1803
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Pleasures of Nature; or the Charms of Rural Life. Part II.

The Pleasures of Nature; or, the Charms of Rural Life; with other Poems. By David Carey.

David Carey


The second part opens with an address to time: "Hence warn'd, vain man! unthinking mortal, go, | Go catch the fading glories ere they die; | Already, see, they shine with soften'd glow, | Lining with languid light th' autumnal sky" p. 30. The pleasures of Autumn are described as they are enjoyed by the industrious. The virtuous rustic needs fear neither winter nor old age. Still, Nature is most pleasing to the young: "Thy landscapes then, with magic, draw our love | Stronger than ever moonlight prospect drew" p. 36. The poet recalls his happier days of infancy, and reflects on Eden and the consequences of the Fall: "Those flowers, that strew'd my path, are faded quite, | Those gleams of glory, that illum'd my way | Erewhile, leave me to darkness and to night" p. 41. The nobler aims of poetry are described; they do not protect the true poet from want and care. Yet the poet in his "fenc'd cot" may smile on Winter and enjoy the smiles of his Laura. The poet enjoins the reader to "Remark the harmony of Nature's plan, | How not a passion there is given in vain, | How these repel, and those our wishes fan, | And this our bliss creates, and that our pain" p. 51.

While the Anti-Jacobin Review gave the Pleasures of Nature a positive review, its review of Carey's The Reign of Fancy (originally undertaken as a continuation of The Pleasures of Nature) applauds him for having rejected the Spenserian stanza: "We must congratulate him ... for adopting the heroic verse, in preference to the Spenserian stanza. Dr. Beattie, and one or two other modern writers, have indeed given proof, that the latter is capable of every beauty and elegance of poetry; but its structure is admitted, by all, to be extremely difficult, and the shackles which it imposes are not easily overcome. In addition to this, it may be observed, that every poet is not in possession of the commanding powers of Spenser or Beattie; and that every reader is not capable of appreciating the merit, or of enjoying the beauty, of the Spenserian stanza" Anti-Jacobin Review 21 (1805) 180.



O thou who, midst thick darkness hold'st thy way,
With whom weak Nature oft in vain has striven;
Resistless Time! to whom, with sovereign sway,
To rule the kingdoms of the earth 'tis given;
Whose hand, fulfilling the behest of Heaven,
Shall one day wreck the stars in wild uproar;
Have any mark'd thee, on thy pathway, driven
Along the deep, along the willowy shore?
Or hast the song delay'd thee, or the sage's lore?

Unwearied as yon rolling orb above,
Thou never, never, resting place dost know;
Thy wing is of the plumage of the dove,
And thine the feet of the wild, windy roe.
Hence warn'd, vain man! unthinking mortal, go,
Go catch the fading glories ere they die;
Already, see, they shine with soften'd glow,
Lining with languid light th' autumnal sky,
Whose valves, unfolding, give them to thine ardent eye.

So have I seen the virgin's cheek turn pale,
When love grew cold within her lover's breast;
And, when he fled to pour the tender tale,
Warm, in the ear of one more highly blest;
So have I seen her sink with grief opprest.
Ah then, where fled those tints of rosy hue,
That flush'd her cheek, in smiles for ever drest?
They fled — but she more interesting grew,
The child of beauty still, and lovely to the view!

Speak thou, to whom these guiltless feasts are dear,
O speak the joy in which thy soul is lost,
When thy foot strays where golden fields appear,
As in a billowy sea of plenty tost.
The hymn of gratitude, that long engross'd
Thy mind, and swell'd it to seraphic strain,
Rises in incense sweet, to join the host,
Who on heav'n's argent round, and star-pav'd plain,
Their grateful anthems swell thro' Love's eternal reign.

By no false hope, by no false pride misled,
Amid the joys of peace, with frugal hand,
When Spring with field-flowers all its borders spread,
Thy little glebe was sown in fairy land.
The little schemes of happiness you plann'd
Need fear no more the blast of rude mischance,
(Man's frail securities all duly scann'd)
The sickle yields it to thy sated glance,
And independence comes, the rapture to enhance.

