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AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: When, with a reaumur's skill, thy curious mind
Last Line: "and, with the swallow, wings the year away!"
Subject(s): Friendship

WHEN, with a Reaumur's skill, thy curious mind
Has class'd the insect tribes of human kind,
Each with its busy hum, or gilded wing,
Its subtle web-work, or its venom'd sting;
Let me, to claim a few unvalued hours,
Point the green lane that leads thro' fern and flowers;
The shelter'd gate that opens to my field,
And the white front through mingling elms reveal'd.
In vain, alas, a village friend invites
To simple comforts, and domestic rites,
When the gay months of Carnival resume
Their annual round of glitter and perfume;
When London hails thee to its splendid mart,
Its hives of sweets, and cabinets of art;
And, lo! majestic as thy manly song,
Flows the full tide of human life along.
Still must my partial pencil love to dwell
On the home prospects of my hermit cell;
The mossy pales that skirt the orchard-green,
Here hid by shrub-wood, there by glimpses seen;
And the brown pathway, that, with careless flow,
Sinks, and is lost among the trees below,
Still must it trace (the flattering tints forgive)
Each fleeting charm that bids the landscape live.
Oft o'er the mead, at pleasing distance, pass --
Browsing the hedge by fits, the pannier'd ass;
The idling shepherd-boy, with rude delight,
Whistling his dog to mark the pebble's flight;
And in her kerchief blue the cottage-maid,
With brimming pitcher from the shadowy glade.
Far to the south a mountain vale retires,
Rich in its groves, and glens, and village-spires;
Its upland lawns, and cliffs with foliage hung,
Its wizard-stream, nor nameless nor unsung:
And through the various year, the various day,
What scenes of glory burst, and melt away!
When April verdure springs in Grosvenor-square,
And the furr'd beauty comes to winter there,
She bids old Nature mar the plan no more;
Yet still the seasons circle as before.
Ah, still as soon the young Aurora plays,
Tho'moons and flambeaux trail their broadest blaze;
As soon the skylark pours his matin song,
Though evening lingers at the mask so long.
There let her strike with momentary ray,
As tapers shine their little lives away;
There let her practise from herself to steal,
And look the happiness she does not feel;
The ready smile and bidden blush employ
At Faro-routs, that dazzle to destroy;
Fan with affected ease the essenced air,
And lisp of fashions with unmeaning stare.
Be thine to meditate an humbler flight,
When morning fills the fields with rosy light;
Be thine to blend, nor thine a vulgar aim,
Repose with dignity, with quiet fame.
Here no state-chambers in long line unfold,
Bright with broad mirrors, rough with fretted gold;
Yet modest ornament, with use combined,
Attracts the eye to exercise the mind.
Small change of scene, space his home requires,
Who leads a life of satisfied desires.
What tho' no marble breathes, no canvas glows,
From every point a ray of genius flows!
Be mine to bless the more mechanic skill,
That stamps, renews, and multiplies at will;
And cheaply circulates, through distant climes,
The fairest relics of the purest times.
Here from the mould to conscious being start
Those finer forms, the miracles of art;
Here chosen gems, imprest on sulphur, shine,
That slept for ages in a second mine;
And here the faithful graver dares to trace
A Michael's grandeur, and a Raphael's grace!
Thy gallery, Florence, gilds my humble walls,
And my low roof the Vatican recalls!
Soon as the morning dream my pillow flies,
To waking sense what brighter visions rise!
Oh mark! again the coursers of the sun,
At Guido's call, their round of glory run!
Again the rosy Hours resume their flight,
Obscured and lost in floods of golden light!
But could thine erring friend so long forget
(Sweet source of pensive joy and fond regret)
That here its warmest hues the pencil flings,
Lo! here the lost restores, the absent brings;
And still the few best loved and most revered
Rise round the board their social smile endear'd.
Selected shelves shall claim thy studious hours
There shall thy ranging mind be fed on flowers!
There, while the shaded lamp's mild lustre streams
Read ancient books, or dream inspiring dreams;
And, when a sage's bust arrests thee there,
Pause, and his features with his thoughts compare.
-- Ah, most that art my grateful rapture calls,
Which breathes a soul into the silent walls;
Which gathers round the wise of every tongue,
All on whose words departed nations hung;
Still prompt to charm with many a converse sweet;
Guides in the world, companions in retreat!
Though my thatch'd bath no rich Mosaic knows,
A limpid spring with unfelt current flows.
Emblem of life! which, still as we survey,
Seems motionless, yet ever glides away!
The shadowy walls record, with attic art,
The strength and beauty that its waves impart.
Here Thetis, bending, with a mother's fears
Dips her dear boy, whose pride restrains his tears.
There, Venus, rising, shrinks with sweet surprise,
As her fair self, reflected, seems to rise!
