In one diffusive band,
They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog
Compell'd to where the mazy-running brook
Forms a deep pool; this bank abrupt and high,
And that fair-spreading in a pebbled shore,
Urged to the giddy brink, much is the toil,
The clamour much, of men, and boys, and dogs,
Ere the soft fearful people to the flood
Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain,
On some impatient seizing, hurls them in:
Embolden'd, then, nor hesitating more,
Fast, fast they plunge amid the flashing wave,
And, panting, labour to the farther shore.
Repeated this, till deep the well-wash'd fleece
Has drunk the flood, and from his lively haunt
The trout is banish'd by the sordid stream;
Heavy and dripping, to the breezy brow
Slow move the harmless race: where, as they spread
Inly disturbed, and wondering what this wild
Outrageous tumult means, their loud complaints
The coutry fill; and, toss'd from rock to rock,
Incessant bleatings run around the hills.
At last, of snowy white, the gather'd flocks
Are in the wattled pen innumerous press'd,
Head above head: and, ranged in lusty rows,
The shepherds sit, and whet the sounding shears,
The housewife waits to roll her fleecy stores,
With all her gay-dress'd maids attending round.
One chief, in gracious dignity enthroned,
Shines o'er the rest, the pastoral queen, and rays
Her smiles, sweet-beaming, on her shepherd-king:
While the glad circle round them yield their souls
To festive mirth, and wit that knows no gall.
Meantime their joyous task goes on apace;
Some, mingling stir the melted tar, and some,
Deep on the new-shorn vagrant's heaving side,
To stamp the master's cipher ready stand;
Others th' unwilling wether drag along;
And, glorying in his might, the sturdy boy
Holds by the twisted horns the indignant ram.
Behold where bound, and of its robe bereft
By needy man, that all-depending lord,
How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies!
What softness in its melancholy face,
What dumb complaining innocence appears!
Fear not, ye gentle tribes, 'tis not the knife
Of horrid slaughter that is o'er you waved;
No, 'tis the tender swain's well-guided shears,
Who having now, to pay his annual care,
Borrow'd your fleece, to you a cumbrous load,
Will send you bounding to your hills again.