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THE TASK. BOOK I.
HISTORICAL deduction of seats, from the stool to the sofa. A schoolboy's ramble. A walk in the country. The scene described. Rural sounds as well as sights delightful. Another walk. Mistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected. Colonnades commended. Alcove, and the view from it. The wilderness. The grove. The thresher. The necessity and the benefits of exercise. The works of nature superior to, and in some instances inimitable by, art. The wearisomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure. Change of scene sometimes expedient. A common described, and the character of crazy Kate introduced. Gipsies. The blessings of civilized life. That state most favourable to virtue. The South Sea islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai. His present state of mind supposed. Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities. Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praise, but censured. Fête champêtre. The book coucludes with a reflection on the effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public measures.
THE TASK. BOOK I.
I sing the sofa. I who lately sang
repose upon an humbler theme;
was, when clothing sumptuous or for use, Save their own painted skins, our sires had none. As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth, Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile : The hardy chief upon the rugged rock, Wash'd by the sea, or on the gravelly bank Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud, Fearless of wrong, reposed his weary strength. Those barbarous ages past, succeeded next The birthday of Invention; weak at first, Dull in design, and clumsy to perform. Joint-stools were then created ; on three legs Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
* See Poems, vol. i.
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
At length a generation more refined
Now came the cane from India, smooth and bright With Nature's varnish; sever'd into stripes, That interlaced each other, these supplied Of texture firm a lattice work, that braced The new machine, and it became a chair. But restless was the chair; the back erect Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease; The slippery seat betray'd the sliding part That press’d it, and the feet hung dangling down, Anxious in vain to find the distant floor. These for the rich; the rest, whom Fate had placed In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well tann'd hides,