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“ Methinks,” persuasively the Sage replied; “ That for this arduous office You possess Some rare advantages. Your early days A grateful recollection must supply Of much exalted good that may attend Upon the very humblest state.—Your voice Hath in my hearing often testified That poor Men's Children, they, and they alone, By their condition taught, can understand The wisdom of the prayer that daily asks For daily bread. A consciousness is your's How feelingly religion may be learned In smoky Cabins, from a Mother's tongueHeard while the Dwelling vibrates to the din Of the contiguous Torrent, gathering strength At every moment—and, with strength, increase Of fury; or while Snow is at the door, Assaulting and defending, and the Wind, A sightless Labourer, whistles at his workFearful, but resignation tempers fear, And piety is sweet to Infant minds. - The Shepherd Lad, who in the sunshine carves, On the green turf, a dial—to divide
The silent hours; and who to that report
Can portion out his pleasures, and adapt
His round of pastoral duties, is not left
With less intelligence for moral things
Of gravest import. Early he perceives,
Within himself, a measure and a rule,
Which to the Sun of Truth he can apply,
That shines for him, and shines for all Mankind.
Experience, daily fixing his regards
On Nature's wants, he knows how few they are,
And where they lie, how answered and appeased.
This knowledge ample recompence affords
For manifold privations; he refers
His notions to this standard ; on this rock
Rests his desires ; and hence, in after life,
Soul-strengthening patience, and sublime content.
Imagination—not permitted here
To waste her powers, as in the Worldling's mind,
On fickle pleasures, and superfluous cares,
And trivial ostentation is left free
And puissant to range the solemn walks
Of time and nature, girded by a zone
That, while it binds, invigorates and supports.
Acknowledge, then, that whether by the side
Of his poor hut, or on the mountain top,
Or in the cultured field, a Man like this
(Take from him what
Of ignorance or illusion) lives and breathes
For noble purposes of mind : his heart
Beats to the heroic
of ancient days; His eye distinguishes, his soul creates. And those Illusions, which excite the scorn Or move the pity of unthinking minds, Are they not mainly outward Ministers Of inward Conscience? with whose service charged They come and go, appear and disappear ; Diverting evil purposes, remorse Awakening, chastening an intemperate grief, Or pride of heart abating: and, whene'er For less important ends those Phantoms move, Who would forbid them, if their presence serve, Among wild mountains and unpeopled heaths, Filling a space else vacant, to exalt The forms of Nature, and enlarge her powers ?
Once more to distant Ages of the world
Let us revert, and place before our thoughts
The face which rural Solitude might wear
To the unenlightened Swains of pagan Greece.
- In that fair Clime, the lonely Herdsman, stretched
On the soft grass through half a summer's day,
With music lulled his indolent repose :
And, in some fit of weariness, if he,
When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear.
A distant strain, far sweeter than the sounds
Which his poor skill could make, his Fancy fetched,
Even from the blazing Chariot of the Sun,
A beardless Youth, who touched a golden lute,
And filled the illumined groves with ravishment.
The nightly Hunter, lifting up his eyes
Towards the crescent Moon, with grateful heart
Called on the lovely wanderer who bestowed
That timely light, to share his joyous sport:
And hence, a beaming Goddess with her Nymphs,
Across the lawn and through the darksome grove,
(Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes
By echo multiplied from rock or cave)
Swept in the storm of chase, as Moon and Stars
Glance rapidly along the clouded heavens,
When winds are blowing strong. The Traveller slaked
His thirst from Rill or gushing Fount, and thanked
The Naiad.-Sunbeams, upon distant Hills
Gliding apace, with Shadows in their train,
Might, with small help from fancy, be transformed
Into feet Oreads sporting visibly.
The Zephyrs, fanning as they passed, their wings,
Lacked not, for love, fair Objects, whom they wooed
With gentle whisper. Withered Boughs grotesque,
Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age,
From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth
In the low vale, or on steep mountain side ;
And, sometimes, intermixed with stirring horns
Of the live Deer, or Goat's depending beard ;
These were the lurking Satyrs, a wild brood
Of gamesome Deities! or Pan himself,
The simple Shepherd's awe-inspiring God."
No apter Strain could have been chosen: I marked Its kindly influence, on the yielding brow Of our Companion, gradually diffused ; While, listening, he had paced the noiseless turf, Like one whose untired ear a murmuring stream