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Just when the day declin'd: and the brown loaf
410 The rugged frowns and insolent rebuffs Of knaves in office, partial in the work Of distribution ; lib’ral of their aid To clam'rous Importunity in rags, But ofttimes deaf to suppliants, who would blush 415 To wear a tatter'd garb, however coarse, Whom famine cannot reconcile to filth: These ask with painful shyness, and, refus'd Because deserving, silently retire ! But be ye of good courage ! Time itself
420 Shall much befriend you. Time shall give increase ; And all your numerous progeny, well train'd, But helpless, in few years shall find their hands, And labour too. Meanwhile ye shall not want What, conscious of your virtues, we can spare,
425 Nor what a wealthier than ourselves may send. I mean the man, who, when the distant poor Need help, denies them nothing but his name.
But poverty with most, who whimper forth Their long complaints, is self-inflicted wo; 430
The effect of laziness or sottish waste.
440 An ass's burden, and when laden most And heaviest, light of foot, steals fast away Nor does the bordered hovel better guard The well-stack'd pile of riven logs and roots From his pernicious force. Nor will he leave 445 Unwrench'd the door, however well secur'd, Where Chanticleer amidst his haram sleeps In unsuspecting pomp. Twitch'd from the perch, He gives the princely bird, with all his wives, To his voracious bag, struggling in vain, 450 And loudly wond'ring at the sudden change. Nor this to feed his own. "Twere some excuse Did pity of their suff'rings warp aside His principle, and tempt him into sin For their support, so destitute. But they 455 Neglected, pine at home; themselves, as more Expos’d than others, with less scruple made His victims, robb’d of their defenceless all. Cruel is all he does. 'Tis quenchless thirst Of ruinous ebriety, that prompts
460 His ev'ry action, and imbrutes the man. O for a law to noose the villain's neck Who starves his own; who persecutes the blood He gave them in his children's veins, and hates And wrongs the woman he has sworn to love!
465 Pass where we may, through city or through town, Village or hamlet, of this merry land, Though lean and beggar'd, every twentieth pace
Conducts th' unguarded nose to such a whiff
480 Fierce the dispute, whato'er the theme ; while she, Fell Discord, arbitress of such debate, Perch'd on the signpost, holds with even hand Her undecisive scales. In this she lays A weight of ignorance ; in that, of pride ; 485 And smiles delighted with the eternal poise. Dire is the frequent curse, and its twin sound, The cheek distending oath, not to be prais'd As ornamental, musical, polite, Like those which modern senators employ,
490 Whose oath is rhet’rick, and who swear for fame ! Behold the schools, in which plebeian minds, Once simple, are initiated in arts Which some may practise with politer grace, But done with readier skill !—'Tis here they learn The road that leads from competence and peace 496 To indigence and rapine ; till at last Society, grown weary of the load, Shakes her encumber'd lap, and casts them out. But censure profits little ; vain th' attempt 500 To advertise in verse a publick pest, That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds 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,
505 For ever dribbling out tireir base contents,
Touch'd by the Midas finger of the state,
Would I had fall’n upon those happier days
520 Upon the yielding herbage, (so they sing.) Then were not all effac'd ; then speech profane, And manners profligate, were rarely found, Observ'd as prodigies, and soon reclaim'd. Vain wish! those days were never; airy dreams 525 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 favour'd such a dream : in days like these 530 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, 535 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 lost ! Her head, adorn'd with lappets pinn'd aloft, 540 And ribands 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 545
The town has ting'd the country ; and the stain
560 Then sleep was undisturb’d by fear, unscar'd By drunken howlings; and the chilling tale Of midnight murder was a wonder heard With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes. But farewell now to unsuspicious nights,
565 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 shrill throat May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear 570 To horrid sounds of hostile feet within. E'en daylight 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. 575 Lamented change ! to which full many a cause Invetrate, 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 ; 580 TVealth luxury, and luxury excess ; Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague,