The Speeches of Sloth and Virtue

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[Upon the Plan of Xenophen's Judgment of Hercules]

Hither, dear Boy, direct thy wandring Eyes,  
'Tis here the lovely Vale of Pleasure lies.  
Debate no more - to me thy self resign;  
Her mossy Caves, her Groves, and all are mine.  
For me the Goddess opes her various Pow'r,  
Springs in a Tree, or blossoms in a Flow'r:
To please my Ear she breaths celestial Strains:  
To please my Eye, with Lillies strews the Plains:  
To form my Couch in mossy Beds she grows:  
To gratify my Smell she blooms a Rose.  
 Oft' in some Nymph the Deity I find,  
Where in one Form the various Sweets are join'd.  
Yield but to me, - a Choir of Nymphs shall rise,  
And with the blooming Sight regale thy Eyes:  
Their beauteous Cheeks a fairer Rose shall wear,  
A brighter Lilly in their Necks appear:  
Thou on their Breasts thy wearied Head recline,  
Nor at the Swan's less pleasing Nest repine:  
Whilst Philomel in each soft Voice complains,  
And gently lulls thee with her dying Strains:  
 Whilst spicy Gums round each fair Bosom glow;  
And in each Accent myrrhy Odours flow.
For thee with softest Art the Dome shall rise,  
And spiring Turrets glitter thro' the Skies.  
For thee the Robe shall glow with purple Rays;  
The Side-board sparkle, and gilt Chariot blaze.  
In brilliant Mines, be other Hands employ'd,  
So the gay Product be by thine enjoy'd.  
For thee the Poplar shall her Amber drain:  
For thee in clouded Beauty spring the Cane.  
 To please thy Taste shall Gallia prune the Vine:  
To swell thy Treasures India sink the Mine.  
For thee each Nations nicer Stores shall grow,  
And ev'ry Wind some lovely Tribute blow.
Learning shall ne'er molest thy tranquil Reign,  
Nor Science puzzle thy inactive Brain:  
Sometimes perhaps thy Fancy take her Wing  
To grace a Fan, or celebrate a Ring:  
Fix various Dyes to suit each varying Mien:  
Prescribe where Patches shou'd in Crouds be seen:

 Or sigh soft Strains along the vocal Grove,  
And tell the Charms, the sweet Effects of Love!
Or if more specious Ease thy Care shou'd claim,  
And thy Breast glow with faint Desire of Fame,  
Some trivial Science shall thy Thoughts amuse;  
And Learning's Name a solemn Sound diffuse.  
To Thee all Nature's shelly Store I'll bring,  
To thee the Sparklings on the Insect's Wing.  
Pleasure in infant Forms shalt thou descry;  
View, in an Ant, or hear her in a Fly;

  When near thy Path, as oft as Spring appears,  
The sportive Goddess buzzes round thy Ears:  
Now in some Pebble's curious Vein is seen,  
Or on some Leaf bestows unusual Green.
Then Sleep shall wrap thee in her downy Arms,  
And round thy weary'd Head diffuse her Charms;  
Lest growing Pride thy peaceful Schemes o'erthrow,  
And Thought succeed, - my most destructive Foe.  
The watry Nymphs shall tune the tinkling Vales,  
And gentle Zephyrs harmonize their Gales:

 For thy repose instruct, with Rival Joy,  
Their Streams to murmur, and their Winds to sigh.
Thus shalt thou spend the sweetly-flowing Day,  
Till lost in Bliss thou breath thy Soul away:  
How easy a Transition should'st thou find,  
Were to thy Fate Annihilation join'd!

Fly, fly, fond Youth, the too indulgent Maid,  
Nor err, by such fantastick Scenes betray'd.  
Tho' in my Path the prickly Thorn be seen,  
And the waste Turf produce a fainter Green;

 Tho' no gay Rose, or purple Product shine,  
The rugged Surface still conceals the Mine;  
And each unsightly Object can supply  
More lasting Pleasure, more substantial Joy.
But shou'd those airy glittr'ing Toys allure,  
Yet whence cou'd Sloth the mighty Boon procure?  
Or whence receive, or how those Gifts bestow,  
Which I alone possess - her greatest Foe?  
I from old Ocean rob the treasur'd Store,  
And hidden Gems thro' ev'ry Realm explore:

 'Twas I the rugged Brilliant first reveal'd,  
By tenfold Strata in the Earth conceal'd:  
'Tis I the shapeless Surface still refine,  
And teach the rugged Brilliant how to shine.  
Where blooms the Rose, where spires the shapely Tree,  
Where smiles the Grape, without fair Industry?
But grant we Sloth the Scene herself has drawn,  
The mossy Grotto, and the flow'ry Lawn:  
Let Frankincense with ev'ry Wind exhale,
 And Philomela breath in ev'ry Gale:

  Let Brilliants sparkle, (dear Machines of Pride!)  
And from the Poplar flow the Amber Tide:  
Let gay Pomona, quitting all around,  
For choicest Fruits select the hallow'd Ground;  
To tread the favour'd Soil shou'd Virtue cease,  
Nor mossy Grotts, nor flow'ry Lawns cou'd please:
Nor ought Pomona's luscious Gifts avail:  
The Sound harmonious; or the spicy Gale.
See'st thou those Rocks in dreadful Pomp arise,  
And barren Cliffs that sweep the vaulted Skies?

 Those Fields whence Phoebus all their Moisture drains,  
And, too profusely kind, disrobes the Plains?  
When I vouchsafe to tread the lonely Soil,  
Those Rocks seem lovely, and those Desarts smile;  
Oft' on those pathless Wilds as I appear,  
(With Converse sweet his lonely Steps to chear)  
Those Cliffs the Exile has with Pleasure view'd,  
And call'd that Desart, ``Blissful Solitude!
Known by its airy Height and tow'ring Spires,  
Behind that Scene Fame's lofty Dome retires.

 Steep the Ascent by which to Fame we rise,  
Yet equal to the Labour is the Prize:  
From thence you gain an earthly Crown;
From thence - you reach the Skies.
Far, far below the downy Throne is seen  
That lulls to Rest Ignavia's softer Queen:

Thence to Fame's Turrets oft' She lifts her Eyes,  
Desirous still, still impotent to rise.  
Oft', when resolv'd to gain those shining Tow'rs,  
The pensive Queen the dire Ascent explores;

 Comes onward, wafted by the gummy Trees,  
Some Sylvan Musick, or some scented Breeze;  
She turns her Head; her own gay Realm she spies,  
And all the airy Resolution dies.
Thus still in vain these gilded Visions please  
The Wretch of Glory, whilst the Slave of Ease;  
Doom'd ever in ignoble State to pine,  
Boast her own Scenes, and languish after mine.

© William Shenstone