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Youngs Night Thoughts by Edward Young




Lorenzo! to recriminate is just.

Fondness for fame is avarice of air.

I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.

Praise no man e'er deserved, who sought no more.

As just thy second charge. I grant the Muse

Has often blush'd at her degenerate sons,

Retain'd by sense to plead her filthy cause;

To raise the low, to magnify the mean,

And subtilize the gross into refined:

As if to magic numbers' powerful charm 10

'Twas given, to make a civet of their song

Obscene, and sweeten ordure to perfume.

Wit, a true Pagan, deifies the brute,

And lifts our swine-enjoyments from the mire.

The fact notorious, nor obscure the cause.

We wear the chains of pleasure and of pride.

These share the man; and these distract him too;

Draw different ways, and clash in their commands.

Pride, like an eagle, builds among the stars;

But pleasure, lark-like, nests upon the ground.20

Joys shared by brute creation, pride resents; 21

Pleasure embraces: man would both enjoy,

And both at once: a point so hard, how gain!

But, what can't wit, when stung by strong desire?

Wit dares attempt this arduous enterprise.

Since joys of sense can't rise to reason's taste;

In subtle sophistry's laborious forge,

Wit hammers out a reason new, that stoops

To sordid scenes, and meets them with applause.

Wit calls the graces the chaste zone to loose; 30

Nor less than a plump god to fill the bowl:

A thousand phantoms, and a thousand spells,

A thousand opiates scatters, to delude,

To fascinate, inebriate, lay asleep,

And the fool'd mind delightfully confound.

Thus that which shock'd the judgment, shocks no more;

That which gave Pride offence, no more offends.

Pleasure and Pride, by nature mortal foes,

At war eternal, which in man shall reign,

By Wit's address, patch up a fatal peace, 40

And hand in hand lead on the rank debauch,

From rank refined to delicate and gay.

Art, cursed Art! wipes off th' indebted blush

From Nature's cheek, and bronzes every shame.

Man smiles in ruin, glories in his guilt,

And infamy stands candidate for praise.

All writ by man in favour of the soul,

These sensual ethics far, in bulk, transcend.

The flowers of eloquence, profusely pour'd

O'er spotted vice, fill half the letter'd world.50

Can powers of genius exorcise their page,

And consecrate enormities with song?

But let not these inexpiable strains

Condemn the Muse that knows her dignity;

Nor meanly stops at time, but holds the world 55

As 'tis, in nature's ample field, a point,

A point in her esteem; from whence to start,

And run the round of universal space,

To visit being universal there,

And being's source, that utmost flight of mind!

Yet, spite of this so vast circumference,

Well knows, but what is moral, nought is great.62

Sing syrens only? Do not angels sing?

There is in Poesy a decent pride,

Which well becomes her when she speaks to Prose,

Her younger sister; haply, not more wise.

Think'st thou, Lorenzo! to find pastimes here?

No guilty passion blown into a flame,

No foible flatter'd, dignity disgraced,

No fairy field of fiction, all on flower, 70

No rainbow colours here, or silken tale:

But solemn counsels, images of awe,

Truths, which eternity lets fall on man

With double weight, through these revolving spheres,

This death-deep silence, and incumbent shade:

Thoughts, such as shall revisit your last hour;

Visit uncall'd, and live when life expires;

And thy dark pencil, Midnight! darker still

In melancholy dipp'd, embrowns the whole.

Yet this, even this, my laughter-loving friends! 80

Lorenzo! and thy brothers of the smile!

If, what imports you most, can most engage,

Shall steal your ear, and chain you to my song.

Or if you fail me, know, the wise shall taste

The truths I sing; the truths I sing shall feel;

And, feeling, give assent; and their assent

Is ample recompence; is more than praise.

But chiefly thine, O Lichfield! nor mistake;

Think not unintroduced I force my way; 89

Narcissa, not unknown, not unallied,

By virtue, or by blood, illustrious youth!

To thee, from blooming amaranthine bowers,

Where all the language harmony, descends

Uncall'd, and asks admittance for the Muse:

A Muse that will not pain thee with thy praise;

Thy praise she drops, by nobler still inspired.