Thy reddening orchard, too, demands thy care,
Mantling upon the vine-empurpl'd hill,
And blushing deep along the gay parterre,
Where, on the sunny wall, the fruits distill.
There all the air with farewell sweets they fill,
And shed their stores beneath Pomona's eye;
And there the wild-bee plies his labour still,
And there he loads with balm his little thigh,
And reaps the honied meed that waits on industry.

O! grieve not thou, though the Hesperian tree
Sheds not its golden shower, to bless thee there;
Though not the draughts that give thy heart to glee,
From Hybla's hoard of sweets distill'd were;
Though of Panchaia's spoils thou boast'st no share;
Though the ambrosial nectar is denied;
Or that the rose of Sharon's fields so fair,
Gems not thy summer bower in beauty's pride,
Adorn'd but with anemonies, and dasies pied.

What though thy dome, on fretted columns rais'd,
Towers not with idle state, sublime in air?
What though thou, meteor like, hast never blaz'd
In fortune's or in fashions giddy sphere?
Scorn the false joy! Such is but splendid care,
To him who thinks and feels with senses keen;
Levees may bow, and venal crowds may stare.
But real grandeur flies the hated scene,
And Truth, first-born of heav'n, and happiness serene.

Votery of Nature! where is now thy way?
Cleav'st thou old Ocean's waters, lukewarm, bland?
And when the setting sunbeams idly play,
With ineffectual light, along the strand,
Still dost thou linger on his margin sand,
To mark the painted vessel smoothly glide,
Down by the borders of the sunny land,
Its white sails glancing on the hoary tide,
And does reflection to thy heart the moral guide?

Ah! then, thy rapt soliloquy will be,
(In sooth, it often, often, has been mine)
Thus gaily dancing on life's summer sea,
The little bark of man essays to shine;
Thrice happy he who, ere the gleam decline,
Guided by autumn's kind directing light,
Anchors his skiff beneath the waving pine,
Where, through the long, long gloom of winter's night,
The winds come not to shock, the tempests to affright.

Would fate a hamlet, such as this, bestow.
To shield me from the wintry storms of life,
The home of happiness, though wild winds blow,
The calm abode of peace, though ills are rife.
How like, the virtuous man, who, 'mid the strife
Of a sin-tainted world, unmov'd, can stand,
Stand, though the assassin aim the uplifted knife,
Point the dire tube, or hurl the flaming brand,
All, all is day, though Night her raven wing expand!

There, on the mossy seat that skirts the door,
Pleas'd, would I sit, when ev'ning falls serene,
When reapers, full of glee and gestic lore,
Weave their fantastic circles on the green;
Swimming the maze, attendant on their queen,
Gay youths and nymphs in mirthful measures tread,
While, fitful on their sports, her silver shene
Wan Cynthia streams, and, from the moonlight glade,
Sweet Philomela pours her vesper serenade.

Happy who closes thus life's sabbath eve,
Who closes thus the holiday of age:
Nor in his book of mem'ry can perceive
The thought, the deed, which, blotting the fair page,
He in the stream of sorrow could assuage;—
No horrors sinking Nature shall affright,
As fails the world his hatred to engage,
And, heav'n and glory dawning on the sight,
The disembodied soul prepares to take its flight.

This, this is all the boon for which I pray;
Would fate my prayers with kind acceptance bless!
The vision charm'd in childhood's vernal day,
When life was luxury of happiness:
And shall it draw the heart-warm wishes less,
When age shall blast youth's transitory bloom,
And twilight robe the view, in sombre dress,
And Nature point the mansion of the tomb,
Where pleasure's star-light smile shall never chace the gloom?

Goddess supreme! thy pleasures most we prove,
When age is far away and life is new;
Thy landscapes then, with magic, draw our love
Stronger than ever moonlight prospect drew;
O, ere the vital frosts thy fire subdue,
Imagination! dare the flight of time,
And waft me hence, and in thy fond review
Of happier days, and raptures more sublime
Let me enjoy them still, and weave in careless rhime.