Far from the joyless glare, the maddening strife,
And all "the dull impertinence of life,"
These eyelids open to the rising ray,
And close, when Nature bids, at close of day.
Here, at the dawn, the kindling landscape glows,
There noonday levees call from faint repose.
Here the flush'd wave flings back the parting light;
There glimmering lamps anticipate the night.
When from his classic dreams the student steals,
Amid the buzz of crowds, the whirl of wheels,
To muse unnoticed -- while around him press
The meteor-forms of equipage and dress;
Alone, in wonder lost, he seems to stand
A very stranger in his native land!
And (though perchance of current coin possest,
And modern phrase by living lips exprest)
Like those blest youths, forgive the fabling page,
Whose blameless lives deceived a twilight age,
Spent in sweet slumbers; till the miner's spade
Unclosed the cavern, and the morning play'd.
Ah, what their strange surprise, their wild delight!
New arts of life, new manners meet their sight!
In a new world they wake, as from the dead;
Yet doubt the trance dissolved, the vision fled!
O come, and, rich in intellectual wealth,
Blend thought with exercise, with knowledge health!
Long, in this shelter'd scene of letter'd talk,
With sober step repeat the pensive walk;
Nor scorn, when graver triflings fail to please,
The cheap amusements of a mind at ease;
Here every care in sweet oblivion cast,
And many an idle hour -- not idly pass'd.
No tuneful echoes, ambush'd at my gate,
Catch the blest accents of the wise and great.
Vain of its various page, no Album breathes
The sigh that friendship or the muse bequeaths.
Yet some good genii o'er my hearth preside,
Oft the far friend, with secret spell, to guide;
And there I trace, when the gray evening lours,
A silent chronicle of happier hours!
When Christmas revels in a world of snow,
And bids her berries blush, her carols flow;
His spangling shower when frost the wizard flings;
Or, borne in ether blue, on viewless wings,
O'er the white pane his silvery foliage weaves,
And gems with icicles the sheltering eaves,
-- Thy muffled friend his nectarine-wall pursues,
What time the sun the yellow crocus wooes,
Screen'd from the arrowy north; and duly hies
To meet the morning-rumour as it flies,
To range the murmuring market-place, and view
The motley groups that faithful Teniers drew.
When spring bursts forth in blossoms through the vale,
And her wild music triumphs on the gale,
Oft with my book I muse from stile to stile;
Oft in my porch the listless noon beguile,
Framing loose numbers, till declining day
Through the green trellis shoots a crimson ray;
Till the west-wind leads on the twilight hours,
And shakes the fragrant bells of closing flowers.
Nor boast, O Choisy! seat of soft delight,
The secret charm of thy voluptuous night.
Vain is the blaze of wealth, the pomp of power!
Lo, here, attendant on the shadowy hour,
Thy closet-supper, served by hands unseen,
Sheds, like an evening-star, its ray serene,
To hail our coming. Not a step profane
Dares, with rude sound, the cheerful rite restrain;
And, while the frugal banquet glows reveal'd,
Pure and unbought, -- the natives of my field;
Whileblushing fruits through scatter'd leaves invite,
Still clad in bloom, and veil'd in azure light; --
With wine, as rich in years as Horace sings,
With water, clear as his own fountain flings,
The shifting sideboard plays its humbler part,
Beyond the triumphs of a Loriot's art.
Thus, in this calm recess, so richly fraught
With mental light, and luxury of thought,
My life steals on; (Oh could it blend with thine!)
Careless my course, yet not without design.
So through the vales of Loire the bee-hives glide,
The light raft dropping with the silent tide;
So, till the laughing scenes are lost in night,
The busy people wing their various flight,
Culling unnumber'd sweets from nameless flowers,
That scent the vineyard in its purple hours.
Rise, ere the watch-relieving clarions play,
Caught through St. James's groves a blush of day,
Ere its full voice the choral anthem flings
Through trophied tombs of heroes and of kings.
Haste to the tranquil shade of learned ease,
Though skill'd alike to dazzle and to please;
Though each gay scene be search'd with anxious eye,
Nor thy shut door be pass'd without a sigh.
If, when this roof shall know thy friend no more,
Some, form'd like thee, should once, like thee, explore;
Invoke the Lares of this loved retreat,
And his lone walks imprint with pilgrim-feet;
Then be it said, (as, vain of better days,
Some gray domestic prompts the partial praise,)
"Unknown he lived, unenvied, not unblest;
Reason his guide, and happiness his guest.
In the clear mirror of his moral page,
We trace the manners of a purer age.
His soul, with thirst of genuine glory fraught,
Scorn'd the false lustre of licentious thought.
-- One fair asylum from the world he knew,
One chosen seat, that charms with various view!
Who boasts of more (believe the serious strain)
Sighs for a home, and sighs, alas! in vain.
Through each he roves, the tenant of a day,
And, with the swallow, wings the year away!"

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