Gilbert White

(18 July 1720 – 26 June 1793 / Hampshire, England)

The Invitation to Selborne


See Selborne spreads her boldest beauties round
The varied valley, and the mountain ground,
Wildly majestic! what is all the pride
Of flats, with loads of ornament supply'd?
Unpleasing, tasteless, impotent expense,
Compar'd with nature's rude magnificence.
Arise, my stranger, to these wild scenes haste
The unfinish'd farm awaits your forming taste:
Plan the pavilion, airy, light and true;
Thro' the high arch call in the lengthening view;
Expand the forest sloping up the hill;
Swell to a lake the scant, penurious rill;
Extend the vista, raise the castle mound
In antique taste, with turrets ivy-crown'd;
O'er the gay lawn the flow'ry shrub dispread,
Or with the blending garden mix the mead;
Bid China's pale, fantastic fence, delight,
Or with the mimic statue trap the sight.
Oft on some evening, sunny, soft and still,
The Muse shall lead thee to the beech-grown hill,
To spend in tea the cool, refreshing hour,
Where nods in air the pensile, nest-like bower;
Or where the Hermit hangs the straw-clad cell,
Emerging gently from the leafy dell;
By fancy plann'd; as once th' inventive maid
Met the boar sage amid the secret shade;
Romantic spot! from whence in prospect lies
Whate'er of landscape charms our feasting eyes;
The pointed spire, the hall, the pasture-plain,
The russet fallow, or the golden grain,
The breezy lake that sheds a gleaming light,
Till all the fading picture fail the sight.
Each to his task; all different ways retire,
Cull the dry stick; call forth the seeds of fire;
Deep fix the kettle's props, a forky row,
Or give with fanning bat the breeze to blow.
Whence is this taste, the furnish'd hall forgot,
To feast in gardens, or th'unhandy grot?
Or novelty with some new charms surprizes,
Or from our very shifts some joy arises.
Hark, while below the village-bells ring round,
Echo, sweet nymph, returns the soften'd sound;
But if gusts rise, the rushing forests roar,
Like the tide tumbling on the pebbly shore.
Adown the vale, in lone, sequester'd nook,
Where skirting woods imbrown the dimpling brook,
The ruin'd Convent lies; here wont to dwell
The lazy canon midst his cloistered cell;
While papal darkness brooded o'er the land,
Ere reformation made her glorious stand:
Still oft at eve belated shepherd-swains
See the cowl'd spectre skim the folded plains.
To the high temple would my stranger go,
The mountain-brow commands the woods below;
In Jewry first this order found a name,
When madding Croisades set the world in flame;
When western climes, urg'd on by Pope and priest,
Pour'd forth their millions o'er the deluged east;
Luxurious knights, ill suited to defy
To mortal fight Turcéstan chivalry.
Nor be the Parsonage by the muse forgot.
The partial bard admires his native spot;
Smit with its beauties, loved, as yet a child,
(Unconscious why) its scapes grotesque, and wild.
High on a mound th' exalted gardens stand,
Beneath, deep vallies scoop'd by nature's hand.
A Cobham here, exulting in his art,
Might blend the General's with the Gardener's part;
Might fortify with all the martial trade
Of rampart, bastion, fosse, and palisade;
Might plant the mortar with wide threatening bore,
Or bid the mimic cannon seem to roar.
Now climb the steep, drop now your eye below,
Where round the blooming village orchards grow;
There, like a picture, lies my lowly seat,
A rural, shelter'd, unobserved retreat.
Me far above the rest Selbornian scenes,
The pendent forests, and the mountain-greens
Strike with delight; there spreads the distant view,
That gradual fades till sunk in misty blue:
Here nature hangs her slopy woods to sight,
Rills purl between and dart a quivering light.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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