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The history of the following production is briefly this: A lady, fond of blank verse, demanded a poem of that kind from the author, and gave him the Sofa for a subject. He obeyed; and, having much leisure, connected another subject with it; and pursuing the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him, brought forth at length, instead of the trifle which he at first intended, a serious affair-a volume.
In the poem on the subject of Education, he would be very sorry to stand suspected of having aimed his censure at any particular school. His objections are such, as naturally apply themselves to schools in general. If there were not, as for the most part there is, wilful neglect in those who manage them, and an omission even of such discipline as they are susceptible of, the objects are yet too numerous for minute attention; and the aching hearts of ten thousand parents, mourning under the bitterest of all disappointments, attest the truth of the allegation. His quarrel, therefore, is with the mischief at large, and not with any particular instance of it.
ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST BOOK.
Historical deduction of seats, from the stool to the Sofa.---A School
boy's ramble.--A walk in the country. The scene described.---Rural sounds as well as sights delightful.--- Another walk.--Mistake concerning the charms of solitude corrected.--Colonades commended.--Alcove, and the view from it.--- The wilderness. The grove.---The thresher.---The necessity and the benefits of exercise.---The works of nature superior to, and in some instances intimitable by, art.--The wearisomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure. Change of scene sometimes expedient.---A common described, and the character of crazy Kate introduced.---Gipsies.--The blessings of a civilized life.---The state most favourable to virtue.---The South Sea Islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai.--His present state of mind supposed.---Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities. -Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praises, but censured.---Fete champetre.---The book concludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public measures.
I sing the Sofa. I, who lately sang
* See Poems, pages 39, 75, 96.
Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use, Save their own painted skins, our sires had none. As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth, Or velvet soft, or plush with shaggy pile; The hardy chief upon the rugged rock Wash'd by the sea, or on the grav'lly bank Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud, Fearless of wrong, repos’d his wearied strength.
Those barb'rous ages past, succeeded next The birth-day of Invention; weak at first, Dull in design, and clumsy to perform. Joint-stools were then created; on three legs Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm A massy slab, in fashion square or round. On such a stool immortal Alfred sat, And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms : And such in ancient halls and mansions drear May still be seen; but, perforated sore, And drillid in holes, the solid oak is found, By worms voracious eaten through and through.
At length a generation more refin'd Improv'd the simple plan; made three legs four, Gave them a twisted form vermicular, And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuffd, Induc'd a splendid cover, green and blue, Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought And woven close, or needlework sublime. There might ye see the piony spread wide, The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass, Lap-dog and lambkin with black, staring eyes, And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.
Now came the cane from India, smooth and bright With Nature's varnish; sever'd into stripes, That interlac'd each other, these supplied Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd The new machine, and it became a chair. But restless was the chair; the back erect Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease ;
The slipp'ry seat betray'd the sliding part,
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick,
0, may I live exempted (while I live Guiltless of pamper'd appetite obscene) From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe Of libertine Excess. The Sofa suits The gouty limb, 'tis true; but gouty limb, Though on a Sofa, may I never feel : For I have lov'd the rural walk through lanes Of grassy swath, close cropp'd by nibbling sheep, And skirted thick with intertexture firm Of thorny boughs ; have lov'd the rural walk O’er hills, through valleys, and by rivers' brink, E’er since a truant boy I pass'd my bounds, To enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames ; And still remember, nor without regret Of hours, that sorrow since has much endear'd, How oft, my slice of pocket store consum’d, Still hung’ring, pennyless, and far from home, I fed on scarlet hips, and stony haws, Or blushing crabs, or berries, that emboss