The snow's dissolv'd, the chilly winter's fled, And all its gloomy hurricanes o'erpast. Now blooming Spring, in greenest mantle dress'd, Adorn'd with flow'rets wild of various hues, Comes smiling forth, borne on th'expanded wings Of zephyrs sweet, attended by her train, Gay Laughter, frolic Joy, and sprightly Mirth. At her approach, what raptures swell the breast: The rivers, bound no longer by the chain Of hoary winter, murm'ring soothe the ear. Nature, recov'ring from her languid state, Rejoices at the change, and welcomes Spring. Behold th'ascending sun, his feeble rays Scarce piercing thro' the misty atmosphere; Yet his gteat influence and genial warmth Call vegetation forth. See all around The flow'rs impatient to disclose their bloom, Their honey'd stores just op'ning on the sight, To welcome animating Spring's return. The snow--drop, earliest of the feeble few, Shoots boldly forth ere Winter's rage is spent, Emblem of Innocence, with down--cast head, Asham'd to shew its beauty to the world. How different seems the tulip, gaudy flow'r! How gaily deck'd, yet priz'd but for its shew! So shines the witless beau--vain, tinsell'd thing!-- That glides thro' life unnotic'd but for dress. The humble violet, like modest Worth, So oft unheeded, with the primrose dwells, 'Mid brambl'd glades, or on the moss--grown bank. Meek pair! thus Virtue often lives retir'd, Unknown to Fashion, or her glitt'ring train, And droops unseen far from Life's busy crowd! With odorif'rous breath, the lily pale Seems fairer than Melissa's snowy breast; While the gay rose, full swelling in the bud, Pride of the garden, opes its vernal sweets, And mocks the town--bred lady's boasted charms. Ye fair, who proudly shine in borrow'd dyes, Still scorning artless Modesty, whose bloom Denotes fresh health, and far outvies the rouge, Why vainly strive to rival this gay flow'r?-- Your artful fragrance ne'er can be compar'd With the exhaling sweetness of the rose. Since life is chequer'd by a thousand ills, That Fate hath wisely order'd man to bear, And beauty is at best a gilded toy, A glitt'ring bauble, plaything of an hour, That oft unthinking Folly doth ensnare, Happiest is he who, led by mental charms, That cheer the mind, e'en 'midst Misfortune's gloom, Nor fade but in the wintry arms of Death. Since then 'tis vain to prize what soon decays, Let each weak flow'r that decks the gay parterre, Or sheds around its odours on the plain, An useful lesson to frail man impart, And seem a little moralizing friend. How oft we see them nipp'd by piercing frosts, Or blasted in the bud. Just so it fares With Virtue, whom the wintry storms of Vice Too oft assail, and crush before it blooms. Like flow'rs, we shoot in youth, life's budding spring; Like them we bend beneath the storms of Fate, And fall at age, life's winter's keen approach. Now, by the vivifying heat of Spring, The twitt'ring swallow from her torpor wakes: Rejoic'd she skims the surface of the deep, And oft disturbs the angler by the stream, Telling the joy she feels to all around. Arise, she cries, behold gay Spring is come! Ye swains, brisk Labour calls you to the fields; Health, rose--cheek'd Health, invites you to her bow'r, And spreads for you her floral carpet round. Ye cheerful songsters of the woods, awake, And greet gay Spring, in liveliest verdure deck'd; Let woods and groves seem vocal with your lays, Singing the beauties of the smiling year. Sweet season! welcome to yon sportive train Of younkers, who attend the village school. Methinks I see them, at the well--known hour, When Eve's approach lulls ev'ry care to rest, No longer forc'd to dread the haughty frown, The look pedantic, or the stern command, Of him who much doth boast, yet never sought The sullen village wonder, Wisdom's path, Nor trod the maze of Science, proud to reign A self--taught despot o'er a feeble few, Who, from the shackles of confinement freed, Like prisoners 'scaping from a dungeon's gloom, With Liberty o'erjoy'd, they revel round, And shew to man how soon the youthful mind Pants to throw off restraint.--O Liberty! Dear art thou to mankind, celestial maid! Whose name the boastful hireling hears appall'd; I do adore thee, wand'rer tho' thou art! Too little known--and known, too little priz'd. Thou light refulgent, that canst ever cheer The lowly traveller on his lonely way O'er life's dull path--sweet goddess, hear my pray'r, And deign to visit oft my humble cell! Grant me thy smiles, I ask not pow'r or wealth-- Pow'r that blind Fortune oft to th'worthless gives, To rob e'en Misery of her hard--earn'd store. Aye in thy train dwells laughter--loving Health; And she, coy maid, who loves the hill and dale, Straying with Innocence the russet meads, Far from the dazzling splendour of the court-- She whom the artless shepherds name Content, Whose smile no tyrant's ill--gain'd wealth can buy. Dread of Ambition wild and pamper'd Pride, Rapacious rulers of the blood--stain'd earth, Who break the