As the occasion of this Poem was real, not fictitious; so the method pursued in it was rather imposed by what spontaneously arose in the Author's mind on that occasion, than meditated or designed. Which will appear very probable from the nature of it. For it differs from the common mode of poetry, which is, from long narrations to draw short morals. Here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the Poem. The reason of it is, that the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thought of the Writer.
ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
ARTHUR ONSLOW, ESQ.,
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays
Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes;
Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe,
And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose,
I wake: how happy they, who wake no more!
Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous; where my wreck'd desponding thought 10
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost.
Though now restored, 'tis only change of pain,
(A bitter change!) severer for severe:
The day too short for my distress; and night, 15
Even in the zenith of her dark domain,
Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o'er a slumbering world.
Silence, how dead! and darkness, how profound!
Nor eye, nor listening ear, an object finds;
Creation sleeps. 'Tis as the general pulse 23
Of life stood still, and nature made a pause;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfill'd;
Fate! drop the curtain; I can lose no more.
Silence and darkness: solemn sisters! twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought
To reason, and on reason build resolve 30
(That column of true majesty in man),
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave, your kingdom: there this frame shall fall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye? --
Thou, who didst put to flight
Primeval Silence, when the morning stars,
Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball;
O Thou, whose word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun; strike wisdom from my soul; 40
My soul, which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.
Through this opaque of nature, and of soul,
This double night, transmit one pitying ray,
To lighten, and to cheer. O lead my mind,
(A mind that fain would wander from its woe),
Lead it through various scenes of life and death;
And from each scene the noblest truths inspire.
Nor less inspire my conduct, than my song; 49
Teach my best reason, reason; my best will
Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve
Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear:
Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour'd
On this devoted head, be pour'd in vain.
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its loss. To give it then a tongue
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke,
I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright,
It is the knell of my departed hours:
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.60
It is the signal that demands despatch:
How much is to be done? My hopes and fears
Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down -- on what? a fathomless abyss;
A dread eternity! how surely mine!
And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful, is man!
How passing wonder He who made him such! 70
Who centred in our make such strange extremes!
From different natures marvellously mix'd,
Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain!
Midway from nothing to the Deity!
A beam ethereal, sullied and absorb'd!
Though sullied and dishonour'd, still divine!
Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
An heir of glory! a frail child of dust!
Helpless immortal! insect infinite! 80
A worm! a god! -- I tremble at myself,
And in myself am lost! At home a stranger,
Thought wanders up and down, surprised, aghast, 83
And wondering at her own: how reason reels!
O what a miracle to man is man,
Triumphantly distress'd! what joy, what dread!
Alternately transported and alarm'd!
What can preserve my life, or what destroy?
An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.90
'Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof:
While o'er my limbs sleep's soft dominion spread,
What though my soul fantastic measures trod
O'er fairy fields; or mourn'd along the gloom
Of pathless woods; or down the craggy steep
Hurl'd headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool;
Or scaled the cliff; or danced on hollow winds,
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain?
Her ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her nature
Of subtler essence than the trodden clod; 100
Active, aërial, towering, unconfined,
Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fall.
Even silent night proclaims my soul immortal:
Even silent night proclaims eternal day.
For human weal, Heaven husbands all events;
Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.
Why then their loss deplore that are not lost?
Why wanders wretched thought their tombs around,
In infidel distress? Are angels there?
Slumbers, raked up in dust, ethereal fire? 110
They live! they greatly live a life on earth
Unkindled, unconceived; and from an eye
Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall
On me, more justly number'd with the dead.
This is the desert, this the solitude:
How populous, how vital, is the grave!
This is creation's melancholy vault, 117
The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom;
The land of apparitions, empty shades!
All, all on earth, is shadow, all beyond
Is substance; the reverse is Folly's creed:
How solid all, where change shall be no more!
This is the bud of being, the dim dawn, 123
The twilight of our day, the vestibule;
Life's theatre as yet is shut, and death,
Strong death, alone can heave the massy bar,
This gross impediment of clay remove,
And make us embryos of existence free.
From real life, but little more remote
Is he, not yet a candidate for light, 130
The future embryo, slumbering in his sire.
Embryos we must be, till we burst the shell,
Yon ambient azure shell, and spring to life,
The life of gods, O transport! and of man.
Yet man, fool man! here buries all his thoughts;
Inters celestial hopes without one sigh.
Prisoner of earth, and pent beneath the moon,
Here pinions all his wishes; wing'd by heaven
To fly at infinite; and reach it there,
Where seraphs gather immortality, 140
On life's fair tree, fast by the throne of God.
What golden joys ambrosial clustering glow
In His full beam, and ripen for the just,
Where momentary ages are no more!
Where time, and pain, and chance, and death, expire!
And is it in the flight of threescore years
To push eternity from human thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortal, spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness 150
Thrown into tumult, raptured, or alarm'd, 151
At aught this scene can threaten or indulge,
Resembles ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly.
Where falls this censure? It o'erwhelms myself;
How was my heart encrusted by the world!
O how self-fetter'd was my grovelling soul!
How, like a worm, was I wrapt round and round
In silken thought, which reptile fancy spun,
Till darken'd reason lay quite clouded o'er 160
With soft conceit of endless comfort here,
Nor yet put forth her wings to reach the skies!
Night-visions may befriend (as sung above):
Our waking dreams are fatal. How I dream'd
Of things impossible! (could sleep do more?)
Of joys perpetual in perpetual change!
Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave!
Eternal sunshine in the storms of life!
How richly were my noontide trances hung
With gorgeous tapestries of pictured joys! 170
Joy behind joy, in endless perspective!
Till at death's toll, whose restless iron tongue
Calls daily for his millions at a meal,
Starting I woke, and found myself undone.
Where now my phrensy's pompous furniture?
The cobwebb'd cottage, with its ragged wall
Of mouldering mud, is royalty to me!
The spider's most attenuated thread
Is cord, is cable, to man's tender tie
On earthly bliss; it breaks at every breeze.180
O ye blest scenes of permanent delight!
Full above measure! lasting beyond bound!
A perpetuity of bliss is bliss.
Could you, so rich in rapture, fear an end,
That ghastly thought would drink up all your joy, 185
And quite unparadise the realms of light.
Safe are you lodged above these rolling spheres;
The baleful influence of whose giddy dance
Sheds sad vicissitude on all beneath.
Here teems with revolutions every hour;
And rarely for the better; or the best,
More mortal than the common births of fate.
Each moment has its sickle, emulous 193
Of Time's enormous scythe, whose ample sweep
Strikes empires from the root; each moment plays
His little weapon in the narrower sphere
Of sweet domestic comfort, and cuts down
The fairest bloom of sublunary bliss.
Bliss! sublunary bliss! -- proud words, and vain!
Implicit treason to divine decree! 200
A bold invasion of the rights of Heaven!
I clasp'd the phantoms, and I found them air.
Oh! had I weigh'd it ere my fond embrace,
What darts of agony had miss'd my heart!
Death! great proprietor of all! 'tis thine
To tread out empire, and to quench the stars.
The sun himself by thy permission shines;
And, one day, thou shalt pluck him from his sphere.
Amid such mighty plunder, why exhaust
Thy partial quiver on a mark so mean? 210
Why thy peculiar rancour wreak'd on me?
Insatiate archer! could not one suffice?
Thy shaft flew thrice; and thrice my peace was slain;
And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had fill'd her horn.
O Cynthia! why so pale? dost thou lament
Thy wretched neighbour? grieve to see thy wheel
Of ceaseless change outwhirl'd in human life? 217
How wanes my borrow'd bliss! from fortune's smile,
Precarious courtesy! not virtue's sure,
Self-given, solar ray of sound delight.
In every varied posture, place, and hour,
How widow'd every thought of every joy!
Thought, busy thought! too busy for my peace!
Through the dark postern of time long lapsed, 224
Led softly, by the stillness of the night,
Led, like a murderer, (and such it proves!)
Strays (wretched rover!) o'er the pleasing past;
In quest of wretchedness perversely strays;
And finds all desert now; and meets the ghosts
Of my departed joys; a numerous train! 230
I rue the riches of my former fate;
Sweet comfort's blasted clusters I lament;
I tremble at the blessings once so dear;
And every pleasure pains me to the heart.
Yet why complain? or why complain for one?
Hangs out the sun his lustre but for me,
The single man? Are angels all beside?
I mourn for millions: 'tis the common lot;
In this shape, or in that, has fate entail'd
The mother's throes on all of woman born, 240
Not more the children, than sure heirs, of pain.
