The Poems of John Dyer/The Fleece

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"Post majores quadrupedes ovilli pecoris secunda ratio est, quae prima sit, si ad utilitatis magnitudinem referas: nam id praecipue nos contra frigoris violentiam protegit, corporibusque nostris liberaliora praebet velamina."


["After the larger animals, our concern is with sheep, which would come first, if extent of usefulness were considered; for they furnish us with excellent clothes, and before all others protect us from the cold."]


The care of sheep, the labours of the loom,
And arts of trade, I sing. Ye rural Nymphs!
Ye Swains, and princely Merchants! aid the verse.
And ye, high-trusted Guardians of our Isle
Whom public voice approves, or lot of birth,5
To the great charge assigns! ye Good of all
Degrees, all sects! be present to my song.
So may distress, and wretchedness, and want,
The wide felicities of labour learn:
So may the proud attempts of restless Gaul10
From our strong borders, like a broken wave,
In empty foam retire. But chiefly Thou,
The people's Shepherd, eminently plac'd

Over the numerous swains of every vale,
With well-permitted power and watchful eye15
On each gay field to shed beneficence,
Celestial office! Thou protect the song.
On spacious airy downs and gentle hills,
With grass and thyme o'erspread, and clover wild,
Where smiling Phœbus tempers ev'ry breeze,20
The fairest flocks rejoice: they nor of halt,
Hydropic tumours, nor of rot, complain,
Evils deform'd and foul: nor with hoarse cough
Disturb the music of the past'ral pipe;
But, crowding to the note, with silence soft25
The close-woven carpet graze, where Nature blends
Flow'rets and herbage of minutest size,
Innoxious luxury. Wide airy downs
Are Health's gay walks to shepherd and to sheep.
All arid soils, with sand or chalky flint,30
Or shells deluvian mingled, and the turf
That mantles over rocks of brittle stone,
Be thy regard; and where low-tufted broom,
Or box, or berry'd juniper, arise;
Or the tall growth of glossy-rinded beech;35
And where the burrowing rabbit turns the dust;
And where the dappled deer delights to bound.
Such are the downs of Banstead, edg'd with woods
And towery villas; such Dorcestrian fields,
Whose flocks innumerous whiten all the land:40
Such those slow-climbing wilds that lead the step
Insensibly to Dover's windy cliff,
Tremendous height! and such the clover'd lawns
And sunny mounts of beauteous Normanton,
Health's cheerful haunt, and the selected walk45
Of Heathcote's leisure: such the spacious plain
Of Sarum, spread like Ocean's boundless round,
Where solitary Stonehenge, gray with moss,

Ruin of ages! nods: such, too, the leas
And ruddy tilth which spiry Ross beholds,50
From a green hillock, o'er her lofty elms;
And Lemster's brooky tract and airy Croft;
And such Harleian Eywood's swelling turf,
Wav'd as the billows of a rolling sea;
And Shobden, for its lofty terrace fam'd, 55
Which from a mountain's ridge, elate o'er woods,
And girt with all Siluria, seas around
Regions on regions blended in the clouds.
Pleasant Siluria! land of various views,
Hills, rivers, woods, and lawns, and purple groves 60
Pomaceous, mingled with the curling growth
Of tendril hops, that flaunt upon their poles,
More airy wild than vines along the sides
Of treacherous Falernum, or that hill
Vesuvius, where the bowers of Bacchus rose, 65
And Herculanean and Pompeian domes.
But if thy prudent care would cultivate
Leicestrian Fleeces, what the sinewy arm
Combs thro' the spiky steel in lengthen'd flakes;
Rich saponaceous loam, that slowly drinks 70
The blackening shower, and fattens with the draught,
Or heavy marl's deep clay, be then thy choice,
Of one consistence, one complexion, spread
Thro' all thy glebe; where no deceitful veins
Of envious gravel lurk beneath the turf, 75
To loose the creeping waters from their springs,
Tainting the pasturage: and let thy fields
In slopes descend and mount, that chilling rains
May trickle off, and hasten to the brooks.
Yet some defect in all on earth appears: 80
All seek for help, all press for social aid.
Too cold the grassy mantle of the marle,
In stormy winter's long and dreary nights,

