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- The Village and The Newspaper - 2/6 -


Till long-contending nature droops at last, Declining health rejects his poor repast, His cheerless spouse the coming danger sees, And mutual murmurs urge the slow disease. Yet grant them health, 'tis not for us to tell, Though the head droops not, that the heart is well; Or will you praise that homely, healthy fare, Plenteous and plain, that happy peasants share? Oh! trifle not with wants you cannot feel, Nor mock the misery of a stinted meal; Homely, not wholesome, plain, not plenteous, such As you who praise would never deign to touch. Ye gentle souls, who dream of rural ease, Whom the smooth stream and smoother sonnet please; Go! if the peaceful cot your praises share, Go look within, and ask if peace be there; If peace be his, that drooping weary sire; Or theirs, that offspring round their feeble fire; Or hers, that matron pale, whose trembling hand Turns on the wretched hearth th' expiring brand! Nor yet can Time itself obtain for these Life's latest comforts, due respect and ease; For yonder see that hoary swain, whose age Can with no cares except its own engage; Who, propt on that rude staff, looks up to see The bare arms broken from the withering tree, On which, a boy, he climb'd the loftiest bough, Then his first joy, but his sad emblem now. He once was chief in all the rustic trade; His steady hand the straightest furrow made; Full many a prize he won, and still is proud To find the triumphs of his youth allow'd; A transient pleasure sparkles in his eyes, He hears and smiles, then thinks again and sighs: For now he journeys to his grave in pain; The rich disdain him; nay the poor disdain: Alternate masters now their slave command, Urge the weak efforts of his feeble hand, And, when his age attempts its task in vain, With ruthless taunts, of lazy poor complain. Oft may you see him, when he tends the sheep, His winter charge, beneath the hillock weep; Oft hear him murmur to the winds that blow O'er his white locks and bury them in snow, When, rous'd by rage and muttering in the morn, He mends the broken hedge with icy thorn: - "Why do I live, when I desire to be At once from life and life's long labour free? Like leaves in spring, the young are blown away, Without the sorrows of a slow decay; I, like yon withered leaf remain behind, Nipt by the frost, and shivering in the wind; There it abides till younger buds come on As I, now all my fellow-swains are gone, Then from the rising generation thrust, It falls, like me, unnoticed to the dust. "These fruitful fields, these numerous flocks I see, Are others' gain, but killing cares to me; To me the children of my youth are lords, Cool in their looks, but hasty in their words: Wants of their own demand their care; and who Feels his own want and succours others too? A lonely, wretched man, in pain I go, None need my help, and none relieve my woe; Then let my bones beneath the turf be laid, And men forget the wretch they would not aid." Thus groan the old, till by disease oppress'd, They taste a final woe, and then they rest. Theirs is yon House that holds the parish poor, Whose walls of mud scarce bear the broken door; There, where the putrid vapours, flagging, play, And the dull wheel hums doleful through the day;- There children dwell who know no parents' care; Parents, who know no children's love, dwell there! Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed, Forsaken wives, and mothers never wed; Dejected widows with unheeded tears, And crippled age with more than childhood fears; The lame, the blind, and, far the happiest they! The moping idiot, and the madman gay. Here too the sick their final doom receive, Here brought, amid the scenes of grief, to grieve, Where the loud groans from some sad chamber flow, Mixt with the clamours of the crowd below; Here, sorrowing, they each kindred sorrow scan, And the cold charities of man to man: Whose laws indeed for ruin'd age provide, And strong compulsion plucks the scrap from pride; But still that scrap is bought with many a sigh, And pride embitters what it can't deny. Say, ye, opprest by some fantastic woes, Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose; Who press the downy couch, while slaves advance With timid eye to read the distant glance; Who with sad prayers the weary doctor tease, To name the nameless ever new disease; Who with mock patience dire complaints endure, Which