Essays (Cowley)/Of Agriculture
The first wish of Virgil (as you will find anon by his verses) was to be a good philosopher, the second, a good husbandman: and God (whom he seem’d to understand better than most of the most learned heathens) dealt with him just as he did with Solomon; because he prayed for wisdom in the first place, he added all things else, which were subordinately to be desir’d. He made him one of the best philosophers and the best husbandmen; and, to adorn and communicate both those faculties, the best poet. He made him, besides all this, a rich man, and a man who desired to be no richer—
- “O fortunatus nimium, et bona qui sua novit!”
To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from the city; to be a philosopher, from the world; or rather, a retreat from the world, as it is man’s, into the world, as it is God’s.
But, since nature denies to most men the capacity or appetite, and fortune allows but to a very few the opportunities or possibility of applying themselves wholly to philosophy, the best mixture of humane affairs that we can make, are the employments of a country life. It is, as Columella calls it, “Res sine dubitatione proxima, et quasi consanguinea sapientiæ,” the nearest neighbour, or rather next in kindred, to philosophy. Varro says, the principles of it are the same which Ennius made to be the principles of all nature, Earth, Water, Air, and the Sun. It does certainly comprehend more parts of philosophy, than any one profession, art, or science, in the world besides: and therefore Cicero says, the pleasures of a husbandman, “mihi ad sapientis vitam proxime videntur accedere,” come very nigh to those of a philosopher. There is no other sort of life that affords so many branches of praise to a panegyrist: the utility of it, to a man’s self; the usefulness, or rather necessity, of it to all the rest of mankind; the innocence, the pleasure, the antiquity, the dignity.
The utility (I mean plainly the lucre of it) is not so great, now in our nation, as arises from merchandise and the trading of the city, from whence many of the best estates and chief honours of the kingdom are derived: we have no men now fetcht from the plow to be made lords, as they were in Rome to be made consuls and dictators; the reason of which I conceive to be from an evil custom, now grown as strong among us as if it were a law, which is, that no men put their children to be bred up apprentices in agriculture, as in other trades, but such who are so poor, that, when they come to be men, they have not wherewithal to set up in it, and so can only farm some small parcel of ground, the rent of which devours all but the bare subsistence of the tenant: whilst they who are proprietors of the land are either too proud, or, for want of that kind of education, too ignorant, to improve their estates, though the means of doing it be as easy and certain in this, as in any other track of commerce. If there were always two or three thousand youths, for seven or eight years, bound to this profession, that they might learn the whole art of it, and afterwards be enabled to be masters in it, by a moderate stock, I cannot doubt but that we should see as many aldermen’s estates made in the country, as now we do out of all kind of merchandizing in the city. There are as many ways to be rich, and, which is better, there is no possibility to be poor, without such negligence as can neither have excuse nor pity; for a little ground will, without question, feed a little family, and the superfluities of life (which are now in some cases by custom made almost necessary) must be supplied out of the superabundance of art and industry, or contemned by as great a degree of philosophy.
As for the necessity of this art, it is evident enough, since this can live without all others, and no one other without this. This is like speech, without which the society of men cannot be preserved; the others, like figures and tropes of speech, which serve only to adorn it. Many nations have lived, and some do still, without any art but this: not so elegantly, I confess, but still they live; and almost all the other arts, which are here practised, are beholding to this for most of their materials.
The innocence of this life is the next thing for which I commend it; and if husbandmen preserve not that, they are much to blame, for no men are so free from the temptations of iniquity. They live by what they can get by industry from the earth; and others, by what they can catch by craft from men. They live upon an estate given them by their mother; and others; upon an estate cheated from their brethren. They live, like sheep and kine, by the allowances of nature; and others; like wolves and foxes, by the acquisitions of rapine. And, I hope, I may affirm (without any offence to the great) that sheep and kine are very useful, and that wolves and foxes are pernicious creatures. They are, without dispute, of all men, the most quiet and least apt to be inflamed to the disturbance of the commonwealth: their manner of life inclines them, and interest binds them, to love peace: in our late mad and miserable civil wars, all other trades, even to the meanest, set forth whole troops, and raised up some great commanders, who became famous and mighty for the mischiefs they had done: but I do not remember the name of any one husbandman, who had so considerable a share in the twenty years’ ruine of his country, as to deserve the curses of his countrymen.
And if great delights be joyn’d with so much innocence, I think it is ill done of men not to take them here, where they are so tame, and ready at hand, rather than hunt for them in courts and cities, where they are so wild, and the chase so troublesome and dangerous.
We are here among the vast and noble scenes of nature; we are there among the pitiful shifts of policy: we walk here in the light and open ways of the divine bounty; we grope there in the dark and confused labyrinths of humane malice: our senses are here feasted with the clear and genuine taste of their objects, which are all sophisticated there, and for the most part overwhelmed with their contraries. Here, pleasure looks (methinks) like a beautiful, constant, and modest wife; it is there an impudent, fickle, and painted harlot. Here, is harmless and cheap plenty; there, guilty and expenceful luxury.
I shall only instance in one delight more, the most natural and best-natured of all others, a perpetual companion of the husbandman; and that is, he satisfaction of looking round about him, and seeing nothing but the effects and improvements of his own art and diligence; to be always gathering of some fruits of it, and at the same time to behold others ripening, and others budding: to see all his fields and gardens covered with the beauteous creatures of his own industry; and to see, like God, that all his works are good:—
- —— Hinc atque hinc glomerantur Orcades; ipsi
- Agricolæ tacitum pertentant gaudia pectus.
- On his heart-string a secret joy does strike.
The antiquity of his art is certainly not be contested by any other. The three first men in the world, were a gardener, a plowman, and a grazier; and if any man object, that the second of these was a murtherer. I desire he would consider, that as soon as he was so, he quitted our profession, and turn’d builder. It is for this reason, I suppose, that Ecclesiasticus forbids us to hate husbandry; ‘because (says he) the Most High has created it.’ We were all born to this art, and taught by nature to nourish our bodies by the same earth out of which they were made, and to which they must return, and pay at last for their sustenance.
Behold the original and primitive nobility of all those great persons, who are too proud now, not only to till the ground, but almost to tread upon it. We may talk what we please of lillies, and lions rampant, and spread-eagles, in fields d’or or d’argent; but, if heraldry were guided by reason, a plough in a field arable would be the most noble and ancient arms.
All these considerations make me fall into the wonder and complaint of Columella, how it should come to pass that all arts or sciences (for the dispute, which is an art, and which a science, does not belong to the curiosity of us husbandmen) metaphysic, physic, morality, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, &c. which are all, I grant, good and useful faculties, (except only metaphysic which I do not know whether it be anything or no;) but even vaulting, fencing, dancing, attiring, cookery, carving, and such like vanities, should all have public schools and masters, and yet that we should never see or hear of any man, who took upon him the profession of teaching this so pleasant, so virtuous, so profitable, so honourable, so necessary art.
A man would think, when he’s in serious humour, that it were but a vain, irrational, and ridiculous thing for a great company of men and women to run up and down in a room together, in a hundred several postures and figures, to no purpose, and with no design; and therefore dancing was invented first, and only practised antiently, in the ceremonies of the heathen religion, which consisted all in mummery and madness; the latter being the chief glory of the worship, and accounted divine inspiration: this, I say, a severe man would think; though I dare not determine so far against so customary a part, now, of good-breeding. And yet, who is there among our gentry, that does not entertain a dancing-master for his children, as soon as they are able to walk? But did ever any father provide a tutor for his son, to instruct him betimes in the nature and improvements of that land which he intended to leave him? That is at least a superfluity, and this a defect, in our manner of education; and therefore I could wish (but cannot in these times much hope to see it) that one college in each university were erected, and appropriated to this study, as well as there are to medicine and the civil law: there would be no need of making a body of scholars and fellows with certain endowments, as in other colleges; it would suffice, if, after the manner of halls in Oxford, there were only four professors constituted (for it would be too much work for only one master, or principal, as they call him there) to teach these four parts of it: First, Aration, and all things relating to it. Secondly, Pasturage. Thirdly, Gardens, Orchards, Vineyards, and Woods. Fourthly, all parts of Rural Economy, which would contain the government of Bees, Swine, Poultry, Decoys, Ponds, &c. and all that which Varro calls villaticas pastiones, together with the sports of the field (which ought to be looked upon not only as pleasures, but as parts of housekeeping), and the domestical conservation and uses of all that is brought in by industry abroad. The business of these professors should not be, as is commonly practised in other arts, only to read pompous and superficial lectures, out of Virgil’s Georgics, Pliny, Varro, or Columella; but to instruct their pupils in the whole method and course of this study, which might be run through perhaps, with diligence, in a year or two: and the continual succession of scholars, upon a moderate taxation for their diet, a lodging and learning, would be a sufficient constant revenue for maintenance of the house and the professors, who should be men not chosen for the ostentation of critical literature, but for solid and experimental knowledge of the things they teach; such men, so industrious and public-spirited, as I conceive Mr. Hartlib to be, if the gentleman be yet alive: but it is needless to speak further of my thoughts of this design, unless the present disposition of the age allowed more probability of bringing it into execution. What I have further to say of the country life, shall be borrowed from the poets, who were always the most faithful and affectionate friends to it. Poetry was born among the shepherds.
- Nescio qua natale solum dulcedine Musas
- Ducit, et immemores non sinit esse sui.
- The Muses still love their own native place;
- ’T has secret charms, which nothing” can deface.
The truth is, no other place is proper for their work; one might as well undertake to dance in a crowd, as to make good verses in the midst of noise and tumult.
- As well might corn, as verse, in cities grow;
- In vain the thankless glebe we plow and sow;
- Against th’ unnatural soil in vain we strive;
- ’Tis not a ground, in which these plants will thrive.
It will bear nothing but the nettles and thorns of satire, which grow most naturally in the worst earth; and therefore almost all poets, except those who were not able to eat bread without the bounty of great men, that is, without what they could get by flattering of them, have not only withdrawn themselves from the vices and vanities of the grand world,
- —— pariter vitiisque jocisque
- Attius humanis exeruere caput,
into the innocent happiness of a retired life; but have commended and adorned nothing so much by their ever-living poems. Hesiod was the first or second poet in the world that remains yet extant (if Homer, as some think, preceded him, but I rather believe they were contemporaries); and he is the first writer too of the art of husbandry: “and he has contributed (says Columella) not a little to our profession;” I suppose, he means not a little honour, for the matter of his instructions is not very important: his great antiquity is visible through the gravity and simplicity of his stile. The most acute of all his sayings concerns our purpose very much, and is couched in the reverend obscurity of an oracle.
[Greek], The half is more than the whole. The occasion of the speech is this: his brother Perses had, by corrupting some great men ([Greek], great bribe-eaters he calls them), gotten from him the half of his estate. It is no matter (says he); they have not done me so much prejudice, as they imagine.
- Unhappy they, to whom God ha’n’t reveal’d,
- By a strong light which must their sense controul,
- That half a great estate’s more than the whole.
- Unhappy, from whom still conceal’d does lye,
- Of roots and herbs, the wholesome luxury.
This I conceive to be honest Hesiod’s meaning. From Homer, we must not expect much concerning our affairs. He was blind, and could neither work in the country nor enjoy the pleasures of it; his helpless poverty was likeliest to be sustained in the richest places; he was to delight the Grecians with fine tales of the wars and adventures of their ancestors; his subject removed him from all commerce with us, and yet, methinks, he made a shift to shew his goodwill a little. For, though he could do us no honour in the person of his hero Ulysses (much less of Achilles), because his whole time was consumed in wars and voyages; yet he makes his father Laertes a gardener all that while, and seeking his consolation for the absence of his son in the pleasure of planting, and even during his own grounds. Ye see, he did not contemn us peasants; nay, so far was he from the insolence, that he always stiles Eumaeus, who kept the hogs, with wonderful respect, [Greek], the divine swine herd; he could ha’ done no more for Menelaus or Agamemnon. And Theocritus (a very antient poet, but he was one of our own tribe, for he wrote nothing but pastorals) gave the same epithete to an husbandman,—[Greek]. The divine husbandman replied to Hercules, who was but [Greek] himself. These were civil Greeks, and who understood the dignity of our calling!
Among the Romans we have, in the first place, our truly divine Virgil, who, though, by the favour of Maecenas and Augustus, he might have been one of the chief men of Rome, yet chose rather to employ much of his time in the exercise, and much of his immortal wit in the praise and instructions, of a rustique life; who, though he had written, before, whole books of pastorals and georgics, could not abstain, in his great and imperial poem, from describing Evander, one of his best princes, as living just after the homely manner of an ordinary countryman. He seats him in a throne of maple, and lays him but upon a bear’s skin; the kine and oxen are lowing in his court-yard; the birds under the eves of his window call him up in the morning, and when he goes aboard, only two dogs go along with him for his guard: at last, when he brings Æneas into his royal cottage, he makes him say this memorable complement, greater than even yet was spoken at the Escurial, the Louvre, or our Whitehal:
- —— Hæc (inquit) limina victor
- Alcides subiit, hæc illum regia cepit:
- Aude, hospes, contemnere opes: et te quoque dignum
- Finge Deo, rebusque veni non asper agenis.
- This humble roof, this rustic court, (said he)
- Receiv’d Alcides, crown’d with victorie:
- Scorn not, great guest, the steps where he has trod;
- But contemn wealth, and imitate a God.
The next man, whom we are much obliged to, both for his doctrine and example, is the next best poet in the world to Virgil, his dear friend Horace; who, when Augustus had desired Mæcenas to persuade him to come and live domestically and at the same table with him, and to be secretary of state of the whole world under him, or rather jointly with him, for he says, “ut nos in epistolis scribendis adjuvet,” could not be tempted to forsake his Sabin, or Tiburtin mannor, for so rich and so glorious a trouble. There was never, I think, such an example as this in the world, that he should have so much moderation and courage as to refuse an offer of such greatness, and the emperor so much generosity and good-nature as not to be at all offended with his refusal, but to retain still the same kindness, and express it often to him in most friendly and familiar letters, part of which are still extant. If I should produce all the passages of this excellent author upon the several subjects which I treat of in this book, I must be obliged to translate half his works; of which I may say more truly than, in my opinion, he did of Homer.
- Qui, quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,
- Planius et melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit.
I shall content myself upon this particular theme with three only, one out of his Odes, the other out of his Satires, the third out of his Epistles; and shall forbear to collect the suffrages of all other poets, which may be found scattered up and down through all their writings, and especially in Martial’s. But I must not omit to make some excuse for the bold-undertaking of my own unskillful pencil upon the beauties of a face that has been drawn before by so many great masters; especially, that I should dare to do it in Latine verses, (though of another kind), and have the confidence to translate them. I can only say that I love the matter, and that ought to cover many faults; and that I run not to contend with those before me, but follow to applaud them.
VIRG. GEORG. -
O fortunatus nimium, etc.
A TRANSLATION OUT OF VIRGIL
Oh happy (if his happiness he knows)
The country swain, on whom kind Heaven bestows
At home all riches that wise Nature needs;
Whom the just earth with easy plenty feeds.
'Tis true, no morning tide of clients comes,
And fills the painted channels of his rooms,
Adoring the rich figures, as they pass,
In tapestry wrought, or cut in living brass;
Nor is his wool superfluously dyed
With the dear poison of Assyrian pride:
Nor do Arabian perfumes vainly spoil
The native use and sweetness of his oil.
