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THE COUNTRY MOUSE.
A Paraphrase upon HORACE, Book II. Sat. vi.
AT the largest foot of a fair hollow tree,
And taste the generous luxury of the court,
What wisdom can their magic force repel?
Behind a hanging, in a spacious room
A PARAPHRASE UPON THE 10th EPISTLE OF IME FIRST BOOK OF HORACE.
HORACE TO FUSCUS ARISTIUS.
HEALTH, from the lover of the country, me,
Fountains and trees our wearied pride do please,
And in your towns, that prospect gives delight, Which opens round the country to our sight. Men to the good, from which they rashly fly, Return at last; and their wild luxury Does but in vain with those true joys contend, Which Nature did to mankind recommend. The man who changes gold for burnish'd brass, Or small right gems for larger ones of glass, Is not, at length, more certain to be made Ridiculous, and wretched by the trade, Than he, who sells a solid gool, to buy The painted goods of pride and vanity. If thou be wise, no glorious fortune choose, Which 'tis but pain to keep, yet grief to lose! For, when we place ev'n trifles in the heart, With trifles too, unwillingly we part. An humble roof, plain bed, and homely board, More clear, untainted pleasures do afford, Than all the tumult of vain greatness brings To kings, or to the favourites of kings. The horned deer, by nature arm'd so well, Did with the horse in common pasture dwell, And, when they fought, the field it always wan, Till the ambitious horse begg'd help of man, And took the bridle, and thenceforth did reign Bravely alone, as lord of all the plain; But never after could the rider get From off his back, or from his mouth the bit. So they, who poverty too much do fear, T'avoid that weight, a greater burthen bear; That they might power above their equals have, To cruel masters they themselves enslave. For gold, their liberty exchang'd we see, That fairest flower which crowns humanity 3. And all this mischief does upon them light, Only, because they know not how, aright, That great, but secret, happiness to prize, That 's laid up in a little, for the wise: That is the best and easiest estate, Which to a man sits close, but not too strait; 'Tis like a shoe; it pinches and it burns, Too narrow; and too large, it overturns. My dearest friend! stop thy desires at last, And chearfully enjoy the wealth thou hast : And, if me still seeking for more you see, Chide and reproach, despise and laugh at me. Money was made, not to command our will, But all our lawful pleasures to fulfil : Shame and woe to us, if we our wealth obey; The horse doth with the horseman run away.
The specious inconveniences, that wait
The old Coryclan yeoman pass'd his days;
Th' ambassadors, which the great emperor sent,
A happier kingdom than I go to take!
(Th' Arcadian life has always shady been)
So, gracious God! (if it may lawful be,
THE COUNTRY LIFE.
Lib. IV. Plantarum,
BLEST be the man (and blest he is) whom e'er
The poet, as usual, expresses his own feeling: but he does more, he expresses it very classically. The allusion is to the ancient custom of wearing wreaths or garlands of flowers, on any occasion of joy and festivity. HURD.
and entire to lie,
And there (with no design beyond my wall) whole [ recommend to mankind the search of that fes licity, which you instruct them how to find and to enjoy.
In no unactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.
Or as Virgil has said, shorter and better for me that I might there
Studiis florere ignobilis oti 4:
(though I could wish that he had rather said, nobilis oti, when he spoke of his own.) But several accidents of my ill-fortune have disappointed me hitherto, and do still, of that felicity; for though I have made the first and hardest step to it, by abandoning all ambitions and hopes in this world, and by retiring from the noise of all business and almost company, yet I stick still in the inn of a hired house and garden, among weeds and rubbish; and without that pleasantest work of human industry, the improvement of something which we call (not very properly, but yet we call) our own. I am gone out from Sodom, but I am not yet arrived at my little Zoar. "O let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live." I do not look back yet; but I have been forced to stop, and make too many halts. You may wonder, sir, (for this scems a little too extravagant and pindarical for prose) what I mean by all this preface; it is to let you know, that though I have missed, like a chymist, my great end, yet I account my affections and endeavours well rewarded by something that I have met with by the by; which is, that they have procured to me some part in your kindness and esteem; and thereby the honour of having my name so advantageously recommended to posterity, by the epistle you are pleased to prefix to the most useful book that has been written in that kinds, and which is to last as long as months and years.
Among many other arts and excellencies, which you enjoy, I am glad to find this favourite of mine the most predominant; that you choose this for your wife, though you have hundreds of other arts for your concubines; though you know them, and beget sons upon them all (to which you are rich enough to allow great legacies), yet the issue of this seems to be designed by you to the main of the estate; you have taken most pleasure in it, and bestowed most charges upon its education: and I doubt not to see that book, which you are pleased to promise to the world, and of which you have given us a large earnest in your calendar, as accomplished, as any thing can be expected from an extraordinary wit, and no ordinary expenses, and a long experience. I know nobody that possesses more private happiness than you do in your garden; and yet no man, who makes his happiness more public, by a free communication of the art and knowledge of it to others. All that I myself am able yet to do, is only to
4 Virg. Georg. iv. 564.
s Mr. Evelyn's Kalendarium hortense; dedicated to Mr Cowley-The title explains the propriety of the compliment, that this book was to last as long as menths and years. HURD.
Happy art thou, whom God does bless With the full choice of thine own happiness;
And happier yet, because thou 'rt blest With prudence, how to choose the best: In books and gardens thou hast plac'd aright (Things, which thou well dost understand; And both dost make with thy laborious hand) Thy noble, innocent delight;
And in thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost
Both pleasures more refin'd and sweet;
And in her mind the wisest books.