O, it was sweet, within my native vale,
Ere fate with cruel blight the bliss pursu'd,
To wander free from care, with peace to dwell,
Stretch'd on the softest lap of solitude:
Whither, when ev'ry plain and ev'ry wood
Was in the garniture of spring array'd,
Or summer pour'd of light and heat the flood,
Meridian strong, till autumn bade it fade,
Or winter came to shroud the view in deepest shade.

And blest those hours! those moments, ah how blest!
Wherein was first, upon my infant mind,
In never-dying characters impress'd,
The love of Nature, and her feasts refin'd:
There to my soul, with influence soothing, kind,
Th' enthusiastic ardour oft would glide,
As, mounted on the pinions of the wind,
Methought I saw immortal beings ride,
Unsheath the beamy lance, and wave their banners wide.

Sweet, too, to stray, at to-fall of the night,
All where the woodman plies his ev'ning lay,
While, first 'mong those who dip their skirts in light,
Hesper, to lead them on their pathless way,
Kindled his gem, his gem of jasper ray.
Oft as I gaz'd, where all those spangles blend
Their blaze, Peace would inspire, and Nature say,
Nor kenn'd too bright, nor indistinctly kenn'd,
The lamp of life would I thus inoffensive spend.

Days of my infancy! and are ye fled?
And will ye never, never more return,
To bid your light dreams hover round my head,
And bid, in extacies, my spirit burn?
O, why is life's romantic-colour'd morn
So short, when so propitious are its beams?
We tread inchanted ground! the Loves adorn
The spot, and every hour with pleasure teems!
Oh! why does it evanish like its mid-day dreams?

In climes where Etna lifts his head on high,
Proud his luxuriant landscapes to survey,
Where, nurs'd beneath the sunshine of his eye,
Full many a blossom opens to the day,
The traveller, thus with spirits light and gay,
Ascends the steep array'd in smiling green,
And, hymning all the while some careless lay,
Thinks not how soon the storm may intervene,
And the dire demon low'r, to ravage all the scene.

O for the heart that steel'd the Hebrew's breast,
When in the panoply of faith he trod,
When Sinai the supernal call confess'd,
And conscious Nature, trembling, own'd her God!
For, lo! the flames have burst their dread abode,
And lord it o'er the vineyard's blooming pride;
Sulphureous vapours blot heav'n's concave broad,
A fiery deluge sweeps the mountain's side,
And Desolation spreads her baleful banners wide.

Take, Nature, take this rebel heart away,
Or pour submissive meekness o'er my mind,
Such as impos'd, with sadly-pleasing sway,
Obedience on the father of mankind,
What time he left fair Eden far behind,
And all its sweets, that nurs'd and taught to blow,
By hands unseen, their various charms combin'd—
All lonely left them, for a world of woe;
Ah me! where new distresses every instant grow.

O happy, hadst thou known thy happiness!
There grief ne'er robb'd the bosom of its ease.
No joy was wanting that the heart might bless,
No strain, no sweet, that Nature taught to please:
No sounds of woe came wing'd upon the breeze,
But all the live-long day, the lay was love;
And, when the moon faint gleam'd among the trees,
And Nature sought the balm of sleep to prove,
The nightingale awoke the echoes of the grove.

But now thou no where hast to lay thy head—
Avenger of his guilt! thine arm restrain,
In vain for mercy shall repentance plead?
Shall beauty sue with tears, and sue in vain?
If sorrows could have wash'd away their stain,
I ween the guilt long since had been no more,
Nor had disease, nor penury, nor pain
Mix'd with the spoils of Nature's boundless store;
Nor had this verse been heard these mis'ries to deplore.

Those flowers, that strew'd my path, are faded quite,
Those gleams of glory, that illum'd my way
Erewhile, leave me to darkness and to night.
As o'er the wilderness of life I stray,
A pilgrim sad, on yonder naked spray
Sorrow would prompt my rebeck should be hung,
Whose warbled voice could not prolong their stay,
As to the piping winds of heav'n it rung,
Enamour'd of its theme, and all its praises sung.

