Canto 1 - 6

You , who the sweets of rural life have known,
Despise th' ungrateful hurry of the town;
In Windsor groves your easie hours employ,
And, undisturb'd, your self and Muse enjoy.
Thames listens to thy strains, and silent flows,
And no rude wind through rustling osiers blows,
While all his wond'ring Nymphs around thee throng,
To hear the Syrens warble in thy song.
But I, who ne'er was bless'd by Fortune's hand,
Nor brighten'd plough-shares in paternal land,
Long in the noisie town have been immur'd,
Respir'd its smoak, and all its cares endur'd,
Where news and politicks divide mankind,
And schemes of state involve th' uneasie mind;
Faction embroils the world; and ev'ry tongue
Is moved by flatt'ry, or with scandal hung
Friendship, for sylvan shades, the palace flies,
Where all must yield to int'rest's dearer ties;
Each rival Machiavel with envy burns,
And honesty forsakes them all by turns;
While calumny upon each party's thrown,
Which both promote, and both alike disown.
Fatigu'd at last; a calm retreat I chose,
And sooth'd my harrass'd mind with sweet repose,
Where fields, and shades, and the refreshing clime,
Inspire the sylvan song, and prompt my rhime.
My muse shall rove through flow'ry meads and plains,
And deck with Rural Sports her native strains,
And the same road ambitiously pursue,
Frequented by the Mantuan swain, and you.
'Tis not that rural sports alone invite,
But all the grateful country breaths delight;
Here blooming health exerts her gentle reign,
And strings the sinews of th' industrious swain.
Soon as the morning lark salutes the day,
Through dewy fields I take my frequent way,
Where I behold the farmer's early care,
In the revolving labours of the year.
When the fresh spring in all her state is crown'd,
And high luxuriant grass o'erspreads the ground,
The lab'rer with the bending scythe is seen,
Shaving the surface of the waving green,
Of all her native pride disrobes the land,
And meads lays waste before his sweeping hand:
While with the mounting sun the meadow glows,
The fading herbage round he loosely throws;
But if some sign portend a lasting show'r,
Th' experienc'd swain foresees the coming hour,
His sun-burnt hands the scatt'ring fork forsake,
And ruddy damsels ply the saving rake;
In rising hills the fragrant harvest grows,
And spreads along the field in equal rows.
Now when the height of heav'n bright Phaebus gains.
And level rays cleave wide the thirsty plains,
When heifers seek the shade and cooling lake,
And in the middle path-way basks the snake;
O lead me, guard me from the sultry hours,
Hide me, ye forests, in your closest bowers:
Where the tall oak his spreading arms entwines,
And with the beech a mutual shade combines;
Where flows the murm'ring brook, inviting dreams,
Where bord'ring hazle overhangs the streams
Whose rolling current winding round and round,
With frequent falls makes all the wood resound;
Upon the mossy couch my limbs I cast,
And ev'n at noon the sweets of ev'ning taste.
Here I peruse the Mantuan 's Georgic strains,
And learn the labours of Italian swains;
In ev'ry page I see new landschapes rise,
And all Hesperia opens to my eyes.
I wander o'er the various rural toil,
And know the nature of each different soil:
This waving field is gilded o'er with corn,
That spreading trees with blushing fruit adorn:
Here I survey the purple vintage grow,
Climb round the poles, and rise in graceful row:
Now I behold the steed curvet and bound,
And paw with restless hoof the smoaking ground:
The dewlap'd bull now chases along the plain,
While burning love ferments in ev'ry vein;
His well-arm'd front against his rival aims,
And by the dint of war his mistress claims:
The careful insect 'midst his works I view,
Now from the flow'rs exhaust the fragrant dew;
With golden treasures load his little thighs,
And steer his distant journey through the skies;
Some against hostile drones the hive defend;
Others with sweets the waxen cell distend:
Each in the toil his destin'd office bears,
And in the little bulk a mighty soul appears.
Or when the ploughman leaves the task of day,
And trudging homeward whistles on the way;
When the big-udder'd cows with patience stand,
Waiting the stroakings of the damsel's hand;
No warbling chears the woods; the feather'd choir
To court kind slumbers to their sprays retire;
When no rude gale disturbs the sleeping trees,
Nor aspen leaves confess the gentlest breeze;
Engag'd in thought, to Neptune 's bounds I stray,
To take my farewel of the parting day;
Far in the deep the sun his glory hides,
A streak of gold the sea and sky divides;
The purple clouds their amber linings show,
And edg'd with flame rolls ev'ry wave below:
Here pensive I behold the fading light,
And o'er the distant billow lose my sight.
Now night in silent state begins to rise,
And twinkling orbs bestrow th' uncloudy skies;
Her borrow'd lustre growing Cynthia lends,
And on the main a glitt'ring path extends;
Millions of worlds hang in the spacious air,
Which round their suns their annual circles steer.
Sweet contemplation elevates my sense,
While I survey the works of providence.
O could the muse in loftier strains rehearse,
The glorious author of the universe,
Who reins the winds, gives the vast ocean bounds,
And circumscribes the floating worlds their rounds,
My soul should overflow in songs of praise,
And my Creator's name inspire my lays!
As in successive course the seasons roll,
So circling pleasures recreate the soul.
When genial spring a living warmth bestows,
And o'er the year her verdant mantle throws,
No swelling inundation hides the grounds,
But crystal currents glide within their bounds;
The finny brood their wonted haunts forsake,
Float in the sun, and skim along the lake,
With frequent leap they range the shallow streams,
Their silver coats reflect the dazling beams.
Now let the fisherman his toils prepare,
And arm himself with ev'ry watry snare;
His hooks, his lines peruse with careful eye,
Encrease his tackle, and his rod retye.
