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Exceed your strength, a sport of less fatigue,
Not less delightful, the prolific stream
Affords. The crystal rivulet, that o'er
A stony channel rolls its rapid maze,
Swarms with the silver fry. Such, through the
Of pastoral Stafford, runs the brawling Trent;
Such Eden, sprung from Cumbrian mountains; such
The Esk, o'erhung with woods; and such the
On whose Arcadian banks I first drew air,
till now, except in Doric lays
Tun'd to her murmurs by her love-sick swains,
Unknown in song; though not a purer stream.
Through meads more flowery, more romantic groves,
Rolls toward the western main. Hail, sacred flood?
May still thy hospitable swains be blest
In rural innocence; thy mountains still
Teem with the fleecy race; thy tuneful woods
For ever flourish; and thy vales look gay
With painted meadows, and the golden grain !
Oft, with thy blooming sons, when life was new,
Sportive and petulant, and charm'd with toys,
In thy transparent eddies have I lav'd:
Oft trac'd with patient steps thy fairy banks,
With the well-imitated fly to hook
The eager trout, and with the slender line
And yielding rod solicit to the shore
The struggling panting prey: while vernal clouds And tepid gales obscur'd the ruffled pool,
And from the deeps call'd forth the wanton swarms. Form'd on the Samian school, or those of Ind, There are who think these pastimes scarce humane.
Yet in my mind (and not relentless I)
His life is pure that wears no fouler stains.
But if through genuine tenderness of heart,
Or secret want of relish for the game,
You shun the glories of the chase, nor care
To haunt the peopled stream; the garden yields
A soft amusement, an humane delight.
To raise th' insipid nature of the ground;
Or tame its savage genius to the grace
Of careless sweet rusticity, that seems
The amiable result of happy chance,
Is to create; and gives a god-like joy,
Which every year improves. Nor thou disdain
To check the lawless riot of the trees,
To plant the grove, or turn the barren mould.
O happy he! whom, when his years decline,
(His fortune and his fame by worthy means
Attain'd, and equal to his moderate mind;
His life approv'd by all the wise and good,
Even envied by the vain,) the peaceful groves
Of Epicurus, from this stormy world,
Receive to rest; of all ungrateful cares
Absolv'd, and sacred from the selfish crowd.
Happiest of men! if the same soil invites
A chosen few, companions of his youth,
Once fellow-rakes perhaps, now rural friends;
With whom in easy commerce to pursue
Nature's free charms, and vie for sylvan fame :
A fair ambition; void of strife or guile,
Or jealousy, or pain to be outdone.
Who plans th' enchanted garden, who directs
The vista best, and best conducts the stream:
Whose groves the fastest thicken and ascend;
Whom first the welcome Spring salutes; who shows
The earliest bloom, the sweetest proudest charms
Of Flora; who best gives Pomona's juice
To match the sprightly genius of champagne.
Thrice happy days! in rural business past :
Blest winter nights! when, as the genial fire
Cheers the wide hall, his cordial family
With soft domestic arts the hours beguile,
And pleasing talk that starts no timorous fame,
With witless wantonness to hunt it down:
Or through the fairy-land of tale or song
Delighted wander, in fictitious fates
Engag'd, and all that strikes humanity :
Till lost in fable, they the stealing hour
Of timely rest forget. Sometimes, at eve
His neighbours lift the latch, and bless unbid
His festal roof; while, o'er the light repast,
And sprightly cups, they mix in social joy;
And, through the maze of conversation, trace
Whate'er amuses or improves the mind.
Sometimes at eve (for I delight to taste
The native zest and flavour of the fruit,
Where sense grows wild and tastes of no manure)
The decent, honest, cheerful husbandman
Should drown his labour in my friendly bowl;
And at my table find himself at home.
Whate'er you study, in whate'er you sweat,
Indulge your taste. Some love the manly foils;
The tennis some; and some the graceful dance.
Others, more hardy, range the purple heath,
Or naked stubble; where, from field to field,
The sounding coveys urge their labouring flight;
Eager amid the rising cloud to pour
The gun's unerring thunder: and there are
Whom still the meed of the green archer charms,
He chooses best, whose labour entertains
His vacant fancy most: the toil you hate
Fatigues you soon, and scarce improves your limbs.
As beauty still has blemish, and the mind
The most accomplish'd its imperfect side,
Few bodies are there of that happy mould
But some one part is weaker than the rest :
The legs, perhaps, or arms refuse their load,
Or the chest labours. These assiduously,
But gently, in their proper arts employ'd,
Acquire a vigour and springy activity,
To which they were not born.
But weaker parts
Abhor fatigue and violent discipline.
Begin with gentle toils; and as your nerves
Grow firm, to hardier by just steps aspire;
The prudent, even in every moderate walk,
At first but saunter, and by slow degrees
Increase their pace. This doctrine of the wise
Well knows the master of the flying steed.
First from the goal the manag'd coursers play
On bended reins; as yet the skilful youth
Repress their foamy pride; but every breath
The race grows warmer, and the tempest swells,
Till all the fiery mettle has its way,
And the thick thunder hurries o'er the plain.
* This word is much used by some of the old English poets, and signifies reward or prize.
When all at once from indolence to toil
You spring, the fibres by the hasty shock
Are tir'd and crack'd, before their unctuous coats,
Compress'd, can pour the lubricati
Besides, collected in the passive veins,
The purple mass a sudden torrent rolls,
O'erpowers the heart, and deluges the lungs
With dangerous inundation; oft the source
of fatal woes; a cough that foams with blood,
Asthma, and feller peripneumony *,
Or the slow minings of the hectic fire.
Th' athletic fool, to whom what Heaven deny'd Of soul is well compensated in limbs,
Oft from his rage, or brainless frolic, feels
His vegetation and brute force decay.
The men of better clay and finer mould
Know nature, feel the human dignity,
And scorn to vie with oxen or with apes.
Pursu'd prolixly, even the gentlest toil
Is waste of health: repose by small fatigue
Is earn'd, and (where your habit is not prone
To thaw) by the first moisture of the brows.
The fine and subtle spirits cost too much
To be profus'd, too much the roscid balm.
But when the hard varieties of life
You toil to learn, or try the dusty chase,
Or the warm deeds of some important day:
Hot from the field, indulge not yet your limbs
In wish'd repose; nor court the fanning gale,
Nor taste the spring. O! by the sacred tears
The inflammation of the lungs.