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SOON as the morning trembles o'er the sky,
And, unperceiv'd, unfolds the spreading day,
Before the ripen'd field the reapers stand
In fair array; each by the lass he loves,
To bear the rougher part, and mitigate,
By nameless gentle offices, her toil.
At once they stoop and swell the lusty sheaves;
While through their cheerful band the rural talk,
The rural scandal, and the rural jest,
Fly harmless, to deceive the tedious time,
And steal, unfelt, the sultry hours away.
Behind the master walks, builds up the shocks,
And, conscious, glancing oft on every side
His sated eye, feels his heart heave with joy.
The gleaners spread around, and here and there,
Spike after spike, their scanty harvest pick.
Be not too narrow, husbandmen! but fling
From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth,
The liberal handful. Think, oh, grateful, think
How good the God of harvest is to you,
Who pours abundance o'er your flowing fields;
While these unhappy partners of your kind
Wide-hover round you, like the fowls of heaven,
And ask their humble dole. The various turns
Of fortune ponder; that your sons may want
What now, with hard reluctance, faint ye give.
The lovely young Lavinia once had friends,
And fortune smil'd deceitful on her birth:
For, in her helpless years depriv'd of all,
Of every stay save Innocence and Heaven,
She with her widow'd mother, feeble, old,
And poor, liv’d in a cottage, far retir'd
Among the windings of a woody vale;
By solitude and deep surrounding shades,
But more by bashful modesty conceal'd.
Together thus they shunn'd the cruel scorn
Which Virtue, sunk to Poverty, would meet
From giddy Passion and low-minded Pride;
Almost on Nature's common bounty fed,
Like the gay birds that sung them to repose,
Content, and careless of to-morrow's fare.
Her form was fresher than the morning rose,
When the dew wets its leaves; unstain’d and pure,
As is the lily or the mountain snow.
The modest virtues mingled in her eyes,
Still on the ground, dejected, darting all
Their humid beams into the blooming flowers;
Or when the mournful tale her mother told,
of what her faithless fortune promis'd once,
Thrill'd in her thought, they, like the dewy star
Of Evening, shone in tears. A native grace
Sat fair proportion'd on her polish'd limbs,
Veil'd in a simple robe, their best attire,
Beyond the pomp of dress; for loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
But is, when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most.
Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty's self,
Recluse amid the close embowering woods:
As in the hollow breast of Appenine,
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild;
So flourish’d, blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compellid
By strong Necessity's supreme command,
With smiling Patience in her looks, she went
To glean Palemon's fields. The pride of swains
Palemon was! the generous, and the rich!
Who led the rural life in all its joy
And elegance, such as Arcadian song
Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times,
When tyrant custom had not shackled man,
Bus free to follow nature was the mode.
He then, his fancy with Autumnal scenes
Amusing, chanc'd beside bis reaper-train
To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye,
Unconscious of her power, and turning quick,
With upaffected blushes, from his gaze:
He saw her charming, but he saw not half
The charms her downcast modesty conceald.
That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail'd, and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm Philosopher can scorn,
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field :
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh’d:
“What pity! that so delicate a form,
By beauty kindled, where enlivening sense,
And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown! She looks, methinks,
Of old Acasto's line, and to my mind
Recals that patron of my happy life,
From whom my liberal fortuve took its rise,
Now to the dust gone down, his houses, lands,
And once fair-spreading family, dissolv'd.
'Tis said, that in some lone obscure retreat,
Urg'd by remembrance sad, and decent pride,
Far from those scenes which knew their better days,
His aged widow and his daughter live,
Whom yet my fruitless search could never find.
Romantic wish! would this the daughter were!"
When, strict enquiring, from herself he found She was the same, the daughter of his friend, Of bountiful Acasto; who can speak The mingled passions that surpris'd his heart, And through his nerves in shivering transport ran! Then blaz’d his smother'd flame, avow'd, and bold, And as he view'd her, ardent, o'er and o'er,
Love, Gratitude, and Pity, wept at once.
Confus'd, and frighten'd at his sudden tears,
Her rising beauties fash'd a higher bloom,
As thus Palemon, passionate, and just,
Pour'd out the pious rapture of his soul:
“ And art thou then Acasto's dear remains ?
She, whom my restless gratitude has sought
So long in vain? O heavens! the very same,
The soften'd image of my noble friend;
Alive his every look, his every feature,
More elegantly touch’d. Sweeter than spring!
Thou sole surviving blossom from the root
That nourish'd up my fortune! Say, ah, where !
In what sequester'd desert, hast thou drawn
The kindest aspect of delighted heaven?
Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair,
Though poverty's cold wind, and crushing rain,
Beat keen and heavy on thy tender years?
O let me now into a richer soil
Transplant thee safe! where verna) suns and show'rs
Diffuse their warmest, largest influence;
And of my garden be the pride and joy;
It ill befits thee, oh it ill befits
Acasto's daughter, his, whose open stores,
Though vast, were little to his ampler heart,
The father of a country, thus to pick
The very refuse of those harvest-fields,
Which from his bounteous friendship I enjoy!
Then throw that shameful pittance from thy hand,