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William Somerville (Уильям Сомервилл)

The Busy Indolent

JACK Careless was a man of parts,
Well skill'd in the politer arts,
With judgment read, with humour writ,
Among his friends pass'd for a wit,
But lov'd his ease more than his meat,
And wonder'd knaves could toil and cheat,
To' expose themselves by being great.
At no levees the suppliant bow'd,
Nor courted for their votes the crowd;
Nor riches nor preferment sought,
Did what he pleas'd, spoke what he thought;
Content within due bounds to live,
And what he could not spend to give:
Would whiff his pipe o'er nappy ale,
And joke, and pun, and tell his tale;
Reform the state, lay down the law,
And talk of lords he never saw;
Fight Marlborough's battles o'er again,
And push the French on Blenheim's plain;
Discourse of Paris, Naples, Rome,
Though he had never stirr'd from home:
'Tis true he travell'd with great care
The tour of Europe — in his chair;
Was loth to part without his load,
Or move till morning peep'd abroad.
One day this honest idle rake,
Nor quite asleep nor well awake,
Was lolling in his elbow chair,
And building castles in the air,
His nipperkin (the port was good)
Half empty at his elbow stood,
When a strange noise offends his ear,
The din increas'd as it came near,
And in his yard at last he view'd
Of farmers a great multitude,
Who that day, walking of their rounds,
Had disagreed about their bounds;
And sure the difference must be wide,
Where each does for himself decide.
Volleys of oaths in vain they swear,
Which burst like guiltless bombs in air;
And, " Thou'rt a knave!" and " Thou'rt an oaf!"
Is banded round with truth enough.
At length they mutually agree
His Worship should be referee,
Which courteous Jack consents to be:
Though for himself he would not budge,
Yet for his friends an errant drudge;
A conscience of this point he made,
With pleasure readily obey'd,
And shot like lightning to their aid.
The farmers, summon'd to his room,
Bowing with awkward reverence come.
In his great chair his Worship sat,
A grave and able magistrate:
Silence proclaim'd, each clack was laid,
And flippant tongues with pain obey'd.
In a short speech he first computes
The vast expence of law disputes,
And everlasting Chancery-suits.
With zeal and warmth he rallied then
Pack'd juries, sheriffs, talesmen,
And recommended in the close
Good neighbourhood, peace and repose.
Next weigh'd with care each man's pretence,
Perus'd records, heard evidence;
Observ'd, replied, hit every blot,
Unravell'd every Gordian knot;
With great activity and parts
Inform'd their judgments, won their hearts,
And without fees or time mis-spent
By strength of ale and argument,
Dispatch'd them home, friends and content.
Trusty, who at his elbow sate,
And with surprise heard the debate
Astonish'd, could not but admire
His strange dexterity and fire,
His wise discernment and good sense,
His quickness, ease, and eloquence:
" Lord! Sir", said he, " I can't but chide;
What useful talents do you hide!
In half an hour you have done more
Than Puzzle can in half a score,
With all the practice of the courts,
His cases, precedents, reports."
Jack with a smile replied." 'Tis true,
This may seem odd, my friend, to you:
But give me not more than my due.
No hungry judge nods o'er the laws,
But hastens to decide the cause:
Who hands the oar, and drags the chain,
Will struggle to be free again.
So lazy men and indolent,
With cares oppress'd, and business spent,
Exert their utmost powers and skill,
Work hard; for what? why, to sit still.
They toil, they sweat, they want no fee,
For ev'n sloth prompts to industry:
Therefore, my friend, I freely own
All this address I now have shown
Is mere impatience, and no more,
To lounge and loiter as before,
Life is a span, the world an inn —
Here, sirrah, t' other nipperkin."

William Somerville's other poems:
  1. On Miranda's Leaving the Country
  2. The Hip
  3. The Superannuated Lover
  4. Hudibras and Milton Reconciled
  5. Advice to the Ladies

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