Thus Israel's daughters, Israel's sons, would weep;
As, wand'ring sad where Babel's waters pour'd,
Remembrance came, their eyes in tears to steep,
And days of bliss, for ever fled, restor'd;
Wherein the charter'd children of the Lord
Dwelt on his hill, and scann'd his sacred lore;
Exil'd from all by the avenging sword,
They hung their harps on willows by the shore,
Nor ever would they sing the songs of Zion more.

Yet this were vain. What though the dream is fled?
Beam'd from the source of innocence, 'twas bright!
But reason first, and sense must lend their aid,
His joys, his powers, to estimate aright,
Ere man can taste the cup of true delight:
Did heav'n bestow the gift of mind as free
Upon the bird that, soaring, takes its flight
Through fields of air, the child of liberty,
More enviable, sure, its fairy life would be!

What though the mead hath lost its flaming dye?
Though wither'd every scion in the vale?
Though the dark tempest gathers in the sky,
And the woods yield their honours to the gale?
That joy, amid such desert scenes, can dwell,
The sympathetic bosom oft will find;
And oft, with tears and tender accents, tell,
That happiness may be of pensive kind,
And weep, and bless the soft captivity of mind.

Behold, on yonder height, 'mid sunless groves,
With Taste and Nature, studious, for his guide,
High favour'd of the Nine, the Poet roves,
Regardful of the landscape's sullen pride,
Above the tempest's path that, wasting wide,
Had power to blot the sun, and vex the deep,
I see him stand, and, while the lightnings glide,
Fearless, the lyre of heav'n, I hear him sweep,
Rocking upon the blast, and cradled on the steep.

Him should you ask what joy such prospects bring,
As 'mid the scenery he stands sublime,
Ah! he will tell you, that, the pride of spring,
Nor all the pomp of summer's flowery prime;
Nor all the walks in autumn's golden time,
Could lure him from these wastes, so still and holy;
Nor all the joys of fortune's fairer clime,
Make him forego that soft, sweet melancholy,
He tastes amid these haunts, remote from noise and folly.

The momentary day is quickly past,
And darkness gathers in the dewy dell—
Companion of his night-watch on the waste,
Who now shall catch the murmurs of his shell?
Lord of the lyre of soul-commanding spell,
Around thy head heav'n's thousand glories shine,
To light thy path, and to dread rapture swell
Thy mind, that labours with the great design,
Immortal powers shall aid and bless with smile benign!

To pour the tide of song to distant time,
Fraught with the spoils creation's range supplies,
As winter stormy, and as heav'n sublime,
And dreadful as the vengeance of the skies,
To them who Truth and Nature's walks despise,
And with the thirst of glory fir'd, or gain,
Who on ambition's altars sacrifice,
And bid the arm of murder dye the plain,
And desolate the earth, and crimson all the main.

To brand the guilty wretch, in artful guise,
And give to infamy his hated name;
A villain in the clothing of the skies—
The hypocrite in friendship's holy flame;
The dignity of virtue to reclaim;
To hurl the thunder of the muse's ire,
At those who, lost to honour, lost to shame,
Quench in the sink of vice heav'n's latent fire;
Nor reverence the muse, nor venerate the lyre.

From the base brow the laurel wreath to tear,
And round the head of merit bid it bloom;
To dissipate the dark dreams of despair,
And soothe lost Genius, sinking to the tomb;
To arm with fortitude to bear their doom,
Whom want, and penury, and pain assail;
To pierce their drear abode and melt the gloom,
And chace their supernumerary bale;
And cheer the fatherless, and still the widow's wail.

And what shall be thy guerdon here below?
The world will hate thee, and thy lot will be,
Unaided, to sustain a weight of woe,
The poor, ill-fated child of misery.
Alone and melancholy, cold on thee
The world's neglect shall fall, and quench thy flame,
Or Envy's quiver'd fiends, with shafts, that flee,
To pierce the soul, shall take their deadly aim,
And lay thee in the dust, and rob thee of thy fame.

To deserts, where no blossom ever blew,
Say, will the bee for liquid balm retreat?
Yet, sapient man, this vanity will do,
When noontide dreams his fever'd fancy cheat;
Who anchors in the fair looks of the Great;
Who leans upon the friendship of mankind,
Leans on a reed that will his hopes defeat,
And plant ten thousand daggers in the mind.
Ah me! a happier doom shall virtue never find?

