Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Farmer’s Advice to the Villagers
By Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)
  NOT long since lived a farmer plain,
Intent to gather honest gain,
Laborious, prudent, thrifty, neat,
Of judgment strong, experience great,
In solid homespun clad, and tidy,        5
And with no coxcomb learning giddy,
Daily, to hear his maxims sound,
The approaching neighbors flock’d around;
Daily they saw his counsels prove
The source of union, peace, and love,        10
The means of prudence, and of wealth,
Of comfort, cheerfulness, and health:
And all, who follow’d his advice,
Appear’d more prosperous, as more wise.
  Wearied, at length, with many a call,        15
The sage resolved to summon all:
And gathering, on a pleasant Monday,
A crowd, not always seen on Sunday,
Curious to hear, while hard they press’d him,
In friendly terms, he thus address’d ’em.        20
  “My friends, you have my kindest wishes;
Pray think a neighbor not officious,
While thus, to teach you how to live,
My very best advice I give.
  “And first, industrious be your lives;        25
Alike employ’d yourselves, and wives:
Your children, join’d in labor gay,
With something useful fill each day.
Those little times of leisure save,
Which most men lose, and all men have;        30
The half days, when a job is done;
The whole days, when a storm is on.
Few know, without a strict account,
To what these little times amount:
If wasted, while the same your cost,        35
The sums, you might have earn’d, are lost.
  “Learn small things never to despise:
You little think how fast they rise.
A rich reward the mill obtains,
Though but two quarts a bushel gains:        40
Still rolling on its steady rounds,
The farthings soon are turn’d to pounds.
  “Nor think a life of toil severe:
No life has blessings so sincere.
Its meals so luscious, sleep so sweet,        45
Such vigorous limbs, such health complete,
A mind so active, brisk, and gay,
As his, who toils the livelong day.
A life of sloth drags hardly on;
Suns set too late, and rise too soon;        50
Youth, manhood, age, all linger slow,
To him, who nothing has to do.
The drone, a nuisance to the hive,
Stays, but can scarce be said to live;
And well the bees, those judges wise,        55
Plague, chase, and sting him, till he dies.
Lawrence, like him, though saved from hanging,
Yet every day deserves a banging.
  “Let order o’er your time preside,
And method all your business guide.        60
Early begin, and end, your toil;
Nor let great tasks your hands embroil.
One thing at once, be still begun,
Contrived, resolved, pursued, and done.
Hire not, for what yourselves can do;        65
And send not, when yourselves can go;
Nor, till tomorrow’s light, delay
What might as well be done today.
By steady efforts all men thrive,
And long by moderate labor live;        70
While eager toil, and anxious care,
Health, strength, and peace, and life impair.
  “What thus your hands with labor earn,
To save, be now your next concern.
Whate’er to health, or real use,        75
Or true enjoyment, will conduce,
Use freely, and with pleasure use;
But ne’er the gifts of heaven abuse:
I joy to see your treasured stores,
Which smiling plenty copious pours;        80
Your cattle sleek, your poultry fine,
Your cider in the tumbler shine,
Your tables, smoking from the hoard,
And children smiling round the board.
All rights to use in you conspire;        85
The laborer’s worthy of his hire.
Ne’er may that hated day arrive,
When worse yourselves, or yours, shall live
Your dress, your lodging, or your food,
Be less abundant, neat, or good;        90
Your dainties all to market go,
To feast the epicure, and beau;
But ever on your tables stand,
Proofs of a free and happy land.
  “Yet still, with prudence, wear, and taste;        95
Use what you please, but nothing waste:
On little, better far to live,
Than, poor and pitied, much survive.
Like ants, lay something up in store,
Against the winter of threescore.        100
Disease may long your strength annoy;
Weakness and pain your limbs destroy;
On sorrow’s bed your households lie;
Your debtors fail, your cattle die;
Your crops untimely seasons kill,        105
And life be worn with many an ill.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “’T is folly in the extreme, to till
Extensive fields, and till them ill.
The farmer, pleased, may boast aloud
His bushels sown, his acres plough’d;        110
And, pleased, indulge the cheering hope,
That time will bring a plenteous crop.
Shrew’d common-sense sits laughing by,
And sees his hopes abortive die;
For, when maturing seasons smile,        115
Thin sheaves shall disappoint his toil.
Advised, this empty pride expel;
Till little, and that little well.
Of taxing, fencing, toil, no more,
Your ground requires, when rich, than poor;        120
And more one fertile acre yields,
Than the huge breadth of barren fields.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “When first the market offers well,
At once your yearly produce sell.
A higher price you wait in vain,        125
And ten times lose, where once you gain.
