Robert Shiels: "Amongst the latest of Mr. Thomson's productions is his Castle of Indolence, a poem of so extraordinary merit, that perhaps we are not extravagant, when we declare, that this single performance discovers more genius and poetical judgment, than all his other works put together. We cannot here complain of want of plan, for it is artfully laid, naturally conducted, and the descriptions rise in a beautiful succession: It is written in imitation of Spenser's stile; and the obsolete words, with the simplicity of diction in some of the lines, which borders on the ludicrous, have been thought necessary to make the imitation more perfect" in Cibber, Lives of the Poets (1753) 5:205.
Joseph Warton: "Poor Pope was so weak and infirm, and his body required so many wrappers and coverings, that it was hardly possible for him to be neat.... Thomson speaks elegantly of his person, in that delightful poem, The Castle of Indolence, stanza the 33d. 'He came, the bard, a little Druid-wight, | Of wither'd aspect; but his eye was keen | With Sweetness mix'd'" Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope (1782) 2:330.
Charles Burton: "Thomson's Seasons are read by every body. His Castle of Indolence by few. Popular, however, as the former has been, the latter displays greater powers of mind, and greater richness of imagery" in The Bardiad; a Poem (1823) 87n.
A. Hamilton Thompson: "With the appearance, in the second canto, of the 'generous imp of fame' whose vigorous accomplishments are to be fatal to the wisard's abode, Thomson was easily betrayed into paths which his muse had trodden bare. After a life passed in varied climes, the Knight of Arts and Industry has at length found his proper home in Britain, encircled by the protection of Britannia's thunder on the main, and aided in his efforts by Liberty, 'th' Eternal Patron,' who handsomely atones for her overpowering egoism in an earlier poem by allowing him to encroach upon her extensive functions. The mechanic arts, the learning, the constitution of Britain, meet with due compliment. Threatened by the minions of Indolence, they are protected by the knight, who sets out to overthrow the castle. The song of the bard Philomelus, tuned to the British harp, stands in contrast to the song of Indolence, and proceeds through its fifteen stanzas with equal smoothness and fluency.... While these sentiments are polished with the care which distinguishes the whole poem, they are drawn from a stock-in-trade which Thomson and his contemporaries had well-nigh exhausted, and their commonplace nobility is at the very opposite pole to the grave philosophy of Spenser or to Milton's lofty morality" Cambridge History of English Literature (1913) 10:120.
An alternate version of the fifty-third stanza of Canto II was printed from manuscript in Notes and Queries (10 December 1938) 421: "As when, in vengeance of his pilfer'd cheese, | An Angry Cambrian has ensnar'd a Rat: | With rising Morn, th' astonish'd Felon sees | His Foes around, man, woman, dog, and cat: | He in his wiry Prison first lies squat; | Till, rous'd, he gnaws it with fell Fury keen; | But what , lewd Wretch, avails thy Rage? Ah! what? | Thou in the Toils of Fate art caught, I ween, | Happy for thee! had Cheese and Luxury ne'er been."
The Knight of Arts and Industry,
And his Atchievements fair;
That, by this Castle's Overthrow,
Secur'd, and crowned were.
Escap'd the Castle of the Sire of Sin,
Ah! where shall I so sweet a Dwelling find?
For all around without, and all within,
Nothing save what delightful was and kind,
Of Goodness savouring and a tender Mind,
E'er rose to View. But now another Strain,
Of doleful Note, alas! remains behind:
I now must sing of Pleasure turn'd to Pain,
And of the false Inchanter INDOLENCE complain.
Is there no Patron to protect the Muse,
And fence for her Parnassus' barren Soil?
To every Labour its Reward accrues,
And they are sure of Bread who swink and moil;
But a fell Tribe th' Aonian Hive despoil,
As ruthless Wasps oft rob the painful Bee:
Thus while the Laws not guard that noblest Toil,
Ne for the Muses other Meed decree,
They praised are alone, and starve right merrily.
I care not, Fortune, what you me deny:
You cannot rob me of free Nature's Grace;
You cannot shut the Windows of the Sky,
Through which Aurora shews her brightening Face:
You cannot bar my constant Feet to trace
The Woods and Lawns, by living Stream, at Eve:
Let Health my Nerves and finer Fibres brace,
And I their Toys to the great Children leave;
Of Fancy, Reason, Virtue, nought can me bereave.
Come then, my Muse, and raise a bolder Song;
Come, lig no more upon the Bed of Sloth,
Dragging the lazy languid Line along,
Fond to begin but still to finish loth,
Thy half-writ Scrolls all eaten by the Moth:
Arise, and sing that generous Imp of Fame,
Who, with the Sons of Softness nobly wroth,
To sweep away this Human Lumber came,
Or in a chosen Few to rouse the slumbering Flame.
