Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
The Country Life
By Robert Herrick (1591–1674)
 
SWEET country life, to such unknown,
Whose lives are others, not their own;
But, serving courts and cities, be
Less happy, less enjoying thee.
Thou never plough’st the ocean’s foame        5
To seek and bring rough pepper home;
Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove
To bring from thence the scorched clove;
Nor, with the loss of thy loved rest,
Bring’st home the ingot from the west:        10
No, thy ambitious masterpiece
Flies no thought higher than a fleece;
Or to pay thy hinds, and cleere
All scores, and so to end the yeare:
But walk’st about thine own dear bounds,        15
Not envying others’ larger grounds;
For well thou know’st, ’tis not the extent
Of land makes life, but sweet content.
When now the cock, the ploughman’s horne,
Calls forth the lily-wristed morne;        20
Then to thy cornfields thou dost go,
Which, though well soyl’d, yet thou dost know,
That the best compost for the lands
Is the wise master’s feet and hands:
There at the plough thou find’st thy teame,        25
With a hind whistling there to them;
And cheer’st them up, by singing how
The kingdom’s portion is the plough;
This done, then to the enameled meads
Thou go’st, and as thy foot there treads,        30
Thou seest a present godlike power
Imprinted in each herbe and flower;
And smell’st the breath of great-eyed kine,
Sweet as the blossoms of the vine:
Here thou behold’st thy large sleek neat        35
Unto the dew-laps up in meat;
And as thou look’st, the wanton steere,
The heifer, cow, and oxe draw neare,
To make a pleasing pastime there:
These seen, thou go’st to view thy flocks        40
Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox,
And find’st their bellies there as full
Of short sweet grass, as backs with wool;
And leav’st them, as they feed and fill,
A shepherd piping on a hill.        45
For sports, for pageantrie, and playes,
Thou hast thy eves and holydayes;
On which the young men and maids meet
To exercise their dancing feet,
Tripping the comely country round,        50
With daffodils and daisies crowned.
Thy wakes, thy quintels, here thou hast,
Thy May-poles, too, with garlands grac’t,
Thy morris-dance, thy Whitsun ale,
Thy shearing-feast, which never faile,        55
Thy harvest home, thy wassail bowle,
That’s tost up after fox i’ th’ hole,
Thy mummeries, thy twelf-tide kings
And queenes, thy Christmas revellings,
Thy nut-browne mirth, thy russet wit,        60
And no man pays too deare for it:
To these thou hast thy times to goe,
And trace the hare i’ th’ treacherous snow;
Thy witty wiles to draw and get
The larke into the trammel net;        65
Thou hast thy cockrood and thy glade
To take the precious pheasant made;
Thy lime-twigs, snares, and pit-falls then
To catch the pilfering birds, not men.
O happy life! if that their good        70
The husbandmen but understood;
Who all the day themselves do please,
And younglings with such sports as these;
And, lying down, have nought to affright
Sweet sleep, that makes more short the night.        75
 
 
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