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Here long they knock, but knock or call in vain,
Driven by the wind, and batter'd by the rain.
At length some pity warm’d the master's breast,
('Twas then his threshold first receiv'd a guest)
Slow creaking turns the door with jealous care,
And half he welcomes in the shivering pair ;
One frugal faggot lights the naked walls,
And nature's fervour through their limbs recalls :
Bread of the coarsest sort, with eager wine,
Each hardly granted, serv'd them both to dine;
And when the tempest first appear'd to cease,
A ready warning bid them part in peace.
With still remark the pondering hermit view'd
In one so rich, a life so poor and rude ;
And why should such, within himself he cried,
Lock the lost wealth a thousand want beside ?
But what new marks of wonder soon took place
In every settling feature of his face,
When from his vest the young companion bore
That cup, the generous landlord own'd before,
And paid profusely with the precious bowl,
The stinted kindness of this churlish soul !
But now the clouds in airy tumult fly;
The sun emerging opes an azure sky;
A fresher green the smelling leaves display,
And, glittering as they tremble, cheer the day:
The weather courts them from their poor retreat,
And the glad master bolts the weary gate.
While hence they walk, the pilgrim's bosom wrought
With all the travel of uncertain thought ;
His partner's acts without their cause appear,
'Twas there a vice, and seem'd a madness here :
Detesting that, and pitying this, he goes,
Lost and confounded with the various shows.
Now night's dim shades again involve the sky, )
Again the wanderers want a place to lie,
Again they search, and find a lodging nigh :
The soil improv'd around, the mansion neat,
And neither poorly low, nor idly great :
It seem'd to speak its master's turn of mind,
Content, and not for praise, but virtue kind.
Hither the walkers turn with weary feet,
Then bless the mansion, and the master greet :
Their greeting fair bestow'd, with modest guise,
The courteous master hears, and thus replies :
Without a vain, without a grudging heart,
To him who gives us all, I yield a part ;
From him you come, for him accept it here,
A frank and sober, more than costly cheer.'
He spoke, and bid the welcome table spread,
Then talk'd of virtue till the time of bed,
When the grave household round his hall repair,
Warn’d by a bell, and close the hours with prayer.
At length the world, renew'd by calm repose, Was strong for toil, the dappled morn arose. Before the pilgrims part, the younger crept Near the clos'd cradle where an infant slept, And writh'd his neck : the landlord's little pride, O strange return! grew black, and gasp'd, and died ! Horror of horrors ! what! his only son ! How look'd our hermit when the fact was done? Not hell, though hell's black jaws in sunder part, And breathe blue fire, could more assault his heart.
Confus'd, and struck with silence at the deed, He flies, but, trembling, fails to fly with speed. His steps the youth pursues : the country lay Perplex'd with roads, a servant show'd the way : A river cross'd the path ; the passage o’er Was nice to find; the servant trod before : Long arms of oaks an open bridge supplied, And deep the waves beneath the bending glide. The youth, who seem'd to watch a time to sin, Approach'd the careless guide, and thrust him in; Plunging he falls, and rising lifts his head, Then flashing turns, and sinks among the dead.
Wild, sparkling rage inflames the father's eyes, He bursts the bands of fear, and madly cries, 'Detested wretch !?—but scarce his speech began,
When the strange partner seem'd no longer man :
His youthful face grew more serenely sweet ;
His robe turn'd white, and flow'd upon his feet;
Fair rounds of radiant points invest his hair ;
Celestial odours breathe through purpled air ;
And wings, whose colours glitter'd on the day,
Wide at his back their gradual plumes display.
The form ethereal bursts upon his sight,
And moves in all the majesty of light.
Though loud at first the pilgrim's passion grew,
Sudden he gaz'd, and wist not what to do ;
Surprise in secret chains his words suspends,
And in a calm his settling temper ends.
But silence here the beauteous angel broke,
The voice of music ravish'd as he spoke.
'Thy prayer, thy praise, thy life to vice unknown,
In sweet memorial rise before the throne :
These charms, success in our bright region find,
And force an angel down, to calm thy mind;
For this, commission'd, I forsook the sky,
Nay, cease to kneel—thy fellow-servant I.
