Page images






AH! who can tell how hard it is to climb

The steep where Fame's proud temple shines

Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime
Hath felt the influence of malignant star,

And wag'd with Fortune an eternal war;
Check'd by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown,
And Poverty's unconquerable bar,

In life's low vale remote hath pin'd alone, Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown.

And yet, the languor of inglorious days

Not equally oppressive is to all.

Him, who ne'er listen'd to the voice of praise,
The silence of neglect can ne'er appal.

There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition's call,
Would shrink to hear the obstreperous trump of Fame;
Supremely blest, if to their portion fall

Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim Had He, whose simple tale these artless lines proclaim,

The rolls of fame, I will not now explore;
Nor need I here describe in learned lay,
How forth The Minstrel far'd in days of yore,
Right glad of heart, tho' homely in array;
His waving locks and beard all hoary grey :
And from his bending shoulder decent hung
His harp, the sole companion of his way,

Which to the whistling wind responsive rung:
And ever as he went some merry lay he sung.

Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride,
That a poor Villager inspires my strain;
With thee let Pageantry and Power abide :
The gentle Muses haunt the sylvan reign;
Where thro' wild groves at eve the lonely swain
Enraptur'd roams, to gaze on Nature's charms.
They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain,
The parasite their influence never warms,

Nor him whose sordid soul the love of gold alarms.
Tho' richest hues the peacock's plumes adorn,
Yet horror screams from his discordant throat.
Rise, sons of harmony, and hail the morn,
While warbling larks on russet pinions float:
Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote,
Where the grey linnets carol from the hill.
O let them ne'er, with artificial note,

To please a tyrant, strain the little bill, But sing what Heaven inspires, and wander where they will.

Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand;
Nor was perfection made for man below.

Yet all her schemes with nicest art are plann'd,
Good counteracting ill, and gladness woe.
With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow,
If bleak and barren Scotia's hills arise;

There plague and poison, lust and rapine grow; Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies, And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes.

Then grieve not, thou, to whom the indulgent Muse
Vouchsafes a portion of celestial fire;

Nor blame the partial Fates, if they refuse
The imperial banquet and the rich attire.
Know thine own worth, and reverence the lyre.
Wilt thou debase the heart which God refin'd?
No; let thy heaven-taught soul to heaven aspire,
To fancy, freedom, harmony, resign;

Ambition's grovelling crew for ever left behind.

Canst thou forego the pure etherial soul
In each fine sense so exquisitely keen,
On the dull couch of Luxury to loll,

Stung with disease and stupified with spleen;
Fain to implore the aid of Flattery's screen,
Even from thyself thy loathsome heart to hide,
(The mansion then no more of joy serene)
Where fear, distrust, malevolence, abide,
And impotent desire, and disappointed pride?

O how canst thou renounce the boundless store
Of charms which Nature to her votary yields !
The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields;
All that the genial ray of morning gilds,
And all that echoes to the song of even,
All that the mountain's sheltering bosom shields,
And all the dread magnificence of heaven,

O how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven!

These charms shall work thy soul's eternal health, And love, and gentleness, and joy, impart. But these thou must renounce, if lust of wealth E'er win its way to thy corrupted heart; For, ah! it poisons like a scorpion's dart; Prompting th' ungenerous wish, the selfish scheme, The stern resolve, unmov'd by pity's smart, - The troublous day, and long distressful dream.Return, my roving Muse, resume thy purpos'd theme.

There liv'd in Gothic days, as legends tell,
A shepherd-swain, a man of low degree;
Whose sires, perchance, in Fairyland might dwell,
Sicilian groves, or vales of Arcady;

But he, I ween, was of the north countrie: *
A nation fam'd for song, and beauty's charms;
Zealous, yet modest; innocent, tho' free;
Patient of toil; serene amidst alarms;
Inflexible in faith: invincible in arms.

The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made, On Scotia's mountains fed his little flock; The sickle, scythe, or plough, he never sway'd; An honest heart was almost all his stock; His drink the living water from the rock : The milky dams supply'd his board, and lent Their kindly fleece to baffle winter's shock; And he, tho' oft with dust and sweat besprent, Did guide and guard their wanderings, wheresoe'er they went.

From labour health, from health contentment springs.

Contentment opes the source of every joy. He envy'd not, he never thought of kings : Nor from those appetites sustain'd annoy, Which chance may frustrate, or indulgence cloy; Nor fate his calm and humble hopes beguil'd; He mourn'd no recreant friend, nor mistress coy, For on his vows the blameless Phœbe smil'd, And her alone he lov'd, and lov'd her from a child.

*There is hardly an ancient Ballad or Romance, wherein a Minstrel or Harper appears, but he is characterized, by way of eminence, to have been "Of the North Countrie." It is probable, that under this appellation were formerly com prehended all the provinces to the north of the Trent. See Percy's Essay on the English Minstrels.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »