Villula,..........et pauper agelle,
Me tibi, et hos unâ mecum, et quos semper amavi,
Every reader turns with pleasure to those passages of Horace, and Pope, and Boileau, which describe how they lived and where they dwelt; and which, being interspersed among their satirical writings, derive a secret and irresistible grace from the contrast, and are admirable examples of what in Painting is termed repose.
We have admittance to Horace at all hours. We enjoy the company and conversation at his table; and his suppers, like Plato's, 'non solum in præsentia, sed etiam postero die jucundæ sunt.' But when we look round as we sit there, we find ourselves in a Sabine farm, and not in a Roman villa. His windows have every charm of prospect; but his furniture might have descended from Cincin-natus; and gems, and pictures, and old marbles, are mentioned by him more than once with a seeming indifference.
His English Imitator thought and felt, perhaps, more correctly on the subject; and embellished his garden and grotto with great industry and success. But to these alone he solicits our notice. On the ornaments of his house he is silent; and he appears to have reserved all the minuter touches of his pencil for the library, the chapel, and the banquetting-room of Timon. 'Le savoir de notre siècle,' says Rousseau, 'tend beaucoup plus à détruire qu'à edifier. On censure d'un ton de maitre; pour proposer, il en faut prendre un autre.'
It is the design of this Epistle to illustrate the virtue of True Taste; and to shew how little she requires to secure, not only the comforts, but even the elegancies of life. True Taste is an excellent Economist. She confines her choice to few objects, and delights in producing great effects by small means: while False Taste is for ever sighing after the new and the rare; and reminds us, in her works, of the Scholar of Apelles, who, not being able to paint his Helen beautiful, determined to make her fine.
An Invitation, v. 1. The approach to a Villa described, v. 5. Its situation, v. 17. Its few apartments, v. 57. Furnished with casts from the Antique, &c. v. 63. The dining-room, v. 83. The library, v. 89. A cold-bath, v. 101. A winter-walk, v. 151. A summer-walk, v. l63. The invitation renewed, v. 197. Conclusion, v. 205.
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 thro' 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 [a]
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 thro' the various year, the various day, [b]
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 sky-lark pours his matin song,
Tho' 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 essenc'd 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 combin'd,
Attracts the eye to exercise the mind.
Small change of scene, small space his home requires, [c]
Who leads a life of satisfied desires.
What tho' no marble breathes, no canvass glows,
From every point a ray of genius flows! [d]
Be mine to bless the more mechanic skill,
That stamps, renews, and multiplies at will;
And cheaply circulates, thro' 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!
O mark! again the coursers of the Sun,
At GUIDO'S call, their round of glory run! [e]
Again the rosy Hours resume their flight,
Obscur'd 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 lov'd and most rever'd [f]
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! [Footnote 1]
There, while the shaded lamp's mild lustre streams,
Read antient books, or woo inspiring dreams;[g]
And, when a sage's bust arrests thee there, [h]
Pause, and his features with his thoughts compare.
--Ah, most that Art my grateful rapture calls,
Which breathes a soul into the silent walls; [Footnote 2]
Which gathers round the Wise of every Tongue, [i]
All on whose words departed nations hung;
Still prompt to charm with many a converse sweet;
Guides in the world, companions in retreat!
Tho' 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 surprize,
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 noon-day 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, [Footnote 3]
Amid the buzz of crowds, the whirl of wheels,
To muse unnotic'd--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 (tho' perchance of current coin possest,
And modern phrase by living lips exprest)
Like those blest Youths, forgive the fabling page, [k]
Whose blameless lives deceiv'd a twilight age,
Spent in sweet slumbers; till the miner's spade
Unclos'd the cavern, and the morning play'd.
Ah, what their strange surprize, 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 dissolv'd, 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. [l]
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 grey 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 [Foonote 4]
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 thro' the vale,
And her wild music triumphs on the gale,
Oft with my book I muse from stile to stile; [Footnote 5]
Oft in my porch the listless noon beguile,
Framing loose numbers, till declining day
Thro' 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, serv'd by hands unseen,
Sheds, like an evening-star, its ray serene, [m]
To hail our coming. Not a step prophane
Dares, with rude sound, the cheerful rite restrain;
And, while the frugal banquet glows reveal'd,
Pure and unbought, [Footnote 6]--the natives of my field;
While blushing fruits thro' 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 side-board plays its humbler part,
Beyond the triumphs of a Loriot's art. [n]
Thus, in this calm recess, so richly fraught
With mental light, and luxury of thought,
My life steals on; (O could it blend with thine!)
Careless my course, yet not without design.
So thro' 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 thro' St. James's groves at blush of day;
Ere its full voice the choral anthem flings
Thro' trophied tombs of heroes and of kings.
Haste to the tranquil shade of learned ease, [Footnote 7]
Tho' skill'd alike to dazzle and to please;
Tho' 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 his lov'd retreat,
And his lone walks imprint with pilgrim-feet;
Then be it said, (as, vain of better days,
Some grey domestic prompts the partial praise)
"Unknown he liv'd, 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.
Thro' each he roves, the tenant of a day,
And, with the swallow, wings the year away!" [p]