« PreviousContinue »
frightens from its awful temple the young, the cheerful, and the gay, and teaches them to look with horror upon principles, which restrict their wishes, and thwart the natural feelings of their souls.
A more acceptable service cannot be performed to religion, than to strip it of those sable weeds with which it is covered by superstition; to display it in unclouded loveliness; and represent it to the understanding and affections of mankind, as a system not only consistent with joy and cheerfulness, but as the only source from which they can steadily though softly flow into the heart.
The spirit of christianity is a spirit of liberty and good-humour; and, extraordinary as it may appear, the wiser, the more virtuous, and the more pious a man is, the more he is animated by it. On the contrary, the farther a person is from such a wise and virtuous frame of mind; the more authority sensuality has obtained over him; the more licentiously apt is be to lose sight of God and his duty; so much the more dangerous and prejudicial may such pleasures and diversions prove to him; so much the more ought he to be upon his guard against them, and to watch with vigilance every suggestion of his mind.
It is necessary, however, to be very cautious in the choice of our diversions. We should select such as are most innocent and profitable. I have not the least intention of forbidding amusement in general, or social amusement in particular; God and religion require no such thing. But they insist upon our making a prudent selection from among the various kinds of pleasures with which the world abounds.
I will, however, propose a still nobler kind of recreation: visit occasionally the forlorn, the poor, the destitute, the widow, and the orphan, not for the purpose of satisfying your curiosity, but to furnish them with good advice and substantial succours. Mistake not this for a melancholy recreation. It affords, in most instances, to a generous and humane heart, far more pleasure than disquietude; and the recollection of the good we have done by it, of the comfort
and joy we have thus dispersed abroad, will become a perennial fountain of the most agreeable emotions.
Enjoy, therefore, all festivities, the comforts, the conveniencies, the goods of this life, acquired by lawful means, as far as they are innocent, that is, innoxious to yourself and to others, with a cheerful temper, and without anxious cares for the future. But enjoy them as wise men, as Christians, who understand their true worth, and who account them what they are; not ultimate objects, but means to attain superior ends. Enjoy them as men who are not to be controlled or fettered by outward objects, and who esteem reason and liberty the highest prerogative of their nature.So will you at the same time, and by the use of the same means, advance outward welfare and real happiness, and, in the enjoyment of both, be truly happy.
Come, dear Amanda, quit the town,
And to the rural hamlets fly;
Behold, the wintry storms are gone,
A gentle radiance glads the sky.
The birds awake, the flowers appear,
Earth spreads a verdant couch for thee;
'Tis joy and music all we hear!
'Tis love and beauty all we see;
Come, let us mark the gradual spring,
the buds, the blossom blows,
Till Philomel begins to sing,
And perfect May to spread the rose.
Let us secure the short delight,
And wisely crop the blooming day;
For soon, too soon, it will be night;
Arise, my love, and come away.
The pleasures of a country life have been a favourite topic with the poets of all nations, and in all ages of the world. Horace thus describes them :
Like the first mortals, blest is he,
From debts and mortgages, and business free;
With his own team, who plows the soil,
Which, grateful, once confess'd his father's toil;
The sounds of war nor break his sleep,
Nor the rough storm that harrows up the deep;
He skuns the courtiers' haughty doors,
And the loud science of the bar abjures.
Sometimes his marriageable vines
Around the doftg bridegroom elm he twinės;
Or lops the vagrant boughs away,
Ingrafting better as the old decay,
Or in the vale, with joy surveys
His towing berd safe wand'ring as they graze,
Or careful stores the flowing gold,
Prest from the hive, or cheers his tender fold;
Or when with various fruits o'er-spread,
The mellow antumn lifts her bounteous hend
His grafted pears or grapes, that vie
With the rich purple of the Tyrian dye,
Grateful he gathers, and repays
His guardian gods on their own festal days;
Sometimes beneath an ancient shade,
Or on the matted grass supinely laid,
Where pour the mountain streams along,
And feather'd warblers chant the soothing song;
Or where the lucid fountain flows,
And with its murmurs courts him to repose.
But when the rain and shows appear,
And wintry Jove loud thunders o'er the year,
With hound's he drives into the toils
The foaming boar, and triumphs in his spoils ,
Or for the greedy thrush he lays
His nets, and with delusive baits betrays;
Artful he sets the springing snare,
To catch the stranger crane, or tim'rous hare :
But if a chaste and virtuous wife
Assist him in the tender cares of life,
Of sun-burnt charras, but honest fame,
(Such as the Sabine or Apulian dame,
Fatigued, when homeward he returns,
The sacred fire with cheerful lustre burns;
Or if she mikk her swelling kine,
Or in their folds his happy flooks confine,
While unbought dainties crown the feast,
And lusgious wines from this year's vintage prest.
No more should curious oysters please,
Or fish, the luxury of foreign seas,
(If eastern tempests, thund'ring o'er
The wintry wave, shall drive them to our shore ;)
Or wild-fowl, of delicious taste,
From distant climates brought to crown the feast,
Shall e'er so grateful prove to me,
As olives gather'd from the unetuous tree,
And herbs that love the flow'ry field,
And cheerful health with pure digestion yield;
Or failing, on the festal day,
Or kid, just nescued from some beast of prey.
Amid the feast, how joys he to behold...
His well-fed flocks bome hasting to their fold;
Or see his labour'd @xen bow
Their languid necks and drag th' inverted plough, !
At night his num'rous slaves to view, 1 11
Round his domestic gods their mirth pursue.
Theocritus, Virgil, and many other poets, dawn to
the present time, have made rural pleasures the sub-
ject of their versification. And this pastoral poetry
has been greatly admired. Cowper,' our own poet,
thus describes the pleasures of the Country :-
Not rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirits, and restore
The tone of languid nature. Mighty winds,
That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood
Of ancient growth, make music not unlike
The dash of ocean on his winding shore,
And lull the spirit while they fill the mind;
Unnumber'd branches waving in the blast,
And all their leaves fast flutt'ring, all at once ;
Nor less composure waits upon the roar
or distapt floods, or on the softer voice
Of neighb'ring faụntain, or of rills that slip
Through the cleft rock, and, chiming as they fall!
Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length
In matted grass, that with a livelier green
Betrays the secret of their silent course.
Nature inanimate employs sweet sounds,
But animated Nature sweeter still,
To sooth and satisfy the human ear-
Tep thousand warblers cheer the day, and one
The live-long night: Nor these alone, whose notes
Nice-fingered art must emulate in vain,
But cawing rooks and kites, that swim sublime
In still repeated circles, screaming loud ;
The jay, the pie, and e'en the boding owl,
That hails the rising moon, have charms for me.
Sounds inharmonious in themselves and harsh;
Yet, heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns,
And only there, please highly for their sake.
God made the country, and man made the town.
What wonder then that health and virtue, gifts
That can alone make sweet the bitter draughts
That life holds out to all, should most abound,
And least be threaten'd, in the fields and groves ?
Possess ye, therefore, ye, who, borne about
In chariots and sedans, know no fatigue
But that of idleness, and taste no scenes
But such as art contrives, possess ye still
Your element, there only ye can shine ;
There only minds like yours can do no harm.
Our groves are planted to console at noon
The pensive wand'rer in their shades. At eve
The moon-beam, sliding softly in between
The sleeping leaves, is all the light they wish;
Birds warbling, all the music. We can spare
The splendour of your lamps, they but eclipse
Our softer satellite. Without believing all the fictions of the poets, it must be admitted that the Country has charms peculiar to itself.
In the Country, nature presents herself to us in her most beautiful forins, and our minds are raised to the great Creator of all. The blade of grass, the opening flower, the humble plant, the lofty tree, the hill and dale, the shady groves, the sunny plains, the murmuring streams, the evening gales, the verdant lawns, the flowery meads, the smiling fields, the rising and the setting sun, the ample sky, all call upon us to adore the majesty of God, and to rejoice in his existence :
His work is seen in every blade of grass,
His wisdom shines through every field I pass ;
Both heav'n and earth his pow'r and goodness show,
From him alone our various blessings flow.
Sun, moon, and stars, obey his awful nod,
While all creation echoes, He is God!