Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Castle of Indolence’
By James Thomson (1700–1748)
  The castle hight of Indolence,
  And its false luxury;
Where for a little time, alas!
  We lived right jollily.

  O MORTAL man, who livest here by toil,
    Do not complain of this thy hard estate;
  That like an emmet thou must ever moil,
    Is a sad sentence of an ancient date:
    And certes, there is for it reason great;        5
  For though sometimes it makes thee weep and wail,
    And curse thy star, and early drudge and late,
  Withouten that would come a heavier bale,—
Loose life, unruly passions, and diseases pale.
  In lowly dale, fast by a river’s side,        10
    With woody hill o’er hill encompassed round,
  A most enchanting wizard did abide,
    Than whom a fiend more fell is nowhere found.
    It was, I ween, a lovely spot of ground;
  And there a season atween June and May,        15
    Half prankt with spring, with summer half embrowned,
  A listless climate made, where, sooth to say,
No living wight could work, ne carèd even for play.
  Was naught around but images of rest:
    Sleep-soothing groves, and quiet lawns between;        20
  And flowery beds that slumbrous influence kest,
    From poppies breathed; and beds of pleasant green,
    Where never yet was creeping creature seen.
  Meantime, unnumbered glittering streamlets played,
    And hurlèd everywhere their waters sheen;        25
  That, as they bickered through the sunny glade,
Though restless still themselves, a lulling murmur made.
  Joined to the prattle of the purling rills
    Were heard the lowing herds along the vale,
  And flocks loud bleating from the distant hills,        30
    And vacant shepherds piping in the dale;
    And now and then, sweet Philomel would wail,
  Or stock-doves plain amid the forest deep,
    That drowsy rustled to the sighing gale;
  And still a coil the grasshopper did keep;        35
Yet all these sounds yblent inclinèd all to sleep.
  Full in the passage of the vale, above,
    A sable, silent, solemn forest stood;
  Where naught but shadowy forms was seen to move,
    As Idless fancied in her dreaming mood:        40
    And up the hills, on either side, a wood
  Of blackening pines, aye waving to and fro,
    Sent forth a sleepy horror through the blood;
  And where this valley winded out below,
The murmuring main was heard, and scarcely heard, to flow.        45
  A pleasing land of drowsihead it was,
    Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
  And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
    For ever flushing round a summer sky:
    There eke the soft delights, that witchingly        50
  Instill a wanton sweetness through the breast,
    And the calm pleasures always hovered nigh;
  But whate’er smacked of noyance, or unrest,
Was far, far off expelled from this delicious nest.
  The landscape such, inspiring perfect ease,        55
    Where Indolence (for so the wizard hight)
  Close-hid his castle mid embowering trees,
    That half shut out the beams of Phœbus bright,
    And made a kind of checkered day and night:
  Meanwhile, unceasing at the massy gate,        60
    Beneath a spacious palm, the wicked wight
  Was placed; and to his lute, of cruel fate
And labor harsh, complained, lamenting man’s estate….
  Here freedom reigned, without the least alloy;
    Nor gossip’s tale, nor ancient maiden’s gall,        65
  Nor saintly spleen durst murmur at our joy,
    And with envenomed tongue our pleasures pall.
    For why? there was but one great rule for all;
  To wit, that each should work his own desire,
    And eat, drink, study, sleep, as it may fall,        70
  Or melt the time in love, or wake the lyre,
And carol what, unbid, the Muses might inspire.
  The rooms with costly tapestry were hung,
    Where was inwoven many a gentle tale;
  Such as of old the rural poets sung,        75
    Or of Arcadian or Sicilian vale:
    Reclining lovers, in the lonely dale,
  Poured forth at large the sweetly tortured heart;
    Or, sighing tender passion, swelled the gale,
  And taught charmed echo to resound their smart;        80
While flocks, woods, streams around, repose and peace impart.
  Those pleased the most, where, by a cunning hand,
    Depainted was the patriarchal age;
  What time Dan Abram left the Chaldee land,
    And pastured on from verdant stage to stage,        85
    Where fields and fountains fresh could best engage.
  Toil was not then; of nothing took they heed,
    But with wild beasts the sylvan war to wage,
  And o’er vast plains their herds and flocks to feed:
Blest sons of Nature they! true golden age indeed!        90
  Sometimes the pencil, in cool airy halls,
    Bade the gay bloom of vernal landscapes rise,
  Or Autumn’s varied shades embrown the walls:
    Now the black tempest strikes the astonished eyes;
    Now down the steep the flashing torrent flies;        95
  The trembling sun now plays o’er ocean blue,
    And now rude mountains frown amid the skies:
  Whate’er Lorraine light-touched with softening hue,
Or savage Rosa dashed, or learnèd Poussin drew.
  Each sound, too, here to languishment inclined,        100
    Lulled the weak bosom, and inducèd ease:
  Aerial music in the warbling wind,
    At distance rising oft, by small degrees,
    Nearer and nearer came; till o’er the trees
  It hung, and breathed such soul-dissolving airs,        105
    As did, alas! with soft perdition please:
  Entangled deep in its enchanting snares,
The listening heart forgot all duties and all cares.
  A certain music, never known before,
    Here lulled the pensive, melancholy mind;        110
  Full easily obtained. Behooves no more,
    But sidelong, to the gently waving wind,
    To lay the well-tuned instrument reclined;
  From which, with airy, flying fingers light,
    Beyond each mortal touch the most refined,        115
  The god of winds drew sounds of deep delight:
Whence, with just cause, the harp of ¾olus it hight.
  Ah me! what hand can touch the string so fine?
    Who up the lofty diapason roll
  Such sweet, such sad, such solemn airs divine,        120
    Then let them down again into the soul:
    Now rising love they fanned; now pleasing dole
  They breathed in tender musings through the heart;
    And now a graver sacred strain they stole,
  As when seraphic hands a hymn impart:        125
Wild warbling nature all, above the reach of art!
  Such the gay splendor, the luxurious state,
    Of Caliphs old, who on the Tygris’s shore,
  In mighty Bagdat, populous and great,
    Held their bright court, where was of ladies store;        130
    And verse, love, music, still the garland wore:
  When sleep was coy, the bard, in waiting there,
    Cheered the lone midnight with the Muse’s lore;
  Composing music bade his dreams be fair,
And music lent new gladness to the morning air.        135

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