Let those despair, what time existence pains,
And skulk and seek a refuge in the grave,
Who never own'd a God eternal reigns,
Or doubt his will, or doubt his power to save;
Be thine to scorn the fetters that enslave
The mind, and triumph in thy doom severe;
A bright reversion waits the truly brave,
A peerless crown of glory they shall wear,
Where winter never comes, nor sorrow prompts the tear.

Stern Winter, hail! Dread tyrant of the year!
Bleak blows thy blast the wither'd woods among;
And fast comes on the night of darkness drear,
Night, not delightless, since to thee belong
Mirth, music, love, and jollity, and song.
Pleas'd with thy sports, I bid the day retire,
And, happy as the sportive village throng,
Trim gaily, on my hearth, the social fire,
Nor heed the storms that blow and travel in their ire.

While my fenc'd cot excludes the rushing rain,
And there each dear domestic bliss is found,
How sweet to think the tempest beats in vain!
In vain the blasting whirlwinds sweep the ground;
And when the shades of ev'ning close around,
And cold and keen the blast of winter blows,
What joy to sit and hear the woods resound!
Or sink into the arms of calm repose,
Till dawns the boreal morn on hyperborean snows!

The nymphs, in Flora's train, that wanton'd gay,
In many a leafless grove and ruin'd bower
May mourn their pride, their pleasure swept away,
By the rude torrent in the dark, dark hour;
Far o'er the vale unheeded shall it pour,
And gloomy clouds unmourn'd bedark the sky,
While safe I dwell from all the storms that low'r,
And Laura sits with looks of kindness by;
And Love employs his wiles, and breathes his softest sigh.

But when the spirit of the storm, in wrath,
Bestrides the blast, and holds his dread career,
Arrests the traveller on his lonely path,
And Laura mourns his fate, and sighs sincere;
Be mine the pleasing task to lull each fear
To rest, and heav'nly confidence impart,
Dwell on that lip, and on that bosom dear,
And kiss away the tender tears that start,
And gaze o'er all her charms, and press them to my heart.

All hail, fond Love, first boon of heav'n to man!—
The sweet companion of his fallen hour,
Who cheerest of his life the short-liv'd span,
And giv'st to Nature still to charm the power;
'Tis thou that rob'st in beauty every flower
That sheds, upon our vernal walk, delight,
Or fills with blossoms red our summer bower—
'Tis thou can'st charm, when these have urg'd their flight,
Give pleasure to the day, and rapture to the night.

Spread, winter, spread thy shadows o'er the plain,
Ride, fiends of darkness, ride the troubl'd air,
But spare the seaman tossing on the main,
Ah, spare him! in the midnight watches spare!
Here Hymen, trim thy lamp, devoid of care,
To brighten the obscurity profound;
Let female worth thy fond attentions share,
And call thy smiling family around;
And bid the vocal roof the choral strain resound.

Perhaps some tale Tradition shall supply,
Or classic page, where all the muses meet,
That to the harp attun'd, with minstrelsy,
Shall the long tedious night of languor cheat;
A tale of hapless love, that shall complete
The soul's subjection to the warbling wire;
A tale of injur'd worth, that the fierce heat
Of wrathful indignation shall inspire,
And set the crimson tide, that floods the heart, on fire.

Nor would the joy be small, the hours to waste
With meek-ey'd Truth, attempting there to scan
That little world of Nature in the breast;
And read, nor vainly read, the volume — Man.
Remark the harmony of Nature's plan,
How not a passion there is given in vain,
How these repel, and those our wishes fan,
And this our bliss creates, and that our pain,
And knowing this aright, is everlasting gain.

With wisdom thus, and pleasure in their train,
O, may the moments wing their silent flight,
So shall the spring-time soon return again,
With all its tender walks of chaste delight;
So love the day, and joy shall crown the night;
So youth shall nurse no pangs for age to feel;
So may we hope, 'mid fields of ether bright,
The notes of joy with seraphim to peal,
When heav'n's eternal year its splendors shall reveal.

[pp. 29-52]