For cumbent sheep; from broken slumber oft
They rise benumb'd, and vainly shift the couch;85
Their wasted sides their evil plight declare:
Hence, tender in his care, the shepherd swain
Seeks each contrivance. Here it would avail
At a meet distance from the sheltr'ing mound
To sink a trench, and on the hedge-long bank 90
Sow frequent sand, with lime, and dark manure,
Which to the liquid element will yield
A porous way, a passage to the foe.
Plough not such pastures; deep in spongy grass
The oldest carpet is the warmest lair, 95
And soundest: in new herbage coughs are heard.
Nor love too frequent shelter, such as decks
The vale of Severn, Nature's garden wide,
By the blue steeps, of distant Malvern wall'd,
Solemnly vast. The trees of various shade,100
Scene behind scene, with fair delusive pomp
Enrich the prospect, but they rob the lawns.
Nor prickly brambles, white with woolly theft,
Should tuft thy fields. Applaud not the remiss
Dimetians, who along their mossy dales 105
Consume, like grasshoppers, the summer hour,
While round them stubborn thorns and furze increase,
And creeping briars. I knew a careful swain
Who gave them to the crackling flames, and spread
Their dust saline upon the deepening grass;110
And oft with labour-strengthen'd arm he delv'd
The draining trench across his verdant slopes,
To intercept the small meandring rills
Of upper hamlets. Haughty trees, that sour
The shaded grass, that weaken thorn-set mounds,115
And harbour villain crows, he rare allow'd;
Only a slender tuft of useful ash,
And mingled beech and elm, securely tall,

The little smiling cottage warm embower'd;
The little smiling cottage! where at eve 120
He meets his rosy children at the door,
Prattling their welcomes, and his honest wife,
With good brown cake and bacon slice, intent
To cheer his hunger after labour hard.
Nor only soil, there also must be found 125
Felicity of clime, and aspect bland,
Where gentle sheep may nourish locks of price.
In vain the silken Fleece on windy brows,
And northern slopes of cloud-dividing hills,
Is sought, tho' soft Iberia spreads her lap 130
Beneath their rugged feet and names their heights
Biscaian or Segovian. Bothnic realms,
And dark Norwegian, with their choicest fields,
Dingles, and dells, by lofty fir embower'd,
In vain the bleaters court. Alike they shun 135
Libya's hot plains. What taste have they for groves
Of palm, or yellow dust of gold? no more
Food to the flock than to the miser wealth,
Who kneels upon the glittering heap and starves.
Ev'n Gallic Abbeville the shining Fleece,140
That richly decorates her loom, acquires
Basely from Albion, by th' ensnaring bribe,
The bate of avarice, which with felon fraud
For its own wanton mouth from thousands steals.
How erring oft the judgment in its hate 145
Or fond desire! Those slow-descending showers,
Those hovering fogs, that bathe our growing vales
In deep November (loath'd by trifling Gaul,
Effeminate), are gifts the Pleiads shed,
Britannia's handmaids: as the beverage falls 150
Her hills rejoice, her valleys laugh and sing.
Hail, noble Albion! where no golden mines,
No soft perfumes, nor oils, nor myrtle bowers,

