Odes From Horace. - On The Pleasures Of Rural Life. Book The Fifth, Epode The Second.

A poem by Anna Seward

I.

Thrice happy he, whose life restores
The pleasures pure of early times;
That ne'er, with anxious heart, explores
The rugged heights Ambition climbs;
Exempt from all the din, the toil, the care,
That Cities for their busy Sons prepare;
Fatigue, beneath the name of pleasure,
Contentious law, usurious treasure,
A tedious mean attendance on the Great,
And emulation vain of all their pomp and state.


II.

Not his sound and balmy sleep
The trumpet's martial warning breaks;
Nor the loud billows of the angry Deep,
When thro' the straining cords the Tempest shrieks;
But the Morning's choral lay,
Chanted wild from every spray.
Swift at the summons flies the wilder'd dream,
And up he springs alert, to meet the orient beam.


I.

The vine-clad hill he lightly scales,
Where [2]tall the frequent poplars rise,
From branch to branch assiduous trails
The pendent clusters rich supplies;
And cautious prunes the weak, the useless shoot,
Engrafting healthier boughs, that promise fruit. -
Then his arms serenely folding,
And the smiling scene beholding,
Marks, as the fertile valley winds away,
His Flocks and lowing Herds, in ample numbers stray.


II.

Then to the warm bank below,
Yellow with the morning-ray,
And sees his shelter'd hives in even row,
And hears their hum mix with the linnet's lay.
Recent from the crystal springs
Many a vessel pure he brings,
In them, from all the waxen cells to drain
The fragrant essence rich of flow'ry dale and plain.


I.

On the river's shady side
White his gather'd flock appears,
And, plung'd into the flashing tide,
Their curl'd and snowy fleece he shears;
But when, 'mid laughing fields diffusive spread,
Majestic Autumn rears her placid head,
Wreath'd with wheaten garlands yellow,
Bearing various fruitage mellow,
How gladly from the trees, that loaded stand,
Shakes he the ripen'd pears, engrafted by his hand.


II.

Or his swelling grapes, that vie
With the fleece of Tyrian stain!
Such precious gifts his grateful cares supply
To thee, Protector of his wide domain,
Bounteous Sylvanus! - and to thee,
The garden's watchful Deity;
Beneath your favoring power he little cares
Who wields the Lictor's rod, or who the fasces bears.


I.

In sultry noon's oppressive ray,
Beneath the holme, of ample shade,
His listless limbs he loves to lay
On herbage, matted in the glade;
Hears down the steeps the white rills dashing play,
Till under the long grass they purl away;
While, on wing of swift vibration,
Murmuring range the honied nation,
And the sweet stock-dove, the thick boughs among,
His dewy slumber courts with her complaining song.


II.

Loud when wintry winds arise,
And the feeble race appal,
While o'er the earth, from dim and thicken'd skies,
The flaky snows in white profusion fall,
Then the sylvan chase he seeks; -
Lo! furious from the thicket breaks
The gnashing Boar! - Flies he, or stands at bay,
Into the circling toils the staunch dogs drive the prey.


I.

When thro' the clear, and sparkling air,
Fleet the pointed darts of frost,
The filmy nets, now here, now there,
For thievish birds, are lightly toss'd;
Or, plac'd with silent heed, the wily snares,
To lure the stranger-cranes, and timid hares.
Rich viands they, whose pleasing flavor
Crown his board, reward his labor.
In those convivial hours the Heart forgets
Its vain tumultuous hopes, and all its fond regrets.


II.

These the pleasures unalloy'd,
That brighten oft the rural scene;
But, if yet dearer joys supply the void,
That, even there, will sometimes intervene
When days are cold, and nights are long,
And business goes a little wrong,
Should an endearing faithful Wife be seen,
With the warm light of love she chases gloomy spleen.


I.

As the Sabine Matron chaste,
Active as th' Apulian Wife,
See she assumes, with cheerful haste,
The pleasing cares of wedded life;
Draws the clean vestment o'er the little limbs,
And, when the tearful eye of passion swims,
With mild authority commanding,
Repressing ill, and good expanding,
Anxious she weeds the infant heart betimes,
Ere ill propension thrive, and ripen into crimes.


II.

Dusky grows the winter-eve,
In hurdled cotes the flocks are penn'd;
Her vessels pure the frothing milk receive,
As from swell'd udders its full streams descend.
Bright the crackling faggots blaze,
While she strains the eager gaze,
O'er the dim vale to see her Husband come,
With tir'd, yet willing step, to his warm, happy home.


I.

Her beating heart, and gladden'd eyes
Perceive him ope the wicker gate;
And swift her busy hand supplies
The flowing bowl, the steaming plate;
Her sparkling wine from their own vintage press'd;
From their own stores her grateful viand dress'd;
Less welcome far the proud collation,
Cull'd with painful preparation,
When earth, and air, and seas, have been explor'd
For those expensive meats, that pile the Consul's board.


II.

Not the shell-fish, pampering food!
Of Lucrine's azure lake the boast;
Nor luscious product of the eastern flood,
Driven by the stormy winds upon our coast;
Nor costly birds, that hither rove
Natives of Ionian grove,
Can with more poignant zest his senses meet
Than the love-kneaded cates of this unpurchas'd treat.


I.

[3]To his border's guardian Power
When he spreads the vernal feast.
Then bleeds the kid, in lucky hour,
From the hungry wolf releas'd[4];
Then round the primal lamb's sweet flesh is seen
The crisp salubrious herbage of the green;
And, from loaded boughs descending,
Unctuous olives richly blending; -
These form the dainties of his festal day,
When every heart expands, and every face is gay.


II.

Circled by a jocund train,
With joy the new-shorn Flock he hears
Come bleating homeward o'er the russet plain;
While slow, with languid neck, the weary Steers
Th' inverted ploughshare drag along,
Mindless of the Shepherd's song;
Then, round his smiling Household-Gods, surveys
A numerous, menial Group, the proof of prosperous days.


I.

'T was thus, amidst his ill-got wealth,
The Roman Usurer justly thought,
Resolv'd to purchase peace and health,
And live, at length, as Nature taught;
No more with subtle avarice to lend,
Oppressive foe beneath the name of friend!
Now grasping views, for once, rejected,
He on the [5]Ides his sums collected,
But on the [6]Calends, lo! with anxious pain,
On the same interest vast, he sends them forth again.


II.

Thus can lust of gold controul,
Tho' the Heart urge a wiser choice,
By force of habit lord it o'er the Soul,
And stifle e'en Conviction's powerful voice.
See, with sighs the Miser yield
The promis'd joys of wood, and field;
Against experienc'd disappointment, try
With Gold to purchase that, which Gold can never buy!

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