In Fairy-Land there liv'd a Knight of old,
Of Feature stern, Selvaggio well yclep'd,
A rough unpolish'd Man, robust and bold,
But wondrous poor: he neither sow'd nor reap'd,
Ne Stores in Summer for cold Winter heap'd;
In Hunting all his Days away he wore;
Now scorch'd by June, now in November steep'd,
Now pinch'd by biting January sore,
He still in Woods pursu'd the Libbard and the Boar.
As he one Morning, long before the Dawn,
Prick'd through the Forest to dislodge his Prey,
Deep in the winding Bosom of a Lawn,
With Wood wild-fring'd, he mark'd a Taper's Ray,
That from the beating Rain, and wintry Fray,
Did to a lonely Cott his Steps decoy:
There, up to earn the Needments of the Day,
He found Dame Poverty, nor fair nor coy:
Her he compress'd, and fill'd Her with a lusty Boy.
Amid the green-wood Shade this Boy was bred,
And grew at last a Knight of muchel Fame,
Of active Mind and vigorous Lustyhed,
THE KNIGHT OF ARTS AND INDUSTRY by Name.
Earth was his Bed, the Boughs his Roof did frame;
He knew no Beverage but the flowing Stream;
His tasteful well-earn'd Food the silvan Game,
Or the brown Fruit with which the Wood-Lands teem:
The same to him glad Summer or the Winter breme.
So pass'd his youthly Morning, void of Care,
Wild as the Colts that through the Commons run:
For him no tender Parents troubled were,
He of the Forest seem'd to be the Son,
And certes had been utterly undone;
But that Minerva Pity of him took,
With all the Gods that love the Rural Wonne,
That teach to tame the Soil and rule the Crook;
Ne did the sacred Nine disdain a gentle Look.
Of fertile Genius him they nurtur'd well,
In every Science and in every Art,
By which Mankind the thoughtless Brutes excel,
That can or Use, or joy, or Grace impart,
Disclosing all the Powers of Head and Heart.
Ne were the goodly Exercises spar'd,
That brace the Nerves, or make the Limbs alert,
And mix elastic Force with Firmness hard:
Was never Knight on Ground mote be with him compar'd.
Sometimes, with early Morn, he mounted gay
The Hunter-steed, exulting o'er the Dale,
And drew the roseat Breath of orient Day;
Sometimes, retiring to the secret Vale,
Yclad in Steel and bright with burnish'd Mail,
He strain'd the Bow, or toss'd the sounding Spear,
Or darting on the Goal outstrip'd the Gale,
Or wheel'd the Chariot in its Mid-Career,
Or strenuous wrestled hard with many a tough Compeer.
At other Times he pry'd through Nature's Store,
Whate'er she in th' Etherial Round contains,
Whate'er she hides beneath her verdant Floor,
The vegetable and the mineral Reigns;
Or else he scann'd the Globe, those small Domains,
Where restless Mortals such a Turmoil keep,
Its Seas, its Floods, its Mountains, and its Plains;
But more he search'd the Mind, and rous'd from Sleep
Those moral Seeds whence we heroic Actions reap.
Nor would he scorn to stoop from high Pursuits
Of heavenly Truth, and practise what she taught.
Vain is the Tree of Knowledge without Fruits.
Sometimes in Hand the Spade or Plough he caught,
Forth-calling all with which boon Earth is fraught;
Sometimes he ply'd the strong mechanic Tool,
Or rear'd the Fabric from the finest Draught;
And oft he put himself to Neptune's School,
Fighting with Winds and Waves on the vext Ocean Pool.
To solace then these roughter Toils, he try'd
To touch the kindling Canvass into Life;
With Nature his creating Pencil vy'd,
With Nature joyous at the mimic Strife:
Or, to such Shapes as grac'd Pygmalion's Wife,
He hew'd the Marble; or, with vary'd Fire,
He rous'd the Trumpet and the martial Fife,
Or bad the Lute sweet Tenderness inspire,
Or Verses fram'd that well might wake Apollo's Lyre.
Accomplish'd thus he from the Woods issu'd,
Full of great Aims, and bent on bold Emprize;
The Work, which long he in his Breast had brew'd,
Now to perform he ardent did devise;
To-wit, a barbarous World to civilize.
Earth was till Then, a boundless Forest wild;
Nought to be seen but savage Wood, and Skies;
No Cities nourish'd Arts, no Culture smil'd,
No Government, no Laws, no gentle Manners mild.
A rugged Wight, the Worst of Brutes, was Man:
On his own wretched Kind he, ruthless, prey'd;
The Strongest still the Weakest over-ran;
In every Country mighty Robbers sway'd,
And Guile and ruffian Force were all their Trade.
Life was not Life, but Rapine, Want, and Woe;
Which this brave Knight, in noble Anger, made
To swear, he would the rascal Rout o'erthrow,
For, by the Powers Divine, it should no more be so!