Instead of these, his calm and harmless life,
Free from th' alarms of fear, and storms of strife,
Does with substantial blessedness abound,
And the soft wings of peace cover him round:
Through artless grots the murmuring waters glide;
Thick trees both against heat and cold provide,
From whence the birds salute him; and his ground
With lowing herds, and bleating sheep does sound;
And all the rivers, and the forests nigh,
Both food and game and exercise supply.
Here a well-hardened, active youth we see,
Taught the great art of cheerful poverty.
Here, in this place alone, there still do shine
Some streaks of love, both human and divine;
From hence Astraea took her flight, and here
Still her last footsteps upon earth appear.
'Tis true, the first desire which does control
All the inferior wheels that move my soul,
Is, that the Muse me her high priest would make;
Into her holiest scenes of mystery take,
And open there to my mind's purged eye
Those wonders which to sense the gods deny;
How in the moon such chance of shapes is found
The moon, the changing world's eternal bound.
What shakes the solid earth, what strong disease
Dares trouble the firm centre's ancient ease;
What makes the sea retreat, and what advance:
Varieties too regular for chance.
What drives the chariot on of winter's light,
And stops the lazy waggon of the night.
But if my dull and frozen blood deny
To send forth spirits that raise a soul so high;
In the next place, let woods and rivers be
My quiet, though unglorious, destiny.
In life's cool vale let my low scene be laid;
Cover me, gods, with Tempe's thickest shade
Happy the man, I grant, thrice happy he
Who can through gross effects their causes see:
Whose courage from the deeps of knowledge springs.
Nor vainly fears inevitable things;
But does his walk of virtue calmly go,
Through all th' alarms of death and hell below.
Happy! but next such conquerors, happy they,
Whose humble life lies not in fortune's way.
They unconcerned from their safe distant seat
Behold the rods and sceptres of the great.
The quarrels of the mighty, without fear,
And the descent of foreign troops they hear.
Nor can even Rome their steady course misguide,
With all the lustre of her perishing pride.
Them never yet did strife or avarice draw
Into the noisy markets of the law,
The camps of gowned war, nor do they live
By rules or forms that many mad men give,
Duty for nature's bounty they repay,
And her sole laws religiously obey.
Some with bold labour plough the faithless main;
Some rougher storms in princes' courts sustain.
Some swell up their slight sails with popular fame,
Charmed with the foolish whistlings of a name.
Some their vain wealth to earth again commit;
With endless cares some brooding o'er it sit.
Country and friends are by some wretches sold,
To lie on Tyrian beds and drink in gold;
No price too high for profit can be shown;
Not brother's blood, nor hazards of their own.
Around the world in search of it they roam;
It makes e'en their Antipodes their home.
Meanwhile, the prudent husbandman is found
In mutual duties striving with his ground;
And half the year he care of that does take
That half the year grateful returns does make
Each fertile month does some new gifts present,
And with new work his industry content:
This the young lamb, that the soft fleece doth yield,
This loads with hay, and that with corn the field:
All sorts of fruit crown the rich autumn's pride:
And on a swelling hill's warm stony side,
The powerful princely purple of the vine,
Twice dyed with the redoubled sun, does shine.
In th' evening to a fair ensuing day,
With joy he sees his flocks and kids to play,
And loaded kine about his cottage stand,
Inviting with known sound the milker's hand;
And when from wholesome labour he doth come,
With wishes to be there, and wished for home,
He meets at door the softest human blisses,
His chaste wife's welcome, and dear children's kisses.
When any rural holydays invite
His genius forth to innocent delight,
On earth's fair bed beneath some sacred shade,
Amidst his equal friends carelessly laid,
He sings thee, Bacchus, patron of the vine,
The beechen bowl foams with a flood of wine,
Not to the loss of reason or of strength.
To active games and manly sport at length
Their mirth ascends, and with filled veins they see,
Who can the best at better trials be.