The dog, that at the shadow caught,
Miss’d all he had, and all he sought.
Less, day by day, your store will grow,
Gone, you scarce know or when, or how;        130
Interest will eat, while you delay,
And vermin steal your hopes away.
In parcels sold, in ways unknown,
It melts, and, unobserved, is gone.
No solid purpose driblets aid,        135
Spent, and forgot, as soon as paid:
The sum, a year’s whole earnings yield,
Will pay a debt, or buy a field.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “Neat be your farms: ’t is long confess’d,
The neatest farmers are the best.        140
Each bog, and marsh, industrious drain,
Nor let vile balks deform the plain;
No bushes on your headlands grow,
Nor briars a sloven’s culture show.
Neat be your barns; your houses neat;        145
Your doors be clean; your court-yards sweet;
No moss the sheltering roof inshroud;
No wooden panes the window cloud;
No filthy kennel foully flow;
Nor weeds with rankling poison grow:        150
But shades expand, and fruit-trees bloom,
And flowering shrubs exhale perfume.
With pales your garden circle round;
Defend, enrich, and clean the ground:
Prize high this pleasing, useful rood,        155
And fill with vegetable good.
  “With punctual hand your taxes pay,
Nor put far off the evil day.
How soon to an enormous size,
Taxes, succeeding taxes, rise!        160
How easy, one by one, discharged!
How hardly, in the mass enlarged!
How humbling the intrusive dun!
How fast, how far, the expenses run!
Fees, advertisements, travel, cost,        165
And that sad end of all, the post!
This gulf of swift perdition flee,
And live, from duns and bailiffs free.
  “In merchants’ books, from year to year,
Be cautious how your names appear.        170
How fast their little items count!
How great, beyond your hopes, the amount!
When shelves, o’er shelves, inviting stand,
And wares allure, on either hand;
While round you turn enchanted eyes,        175
And feel a thousand wants arise,
(Ye young, ye fair, these counsels true
Are penn’d for all, but most for you,)
Ere fancy lead your hearts astray,
Think of the means you have to pay;        180
What wants are nature’s; fancy’s what;
What will yield real good, when bought;
What certain, future means you find,
To cancel contracts, left behind;
What means to make the first of May        185
To you and yours a welcome day.
  “To you, let each returning spring
That day of certain reckoning bring;
All debts to cancel, books t’ adjust,
And check the wild career of trust.        190
From frequent reckonings friendship grows,
And peace, and sweet communion, flows.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “With steady hand your household sway,
And use them always to obey.
Always their worthy acts commend;        195
Always against their faults contend;
The mind inform; the conscience move;
And blame, with tenderness, and love.
When round they flock, and smile, and tell
Their lambkin sport, and infant weal,        200
Nor foolish laugh, nor fret, nor frown;
But all their little interests own;
Like them, those trifles serious deem,
And daily witness your esteem:
Yourselves their best friends always prove,        205
For filial duty springs from love.
Teach them, with confidence t’ impart,
Each secret purpose of the heart:
Thrice happy parents, children bless’d,
Of mutual confidence possess’d!        210
Such parents shall their children see
From vice, and shame, and anguish, free.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “How blest this heaven-distinguish’d land!
Where schools in every hamlet stand;
Far spread the beams of learning bright,        215
And every child enjoys the light.
At school, beneath a faithful guide,
In teaching skill’d, of morals tried,
And pleased the early mind to charm
To every good, from every harm,        220
Learn they to read, to write, to spell,
And cast accompts, and learn them well:
For, on this microscopic plan,
Is form’d the wise and useful man.
Let him a taste for books inspire;        225
While you, to nurse the young desire,
A social library procure,
And open knowledge to the poor.
This useful taste imbibed, your eyes
Shall see a thousand blessings rise.        230
From haunts and comrades vile secure,
Where gilded baits to vice allure,
No more your sons abroad shall roam,
But pleased, their evenings spend at home;
Allurements more engaging find,        235
And feast, with pure delight, the mind.
The realms of earth their thoughts shall scan,
And learn the works and ways of man;
See, from the savage, to the sage,
How nations ripen, age by age;        240
How states, and men, by virtue rise;
How both to ruin sink, by vice;
How through the world’s great prison-bounds,
While one wide clank of chains resounds,
Men slaves, while angels weep to see,        245
Some wise, and brave, and bless’d, are free.
Through moral scenes shall stretch their sight;
Discern the bounds of wrong and right;
That loathe; this love; and, pleased, pursue
Whate’er from man to man is due;        250
And, from the page of heaven derive
The motives, and the means, to live.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “In this new world, life’s changing round
In three descents, is often found.