It would exceed the Purport of my Song,
To say how this best Sun, from orient Climes,
Came beaming Life and Beauty all along,
Before him chasing Indolence and Crimes.
Still as he pass'd, the Nations he sublimes,
And calls forth Arts and Virtue with his Ray:
Then Egypt, Greece and Rome their Golden Times,
Successive, had; but now in Ruins grey
They lie, to slavish Sloth and Tyranny a Prey.
To crown his Toils, SIR INDUSTRY then spred
The swelling Sail, and made for BRITAIN'S Coast.
A Sylvan Life till then the Natives led,
In the brown Shades and green-wood Forest lost,
All careless rambling where it lik'd them most:
Their Wealth the Wild-Deer bouncing through the Glade;
They lodg'd at large, and liv'd at Nature's Cost;
Save Spear, and Bow, withouten other Aid,
Yet not the Roman Steel their naked Breast dismay'd.
He lik'd the Soil, he lik'd the clement Skies,
He lik'd the verdant Hills and flowery Plains.
Be This my great my chosen Isle (he cries)
This, whilst my Labours LIBERTY sustains,
This Queen of Ocean all Assault disdains.
Nor lik'd he less the Genius of the Land,
To Freedom apt and persevering Pains,
Mild to obey, and generous to command,
Temper'd by forming HEAVEN with kindest firmest Hand.
Here, by Degrees, his Master-Work arose,
Whatever Arts and Industry can frame:
Whatever finish'd Agriculture knows,
Fair Queen of Arts! from Heaven itself who came,
When Eden flourish'd in unspotted Fame:
And still with Her sweet Innocence we find,
And tender Peace, and joys without a Name,
That, while they rapture, tranquillize the Mind;
Nature and Art at once, Delight and Use combin'd.
Then Towns he quicken'd by mechanic Arts,
And bade the fervent City glow with Toil;
Bade social Commerce raise renowned Marts,
Join Land to Land, and marry Soil to Soil,
Unite the Poles, and without bloody Spoil
Bring home of either Ind the gorgeous Stores;
Or, should Despotic Rage the World embroil,
Bade Tyrants tremble on remotest Shores,
While o'er th' encircling Deep BRITANNIA'S Thunder roars.
The drooping Muses then he westward call'd,
From the fam'd City by Propontis Sea,
What Time the Turk th' enfeebled Grecian thrall'd;
Thence from their cloister'd Walks he set them free,
And brought them to another Castalie:
Where Isis many a famous Noursling breeds;
Or where old Cam soft-paces o'er the Lea,
In pensive Mood, and tunes his Doric Reeds,
The whilst his Flocks at large the lonely Shepherd feeds.
Yet the fine Arts were what he finish'd least.
For why? They are the Quintessence of All,
The Growth of labouring Time, and slow increast;
Unless, as seldom chances, it should fall,
That mighty Patrons the coy Sisters call
Up to the Sun-shine of uncumber'd Ease,
Where no rude Care the mounting Thought may thrall,
And where they nothing have to do but please:
Ah! gracious God! thou know'st they ask no other Fees.
But now, alas! we live too late in Time:
Our Patrons now even grudge that little Claim,
Except to such as sleek the soothing Rhyme;
And yet, forsooth, they wear MAECENAS' Name,
Poor Sons of puft-up Vanity, not Fame!
Unbroken Spirits, chear! still, still remains
Th' Eternal Patron, LIBERTY; whose Flame,
While she protects, inspires the noblest Strains.
The best, and sweetest far, are Toil-created Gains.
Whenas the Knight had fram'd, in BRITAIN-LAND,
A matchless Form of glorious Government;
In which the sovereign Laws alone command,
Laws stablish'd by the public free Consent,
Whose Majesty is to the Sceptre lent:
When this great Plan, with each dependent Art,
Was settled firm, and to his Heart's Content,
Then sought he from the toilsome Scene to part,
And let Life's vacant Eve breathe Quiet through the Heart.
For This he chose a Farm in Deva's Vale,
Where his long Alleys peep'd upon the Main.
In this calm Seat he drew the healthful Gale,
Commix'd the Chief, the Patriot, and the Swain,
The happy Monarch of his Sylvan Train!
Here, sided by the Guardians of the Fold,
He walk'd his Rounds, and chear'd his blest Domain;
His Days, the Days of unstain'd Nature, roll'd,
Replete with Peace and joy, like Patriarch's of old.
Witness, ye lowing Herds, who lent him Milk;
Witness, ye Flocks, whose woolly Vestments far
Exceed soft India's Cotton, or her silk;
Witness, with Autumn charg'd, the nodding Car,
That homeward came beneath sweet Evening's Star,
Or of september-Moons the Radiance mild.
O hide thy Head, abominable War!
Of Crimes and ruffian Idleness the Child!
From Heaven this Life ysprung, from Hell thy Glories vild!
Nor, from his deep Retirement, banish'd was
Th' amusing Cares of Rural Industry.
