Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE THRESHER'S LABOUR, SELS, by STEPHEN DUCK



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THE THRESHER'S LABOUR, SELS, by            
First Line: Soon as the harvest hath laid bare the plains
Last Line: We, 'the corn threshes bad, 'twas cut too green.'
Subject(s): Landscape


SOON as the harvest hath laid bare the plains,
And barns well filled reward the farmer's pains,
What corn each sheaf will yield intent to hear,
And guess from thence the profits of the year,
Or else impending ruin to prevent
By paying, timely, threat'ning landlord's rent,
He calls his threshers forth: around we stand,
With deep attention waiting his command.
To each our tasks he readily divides,
And, pointing, to our different stations guides.
As he directs, to different barns we go;
Here two for wheat, and there for barley two.
But first, to show what he expects to find,
These words, or words like these, disclose his mind:
'So dry the corn was carried from the field,
So easily 'twill thresh, so well 'twill yield.
Sure large day's work I well may hope for now;
Come, strip, and try, let's see what you can do.'
Divested of our clothes, with flail in hand,
At a just distance, front to front we stand;
And first the threshall's gently swung, to prove
Whether with just exactness it will move:
That once secure, more quick we whirl them round,
From the strong planks our crabtree staves rebound,
And echoing barns return the rattling sound.
Now in the air our knotty weapons fly,
And now with equal force descend from high:
Down one, one up, so well they keep the time,
The Cyclops' hammers could not truer chine;
Nor with more heavy strokes could Etna groan,
When Vulcan forged the arms for Thetis' son.
In briny streams our sweat descends apace,
Drops from our locks, or trickles down our face.
No intermission in our works we know;
The noisy threshall must for ever go.
Their master absent, others safely play;
The sleeping threshall doth itself betray.
Nor yet the tedious labour to beguile,
And make the passing minutes sweetly smile,
Can we, like shepherds, tell a merry tale:
The voice is lost, drowned by the noisy flail.
But we may think.—Alas! what pleasing thing
Here to the mind can the dull fancy bring?
The eye beholds no pleasant object here:
No cheerful sound diverts the list'ning ear.
The shepherd well may tune his voice to sing,
Inspired by all the beauties of the spring:
No fountains murmur here, no lambkins play,
No linnets warble, and no fields look gay;
'Tis all a dull and melancholy scene,
Fit only to provoke the Muse's spleen.
When sooty pease we thresh, you scarce can know
Our native colour, as from work we go:
The sweat, and dust, and suffocating smoke
Make us so much like Ethiopians look,
We scare our wives, when evening brings us home,
And frighted infants think the bugbear come.
Week after week we this dull task pursue,
Unless when winnowing days produce a new,
A new indeed, but frequently a worse:
The threshall yields but to the master's curse.
He counts the bushels, counts how much a day,
Then swears we've idled half our time away.
'Why look ye, rogues! D'ye think that this will do?
Your neighbours thresh as much again as you.'
Now in our hands we wish our noisy tools,
To drown the hated names of rogues and fools;
But wanting those, we just like schoolboys look,
When th' angry master views the blotted book.
They cry their ink was faulty, and their pen;
We, 'The corn threshes bad, 'twas cut too green.'





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