Peter Swaab (ed.), Sara Coleridge: Collected Poems

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pg 27Editor’s NotePraises of a Country Life

  • How blest is he who far from Cares,
  •      Like the old race of Men
  • His own paternal fields doth till
  •      Free from all wrongful gain,
  • To action he is neither roused
  •      By the harsh Trumpet's sound
  • Nor trembles at the angry sea
  •      Which rages all around.
  • He either joins the fruitful vine
  •      To the tall Poplar Tree,
  • Or feeding in a shady vale
  •      His wand'ring flock doth see
  • Or cutting off the useless bough
  •      More healthy plants he rears
  • Or pours fresh honey into jars
  •      Or Sheep so tender shears
  • But when adorned with Apples sweet
  •      Glad Autumn lifts his head
  • How he rejoices in the Pears
  •      And in the Grape so red
  • With which, O Priapus, he thee
  •      Will bounteously reward
  • And thee, Sylvanus who doth well
  •      His territories guard.
  • Now in the shade he loves to lie
  •      Under the ancient Oak
  • And now upon the verdant grass
  •      Beneath th'o'erhanging rock
  • Meanwhile the dashing waters fall
  •      Birds in the forest sing
  • The little streamlets murmuring flow
  •      All which sweet slumbers bring.
  • pg 28But when the winter cold and bleak
  •      Loud storms of Snow prepares
  • He either drives with many dogs
  •      Fierce boars into the snares,
  • Or on a stake spreads slender nets
  •      The Thrushes to surprise
  • Catches the Cranes or timid Hare
  •      To him a joyful prize
  • Amongst these tranquil calm delights
  •      The country doth impart
  • We not the cares of Love forget
  •      Joyous and light the heart
  • But if at home a modest wife
  •      He hath, and children sweet
  • Like Sabine or Apulian Spouse
  •      That is so swift of feet
  • Who piles the wood upon the fire
  •      When he comes weary home
  • And pens the cattle in the field
  •      That they no more may roam
  • While from their teats abundant store
  •      Of sweet milk she doth steal
  • And bringing fresh wine from the cask
  •      Prepares a simple meal
  • No Lucrine Shell-fish Trout or Char
  •      Appears more sweet to me
  • If driv'n from th'east by thund'ring storms
  •      They e'er approach this sea
  • No Afric bird, or woodcock rare
  •      Do more my palate please
  • Than ripest Olives plucked from off
  •      The best boughs of the trees,
  • pg 29Or rhubarb that the meadows loves
  •      Or mallows from the wood,
  • Or Lamb at Terminalian feast
  •      Or kid, delicious food
  • The while, how pleased his sheep to see
  •      All homeward hastening,
  • Or wearied oxen languidly
  •      The heavy ploughshare bring;
  • And slaves that crowd the rich man's house
  •      Day's labour being done
  • All circling round the cheerful fire
  •      At setting of the sun [. . .]

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Notes

Editor’s Note
Page 27. 'Praises of a Country Life' (MS, 1817). The MS breaks off as shown. Compare the start of Pope's 'Ode on Solitude', another youthful effort, written, so Pope claimed, when he was not yet twelve years old: 'How happy he, who free from care / The rage of courts, and noise of towns; / Contented breathes his native air, / In his own grounds'.
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