Such was the life the prudent Sabine chose,
From such the old Etrurian virtue rose.
Such, Remus and the god his brother led,
From such firm footing Rome grew the world's head.
Such was the life that even till now does raise
The honour of poor Saturn's golden days:
Before men born of earth and buried there,
Let in the sea their mortal fate to share,
Before new ways of perishing were sought,
Before unskilful death on anvils wrought.
Before those beasts which human life sustain,
By men, unless to the gods' use, were slain.
Beatus ille qui procul, etc.
Happy time man whom bounteous gods allow
With his own hand paternal grounds to plough!
Like the first golden mortals, happy he,
From business and the cares of money free!
No human storms break off at land his sleep,
No loud alarms of nature on the deep.
From all the cheats of law he lives secure,
Nor does th' affronts of palaces endure.
Sometimes the beauteous marriageable vine
He to the lusty bridegroom elm does join;
Sometimes he lops the barren trees around,
And grafts new life into the fruitful wound;
Sometimes he shears his flock, and sometimes he
Stores up the golden treasures of the bee.
He sees his lowing herds walk o'er the plain,
Whilst neighbouring hills low back to them again.
And when the season, rich as well as gay,
All her autumnal bounty does display,
How is he pleas'd th' increasing use to see
Of his well trusted labours bend the tree;
Of which large shares, on the glad sacred days,
He gives to friends, and to the gods repays.
With how much joy does he, beneath some shade
By aged trees, reverend embraces made,
His careless head on the fresh green recline,
His head uncharged with fear or with design.
By him a river constantly complains,
The birds above rejoice with various strains,
And in the solemn scene their orgies keep
Like dreams mixed with the gravity of sleep,
Sleep which does always there for entrance wait,
And nought within against it shuts the gate.
Nor does the roughest season of the sky,
Or sullen Jove, all sports to him deny.
He runs the mazes of the nimble hare,
His well-mouthed dogs' glad concert rends the air,
Or with game bolder, and rewarded more,
He drives into a toil the foaming boar;
Here flies the hawk to assault, and there the net
To intercept the travelling fowl is set;
And all his malice, all his craft is shown
In innocent wars, on beasts and birds alone.
This is the life from all misfortune free,
From thee, the great one, tyrant love, from thee;
And if a chaste and clean though homely wife,
Be added to the blessings of this life, -
Such as the ancient sun-burnt Sabines were,
Such as Apulia, frugal still, does bear, -
Who makes her children and the house her care
And joyfully the work of life does share;
Nor thinks herself too noble or too fine
To pin the sheepfold or to milk the kine;
Who waits at door against her husband come
From rural duties, late, and wearied home,
Where she receives him with a kind embrace,
A cheerful fire, and a more cheerful face:
And fills the bowl up to her homely lord,
And with domestic plenty load the board.
Not all the lustful shell-fish of the sea,
Dressed by the wanton hand of luxury,
Nor ortolans nor godwits nor the rest
Of costly names that glorify a feast,
Are at the princely tables better cheer
Than lamb and kid, lettuce and olives, here.
THE COUNTRY MOUSE.
A Paraphrase upon Horace, II Book, Satire vi.
At the large foot of a fair hollow tree,
Close to ploughed ground, seated commodiously,
His ancient and hereditary house,
There dwelt a good substantial country mouse:
Frugal, and grave, and careful of the main,
Yet one who once did nobly entertain
A city mouse, well coated, sleek, and gay,
A mouse of high degree, which lost his way,
Wantonly walking forth to take the air,
And arrived early, and alighted there,
For a day's lodging. The good hearty host
(The ancient plenty of his hall to boast)
Did all the stores produce that might excite,
With various tastes, the courtier's appetite.
Fitches and beans, peason, and oats, and wheat,
And a large chestnut, the delicious meat
Which Jove himself, were he a mouse, would eat.
