Introduction to the Fables. The Shepherd and the Philosopher -

Remote from citys liv'd a Swain,
Unvex'd with all the cares of gain,
His head was silver'd o'er with age,
And long experience made him sage;
In summer's heat and winter's cold
He fed his flock and pen'd the fold,
His hours in cheerful labour flew,
Nor envy nor ambition knew;
His wisdom and his honest fame
Through all the country rais'd his name.
A deep Philosopher (whose rules
Of moral life were drawn from schools)
The Shepherd's homely cottage sought,
And thus explor'd his reach of thought.
Whence is thy learning? Hath thy toil
O'er books consum'd the midnight oil?
Hast thou old Greece and Rome survey'd,
And the vast sense of Plato weigh'd?
Hath Socrates thy soul refin'd,
And hast thou fathom'd Tully 's mind?
Or, like the wise Ulysses thrown
By various fates on realms unknown,
Hast thou through many citys stray'd,
Their customs, laws and manners weigh'd?
The Shepherd modestly reply'd.
I ne'er the paths of learning try'd,
Nor have I roam'd in foreign parts
To read mankind, their laws and arts;
For man is practis'd in disguise,
He cheats the most discerning eyes:
Who by that search shall wiser grow,
When we ourselves can never know?
The little knowledge, I have gain'd,
Was all from simple nature drain'd;
Hence my life's maxims took their rise,
Hence grew my settled hate to vice.
The daily labours of the bee
Awake my soul to industry.
Who can observe the careful ant,
And not provide for future want?
My dog (the trustiest of his kind)
With gratitude inflames my mind;
I mark his true, his faithful way,
And in my service copy Tray .
In constancy, and nuptial love
I learn my duty from the dove.
The hen, who from the chilly air
With pious wing protects her care,
And ev'ry fowl that flies at large
Instructs me in a parent's charge.
From nature too I take my rule
To shun contempt and ridicule.
I never with important air
In conversation overbear;
Can grave and formal pass for wise,
When men the solemn owl despise?
My tongue within my lips I rein,
For who talks much must talk in vain;
We from the wordy torrent fly:
Who listens to the chatt'ring pye?
Nor would I with felonious slight
By stealth invade my neighbour's right;
Rapacious animals we hate:
Kites, hawks and wolves deserve their fate.
Do not we just abhorrence find
Against the toad and serpent kind?
But envy, calumny and spite
Bear stronger venom in their bite.
Thus ev'ry object of creation
Can furnish hints to contemplation,
And from the most minute and mean
A virtuous mind can morals glean.
Thy fame is just, the Sage replys,
Thy virtue proves thee truly wise;
Pride often guides the author's pen,
Books as affected are as men,
But he who studys nature's laws
From certain truth his maxims draws,
And those, without our schools, suffice
To make men moral, good and wise.
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