War, famine, pest, volcano, storm, and fire,
Intestine broils, oppression, with her heart
Wrapt up in triple brass, besiege mankind.
God's image disinherited of day,
Here, plunged in mines, forgets a sun was made.
There, beings deathless as their haughty lord,
Are hammer'd to the galling oar for life;
And plough the winter's wave, and reap despair.
Some, for hard masters, broken under arms, 250
In battle lopp'd away, with half their limbs, 251
Beg bitter bread through realms their valour saved,
If so the tyrant, or his minion, doom.
Want and incurable disease (fell pair!)
On hopeless multitudes remorseless seize
At once; and make a refuge of the grave.
How groaning hospitals eject their dead!
What numbers groan for sad admission there!
What numbers, once in fortune's lap high-fed,
Solicit the cold hand of charity! 260
To shock us more, solicit it in vain!
Ye silken sons of pleasure! since in pains
Ye rue more modish visits, visit here,
And breathe from your debauch: give, and reduce
Surfeit's dominion o'er you: but so great
Your impudence, you blush at what is right.
Happy, did sorrow seize on such alone!
Not prudence can defend, or virtue save;
Disease invades the chastest temperance;
And punishment the guiltless; and alarm, 270
Through thickest shades pursues the fond of peace.
Man's caution often into danger turns,
And his guard falling, crushes him to death.
Not happiness itself makes good her name!
Our very wishes give us not our wish.
How distant oft the thing we doat on most,
From that for which we doat, felicity!
The smoothest course of nature has its pains;
And truest friends, through error, wound our rest.
Without misfortune, what calamities! 280
And what hostilities, without a foe!
Nor are foes wanting to the best on earth.
But endless is the list of human ills,
And sighs might sooner fail, than cause to sigh.
A part how small of the terraqueous globe 285
Is tenanted by man! the rest a waste,
Rocks, deserts, frozen seas, and burning sands:
Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and death.
Such is earth's melancholy map! But, far
More sad! this earth is a true map of man.
So bounded are its haughty lord's delights
To woe's wide empire; where deep troubles toss,
Loud sorrows howl, envenom'd passions bite, 293
Ravenous calamities our vitals seize,
And threatening fate wide opens to devour.
What then am I, who sorrow for myself?
In age, in infancy, from others' aid
Is all our hope; to teach us to be kind.
That, nature's first, last lesson to mankind;
The selfish heart deserves the pain it feels; 300
More generous sorrow, while it sinks, exalts;
And conscious virtue mitigates the pang.
Nor virtue, more than prudence, bids me give
Swoln thought a second channel; who divide,
They weaken, too, the torrent of their grief.
Take then, O world! thy much-indebted tear:
How sad a sight is human happiness,
To those whose thought can pierce beyond an hour!
O thou! whate'er thou art, whose heart exults!
Would'st thou I should congratulate thy fate? 310
I know thou would'st; thy pride demands it from me.
Let thy pride pardon, what thy nature needs,
The salutary censure of a friend.
Thou happy wretch! by blindness thou art blest;
By dotage dandled to perpetual smiles.
Know, smiler! at thy peril art thou pleased;
Thy pleasure is the promise of thy pain.
Misfortune, like a creditor severe,
But rises in demand for her delay; 319
She makes a scourge of past prosperity,
To sting thee more, and double thy distress.
Lorenzo, Fortune makes her court to thee,
Thy fond heart dances, while the syren sings.
Dear is thy welfare; think me not unkind;
I would not damp, but to secure thy joys.
Think not that fear is sacred to the storm:
Stand on thy guard against the smiles of fate.
Is Heaven tremendous in its frowns? Most sure;
And in its favours formidable too:
Its favours here are trials, not rewards; 330
A call to duty, not discharge from care;
And should alarm us, full as much as woes;
Awake us to their cause, and consequence;
O'er our scann'd conduct give a jealous eye,
And make us tremble, weigh'd with our desert;
Awe nature's tumult, and chastise her joys,
Lest, while we clasp, we kill them; nay, invert
To worse than simple misery, their charms.
Revolted joys, like foes in civil war,
Like bosom friendships to resentment sour'd, 340
With rage envenom'd rise against our peace.
Beware what earth calls happiness; beware
All joys, but joys that never can expire.
Who builds on less than an immortal base,
Fond as he seems, condemns his joys to death.
Mine died with thee, Philander! thy last sigh
Dissolved the charm; the disenchanted earth
Lost all her lustre. Where her glittering towers?
Her golden mountains, where? all darken'd down
To naked waste; a dreary vale of tears: 350
The great magician's dead! Thou poor, pale piece
Of outcast earth, in darkness! what a change 352
From yesterday! Thy darling hope so near
(Long-labour'd prize!), O how ambition flush'd
Thy glowing cheek! ambition truly great,
Of virtuous praise. Death's subtle seed within
(Sly, treacherous miner!), working in the dark,
Smiled at thy well-concerted scheme, and beckon'd
The worm to riot on that rose so red,
Unfaded ere it fell; one moment's prey! 360
Man's foresight is conditionally wise;
Lorenzo! wisdom into folly turns
Oft, the first instant, its idea fair
To labouring thought is born. How dim our eye!
The present moment terminates our sight;
Clouds thick as those on doomsday, drown the next;
We penetrate, we prophesy in vain.
Time is dealt out by particles; and each,
Ere mingled with the streaming sands of life,
By fate's inviolable oath is sworn 370
Deep silence, |where eternity begins.|
By nature's law, what may be, may be now;
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn!
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant, we build 380
Our mountain hopes; spin out eternal schemes,
As we the fatal sisters could out-spin,
And, big with life's futurities, expire.
Not even Philander had bespoke his shroud;
Nor had he cause; a warning was denied.385
How many fall as sudden, not as safe!
As sudden, though for years admonish'd home.
Of human ills the last extreme beware,
Beware, Lorenzo! a slow sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead; 392
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes, this bears 400
The palm, |That all men are about to live,|
For ever on the brink of being born.
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise;
At least, their own; their future selves applaud;
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead!
Time lodged in their own hands is folly's vails;
That lodged in fate's, to wisdom they consign;
The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone; 410
'Tis not in folly, not to scorn a fool;
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young, indeed,
In full content we, sometimes, nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan; 419
At fifty, chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves; and re-resolves; then dies the same.
And why? Because he thinks himself immortal.
All men think all men mortal, but themselves:
Themselves, when some alarming shock of fate
Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread;
But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air,
Soon close; where pass'd the shaft, no trace is found.
As from the wing no scar the sky retains; 430
The parted wave no furrow from the keel;
So dies in human hearts the thought of death.
Even with the tender tear which nature sheds
O'er those we love, we drop it in their grave.
Can I forget Philander? That were strange!
O my full heart! -- -- But should I give it vent,
The longest night, though longer far, would fail,
And the lark listen to my midnight song.
The sprightly lark's shrill matin wakes the morn;
Grief's sharpest thorn hard pressing on my breast, 440
I strive, with wakeful melody, to cheer
The sullen gloom, sweet Philomel! like thee,
And call the stars to listen: every star
Is deaf to mine, enamour'd of thy lay.
Yet be not vain; there are, who thine excel,
And charm through distant ages: wrapt in shade,
Prisoner of darkness! to the silent hours,
How often I repeat their rage divine,
To lull my griefs, and steal my heart from woe!
I roll their raptures, but not catch their fire.450
Dark, though not blind, like thee, Mæonides!
Or, Milton! thee; ah, could I reach your strain! 452
Or his, who made Mæonides our own.
Man too he sung: immortal man I sing;
Oft bursts my song beyond the bounds of life;
What, now, but immortality, can please?
O had he press'd his theme, pursued the track,
Which opens out of darkness into day!
O had he, mounted on his wing of fire,
Soar'd where I sink, and sung immortal man! 460
How had it bless'd mankind, and rescued me!
TIME, DEATH, AND FRIENDSHIP.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE EARL OF WILMINGTON.
ON TIME, DEATH, AND FRIENDSHIP.
|When the cock crew, he wept| -- smote by that eye
Which looks on me, on all: that Power, who bids
This midnight sentinel, with clarion shrill
(Emblem of that which shall awake the dead),
Rouse souls from slumber, into thoughts of heaven.
Shall I too weep? Where then is fortitude?
And, fortitude abandon'd, where is man?
I know the terms on which he sees the light;
He that is born, is listed; life is war;
Eternal war with woe. Who bears it best, 10
Deserves it least. -- On other themes I'll dwell.