Oh, who would change these soft, yet solid joys,
When God did man to his own likeness make, As much as clay, though of the purest kind,
By the great potter's art refin'd,
Could the divine impression take,
He thought it fit to place him, where
As far as Earth could such a likeness bear:
For God, the universal architect,
"I had been as easy to erect
A Louvre or Escurial, or a tower
He wanted not the skill or power;
O blessed shades! O gentle, cool retreat
From all th' immoderate heat,
The birds that dance from bough to bough,
Are not from fears and cares more free
Than we, who lie, or sit, or walk, below,
And should by right be singers too. What prince's choir of music can excel
That, which within this shade does dwell? To which we nothing pay or give; They, like all other poets, live Without reward, or thanks for their obliging pains:
'Tis well if they become not prey:
The whistling winds add their less artful strains. And a grave bass the murmuring fountains play; Nature does all this harmony bestow,
But to our plants, art's music too,
These are the spells, that to kind sleep invite,
Which yet we moderately take;
Who would not choose to be awake, While he 's encompast round with such delight, To th' ear, the nose, the touch, the taste, and sight!
When Venus would her dear Ascanius keep
As the most soft and sweetest bed; [head.
Rather than all his spirits choak
With exhalations of dirt and smoke,
And all th' uncleanness which does drown, In pestilential clouds, a populous town? The earth itself breathes better perfumes here, Than all the female men, or women, there, Not without cause, about them bear.
When Epicurus to the world had taught,
That pleasure was the chiefest good, (And was, perhaps, i' th' right, if rightly under
His life he to his doctrine brought, [stood) And in a garden 's shade that sovereign pleasure scught:
Whoever a true epicure would be,
Than Nature's liberality,
Yet still the fruits of earth we see
But with no sense the garden does comply, None courts, or flatters, as it does, the eye. 6 Virg. Æn. i. 695.
When the great Hebrew king did almost strain The wondrous treasures of his wealth and brain, His royal southern guest to entertain;
Though she on silver floors did tread, With bright Assyrian carpets on them spread, To hide the metal's poverty; Though she look'd up to roofs of gold. And nought around her could behold But silk and rich embroidery, And Babylonish tapestry,
And wealthy Hiram's princely dye;
Though Ophir's starry stones met every where her eye;
Though she herself and her gay host were drest
Nor does this happy place only dispense
That salt of life, which does to all a relish give,
The tree of life, when it in Eden stood,
If, through the strong and beauteous fence
They must not think here to assail
A land unarmed or without a guard;
Scarce any plant is growing here,
Let cities boast, that they provide For life the ornaments of pride; But 'tis the country and the field,
That furnish it with staff and shield.
Where does the wisdom and the power divine
Than when we with attention look
We all, like Moses, should espy Ev'n in a bush the radiant Deity. But we despise these his inferior ways (Though no less full of miracle and praise) :
Upon the flowers of Heaven we gaze; The stars of Earth no wonder in us raise,
7 Matth. vi. 29.
Though these perhaps do, more than they,
We no-where Art do so triumphant see,
It imitates her Maker's power divine,
And changes her sometimes, and sometimes does refine :
It does, like grace, the fallen tree restore
To its blest state of Paradise before:
Who would not joy to see his conquering hand
The golden fruit, that worthy is
He does the savage hawthorn teach
That she's a mother made, and blushes in her fruit.
Methinks, I see great Dioclesian walk
T'entice him to a throne again.
purged from the incommodities. If I were but in his condition, I should think it hard measure, without being convinced of any crime, to be se questered from it, and made one of the principal officers of state. But the reader may think that what I now say is of small authority, because I never was, nor ever shall be, put to the trial: I can therefore only make my protestation,
If ever I more riches did desire
I know very many men will despise, and some pity me, for this humour, as a poor-spirited fellow; but I am content, and, like Horace, thank God for being so.
Di bene fecerunt, inopis mé quódque pusilli
I confess, I love littleness almost in all things, A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast; and, if I were ever to fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore, I hope, I have done with it) it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty. I would neither wish that my mistress, nor my fortune, should be a bona roba, nor, as Homer uses to describe his beauties, like a daughter of great Jupiter for the stateliness and largeness of her person; but, as Lucretius says,
Farvola, pumilio,Xagírov μla, tota merum sal
Where there is one man of this, I believe there are a thousand of Senecio's mind, whose ridiculous affectation of grandeur Seneca the elder describes to this effect: "Senecio was a man of a turbid and confused wit, who could not endure to speak any but mighty words and sentences, till this humour grew at last into so notorious a habit, or 1ather disease, as became the sport of the whole town: he would have no servants, but huge, masa sy fellows; no plate or household-stuff, but thrice as big as the fashion: you may believe me, for I speak it without raillery, his extravagancy came at last into such a madness, that he would not put on a pair of shoes, each of which was not big enough for both his feet: he would eat nothing
To thank the gods, and to be thought myself, but what was great, nor touch any fruit but horse
almost a god."
"SINCE We cannot attain to greatness "(says the sieur de Montagne)" let us have our revenge by railing at it:" this he spoke but in jest. I believe he desired it no more than I do, and had less reason; for he enjoyed so plentiful and honourable a fortune in a most excellent country, as allowed him all the real conveniences of it, separated and
plums and pound-pears: he kept a concubine, that was a very giantess, and made her walk too always in chiopins, till at last he got the surname of Senecio Grandio, which Messala said, was not his cognomen, but his cognomentum: when be de claimed for the three hundred Lacedæmonians, who alone opposed Xerxes's army of above thres hundred thousand, he stretched out his arms, and stood on tiptoes, that he might appear the taller, and cried out, in a very loud voice; 1 rejoice, Í rejoice.'-We wondered, I remember, what new great fortune had befallen his eminence. Xerxes
81 Sat. iv. 17. 1 Suasoriarum Liber.
9 Lucr. iv. 1155. Suas. 11.