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PROSPECT OF SOCIETY.*
REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend, And round his dwelling guardian saints attend ; Blest be that spot where cheerful guests retire To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire ;
* In this poem, as it passed through different editions, several alterations were made, and some additional verses introduced. We have followed the ninth edition, which was the last that appeared in the life-time of the author.
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
But me, not destin'd such delights to share,
Ev'n now, where Alpine solitudes ascend,
When thus Creation's charms around combine, Amidst the store, should thankless pride repine ? Say, should the philosophic mind disdain That good which makes each humbler bosom vain? Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can, These little things are great to little man ; And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind Exults in all the good of all mankind. Ye glittering towns, with wealth and splendor crown'd;. Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round;
Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale ;
As some lone miser, visiting his store, Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er; Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill, Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still : Thus to my breast alternate passions rise, Pleas'd with each good that heaven to man supplies : Yet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall, To see the hoard of human bliss so small; And oft I wish, amidst the scene, to find Some spot to real happiness consign’d, Where my worn soul, each wandering hope at rest, May gather bliss to see my fellows blest.
But where to find that happiest spot below,
Nature, a Mother kind alike to all, Still grants her bliss at labor's earnest call; With food as well the peasant is supply'd On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side; And though the rocky crested summits frown, These rocks, by custom, turn to beds of down. From art more various are the blessings sent; Wealth, commerce, honor, liberty, content. Yet these each other's power so strong contest, That either seems destructive of the rest. Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails; And honor sinks where commerce long prevails. Hence every state to one lov'd blessing prone, Conforms and models life to that alone. Each to the fav’rite happiness attends, And spurns the plan that aims at other ends ; 'Till carried to excess in each domain, This fav’rite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
Far to the right where Apennine ascends, Bright as the summer, ITALY extends ; Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side, Woods over woods in gay theatric pride ; While oft some temple's mould’ring tops between. With venerable grandeur mark the scene.
Could nature's bounty satisfy the breast, The sons of Italy were surely blest.