Lorenzo! let me turn my thoughts on thee,
And thine, on themes may profit; profit there,
Where most thy need; themes, too, the genuine growth
Of dear Philander's dust. He thus, though dead,
May still befriend -- what themes? Time's wondrous price,
Death, friendship, and Philander's final scene.
So could I touch these themes, as might obtain
Thine ear, nor leave thy heart quite disengaged,
The good deed would delight me; half impress 20
On my dark cloud an Iris; and from grief
Call glory. -- Dost thou mourn Philander's fate?
I know thou say'st it: says thy life the same?
He mourns the dead, who lives as they desire.
Where is that thrift, that avarice of time,
(O glorious avarice!) thought of death inspires,
As rumour'd robberies endear our gold?
O time! than gold more sacred; more a load
Than lead to fools; and fools reputed wise.
What moment granted man without account? 30
What years are squander'd, wisdom's debt unpaid!
Our wealth in days, all due to that discharge.
Haste, haste, he lies in wait, he's at the door,
Insidious Death! should his strong hand arrest,
No composition sets the prisoner free.
Eternity's inexorable chain
Fast binds; and vengeance claims the full arrear.
How late I shudder'd on the brink! how late
Life call'd for her last refuge in despair!
That time is mine, O Mead! to thee I owe; 40
Fain would I pay thee with eternity.
But ill my genius answers my desire;
My sickly song is mortal, past thy cure.
Accept the will; -- that dies not with my strain.
For what calls thy disease, Lorenzo? not
For Esculapian, but for moral aid.
Thou think'st it folly to be wise too soon.
Youth is not rich in time, it may be poor;
Part with it as with money, sparing; pay
No moment, but in purchase of its worth; 50
And what its worth, ask death-beds; they can tell.
Part with it as with life, reluctant; big
With holy hope of nobler time to come;
Time higher aim'd, still nearer the great mark 54
Of men and angels; virtue more divine.
Is this our duty, wisdom, glory, gain?
(These Heaven benign in vital union binds)
And sport we like the natives of the bough,
When vernal suns inspire? Amusement reigns
Man's great demand: to trifle, is to live:
And is it then a trifle, too, to die?
Thou say'st I preach, Lorenzo! 'tis confess'd.62
What, if for once, I preach thee quite awake?
Who wants amusement in the flame of battle?
Is it not treason to the soul immortal,
Her foes in arms, eternity the prize?
Will toys amuse, when medicines cannot cure?
When spirits ebb, when life's enchanting scenes
Their lustre lose, and lessen in our sight,
As lands, and cities with their glittering spires, 70
To the poor shatter'd bark, by sudden storm
Thrown off to sea, and soon to perish there?
Will toys amuse? No: thrones will then be toys,
And earth and skies seem dust upon the scale.
Redeem we time? -- its loss we dearly buy.
What pleads Lorenzo for his high-prized sports?
He pleads time's numerous blanks; he loudly pleads
The straw-like trifles on life's common stream.
From whom those blanks and trifles, but from thee?
No blank, no trifle, nature made, or meant.80
Virtue, or purposed virtue, still be thine;
This cancels thy complaint at once, this leaves
In act no trifle, and no blank in time.
This greatens, fills, immortalizes all;
This, the bless'd art of turning all to gold;
This, the good heart's prerogative to raise
A royal tribute from the poorest hours;
Immense revenue! every moment pays.88
If nothing more than purpose in thy power;
Thy purpose firm, is equal to the deed:
Who does the best his circumstance allows,
Does well, acts nobly; angels could no more.
Our outward act, indeed, admits restraint;
'Tis not in things o'er thought to domineer;
Guard well thy thought; our thoughts are heard in heaven.
On all-important time, through every age,
Though much, and warm, the wise have urged; the man
Is yet unborn, who duly weighs an hour.
|I've lost a day| -- the prince who nobly cried
Had been an emperor without his crown; 100
Of Rome? say, rather, lord of human race:
He spoke, as if deputed by mankind.
So should all speak; so reason speaks in all:
From the soft whispers of that God in man,
Why fly to folly, why to phrensy fly,
For rescue from the blessing we possess?
Time the supreme! -- Time is eternity;
Pregnant with all eternity can give;
Pregnant with all that makes archangels smile.
Who murders time, he crushes in the birth 110
A power ethereal, only not adored.
Ah! how unjust to Nature, and himself,
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!
Like children babbling nonsense in their sports,
We censure Nature for a span too short;
That span too short, we tax as tedious too;
Torture invention, all expedients tire,
To lash the lingering moments into speed,
And whirl us (happy riddance!) from ourselves.
Art, brainless Art! our furious charioteer 120
(For Nature's voice unstifled would recall),
Drives headlong towards the precipice of death; 122
Death, most our dread; death thus more dreadful made:
Oh, what a riddle of absurdity!
Leisure is pain; takes off our chariot wheels;
How heavily we drag the load of life!
Blest leisure is our curse; like that of Cain,
It makes us wander; wander earth around,
To fly that tyrant, thought. As Atlas groan'd
The world beneath, we groan beneath an hour.130
We cry for mercy to the next amusement;
The next amusement mortgages our fields;
Slight inconvenience! prisons hardly frown,
From hateful time if prisons set us free.
Yet when Death kindly tenders us relief,
We call him cruel; years to moments shrink,
Ages to years. The telescope is turn'd.
To man's false optics (from his folly false),
Time, in advance, behind him hides his wings,
And seems to creep, decrepit with his age; 140
Behold him, when pass'd by; what then is seen,
But his broad pinions swifter than the winds?
And all mankind, in contradiction strong,
Rueful, aghast! cry out on his career.
Leave to thy foes these errors and these ills;
To Nature just, their cause and cure explore.
Not short Heaven's bounty, boundless our expence;
No niggard, Nature; men are prodigals.
We waste, not use our time; we breathe, not live.
Time wasted is existence, used is life.150
And bare existence, man, to live ordain'd,
Wrings, and oppresses with enormous weight.
And why? since time was given for use, not waste,
Enjoin'd to fly; with tempest, tide, and stars,
To keep his speed, nor ever wait for man;
Time's use was doom'd a pleasure: waste, a pain; 156
That man might feel his error, if unseen:
And, feeling, fly to labour for his cure;
Not, blundering, split on idleness for ease.
Life's cares are comforts; such by Heaven design'd;
He that has none, must make them, or be wretched.
Cares are employments; and without employ
The soul is on a rack; the rack of rest, 163
To souls most adverse; action all their joy.
Here then, the riddle, mark'd above, unfolds;
Then time turns torment, when man turns a fool.
We rave, we wrestle, with great Nature's plan;
We thwart the Deity; and 'tis decreed,
Who thwart his will shall contradict their own.
Hence our unnatural quarrels with ourselves; 170
Our thoughts at enmity; our bosom-broils;
We push Time from us, and we wish him back;
Lavish of lustrums, and yet fond of life;
Life we think long, and short; death seek, and shun;
Body and soul, like peevish man and wife,
United jar, and yet are loth to part.
Oh the dark days of vanity! while here,
How tasteless! and how terrible, when gone!
Gone! they ne'er go; when past, they haunt us still;
The spirit walks of every day deceased; 180
And smiles an angel, or a fury frowns.
Nor death, nor life delight us. If time past,
And time possess'd, both pain us, what can please?
That which the Deity to please ordain'd,
Time used. The man who consecrates his hours
By vigorous effort, and an honest aim,
At once he draws the sting of life and death;
He walks with Nature; and her paths are peace.
Our error's cause and cure are seen: see next
Time's nature, origin, importance, speed; 190
And thy great gain from urging his career. --
All-sensual man, because untouch'd, unseen,
He looks on time as nothing. Nothing else
Is truly man's; 'tis fortune's. -- Time's a god.
Hast thou ne'er heard of Time's omnipotence?
For, or against, what wonders he can do,
And will? To stand blank neuter he disdains.
Not on those terms was Time (Heaven's stranger!) sent
On his important embassy to man.
Lorenzo! no: on the long-destined hour, 200
From everlasting ages growing ripe,
That memorable hour of wondrous birth,
When the Dread Sire, on emanation bent,
And big with Nature, rising in his might,
Call'd forth creation (for then Time was born),
By Godhead streaming through a thousand worlds;
Not on those terms, from the great days of heaven,
From old Eternity's mysterious orb,
Was Time cut off, and cast beneath the skies;
The skies, which watch him in his new abode, 210
Measuring his motions by revolving spheres;
That horologe machinery divine.
Hours, days, and months, and years, his children play,
Like numerous wings around him, as he flies:
Or, rather, as unequal plumes, they shape
His ample pinions, swift as darted flame,
To gain his goal, to reach his ancient rest,
And join anew Eternity his sire;
In his immutability to nest,
When worlds, that count his circles now, unhinged 220
(Fate the loud signal sounding), headlong rush
To timeless night and chaos, whence they rose.