The vigorous frame and lofty heart of man.
Enervate: round whose stern cerulean brows155
White-winged snow, and cloud, and pearly rain,
Frequent attend, with solemn majesty:
Rich queen of Mists and Vapours! these thy sons
With their cool arms compress, and twist their nerves
For deeds of excellence and high renown.160
Thus form'd, our Edwards, Henries, Churchills, Blakes,
Our Lockes, our Newtons, and our Miltons, rose.
See the sun gleams; the living pastures rise,
After the nurture of the fallen shower,
How beautiful! how blue th' ethereal vault!165
How verdurous the lawns! how clear the brooks!
Such noble warlike steeds, such herds of kine,
So sleek, so vast! such spacious flocks of sheep,
Like flakes of gold illumining the green,
What other paradise adorn but thine,170
Britannia! happy if thy sons would know
Their happiness. To these thy naval streams,
Thy frequent towns superb of busy trade,
And ports magnific, add, and stately ships
Innumerous. But whither strays my Muse?175
Pleas'd, like a traveller upon the strand
Arriv'd of bright Augusta, wild he roves,
From deck to deck, thro' groves immense of masts;
'Mong crowds, bales, cars, the wealth of either Ind;
Thro; wharfs, squares, and palaces, and domes,180
In sweet surprise, unable yet to fix
His raptur'd mind, or scan in order'd course
Each object singly, with discoveries new
His native country studious to enrich.
Ye Shepherds! if your labours hope success,185
Be first your purpose to procure a breed
To soil and clime adapted. Every soil

And clime, ev'n every tree and herb, receives
Its habitant peculiar: each to each
The Great Invisible, and each to all,190
Thro' earth, and sea, and air, harmonious suits.
Tempestuous regions, Darwent's naked Peaks,
Snowden and blue Plynlymmon, and the wide
Aerial sides of Cader-ydris huge;
These are bestow'd on goat-horned sheep, of Fleece195
Hairy and coarse, of long and nimble shank,
Who rove o'er bog or heath, and graze or brouze
Alternate, to collect, with due dispatch,
O'er the bleak wild, the thinly-scatter'd meal:
But hills of milder air, that gently rise 200
O'er dewy dales, a fairer species boast,
Of shorter limb, and frontlet more ornate:
Such the Silurian. If thy farm extends
Near Cotswold Downs, or the delicious groves
Of Symmonds, honour'd thro' the sandy soil 205
Of elmy Ross, or Devon's myrtle vales,
That drink clear rivers near the glassy sea,
Regard this sort, and hence thy sire of lambs
Select: his tawny Fleece in ringlets curl;
Long swings his slender tail; his front is fenc'd 210
With horns Ammonian, circulating twice
Around each open ear, like those fair scrolls
That grace the columns of th' Ionic dome.
Yet should thy fertile glebe be marly clay,
Like Melton pastures, or Tripontian fields, 215
Where ever-gliding Avon's limpid wave
Thwarts the long course of dusty Watling-street;
That larger sort, of head defenceless, seek,
Whose Fleece is deep and clammy, close and plain:
The ram short-limbed, whose form compact describes 220
One level line along his spacious back;

Of full and ruddy eye, large ears, stretch'd head,
Nostrils dilated, breast and shoulders broad,
And spacious haunches, and a lofty dock.
Thus to their kindred soil and air induc'd, 225
Thy thriving herd will bless thy skilful care,
That copies Nature, who, in every change,
In each variety, with wisdom works,
And powers diversifi'd of air and soil,
Her rich materials. Hence Sabæa's rocks, 230
Chaldæa's marle, Egyptus' water'd loam,
And dry Cyrene's sand, in climes alike,
With different stores supply the marts of trade:
Hence Zembla's icy tracks no bleaters hear:
Small are the Russian herds, and harsh their Fleece; 235
Of light esteem Germanic, far remote
From soft sea-breezes, open winters mild,
And summers bath'd in dew: on Syrian sheep
The costly burden only loads their tails:
No locks Gormandel's, none Malacca's, tribe 240
Adorn; but sleek of flix, and brown like deer,
Fearful and shepherdless, they bound along
The sands. No Fleeces wave in torrid climes,
Which verdure boast of trees and shrubs alone,
Shrubs aromatic, caufee wild, or thea, 245
Nutmeg, or cinnamon, or fiery clove,
Unapt to feed the Fleece. The food of wool
Is grass or herbage soft, that ever blooms
In temp'rate air, in the delicious downs
Of Albion, on the banks of all her streams. 250
Of grasses are unnumber'd kinds, and all
(Save where foul waters linger on the turf)
Salubrious. Early mark when tepid gleams
Oft mingle with the pearls of summer showers,
And swell too hastily the tender plains; 255
Then snatch away thy sheep: beware the rot;