strongest link of Nature's chain, And make e'en murder pleasure--war a trade; At whose command pale Famine stalks around, And thousands drink the bitter cup of woe. Without thee, life moves slow from day to day; And man, the cheerless pilgrim, sorrowing bends Beneath his burden painful, journeying on His threescore years of sadness; and at length Bids welcome to the friendly stroke of Death. E'en such were Gallia's sons, degenerate race! Who bow'd supinely to licentious sway; Of Britons and their neighb'ring states the scorn. I am a Briton, and I love to hear Of nations struggling in the cause of truth, Tearing Corruption from her baseless seat, To gain for man what Reason calls his own. E'en so did Frenchmen, envy of the world, In arts unrivall'd as in arms renown'd. Rous'd by thy presence, how the noble mind Contemns the fetters that would man enslave; And as the stars evanish from the light, So Superstition and Oppression base Their influence yield when Liberty appears. Again fond Fancy marks the village band, And Retrospection lingers with delight On hours ``ere Sorrow had proclaim'd me man.'' Their's is life's spring: no brooding cares intrude; No sorrows damp the moments due to sport. Some rig the feeble bark with nautic pride, And, anxious, see it by the gale o'erset, Like the vain youth who boldly ventures down The dang'rous stream of Pleasure. Others rove With eager haste across far distant meads, Thro' briary copse, or thick entangl'd wood, Watching each passing day, with prying care, The half--fledg'd brood of linnet, lark, or thrush; Or boldly clamb'ring up the branching pine, To rob the stock--dove of her tender charge. O Cruelty! thou baneful foe to youth! Seizing his mind ere Virtue guides his steps, At once thy willing votary he submits, And lordly man, pride of his Maker's works, Becomes a very tyrant in his sphere. Ah, age of bliss! how oft, with dire regret, Must painful Memory weep at pleasures past; How oft recal the hours of life's fair morn, Scenes of fond youth, that like the seasons change; But change not, like the seasons, to return! Then infant Fancy, by false Hope beguil'd, Unnumber'd joys so wantonly pourtray'd. Sweet was the prospect, and I lov'd to trace And dwell on scenes of perfect happiness. Delusive dream, that once could lull to rest Each little care this artless bosom knew, Ere I had ventur'd on life's billowy sea, Ere I had learn'd to brave the storms of Fate, Th'ungrateful taunt that mocks another's woe, Or guard against the world and all its snares! Thus, when the mariner affrighted hears The awful murmurs of th'impendent storm, Of ireful tempest, and the lightning's glare, Awhile forgetful, e'en at Death's approach, Fond Fancy wafts him to his native shore, And paints some dear lov'd image to his sight: A mistress fair, who weeps, but vainly weeps; A faithful friend, who hopes his safe return: Pleasures remember'd steal upon his mind, And force for what is past the painful sigh. Again he clings to Hope, whose cheering ray The fainting mind lights to its wish'd--for haven. Each hedge and coppice now seem clad in green, And every tree in opening foliage stands. How chang'd the forest, and what various hues Arrest the wond'ring eye; whilst to the ear The song of cheerful Labour and the stroke Of woodman distant sound along the dell. Again the stately oak puts forth its leaves, Whose stem so late was clad with crusted snow, Forming the shade of many a rural sport, The harmless gambol, or the sprightly dance, That cheers the rustic when his labour's o'er, And makes industry seem a pleasing toil. Hither the pensive village youth repairs, When roscid Evening steals along the plain, And, whisp'ring, tells of innocence and love Tales artless as the blushing maid he woos. How sweet the concert heard from spray to spray, In notes melodious; whilst along the woods Echo returns the heart--enliv'ning lays. No music soothes like yours the listning ear, Ye minstrels gay, whose care--beguiling songs So oft arrest the wearied traveller's feet; Whose harmony wild--warbling hails the morn, And plaintive orisons mourn close of day. Sweeter the matin of the soaring lark, The mellow blackbird's evening call of love, Or philomela's dirge, when all is hush'd, Than the fam'd organ's hoarsely--swelling note, Or labour'd concert, clamorously loud. When Folly's sons are reeling home to rest, And sleepless anguish shrinks at day's broad glare, Oft let me trace the dewy meads, to hear The woodland choir give welcome to the sun, And bid the shepherd quit his humble bed To tend his fleecy care. Ah, happy state! Far from each vice that haunts the polish'd town! Tho' shut in lowly hut by Winter's breath, Pensive he thro' his tatter'd casement views The pendent icicles hang from his roof, The dreary prospect of his whiten'd fields, The frowning mountains and the leafless trees, Or hears the wind hoarse murm'ring thro' the vale, Whirling the flaky snow in furious blasts, Yet say, ye