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Epistle the First
TO ONE WHO PREFERRED THE JOYS OF LONDON, TO THE RURAL PLEASURES OF THE COUNTRY. And will my friend then run life's race, Where virtue oft to vice gives place; For quiet wishing every hour; Cloy'd with the noise he must endure; For ever toiling in the crowd, Expos'd to insults meanly rude, Forc'd to be rakish, vain, and proud. Now busier than the veriest slave; Now bowing to some artful knave; Now gadding thro' the restless town, For fashion seeking up and down; Or idly trifling time away, At noisy tavern, park, or play. Methinks I see you panting sit, In Colman's elbow--pinching pit; Or with their godships, (dismal groupe) Yclep'd hoarse Bully Uproar's troop, A slave to pleasure, pain, and fear, Laugh at the wit you cannot hear, Or weep, 'cause others drop a tear. Or if to loud debate you fly, Where dunce gives dunce the dull reply; Where reason's rul'd by impudence, And wit to virtue gives offence; You hear each ignoramus prate, 'Bout Whig and Tory, church and state; But with as much success might draw Instruction from a pert jackdaw. This hubbub over; next you view Disease, and all her ghastly crew; Here danger lurks in every street, Here injur'd innocence you meet; Here the remains of beauty trace, In some poor midnight wand'rer's face; For, well, my friend, I know your breast Of each fine feeling is possest: But may you, ever with disgust, Avoid the foul embrace of lust; Whether the luring wanton smiles At proud St. James's or St. Giles'! Thro' scenes of riot thus you reel, To pent--up garret forc'd to steal; Where, wak'd by watchmen's toneless chime, Discordant nightingales of time, You taste not ease; for calm repose Is what the city seldom knows: Thus youth you spend in real pain, For misery in age to gain! If e'er you steal an hour from care, And leave the town for purer air, Think sometimes of an absent friend; And fancy thus the hours I spend. When evening bids my labour cease, In nook retir'd I muse in peace, On these remember'd, those belov'd, Or books peruse, by you approv'd; Or with a friend, (tho' few I own, For friendship is but little known) In summer o'er the meadows rove, Or trace the wood, and beechen grove, Where Eden's winding current strays, And thro' the fruitful valley plays; Or range, elate, the plenteous fields, When earth to man her produce yields. What tho' no syren's voice we hear, Still sweeter minstrels charm the ear; While straining Mara you encore, The feather'd choir delight me more. No costly painted domes we view; No glitt'ring palaces, 'tis true: Yet num'rous landscapes meet the eye, That domes and palaces outvie. In peace, reclining at our ease, We taste the health--bestowing breeze, Beneath some osier's cooling shade; Or mark the changes time hath made, Since youth his fairy gambols play'd. We laugh at love, and all his tricks, And scorn with fashion's fools to mix; Nor envy nor the rich, nor great, Nor heed who rules o'er church or state. Tho' different thoughts lead you and me, Yet friendship bids our hearts agree; Of pleasures, rural, or the town, No more, my Willy; both must own, That happiness is but a name, By prince, by peasant known the same But when self--interest sways the mind, Man seeks in vain that gem to find. Did riches ease the aching heart, Or sorrow's tear forbid to start; lOr add to th' number of our days, Then might the miser claim our praise: But they give seldom health or peace, And oft, too oft, our cares increase. Regardless, then, of fortune's smile, Be ours, my friend, content and toil; And blest with friendship, peace, and health, E'en let who will contend for wealth!
Robert Anderson's other poems:
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