Henry James Pye

(20 February 1745 – 11 August 1813 / London, England)

Written In A Seat At Stoke Park, - Poem by Henry James Pye

Not with more joy from the loud tempest's roar,
The dangerous billow, and more dangerous shore,
Escap'd,—the wave-worn sailor's grateful hand
Grasps the dear refuge of his native land;
Than I from proud Augusta's walls retreat,
To the dear refuge of that humble seat.
Though lowly be the roof, can I demand
The loftiest mansion grandeur ever plann'd,
When yon fair dome, magnificently great,
Opes wide to me its hospitable gate;
When these bright scenes, in rural grace array'd,
Invite my footsteps to their friendly shade?
Here, while once more my raptur'd fancy woos,
Far from tumultuous din, the sylvan Muse;
Or when the day-star hides his radiant light,
In calm and peaceful sleep I wear the night;
How does my bosom turn with keen disgust
From those foul paths of plunder and of lust;
Where the stern ministers of rigid law
With iron scourge the harden'd ruffian awe;
Where fear alone can blunt fell murder's knife,
And gaols and gibbets watch o'er human life.

As o'er yon silver lake I throw my sight,
Beyond imperial Windsor's tower-crown'd height,
Where, in the softening tint of heavenly blue,
Thy distant uplands, Berkshire! bless my view:
In waking dreams my fancy wings her flight,
Delightful region! to thy western site,
Where Isis' waves divide thy rural reign
From the green borders of Oxonia's plain;
And gently rising from the vale below,
Rears lovely Faringdon her breezy brow.
There the mild code of Albion's legal sway,
I whilom saw a generous race obey;
Saw the free yeoman and the sturdy swain,
Guided, not gall'd, by influence' lenient rein;
Not to the magistrate's stern mandate bend,
But feel the judge still temper'd by the friend.

Why, driven by wild ambition's veering gale,
Why did I quit, alas! my native vale,
'Mid senates and 'mid camps in vain to find
Joys that could rival those I left behind,
Where, grasping at expense I ill could bear,
I saw my farms and woodlands melt to air?—
Yet,—when, by vengeance arm'd, the Gallic host
With bloody inroad threaten'd Albion's coast;
Her veteran warriors o'er the Atlantic main,
Stemming rebellion's bloody surge in vain;
Her recreant fleet swept from her guardian flood;
Manly and firm, while every Briton stood,
Array'd in arms the impending storm defied,
And frown'd confusion on invasion's pride;—

Could I, long train'd in peace, my sword now yield,
When war's loud clarion call'd me to the field?
Or when two factions, whose contention hurl'd
The throne of Britain from the western world,
We saw at length in treacherous compact meet,
To make destruction's horrid work complete;
While patriot George, in Freedom's happy hour,
Appeal'd to England from her Senate's power;
While virtuous youth a people's suffrage won,
And Chatham's soul reviv'd in Chatham's son:
Then as on me, with kind and partial view,
Their favouring eyes the Berkshire yeomen threw;
Rejecting those, who, dup'd by faction's slave,
Turn'd 'gainst themselves the sacred trust they gave;
Could I refuse of Fame the proudest bough,
That e'er can twine around a Briton's brow?—

Friends and companions of my earliest youth,
The ingenuous days of unsuspecting truth;
Who knew to read each feeling of a heart,
That scorn'd the flatt'ring suppliant's servile art;
Of trust conferr'd by you, is still impress'd
The fond remembrance on this grateful breast;—
The proud remembrance!—that no selfish aim
Stain'd the fair wreath you gave of public fame:
That when my hands restor'd the splendid load
Of delegated power your choice bestow'd,
I won the noblest trophy man could raise,
My conduct sanction'd by your fav'ring praise.
But say, did all who led their native swains,
Waste while they guarded their paternal plains?
All whom their country chose with partial eye,
The sacred trust with mortgag'd manors buy?
Say, must of Prudence' voice, the warning sound,
In warm debates and shouts of war be drown'd?