And with detersive bay-salt rub their mouths,
Or urge them on a barren bank to feed,
In hunger's kind distress, on tedded hay;
Or to the marish guide their easy steps, 260
If near thy tufted crofts the broad sea spreads.
Sagacious care foreacts. When strong disease
Breaks in, and stains the purple streams of health,
Hard is the strife of art. The coughing pest
From their green pasture sweeps whole flocks away. 265
That dire distemper, sometimes may the swain,
Tho' late, discern; when on the lifted lid,
Or visual orb, the turgid veins are pale,
The swelling liver then her putrid store
Begins to drink: ev'n yet thy skill exert,270
Nor suffer weak despair to fold thy arms;
Again detersive salt apply, or shed
The hoary med'cine o'er their arid food.
In cold stiff soils the bleaters oft complain
Of gouty ails, by shepherds term'd the Halt: 275
Those let the neighb'ring fold or ready crook
Detain, and pour into their cloven feet
Corrosive drugs, deep-searching arsenic,
Dry allum, verdigrise, or vitriole keen:
But if the doubtful mischief scarce appears, 280
'Twill serve to shift them to a dryer turf,
And salt again. Th' utility of salt
Teach thy slow swains; redundant humours cold
Are the diseases of the bleating kind.
Th' infectious scab, arising from extremes 285
Of want or surfeit, is by water cured
Of lime, or sodden staves-acre, or oil
Dispersive of Norwegian tar, renown'd
By virtuous Berkeley, whose benevolence
Explored its pow'rs, and easy med'cine thence 290
Sought for the poor. Ye Poor! with grateful voice

Invoke eternal blessings on his head.
Sheep also pleurisies and dropsies know,
Driven oft from Nature's path by artful man,
Who blindly turns aside, with haughty hand,295
Whom sacred Instinct would securely lead.
But thou, more humble Swain! thy rural gates
Frequent unbar, and let thy flocks abroad
From lea to croft, from mead to arid field,
Noting the fickle seasons of the sky. 300
Rain-sated pastures let them shun, and seek
Changes of herbage and salubrious flowers.
By their All-perfect Master inly taught,
They best their food and physic can discern;
For He, Supreme Existence! ever near, 305
Informs them. O'er the vivid green observe
With what a regular consent they crop,
At every fourth collection to the mouth,
Unsav'ry crow-flow'r; whether to awake
Languor of appetite with lively change,310
Or timely to repel approaching ills,
Hard to determine. Thou, whom Nature loves,
And with her salutary rules intrusts,
Benevolent Mackenzie! say the cause.
This truth howe'er shines bright to human sense;315
Each strong affection of th' unconscious brute,
Each bent, each passion of the smallest mite,
Is wisely giv'n: harmonious they perform
The work of perfect reason (blush, vain Man!),
And turn the wheels of Nature's vast machine. 320
See that thy scrip have store of healing tar,
And marking pitch and raddle; nor forget
Thy shears true pointed, nor th' officious dog,
Faithful to teach thy stragglers to return;
So may'sf thou aid who lag along, or steal 325
Aside into the furrows or the shades,

Silent to droop; or who at ev'ry gate
Or hillock rub their sores and loosen'd wool.
But rather these, the feeble of thy flock,
Banish before th' autumnal months. Ev'n age330
Forbear too much to favour: oft renew
And thro' thy fold let joyous youth appear.
Beware the season of imperial Love,
Who thro' the world his ardent spirit pours;
Ev'n sheep are then intrepid! the proud ram 335
With jealous eye surveys the spacious field:
All rivals keep aloof, or desp'rate war
Suddenly rages; with impetuous force,
And fury irresistible, they dash
Their hardy frontlets: the wide vale resounds: 340
The flock, amaz'd, stands safe afar; and oft
Each to the other's might a victim falls;
As fell of old, before that engine's sway,
Which hence ambition imitative wrought,
The beauteous tow'rs of Salem to the dust. 345
Wise custom at the fifth or six return,
Or ere they 'ave past the twelfth, of orient morn,
Castrates the lambkins; necessary rite,
Ere they be number'd of the peaceful herd.
But kindly watch whom thy sharp hand has grieved, 350
In those rough months that lift the turning year:
Not tedious is the office; to thy aid
Favonius hastens; soon their wounds he heals,
And leads them skipping to the flow'rs of May;
May! who allows to fold, if poor the tilth, 355
Like that of dreary houseless common fields,
Worn by the plough; but fold on fallows dry.
Enfeeble not thy flock to feed thy land,
Nor in too narrow bounds the pris'ners crowd;
Nor ope the wattled fence while balmy Morn 360
Lies on the reeking pasture: wait till all