When floating clouds their spongy fleeces drain,
Troubling the streams with swift-descending rain,
And waters tumbling down the mountain's side,
Bear the loose soil into the swelling tide;
Then, soon as vernal gales begin to rise,
And drive the liquid burthen thro' the skies,
The fisher to the neighb'ring current speeds,
Whose rapid surface purles unknown to weeds;
Upon a rising border of the brook
He sits him down, and ties the treach'rous hook;
Now expectation chears his eager thought,
His bosom glows with treasures yet uncaught,
Before his eyes a banquet seems to stand,
Where ev'ry guest applauds his skilful hand.
Far up the stream the twisted hair he throws,
Which down the murm'ring curren gently flows;
When if or chance or hunger's pow'rful sway
Directs the roving trout this fatal way,
He greedily sucks in the twining bait,
And tugs and nibbles the fallacious meat:
Now, happy fisherman, now twitch the line!
How thy rod bends! behold, the prize is thine!
Cast on the bank, he dies with gasping pains,
And trickling blood his silver mail distains.
You must not ev'ry worm promiscuous use,
Judgment will tell thee proper bait to chuse;
The worm that draws a long immod'rate size
The trout abhors, and the rank morsel flies;
And if too small, the naked fraud's in sight,
And fear forbids, while hunger does invite.
Those baits will best reward the fisher's pains,
Whose polish'd tails a shining yellow stains:
Cleanse them from filth, to give a tempting gloss,
Cherish the sully'd reptile race with moss;
Amid the verdant bed they twine, they toil,
And from their bodies wipe their native soil.
But when the sun displays his glorious beams,
And shallow rivers flow with silver streams,
Then the deceit the scaly breed survey,
Bask in the sun, and look into the day.
You now a more delusive art must try,
And tempt their hunger with the curious fly.
To frame the little animal, provide
All the gay hues that wait on female pride,
Let nature guide thee; sometimes golden wire
The shining bellies of the fly require;
The peacock's plumes thy tackle must not fail,
Nor the dear purchase of the sable's tail.
Each gaudy bird some slender tribute brings,
And lends the growing insect proper wings:
Silks of all colours must their aid impart,
And ev'ry fur promote the fisher's art.
So the gay lady, with expensive care,
Borrows the pride of land, of sea, and air;
Furs, pearls, and plumes, the glittering thing displays,
Dazles our eyes, and easie hearts betrays.
Mark well the various seasons of the year,
How the succeeding insect race appear;
In this revolving moon one colour reigns,
Which in the next the fickle trout disdains.
Oft' have I seen a skilful angler try
The various colours of the treach'rous fly;
When he with fruitless pain hath skim'd the brook,
And the coy fish rejects the skipping hook,
He shakes the boughs that on the margin grow,
Which o'er the stream a waving forrest throw;
When if an insect fall (his certain guide)
He gently takes him from the whirling tide;
Examines well his form with curious eyes,
His gaudy vest, his wings, his horns and size.
Then round his hook the chosen fur he winds,
And on the back a speckled feather binds,
So just the colours shine thro' ev'ry part,
That nature seems to live again in art.
Let not thy wary step advance too near,
While all thy hope hangs on a single hair;
The new-form'd insect on the water moves,
The speckled trout the curious snare approves;
Upon the curling surface let it glide,
With nat'ral motion from thy hand supply'd,
Against the stream now gently let it play,
Now in the rapid eddy roll away.
The scaly shoals float by, and seiz'd with fear
Behold their fellows tost in thinner air;
But soon they leap, and catch the swimming bait,
Plunge on the hook, and share an equal fate.
When a brisk gale against the current blows,
And all the watry plain in wrinkles flows,
Then let the fisherman his art repeat,
Where bubbling eddys favour the deceit.
If an enormous salmon chance to spy
The wanton errors of the floating fly,
He lifts his silver gills above the flood,
And greedily sucks in th' unfaithful food;
Then downward plunges with the fraudful prey,
And bears with joy the little spoil away.
Soon in smart pain he feels the dire mistake,
Lashes the wave, and beats the foamy lake,
With sudden rage he now aloft appears,
And in his eye convulsive anguish bears;
And now again, impatient of the wound,
He rolls and wreaths his shining body round;
Then headlong shoots beneath the dashing tide,
The trembling fins the boiling wave divide;
Now hope exalts the fisher's beating heart,
Now he turns pale, and fears his dubious art;
He views the tumbling fish with longing eyes,
While the line stretches with th' unwieldy prize;
Each motion humours with his steady hands,
And one slight hair the mighty bulk commands:
'Till tir'd at last, despoil'd of all his strength,
The game athwart the stream unfolds his length.
He now, with pleasure, views the gasping prize
Gnash his sharp teeth, and roll his blood-shot eyes;
Then draws him to the shore, with artful care,
And lifts his nostrils in the sick'ning air:
Upon the burthen'd stream he floating lies,
Stretches his quivering fins, and gasping dies.
Would you preserve a num'rous finny race?
Let your fierce dogs the rav'nous otter chase;
Th' amphibious monster ranges all the shores,
Darts through the waves, and ev'ry haunt explores:
Or let the gin his roving steps betray,
And save from hostile jaws the scaly prey.
I never wander where the bord'ring reeds
O'erlook the muddy stream, whose tangling weeds
Perplex the fisher; I, nor chuse to bear
The thievish nightly net, nor barbed spear;
Nor drain I ponds the golden carp to take,
Nor trowle for pikes, dispeoplers of the lake.
Around the steel no tortur'd worm shall twine.
No blood of living insect stain my line;
Let me, less cruel, cast the feather'd hook,
With pliant rod athwart the pebbled brook,
Silent along the mazy margin stray,
And with the fur-wrought fly delude the prey.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.