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The chest, contrived a double debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures, placed for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose;
The hearth, except when winter chill'd the day,
With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel, gay:
While broken tea cups, wisely kept for show,
Ranged o'er the chimney, glisten’d in a row.
Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall!
Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart
An hour’s importance to the poor man’s heart;
Thither no more the peasant shall repair,
To sweet oblivion of his daily care;
No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale,
No more the woodman’s ballad shall prevail;
No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear,
Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear;
The host himself no longer shall be found
Careful to see the mantling bliss go round;
Nor the coy maid, half willing to be press’d,
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen, who survey The rich man's joys increase, the poor’s decay, ’Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand
Between a splendid and an happy land.
Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore,
As some fair female, unadorn’d and plain,
Secure to please, while youth confirms her reign,
Slights every borrow’d charm that dress supplies,
Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes;
But when those charms are pass’d, for charms are frail,
When time advances, and when lovers fail,
She then shines forth, solicitous to bless,
In all the glaring impotence of dress.
Thus fares the land, by luxury betray’d;
In nature’s simplest charms at first array’d,
But verging to decline, its splendours rise,
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise;
While, scourged by famine from the smiling land,
The mournful peasant leads his humble band;
And while he sinks, without one arm to save,
The country blooms—a garden, and a grave.
To scape the pressure of contiguous pride?
If to some common’s fenceless limits stray’d,
He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade,
Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide,
And e’en the bare-worn common is deny’d.
If to the city sped—what waits him there? To see profusion, that he must not share; To see ten thousand baneful arts combined To pamper luxury, and thin mankind; To see each joy the sons of pleasure know, Extorted from his fellow-creature’s woe. Here, while the courtier glitters in brocade, There, the pale artist plies the sickly trade; Here, while the proud their long-drawn pomps display, There, the black gibbet glooms beside the way. The dome where pleasure holds her midnight reign, Here, richly deck’d, admits the gorgeous train; Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square, The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare. Sure, scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy! Sure, these denote one universal joy! Are these thy serious thoughts P—Ah, turn thine eyes Where the poor, houseless, shivering female lies: She once, perhaps, in village plenty bless'd,
Has wept at tales of innocence distress’d;