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Rural Elegance, An Ode to the Late Duchess of Somerset

While orient skies restore the day,
And dew-drops catch the lucid ray;
Amid the sprightly scenes of morn
Will aught the Muse inspire?
Oh! peace to yonder clamorous horn
That drowns the sacred lyre!

Ye rural Thanes! that o'er the mossy down
Some panting, timorous hare pursue,
Does Nature mean your joys alone to crown?
Say, does she smooth her lawns for you?
For you does Echo bid the rocks reply,
And, urged by rude constraint, resound the jovial cry?

See from the neighbouring hill, forlorn,
The wretched swain your sport survey;
He finds his faithful fences torn,
He finds his labour'd crops a prey;
He sees his flock no more in circles feed,
Haply beneath your ravage bleed,
And with no random curses loads the deed.

Nor yet, ye Swains! conclude
That Nature smiles for you alone;
Your bounded souls and your conceptions crude,
The proud, the selfish boast disown:
Yours be the produce of the soil;
O may it still reward your toil!
Nor ever the defenceless train
Of clinging infants ask support in vain!

But though the various harvest gild your plains,
Does the mere landscape feast your eye?
Or the warm hope of distant gains
Far other cause of glee supply?
Is not the red-streak's future juice
The source of your delight profound,
Where Ariconium pours her gems profuse,
Purpling a whole horizon round?
Athirst ye praise the limpid stream, 'tis true;
But though the pebbled shores among
It mimic no unpleasing song,
The limpid fountain murmurs not for you.

Unpleased ye see the thickets bloom,
Unpleased the spring her flowery robe resume;
Unmoved the mountain's airy pile,
The dappled mead without a smile
O let a rural conscious Muse,
For well she knows, your froward sense accuse:
Forth to the solemn oak you bring the square,
And span the massy trunk, before you cry, 'Tis fair.

Nor yet, ye Learn'd! nor yet, ye Courtly Train!
If haply from your haunts ye stray
To waste with us a summer's day,
Exclude the taste of every swain,
Nor our untutor'd sense disdain:
'Tis nature only gives exclusive right
To relish her supreme delight
She, where she pleases, kind or coy,
Who furnishes the scene, and forms us to enjoy.

Then hither bring the fair ingenuous mind,
By her auspicious aid refined.
Lo! not an hedge-row hawthorn blows,
Or humble harebell paints the plain,
Or valley winds, or fountain flows,
Or purple heath is tinged in vain:
For such the rivers dash the foaming tides,
The mountain swells, the dale subsides:
Even thriftless furze detains their wandering sight,
And the rough barren rock grows pregnant with delight.

With what suspicious fearful care
The sordid wretch secures his claim,
If haply some luxurious heir
Should alienate the fields that wear his name!
What scruples lest some future birth
Should litigate a span of earth!
Bonds, contracts, feoffments, names unmeet for prose,
The towering Muse endures not to disclose;
Alas! her unreversed decree,
More comprehensive and more free,
Her lavish charter, taste, appropriates all we see.

Let gondolas their painted flags unfolds,
And be the solemn day enroll'd,
When, to confirm his lofty plea,
In nuptial sort, with bridal gold,
The grave Venetian weds the sea;
Each laughing Muse derides the vow;
Even Adria scorns the mock embrace,
To some lone hermit on the mountain's brow,
Allotted, from his natal hour,
With all her myrtle shores in dower.
His breast, to admiration prone,
Enjoys the smile upon her face,
Enjoys triumphant every grace,
And finds her more his own.

Fatigued with Form's oppressive laws,
When Somerset avoids the great,
When, cloy'd with merited applause,
She seeks the rural calm retreat,
Does she not praise each mossy cell,
And feel the truth my numbers tell?
When deafen'd by the loud acclaim
Which genius graced with rank obtains,
Could she not more delighted hear
Yon throstle chant the rising year?
Could she not spurn the wreaths of fame,
To crop the primrose of the plains?
Does she not sweets in each fair valley find,
Lost to the sons of power, unknown to half mankind?

Ah! can she covet there to see
The splendid slaves, the reptile race,
That oil the tongue, and bow the knee,
That slight her merit, but adore her place?
Far happier, if aright I deem,
When from gay throngs, and gilded spires,
To where the lonely halcyons play,
Her philosophic step retires:
While studious of the moral theme,
She, to some smooth sequester'd stream
Likens the swai
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:48 min read

William Shenstone

William Shenstone was an English poet and one of the earliest practitioners of landscape gardening through the development of his estate, The Leasowes. more…

All William Shenstone poems | William Shenstone Books

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