And for a haut goust there was mixed with these
The swerd of bacon, and the coat of cheese,
The precious relics, which at harvest he
Had gathered from the reapers' luxury.
"Freely," said he, "fall on, and never spare,
The bounteous gods will for to-morrow care."
And thus at ease on beds of straw they lay,
And to their genius sacrificed the day.
Yet the nice guest's epicurean mind
(Though breeding made him civil seem, and kind)
Despised this country feast, and still his thought
Upon the cakes and pies of London wrought.
"Your bounty and civility," said he,
"Which I'm surprised in these rude parts to see,
Show that the gods have given you a mind
Too noble for the fate which here you find.
Why should a soul, so virtuous and so great,
Lose itself thus in an obscure retreat?
Let savage beasts lodge in a country den,
You should see towns, and manners know, and men;
And taste the generous luxury of the court,
Where all the mice of quality resort;
Where thousand beauteous shes about you move,
And by high fare are pliant made to love.
We all ere long must render up our breath,
No cave or hole can shelter us from death.
Since life is so uncertain and so short,
Let's spend it all in feasting and in sport.
Come, worthy sir, come with me, and partake
All the great things that mortals happy make."
Alas, what virtue hath sufficient arms
To oppose bright honour and soft pleasure's charms?
What wisdom can their magic force repel?
It draws the reverend hermit from his cell.
It was the time, when witty poets tell,
That Phoebus into Thetis' bosom fell:
She blushed at first, and then put out the light,
And drew the modest curtains of the night.
Plainly the truth to tell, the sun was set,
When to the town our wearied travellers get.
To a lord's house, as lordly as can be,
Made for the use of pride and luxury,
They some; the gentle courtier at the door
Stops, and will hardly enter in before; -
But 'tis, sir, your command, and being so,
I'm sworn t' obedience—and so in they go.
Behind a hanging in a spacious room
(The richest work of Mortlake's noble loom)
They wait awhile their wearied limbs to rest,
Till silence should invite them to their feast,
About the hour that Cynthia's silver light
Had touched the pale meridies of the night,
At last, the various supper being done,
It happened that the company was gone
Into a room remote, servants and all,
To please their noble fancies with a ball.
Our host leads forth his stranger, and does find
All fitted to the bounties of his mind.
Still on the table half-filled dishes stood,
And with delicious bits the floor was strewed;
The courteous mouse presents him with the best,
And both with fat varieties are blest.
The industrious peasant everywhere does range,
And thanks the gods for his life's happy change.
Lo, in the midst of a well-freighted pie
They both at last glutted and wanton lie,
When see the sad reverse of prosperous fate,
And what fierce storms on mortal glories wait!
With hideous noise, down the rude servants come,
Six dogs before run barking into th' room;
The wretched gluttons fly with wild affright,
And hate the fulness which retards their flight.
Our trembling peasant wishes now in vain.
That rocks and mountains covered him again.
Oh, how the change of his poor life, he cursed!
"This, of all lives," said he, "is sure the worst.
Give me again, ye gods, my cave and wood;
With peace, let tares and acorns be my food."
A Paraphrase upon the Eightieth Epistle of the First Book of Horace.
HORACE TO FUSCUS ARISTIUS.
Health, from the lover of the country, me,
Health, to the lover of the city, thee,
A difference in our souls, this only proves,
In all things else, we agree like married doves.
But the warm nest and crowded dove house thou
Dost like; I loosely fly from bough to bough;
And rivers drink, and all the shining day,
Upon fair trees or mossy rocks I play;
In fine, I live and reign when I retire
From all that you equal with heaven admire.
Like one at last from the priest's service fled,
Loathing the honied cakes, I long for bread.
Would I a house for happiness erect,
Nature alone should be the architect.
She'd build it more convenient than great,
And doubtless in the country choose her seat.
Is there a place doth better helps supply
Against the wounds of winter's cruelty?
Is there an air that gentler does assuage
The mad celestial dog's or lion's rage?
Is it not there that sleep (and only there)
Nor noise without, nor cares within does fear?
