Robert Dodsley (1703-1764 / England)
Agriculture. A Poem
ARGUMENT. Of hay-making. A method of preserving hay from being mow-burnt, or taking fire. ..
While thus at ease, beneath embellish'd shades,
We rove delighted; lo! the ripening mead
Calls forth the labouring hinds. In slanting rows,
With still-approaching step, and level'd stroke
The early mower, bending o'er his scythe,
Lays low the slender grass; emblem of Man,
Falling beneath the ruthless hand of Time.
Then follows blithe, equipt with fork and rake,
In light array, the train of nymphs and swains.
Wide o'er the field, their labour seeming sport,
They toss the withering herbage. Light it flies,
Borne on the wings of Zephyr; whose soft gale,
Now while th' ascending sun's bright beam exhales
The grateful sweetness of the new-mown hay,
Breathing refreshment, fans the toiling swain.
And soon, the jocund dale and echoing hill
Resound with merriment. The simple jest,
The village tale of scandal, and the taunts
Of rude unpolish'd wit, raise sudden bursts
Of laughter from beneath the spreading oak,
Where thrown at ease, and shelter'd from the sun,
The plain repast, and wholesome bev'rage cheer
Their spirits. Light as air they spring, renew'd,
To social labour: soon the ponderous wain
Moves slowly onwards with its fragrant load,
And swells the barn capacious: or, to crown
Their toil, large tapering pyramids they build,
The magazines of Plenty, to ensure
From Winter's want the flocks, and lowing herds.
But do the threatning clouds precipitate
Thy work, and hurry to the field thy team,
Ere the sun's heat, or penetrating wind,
Hath drawn its moisture from the fading grass?
Or hath the bursting shower thy labours drench'd
With sudden innundation? Ah, with care
Accumulate thy load, or in the mow,
Or on the rising rick. The smother'd damps,
Fermenting, glow within; and latent sparks
At length ingender'd, kindle by degrees,
Till, wide and wider spreading, they admit
The fatal blast, which instantly consumes,
In flames resistless, thy collected store.
This dire disaster to avoid, prepare
A hollow basket, or the concave round
Of some capacious vessel; to its sides
Affix a triple cord: then let the swains,
Full in the center of thy purpos'd heap,
Place the obtrusive barrier; raising still
As they advance, by its united bands,
The wide machine. Thus leaving in the midst
An empty space, the cooling air draws in,
And from the flame, or from offensive taints
Pernicious to thy cattle, saves their food.
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