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Then, pleas'd and thankful, from the porch they go;
And, but the landlord, none had cause of woe:
His cup was vanish'd; for in secret guise
The younger guest purloin'd the glittering prize.
As one who spies a serpent in his way,
Glistening and basking in the summer ray,
Disorder'd stops to shun the danger near,
Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear,
So seem'd the sire; when far upon the road,
The shining spoil his wily partner show'd.
He stop'd with silence, walk'd with trembling heart,
And much he wish'd, but durst not ask to part:
Murmuring he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard,
That generous actions meet a base reward.
While thus they pass, the Sun his glory shrouds,
The changing skies hang out their sable clouds ;
A sound in air presag'd approaching rain,
And beasts to covert scud across the plain.
Warn'd by the signs, the wandering pair retreat,
To seek for shelter at a neighboring seat.
'T was built with turrets on a rising ground,
And strong, and large, and unimprov'd around;
Its owner's temper, timorous and severe,
Unkind and griping, caus'd a desert there.
As near the miser's heavy doors they drew,
Fierce rising gusts with sudden fury blew;
The nimble lightning mix'd with showers began,
And o'er their heads loud rolling thunders ran.
IIere long they knock, but knock or call in vain,
Driven by the wind, and batter'd by the rain.
At length some pity warm'd the master's breast,
('T was then his threshold first received a guest);
Slow creaking turns the door with jealous care,
And half he welcomes in the shivering pair;
One frugal fagot lights the naked walls,
And Nature's fervor through their limbs recalls :
Bread of the coarsest sort, with eager wine,
(Each hardly granted) serv'd them both to dine;
And when the tempest first appeared to cease,
A ready warning bid them part in peace.
With still remark the pondering hermit view'd,
In one so rich, a life so poor and rude;
And why should such,” within himself he cried,
“Lock the lost wealth a thousand want beside ?"
But what new marks of wonder soon take place,
In every settling feature of his face;
When from his vest the young companion bore
That cup, the generous landlord own'd before,
And paid profusely with the precious bowl
The stinted kindness of this churlish soul.
But now the clouds in airy tumult fly!
The Sun emerging opes an azure sky;
A fresher green the smelling leaves display,
And, glittering as they tremble, cheer the day:
The weather courts them from the poor retreat,
And the glad master bolts the wary gate.
While hence they walk, the pilgrim's bosom wrought
With all the travail of uncertain thought;
His partner's acts without their cause appear,
'T was there a vice, and seem'd a madness here:
Detesting that, and pitying this, he goes,
Lost and confounded with the various shows.
Now Night's dim shades again involve the sky,
Again the wanderers want a place to lie,
Again they search, and find a lodging nigh,
The soil improv'd around, the mansion neat,
And neither poorly low, nor idly great:
It seem'd to speak its master's turn of mind,
Content, and not to praise, but virtue kind.
Hither the walkers turn with weary feet,
Then bless the mansion, and the master greet:
Their greeting fair, bestow'd with modest guise,
The courteous master hears, and thus replies:
“Without a vain, without a grudging heart,
To him who gives us all, I yield a part;
From him you come, for him accept it here,
A frank and sober, more than costly cheer.”
He spoke, and bid the welcome table spread,
Then talk of virtue till the time of bed,
When the grave household round his hall repair,
Warn’d by a bell, and close the hours with prayer.
At length the world, renew'd by calm repose,
Was strong for toil, the dappled Morn arose;
Before the pilgrims part, the younger crept
Near the clos'd cradle where an infant slept,
And writh'd his neck: the landlord's little pride,
O strange return! grew black, and gasp'd, and died.
Horror of horrors! what! his only son!
How look'd our hermit when the fact was done;
Not Hell, though Hell's black jaws in sunder part,
And breathe blue fire, could more assault his heart.
Confus’d, and struck with silence at the deed,
He flies, but trembling, fails to fly with speed.
His steps the youth pursues; the country lay
Perplex'd with roads, a servant show'd the way:
A river cross'd the path; the passage o'er
Was nice to find; the servant trod before;
Long arms of oaks an open bridge supplied,
And deep the waves beneath them bending glide.
The youth, who seem'd to watch a time to sin,
Approach'd the careless guide, and thrust him in:
Plunging he falls, and rising lifts his head,
Then flashing turns, and sinks among the dead.
Wild, sparkling rage inflames the father's eyes,
He bursts the bands of fear, and madly cries,
“Detested wretch!"-But scarce his speech began,
When the strange partner seem'd no longer man:
His youthful face grew more serenely sweet;
His robe turn’d white, and flow'd upon his feet;
Fair rounds of radiant points invest his hair;
Celestial odors breathe through purpled air;
And wings, whose colors glitter'd on the day,
Wide at his back their gradual plumes display.
The form ethereal burst upon his sight,
And moved in all the majesty of light.
Though loud at first the pilgrim's passion grew,
Sudden he gaz'd, and wist not what to do;
Surprise in secret chains his words suspends,
And in a calm his settling temper ends.
But silence here the beauteous angel broke
(The voice of music ravish'd as he spoke).
“ Thy prayer, thy praise, thy life to vice unknown,
In sweet memorial rise before the throne:
These charms success in our bright region find
And force an angel down, to calm thy mind;
For this, commissioned, I forsook the sky,
Nay, cease to kneel—thy fellow-servant I.
“Then know the truth of government divine, And let these scruples be no longer thine.
“The Maker justly claims that world he made,
In this the right of Providence is laid;
Its sacred majesty through all depends
On using second means to work his ends:
'T is thus, withdrawn in state from liuman eye,
The power exerts his attributes on high,
Your actions uses, nor controls your will,
And bids the doubting sons of men be still.
“What strange events can strike with more surprise,
Than those which lately struck thy wondering eyes ?
Yet, taught by these, confess th’ Almighty just,
And where you can't unriddle, learn to trust!
“The great, vain man, who far’d on costly food,
Whose life was too luxurious to be good;
Who made his ivory stands with goblets shine,
And forc'd his guests to morning draughts of wine,
Has, with the cup, the graceless custom lost,
And still he welcomes, but with less of cost.
“The mean, suspicious wretch, whose bolted door
Ne'er mov'd in duty to the wandering poor;
With him I left the cup, to teach his mind
That Heaven can bless, if mortals will be kind.
Conscious of wanting worth, he views the bowl,
And feels compassion touch his grateful soul.
Thus artists melt the sullen ore of lead,
With heaping coals of fire upon his head;
In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,
And loose from dross the silver runs below.
“Long had our pious friend in virtue trod,
But now the child half-weaned his heart from God;
(Child of his age) for him he liv’d in pain,
And measured back his steps to Earth again.
To what excesses had his dotage run ?
But God, to save the father, took the son.
To all but thee, in fits he seem'd to go,
(And 't was my ininistry to deal the blow,)
The poor fond parent, humbled in the dust,
Now owns in tears the punishment was just.
“But now had all his fortune felt a wrack,
Had that false servant sped in safety back;
This night his treasur'd heaps he meant to steal,
And what a fund of charity would fail!
Thus Heaven instructs thy mind: this trial o'er,
Depart in peace, resign, and sin no more."
On sounding pinions here the youth withdrew,
The sage stood wondering as the seraph flew.
Thus look'd Elisha when, to mount on high,
His master took the chariot of the sky;
The fiery pomp ascending left to view;
The prophet gazed, and wish'd to follow too.
The bending hermit here a prayer begun,
“Lord! as in Ileaven, on Earth thy will be done."
Then gladly turning sought his ancient place,
And passed a life of piety and peace.