The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, Volume 7
At the largest foot of fair hollow tree, Close to plough'd ground, seated commodiously, His ancient and hereditary house, There dwelt a good substantial country mouse frugal, and grave, and careful of the main, Yet one who once did nobly entertain A city mouse, well-coated, sleek, and gay, a mouse of high degree which lost his way, Wantonly walking forth to take the air, And arriv'd early, and belighted, there, For a day's lodging the good hearty host (The ancient plenty of his hall to boast) Did all the stores produce, that might excite, With various tastes, the courtier's appetite. Fitches and beans, peason and oats, and wheat, And large chesnut, the delicious meat Which Jove himself, were he mouse, would eat And, for a haut goust, there was mixt with these The swerd of bacon, and the coat of cheese The precious reliques which, at harvest, he Had gather'd from the reaper's luxury. "Freely" (said he) "fall on, and never spare, The bounteous gods will for to morrow care.'' And thus at ease, on beds of straw, they lay, And to their genius sacrific'd the day Yet the nice guest's Epicurean mind, (Though breeding made him civil seem and kind) Despis'd this country feast and still his thought upon the cakes and pies of London wrought. "Your bounty and civility" (said he), "Which I'm surpris'd in these rude parts to see, Shows that the gods have given you mind Too noble for the fate which here you find. Why should a soul, so virtuous and so great, Lose itself thus in an obscure retreat Let savage beasts lodge in country den You should see towns, and manners know, and men And taste the generous luxury of the court, Whore all the mice of quality resort Where thousand beauteous shes about you move, And by high fare, are pliant made to love. We all, ere long, must render up our breath No cave or hole can shelter us from death. Since life is so uncertain, and so short, Let's spend it all in feasting and in sport. Come, worthy sir, come with me and partake All the great things that mortals happy make." Alas what virtue hath sufficient arms T' oppose bright honour, and soft pleasure's charms What wisdom can their magic force repel It draws this reverend hermit from his cell. It was the time, when witty poets tell, That Phoebus into Thetis' bosom fell She blush'd at first, and then put out the light, And drew the modest curtains of the night" Plainly lhc truth to tell, the Sun was set. When to the town our wearied travellers get To a lord's house, as lordly as can be, Made for the use of pride and luxury, They come the gentle courtier at the door tops, and will hardly enter in before " But 'tis, sir, your command, and being so, I'm sworn t' obedience and so in they go." Behind hanging, in a spacious room (The richest work of Mortclake's noble loom} They wait a while, their wearied limbs to rest, Till silence should invite them to their feast About the hour that Cynthia's silver light Had touch'd the pale meridies of the night At last, the various supper being done, It happen'd that the company was gone Into a room remote, servants and all, To please their noble fancies with ball. Our host leads forth his stranger, and does find All fitted to the bounties of his mind. Still on the table half-fill'd dishes stood, And with delicious bits the floor was strew'd. The courteous mouse presents him with the best And both with fat varieties are blest Th' industrious peasant every where does range, And thanks the Gods for his life's happy change. Into in the midst of well-freighted pye, They both at last glutted and wanton lie When, see the sad reverse of prosperous fate. And what fierce storms on mortal glories wait With hideous noise down the rude servants come, Six dogs before run barking into the room; The wretched gluttons fly with wild affright And hate the fullness, which retards their Sight. Our trembling peasant wishes now, in vain, That rocks and mountains covered him again Oh, how the change of his poor life he curst "This, of all lives" (said he) is sure the worst Give me again, ye gods, my cave and wood With peace, let tares and acorns be my food!"
Cowley, Denham, Milton
Edited by Dr. Samuel Johnson