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Inquiry into the Happiness or Misery of a Shep
THE sun was hid by wintry clouds; the wind blew sharp and cold; the flocks were browzing on the heath; when Colin and Thyrsis, two young shepherds, who kept them, sat down upon a bank be. neath the shelter of a holly bush, and fell into much discourse. “Methinks,” said Thyrsis, “it is but a sad life that we poor wretches lead, exposed at all times to the severities of the weather; in summer parched with heat, and pinched by frosts in winter. While other young people are diverting themselves in the villages, we roam about solitary bere, on the wild common, and have nothing to attend to, but our straggling sheep,”
“And yet," answered Colin, “ as hard as our life is, you see how old Alcmon loves it, who has fed his
own flocks for fifty years, and maintains that he is happier than a king."
“I am,” replied Thyrsis, “but newly come into this country, and have little knowledg: of the neighhouring shepherds; but I should be glad to see one who could convince me I was happy.”
“ See then,” said Colin, “ where Alcmon comes hither most opportunely.” And thereupon calling to the good old man, “ Father,” cried he, “here is a young shepherd, who wants your instructions how to live contented.”
“Son," said the old man, sitting down by them, “I accept of that name, and of the office you have given me; for I wish well to all young people : and as I am happy myself, I would fain have others so."
"A hard task you will have, father," interrupted Thyrsis, “to make people happy, who have no one enjoyment or diversion in life ; but must slave out our day in the service of our masters, who divert themselves the while, and live at ease."
“Good Thyrsis,” said Colin, “ listen but to Alcmon, and you will be convinced as I have been.”
"Nay, rather,” said Alcmon, “let him make his complaint to me: do you answer him from your own experience, and whichever of you best defends his owu cause, shall come and sup with me at night: there we will enjoy ourselves in honest mirth by a warm fire, and forget all the toils of the day.” Thyrsis agreed to the proposal, and began.
Thyrsis. Alas! how yloomy are the skies! How hollow is the whistling of the wind in December! Are these the scenes to entertain a youthful fancy? The trees are stripped of all their leaves; the very grass is of a russet brown; the birds sit silent and shivering on the branches; all things have an air of poverty and desolation. Alas! how tasteless is the shepherd's life! His meals are short, and his sleep soon interrupted : he rises many hours before the cheerful day begins to dawn; and does not return home, till the cold night is far advanced.
Colin. But then how delightful is the early spring! how reviviag the advances of summer! The sky grows clear, or is only overspread with thin, white, curdling clouds. Soft showers descend upon the withered grass, and every meadow seems to laugh: the gay flowers spring up in every field, and adorn it with beautiful colours. The lambkius frisk around us, and divert us with their innocent gaieties : the shepherd's life is as innocent as theirs; if his meals are plain, they are hearty ; if his sleep is short, it is both sound and sweet. He rises refreshed in the morning, and sees the day come on by gradual advances, till the whole east is streaked with purple clouds: when night succeeds, he beholds the immense vault of heaven, he admires the lustre of the stars, and in vain tries to reckon their number; while they glitter over his head, he has no cause to fear any ill influences from them, sivce his whole life is larmless and industrious, and renders him the care of Provi. dence.
Thyrsis. 0, with what envy do we see the young hunters hastening by us in pursuit of their youthful prey! while we are confined, as it were, to one spot, they measure with swift steps the whole fair country round; and the speed of the horses seems equal to that of the winds. The hills echo to the enlivening sound of their horns, and the cheerful cry of their dogs; the timorous hares scud away before them; they feel not the coldness of the air ; and when they return home, they have all things in plenty. We have the same dispositions for mirth and entertainment with them. Why, why shonld there be this difference between one man's station and another's ?
Colin. Why rather, 0 Thyrsis, O misjudging Thyrsis, do you envy them a pleasure they so dearly buy? Not long ago, I was tending my flock, upon the brow of the hill. These hunters passed by me in great mirth and high gaiety : amongst them was a very handsome youth, the only son of a fond mother : he guided an unmanageable horse, and guided it without discretion : just upon the edge of a precipice, the unruly creature took fright. --I saw the youth brought back, lifeless, pale, and disfigured. The great possessions to which he was born were no longer of any avail to him; while I, poor humble shepherd, salute the rising sun, and enjoy life and health.