Why spur the speedy? why with levities
New wing thy short, short day's too rapid flight? 224
Know'st thou, or what thou dost, or what is done?
Man flies from time, and time from man; too soon
In sad divorce this double flight must end:
And then where are we? where, Lorenzo! then
Thy sports? thy pomps? -- I grant thee, in a state
Not unambitious; in the ruffled shroud,
Thy Parian tomb's triumphant arch beneath.
Has Death his fopperies? Then well may life 232
Put on her plume, and in her rainbow shine.
Ye well-array'd! ye lilies of our land!
Ye lilies male! who neither toil nor spin
(As sister lilies might), if not so wise
As Solomon, more sumptuous to the sight!
Ye delicate! who nothing can support,
Yourselves most insupportable! for whom
The winter rose must blow, the sun put on 240
A brighter beam in Leo; silky-soft
Favonius breathe still softer, or be chid;
And other worlds send odours, sauce, and song,
And robes, and notions, framed in foreign looms!
O ye Lorenzos of our age! who deem
One moment unamused, a misery
Not made for feeble man! who call aloud
For every bauble drivell'd o'er by sense;
For rattles, and conceits of every cast,
For change of follies, and relays of joy, 250
To drag your patient through the tedious length
Of a short winter's day -- say, sages! say,
Wit's oracles! say, dreamers of gay dreams!
How will you weather an eternal night,
Where such expedients fail?
O treacherous Conscience! while she seems to sleep
On rose and myrtle, lull'd with syren song;
While she seems, nodding o'er her charge, to drop 258
On headlong appetite the slacken'd rein,
And give us up to licence, unrecall'd,
Unmark'd; -- see, from behind her secret stand,
The sly informer minutes every fault,
And her dread diary with horror fills.
Not the gross act alone employs her pen;
She reconnoitres fancy's airy band,
A watchful foe! the formidable spy,
Listening, o'erhears the whispers of our camp:
Our dawning purposes of heart explores,
And steals our embryos of iniquity.
As all-rapacious usurers conceal 270
Their doomsday-book from all-consuming heirs;
Thus, with indulgence most severe, she treats
Us spendthrifts of inestimable time;
Unnoted, notes each moment misapplied;
In leaves more durable than leaves of brass,
Writes our whole history; which Death shall read
In every pale delinquent's private ear;
And Judgment publish; publish to more worlds
Than this; and endless age in groans resound.
Lorenzo, such that sleeper in thy breast! 280
Such is her slumber; and her vengeance such
For slighted counsel; such thy future peace!
And think'st thou still thou canst be wise too soon?
But why on Time so lavish is my song?
On this great theme kind Nature keeps a school,
To teach her sons herself. Each night we die,
Each morn are born anew: each day, a life!
And shall we kill each day? If trifling kills;
Sure vice must butcher. Oh, what heaps of slain
Cry out for vengeance on us! Time destroy'd 290
Is suicide, where more than blood is spilt.
Time flies, Death urges, knells call, Heaven invites, 292
Hell threatens: all exerts; in effort, all;
More than creation labours! -- labours more?
And is there in creation what, amidst
This tumult universal, wing'd despatch,
And ardent energy, supinely yawns? --
Man sleeps; and man alone; and man, whose fate,
Fate irreversible, entire, extreme,
Endless, hair-hung, breeze-shaken, o'er the gulf 300
A moment trembles; drops! and man, for whom
All else is in alarm! man, the sole cause
Of this surrounding storm! and yet he sleeps,
As the storm rock'd to rest. -- Throw years away?
Throw empires, and be blameless. Moments seize;
Heaven's on their wing: a moment we may wish,
When worlds want wealth to buy. Bid Day stand still,
Bid him drive back his car, and re-import
The period past, re-give the given hour.
Lorenzo, more than miracles we want; 310
Lorenzo -- O for yesterdays to come!
Such is the language of the man awake;
His ardour such, for what oppresses thee.
And is his ardour vain, Lorenzo? No;
That more than miracle the gods indulge;
To-day is yesterday return'd; return'd
Full power'd to cancel, expiate, raise, adorn,
And reinstate us on the rock of peace.
Let it not share its predecessor's fate;
Nor, like its elder sisters, die a fool.320
Shall it evaporate in fume? fly off
Fuliginous, and stain us deeper still?
Shall we be poorer for the plenty pour'd?
More wretched for the clemencies of Heaven?
Where shall I find him? Angels! tell me where.
You know him: he is near you: point him out: 326
Shall I see glories beaming from his brow?
Or trace his footsteps by the rising flowers?
Your golden wings, now hovering o'er him, shed
Protection; now, are waving in applause
To that bless'd son of foresight! lord of fate!
That awful independent on to-morrow!
Whose work is done; who triumphs in the past; 333
Whose yesterdays look backwards with a smile;
Nor, like the Parthian, wound him as they fly;
That common but opprobrious lot! past hours,
If not by guilt, yet wound us by their flight,
If folly bounds our prospect by the grave,
All feeling of futurity benumb'd;
All god-like passion for eternals quench'd; 340
All relish of realities expired;
Renounced all correspondence with the skies;
Our freedom chain'd; quite wingless our desire;
In sense dark-prison'd all that ought to soar;
Prone to the centre; crawling in the dust;
Dismounted every great and glorious aim;
Embruted every faculty divine;
Heart-buried in the rubbish of the world.
The world, that gulf of souls, immortal souls,
Souls elevate, angelic, wing'd with fire 350
To reach the distant skies, and triumph there
On thrones, which shall not mourn their masters changed,
Though we from earth; ethereal, they that fell.
Such veneration due, O man, to man.
Who venerate themselves, the world despise.
For what, gay friend! is this escutcheon'd world,
Which hangs out death in one eternal night?
A night, that glooms us in the noontide ray,
And wraps our thought, at banquets, in the shroud.
Life's little stage is a small eminence, 360
Inch-high the grave above; that home of man,
Where dwells the multitude: we gaze around;
We read their monuments; we sigh; and while
We sigh, we sink; and are what we deplored;
Lamenting, or lamented, all our lot!
Is Death at distance? No: he has been on thee;
And given sure earnest of his final blow.
These hours that lately smiled, where are they now?
Pallid to thought, and ghastly! drown'd, all drown'd
In that great deep, which nothing disembogues! 370
And, dying, they bequeathed thee small renown.
The rest are on the wing: how fleet their flight!
Already has the fatal train took fire;
A moment, and the world's blown up to thee;
The sun is darkness, and the stars are dust.
'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours;
And ask them, what report they bore to heaven;
And how they might have borne more welcome news.
Their answers form what men experience call;
If Wisdom's friend, her best; if not, worst foe.380
|Oh, reconcile them!| kind Experience cries;
|There's nothing here, but what as nothing weighs;
The more our joy, the more we know it vain;
And by success are tutor'd to despair.|
Nor is it only thus, but must be so.
Who knows not this, though grey, is still a child.
Loose then from earth the grasp of fond desire,
Weigh anchor, and some happier clime explore.
Art thou so moor'd thou canst not disengage,
Nor give thy thoughts a ply to future scenes? 390
Since, by life's passing breath, blown up from earth,
Light as the summer's dust, we take in air
A moment's giddy flight, and fall again;
Join the dull mass, increase the trodden soil, 394
And sleep, till earth herself shall be no more;
Since then (as emmets, their small world o'erthrown)
We, sore-amazed, from out earth's ruins crawl,
And rise to fate extreme of foul or fair,
As man's own choice (controller of the skies!)
As man's despotic will, perhaps one hour
(O how omnipotent is time!) decrees;
Should not each warning give a strong alarm?
Warning, far less than that of bosom torn 403
From bosom, bleeding o'er the sacred dead!
Should not each dial strike us as we pass,
Portentous, as the written wall, which struck,
O'er midnight bowls, the proud Assyrian pale,
Erewhile high-flush'd, with insolence, and wine?
Like that, the dial speaks; and points to thee,
Lorenzo! loth to break thy banquet up: 410
|O man, thy kingdom is departing from thee;
And, while it lasts, is emptier than my shade.|
Its silent language such: nor need'st thou call
Thy Magi, to decipher what it means.
Know, like the Median, fate is in thy walls:
Dost ask, How? Whence? Belshazzar-like, amazed?
Man's make encloses the sure seeds of death;
Life feeds the murderer: ingrate! he thrives
On her own meal, and then his nurse devours.
