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Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictur'd here, Thine are those charms that dazzle and endear; Too blest indeed were such without alloy, But foster'd e'en by Freedom ills annoy; That independence Britons prize too high, Keeps man from man, and breaks the social tie; The self-dependent lordlings stand alone, All claims that bind and sweeten life unknown; Here by the bonds of nature feebly held, Minds combat minds, repelling and repell’d. Ferments arise, imprison'd factions roar, Represt ambition struggles round her shore, Till over-wrought, the general system feels Its motions stop, or phrenzy fire the wheels. Nor this the worst. As nature's ties decay, As duty, love, and honor fail to sway, Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law, Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe. Hence all obedience bows to thee alone, And talent sinks, and merit weeps unknown; Till time may come, when, stript of all her charms, The land of scholars, and the nurse of arms, Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame, Where kings have toil'd, and poets wrote for fame, One sink of level avarice shall lie, And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonor'd die. Yet think not, thus when Freedom's ills I state, I mean to flatter kings, or court the great; Ye powers of truth that bid my soul aspire, Far from my bosom drive the low desire; And thou, fair Freedom, taught alike to feel The rabble's rage, and tyrant's angry steel; Thou transitory flower, alike undone By proud contempt, or favor's fostering sun, Still may thy blooms the changeful clime endure, I only would repress them to secure; For just experience tells, in every soil, That those who think must govern those that toil;
And all that Freedom's highest aims can reach,
Where wild Oswego spreads her swamps around,
THE DESERTED WILLAG e.
To SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
I Can have no expectations in an address of this kind, either to add to your reputation, or to establish my own. You can gain nothing from my admiration, as I am ignorant of that art in which you are said to excel; and I may lose much by the severity of your judgment, as few have a juster taste in poetry than you. Setting interest therefore aside, to which I never paid much attention, I must be indulged at present in following my affections. The only dedication I ever made was to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. Permit me to inscribe this Poem to you. How far you may be pleased with the versification, and mere mechanical parts of this attempt, I do not pretend to enquire; but I know you will object (and indeed several of our best and wisest friends concur in the opinion) that the depopulation it deplores is no where to be seen, and the disorders it laments are only to be found in the poet's own imagination. To this I can scarce make any other answer, than that I sincerely believe what I have written; that I have taken all possible pains, in my country excursions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I alledge, and that all my views and enquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display.—But this is not the B ~
place to enter into an enquiry, whether the country be depopulating, or not; the discussion would take up much room, and I should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the reader with a long preface, when I want his unfatigued attention to a long poem. In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the increase of our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern politicians against me. For twenty or thirty years past, it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity, in that particular, as erroneous. Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and continue to think those luxuries prejudicial to states by which so many vices are introduced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed, so much has been poured out of late on the other side of the question, that, merely for the sake of novelty and variety, one would sometimes wish to be in the right.