TO THE HONOURED MR ENDYMION PORTER, GROOM OF
THE BED-CHAMBER TO HIS MAJESTY
Sweet country life, to such unknown,
Whose lives are others’, not their own!
But serving courts and cities, be
Less happy, less enjoying thee.
Thou never plough’st the ocean’s foam
To seek and bring rough pepper home:
Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove
To bring from thence the scorched clove:
Nor, with the loss of thy loved rest,
Bring’st home the ingot from the West.
No, thy ambition’s master-piece
Flies no thought higher than a fleece:
Or how to pay thy hinds, and clear
All scores: and so to end the year:
But walk’st about thine own dear bounds,
Not envying others’ larger grounds:
For well thou know’st, ’tis not th’ extent
Of land makes life, but sweet content.
When now the cock (the ploughman’s horn)
Calls forth the lily-wristed morn;
Then to thy corn-fields thou dost go,
Which though well soil’d, yet thou dost know
That the best compost for the lands
Is the wise master’s feet, and hands.
There at the plough thou find’st thy team,
With a hind whistling there to them:
And cheer’st them up, by singing how
The kingdom’s portion is the plough.
This done, then to th’ enamell’d meads
Thou go’st; and as thy foot there treads,
Thou seest a present God-like power
Imprinted in each herb and flower:
And smell’st the breath of great-eyed kine,
Sweet as the blossoms of the vine.
Here thou behold’st thy large sleek neat
Unto the dew-laps up in meat:
And, as thou look’st, the wanton steer,
The heifer, cow, and ox draw near,
To make a pleasing pastime there.
These seen, thou go’st to view thy flocks
Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox,
And find’st their bellies there as full
Of short sweet grass, as backs with wool:
And leav’st them, as they feed and fill,
A shepherd piping on a hill.
For sports, for pageantry, and plays,
Thou hast thy eves, and holydays:
On which the young men and maids meet,
To exercise their dancing feet:
Tripping the comely country Round,
With daffadils and daisies crown’d.
Thy wakes, thy quintels, here thou hast,
Thy May-poles too with garlands graced;
Thy Morris-dance; thy Whitsun-ale;
Thy shearing-feast, which never fail.
Thy harvest home; thy wassail bowl,
That’s toss’d up after Fox i’ th’ hole:
Thy mummeries; thy Twelve-tide kings
And queens; thy Christmas revellings:
Thy nut-brown mirth, thy russet wit,
And no man pays too dear for it.–
To these, thou hast thy times to go
And trace the hare i’ th’ treacherous snow:
Thy witty wiles to draw, and get
The lark into the trammel net:
Thou hast thy cockrood, and thy glade
To take the precious pheasant made:
Thy lime-twigs, snares, and pit-falls then
To catch the pilfering birds, not men.
–O happy life! if that their good
The husbandmen but understood!
Who all the day themselves do please,
And younglings, with such sports as these:
And lying down, have nought t’ affright
Sweet Sleep, that makes more short the night.