To a Lady Before Marriage
To a Lady Before Marriage
Oh! form'd by Nature, and refin'd by Art,
With charms to win, and sense to fix the heart!
By thousands sought, Clotilda, canst thou free
Thy croud of captives and descend to me?
Content in shades obscure to waste thy life,
A hidden beauty and a country wife.
O! listen while thy summers are my theme,
Ah! sooth thy partner in his waking dream!
In some small hamlet on the lonely plain,
Where Thames, through meadows, rolls his mazy train;
Or where high Windsor, thick with greens array'd,
Waves his old oaks, and spreads his ample shade,
Fancy has figur'd out our calm retreat;
Already round the visionary seat
Our limes begin to shoot, our flowers to spring,
The brooks to murmur, and the birds to sing.
Where dost thou lie, thou thinly-peopled green?
Thou nameless lawn, and village yet unseen?
Where sons, contented with their native ground,
Ne'er travell'd further than ten furlongs round;
And the tann'd peasant, and his ruddy bride,
Were born together, and together died.
Where early larks best tell the morning light,
And only Philomel disturbs the night,
'Midst gardens here my humble pile shall rise,
With sweets surrounded of ten thousand dies;
All savage where th' embroider'd gardens end,
The haunt of echoes, shall my woods ascend;
And oh! if Heaven th' ambitious thought approve,
A rill shall warble cross the gloomy grove,
A little rill, o'er pebbly beds convey'd,
Gush down the steep, and glitter through the glade.
What chearing scents those bordering banks exhale!
How loud that heifer lows from yonder vale!
That thrush how shrill! his note so clear, so high,
He drowns each feather'd minstrel of the sky.
Here let me trace beneath the purpled morn,
The deep-mouth'd beagle, and the sprightly horn;
Or lure the trout with well dissembled flies,
Or fetch the fluttering partridge from the skies.
Nor shall thy hand disdain to crop the vine,
The downy peach, or flavour'd nectarine;
Or rob the bee-hive of its golden hoard,
And bear th' unbought luxuriance to thy board.
Sometimes my books by day shall kill the hours,
While from thy needle rise the silken flowers,
And thou, by turns, to ease my feeble sight,
Resume the volume, and deceive the night.
Oh! when I mark thy twinkling eyes opprest,
Soft whispering, let me warn my love to rest;
Then watch thee, charm'd, while sleep locks every sense,
And to sweet Heaven commend thy innocence.
Thus reign'd our fathers o'er the rural fold,
Wise, hale, and honest in the days of old;
Till courts arose, where substance pays for show,
And specious joys are bought with real woe.
See Flavia's pendants, large, well-spread, and right,
The ear that wears them hears a fool each night:
Mark how the embroider'd colonel sneaks away,
To shun the withering dame that made him gay;
That knave, to gain a title, lost his fame;
That rais'd his credit by a daughter's shame;
This coxcomb's ribband cost him half his land,
And oaks, unnumber'd, bought that fool a wand.
Fond man, as all his sorrows were too few,
Acquires strange wants that nature never knew,
By midnight lamps he emulates the day,
And sleeps, perverse, the chearful suns away;
From goblets high-embost, his wine must glide,
Found his clos'd sight the gorgeous curtain slide;
Fruits ere their time to grace his pomp must rise,
And three untasted courses glut his eyes.
For this are nature's gentle calls withstood,
The voice of conscience, and the bonds of blood;
This wisdom thy reward for every pain,
And this gay glory all thy mighty gain.
Fair phantoms woo'd and scorn'd from age to age,
Since bards began to laugh, and priests to rage.
And yet, just curse on man's aspiring kind,
Prone to ambition, to example blind,
Our children's children shall our steps pursue,
And the same errours be for ever new.
Mean while in hope a guiltless country swain,
My reed with warblings chears the imagin'd plain.
Hail humble shades, where truth and silence dwell!
The noisy town and faithless court farewell!
Farewell ambition, once my darling flame!
The thirst of lucre, and the charm of fame!
In life's by-road, that winds through paths unknown,
My days, though number'd, shall be all my own.
Here shall they end, (O! might they twice begin)
And all be white the Fates intend to spin.