But, here, Lorenzo, the delusion lies; 420
That solar shadow, as it measures life,
It life resembles too: life speeds away
From point to point, though seeming to stand still.
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth:
Too subtle is the movement to be seen;
Yet soon man's hour is up, and we are gone.
Warnings point out our danger; gnomons, time:
As these are useless when the sun is set: 423
So those, but when more glorious reason shines.
Reason should judge in all; in reason's eye,
That sedentary shadow travels hard.
But such our gravitation to the wrong,
So prone our hearts to whisper what we wish,
'Tis later with the wise than he's aware:
A Wilmington goes slower than the sun:
And all mankind mistake their time of day;
Even age itself. Fresh hopes are hourly sown
In furrow'd brows. To gentle life's descent
We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain.
We take fair days in winter, for the spring; 440
And turn our blessings into bane. Since oft
Man must compute that age he cannot feel,
He scarce believes he's older for his years.
Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store
One disappointment sure, to crown the rest;
The disappointment of a promised hour.
On this, or similar, Philander! thou,
Whose mind was moral, as the preacher's tongue;
And strong, to wield all science, worth the name;
How often we talk'd down the summer's sun, 450
And cool'd our passions by the breezy stream!
How often thaw'd and shorten'd winter's eve,
By conflict kind, that struck out latent truth,
Best found, so sought; to the recluse more coy!
Thoughts disentangle passing o'er the lip;
Clean runs the thread; if not, 'tis thrown away,
Or kept to tie up nonsense for a song;
Song, fashionably fruitless; such as stains
The fancy, and unhallow'd passion fires;
Chiming her saints to Cytherea's fane.460
Know'st thou, Lorenzo! what a friend contains? 461
As bees mix'd nectar draw from fragrant flowers,
So men from friendship, wisdom and delight;
Twins tied by Nature, if they part, they die.
Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach?
Good sense will stagnate. Thoughts shut up, want air,
And spoil, like bales unopen'd to the sun.
Had thought been all, sweet speech had been denied;
Speech, thought's canal! speech, thought's criterion too!
Thought in the mine, may come forth gold, or dross;
When coin'd in words, we know its real worth.471
If sterling, store it for thy future use;
'Twill buy thee benefit; perhaps, renown.
Thought, too, deliver'd, is the more possess'd;
Teaching, we learn; and, giving, we retain
The births of intellect; when dumb, forgot.
Speech ventilates our intellectual fire;
Speech burnishes our mental magazine;
Brightens, for ornament; and whets, for use.
What numbers, sheathed in erudition, lie, 480
Plunged to the hilts in venerable tomes,
And rusted in; who might have borne an edge,
And play'd a sprightly beam, if born to speech;
If born bless'd heirs of half their mother's tongue!
'Tis thought's exchange, which, like th' alternate push
Of waves conflicting, breaks the learned scum,
And defecates the student's standing pool.
In contemplation is his proud resource?
'Tis poor, as proud, by converse unsustain'd.
Rude thought runs wild in contemplation's field; 490
Converse, the menage, breaks it to the bit
Of due restraint; and emulation's spur
Gives graceful energy, by rivals awed.
'Tis converse qualifies for solitude;
As exercise, for salutary rest.495
By that untutor'd, contemplation raves;
And Nature's fool, by wisdom is undone.
Wisdom, though richer than Peruvian mines,
And sweeter than the sweet ambrosial hive,
What is she, but the means of happiness?
That unobtain'd, than folly more a fool;
A melancholy fool, without her bells.
Friendship, the means of wisdom, richly gives 503
The precious end, which makes our wisdom wise.
Nature, in zeal for human amity,
Denies, or damps, an undivided joy.
Joy is an import; joy is an exchange;
Joy flies monopolists: it calls for two;
Rich fruit! heaven-planted! never pluck'd by one.
Needful auxiliars are our friends, to give 510
To social man true relish of himself.
Full on ourselves, descending in a line,
Pleasure's bright beam is feeble in delight:
Delight intense, is taken by rebound;
Reverberated pleasures fire the breast.
Celestial happiness, whene'er she stoops
To visit earth, one shrine the goddess finds,
And one alone, to make her sweet amends
For absent heaven -- the bosom of a friend;
Where heart meets heart, reciprocally soft, 520
Each other's pillow to repose divine.
Beware the counterfeit: in passion's flame
Hearts melt, but melt like ice, soon harder froze.
True love strikes root in reason; passion's foe:
Virtue alone entenders us for life:
I wrong her much -- entenders us for ever:
Of friendship's fairest fruits, the fruit most fair
Is virtue kindling at a rival fire,
And, emulously, rapid in her race.529
O the soft enmity! endearing strife!
This carries friendship to her noontide point,
And gives the rivet of eternity.
From friendship, which outlives my former themes,
Glorious survivor of old time and death;
From friendship, thus, that flower of heavenly seed,
The wise extract earth's most Hyblean bliss,
Superior wisdom, crown'd with smiling joy.
But for whom blossoms this Elysian flower?
Abroad they find, who cherish it at home.
Lorenzo! pardon what my love extorts, 540
An honest love, and not afraid to frown.
Though choice of follies fasten on the great,
None clings more obstinate, than fancy, fond
That sacred friendship is their easy prey;
Caught by the wafture of a golden lure,
Or fascination of a high-born smile.
Their smiles, the great, and the coquette, throw out
For others' hearts, tenacious of their own;
And we no less of ours, when such the bait.
Ye fortune's cofferers! ye powers of wealth! 550
Can gold gain friendship? Impudence of hope!
As well mere man an angel might beget.
Love, and love only, is the loan for love.
Lorenzo! pride repress; nor hope to find
A friend, but what has found a friend in thee.
All like the purchase; few the price will pay;
And this makes friends such miracles below.
What if (since daring on so nice a theme)
I show thee friendship delicate, as dear,
Of tender violations apt to die? 560
Reserve will wound it; and distrust, destroy.
Deliberate on all things with thy friend.
But since friends grow not thick on every bough, 563
Nor every friend unrotten at the core;
First, on thy friend, deliberate with thyself;
Pause, ponder, sift; not eager in the choice,
Nor jealous of the chosen; fixing, fix;
Judge before friendship, then confide till death.
Well, for thy friend; but nobler far for thee;
How gallant danger for earth's highest prize! 570
A friend is worth all hazards we can run.
|Poor is the friendless master of a world:
A world in purchase for a friend is gain.|
So sung he (angels hear that angel sing!
Angels from friendship gather half their joy),
So sung Philander, as his friend went round
In the rich ichor, in the generous blood
Of Bacchus, purple god of joyous wit,
A brow solute, and ever-laughing eye.
He drank long health, and virtue, to his friend; 580
His friend, who warm'd him more, who more inspired.
Friendship's the wine of life; but friendship new
(Not such was his) is neither strong, nor pure.
O for the bright complexion, cordial warmth,
And elevating spirit, of a friend,
For twenty summers ripening by my side;
All feculence of falsehood long thrown down;
All social virtues rising in his soul;
As crystal clear; and smiling, as they rise!
Here nectar flows; it sparkles in our sight; 590
Rich to the taste, and genuine from the heart.
High-flavour'd bliss for gods! on earth how rare!
On earth how lost! -- Philander is no more.
Think'st thou the theme intoxicates my song?
Am I too warm? -- Too warm I cannot be.
I loved him much; but now I love him more.
Like birds, whose beauties languish, half-conceal'd, 597
Till, mounted on the wing, their glossy plumes
Expanded shine with azure, green, and gold;
How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
His flight Philander took; his upward flight,
If ever soul ascended. Had he dropp'd
(That eagle genius!), oh! had he let fall
One feather as he flew; I, then, had wrote, 604
What friends might flatter; prudent foes forbear;
Rivals scarce damn; and Zoilus reprieve.
Yet what I can, I must: it were profane
To quench a glory lighted at the skies,
And cast in shadows his illustrious close.
Strange! the theme most affecting, most sublime, 610
Momentous most to man, should sleep unsung!
And yet it sleeps, by genius unawaked,
Paynim or Christian; to the blush of wit.
Man's highest triumph! man's profoundest fall!
The death-bed of the just! is yet undrawn
By mortal hand; it merits a divine:
Angels should paint it, angels ever there;
There, on a post of honour, and of joy.
Dare I presume, then? But Philander bids;
And glory tempts, and inclination calls -- 620
Yet am I struck; as struck the soul, beneath
Aërial groves' impenetrable gloom;
Or, in some mighty ruin's solemn shade;
Or, gazing by pale lamps on high-born dust,
In vaults; thin courts of poor unflatter'd kings;
Or, at the midnight altar's hallow'd flame.
