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All evils here contaminate the mind,
That opulence, departed, leaves behind;
For wealth was theirs, nor far removed the date,
When commerce proudly flourish’d through the state;
At her command, the palace learn’d to rise;
Again the long-fall’n column sought the skies;
The canvas 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 naught 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 plethorick ill.
Yet still the loss of wealth is here supplied
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 every grove.
By sports like these are all their cares beguiled;
The sports of children satisfy the child.
Each nobler aim, repress'd by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
While low delights, succeeding fast behind,
In happier meanness occupy the mind.
As in those domes, where Caesars once bore sway, Defaced by time, and tottering in decay,
There, in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed;
And wondering, man could want the larger pile,
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul turn from them, turn we to survey
Where rougher climes a nobler race display,
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread,
And force a churlish soil for scanty bread;
No product here the barren hills afford,
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword.
No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,
But winter, lingering, chills the lap of May;
No zephyr fondly sues the mountain’s breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm,
Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
Though poor the peasant’s hut, his feasts though small,
He sees his little lot, the lot of all;
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head,
To shame the meanness of his humble Shed;
No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal,
To make him loath his vegetable meal:
But calm, and bred in ignorance, and toil,
Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil.
Gheerful, at morn, he wakes from short repose,
Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes;
With patient angle, trolls the finny deep,
Or drives his venturous ploughshare to the steep;
Or seeks the den, where snow-tracks mark the way,
And drags the struggling savage into day.
At night returning, every labour sped,
He sits him down, the monarch of a shed;
Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys
His children’s looks, that brighten at the blaze;
While his loved partner, boastful of her hoard,
Displays her cleanly platter on the board:
And haply too some pilgrim, thither led,
With many a tale repays the nightly bed.
Thus every good his native wilds impart,
Imprints the patriot passion on his heart;
And e’en those ills, that round his mansion rise,
Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies.
Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms,
And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms;
And, as a child, when scaring sounds molest,
Clings close and closer to the mother’s breast,
So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind’s roar,
But bind him to his native mountains more.
Such are the charms to barren states assign'd;
Their wants but few, their wishes all confined.
Yet let them only share the praises due,
If few their wants, their pleasures are but few;
For every want that stimulates the breast,
Becomes a source of pleasure, when redress’d.
Whence, from such lands each pleasing science flies,
That first excites desire, and then supplies:
Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy,
To fill the languid pause with finer joy;
Unknown those powers, that raise the soul to flame,
Catch every nerve, and vibrate through the frame.
Their level life is but a smouldering fire,
Unquench’d by want, unfann’d by strong desire;
Unfit for raptures; or, if raptures cheer,
On some high festival of once a year,
In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire,
Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire.
But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow:
Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low;
For, as refinement stops, from sire to son,
Unalter’d, unimproved, the manners run;