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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Pair of Eclogues: The Country Meeting

By Anonymous

[Attributed, in Smith’s Collection, to T. C. James.]

VIEW yonder ancient dome, with trees beset,

From which no lofty spire doth proudly rise,

Nor hence each week, when congregation’s met,

Are studied hymns e’er winged unto the skies,

Nor doth “amen” from parish clerk arise.

E’en music’s lulling charms beseemeth wrong

To those who did this modest temple rear;

For all who to those lonely confines throng

Worship in guise of solemn silent prayer;

Nor can they think that words their sinful deeds repair.

No pulpit here doth grace the naked wall,

Nor doth the sculptor his gay art express:

For thus they teach: “Religion does not call

For the vain ornaments of splendid dress,

Nor will meek heaven superfluous grandeur bless.”

And wrong they hold it, that the flock should pay

For truths which ought to flow without control,

Free as the silver dew, or light of day,

To beam mild virtue on the expanding soul,

And spread celestial sparks, free gift, from pole to pole.

But see, o’er yonder field, the elder train

Of village dames their little infants bring,

Who else might loiter on the grassy plain,

And wet their new clothes in yon bubbling spring,

Which would their parents’ minds with sorrow sting.

The sportive urchins oft will skip away,

To chase the partridge from the neighboring bush:

And oft with balls of well-attempered clay,

Will from its covert fright the trembling thrush,

Nor mind the careful matron’s voice, which would them hush.

Down the sloped hill the gayer tribe descend,

On neighing steeds, that champ the steeléd bit,

Straight to the fane their pompous way they tend;

There ’midst their peers in goodly order sit,

Young swains for strength renowned, and maids for wit:

Such strength as at the mill-door oft is seen

When Colin lifts the sack of mighty weight;

Such wit as sports in gambols o’er the green,

And would the ear of nicer townsman grate;

He’d call it shocking stuff, and rude, unseemly prate.

Yet Humor her abode will deign to fix

Amidst the lively rustics of the place,

And with the village hinds will often mix,

Giving to every feat a festive grace,

And spreading cheerfulness o’er every face.

Let the polite, the polished, blame their joys,

Whom Nature, unconstrained, can never charm:

This is the life which ennui never cloys,

Nor e’er can fell Ambition work it harm,

Blowing with hideous blast its poisonous alarm.

See yonder youth on prancing bay steed ride,

While satisfaction on his broad front beams;

And view his gentle charmer by his side,

For whom he wishes, and of whom he dreams;

Of heavenly form and mind to him she seems.

For her each evening anxiously he culls,

Of wild flowers fair, a nosegay scented sweet:

For her the chestnut drops its prickly hulls,

And the wood-pigeon yields its savory meat,

With thousand tempting gifts which verse cannot repeat.

And now through folding doors, full wide displayed,

The assembly’s grave and pious numbers throng,

While well each noisy buzzing murmur’s stayed,

With the loose prattling of each infant tongue;

For oft confusion has from childhood sprung.

See the wise elder’s venerable grace;

Mark with what slow-paced dignity he moves;

See every little eye hangs on his face,

And over all his features fondly roves,

For he the junior train affectionately loves.

The village teacher sits with looks profound,

And marks the entering throng, with eye askance;

If, as he careful views the dome around,

He should on careless pupil’s visage chance,

He sends him straight a play-forbidding glance.

Of looks like these he hath a plenteous store,

To fright his students from each frolic mood:

And well they watch to see his aspect lower,

Trying each art to avert the baleful wood,

By sitting wondrous still, and seeming e’en as good.

Silence with Sleep his empire now divides,

While some on this, and some on that side nod;

The ploughman still his steers and ploughshare guides,

And breaks in pleasing dreams the fancied sod;

While the school-mistress wields the birchen rod.

Others, more wakeful, plan their future deeds,

While on increase of wealth their wishes stray:

The farmer thus in rapture counts his steeds,

And deals to each his part of winter’s hay,

Till spring renews the grass, and gives returning May.

Where will not thirst of treacherous gold approach,

Since here, e’en here, it holds its wide domain!

From the warm cit who rolls in gilded coach,

To the dull carter, whistling o’er the plain,

Does Plutus, god of shining lucre, reign.

Happy, thrice happy are the instructed few,

On whom fell Want ne’er lays her harpy claws,

But, far retired from ’midst the toiling crew,

Live in observance of wise Nature’s laws,

And learn from her to trace the great Eternal Cause.