I feel the just reproof—but, ah! how few
The golden path that Prudence points pursue!
Who know to join in Wisdom's sacred band,
The head retentive with the liberal hand;
Who safe their barks from Avarice' quicksands keep,
And the dire vortex of Profusion's deep.
When such I view, who, with forejudging care,
Know how to scatter, and know when to spare;
Who by no selfish passion led aside,
Or the false glare of ostentatious pride;
No pleasure e'er in vain expense can find,
While lavish for the good of human kind;
Whose time, whose care, whose bounties now are given
Free and extensive as the rains of Heaven;
Now like the lucid streams that silent flow,
Sooth by their healing power domestic woe:
Such worth I bless as God's best, noblest boon,
And in the glorious portrait hail Colquhoun!

Such, Prudence! when thy form; with aching breast
I mourn my wand'rings from thy wise behest;
But from thy shape in worldly garb array'd,
I cannot mourn my youthful footsteps stray'd;
Nor, though the frowns of Fortune I endure,
Lament each cause that made, that kept me poor.
I can't regret the promise that I gave
To smooth a parent's passage to the grave;
Less, that my heart fulfill'd the vow it made,
And sav'd his memory from the curse of trade:
I can't regret the happy hour that led
Not wealth, but beauty, to my bridal bed;
Not bart'ring for a plain and portion'd wife,
The dearest bliss that sweetens human life.

Though more than fifty winters tame the blood
Now circling through my veins in calmer flood;
Yet would I rather now, with wearying stroke,
Hew the hard rock, or fell the stubborn oak,
Than buy of wealth and pow'r the envied charms,
By clasping age or foulness in my arms.
But when I see, in youth and vigour warm,
A sordid wretch fly Beauty's angel form;
And sacrifice, for wild Ambition's flight,
To coldness and disgust each tedious night,
I turn from him with Scorn's indignant smile,
Meanest of mean, and vilest of the vile,
'Mid scenes less infamous to seek relief
In the loose pandar, and the midnight thief.

Nor can I much regret the idle days
When Fancy led me through her fairy maze;
Majestic Science, when I gravely woo'd,
Or sported with the Muse in frolic mood:
Though, as 'mid visionary scenes I stray'd,
I saw life's real prospects round me fade;
While with unclouded conscience I can see
A life from guilt, if not from folly free.
Ne'er did my hopes, my soul, my fortune lie
On the fleet courser or the rolling dye:
And though from early youth's first dawning hour,
Still tremblingly alive to beauty's power,
Ne'er did my art seduce a trusting maid,
Ne'er has my purse in shameful forfeit paid
A wife dishonour'd and a friend betray'd.

Then let me not with sorrowing eye pursue
Past scenes, which long have vanish'd from my view;
But ere of life the fleeting shadows close,
Thankful receive what Fortune yet bestows.
And you, my gen'rous friend, whose princely seat
Gives me from noise and strife a short retreat;
Where I can breathe again the fragrant air,
While days of leisure sweeten months of care;
Spring's blushing flowers, and Summer's fruits behold,
And Autumn's stores of vegetable gold;
Accept these votive numbers, nor refuse
The heartfelt offering of a grateful Muse;
Thanks from a heart, which, while it boasts with pride,
A line to patriots, nobles, kings, allied;
Is prouder yet in sterling worth to shine,
Stamp'd by the friendship of a mind like thine.

But now in public rapture's general sound,
Be private joy and private sorrows drown'd;
Behold aloft, on Windsor's stately brow,
Of Britain's isles the Imperial banner flow;
While shouting Berkshire hails Britannia's Lord,
In peace, in triumph, and in health restor'd.—
Dear and parental fields! while swelling Fame
To earth's remotest regions wafts his name;
Tells when Oppression shook her iron mace
In horrid menace o'er the human race,
His dauntless arm and energetic mind
The guardian Ægis rear'd, and sav'd mankind:
You shall behold him in your verdant seat,
From toils of empire and of war retreat
To the mild charities of social life,
The generous offspring, and the faithful wife;
Shall see sons brave, and daughters chaste and fair,
A duteous circle round the royal pair;
See private worth by sceptred greatness shown,
And bliss domestic flourish round a throne.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010



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