The crystal dews, impearl'd upon the grass,
Are touch'd by Phœbus' beams, and mount aloft,
With various clouds to paint the azure sky.
In teasing fly-time, dank or frosty days, 365
With unctuous liquids, or the lees of oil,
Rub their soft skins between the parted locks:
Thus the Brigantes: 't is not idle pains:
Nor is that skill despis'd which trims their tails,
Ere summer-heats, of filth and tagged wool. 370
Coolness and cleanliness to health conduce.
To mend thy mounds, to trench, to clear, to soil,
Thy grateful fields, to medicate thy sheep,
Hurdles to weave, and cheerly shelters raise,
Thy vacant hours require; and ever learn 375
Quick ether's motions: oft the scene is turn'd;
Now the blue vault, and now the murky cloud,
Hail, rain, or radiance: these the moon will tell,
Each bird and beast, and these thy fleecy tribe.
When high the sapphire cope, supine they couch, 380
And chew the cud delighted; but ere rain
Eager, and at unwonted hour, they feed.
Slight not the warning; soon the tempest rolls,
Scatt'ring them wide, close rushing at the heels
Of th' hurrying o'ertaken swains: forbear 385
Such nights to fold; such nights be theirs to shift
On ridge or hillock; or in homesteads soft,
Or softer cots, detain them. Is thy lot
A chill penurious turf, to all thy toils
Untractable? Before harsh winter drowns 390
The noisy dykes, and starves the rushy glebe,
Shift the frail breed to sandy hamlets warm;
There let them sojourn, till gay Procne skims
The thick'ning verdure and the rising flow'rs.
And while departing autumn all embrowns 395
The frequent-bitten fields, while thy free hand

Divides the tedded hay, then be their feet
Accustom'd to the barriers of the rick,
Or some warm umbrage; left, in erring flight,
When the broad dazzling snows descend, they run 400
Dispers'd to ditches, where the swelling drift
Wide overwhelms: anxious, the shepherd swains
Issue with axe and spade, and, all abroad,
In doubtful aim explore the glaring waste,
And some, perchance, in the deep delve upraise, 405
Drooping, ev'n at the twelfth cold dreary day,
With still continu'd feeble pulse of life,
The glebe, their Fleece, their flesh, by hunger gnaw'd.
Ah, gentle Shepherd! thine the lot to tend,
Of all that feel distress, the most assail'd, 410
Feeble, defenceless: lenient be thy care;
But spread around thy tend'rest diligence
In flow'ry spring-time, when the new-dropp'd lamb,
Tott'ring with weakness by his mother's side,
Feels the fresh world about him, and each thorn, 415
Hillock, or furrow, trips his feeble feet:
O! guard his meek sweet innocence from all
Th' innumerous ills that rush around his life;
Mark the quick kite, with beak and talons prone,
Circling the skies to snatch him from the plain; 420
Observe the lurking crows; beware the brake,
There the sly fox the careless minute waits;
Nor trust thy neighbour's dog, nor earth, nor sky:
Thy bosom to a thousand cares divide.
Eurus oft slings his hail; the tardy fields 425
Pay not their promis'd food; and oft the dam
O'er her weak twins with empty udder mourns,
Or fails to guard when the bold bird of prey
Alights, and hops in many turns around,
And tires her, also turning: to her aid 430
Be nimble, and the weakest in thine arms

