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Or, when rough winter rages, on the soft
And shelter'd Sofa, while the nitrous air
Feeds a blue flame, and makes a cheerful hearth;
There, undisturb'd by folly, and appriz'd
How great the danger of disturbing her,
To muse in silence; or at least confine
Remarks that gall so many to the few
My partners in retreat. Disgust conceald.
Is oft-times proof of wisdom, when the fault
Is obstinate, and cure beyond our reach.
Domestic happiness, thou only bliss. Of Paradise that has surviv'd the fall! Though few now taste thee unimpaird and pure, Or, tasting, long enjoy thee; too infirm, Or too incautious, to preserve thy sweets Unmixt with drops of bitter, which neglect Or temper sheds into thy crystal cup. Thou art the nurse of virtue~in thine arms She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is,
Heav'n-born, and destin'd to the skies again.
Thou art not known where pleasure is ador'd,
That reeling goddess with the zoneless waist
And wand’ring eyes, still leaning on the arm
Of novelty, her fickle frail fupport;
For thou art meek and constant, hating change,
And finding, in the calm of truth-tried love,
Joys that her stormy raptures never yield.
Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made
Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!
Till prostitution elbows us aside
In all our crowded streets; and senates seem
Conven’d for purposes of empire less
Than to release th'.adultress from her bond.
Th’adultress! what a theme for angry verse !
What provocation to th' indignant heart
That feels for injur'd love ! but I disdain
The nauseous task to paint her as she is,
Cruel, abandon’d, glorying in her shame !
No:—let her pass, and, chariotted along
In guilty splendour, shake the public ways ;
The frequency of crimes has wash'd them white ! And verse of mine shall never brand the wretch,
Whom matrons now, of character unímirch’d,
And chaste themselves, are not asham'd to own.
Virtue and vice had bound'ries in old time,
Not to be pass’d: and she, that had renounc'd
Her sex’s honour, was renounc'd herself
By all that priz’d it; not for prud’ry's fake,
But dignity's, resentful of the wrong.
'Twas hard, perhaps, on here and there a waif,
Desirous to return, and not receiv’d;
But was an wholesome rigour in the main,
And taught th' unblemih'd to preserve with care
That purity, whose loss was loss of all.
Men, too, were nice in honour in those days,
And judg’d offenders well. Then he that sharp'd,
And pocketted a prize by fraud obtain’d,
Was mark'd and shunn'd as odious. He that sold
His country, or was slack when she requir’d
His ev'ry nerve in action and at stretch,
Paid, with the blood that he had basely spar’d;
The price of his default. But now-yes, now
We are become so candid and so fair,
So lib'ral in construction, and foʻrich
In Christian charity, (good-natur'd age !)
That they are safe, finners of either sex,
Transgress what laws they may. Well dress’d, well bred,
Well equipag’d, is ticket good enough
To pass us readily through ev'ry door.
Hypocrify, detest her as we may,
(And no man's hatred ever wrong'd' her yer)
May claim this merit still--that she admits
The worth of what she mimics with such care,
And thus gives virtue indirect applause ;
But she has burnt her mask, not needed here,
Where vice has such allowance, that her shifts
And specious femblances have loft their use.
I was a stricken deer, that left the herd Long since ; with many an arrow deep infixt,
My panting side was charg’d; when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There was I found by one who had himself
Been hurt by th’ archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force foliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heald, and bade me live.
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene ;
With few associates, and not wishing more.
Here much I ruminate, as much I may,
With other views of men and manners now
Than once, and others of a life to come.
I see that all are wand'rers, gone astray
Each in his own delusions; they are lost
In chase of fancied happiness, still woo'd
And never won. Dream after dream ensues;
And still they dream that they shall still succeed,
And still are disappointed. Rings the world