gay deck'd sons of Pride and Wealth, Ye vaunting nothings of life's summer day, Who heed not struggling Merit's modest pray'r, Merit that, unprotected, blooms and dies; Who spurn at humble Poverty's hard fare, And think that Honesty is but a name; Say what true joys doth life to you afford? Alas! tho' pamp'ring Lux'ry on you waits, 'Tis but too oft a daily scene of vice: Heedless you hurry on a short career Down the steep precipice that leads to ruin, Not daring to reflect on what is past. How strange that man should careless risk his all, Both in this world and that which is to come, For a self--fancied shadow fools call Pleasure! Just view the peaceful shepherd on the plain; See ruddy health adorn his cheerful face; Hear him contented tune his past'ral pipe, Or sing his artless ditties of fond love; Then say, can all the grandeur of the east, For which e'en monarchs wade thro' seas of blood, And sink in desolation peopled states, Buy half the happiness he still enjoys? Few cares his tranquil bosom e'er invade; Contentment, sweet companion, cheers his days, And Peace his humble pillow guards by night. No guilty pangs disturb his noon--tide rest, When stretch'd beneath the hawthorn shade he lies, Unknown to him is Vice, accurs'd lamia, That, cover'd by weak Fashion's gaudy mask, Lures the unwary wand'rer from his path! His dog the constant comrade of each hour: Fond, faithful animal! how much unlike Deceitful man, who boasts of Reason's laws, Yet offers friendship only to betray! The artless shepherd, far from Pride's gay seat, Industrious follows Virtue's golden rule; And, cheer'd by meek Religion's brightning rays, Still scorns whate'er he thinks degrades his name. Transported now the pencill'd artist sees The landscape smile around. Each forest scene Wears a new robe that youthful fancy aids. Transported now Orlando loves to roam, What time the sun, with animating glow, Steals down the saffron'd west, his fainting rays Cheq'ring with various tints the sloping wood; Led by the murm'ring of the gilded stream To seek the grove thick shaded o'er with trees, The moss--grown bank, or unfrequented glade, Where, far from riot or tumultuous noise, He follows Nature in her wildest haunts; She who first taught him, with a mother's care, To taste of joys that never fail to please; She who first taught his infant steps to bend Tow'rds Wisdom's flow'ry, unfrequented path, Where all is sweet retirement, peace, and love. Inspir'd by her, he copies oft the scene Where beauties picturesque can charm the mind; Inspir'd by her, he sings fair Virtue's praise In numbers tuneful, or the pow'r of love, And woos with her the wood--nymph Solitude. Now the expanding mind, that, like a flow'r Half open'd by the cheering rays of spring, Tires with the fancied pleasures of the town, Where Virtue, timid as the harmless hare, Is close pursu'd by Slander's yelping pack; Where haggard Vice reigns with despotic sway, Fell Envy, Pride, and Folly in her train. The calm contemplatist still loves to dwell Secluded from the town's mistaken joys, And seeks Contentment in the rural shade, Where Nature smiles around in varied hues; For what can more delight the busy eye, Or fill with greater joy the anxious mind, Than to behold the landscape spread around, In liveliest colours dress'd--vast sight sublime! The sloping hills by tow'ring trees o'erarch'd; The verdant meads with gayest flow'rs bedeck'd, The fields of rising grain, transporting sight! When waving by the Evening's gentle breeze-- A plenteous prospect for the ploughman's toil. What are th'encircling columns, splendid domes, Of glitt'ring palaces, or halls of state, The costly mansion, the gay lordling's pride, The labour'd grottos, or the mazy walks Of gardens tame, dispos'd by feeble Art, Where man, presumptuous, Nature would excel! Compare them with the peasant's ivy'd cot, But form'd a friendly shelter to afford From beating rains and Winter's piercing breath. Tho' haughty Grandeur scorns his humble roof, And wond'ring Folly flies from Virtue's seat, Yet honest Industry calls him her own; And, Grandeur, Folly, and Ambition, know, 'Tis by his hardy toil and sweating brow That you support a life of affluence, Of luxury, and self--devouring Sloth. Tho' for his board the clust'ring grape ne'er yields Its juice luxurious; yet his cattle give The wholesome, boasted beverage of man, Priz'd ere the cultur'd vine had pow'r to steal From him his reason. Tho' before his gate No artful fountains, deck'd with sculptur'd nymphs, Afford him water; still the neighb'ring springs Salute his ear, as from the rugged clifts, Or summits of the rocks, they murm'ring fall In loud cascades: he sees them rivulets form, Laving their osier'd banks from steep to steep, In soft meanders gliding thro' the vale:-- Nature, great mistress, forms the peasant's walks, His groves umbrageous, and his cool retreats, That Art presumes in vain to imitate.
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