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THE TASK.

BOOK V.

THE WINTER MORNING WALK. :

'Tis morning; -and the sun, with ruddy orb
Ascending, fires the horizon; while the clouds,
That crowd away before the driving wind,
More ardent as the disk emerges more,
Resemble most some city in a blaze,
Seen through the leafless wood. His Nanting ray
Slides ineffectual down the snowy vale,
And, tinging all with his own rosy hue,
From every herb and every spiry blade
Stretches a length of shadow o'er the field.
Mine, spindling into longitude immense,
In spite of gravity, and sage remark
That I myself am but a fleeting shade,

Provokes me to a smile. With eye askance
I view the muscular proportioned limb
Transformed to a lean fhank. The shapeless pair,
As they designed to mock me, at my side
Take step for step; and, as I near approach
The cottage, walk along the plastered wall,
Preposterous sight! the legs without the man.
The verdure of the plain lies buried deep
Beneath the dazzling deluge; and the bents,
And coarser grass, upspearing o'er the rest,
Of late unsightly and unseen, now shine
Conspicuous, and in bright apparel clad,
And fledged with icy feathers, nod superb.
The cattle mourn in corners where the fence
Screens them, and seem half petrified to fleep
In unrecumbent sadness. There they wait
Their wonted fodder; not like hungering man,
Fretful if unsupplied; but silent, meek,
And patient of the flow-paced fwain's delay.
He from the stack carves out the accustomed load,
Deep-plunging, and again deep plunging oft,
His broad keen knife into the solid mass :
Smooth as a wall the upright remnant stands,
With such undeviating and even force

He fevers it away: no needless care,
Lest storms thould overset the leading pile
Deciduous, or its own unbalanced weight.
Forth goes the woodman, leaving unconcerned
The cheerful haunts of man, to wield the axe
And drive the wedge in yonder forest drear,
From morn to eve his solitary task.
Shaggy, and lean, and shrewd, with pointed ears
And tail cropped thort, half lurcher and half cur,
His dog attends him. Close behind his heel
Now creeps he flow; and now, with many a frisk
Wide-scampering, snatches up the drifted snow
With ivory teeth, or ploughs it with his snout;
Then shakes his powdered coat, and barks for joy.
Heedless of all his pranks, the sturdy churl
Moves right toward the mark; nor stops for aught,
But now and then with pressure of his thumb
To adjust the fragrant charge of a short tube,
That fumes beneath his nose: the trailing cloud
Streams far behind him, scenting all the air.
Now from the rooft, or from the neighbouring pale,
Where, diligent to catch the first faint gleam
Of smiling day, they gossiped side by side,
Come trooping at the housewife's well-known call

The feathered tribes domestic. Half on wing And half on foot, they brush the fleecy flood, Conscious and fearful of too deep a plunge. The sparrows peep, and quit the sheltering eaves To seize the fair occasion. Well they eye The scattered grain, and thievishly resolved To escape the impending famine, often scared As oft return, a pert voracious kind. Clean riddance quickly made, one only care Remains to each, the search of sunny nook, Or shed impervious to the blaft. Resigned To sad necessity, the cock foregoes His wonted strut; and wading at their head With well-considered steps, seems to resent His altered gait and stateliness retrenched. How find the myriads, that in summer cheer The hills and vallies with their ceaseless songs, Due sustenance, or where fubfift they now? Earth yields them-nought; the imprisoned worm

is fefe Beneath the frozen clod; all seeds of herbs Lie covered close; and berry-bearing thorns, That feed the thrush, (whatever some suppose) Afford the smaller minstrels no supply.

hate

The long protracted rigour of the year
Thins all their numerous flocks. Inchinks and holes
Ten thousand seek an unmolested end,
As instinct prompts; self-buried ere they die.
The very rooks and daws forsake the fields,
Where neither grub, nor root, nor earth-nut, now
Repays their labour more; and perched aloft
By the way-side, or stalking in the path,
Lean pensioners upon the traveller's track,
Pick up their nauseous dole, though sweet to them,
Of voided pulse or half-digested grain.
The streams are loft amid the splendid blank,
O’erwhelming all distinction. On the flood,
Indurated and fixt, the snowy weight
Lies undiffolved; while silently beneath,
And unperceived, the current steals away.
Not so where, scornful of a check, it leaps
The mill-dam, dashes on the restless wheel,
And wantons in the pebbly gulph below:
No frost can bind it there; its utmost force
Can but arrest the light and smoky mift,
That in its fall the liquid sheet throws wide.
And see where it has hung the embroidered banks
With forms so various, that no powers of art,

VOL. II.

M

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