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Elegy Xxi. Taking A View Of The Country From His Retirement - Poem by William Shenstone

Thus Damon sung-What though unknown to praise,
Umbrageous coverts hide my Muse and me,
Or mid the rural shepherds flow my days?
Amid the rural shepherds, I am free.

To view sleek vassals crowd a stately hall,
Say, should I grow myself a solemn slave?
To find thy tints, O Titian! grace my wall,
Forego the flowery fields my fortune gave?

Lord of my time, my devious path I bend
Through fringy woodland, or smooth-shaven lawn,
Or pensile grove, or airy cliff ascend,
And hail the scene by Nature's pencil drawn.

Thanks be to Fate-though nor the racy vine,
Nor fattening olive, clothe the fields I rove,
Sequester'd shades and gurgling founts are mine,
And every sylvan grot the Muses love.

Here if my vista point the mouldering pile,
Where hood and cowl Devotion's aspect wore,
I trace the tottering relics with a smile,
To think the mental bondage is no more.

Pleased if the glowing landscape wave with corn,
Or the tall oaks, my country's bulwark, rise;
Pleased if mine eye, o'er thousand valleys borne,
Discern the Cambrian hills support the skies.

And see Plinlimmon! even the youthful sight
Scales the proud hill's ethereal cliffs with pain!
Such, Caer-Caradoc! thy stupendous height,
Whose ample shade obscures th' Iernian main.

Bleak, joyless regions! where, by Science fired,
Some prying sage his lonely step may bend;
There, by the love of novel plants inspired,
Invidious view the clambering goats ascend.

Yet for those mountains, clad with lasting snow,
The freeborn Briton left his greenest mead,
Receding sullen from his mightier foe,
For here he saw fair Liberty recede.

Then if a chief perform'd a patriot's part,
Sustain'd her drooping sons, repell'd her foes,
Above all Persian luxe or Attic art
The rude majestic monument arose.

Progressive ages caroll'd forth his fame,
Sires, to his praise, attuned their children's tongue;
The hoary Druid fed the generous flame,
While in such strains the reverend wizard sung:

'Go forth, my Sons!-for what is vital breath,
Your gods expell'd, your liberty resign'd?
Go forth, my Sons!-for what is instant death
To souls secure perennial joys to find?

'For scenes there are, unknown to war or pain,
Where drops the balm that heals a tyrant's wound;
Where patriots, bless'd with boundless freedom, reign,
With misletoe's mysterious garlands crown'd.

'Such are the names that grace your mystic songs;
Your solemn woods resound their martial fire;
To you, my Sons, the ritual meed belongs,
If in the cause you vanquish or expire.

'Hark! from the sacred oak, that crowns the groves,
What awful voice my raptured bosom warms!
This is the favour'd moment Heaven approves,
Sound the shrill trump; this instant sound, to arms.'

Theirs was the science of a martial race,
To shape the lance, or decorate the shield
Even the fair virgin stain'd her native grace
To give new horrors to the tented field.

Now, for some cheek where guilty blushes glow,
For some false Florimel's impure disguise,
The listed youth nor War's loud signal know,
Nor Virtue's call, nor Fame's imperial prize.

Then, if soft concord lull'd their fears to sleep,
Inert and silent slept the manly car,
But rush'd horrific o'er the fearful steep,
If Freedom's awful clarion breathed to war.

Now the sleek courtier, indolent and vain,
Throned in the splendid carriage, glides supine,
To taint his virtue with a foreign stain,
Or at a favourite board his faith resign.

Leave then, O Luxury! this happy soil;
Chase her, Britannia! to some hostile shore
Or fleece the baneful pest with annual spoil,
And let thy virtuous offspring weep no more.


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