real pain and that alone can cure; How would ye bear in real pain to lie, Despised, neglected, left alone to die? How would ye bear to draw your latest breath Where all that's wretched paves the way for death? Such is that room which one rude beam divides, And naked rafters form the sloping sides; Where the vile bands that bind the thatch are seen, And lath and mud are all that lie between; Save one dull pane, that, coarsely patch'd, gives way To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day: Here, on a matted flock, with dust o'erspread, The drooping wretch reclines his languid head; For him no hand the cordial cup applies, Or wipes the tear that stagnates in his eyes; No friends with soft discourse his pain beguile, Or promise hope, till sickness wears a smile. But soon a loud and hasty summons calls, Shakes the thin roof, and echoes round the walls; Anon, a figure enters, quaintly neat, All pride and business, bustle and conceit; With looks unalter'd by these scenes of woe, With speed that, entering, speaks his haste to go, He bids the gazing throng around him fly, And carries fate and physic in his eye: A potent quack, long versed in human ills, Who first insults the victim whom he kills; Whose murd'rous hand a drowsy Bench protect, And whose most tender mercy is neglect. Paid by the parish for attendance here, He wears contempt upon his sapient sneer; In haste he seeks the bed where Misery lies, Impatience mark'd in his averted eyes; And, some habitual queries hurried o'er, Without reply, he rushes on the door: His drooping patient, long inured to pain, And long unheeded, knows remonstrance vain; He ceases now the feeble help to crave Of man; and silent sinks into the grave. But ere his death some pious doubts arise, Some simple fears, which "bold bad" men despise; Fain would he ask the parish priest to prove His title certain to the joys above: For this he sends the murmuring nurse, who calls The holy stranger to these dismal walls: And doth not he, the pious man, appear, He, "passing rich, with forty pounds a year?" Ah!no; a shepherd of a different stock, And far unlike him, feeds this little flock: A jovial youth, who thinks his Sunday's task As much as God or man can fairly ask; The rest he gives to loves and labours light, To fields the morning, and to feasts the night; None better skill'd the noisy pack to guide, To urge their chase, to cheer them or to chide; A sportsman keen, he shoots through half the day, And, skill'd at whist, devotes the night to play: Then, while such honours bloom around his head, Shall he sit sadly by the sick man's bed, To raise the hope he feels not, or with zeal To combat fears that e'en the pious, feel? Now once again the gloomy scene explore, Less gloomy now; the bitter hour is o'er, The man of many sorrows sighs no more. - Up yonder hill, behold how sadly slow The bier moves winding from the vale below: There lie the happy dead, from trouble free, And the glad parish pays the frugal fee: No more, O Death! thy victim starts to hear Churchwarden stern, or kingly overseer; No more the farmer claims his humble bow, Thou art his lord, the best of tyrants thou! Now to the church behold the mourners come, Sedately torpid and devoutly dumb; The village children now their games suspend, To see the bier that bears their ancient friend: For he was one in all their idle sport, And like a monarch ruled their little court; The pliant bow he form'd, the flying ball, The bat, the wicket, were his labours all; Him now they follow to his grave, and stand, Silent and sad, and gazing hand in hand; While bending low, their eager eyes explore The mingled relics of the parish poor. The bell tolls late, the moping owl flies round, Fear marks the flight and magnifies the sound; The busy priest, detain'd by weightier care, Defers his duty till the day of prayer; And, waiting long, the crowd retire distrest, To think a poor man's bones should lie unblest.

BOOK II--THE ARGUMENT.

There are found, amid the Evils of a laborious Life, some Views of Tranquillity and Happiness--The Repose and Pleasure of a Summer Sabbath: interrupted by Intoxication and Dispute--Village Detraction--Complaints of the 'Squire--The Evening Riots--Justice-- Reasons for this unpleasant View of Rustic Life: the Effect it should have upon the Lower Classes; and the Higher--These last have


The Village and The Newspaper - 2/6

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