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261. THE SOLITUDE OF ALEXANDER SELKIRK
I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute ;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
O solitude ! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face
Better dwell in the midst of alarms
Than reign in this horrible place.
I am out of humanity's reach,
I must finish my journey alone,
Never hear the sweet music of speech;
I start at the sound of my own.
The beasts, that roam over the plain,
My form with indifference see ;
They are so unacquainted with man,
Their tameness is shocking to me.
Society, friendship, and love,
Divinely bestowed upon man,
Oh, had I the wings of a dove,
How soon would I taste you again !
My sorrows I then might assuage
In the ways of religion and truth,
Might learn from the wisdom of age,
And be cheered by the sallies of youth.
Religion ! what treasure untold
Resides in that heavenly word !
More precious than silver and gold,
Or all that this earth can afford.
But the sound of the church-going bell
These valleys and rocks never heard,
Ne'er sighed at the sound of a knell,
Or smiled when a sabbath appeared.
Ye winds, that have made me your sport,
Convey to this desolate shore
Some cordial endearing report
Of a land I shall visit no more.
My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me ?
O tell me I yet have a friend,
Though a friend I am never to see.
How fleet is a glance of the mind !
Compared with the speed of its flight,
The tempest itself lags behind,
And the swift-winged arrows of light.
When I think of my own native land,
In a moment I seem to be there ;
But alas ! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair.
But the seafowl is gone to her nest,
The beast is laid down in his lair ;
Even here is a season of rest,
And I to my cabin repair.
There is mercy in every place;
And mercy, encouraging thought !
Gives even affliction a grace,
And reconciles man to his lot.
262. I WOULD NOT ENTER ON MY LIST OF FRIENDS
I WOULD not enter on my list of friends
(Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility) the man
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
An inadvertent step may crush the snail
That crawls at evening in the public path ;
But he that has humanity, forewarned,
Will tread aside and let the reptile live.
The creeping vermin, loathsome to the sight,
And charged perhaps with venom, that intrudes,
A visitor unwelcome, into scenes
Sacred to neatness and repose—th' alcove,
The chamber, or refectory-may die :
A necessary act incurs no blame.
The sum is this.-If man's convenience, health,
Or safety, interfere, his rights and claims
Are paramount, and must extinguish theirs.
W. COWPER (The Task, Bk. vi).
MARY! I want a lyre with other strings ;
Such aid from Heaven as some have feigned they drew!
An eloquence scarce given to mortals, new,
And undebased by praise of meaner things !
That, ere through age or woe I shed my wings,
I may record thy worth, with honour due,
In verse as musical as thou art true,–
Verse, that immortalizes whom it sings !
But thou hast little need : there is a book,
By seraphs writ with beams of heavenly light,
On which the eyes of God not rarely look ;
A chronicle of actions just and bright!
There all thy deeds, my faithful Mary, shine,
And since thou own'st that praise, I spare thee mine.
W. CO WPER.
264. THE WINTER EVENING
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
Not such his evening who, with shining face,
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeezed
And bored with elbow-points through both his sides,
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage :
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
W. COWPER (The Task, Bk. iv).
265. OH THAT THOSE LIPS HAD LANGUAGE
Oh that those lips had language ! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine—thy own sweet smiles I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me ;
Voice only fails, else, how distinct they say,
Grieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!'
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalize,
The art that baffles time's tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.
Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
Oh welcome guest, though unexpected, here !
Who bidd'st me honour with an artless song,
Affectionate, a mother lost so long,
I will obey, not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own ;
And, while that face renews my filial grief,
Fancy shall weave a charm in my relief-
Shall steep me in Elysian reverie,
A momentary dream, that thou art she.
W. COWPER (On the receipt of my mother's
picture out of Norfolk).
SWEET stream that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid -
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng,
With gentle, yet prevailing, force
Intent upon her destined course ;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes,
Pure-bosomed as that watery glass,
And heaven reflected in her face.
The twentieth year is wellnigh past,
Since first our sky was overcast ;
Ah would that this might be the last !
Thy spirits have a fainter flow,
I see thee daily weaker grow-
'Twas my distress that brought thee low,
Thy needles, once a shining store,
For my sake restless heretofore,
Now rust disused, and shine no more,
For though thou gladly wouldst fulfil
The same kind office for me still,
Thy sight now seconds not thy will,
But well thou playedst the housewife's part,
And all thy threads with magic art
Have wound themselves about this heart,
Thy indistinct expressions seem
Like language uttered in a dream ;
Yet me they charm, whate'er the theme,
Thy silver locks, once auburn bright,
Are still more lovely in my sight
Than golden beams of orient light,
For could I view nor them nor thee,
What sight worth seeing could I see?
The sun would rise in vain for me,
Partakers of thy sad decline,
Thy hands their little force resign ;
Yet, gently pressed, press gently mine,
And then I feel that still I hold
A richer store ten thousandfold
Than misers fancy in their gold,
My Mary !
Such feebleness of limbs thou prov'st
That now at every step thou mov'st
Upheld by two ; yet still thou lov’st,
And still to love, though pressed with ill,
In wintry age to feel no chill,
With me is to be lovely still,
But oh! by constant heed I know
How oft the sadness that I show
Transforms thy smiles to looks of woe,
And should my future lot be cast
With much resemblance of the past,
Thy worn-out heart will break at last,
268. A SYMPATHY WITH SOUNDS
THERE is in souls a sympathy with sounds;
And, as the mind is pitched, the ear is pleased
With melting airs, or martial, brisk or grave :
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touched within us, and the heart replies.
How soft the music of those 'village bells,
Falling at intervals upon the ear
In cadence sweet, now dying all away,
Now pealing loud again, and louder still,
Clear and sonorous, as the gale comes on !
W. COWPER (The Task, Bk. vi).