William Cowper

William Cowper (1731-1800)

 

 

The Task BOOK III.

 

THE GARDEN (extract)

As one who, long in thickets and in brakes

Entangled, winds now this way and now that

His devious course uncertain, seeking home;

Or, having long in miry ways been foiled

And sore discomfited, from slough to slough

Plunging, and half despairing of escape,

If chance at length he find a greensward smooth

And faithful to the foot, his spirits rise,

He chirrups brisk his ear-erecting steed,

And winds his way with pleasure and with ease; So I, designing other themes, and called

To adorn the Sofa with eulogium due,

To tell its slumbers and to paint its dreams,

Have rambled wide. In country, city, seat

Of academic fame, howe'er deserved,

Long held, and scarcely disengaged at last.

But now with pleasant pace, a cleanlier road

I mean to tread. I feel myself at large,

Courageous, and refreshed for future toil,

If toil await me, or if dangers new...

Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.

Unconscious of a less propitious clime

There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug,

While the winds whistle and the snows descend.

The spiry myrtle with unwithering leaf

Shines there and flourishes. The golden boast

Of Portugal and Western India there,

The ruddier orange and the paler lime,

Peep through their polished foliage at the storm,

And seem to smile at what they need not fear.

The amomum there with intermingling flowers

And cherries hangs her twigs. Geranium boasts

Her crimson honours, and the spangled beau,

Ficoides, glitters bright the winter long,

All plants, of every leaf, that can endure

The winter's frown if screened from his shrewd bite,

Live there and prosper. Those Ausonia claims,

Levantine regions these; the Azores send

Their jessamine; her jessamine remote

Caffraria: foreigners from many lands,

They form one social shade, as if convened

By magic summons of the Orphean lyre.

Yet such arrangement, rarely brought to pass

But by a master's hand, disposing well

The gay diversities of leaf and flower,

Must lend its aid to illustrate all their charms,

And dress the regular yet various scene.

Plant behind plant aspiring, in the van

The dwarfish, in the rear retired, but still

Sublime above the rest, the statelier stand.


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