Still, as with grateful Change the Seasons pass,
New Scenes arise, new Landskips strike the Eye,
And all th' enliven'd Country beautify:
Gay Plains extend where Marshes slept before;
O'er recent Meads th' exulting Streamlets fly;
Dark frowning Heaths grow bright with Ceres' Store,
And Woods imbrown the Steep, or wave along the Shore.
As nearer to his Farm you made Approach,
He polish'd Nature with a finer Hand:
Yet on her Beauties durst not Art incroach;
'Tis Art's alone these Beauties to expand.
In graceful Dance immingled, o'er the Land,
Pan, Pales, Flora, and Pomona play'd:
Even here, sometimes, the rude wild Common fand
An happy Place; where free, and unafraid,
Amid the flowering Brakes each coyer Creature stray'd.
But in prime Vigour what can last for ay?
That soul-enfeebling Wizard INDOLENCE,
I whilom sung, wrought in his Works decay:
Spred far and wide was his curs'd Influence;
Of Public Virtue much he dull'd the Sense,
Even much of Private; eat our Spirit out,
And fed our rank luxurious Vices: whence
The Land was overlaid with many a Lout;
Not, as old Fame reports, wise, generous, bold, and stout.
A Rage of Pleasure madden'd every Breast,
Down to the lowest Lees the Ferment ran:
To his licentious Wish Each must be blest,
With joy be fever'd; snatch it as he can.
Thus Vice the Standard rear'd; her Arrier-Ban
Corruption call'd, and loud she gave the Word.
"Mind, mind yourselves! Why should the vulgar Man,
The Lacquey be more virtuous than his Lord?
Enjoy this Span of Life! 'tis all the Gods afford."
The Tidings reach'd to Where in quiet Hall,
The good old Knight enjoy'd well-earn'd Repose.
"Come, come, Sir Knight! thy Children on thee call;
Come, save us yet, ere Ruin round us close!
The Demon INDOLENCE thy Toils o'erthrows."
On This the noble Colour stain'd his Cheeks,
Indignant, glowing through the whitening Snows
Of venerable Eld; his Eye full-speaks
His ardent Soul, and from his Couch at once he breaks.
"I will, (he cry'd) so help me, God! destroy
That Villain Archimage!" — His Page then strait
He to him call'd, a fiery-footed Boy,
Benempt Dispatch. "My Steed be at the Gate;
My Bard attend; quick, bring the Net of Fate."
This Net was twisted by the Sisters Three;
Which when once cast o'er harden'd Wretch, too late
Repentance comes: Replevy cannot be
From the strong iron Grasp of vengeful Destiny.
He came, the Bard, a little Druid-Wight,
Of wither'd Aspect; but his Eye was keen,
With Sweetness mix'd. In Russet brown bedight,
As is his Sister of the Copses green,
He crept along, unpromising of Mien.
Gross he who judges so. His Soul was fair,
Bright as the Children of yon Azure sheen.
True Comeliness, which nothing can impair,
Dwells in the Mind: all else is Vanity and Glare.
"Come! (quoth the Knight) a Voice has reach'd mine Ear,
The Demon INDOLENCE threats Overthrow
To All that to Mankind is good and dear:
Come, PHILOMELUS! let us instant go,
O'erturn his Bowers, and lay his Castle low!
Those Men, those wretched Men! who will be Slaves,
Must drink a bitter wrathful Cup of Woe:
But some there be, thy Song, as from their Graves,
Shall raise. Thrice happy he! who without Rigour saves."
Issuing forth, the Knight bestrode his Steed,
Of ardent Bay, and on whose Front a Star
Shone blazing bright: Sprung from the generous Breed
That whirl of active Day the rapid Car,
He pranc'd along, disdaining Gate or Bar.
Meantime, the Bard on milk-white Palfrey rode;
An honest sober Beast, that did not mar
His Meditations, but full softly trode:
And much they moraliz'd as thus yfere they yode.
They talk'd of Virtue, and of Human Bliss.
What else so fit for Man to settle well?
And still their long Researches met in This,
This Truth of Truths, which nothing can refel:
"From Virtue's Fount the purest joys out-well,
Sweet Rills of Thought that chear the conscious Soul;
While Vice pours forth the troubled Streams of Hell,
The which, howe'er disguis'd, at last with Dole
Will through the tortur'd Breast their fiery Torrent roll."
At length it dawn'd, that fatal Valley gay,
O'er which high wood-crown'd Hills their Summits rear.
On the cool Height awhile our Palmers stay,
And spite even of themselves their Senses chear;
Then to the Wizard's Wonne their Steps they steer.
Like a green Isle, it broad beneath them spred,
With Gardens round, and wandering Currents clear,
And tufted Groves to shade the Meadow-Bed,
Sweet Airs and Song; and without Hurry all seem'd glad.
