Aims At Happiness
HOW oft has sounded whip and wheel,
How oft is buckled spur to heel,
How many a steed in short relay
Stands harnessed on the king's highway,
How many a pleasure-freighted sail
Has danced before a summer gale,
How oft along the dusty road
The long machine has borne its load,
How many a step !--and all to find
What has no place but in the mind,
(Unbound to ocean, earth, or air
And he who does not find it there,
For what he seeks would vainly look,
Though steersman made to Captain Cook.
Panting for pleasure never yet possessed,
Since restless man first sought an earthly rest,
Felix projected many a fair essay,
To make life fritter pleasantly away ;
And 'twas his firm intent to range and roam
For what, if found at all, is found at home.
But still restrained beneath a tutor's care,
No wonder that he could not find it there :
And then, his father's ways, and mother's whim,
Were most intolerable bores to him.
But these are grievances which soon give way,
Fathers and mothers die--and so did they.
Now, with an income of sufficient size
To gratify his wishes as they rise,
He wants for nothing that can bliss confer,
Freedom nor gold ;--' Well, are you happy, sir ?'
Hear him with peevish restlessness reply,
--' Not yet, sir, but I shall be by and by.
--I can't endure this old paternal spot,
Nor ever could, in fact ;--I tell you what
I mean to sell the place and build a cot.'
How happy they whom poverty denies
To execute the projects they devise !
But Felix, well supplied with evil's root,
Endured the penance while he plucked the fruit.
--He sold his house, relenting all the while,
And built his cottage, quite in cottage style ;
Each rural ornament was quick bespoke ;
And down they came, all fresh from London smoke.
The tasty trellis o'er the front is seen,
With rose and woodbine woven in between :
Within, the well-paid artist lays it out,
To look ten times more rural than without :
The silver paper, or the stuccoed wall,
Are here discarded--'tis enchantment, all--
Arcadian landscapes, 'neath Italian skies
Profusely glow, and 'Alps o'er Alps arise ;'
In bright relief Corinthian columns stare,
Intwined with leaves that grow by magic there ;
And there you sit, all safe and snug at home,
And gaze at Spain and Turkey, Greece and Rome.
Ah, there he sits ! poor Felix, sits and yawns,
In spite of paper trees and painted lawns.
--It did at first, when all was fresh and new,
While people wondered, for a day or two :
But always, always, that eternal view !
Yes, there they are ! behold it when he will,
The dancing shepherds, always standing still ;
The mountains glowing just the same as ever ;
And there the rising sun, that rises never ;
Oh, he would give the gaudy trappings all,
For a brown wainscot or a whited wall !
Felix, at length, while groaning with ennui,
All in a breath, bethought him of the sea :
--Ah ! that was it !--choked up with hills and trees,
Who could exist ! he panted for a breeze.
So, off he sped forthwith, and travelling post,
Like a king's messenger, he seeks the coast ;--
From yon steep hill, descries with ardent glee,
The first blue strip of horizontal sea ;
Again 'tis lost for many a weary mile,
He thirsting to behold it all the while :
At length bare hills bespeak his near advance ;
--Now straight before him rolls the wide expanse ;
The road, with sudden turn and steep descent,
Reveals it to him to his heart's content,
But so abrupt and near, it seems as though
Himself, and chaise, and all, to sea must go.
And now the crowded lodgings searching through,
For one to suit him, with a fine sea-view,
He's forced, at last, though not for want of cash,
To take a shabby room and single sash ;
Where, 'twixt two sloping roofs, there just may be
A slice triangular of rolling sea,--
A narrow stint ; and there he sits alone,
Refreshed with zephyrs from the torrid zone,
And watching all the morning, scarce can fail
To spy a passing oar or distant sail :
'How pleasant,' then, in languid tone, he'll cry,
'To sit and see the boats and ships go by !'
Now 'tis high water, and with hundreds more,
He goes to catch a breeze along the shore ;
Or pace the crowded terrace, where one sees
Fashion and folly, beauty and disease.
--The waning belle, come down to sport her face,
And try her fortune at a watering-place ;
The alderman, wheeled out in gouty chair ;
The love-sick girl, sent down for change of air ;
The sickly child, to bathe his crippled knee ;
The hopeless hectic, come to try the sea ;
The queer-faced artist, standing like a post,
To watch the effect of sun-set on the coast :
Then one, perchance, who differs from the rest,
As much as--Oh, too much to be expressed !
He, nature's genuine lover, casts his eye,
Lit up with intellect, on sea and sky,
Drinks in the scene, and feels his bosom swell
With what he could not, what he would not tell ;
(They would have stared and sneered, or thought him mad,
Or wondered at his oddness, if he had.)
He goes unnoticed by the motley race ;
But not so they--he has an eye to trace
The lines of character in every face.
His, not the broad, unmeaning, vacant stare ;
He does but turn to study nature there :
The eye of suffering ventures not to meet,
Detects the latent smirk of self-conceit,
The even arch with hopeless dulness fraught,
The wandering eye, bespeaking distant thought,
The languid smile, that strives to smooth in vain
Features contracted by incessant pain ;
--Nor his, the cold, severe, sarcastic quest ;
A pure philanthropy has warmed his breast ;
And many a generous sigh from thence will steal,
For woes and vices that he cannot heal.
Meantime the vacant tribes that pass him by,
Possessed, like him, of ear, and heart, and eye,
(At least, if some might question it, I know
Any anatomist would tell you so)
See not, nor feel, nor hear a word of this,
But find in common objects common bliss.
To them the sea is water, and the sky
Is full of stars, they think, and blue, and high :
'Delightful, charming, pleasant,' they agree,
--All that of course--one must admire the sea.
And then they gape and turn, or stop to chat
With Mrs. This, and then with Mr. That.
--And such was Felix --and he wondered still,
Since he was neither ugly, old, nor ill,
Why town nor country, villa, land, nor sea,
Made him as happy as he wished to be.
Instead of wondering, had he been inclined
To sit and speculate about his mind ;
Observe its inward work and native bent,
And trace the hidden springs of discontent ;
Mark its high destiny, and learn from thence,
Not to insult it with the joys of sense ;
--Then were he nearer to the envied goal,
Than e'er before, with body versus soul :
The very mental effort were a feast,
Itself, akin to happiness at least.
But this he knew not, and with fruitless aim
Soon posted back no wiser than he came.
The lessons taught at Disappointment's knee,
Some dunces cannot learn, no more could he.
Where next he sped to find the mystic spell,
And how he failed, the time would fail to tell ;
So close his story with a little fable,
Hoping the muse will drop it on his table.
Jane Taylor's Other Poems
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