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An idler is a watch that wants both hands,
As useless if it goes as when it stands.
Books therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves,
Nor those in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners show;
Nor his, who for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laughed his word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side thrust;
Nor those of learn'd philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah's ark;
But such as learning without false pretence,
The friend of Truth, the associate of sound Sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment labouring in the Scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use:
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste :
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,-
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars Invention, and makes Fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels, (witness every month's review,)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends, (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the generous breast
Will stand advanced a step above the rest
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)
Friends, not adopted with a school-boy's haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well-born, well-disciplined, who placed apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And though the world may think the ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustic as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene:
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman, his remark was shrewd -
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper- "solitude is sweet,"
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away :
Divine communion, carefully enjoyed,
745 Or sought with energy, must fill the void. O sacred art to which alone life owes Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close, Scorned in a world, indebted to that scorn For evils daily felt, and hardly borne, Not knowing thee, we reap with bleeding hands Flowers of rank odour upon thorny lands, And while Experience cautions us in vain, Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain. Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
755 Lost by abandoning her own relief, Murmuring and ungrateful Discontent, That scorns afflictions mercifully meant, Those humours, tart as wines upon the fret, Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens the obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah's promised king?, bereft of all,
Driven out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wanderer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant's frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him, o'erwhelmed with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
'Tis manly music, such as martyrs make,
Suffering with gladness for a Saviour's sake;
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion's roar,
Ring with ecstatic sounds unheard before ;
'Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumbered pleasures harmlessly pursued ;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, the herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the power,
That shuts within its seed the future flower,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth, the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes :
To teach the canvass innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet -
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of Time.
Me poetry (or rather, notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetic fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if, thus sequestered, I may raise
A monitor's, though not a poet's praise,
And while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
EXAMINATION ON “RETIREMENT.”
1. What moral lessons may be drawn from this poem ? 2. Where does Cowper discover a vein of humour in this poem ? 3. Who was La Bruyère ? 4. Are any of the above lessons practical ? 5. Who were the Nereids and Dryads ? 6. In which poet do we find most classical allusions—Milton, Shakspere, or
Cowper? 7. What epithet would, perhaps, most distinctively characterise Cowper's
poetry? 8. Extract some of the most striking passages. 9. In what qualities is the poetry of Cowper deficient? 10. Point out some satirical passages in this poem?
See, Winter comes, to rule the varied year,
Sullen and sad, with all his rising train;
Vapours, and clouds, and storms. Be these my theme;
These, that exalt the soul to solemn thought,
And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms !
Congenial horrors hail! with frequent foot,
Pleased have I, in my cheerful morn of life,
When nursed by careless solitude I lived,
And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,
Pleased have I wandered through your rough domain ; 10
Trod the pure-virgin snows, myself as pure;
Heard the winds roar, and the big torrent burst;
Or seen the deep-fermenting tempest brewed
In the grim evening-sky. Thus passed the time;
Till through the lucid chambers of the south
15 Looked out the joyous Spring - looked out and smiled.
To thee, the patron of this first essaył, .
The muse, O Wilmington ?, renews her song.
Since has she rounded the revolving year :
Skimmed the gay Spring ; on eagle-pinions borne,
Attempted through the summer blaze to rise ;
Then swept o'er Autumn with the shadowy gale,
And now among the wintry clouds again,
Rolled in the doubling storm, she tries to soar;
To swell her note with all the rushing winds,