Does art through pipes a purer water bring
Than that which nature strains into a spring?
Can all your tapestries, or your pictures, show
More beauties than in herbs and flowers do grow?
Fountains and trees our wearied pride do please,
Even in the midst of gilded palaces.
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 burnished 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 good to buy
The painted goods of pride and vanity.
If thou be wise, no glorious fortune choose,
Which 't is but pain to keep, yet grief to lose.
For when we place even 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 armed so well,
Did with the horse in common pasture dwell;
And when they fought, the field it always won,
Till the ambitious horse begged 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,
To avoid that weight, a greater burden bear;
That they might power above their equals have,
To cruel masters they themselves enslave.
For gold, their liberty exchanged we see,
That fairest flower which crowns humanity.
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 cheerfully 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 COUNTRY LIFE.
Libr. 4, Plantarum.
Blest be the man (and blest he is) whom e'er
(Placed far out of the roads of hope or fear)
A little field and little garden feeds;
The field gives all that frugal nature needs,
The wealthy garden liberally bestows
All she can ask, when she luxurious grows.
The specious inconveniences, that wait
Upon a life of business and of state,
He sees (nor does the sight disturb his rest)
By fools desired, by wicked men possessed.
Thus, thus (and this deserved great Virgil's praise)
The old Corycian yeoman passed his days,
Thus his wise life Abdolonymus spent:
The ambassadors which the great emperor sent
To offer him a crown, with wonder found
The reverend gardener hoeing of his ground;
Unwillingly and slow, and discontent,
From his loved cottage to a throne he went.
And oft he stopped in his triumphant way,
And oft looked back, and oft was heard to say,
Not without sighs, "Alas! I there forsake
A happier kingdom than I go to take."
Thus Aglaus (a man unknown to men,
But the gods knew, and therefore loved him then)
Thus lived obscurely then without a name,
Aglaus, now consigned to eternal fame.
For Gyges, the rich king, wicked and great,
Presumed at wise Apollo's Delphic seat,
Presumed to ask, "O thou, the whole world's eye,
Seest thou a man that happier is than I?"
The god, who scorned to flatter man, replied,
"Aglaus happier is." But Gyges cried,
In a proud rage, "Who can that Aglaus be?
We have heard as yet of no such king as he."
And true it was, through the whole earth around
No king of such a name was to be found.
"Is some old hero of that name alive,
Who his high race does from the gods derive?
Is it some mighty general that has done
Wonders in fight, and god-like honours won?
Is it some man of endless wealth?" said he;
"None, none of these: who can this Aglaus be?"
After long search, and vain inquiries passed,
In an obscure Arcadian vale at last
(The Arcadian life has always shady been)
Near Sopho's town (which he but once had seen)
This Aglaus, who monarchs' envy drew,
Whose happiness the gods stood witness to,
This mighty Aglaus was labouring found,
With his own hands, in his own little ground.
So, gracious God (if it may lawful be,
Among those foolish gods to mention Thee),
So let me act, on such a private stage,
The last dull scenes of my declining age;
After long toils and voyages in vain,
This quiet port let my tossed vessel gain;
Of heavenly rest this earnest to me lend,
Let my life sleep, and learn to love her end.
- “O fortunate exceedingly, who knew his own good fortune.”—Adapted from Virgil, “Georgics,” II., 458.
- “On this side and on that gather the Orkneys; joys pervade the silent breast of the farmer.”—A parody of Virgil’s “Æneid”, I. 500, 503.
- The keeping of farm animals, etc.
- “They have raised their head above both human vices and vanities.”—Ovid, “Fasti,” I. 300.
- Hesiod, “Works and Days,” 40.
- “That he may assist us in writing letters.”
- “Who says, more plainly and better than Chrysippus and Crantor, what is beautiful, what base, what useful, what the opposite of these.”—Horace, “Epist.” I. 2. 4. Chrysippus and Crantor were noted philosophers.