Is it religion to proceed? I pause --
And enter, awed, the temple of my theme.
Is it his death-bed? No: it is his shrine:
Behold him, there, just rising to a god.630
The chamber where the good man meets his fate, 631
Is privileged beyond the common walk
Of virtuous life, quite in the verge of heaven.
Fly, ye profane! if not, draw near with awe,
Receive the blessing, and adore the chance,
That threw in this Bethesda your disease;
If unrestored by this, despair your cure.
For here, resistless demonstration dwells;
A death-bed's a detector of the heart.
Here tired Dissimulation drops her mask, 640
Through life's grimace, that mistress of the scene!
Here real and apparent are the same.
You see the man; you see his hold on heaven;
If sound his virtue; as Philander's, sound.
Heaven waits not the last moment; owns her friends
On this side death; and points them out to men,
A lecture, silent, but of sovereign power!
To vice, confusion; and to virtue, peace.
Whatever farce the boastful hero plays,
Virtue alone has majesty in death; 650
And greater still, the more the tyrant frowns.
Philander! he severely frown'd on thee.
|No warning given! Unceremonious fate!
A sudden rush from life's meridian joy!
A wrench from all we love! from all we are!
A restless bed of pain! a plunge opaque
Beyond conjecture! feeble Nature's dread!
Strong reason's shudder at the dark unknown!
A sun extinguish'd! a just opening grave!
And, oh! the last, last, what? (can words express? 660
Thought reach it?) -- the last -- silence of a friend!|
Where are those horrors, that amazement, where,
This hideous group of ills, which singly shock,
Demand from man? -- I thought him man till now.
Through nature's wreck, through vanquish'd agonies
(Like the stars struggling through this midnight gloom),
What gleams of joy! what more than human peace!
Where, the frail mortal? the poor abject worm?
No, not in death, the mortal to be found.
His conduct is a legacy for all; 670
Richer than Mammon's for his single heir.
His comforters he comforts; great in ruin,
With unreluctant grandeur, gives, not yields,
His soul sublime; and closes with his fate.
How our hearts burn'd within us at the scene!
Whence this brave bound o'er limits fix'd to man?
His God sustains him in his final hour!
His final hour brings glory to his God!
Man's glory Heaven vouchsafes to call her own.
We gaze, we weep; mix'd tears of grief and joy! 680
Amazement strikes! devotion bursts to flame!
Christians adore! and infidels believe!
As some tall tower, or lofty mountain's brow,
Detains the sun, illustrious, from its height;
While rising vapours, and descending shades,
With damps, and darkness, drown the spacious vale;
Undamp'd by doubt, undarken'd by despair,
Philander, thus, augustly rears his head,
At that black hour, which general horror sheds
On the low level of th' inglorious throng: 690
Sweet peace, and heavenly hope, and humble joy,
Divinely beam on his exalted soul;
Destruction gild, and crown him for the skies,
With incommunicable lustre, bright.
TO HER GRACE
THE DUCHESS OF P -- -- .
Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere manes. -- Virg.
From dreams, where thought in fancy's maze runs mad,
To reason, that heaven-lighted lamp in man,
Once more I wake; and at the destined hour,
Punctual as lovers to the moment sworn,
I keep my assignation with my woe.
Oh! lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
Lost to the noble sallies of the soul!
Who think it solitude to be alone.
Communion sweet! communion large and high!
Our reason, guardian angel, and our God! 10
Then nearest these, when others most remote;
And all, ere long, shall be remote, but these.
How dreadful, then, to meet them all alone,
A stranger! unacknowledged, unapproved!
Now woo them, wed them, bind them to thy breast;
To win thy wish, creation has no more.
Or if we wish a fourth, it is a friend --
But friends, how mortal! dangerous the desire.
Take Phoebus to yourselves, ye basking bards! 19
Inebriate at fair fortune's fountain-head;
And reeling through the wilderness of joy;
Where sense runs savage, broke from reason's chain,
And sings false peace, till smother'd by the pall.
My fortune is unlike; unlike my song;
Unlike the deity my song invokes.
I to Day's soft-eyed sister pay my court
(Endymion's rival!), and her aid implore;
Now first implored in succour to the Muse.
Thou, who didst lately borrow Cynthia's form,
And modestly forego thine own! O thou, 30
Who didst thyself at midnight hours inspire!
Say, why not Cynthia patroness of song?
As thou her crescent, she thy character
Assumes; still more a goddess by the change.
Are there demurring wits, who dare dispute
This revolution in the world inspired?
Ye train Pierian! to the lunar sphere,
In silent hour address your ardent call
For aid immortal; less her brother's right.
She, with the spheres harmonious, nightly leads 40
The mazy dance, and hears their matchless strain;
A strain for gods, denied to mortal ear.
Transmit it heard, thou silver Queen of Heaven!
What title, or what name, endears thee most?
Cynthia! Cyllene! Phoebe! -- or dost hear
With higher gust, fair P -- -- d of the skies?
Is that the soft enchantment calls thee down,
More powerful than of old Circean charm?
Come; but from heavenly banquets with thee bring
The soul of song, and whisper in my ear 50
The theft divine; or in propitious dreams
(For dreams are thine) transfuse it through the breast 52
Of thy first votary -- but not thy last;
If, like thy namesake, thou art ever kind.
And kind thou wilt be; kind on such a theme;
A theme so like thee, a quite lunar theme,
Soft, modest, melancholy, female, fair!
A theme that rose all pale, and told my soul,
'Twas Night; on her fond hopes perpetual night;
A night which struck a damp, a deadlier damp, 60
Than that which smote me from Philander's tomb.
Narcissa follows, ere his tomb is closed.
Woes cluster; rare are solitary woes;
They love a train, they tread each other's heel;
Her death invades his mournful right, and claims
The grief that started from my lids for him:
Seizes the faithless, alienated tear,
Or shares it, ere it falls. So frequent Death,
Sorrow he more than causes, he confounds;
For human sighs his rival strokes contend, 70
And make distress, distraction. Oh, Philander!
What was thy fate? A double fate to me;
Portent, and pain! a menace, and a blow!
Like the black raven hovering o'er my peace,
Not less a bird of omen, than of prey.
It call'd Narcissa long before her hour;
It call'd her tender soul, by break of bliss,
From the first blossom, from the buds of joy;
Those few our noxious fate unblasted leaves
In this inclement clime of human life.80
Sweet harmonist! and beautiful as sweet!
And young as beautiful! and soft as young!
And gay as soft! and innocent as gay!
And happy (if aught happy here) as good!
For fortune fond had built her nest on high.85
Like birds quite exquisite of note and plume,
Transfix'd by fate (who loves a lofty mark),
How from the summit of the grove she fell,
And left it unharmonious! all its charms
Extinguish'd in the wonders of her song!
Her song still vibrates in my ravish'd ear,
Still melting there, and with voluptuous pain
(O to forget her!) thrilling through my heart! 93
Song, beauty, youth, love, virtue, joy! this group
Of bright ideas, flowers of paradise,
As yet unforfeit! in one blaze we bind,
Kneel, and present it to the skies; as all
We guess of heaven: and these were all her own.
And she was mine; and I was -- was! -- most blest! --
Gay title of the deepest misery! 100
As bodies grow more ponderous, robb'd of life;
Good lost weighs more in grief, than gain'd, in joy.
Like blossom'd trees o'erturn'd by vernal storm,
Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay;
And if in death still lovely, lovelier there;
Far lovelier! pity swells the tide of love.
And will not the severe excuse a sigh?
Scorn the proud man that is ashamed to weep;
Our tears indulged, indeed deserve our shame.
Ye that e'er lost an angel! pity me.110
Soon as the lustre languish'd in her eye,
Dawning a dimmer day on human sight;
And on her cheek, the residence of spring,
Pale omen sat; and scatter'd fears around
On all that saw; (and who would cease to gaze,
That once had seen?) with haste, parental haste,
I flew, I snatch'd her from the rigid north,
Her native bed, on which bleak Boreas blew,
And bore her nearer to the sun; the sun 119
(As if the sun could envy) check'd his beam,
Denied his wonted succour; nor with more
Regret beheld her drooping, than the bells
Of lilies; fairest lilies, not so fair!
Queen lilies! and ye painted populace!
Who dwell in fields, and lead ambrosial lives;
In morn and evening dew your beauties bathe,
And drink the sun; which gives your cheeks to glow,
And out-blush (mine excepted) every fair;
You gladlier grew, ambitious of her hand,
Which often cropp'd your odours, incense meet 130
To thought so pure! Ye lovely fugitives!
