[Footnote 1: In this edition, the poems of Burns, unlike those of the other poets, are printed not in the order of their publication but as nearly as ascertainable in that of their composition.]
[Footnote 2: The French Revolution was suppressed at the time, and has been recovered only in our own day by Dr. John Sampson, who first published it in the admirable Clarendon Press edition of Blake.]
ENGLISH POETS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
If Heaven the grateful liberty would give, That I might choose my method how to live; And all those hours propitious fate should lend, In blissful ease and satisfaction spend.
I. THE GENTLEMAN’S RETIREMENT
Near some fair town I’d have a private
Built uniform, not little, nor too great:
Better, if on a rising ground it stood;
Fields on this side, on that a neighbouring wood.
It should within no other things contain,
But what are useful, necessary, plain:
Methinks ’tis nauseous, and I’d ne’er endure,
The needless pomp of gaudy furniture.
A little garden, grateful to the eye;
And a cool rivulet run murmuring by,
On whose delicious banks a stately row
Of shady limes, or sycamores, should grow.
At th’ end of which a silent study placed,
Should with the noblest authors there be graced:
Horace and Virgil, in whose mighty lines
Immortal wit, and solid learning, shines;
Sharp Juvenal and amorous Ovid too,
Who all the turns of love’s soft passion knew:
He that with judgment reads the charming lines,
In which strong art with stronger nature joins,
Must grant his fancy does the best excel;
His thoughts so tender, and expressed so well:
With all those moderns, men of steady sense,
Esteemed for learning, and for eloquence.
In some of these, as fancy should advise,
I’d always take my morning exercise:
For sure no minutes bring us more content,
Than those in pleasing useful studies spent.