"As God shall judge me, Knight, we must forgive
(The half-enraptur'd PHILOMELUS cry'd)
The frail good Man deluded here to live,
And in these Groves his musing Fancy hide.
Ah, Nought is pure! It cannot be deny'd,
That Virtue still some Tincture has of Vice,
And Vice of Virtue. What should then betide,
But that our Charity be not too nice?
Come, let us Those we can to real Bliss entice."
"Ay, sicker, (quoth the Knight) all Flesh is frail,
To pleasant Sin and joyous Dalliance bent;
But let not brutish Vice of This avail,
And think to scape deserved Punishment.
Justice were cruel weakly to relent;
From Mercy's Self she got her sacred Glaive:
Grace be to Those who can, and will, repent;
But Penance long, and dreary, to the Slave,
Who must in Floods of Fire his gross foul Spirit lave."
Thus, holding high Discourse, they came to Where
The cursed Carle was at his wonted Trade;
Still tempting heedless Men into his Snare,
In witching Wise, as I before have said.
But when he saw, in goodly Geer array'd,
The grave majestic Knight approaching nigh,
And by his Side the Bard so sage and staid,
His Countenance fell; yet oft his anxious Eye
Mark'd them, like wily Fox who roosted Cock doth spy.
Nathless, with feign'd Respect, he bade give back
The Rabble-Rout, and welcom'd them full kind;
Struck with the noble Twain, they were not slack
His Orders to obey, and fall behind.
Then he resum'd his Song; and, unconfin'd,
Pour'd all his Music, ran through all his Strings:
With magic Dust their Eyne he tries to blind,
And Virtue's tender Airs o'er Weakness flings.
What Pity base his Song who so divinely sings!
Elate in Thought, he counted them his own,
They listen'd so intent with fix'd Delight:
But they instead, as if transmew'd to Stone,
Marvel'd he could, with such sweet Art, unite
The Lights and Shades of Manners, Wrong and Right.
Mean time, the silly Croud the Charm devour,
Wide-pressing to the Gate. Swift, on the Knight
He darted fierce, to drag him to his Bower,
Who back'ning shun'd his Touch, for well he knew its Power.
As in throng'd Amphitheatre, of old,
The wary Retiarius trap'd his Foe:
Even so the Knight, returning on him bold,
At once involv'd him in the Net of Woe,
Whereof I Mention made not long ago.
Inrag'd at first, he scorn'd so weak a jail,
And leap'd, and flew, and flounced to and fro;
But when he found that nothing could avail,
He sat him felly down, and gnaw'd his bitter Nail.
Alarm'd, th' inferior Demons of the Place
Rais'd rueful Shrieks and hideous Yells around;
Black ruptur'd Clouds deform'd the Welkin's Face,
And from beneath was heard a wailing Sound,
As of Infernal Sprights in Cavern bound;
A solemn Sadness every Creature strook,
And Lightnings flash'd, and Horror rock'd the Ground:
Huge Crouds on Crouds out-pour'd, with blemish'd Look,
As if on Time's last Verge this Frame of Things had shook.
Soon as the short-liv'd Tempest was yspent,
Steam'd from the Jaws of vext Avernus' Hole,
And hush'd the Hubbub of the Rabblement,
SIR INDUSTRY the first calm Moment stole.
"There must, (he cry'd) amid so vast a Shoal,
Be Some who are not tainted at the Heart,
Not poison'd quite by this same Villain's Bowl:
Come then, my Bard, thy heavenly Fire impart;
Touch Soul with Soul, till forth the latent Spirit start."
The Bard obey'd; and taking from his Side,
Where it in seemly Sort depending hung,
His British Harp, its speaking Strings he try'd,
The which with skilful Touch he deffly strung,
Till tinkling in clear Symphony they rung.
Then, as he felt the Muses come along,
Light o'er the Chords his raptur'd Hand he flung,
And play'd a Prelude to his rising Song:
The whilst, like Midnight mute, ten Thousands round him throng.
Thus, ardent, burst his Strain. "Ye hapless Race,
Dire-labouring here to smother Reason's Ray,
That lights our Maker's Image in our Face,
And gives us wide o'er Earth unquestion'd Sway;
What is TH' ADOR'D SUPREME PERFECTION, say?
What, but eternal never-resting Soul,
Almighty Power, and all-directing Day;
By whom each Atom stirs, the Planets roll;
Who fills, surrounds, informs, and agitates the Whole?
"Come, to the beaming GOD your Hearts unfold!
Draw from its Fountain Life! 'Tis thence, alone,
We can excel. Up from unfeeling Mold,
To seraphs burning round th' ALMIGHTY'S Throne,
Life rising still on Life, in higher Tone,
Perfection forms, and with Perfection Bliss.
In Universal Nature This clear shewn,
Not needeth Proof: To prove it were, I wis,
To prove the beauteous World excels the brute Abyss.