Gently convey to the warm cot and oft,
Between the lark's note and the nightingale's,
His hungry bleating still with tepid milk:
In this soft office may thy children join, 435
And charitable habits learn in sport:
Nor yield him to himself ere vernal airs
Sprinkle thy little croft with daisy flowers:
Nor yet forget him; life has rising ills:
Various as ether is the past'ral care: 440
Thro' slow experience, by a patient breast,
The whole long lesson gradual is attain'd,
By precept after precept, oft receiv'd
With deep attention; such as Nuceus sings
To the full vale near Soar's enamour'd brook, 445
While all is silence: sweet Hinclean swain!
Whom rude Obscurity severely clasps:
The Muse, howe'er, will deck thy simple cell
With purple violets and primrose flowers,
Well-pleas'd thy faithful lessons to repay. 450
Sheep no extremes can bear: both heat and cold
Spread sores cutaneous; but more frequent heat.
The fly-blown vermin from their woolly nest
Press to the tortur'd skin, and flesh, and bone,
In littleness and number dreadful foes! 455
Long rains in miry winter cause the halt;
Rainy luxuriant summers rot your flock;
And all excess, ev'n of salubrious food,
As sure destroys as famine or the wolf.
Inferior theirs to man's world-roving frame, 460
Which all extremes in every zone endures.
With grateful heart, ye British Swains! enjoy
Your gentle seasons and indulgent clime.
Lo! in the sprinkling clouds your bleating hills
Rejoice with herbage, while the horrid rage 465
Of winter irresistible o'erwhelms

Th' Hyperborean tracks: his arrowy frosts,
That pierce thro' flinty rocks, the Lappian flies,
And burrows deep beneath the snowy world;
A drear abode! from rose diffusing hours,470
That dance before the wheels of radiant day,
Far, far remote; where, by the squalid light
Of fetid oil inflam'd, sea-monsters' spume,
Or fir-wood, glaring in the weeping vault,
Twice three slow gloomy months with various ills475
Sullen he struggles; such the love of life!
His lank and scanty herds around him press,
As, hunger-stung, to gritty meal he grinds
The bones of fish, or inward bark of trees,
Their common sustenance; while ye, O Swains!480
Ye, happy at your ease, behold your sheep
Feed on the open turf, or crowd the tilth,
Where, thick among the greens, with busy mouths
They scoop white turnips: little care is yours;
Only at morning hour to interpose 485
Dry food of oats, or hay, or brittle straw,
The wat'ry juices of the bossy root
Absorbing; or from noxious air to screen
Your heavy teeming ewes with wattled fence
Of furze or copse-wood in the lofty field, 490
Which bleak ascends among the whistling winds:
Or, if your sheep are of Silurian breed,
Nightly to house them dry on fern or straw,
Silk'ning their Fleeces. Ye nor rolling hut
Nor watchful dog require, where never roar 495
Of savage tears the air, where careless Night
In balmy sleep lies lull'd, and only wakes
To plenteous peace. Alas! o'er warmer zones
Wild terror strides, their stubborn rocks are rent,
Their mountains sink, their yawning caverns flame, 500
And fiery torrents roll impetuous down,

Proud cities deluging; Pompeian tow'rs,
And Herculanean, and what riotous stood
In Syrian valley, where now the Dead Sea
'Mong solitary hills infectious lies. 505
See the swift Furies, famine, plague, and war,
In frequent thunders rage o'er neighb'ring realms,
And spread their plains with desolation wide!
Yet your mild homesteads ever-blooming smile
Among embracing woods, and waft on high 510
The breath of plenty, from the ruddy tops
Of chimneys curling o'er the gloomy trees
In airy azure ringlets to the sky.
Nor ye by need are urg'd, as Attic swains,
And Tarentine, with skins to clothe your sheep, 515
Expensive toil, howe'er expedient found
In fervid climates, while from Phœbus' beams
They fled to rugged woods and tangling brakes.
But those expensive toils are now no more,
Proud Tyranny devours their flocks and herds:520
Nor bleat of sheep may now, nor sound of pipe,
Sooth the sad plains of once sweet Arcady,
The shepherds' kingdom: dreary solitude
Spreads o'er Hymettus, and the shaggy vale
Of Athens, which in solemn silence sheds 525
Her venerable ruins to the dust.
The weary Arabs roam from plain to plain,
Guiding the languid herd in quest of food,
And shift their little home's uncertain scene
With frequent farewell; strangers, pilgrims all, 530
As were their fathers. No sweet fall of rain
May there be heard; nor sweeter liquid lapse
Of river, o'er the pebbles gliding by
In murmurs: goaded by the rage of thirst,
Daily they journey to the distant clefts 535
Of craggy rocks, where gloomy palms o'erhang

