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How various his employments, whom the world Calls idle; and who justly in return Esteems that busy world an idler too! Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen, 355 Delightful industry enjoy'd at home, And nature in her cultivated trim Dress'd to his taste, inviting him abroad Can he want occupation who has these ? Will he be idle who has much t' enjoy ?
360 Me therefore studious of laborious ease, Not slothful, happy to deceive the time, Not waste it, and aware that human life Is but a loan to be repaid with use, When He shall call his debtors to account,
365 From whom are all our blessings, business finds E'en here: while sedulous I seek t' improve, At least neglect not, or leave unemploy'd, The mind he gave me; driving it, though slack Too oft, and much impeded in its work
370 By causes not to be divulg'd in vain, To its just point-the service of mankind. He that attends to his interiour self, That has a heart, and keeps it ; has a mind That hungers and supplies it; and who seeks 375 A social, not a dissipated life, Has business ; feels himself engag'd t' achieve No unimportant, though a silent task. A life all turbulence and noise may seem To him that leads it wise, and to be prais'd; 380 But wisdom is a pearl with most success Sought in still water, and beneath clear skies. He that is ever occupied in storms, Or dives not for it, or brings up instead, Vainly industrious, a disgraceful prize.
385 The morning finds the self-sequester'd man Fresh for his task, intend what task he may. Whether inclement seasons recommend His warm but simple home, where he enjoys
With her who shares his pleasures and his heart, 390
Sweet converse, sipping calm the fragrant lymph,
Whích neatly she prepares: then to his book
Well chosen, and not sullenly perus’d
In selfish silence, but imparted, oft
As aught occurs that she may smile to hear, 395
Or turn to nourishment, digested well.
Or if the garden with its many cares,
All well repaid, demand him, he attends
The welcome call, conscious how much the hand
Of lubbard Labour needs his watchful eye, 400
Oft loit'ring lazily, if not o'erseen,
Or misapplying his unskilful strength.
Nor does he govern only, or direct,
But much performs himself. No works indeed,
That ask robust, tough sinews bred to toil,
Servile employ; but such as may amuse,
Not tire, demanding rather skill than force.
Proud of his well-spread walls, he views his trees,
That meet, no barren interval between,
With pleasure more than e'en their fruits afford; 410
Which, save himself who trains them, none can feel.
These therefore are his own peculiar charge;
No meaner hand may discipline the shoots,
None but his steel approach them. What is weak,
Distemper’d, or has lost prolifick pow’rs,
Impair'd by age, his unrelenting hand
Dooms to the knife : nor does he spare the soft
And succulent, that feeds its giant growth,
But barren, at th’expense of neighb’ring twigs
Less ostentatious, and yet studded thick
420 With hopeful gems. The rest, no portion left That may disgrace his art, or disappoint Large expectation, he disposes neat At measur'd distances, that air and sun, Admitted freely may afford their aid, And ventilate and warm the swelling buds. Hence summer has her richez. Antumn hence,
And hence e'en Winter fills his wither'd hand
With blushing fruits, and plenty not his own.*
Fair recompense of labour well bestow'd, 430
And wise precaution; which a clime so rude
Makes needful still, whose Spring is but the child
Of churlish Winter, in her froward moods
Discov'ring much the temper of her sire.
For oft, as if in her the stream of mild
Maternal nature had revers'd its course,
She brings her infants forth with many smiles ;
But once deliver'd, kills them with a frown.
He therefore, timely warn’d, himself supplies
Her want of care, screening and keeping warm 440
The plenteous bloom, that no rough blast may sweep
His garlands from the boughs. Again, as oft
As the sun peeps, and vernal airs breathe mild,
The fence withdrawn, he gives them ev'ry beam,
And spreads his hopes before the blaze of day. 445
To raise the prickly and green-coated gourd,
So grateful to the palate, and when rare
So coveted, else base and disesteemid
Food for the vulgar merely—is an art
That toiling ages have but just matur'd,
And at this moment unessay'd in song.