"Is not the Field, with lively Culture green,
A Sight more joyous than the dead Morass?
Do not the Skies, with active Ether clean,
And fan'd by sprightly Zephyrs, far surpass
The foul November-Fogs, and slumbrous Mass,
With which sad Nature veils her drooping Face?
Does not the Mountain-Stream, as clear as Glass,
Gay-dancing on, the putrid Pool disgrace?
The same in All holds true, but chief in Human Race.
"It was not by vile Loitering in Ease,
That GREECE obtain'd the brighter Palm of Art,
That soft yet ardent ATHENS learn'd to please,
To keen the Wit, and to sublime the Heart,
In all supreme! compleat in every Part!
It was not thence majestic ROME arose,
And o'er the Nations shook her conquering Dart:
For Sluggard's Brow the Laurel never grows;
Renown is not the Child of indolent Repose.
"Had unambitious Mortals minded Nought,
But in loose joy their Time to wear away;
Had they alone the Lap of Dalliance sought,
Pleas'd on her Pillow their dull Heads to lay;
Rude Nature's State had been our State To-day;
No Cities e'er their towery Fronts had rais'd,
No Arts had made us opulent and gay;
With Brother-Brutes the Human Race had graz'd;
None e'er had soar'd to Fame, None honour'd been, None prais'd.
"Great HOMER'S Song had never fir'd the Breast,
To Thirst of Glory, and heroic Deeds;
Sweet MARO'S Muse, sunk in inglorious Rest,
Had silent slept amid the Mincian Reeds:
The Wits of modern Time had told their Beads,
And monkish Legends been their only Strains;
Our MILTON'S Eden had lain wrapt in Weeds,
Our SHAKESPEAR stroll'd and laugh'd with Warwick Swains,
Ne had my Master SPENSER charm'd his Mulla's Plains.
"Dumb too had been the sage Historic Muse,
And perish'd all the Sons of antient Fame;
Those starry Lights of Virtue, that diffuse
Through the dark Depth of Time their vivid Flame,
Had all been lost with Such as have no Name.
Who then had scorn'd his Ease for others' Good?
Who then had toil'd rapacious Men to tame?
Who in the Public Breach devoted stood,
And for his Country's Cause been prodigal of Blood?
"But should to Fame your Hearts impervious be,
If right I read, you Pleasure All require:
Then hear how best may be obtain'd this Fee,
How best enjoy'd this Nature's wide Desire.
Toil, and be glad! Let Industry inspire
Into your quicken'd Limbs her buoyant Breath!
Who does not act is dead; absorpt intire
In miry Sloth, no Pride no joy he hath:
O Leaden-hearted Men, to be in Love with Death!
"Better the toiling Swain, oh happier far!
Perhaps the happiest of the Sons of Men!
Who vigorous plies the Plough, the Team, or Car;
Who houghs the Field, or ditches in the Glen,
Delves in his Garden, or secures his Pen:
The Tooth of Avarice poisons not his Peace;
He tosses not in Sloth's abhorred Den;
From Vanity he has a full Release;
And, rich in Nature's Wealth, he thinks not of Increase.
"Good Lord! how keen are his Sensations all!
His Bread is sweeter than the Glutton's Cates;
The Wines of France upon the Palate pall,
Compar'd with What his simple Soul elates,
The native Cup whose Flavour Thirst creates;
At one deep Draught of Sleep he takes the Night;
And for that Heart-felt joy which Nothing mates,
Of the pure nuptial Bed the chaste Delight,
The Losel is to him a miserable Wight.
"But what avail the largest Gifts of HEAVEN,
When sickening Health and Spirits go amiss?
How tasteless then Whatever can be given?
Health is the vital Principle of Bliss,
And Exercise of Health. In Proof of This,
Behold the Wretch, who slugs his Life away,
Soon swallow'd in Disease's sad Abyss;
While he whom Toil has brac'd, or manly Play,
Has light as Air each Limb, each Thought as clear as Day.
"O who can speak the vigorous joys of Health!
Unclogg'd the Body, unobscur'd the Mind:
The Morning raises gay; with pleasing Stealth,
The temperate Evening falls serene and kind.
In Health the wiser Brutes true Gladness find.
See! how the Younglings frisk along the Meads,
As May comes on, and wakes the balmy Wind;
Rampant with Life, their joy all joy exceeds:
Yet what save high-strung Health this dancing Pleasaunce breeds?
"But here, instead, is foster'd every Ill,
Which or distemper'd Minds or Bodies know.
Come then, my kindred Spirits! do not spill
Your Talents here. This Place is but a Shew,
Whose Charms delude you to the Den of Woe:
Come, follow me, I will direct you right,
Where Pleasure's Roses, void of Serpents, grow,
Sincere as sweet; come, follow this good Knight,
And you will bless the Day that brought him to your Sight.