“Then know the truth of government divine, And let these scruples be no longer thine.
"The Maker justly claims that world he made,
In this the right of Providence is laid ;
Its sacred majesty through all depends
On using second means to work his ends :
'Tis thus, withdrawn in state from human eye,
The power exerts his attributes on high,
Your actions uses, nor controls your will,
And bids the doubting sons of men be still.
"What strange events can strike with more surprise,
Than those which lately struck thy wondering eyes ?
Yet taught by these, confess th' Almighty just,
And where you can't unriddle, learn to trust!
The great vain man, who far'd on costly food,
Whose life was too luxurious to be good;
Who made his ivory stands with goblets shine,
And forc'd his guests to morning draughts of wine,
Has, with the cup, the graceless custom lost,
And still he welcomes, but with less of cost.
"The mean, suspicious wretch, whose bolted door
Ne'er mov'd in duty to the wandering poor ;
With him I left the cup, to teach his mind
That heaven can bless, if mortals will be kind.
Conscious of wanting worth, he views the bowl,
And feels compassion touch his grateful soul,
Thus artists melt the sullen ore of lead,
With heaping coals of fire upon its head;
In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,
And loose from dross, the silver runs below.
Long had our pious friend in virtue trod,
But now the child half-wean'd his heart from God;
Child of his age, for him he liv'd in pain,
And measurd back his steps to earth again.
To what excesses had this dotage run !
But God, to save the father, took the son.
To all but thee, in fits he seem'd to go,
And 'twas my ministry to deal the blow.
The poor fond parent, humbled in the dust,
Now owns in tears the punishment was just.
‘But how had all his fortune felt a wrack,
Had that false servant sped in safety back!
This night his treasur'd heaps he meant to steal,
And what a fund of charity would fail!
'Thus Heaven instructs thy mind : this trial o'er, Depart in peace, resign, and sin no more.'
On sounding pinions here the youth withdrew,
The sage stood wondering as the seraph flew.
Thus look'd Elisha, when, to mount on high,
His master took the chariot of the sky;
The fiery pomp ascending left the view ;
The prophet gaz'd, and wish'd to follow too.
The bending hermit here a prayer begun,
‘Lord ! as in heaven, on earth thy will be done!'
Then gladly turning, sought his ancient place,
And pass'd a life of piety and peace.
[JOHN Gay was born near Barnstaple in 1688. Fairly educated, he began life in London as a silk-mercer; but soon relinquished that occupation for literature. His first poem was Rural Sports, a Georgic'inscribed to Mr. Pope,' 1713. In the following year he produced The Shepherd's Week, a set of six pastorals. His principal remaining works are the farce of The What-d'ye Call-it, 1715; the mock-heroic poem of Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London, 1716; Fables, 1726-38; and the famous Beggar's Opera, 1728. His Poems on Several Occasions, including the pastoral tragedy of Dione, were published in 1720. He was also concerned in, and bore the blame of, the unlucky comedy of Three Hours after Marriage, to which Pope and Arbuthnot had largely contributed. He died in London in December, 1732.]
Gay appears to have been one of those easy-tempered, indolent, irresponsible good-creatures, whose lot in this world would probably be either pitiful or tragic, if a beneficent Fate did not provide them with charitable friends who watch over them with almost parental solicitude. Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Bolingbroke, seem to have cherished a genuine affection for him ; and in later life the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury received him into their house, and took care both of the helpless poet and his money. His first poem, Rural Sports, though it contains some happy descriptive passages, is of the 'toujours bien, jamais mieux' order of performance. Its dedication, however, procured him the acquaintance of Pope. The Shepherd's Week, his next effort, was in fact suggested by Pope, who, fresh from his covert attack in the Guardian (Monday, April 27, 1713) on the sham pastoral of Ambrose Philips, foresaw what powerful assistance Gay's observant humour and knowledge of the country would furnish to his cause. The rustic life was to be depicted with the gilt off, and the right simple Eclogue' essayed after the true ancient guise VOL. III.