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THE TAS K.

BOOK I.

THE SOF A.

I sing the Sofa. I, who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity,* and touch'd with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escap'd with pain from that advent'rous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
Th' occasion for the fair commands the

song

Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use, Save their own painted skins, our sires had none. As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth, Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile:

* See Poems, Vol. I.

The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Wash'd by the sea, or on the grav’ly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearless of wrong, repos'd his weary strength.
Those barb'rous ages past, succeeded next
The birth-day of invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint-stools were then created; on three legs
Upborn they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.

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On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,

And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms:

And such in ancient halls and mansions drear

May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through.

At length a generation more refin'd
Improv'd the simple plan; made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,

BOOK I.

THE SOFA.

3

And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuff'd,
Induc'd a splendid cover, green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tap’stry richly wrought
And woven close, or needle-work sublime.
There might ye see the piony spread wide,
The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lap-dog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.

Now. came the cane from India, smooth and

bright
With Nature's varnish; sever'd into stripes
That interlac'd each other, these supplied

Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd

The new machine, and it became a chair.

But restless was the chair; the back erect

Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease;
The slipp'ry seat betray'd the sliding part
That press'd it, and the feet hung dangling down,

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These for the rich: the rest, whom fate had plac'd
In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides,
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fixt;
If cushion might be call’d, what harder seem'd

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Than the firm oak of which the frame was form’d.

No want of timber then was felt or fear'd

In Albion's happy isle. The umber stood
Pond'rous and fixt by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say,
An alderman of Cripplegate contriv’d:
And some ascribe th' invention to a priest
Burly and big, and studious of his ease.
But, rude at first, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs,
And bruis’d the side; and, elevated high,
Taught the rais'd shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elaps'd or ere our rugged sires

Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease behind. The ladies first

'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex.

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Ingenious fancy, never better pleas'd
Than when employ'd t' accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis'd
The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow it receiv'd,
United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne;
And so two citizens who take the air,
Close pack’d, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame,
By soft recumbency of outstretch'd limbs,
Was bliss reserv'd for happier days. So slow
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
T'attain perfection in this nether world.
Thus first neceşsity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs,
And luxury th' accomplish'd sofa last.

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