speeds,
Whose rapid surface purls, unknown to weeds ;
Upon a rising border of the brook
He sits him down, and ties the treacherous hook ;
Now expectation cheers his eager thought,
His bosom glows with treasures yet uncaught;
Before his eyes a banquet seems to stand,
Where every guest applauds his skilful hand.
Far up the stream the twisted hair he throws, Which down the murmuring current gently flows; When if or chance or hunger's powerful sway Directs the roving trout this fatal way, He greedily sucks in the twining bait, And tugs and nibbles the fallacious meat: Now, happy fisherman ; now twitch the line ! How thy rod bends! behold, the prize is thine ! Cast on the bank, he dies, with gasping pains, And trickling blood his silver mail distains.
You must not every worm promiscuous use; Judgment will tell thee proper bait to choose ; The worm that draws a long immoderate size The trout abhors, and the rank morsel flies ; And if too small, the naked fraud's in sight, And fear forbids, while hunger does invite. Those baits will best reward the fisher's pains, Whose polish'd tails a shining yellow stains ; Cleanse them from filth, to give a tempting gloss, Cherish the sullied reptile race with moss;
Amid the verdant bed they twine, they toil,
And from their bodies wipe their native soil.
But when the sun displays his glorious beams,
And shallow rivers flow with silver streams,
Then the deceit the scaly breed survey,
Bask in the sun, and look into the day :
You now a more delusive art must try,
And tempt their hunger with the curious fly,
To frame the little animal, provide
All the gay hues that wait on female pride :
Let Nature guide thee; sometimes golden wire
The shining bellies of the fly require ;
The peacock’s plumes thy tackle must not fail,
Nor the dear purchase of the sable's tail.
Each gaudy bird some slender tribute brings,
And lends the growing insect proper wings:
Silks of all colours must their aid impart,
And every fur promote the fisher's art.
So the gay lady, with expensive care,
Borrows the pride of land, of sea, and air ;
Furs, pearls, and plumes, the glittering thing displays,
Dazzles our eyes, and easy hearts betrays.
Mark well the various seasons of the year, How the succeeding insect-race appear ; In this revolving moon one colour reigns, Which in the next the fickle trout disdains. Oft have I seen a skilful angler try The various colours of the treacherous fly; When he with fruitless pain hath skimm’d the brook, And the coy fish rejects the skipping hook, He shakes the boughs that on the margin grow, Which o'er the stream a waving forest throw, When if an insect fall (his certain guide) He gently takes him from the whirling tide, Examines well his form with curious eyes, His gaudy vest, his wings, his horns, and size ; Then round his hook the chosen fur he winds, And on the back a speckled feather binds; So just the colours shine through every part That Nature seems to live again in Art. Let not thy wary step advance too near, Whilst all thy hope hangs on a single hair ; The new-form'd insect on the water moves, The speckled trout the curious snare approves ; Upon the curling surface let it glide, With natural motion from thy hand supplied,