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His hungry acres, stinks, and is of use.
Th' excise is fatten'd with the rich result
Of all this riot; and ten thousand casks,
For ever dribbling out their base contents,
Touch'd by the Midas finger of the state,
Bleed gold for Ministers to sport away.
Drink and be mad then; 'tis your country
Gloriously drunk, obey th' important call;
Her cause demands th' assistance of your throats;
Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.
Would I had fall’n upon those happier days
That poets celebrate ; those golden times
And those Arcadian scenes that Maro sings,
And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose.
Nymphs were Dianas then, and swains had hearts
That felt their virtues : innocence, it seems,
From courts dismiss’d, found thelter in the groyes,
The footsteps of fimplicity, impress'd
Upon the yielding herbage (so they fing)
Then were not all effac'd: then speech profane,
And manners profligate, were rarely found,
Observd as prodigies, and soon reclaim'd.
Vain wish! those days were never : airy dreams
Sat for the picture ; and the poet's hand,
Imparting substance to an empty shade,
Impos'd a gay delirium for a truth. .
Grant it : I still must envy them an age
That favor'd such a dream ; in days like these
Impossible, when virtue is so scarce,
That to suppose a scene where she presides,
Is tramontane, and stumbles all belief.
No: we are polish'd now. The rural lass,
Whom once her virgin modesty and grace,
Her artless manners, and her neat attire,
So dignified, that she was hardly less
Than the fair shepherdess of old romance,
Is seen no more.
The character is loft.
Her head, adorn'd with lappets pinn'd aloft,
And ribbands streaming gay, superbly rais’d,
And magnified beyond all human size,
Indebted to some smart wig-weaver's hand
For more than half the tresses it sustains;
Her elbows ruffled, and her tott'ring form
Ill propp'd upon French heels; she might be deem'd
(But that the basket dangling on her arm
Interprets her more truly) of a rank
Too proud for dairy-work or sale of eggs.
Expect her foon with foot-boy at her heels,
No longer blushing for her awkward load,
Her train and her umbrella all her care,
The town has ting’d the country, and the stain Appears a spot upon a vestal's robe, The worse for what it soils. The fashion runs Down into scenes still rural; but, alas ! Scenes rarely grac'd with rural manners now. Time was when, in the pastoral retreat, Th’unguarded door was safe ; men did not watch T'invade another's right, or guard their own.
Then seep was undisturb'd by fear, unscar'd
By drunken' howlings'; and the chilling tale
Of midnight murther, was a wonder heard
With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes.
But farewel now to unsuspicious nights,
And slumbers unalarm’d: now, ere you sleep,
See that your polish'd arms be prim'd with care,
And drop the night-bolt ; ruffians are abroad,
And the first larum of the cock's shirill throat
May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear
To horrid founds of hoftile feet within.
Ev'n day-light has its dangers; and the walk
Through pathless wastes and woods, unconscious once
Of other tenants than melodious birds,
Or harmless flocks, is hazardous and bold.
Lamented change ! to which full many a cause
Invet’rate, hopeless of a cure, conspires.
The course of human things from good to 'ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
Increase of pow'r begets increase of wealth;
Wealth luxury, and luxury excess ;
Excess, the scrophulous and itchy plague
That seizes first the opulent, descends
To the next rank contagious, and in time
Taints downward all the graduated scale
Of order, from the chariot to the plough.
The rich, and they that have an arm to check
The license of the lowest in degree,
Desert their office ; and themselves, intent
On pleasure, haunt the capital and thus
To all the violence of lawlefs hands
Resign the scenes their presence might protect.
Authority herself not seldom feeps,
Though resident, and witness of the wrong.
The plump convivial parson often bears
The magisterial sword in vain, and lays
His rev'rence and his worship both to rest
On the fame cushion of habitual noth,
Perhaps timidity restrains his arm ;
When he should strike he trembles, and sets free,