Coeval race with man! for man you smile;
Why not smile at him too? You share indeed
His sudden pass; but not his constant pain.
So man is made, nought ministers delight,
By what his glowing passions can engage;
And glowing passions, bent on aught below,
Must, soon or late, with anguish turn the scale;
And anguish, after rapture, how severe!
Rapture? Bold man! who tempts the wrath divine, 140
By plucking fruit denied to mortal taste,
While here, presuming on the rights of heaven.
For transport dost thou call on every hour,
Lorenzo? At thy friend's expense be wise;
Lean not on earth; 'twill pierce thee to the heart;
A broken reed, at best; but, oft, a spear;
On its sharp point peace bleeds, and hope expires.
Turn, hopeless thought! turn from her: -- thought repell'd
Resenting rallies, and wakes every woe.
Snatch'd ere thy prime! and in thy bridal hour! 150
And when kind fortune, with thy lover, smiled! 151
And when high flavour'd thy fresh opening joys!
And when blind man pronounced thy bliss complete!
And on a foreign shore; where strangers wept!
Strangers to thee; and, more surprising still,
Strangers to kindness, wept: their eyes let fall
Inhuman tears: strange tears! that trickled down
From marble hearts! obdurate tenderness!
A tenderness that call'd them more severe;
In spite of nature's soft persuasion, steel'd; 160
While nature melted, superstition raved;
That mourn'd the dead; and this denied a grave.
Their sighs incensed; sighs foreign to the will!
Their will the tiger suck'd, outraged the storm.
For oh! the cursed ungodliness of zeal!
While sinful flesh relented, spirit nursed
In blind infallibility's embrace,
The sainted spirit petrified the breast;
Denied the charity of dust, to spread
O'er dust! a charity their dogs enjoy.170
What could I do? what succour? what resource?
With pious sacrilege, a grave I stole;
With impious piety, that grave I wrong'd;
Short in my duty; coward in my grief!
More like her murderer, than friend, I crept,
With soft-suspended step, and muffled deep
In midnight darkness, whisper'd my last sigh.
I whisper'd what should echo through their realms;
Nor writ her name, whose tomb should pierce the skies.
Presumptuous fear! How durst I dread her foes, 180
While nature's loudest dictates I obey'd?
Pardon necessity, bless'd shade! of grief
And indignation rival bursts I pour'd;
Half execration mingled with my prayer;
Kindled at man, while I his God adored; 185
Sore grudged the savage land her sacred dust;
Stamp'd the cursed soil; and with humanity
(Denied Narcissa) wish'd them all a grave.
Glows my resentment into guilt? What guilt
Can equal violations of the dead?
The dead how sacred! Sacred is the dust
Of this heaven-labour'd form, erect, divine! 192
This heaven-assumed majestic robe of earth,
He deign'd to wear, who hung the vast expanse
With azure bright, and clothed the sun in gold.
When every passion sleeps that can offend;
When strikes us every motive that can melt;
When man can wreak his rancour uncontroll'd,
That strongest curb on insult and ill-will;
Then, spleen to dust? the dust of innocence? 200
An angel's dust? -- This Lucifer transcends;
When he contended for the patriarch's bones,
'Twas not the strife of malice, but of pride;
The strife of pontiff pride, not pontiff gall.
Far less than this is shocking in a race
Most wretched, but from streams of mutual love;
And uncreated, but for love divine;
And, but for love divine, this moment, lost,
By fate resorb'd, and sunk in endless night.
Man hard of heart to man! of horrid things 210
Most horrid! 'mid stupendous, highly strange!
Yet oft his courtesies are smoother wrongs;
Pride brandishes the favours He confers,
And contumelious his humanity:
What then his vengeance? Hear it not, ye stars!
And thou, pale moon! turn paler at the sound;
Man is to man the sorest, surest ill.
A previous blast foretells the rising storm;
O'erwhelming turrets threaten ere they fall; 219
Volcanos bellow ere they disembogue;
Earth trembles ere her yawning jaws devour;
And smoke betrays the wide-consuming fire:
Ruin from man is most conceal'd when near,
And sends the dreadful tidings in the blow.
Is this the flight of fancy? Would it were!
Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings, but himself,
That hideous sight, a naked human heart.
Fired is the Muse? And let the Muse be fired:
Who not inflamed, when what he speaks, he feels,
And in the nerve most tender, in his friends? 230
Shame to mankind! Philander had his foes;
He felt the truths I sing, and I in him.
But he, nor I, feel more: past ills, Narcissa!
Are sunk in thee, thou recent wound of heart!
Which bleeds with other cares, with other pangs;
Pangs numerous, as the numerous ills that swarm'd
O'er thy distinguish'd fate, and, clustering there
Thick as the locusts on the land of Nile,
Made death more deadly, and more dark the grave.
Reflect (if not forgot my touching tale) 240
How was each circumstance with aspics arm'd?
An aspic, each! and all, a hydra woe:
What strong Herculean virtue could suffice? --
Or is it virtue to be conquer'd here?
This hoary cheek a train of tears bedews;
And each tear mourns its own distinct distress;
And each distress, distinctly mourn'd, demands
Of grief still more, as heighten'd by the whole.
A grief like this proprietors excludes:
Not friends alone such obsequies deplore; 250
They make mankind the mourner; carry sighs
Far as the fatal fame can wing her way;
And turn the gayest thought of gayest age, 253
Down their right channel, through the vale of death.
The vale of death! that hush'd Cimmerian vale,
Where darkness, brooding o'er unfinish'd fates
With raven wing incumbent, waits the day
(Dread day!) that interdicts all future change!
That subterranean world, that land of ruin!
Fit walk, Lorenzo, for proud human thought!
There let my thought expatiate, and explore 261
Balsamic truths, and healing sentiments,
Of all most wanted, and most welcome, here.
For gay Lorenzo's sake, and for thy own,
My soul! |the fruits of dying friends survey;
Expose the vain of life; weigh life and death;
Give death his eulogy; thy fear subdue;
And labour that first palm of noble minds,
A manly scorn of terror from the tomb.|
This harvest reap from thy Narcissa's grave.270
As poets feign'd from Ajax' streaming blood
Arose, with grief inscribed, a mournful flower;
Let wisdom blossom from my mortal wound.
And first, of dying friends; what fruit from these?
It brings us more than triple aid; an aid
To chase our thoughtlessness, fear, pride, and guilt.
Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardours; and abate
That glare of life, which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth 280
Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars
Of terror, and abhorrence, nature throws
Cross our obstructed way; and, thus to make
Welcome, as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by fate snatch'd from us, is a plume
Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aërial heights, 287
And, damp'd with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd,
Just skim earth's surface, ere we break it up,
O'er putrid earth to scratch a little dust,
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love;
For us they languish, and for us they die:
And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain?
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades,
Which wait the revolution in our hearts?
Shall we disdain their silent soft address;
Their posthumous advice, and pious prayer?
Senseless, as herds that graze their hallow'd graves, 300
Tread under foot their agonies and groans;
Frustrate their anguish, and destroy their deaths?
Lorenzo! no; the thought of death indulge;
Give it its wholesome empire! let it reign,
That kind chastiser of thy soul in joy!
Its reign will spread thy glorious conquests far,
And still the tumults of thy ruffled breast:
Auspicious era! golden days, begin!
The thought of death shall, like a god, inspire.
And why not think on death? Is life the theme 310
Of every thought? and wish of every hour?
And song of every joy? Surprising truth!
The beaten spaniel's fondness not so strange.
To wave the numerous ills that seize on life
As their own property, their lawful prey;
Ere man has measured half his weary stage,
His luxuries have left him no reserve,
No maiden relishes, unbroach'd delights;
On cold served repetitions he subsists,
And in the tasteless present chews the past; 320
Disgusted chews, and scarce can swallow down.321
Like lavish ancestors, his earlier years
Have disinherited his future hours,
Which starve on orts, and glean their former field.
Live ever here, Lorenzo? -- shocking thought!
So shocking, they who wish, disown it too;
Disown from shame what they from folly crave.
Live ever in the womb, nor see the light?
For what live ever here? -- With labouring step
To tread our former footsteps? pace the round 330
Eternal? to climb life's worn, heavy wheel,
Which draws up nothing new? to beat, and beat
The beaten track? to bid each wretched day
The former mock? to surfeit on the same,
And yawn our joys? or thank a misery
For change, though sad? to see what we have seen?
Hear, till unheard, the same old slabber'd tale?
