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believe what I have written; that I have taken all possible pains in my country excursions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I allege; and that all my views and inquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display. But this is not the place to enter into an inquiry, whether the country be depopulating or not; the discussion would take up much room, and I should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the reader with a long preface, when I want his unfatigued attention to a long poem.
In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the increase of our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern politicians against me. For twenty or thirty years past it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity, in that particular, as erroneous. Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and continue to think those luxuries prejudicial to states by which so many vices are introduced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed so much has been poured out of late on the other side of the question, that, merely for the sake of novelty and variety, one would sometimes wish to be in the right.
I am, dear sir,
and ardent admirer,
SWEET Auburn! loveliest village of the plain, Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring
swain, Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid, And parting summer's lingering blooms delay’d: Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease, Seats of my youth, when every sport could please: How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green, Where humble happiness endear'd each scene! How often have I paused on every charm, The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm, The never failing brook, the busy mill, [hill, The decent church that topp'd the neighbouring The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, For talking age and whispering lovers made! How often have I bless’d the coming day, When toil remitting lent its turn to play, And all the village train, from labour free, Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree: While many a pastime circled in the shade, The young contending as the old survey'd; And many a gambol frolick’d o’er the ground, And slights of art and feats of strength went round. And still, as each repeated pleasure tired, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired; The dancing pair that simply sought renown, By holding out to tire each other down;
The swain mistrustless of his smutted face,
prove. These were thy charms, sweet village! sports like
these, With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please; These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed,
[fied. These were thy charms—but all these charms are
Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn; Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, And desolation saddens all thy green: One only master grasps the whole domain, And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain; No more thy glassy brook reflects the day, But choked with sedges works its weedy way; Along thy glades, a solitary guest, The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest; Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, And tires their echoes with unvaried cries. Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all, And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall; And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, Far, far away thy children leave the land.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay; Princes and lords may flourish or may fade; A breath can make them, as a breath has made: But a bold peasantry, their country's pride, When once destroy'd, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England's griefs began, When every rood of ground maintain’d its man; For him light labour spread her wholesome store, Just gave what life required, but gave no more; His best companions, innocence and health; And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are alter'd ; trade's unfeeling train Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain ; Along the lawn, where scatter'd hamlets rose, Unwieldy wealth and cumberous pomp repose; And every want to luxury allied, And every pang that folly pays to pride. Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom, Those calm desires that ask'd but little room, Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful
scene, Lived in each look, and brighten'd all the green; These, far departing, seek a kinder shore, And rural mirth and manners are no more.
Sweet Auburn! parent of the blissful hour, Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power. Here, as I take my solitary rounds, Amidst thy tangling walks and ruin'd grounds, And, many a year elapsed, return to view Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew, Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.
In all my wanderings round this world of care, In all my griefs-and God has given my shareI still had hopes, my latest hours to crown, Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down; To husband out life's taper at the close, And keep the flame from wasting by repose :
I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,
O bless'd retirement, friend to life's decline, Retreats from care, that never must be mine, How bless'd is he who crowns, in shades like
these, A youth of labour with an age of ease; Who quits a world where strong temptations try, And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly! For him no wretches, born to work and weep, Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep; No surly porter stands, in guilty state, To spurn imploring famine from the gate; But on he moves to meet his latter end, Angels around befriending virtue's friend; Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay, While resignation gently slopes the way; And, all his prospects brightening to the last, His Heaven commences ere the world be pass’d.
Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close Up yonder hill the village murmur rose; There, as I pass'd with careless steps and slow, The mingling notes came soften’d from below; The swain responsive as the milkmaid sung, The sober herd that low'd to meet their young; The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool, The playful children just let loose from school;