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THE PLEASURES OF COUNTRY AND RETIREMENT
Happy the man, who, void of cares and strife,
A CELEBRATED German divine, to whom this work is much indebted for some rich ideas, addressing himself to the opulent inhabitants of a large city, gives the following animated view of a Country life:
“ Here seest thou, O man, thousands of thy brethren and sisters, dwelling not in palaces, nor in houses adorned with the beauties of art; who partake of no costly disbes artificially prepared ; who wear no sumptuous and splendid apparel; who loll on no luxurious couches; who yet, in their humble cottages, with their ordinary food, in their simple attire, on their hard beds, find much confort, and joy, and nourishment, and recreation; who probably find in all these a greater relish, than thou in the enjoyment of affluence and superfluity. Here seest thou thousands of thy brothers and sisters, who are employed in the most laborious, toilsome, and what appear to thee the most disagreeable and painful occupations ; and who are yet cheerful at their work, and contented with their condition : persons who are totally unacquainted with all thy exquisite delicacies, and with the generality of thy refined entertainments ; and yet complain neither of languor, nor of the want of amusement and pastime: men whom the genial sentiment of their health and powers, the view of beautiful nature, the prospect of a plentiful harvest, an abundant production of the fruits of the orchard, the peaceful enjoyment of the refreshing evening breeze, the familiar table-talk, and the festive rejoicings on holidays and Sundays, more than compensate for the want of splendid distinctions; men, in short, who may be very confined in their religious notions,
and probably are erroneous in many respects, but adhere to what they know and believe, and console and refresh themselves by meditations on God and the world to come, on numberless occasions, wherein thou who knowest, or pretendest to know more, art driven and tossed from doubt to doubt, and no where findest peace.
“ Here thou mayest learn that happiness is not confined to affuence ; does not consist in outward glare; not in rank and titles ; not in a soft, luxurious, idle, inactive life; not in a perpetual round of amusements; not in the unhappy means of hearkening to every childish, foolish fancy, and in exploring the methods of its gratification. No: learn that it consists in the congenial sense and the alert application of our faculties, in an active and busy life, in the due discharge of the duties of our calling, in the control of our desires, in the diminution of our artificial wants ; know that it consists in contentedness of heart, and in the consoling apprehension of God and the better world hereafter; that it therefore is far more dependent on ourselves and our manner of viewing and judging of objects, than on our outward circumstances and the regard we draw; and that no man is utterly secluded from the possession and enjoyment of it, be his station in life what it may."
A poet, on leaving the country, where he had been refreshing his mind with rural scenes, thus expresses himself:
Health to you all, ye hills, and vales, and plains,
Oh! from that hour, health to your souls for ever! The cultivator of land enjoys peculiar pleasures,not the common husbandman, but the gentleman and experimental farmer; who triumphs over obstacles, improves the productions of nature, and the breed of domestic animals; naturalizes foreign productions and foreign cattle; forces rocks to nourish the vine, torrents to spin silk and temper metals ; knows how to create and correct soils to cut canals for agriculture and commerce, to fertilize the most arid lands by irrigation, and to drain and render profitable bogs, morasses, and overflowing rivers; and, finally, who diffuses agriculture over the whole country, sometimes as a goddess disseminating blessings, and sometimes like a fairy lavishing her enchantments.
From the remotest ages agriculture has been esteemed worthy of general attention; and the simplicity of ancient manners rendered it an object not inconsistent with the rank and situation of persons of the greatest eminence. Gideon, the renowned champion and judge of Israel, quitted the threshing-floor to preside in the public assembly of his countrymen. And Cincinnatus, the conqueror of the Volsci, left his plough to lead the Roman armies to battle; and afterwards declined the rewards gained by his victories, to return to his native fields. In modern times this occupation has been held in no less esteem. General Washington, the late illustrious President of the United States of America, found the most pleasing relaxation of public business in the management of his own estate. The emperor of China, at the beginning of every spring, goes to plough in person, attended by the princes and grandees of his empire ; he celebrates the close of the harvest among his subjects, and creates the best farmer in his dominions a mandarin. Many English gentlemen, and some of the highest rank, take a lively interest in all rural improvements, and preside at the annual meeting of agriculturists, with no less reputation to themselves, than encouragement to the art :
In ancient times, the sacred plough employed
And o'er your hills, and long-withdrawing vales,
THOMSON. The common husbandman is not without his pleasures. He is happy, indeed, if possessed of a mind that will enable him to indulge in such meditations as the following:
With toilsome steps when I pursue,
O'er breaking clods, the ploughshare's way,
My native dissoluble clay.
To thee all praises let me give,
Whose breath inform'd, and bade me live.
Support his bearded honour's load;
To manhood, thro' youth's dang'rous road.
Oh! may I learn to purge my mind
Nor leave one baneful root behind.
Life, thus replete with various woe,
Pride, my most deadly latent foe.
Prone to the reaper's sickle yields;
And, soon or late, forsake these fields.
Sleep for awhile, to service dead li
The path of life which all must tread. ANON. The following lines, addressed to a shepherd, will please the lover of rural scenes :
Shepherd ! with delighted eyes,
Shepherd ! love the silent stream;
mistaken shepherd! go;
Learn then content: nor seek to rove
Thy meadows fresh with dewy grass;