The ancient wells, deep sunk by toil immense,
Toil of the patriarchs, with sublime intent
Themselves and long posterity to serve.
There, at the public hour of sultry noon,540
They share the bev'rage, when to wat'ring come,
And grateful umbrage, all the tribes around,
And their lean flocks, whose various bleatings fill
The echoing caverns: then is absent none,
Fair nymph or shepherd, each inspiring each 545
To wit, and song, and dance, and active feats;
In the same rustic scene, where Jacob won
Fair Rachel's bosom, when a rock's vast weight
From the deep dark-mouth'd well his strength remov'd,
And to her circling sheep refreshment gave.550
Such are the perils, such the toils, of life,
In foreign climes. But speed thy flight, my Muse!
Swift turns the year, and our unnumber'd flocks
On Fleeces overgrown uneasy lie.
Now, jolly Swains! the harvest of your cares555
Prepare to reap, and seek the sounding caves
Of high Brigantium, where, by ruddy flames,
Vulcan's strong sons, with nervous arm, around
The steady anvil and the glaring mass
Clatter their heavy hammers down by turns,560
Flatt'ning the steel: from their rough hands receive
The sharpen'd instrument that from the flock
Severs the Fleece. If verdant elder spreads
Her silver flow'rs; if humble daisies yield
To yellow crow-foot, and luxuriant grass,565
Gay shearing-time approaches. First, howe'er,
Drive to the double fold, upon the brim
Of a clear river, gently drive the flock,
And plunge them one by one into the flood:
Plung'd in the flood, not long the struggler sinks,570
With his white flakes that glisten thro' the tide;

The sturdy rustic, in the middle wave,
Awaits to seize him rising; one arm bears
His lifted head above the limpid stream
While the full clammy Fleece the other laves 575
Around, laborious, with repeated toil;
And then resigns him to the sunny bank,
Where, bleating loud, he shakes his dripping locks.
Shear them the fourth or fifth return of morn,
Lest touch of busy fly-blows wound their skin. 580
Thy peaceful subjects without murmur yield
Their yearly tribute: 'tis the prudent part
To cherish and be gentle, while ye strip
The downy vesture from their tender sides.
Press not too close; with caution turn the points,585
And from the head in regular rounds proceed:
But speedy, when ye chance to wound, with tar
Prevent the wingy swarm and scorching heat;
And careful house them, if the low'ring clouds
Mingle their stores tumultuous: thro' the gloom 590
Then thunder oft with pond'rous wheels rolls loud,
And breaks the crystal urns of heav'n; adown
Falls streaming rain. Sometimes among the steeps
Of Cambrian glades (pity the Cambrian glades!)
Fast tumbling brooks on brooks enormous swell,595
And sudden overwhelm their vanish'd fields:
Down with the flood away the naked sheep,
Bleating in vain, are borne, and straw-built huts,
And rifted trees, and heavy enormous rocks,
Down with the rapid torrent to the deep.600
At shearing-time along the lively vales
Rural festivities are often heard;
Beneath each blooming arbour all is joy
And lusty merriment. While on the grass
The mingled youth in gaudy circles sport,605
We think the Golden Age again return'd,

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Her flight renew: meanwhile, with weary wing690
O'er ocean's wave returning, she explores
Siluria's flow'ry vales, her old delight,
The shepherd's haunts, where the first springs arise
Of Britain's happy trade, now spreading wide,
Wide as th' Atlantic and Pacific seas,695
Or as air's vital fluid o'er the globe.

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