"Some he will lead to Courts, and Some to Camps;
To Senates Some, and public sage Debates,
Where, by the solemn Gleam of Midnight-Lamps,
The World is pois'd, and manag'd mighty States;
To high Discovery Some, that new-creates
The Face of Earth; Some to the thriving Mart;
Some to the Rural Reign, and softer Fates;
To the sweet Muses Some, who raise the Heart:
All Glory shall be yours, all Nature, and all Art!
"There are, I see, who listen to my Lay,
Who wretched sigh for Virtue, but despair.
All may be done, (methinks I hear them say)
Even Death despis'd by generous Actions fair;
All, but for Those who to these Bowers repair,
Their every Power dissolv'd in Luxury,
To quit of torpid Sluggishness the Lair,
And from the powerful Arms of Sloth get free.
'Tis rising from the Dead — Alas! — It cannot be!
"Would you then learn to dissipate the Band
Of these huge threat'ning Difficulties dire,
That in the weak Man's Way like Lions stand,
His Soul appall, and damp his rising Fire?
Resolve! resolve! and to be Men aspire!
Exert that noblest Privilege, alone,
Here to Mankind indulg'd: controul Desire;
Let Godlike Reason, from her sovereign Throne,
Speak the commanding Word — I will! — and it is done.
"Heavens! can you then thus waste, in shameful wise,
Your few important Days of Trial here?
Heirs of Eternity! yborn to rise
Through endless States of Being, still more near
To Bliss approaching, and Perfection clear,
Can you renounce a Fortune so sublime,
Such glorious Hopes, your backward Steps to steer,
And roll, with vilest Brutes, through Mud and Slime?
No! No! — Your Heaven-touch'd Hearts disdain the piteous Crime!"
"Enough! enough! they cry'd" — Strait, from the Croud,
The better Sort on Wings of Transport fly.
As when amid the lifeless Summits proud
Of Alpine Cliffs, where to the gelid Sky
Snows pil'd on Snows in wintry Torpor lie,
The Rays divine of vernal Phoebus play;
Th' awaken'd Heaps, in Streamlets from on high,
Rous'd into Action, lively leap away,
Glad-warbling through the Vales, in their new Being gay.
Not less the Life, the vivid joy serene,
That lighted up these new-created Men,
Than That which wings th' exulting Spirit clean,
When, just deliver'd from this fleshly Den,
It soaring seeks its native Skies agen.
How light its Essence! how unclogg'd its Powers!
Beyond the Blazon of my mortal Pen:
Even so we glad forsook these sinful Bowers,
Even such enraptur'd Life, such Energy was ours.
But far the greater Part, with Rage inflam'd,
Dire-mutter'd Curses, and blasphem'd high Jove.
"Ye Sons of Hate! (They bitterly exclaim'd)
What brought you to this Seat of Peace and Love?
While with kind Nature, here amid the Grove,
We pass'd the harmless Sabbath of our Time,
What to disturb it could, fell Men, emove
Your barbarous Hearts? Is Happiness a Crime?
Then do the Fiends of Hell rule in yon Heaven sublime."
"Ye impious Wretches! (quoth the Knight in Wrath)
Your Happiness behold!" — Then strait a Wand
He wav'd, an anti-magic Power that hath,
Truth from illusive Falshood to command.
Sudden, the Landskip sinks on every Hand;
The pure quick Streams are marshy Puddles found;
On baleful Heaths the Groves all blacken'd stand;
And, o'er the weedy foul abhorred Ground,
Snakes, Adders, Toads, each loathly Creature crawls around.
And here and there, on Trees by Lightning scath'd,
Unhappy Wights who loathed Life yhung;
Or, in fresh Gore and recent Murder bath'd,
They weltering lay; or else, infuriate flung
Into the gloomy Flood, while Ravens sung
The funeral Dirge, they down the Torrent rowl'd:
These, by distemper'd Blood to Madness stung,
Had doom'd themselves; whence oft, when Night controul'd
The World, returning hither their sad Spirits howl'd.
Meantime a moving Scene was open laid.
That Lazar-House, I whilom in my Lay
Depeinten have, its Horrors deep-display'd,
And gave unnumber'd Wretches to the Day,
Who tossing there in squalid Misery lay.
Soon as of sacred Light th' unwonted Smile
Pour'd on these living Catacombs its Ray,
Through the drear Caverns stretching many a Mile,
The Sick up-rais'd their Heads, and dropp'd their Woes awhile.
"O Heaven! (they cry'd) and do we once more see
Yon blessed Sun, and this green Earth so fair?
Are we from noisome Damps of Pest-House free?
And drink our Souls the sweet ethereal Air?
O Thou! or Knight, or God! who holdest there
That Fiend, oh keep him in eternal Chains!
But what for us, the Children of Despair,
Brought to the Brink of Hell, what Hope remains?
Repentance does itself but aggravate our Pains."
The gentle Knight, who saw their rueful Case,
Let fall adown his silver Beard some Tears.
