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OR, A PROSPECT OF SOCIETY.
REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheld, or wandering Po;
Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor
Against the houseless stranger shuts the door;
Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies,
A weary waste expanding to the skies;
Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart, untravell'd, fondly turns to thee:
Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a length'ning chain.
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
And round his dwelling guardian saints attend;
Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their ev❜ning fire;
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And ev'ry stranger finds a ready chair;
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale ;
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.
But me, not destin'd such delights to share, My prime of life in wand'ring spent and care; Impell'd with steps unceasing to pursue Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view; That, like the circle bounding earth and skies, Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies;
My fortune leads to traverse realms alone,
And find no spot of all the world my own.
Ev'n now, where Alpine solitudes ascend,
I sit me down a pensive hour to spend ;
And plac'd on high above the storm's career,
Look downward where an hundred realms appear;
Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide,
The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride.
When thus creation's charms around combine,
Amidst the store, should thankless pride repine?
Say, should the philosophic mind disdain
That good which makes each humbler bosom vain?
Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can,
These little things are great to little man ;
And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind
Exults in all the good of all mankind. [crown'd,
Ye glitt'ring towns, with wealth and splendour
Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round,
Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale,
Ye bending swains, that dress the flow'ry vale,
For me your tributary stores combine;
Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine.
As some lone miser, visiting his store, Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er, Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill, Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still; Thus to my breast alternate passions rise, [plies; Pleas'd with each good that Heav'n to man supYet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall, To see the hoard of human bliss so small; And oft I wish, amidst the scene to find Some spot to real happiness consign'd,
Where my worn soul, each wand'ring hope at rest, May gather bliss, to see my fellows blest.
But where to find that happiest spot below,
Who can direct, when all pretend to know?
'The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone
Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own;
Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
And his long nights of revelry and ease:
The naked Negro, panting at the Line,
Boasts of his golden sands, and palmy wine,
Basks in the glare or stems the tepid wave,
And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam,
His first, best country, ever is at home.
And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare,
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Though patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind :
As diff'rent good, by Art or Nature giv'n
To diff'rent nations, makes their blessings ev'n.
Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Still grants her bliss at labour's earnest call;
With food as well the peasant is supply'd
On Idra's cliff as Arno's shelvy side;
And though the rocky-crested summits frown,
These rocks, by custom, turn to beds of down.
From art more various are the blessings sent;
Wealth, commerce, honour, liberty, content:
Yet these each other's pow'r so strong contest,
That either seems destructive of the rest.
Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails;
And honour sinks where commerce long prevails,
Hence every state, to one lov'd blessing prone,
Conforms and models life to that alone:
Each to the favourite happiness attends,
And spurns the plan that aims at other ends;
Till, carried to excess in each domain,
This fav'rite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
And trace them through the prospect as it lies:
Here for awhile, my proper cares resign'd,
Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind;
Like yon neglected shrub, at random cast,
That shades the steep, and sighs at ev'ry blast.
Far to the right, where Appenine ascends, Bright as the summer, Italy extends: Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side, Woods over woods in gay theatric pride; While oft some temple's mould'ring tops between With memorable grandeur mark the scene.
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast, The sons of Italy were surely blest. Whatever fruits in diff'rent climes are found, That proudly rise or humbly court the ground; Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear, Whose bright succession decks the varied year; Whatever sweets salute the northern sky With vernal lives, that blossom but to die; These here disporting own the kindred soil, Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil; While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, And sensual bliss is all the nation knows.
In florid beauty groves and fields appear,
Man seems the only growth that dwindles here.
Contrasted faults through all his manners reign;
Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain;
Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue;
And ev❜n in penance planning sins anew.
All evils here contaminate the mind,
That opulence departed leaves behind;
For wealth was theirs; not far remov'd the date,
When commerce proudly flourish'd thro' the state;
At her command the palace learnt to rise,
Again the long-fall'n column sought the skies;
The canvass glow'd, beyond e'en Nature warm,
The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form :
Till, more unsteady than the southern gale,
Commerce on other shores display'd her sail;
While nought remain'd of all that riches gave,
But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave:
And late the nation found, with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet still the loss of wealth is here supply'd
By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride;
From these the feeble heart and long-fall'n mind
An easy compensation seem to find.
Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade :
Processions form'd for piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in ev'ry grove.
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
The sports of children satisfy the child:
Each nobler aim, represt by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;