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But that which binds the mercenary vow?
No youth of genius, whose neglected bloom
Unfoster'd sickens in the barren shade?
No worthy man by fortune's random blows,
Or by a heart too generous and humane,
Constrain'd to leave his happy natal seat,
And sigh for wants more bitter than his own?
There are, while human miseries abound,
A thousand ways to waste superfluous wealth,
Without one fool or flatterer at your board,
Without one hour of sickness or disgust.
But other ills th' ambiguous feast pursue,
Besides provoking the lascivious taste.
Such various foods, though harmless each alone,
Each other violate; and oft we see
What strife is brew'd, and what pernicious bane, From combinations of obnoxious things.
Th' unbounded taste I mean not to confine
To hermit's diet needlessly severe.
But would you long the sweets of health enjoy,
Or husband pleasure; at one impious meal
Exhaust not half the bounties of the year,
Of every realm. It matters not meanwhile
How much to-morrow differ from to-day;
So far indulge; 't is fit, besides, that man,
To change obnoxious, be to change inur'd.
But stay the curious appetite, and taste
With caution fruits you never tried before.
For want of use the kindest aliment
Sometimes offends; while custom tames the rage
Of poison to mild amity with life.
So Heaven has form'd us to the general taste
Of all its gifts: so custom has improv'd
This bent of nature; that few simple foods,
Of all that earth, or air, or ocean yield,
But by excess offend. Beyond the sense
Of light refection, at the genial board
Indulge not often; nor protract the feast
To dull satiety; till soft and slow
A drowsy death creeps on, th' expansive soul
Oppress'd, and smother'd the celestial fire.
The stomach, urg'd beyond its active tone,
Hardly to nutrimental chyle subdues
The softest food: unfinish'd and deprav'd,
The chyle, in all its future wanderings, owns
Its turbid fountain; not by purer streams
So to be clear'd, but foulness will remain.
To sparkling wine what ferment can exalt
Th' unripen'd grape? or what mechanic skill
From the crude ore can spin the ductile gold?
Gross riot treasures up a wealthy fund
Of plagues but more immedicable ills
Attend the lean extreme. For physic knows
How to disburthen the too tumid veins,
Even how to ripen the half-labour'd blood :
But to unlock the elemental tubes,
Collaps'd and shrunk with long inanity,
And with balsamic nutriment repair
The dried and worn-out habit, were to bid
Old age grow green, and wear a second spring;
Or the tall ash, long ravish'd from the soil,
Through wither'd veins imbibe the vernal dew.
When hunger calls, obey; not often wait
Till hunger sharpen to corrosive pain:
For the keen appetite will feast beyond
What nature well can bear: and one extreme
Ne'er without danger meets its own reverse.
Too greedily th' exhausted veins absorb
The recent chyle, and load enfeebled powers
Oft to th' extinction of the vital flame.
To the pale cities, by the firm-set siege
And famine humbled, may this verse be borne ;
And hear, ye hardiest sons that Albion breeds,
Long toss'd and famish'd on the wintry main;
The war shook off, or hospitable shore
Attain'd, with temperance bear the shock of joy;
Nor crown with festive rites th' auspicious day:
Such feasts might prove more fatal than the waves,
Than war or famine. While the vital fire
Burns feebly, heap not the green fuel on;
But prudently foment the wandering spark
With what the soonest feeds its kindest touch:
Be frugal ev'n of that: a little give
At first; that kindled, add a little more;
Till, by deliberate nourishing, the flame
Reviv'd, with all its wonted vigour glows.
But though the two (the full and the jejune)
Extremes have each their vice; it much avails
Ever with gentle tide to ebb and flow
From this to that; so nature learns to bear
Whatever chance or headlong appetite
May bring. Besides, a meagre day subdues
The cruder clods by sloth or luxury
Collected, and unloads the wheels of life.
Sometimes a coy aversion to the feast
Comes on, while yet no blacker omen lours;
Then is the time to shun the tempting board,
Were it your natal or your nuptial day.
Perhaps a fast so seasonable starves
The latent seeds of woe, which rooted once
Might cost you labour. But the day return'd
Of festal luxury, the wise indulge
Most in the tender vegetable breed :
Then chiefly when the summer beams inflame
The brazen Heavens; or angry Sirius sheds
A feverish taint through the still gulph of air.
The moist cool viands then, and flowing cup
From the fresh dairy-virgin's liberal hand, [world
Will save your head from harm, though round the
The dreaded causos roll his wasteful fires.
Pale humid Winter loves the generous board,
The meal more copious, and the warmer fare;
And longs with old wood and old wine to cheer
His quaking heart. The seasons which divide
Th' empires of heat and cold; by neither claim'd,
Influenc'd by both; a middle regimen
Impose. Through Autumn's languishing domain
Descending, Nature by degrees invites
To glowing luxury. But from the depth
Of Winter, when th' invigorated year
Emerges; when Favonius, flush'd with love,
Toyful and young, in every breeze descends
More warm and wanton on his kindling bride;
Then, shepherds, then begin to spare your flocks;
And learn with wise humanity, to check
The lust of blood. Now pregnant earth commits
A various offspring to the indulgent sky:
* The burning fever.
Now bounteous Nature feeds with lavish hand
The prone creation; yields what once suffic'd
Their dainty sovereign, when the world was young;
Ere yet the barbarous thirst of blood had seiz'd
The human breast. Each rolling month matures
The food that suits it most; so does each clime.
Far in the horrid realms of Winter, where
Th' establish'd ocean heaps a monstrous waste
Of shining rocks and mountains to the Pole,
There lives a hardy race, whose plainest wants
Relentless Earth, their cruel step-mother,
Regards not. On the waste of iron fields,
Untam'd, intractable, no harvests wave:
Pomona hates them, and the clownish god
Who tends the garden. In this frozen world
Such cooling gifts were vain: a fitter meal
Is earn'd with ease; for here the fruitful spawn
Of ocean swarms, and heaps their genial board
With generous fare and luxury profuse.
These are their bread, the only bread they know :
These, and their willing slave the deer that crops
The shrubby herbage on their meagre hills.
Girt by the burning zone, not thus the South
Her swarthy sons in either Ind maintains :
Or thirsty Libya; from whose fervid loins
The lion bursts, and every fiend that roams
Th' affrighted wilderness. The mountain-herd,
Adust and dry, no sweet repast affords;
Nor does the tepid main such kinds produce,
So perfect, so delicious, as the shoals
Of icy Zembla. Rashly where the blood [tain
Brews feverish frays; where scarce the tubes sus-