To taste the tasted, and at each return
Less tasteful? o'er our palates to decant
Another vintage? strain a flatter year, 340
Through loaded vessels, and a laxer tone?
Crazy machines to grind earth's wasted fruits!
Ill-ground, and worse concocted! load, not life!
The rational foul kennels of excess!
Still-streaming thoroughfares of dull debauch!
Trembling each gulp, lest death should snatch the bowl.
Such of our fine ones is the wish refined!
So would they have it: elegant desire!
Why not invite the bellowing stalls, and wilds?
But such examples might their riot awe.350
Through want of virtue, that is, want of thought
(Though on bright thought they father all their flights),
To what are they reduced? To love, and hate,
The same vain world; to censure, and espouse,
This painted shrew of life, who calls them fool 355
Each moment of each day; to flatter bad
Through dread of worse; to cling to this rude rock,
Barren, to them, of good, and sharp with ills,
And hourly blacken'd with impending storms,
And infamous for wrecks of human hope --
Scared at the gloomy gulf, that yawns beneath,
Such are their triumphs! such their pangs of joy! 362
'Tis time, high time, to shift this dismal scene.
This hugg'd, this hideous state, what art can cure?
One only; but that one, what all may reach;
Virtue -- she, wonder-working goddess! charms
That rock to bloom; and tames the painted shrew;
And what will more surprise, Lorenzo! gives
To life's sick, nauseous iteration, change;
And straightens nature's circle to a line.370
Believest thou this, Lorenzo? lend an ear,
A patient ear, thou'lt blush to disbelieve.
A languid, leaden iteration reigns,
And ever must, o'er those, whose joys are joys
Of sight, smell, taste: the cuckoo-seasons sing
The same dull note to such as nothing prize,
But what those seasons, from the teeming earth,
To doating sense indulge. But nobler minds,
Which relish fruits unripen'd by the sun,
Make their days various; various as the dyes 380
On the dove's neck, which wanton in his rays.
On minds of dove-like innocence possess'd,
On lighten'd minds, that bask in virtue's beams,
Nothing hangs tedious, nothing old revolves
In that for which they long, for which they live.
Their glorious efforts, wing'd with heavenly hope,
Each rising morning sees still higher rise;
Each bounteous dawn its novelty presents
To worth maturing, new strength, lustre, fame; 389
While nature's circle, like a chariot-wheel
Rolling beneath their elevated aims,
Makes their fair prospect fairer every hour;
Advancing virtue, in a line to bliss;
Virtue, which Christian motives best inspire!
And bliss, which Christian schemes alone ensure!
And shall we then, for virtue's sake, commence
Apostates, and turn infidels for joy?
A truth it is, few doubt, but fewer trust,
|He sins against this life, who slights the next.|
What is this life? How few their favourite know! 400
Fond in the dark, and blind in our embrace,
By passionately loving life, we make
Loved life unlovely; hugging her to death.
We give to time eternity's regard;
And, dreaming, take our passage for our port.
Life has no value as an end, but means;
An end deplorable! a means divine!
When 'tis our all, 'tis nothing; worse than nought;
A nest of pains: when held as nothing, much:
Like some fair humorists, life is most enjoy'd, 410
When courted least; most worth, when disesteem'd;
Then 'tis the seat of comfort, rich in peace;
In prospect richer far; important! awful!
Not to be mention'd, but with shouts of praise!
Not to be thought on, but with tides of joy!
The mighty basis of eternal bliss!
Where now the barren rock? the painted shrew?
Where now, Lorenzo! life's eternal round?
Have I not made my triple promise good?
Vain is the world; but only to the vain.420
To what compare we then this varying scene,
Whose worth ambiguous rises, and declines?
Waxes, and wanes? (In all propitious, night 423
Assists me here) compare it to the moon;
Dark in herself, and indigent; but rich
In borrow'd lustre from a higher sphere.
When gross guilt interposes, labouring earth,
O'ershadow'd, mourns a deep eclipse of joy;
Her joys, at brightest, pallid, to that font
Of full effulgent glory, whence they flow.430
Nor is that glory distant: Oh, Lorenzo!
A good man, and an angel! these between
How thin the barrier! What divides their fate?
Perhaps a moment, or perhaps a year:
Or, if an age, it is a moment still;
A moment, or eternity's forgot.
Then be, what once they were, who now are gods;
Be what Philander was, and claim the skies.
Starts timid nature at the gloomy pass?
The soft transition call it; and be cheer'd: 440
Such it is often, and why not to thee?
To hope the best, is pious, brave, and wise;
And may itself procure, what it presumes.
Life is much flatter'd, death is much traduced;
Compare the rivals, and the kinder crown.
|Strange competition!| -- True, Lorenzo! strange!
So little life can cast into the scale.
Life makes the soul dependent on the dust;
Death gives her wings to mount above the spheres.
Through chinks, styled organs, dim life peeps at light;
Death bursts th' involving cloud, and all is day; 451
All eye, all ear, the disembodied power.
Death has feign'd evils, nature shall not feel;
Life, ills substantial, wisdom cannot shun.
Is not the mighty mind, that son of heaven!
By tyrant life dethroned, imprison'd, pain'd?
By death enlarged, ennobled, deified? 457
Death but entombs the body; life the soul.
|Is Death then guiltless? How he marks his way
With dreadful waste of what deserves to shine!
Art, genius, fortune, elevated power!
With various lustres these light up the world,
Which Death puts out, and darkens human race.| 463
I grant, Lorenzo! this indictment just:
The sage, peer, potentate, king, conqueror!
Death humbles these; more barbarous life, the man.
Life is the triumph of our mouldering clay;
Death, of the spirit infinite! divine!
Death has no dread, but what frail life imparts;
Nor life true joy, but what kind death improves.470
No bliss has life to boast, till death can give
Far greater; life's a debtor to the grave,
Dark lattice! letting in eternal day.
Lorenzo! blush at fondness for a life,
Which sends celestial souls on errands vile,
To cater for the sense; and serve at boards,
Where every ranger of the wilds, perhaps
Each reptile, justly claims our upper hand.
Luxurious feast! a soul, a soul immortal,
In all the dainties of a brute bemired! 480
Lorenzo! blush at terror for a death,
Which gives thee to repose in festive bowers,
Where nectars sparkle, angels minister,
And more than angels share, and raise, and crown,
And eternize, the birth, bloom, bursts of bliss.
What need I more? O Death, the palm is thine.
Then welcome, Death! thy dreaded harbingers,
Age and disease; disease, though long my guest;
That plucks my nerves, those tender strings of life;
Which, pluck'd a little more, will toll the bell, 490
That calls my few friends to my funeral; 491
Where feeble nature drops, perhaps, a tear,
While reason and religion, better taught,
Congratulate the dead, and crown his tomb
With wreath triumphant. Death is victory;
It binds in chains the raging ills of life:
Lust and ambition, wrath and avarice,
Dragg'd at his chariot-wheel, applaud his power.
That ills corrosive, cares importunate,
Are not immortal too, O Death! is thine.500
Our day of dissolution! -- name it right;
'Tis our great pay-day; 'tis our harvest, rich
And ripe: what though the sickle, sometimes keen,
Just scars us as we reap the golden grain?
More than thy balm, O Gilead! heals the wound.
Birth's feeble cry, and death's deep dismal groan,
Are slender tributes low-tax'd nature pays
For mighty gain: the gain of each, a life!
But O! the last the former so transcends,
Life dies, compared; life lives beyond the grave.510
And feel I, Death! no joy from thought of thee?
Death, the great counsellor, who man inspires
With every nobler thought, and fairer deed!
Death, the deliverer, who rescues man!
Death, the rewarder, who the rescued crowns!
Death, that absolves my birth; a curse without it!
Rich death, that realises all my cares,
Toils, virtues, hopes; without it a chimera!
Death, of all pain the period, not of joy;
Joy's source, and subject, still subsist unhurt; 520
One, in my soul; and one, in her great Sire;
Though the four winds were warring for my dust.
Yes, and from winds, and waves, and central night,
Though prison'd there, my dust too I reclaim
(To dust when drop proud nature's proudest spheres),
And live entire. Death is the crown of life: 526
Were death denied, poor man would live in vain;
Were death denied, to live would not be life;
Were death denied, even fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure: we fall; we rise; we reign!
Spring from our fetters; fasten in the skies;
Where blooming Eden withers in our sight:
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost.
This king of terrors is the prince of peace.
When shall I die to vanity, pain, death?
When shall I die? -- When shall I live for ever? 536
OUR ONLY CURE FOR THE FEAR OF DEATH;
PROPER SENTIMENTS OF HEART ON THAT