The first, firm, busy, plodding, poor,        255
Earns, saves, and daily swells, his store:
By farthings first, and pence, it grows;
In shillings next, and pounds, it flows;
Then spread his widening farms, abroad;
His forests wave; his harvests nod;        260
Fattening, his numerous cattle play,
And debtors dread his reckoning day.
Ambitious then t’ adorn with knowledge
His son, he places him at college;
And sends, in smart attire, and neat,        265
To travel, through each neighboring state;
Builds him a handsome house, or buys,
Sees him a gentleman, and dies.
  “The second, born to wealth, and ease,
And taught to think, converse, and please,        270
Ambitious, with his lady-wife,
Aims at a higher walk of life.
Yet, in those wholesome habits train’d,
By which his wealth and weight were gain’d,
Bids care in hand with pleasure go,        275
And blends economy with show.
His houses, fences, garden, dress,
The neat and thrifty man confess.
Improved, but with improvement plain,
Intent on office, as on gain,        280
Exploring, useful sweets to spy,
To public life he turns his eye.
A townsman first; a justice soon;
A member of the house anon;
Perhaps to board, or bench, invited,        285
He sees the state, and subjects, righted;
And, raptured with politic life,
Consigns his children to his wife.
Of household cares amid the round,
For her, too hard the task is found.        290
At first she struggles, and contends;
Then doubts, desponds, laments, and bends;
Her sons pursue the sad defeat,
And shout their victory complete;
Rejoicing, see their father roam,        295
And riot, rake, and reign, at home.
Too late he sees, and sees to mourn,
His race of every hope forlorn,
Abroad, for comfort, turns his eyes,
Bewails his dire mistakes, and dies.        300
  “His heir, train’d only to enjoy,
Untaught, his mind or hands t’ employ,
Conscious of wealth enough for life,
With business, care, and worth, at strife,
By prudence, conscience, unrestrain’d,        305
And none, but pleasure’s habits, gain’d,
Whirls on the wild career of sense,
Nor danger marks, nor heeds expense.
Soon ended is the giddy round;
And soon the fatal goal is found.        310
His lands, secured for borrow’d gold,
His houses, horses, herds, are sold.
And now, no more for wealth respected,
He sinks, by all his friends neglected;
Friends, who, before, his vices flatter’d,        315
And lived upon the loaves he scatter’d.
Unacted every worthy part,
And pining with a broken heart,
To dirtiest company he flies,
He gambles, turns a sot, and dies.        320
His children, born to fairer doom,
In rags, pursue him to the tomb.
  “Apprenticed then to masters stern,
Some real good the orphans learn;
Are bred to toil, and hardy fare,        325
And grow to usefulness, and care;
And, following their great-grandsire’s plan,
Each slow becomes a useful man.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  “But should contentions rise, and grudges,
Which call for arbitrating judges,        330
Still shun the law, that gulf of woe,
Whose waves without a bottom flow;
That gulf, by storms for ever toss’d,
Where all, that ’s once afloat, is lost;
Where friends, embark’d, are friends no more,        335
And neither finds a peaceful shore:
While thousand wrecks, as warnings, lie,
The victims of an angry sky.
  “Each cause let mutual friends decide,
With common-sense alone to guide:        340
If right, in silent peace be glad;
If wrong, be neither sour, nor sad:
As oft you ’ll find full justice done,
As when through twenty terms you ’ve run;
And when, in travel, fees, and cost,        345
Far more than can be won, is lost.
  “Learn, this conclusion whence I draw.
Mark what estates are spent in law!
See men litigious, business fly,
And loungers live, and beggars die!        350
What anger, hatred, malice fell,
And fierce revenge their bosoms swell!
What frauds, subornings, tamperings rise!
What slanders foul! what shameful lies!
What perjuries, blackening many a tongue!        355
And what immensity of wrong!
Where peace and kindness dwelt before,
See peace and kindness dwell no more!
Ills to good offices succeed,
And neighbors bid each other bleed!        360
  “Esop, the merry Phrygian sage,
Worth half the wise men of his age,
Has left to litigants a story,
Which, with your leave, I ’ll set before you.
  “‘The bear and lion on the lawn,        365
Once found the carcase of a fawn.
Both claim’d the dainty; neither gave it;
But each swore roundly he would have it.
They growl’d; they fought; but fought in vain:
For neither could the prize obtain;        370
And, while to breathe they both retreated,
The lawyer fox came in, and ate it.’”
*      *      *      *      *
  Thus spoke the sage. The crowd around,
Applauding, heard the grateful sound;
Each, deeply musing, homeward went,        375
T’ amend his future life intent;
And, pondering past delays, with sorrow,
Resolved he would begin tomorrow.

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