"Certes (quoth he) it is not even in Grace,
T' undo the Past, and eke your broken Years:
Nathless, to nobler Worlds Repentance rears,
With humble Hope, her Eye; to Her is given
A Power the truly contrite Heart that chears;
She quells the Brand by which the Rocks are riven;
She more than merely softens, she rejoices HEAVEN.
"Then patient bear the Sufferings you have earn'd,
And by these Sufferings purify the Mind;
Let Wisdom be by past Misconduct learn'd:
Or pious die, with Penitence resign'd;
And to a Life more happy and refin'd,
Doubt not, you shall, new Creatures, yet arise.
Till Then, you may expect in me to find
One who will wipe your Sorrow from your Eyes,
One who will soothe your Pangs, and wing you to the Skies."
They silent heard, and pour'd their Thanks in Tears.
"For you (resum'd the Knight with sterner Tone)
Whose hard dry Hearts th' obdurate Demon sears,
That Villain's Gifts will cost you many a Groan;
In dolorous Mansion long you must bemoan
His fatal Charms, and weep your Stains away;
Till, soft and pure as Infant-Goodness grown,
You feel a perfect Change: then, who can say,
What Grace may yet shine forth in Heaven's eternal Day?"
This said, his Powerful Wand he wav'd anew:
Instant, a glorious Angel-Train descends,
The Charities, to-wit, of rosy Hue;
Sweet Love their Looks a gentle Radiance lends,
And with seraphic Flame Compassion blends.
At once, delighted, to their Charge they fly:
When lo! a goodly Hospital ascends;
In which they bade each human Aid be nigh,
That could the Sick-Bed smoothe of that unhappy Fry.
It was a worthy edifying Sight,
And gives to Human-Kind peculiar Grace,
To see kind Hands attending Day and Night,
With tender Ministry, from Place to Place.
Some prop the Head; some, from the pallid Face,
Wipe off the faint cold Dews weak Nature sheds;
Some reach the healing Draught: the whilst, to chase
The Fear supreme, around their soften'd Beds,
Some holy Man by Prayer all opening Heaven dispreds.
Attended by a glad acclaiming Train,
Of those he rescu'd had from gaping Hell,
Then turn'd the Knight; and, to his Hall again
Soft-pacing, sought of Peace the mossy Cell:
Yet down his Cheeks the Gems of Pity fell,
To see the helpless Wretches that remain'd,
There left through Delves and Deserts dire to yell;
Amaz'd, their Looks with pale Dismay were stain'd,
And spreading wide their Hands they meek Repentance feign'd.
But ah! their scorned Day of Grace was past:
For (Horrible to tell!) a Desert wild
Before them stretch'd, bare, comfortless, and vast;
With Gibbets, Bones, and Carcases defil'd.
There nor trim Field, nor lively Culture smil'd;
Nor waving Shade was seen, nor Fountain fair;
But Sands abrupt on Sands lay loosely pil'd,
Through which they floundering toil'd with painful Care,
Whilst Phoebus smote them sore, and fir'd the cloudless Air.
Then, varying to a joyless Land of Bogs,
The sadden'd Country a grey Waste appear'd;
Where Nought but putrid Steams and noisome Fogs
For ever hung on drizzly Auster's Beard;
Or else the Ground by piercing Caurus sear'd,
Was jagg'd with Frost, or heap'd with glazed Snow:
Through these Extremes a ceaseless Round they steer'd,
By cruel Fiends still hurry'd to and fro,
Gaunt Beggary, and Scorn, with many Hell-Hounds moe.
The First was with base dunghill Rags yclad,
Tainting the Gale, in which they flutter'd light;
Of morbid Hue his Features, sunk, and sad;
His hollow Eyne shook forth a sickly Light;
And o'er his lank jaw-Bone, in piteous Plight,
His black rough Beard was matted rank and vile;
Direful to see! an Heart-appalling Sight!
Meantime foul Scurf and Blotches him defile;
And Dogs, where-e'er he went, still barked all the While.
The other was a fell despightful Fiend:
Hell holds none worse in baleful Bower below;
By Pride, and Wit, and Rage, and Rancour, keen'd;
Of Man alike, if good or bad, the Foe:
With Nose up-turn'd, he always made a Shew
As if he smelt some nauseous Scent; his Eye
Was cold, and keen, like blast from boreal Snow;
And Taunts he casten forth most bitterly.
Such were the Twain that off drove this ungodly Fry.
Even so through Brentford Town, a Town of Mud,
An Herd of brisly Swine is prick'd along;
The filthy Beasts, that never chew the Cud,
Still grunt, and squeak, and sing their troublous Song,
And oft they plunge themselves the Mire among:
But ay the ruthless Driver goads them on,
And ay of barking Dogs the bitter Throng
Makes them renew their unmelodious Moan;
Ne ever find they Rest from their unresting Fone.