Yet gnats have had, and frogs and mice, long since,
Their eulogy; those sang the Mantuan bard,
And these the Grecian, in ennobling strains ;
And in thy numbers, Philips, shines for aye 455
The solitary shilling. Pardon, then,
Ye sage dispensers of poetick fame,
Th' ambition of one meaner far, whose pow'rs,
Presuming an attempt not less sublime,
Pant for the praise of dressing to the taste 460
Of critick appetite, no sordid fare,
A cucumber, while costly yet and scarce.
The stable yields a stercoraceous heap,
Miraturque novos fructus et non sua poma. Virg.
Impregnated with quick fermenting salts,
And potent to resist the freezing blast :
For ere the beech and elm have cast their leaf
Deciduous, when now November dark
Checks vegetation in the torpid plant
Expos’d to his cold breath, the task begins.
Warily, therefore, and with prudent heed, 470
He seeks a favour'd spot; that where he builds
Th' agglomerated pile his frame may front
The sun's meridian disk, and at the back
Enjoy close shelter, wall, or reeds, or hedge
Impervious to the wind. First he bids spread 475
Dry fern or litter'd hay, that may imbibe
Th’ascending damps; then leisurely impose,
And lightly shaking it with agile hand
From the full fork, the saturated straw.
What longest binds the closest forms secure 480
The shapely side, that as it rises takes,
By just degrees, an overhanging breath,
Shelt'ring the base with its projected eaves ;
Th’ uplifted frame, compact at ev'ry joint,
And overlaid with clear translucent glass, 485
He settles next upon the sloping mount,
Whose sharp declivity shoots off secure
From the dash'd pane the deluge as it falls.
He shuts it close, and the first labour ends.
Thrice must the voluble and restless Earth 490
Spin round upon her axle, ere the warmth,
Slow gath'ring in the midst, through the square mass
Diffus’d, attain the surface ; when, behold!
A pestilent and most corrosive stream,
Like a gross fog Bæotian, rising fast,
495 And fast condens'd upon the dewy sash, Asks egress ? which obtain'd, the overcharg'd And drench'd conservatory breathes abroad, In volumes wheeling slow the vapour dank; And, purified, rejoices to have lost
500 Its foul inhabitant. But to assuage
Th’impatient fervour, which it first conceives
Within its reeking bosom, threat’ning death
To his young hopes, requires discreet delay.
Experience, slow preceptress, teaching oft 505
The way to glory by miscarriage foul,
Must prompt him, and admonish how to catch
Thi auspicious moment, when the temper'd heat,
Friendly to vital motion, may afford
Soft fomentation, and invite the seed.
The seed, selected wisely, plump, and smooth,
And glossy, he commits to pots of size
Diminutive, well fillid with well-prepar'd
And fruitful soil, that has been treasur'd long,
And drank no moisture from the dripping clouds. 515
These on the warın and genial earth that hides
The smoking manure, and o'erspreads it all,
He places lightly, and, as time subdues
The rage of fermentation, plunges deep
In the soft medium, till they stand immers'd. 520
Then rise the tender germs, upstarting quick
And spreading wide their spongy lobes ; at first
Pale, wan, and livid; but assuming soon,
If fann'd by balmy and nutritious air,
Strain'd through the friendly mats, a vivid green. 525
Two leaves produc'd, two rough indented loaves,
Cautious he pinches from the second stalk
A pimple that portends a future sprout,
And interdicts its growth. Thence straight succeed
The branches, sturdy to his utmost wish ; 530
Prolifick all, and harbingers of more.
The crowded roots demand enlargement now,
And transplantation in an ampler space.
Indulg'd in what they wish, they soon supply
Large foliage, overshadowing golden flow'rs, 535
Blown on the summit of the apparent fruit.
These have their sexes; and when summer shines,
The bee transports the fertilizing meal
From flow'r to flow'r, and e'en the breathing air