FAR o’er the plains the wandering shepherd strays,
Where verdure rises, rests his little flock;
In simple pleasures pass his guileless days,
Pure as the water from the mountain rock.
Or, haply, when the summer sun-beam pours,
Intensely o’er th’ unshaded wide extent,
He leads instinctive where the grove embowers,
And rears beside the brook his sheltering tent.
Or up the rugged mountain’s sunless side
Winds slowly, seeking scantier herbage there;
Yet free from insect swarms that ceaseless glide
Along the stream, and fill the lowland air.
Far from this hateful pest they feed at ease,
Or lull’d to slumber by the shepherd’s song,
Beneath some high shrub-mantled bank, the breeze
Wafts cool refreshment to the fleecy throng.
Such was the life our early fathers led,
Ere empires flourish’d, or proud cities rose;
When patriarch sires (long number’d with the dead)
Held parent sway, ere men to men were foes.
Their few cares then were only to provide
Food, raiment, and a shelter from the storm;
To chase the savage beasts that lurking hide,
But ne’er incessant labour to perform.
For NATURE’s genuine wants, and comforts too,
Were all acquired by less than wearying toil,
Until vain man, with LUXURY in view,
Sought more than comforts from his native soil.
But, when subservient to his proud behest,
He taught the weak obsequious mind to bend,
AMBITION found a dwelling in his breast,
And form’d the MASTER, while he lost the FRIEND.
He who in sluggish ease would pass his hours,
First made his fellow man by fraud or force,
Beyond FREE EXERCISE employ his powers,
Yoak’d the young bull, and rein’d the generous horse.
The same base principle of SLOTH combined
The ROBBER-BAND, on weaker bands to prey;
And from that source th’ oppressors of mankind
Derived their wealth, their vices, and their sway.
O turn, my soul! from such degenerate times,
When folly, low rapacity, and pride,
Crouch to the TYRANT, and support his crimes,
To gain some worthless end that Heaven denied.
Indignant turn, and ’mid these wilds enjoy
A heartfelt peace, that man can ne’er destroy.