O Thou! Blest Spirit! whether the supreme,

Great antemundane Father! in whose breast

Embryo creation, unborn being, dwelt,

And all its various revolutions roll'd 100

Present, though future; prior to themselves;

Whose breath can blow it into nought again;

Or, from his throne some delegated power,

Who, studious of our peace, dost turn the thought

From vain and vile, to solid and sublime!

Unseen thou lead'st me to delicious draughts

Of inspiration, from a purer stream,

And fuller of the god, than that which burst

From famed Castalia: nor is yet allay'd

My sacred thirst; though long my soul has ranged 110

Through pleasing paths of moral, and divine,

By Thee sustain'd, and lighted by the stars.

By them best lighted are the paths of thought:

Nights are their days, their most illumined hours.

By day, the soul, o'erborne by life's career,

Stunn'd by the din, and giddy with the glare,

Reels far from reason, jostled by the throng.

By day the soul is passive, all her thoughts

Imposed, precarious, broken ere mature.

By night, from objects free, from passion cool, 120

Thoughts uncontroll'd, and unimpress'd, the births

Of pure election, arbitrary range,

Not to the limits of one world confined; 123

But from ethereal travels light on earth,

As voyagers drop anchor, for repose.

Let Indians, and the gay, like Indians, fond

Of feather'd fopperies, the sun adore:

Darkness has more divinity for me;

It strikes thought inward; it drives back the soul

To settle on herself, our point supreme! 130

There lies our theatre; there sits our judge.

Darkness the curtain drops o'er life's dull scene;

'Tis the kind hand of Providence stretch'd out

'Twixt man and vanity; 'tis reason's reign,

And virtue's too; these tutelary shades

Are man's asylum from the tainted throng.

Night is the good man's friend, and guardian too;

It no less rescues virtue, than inspires.

Virtue, for ever frail, as fair, below,

Her tender nature suffers in the crowd, 140

Nor touches on the world, without a stain:

The world's infectious; few bring back at eve.

Immaculate, the manners of the morn.

Something we thought, is blotted; we resolved,

Is shaken; we renounced, returns again.

Each salutation may slide in a sin

Unthought before, or fix a former flaw.

Nor is it strange: light, motion, concourse, noise,

All, scatter us abroad; thought outward-bound,

Neglectful of our home affairs, flies off 150

In fume and dissipation, quits her charge,

And leaves the breast unguarded to the foe.

Present example gets within our guard,

And acts with double force, by few repell'd.

Ambition fires ambition; love of gain

Strikes, like a pestilence, from breast to breast;

Riot, pride, perfidy, blue vapours breathe; 157

And inhumanity is caught from man,

From smiling man. A slight, a single glance,

And shot at random, often has brought home

A sudden fever, to the throbbing heart,

Of envy, rancour, or impure desire.

We see, we hear, with peril; safety dwells 163

Remote from multitude; the world's a school

Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around!

We must, or imitate, or disapprove;

Must list as their accomplices, or foes;

That stains our innocence; this wounds our peace.

From nature's birth, hence, wisdom has been smit

With sweet recess, and languish'd for the shade.170

This sacred shade, and solitude, what is it?

'Tis the felt presence of the Deity.

Few are the faults we flatter when alone.

Vice sinks in her allurements, is ungilt,

And looks, like other objects, black by night.

By night an atheist half believes a God.

Night is fair virtue's immemorial friend;

The conscious moon, through every distant age,

Has held a lamp to wisdom, and let fall,

On contemplation's eye, her purging ray.180

The famed Athenian, he who woo'd from heaven

Philosophy the fair, to dwell with men,

And form their manners, not inflame their pride,

While o'er his head, as fearful to molest

His labouring mind, the stars in silence slide,

And seem all gazing on their future guest,

See him soliciting his ardent suit

In private audience: all the live-long night,

Rigid in thought, and motionless, he stands;

Nor quits his theme, or posture, till the sun 190

(Rude drunkard rising rosy from the main!)

Disturbs his nobler intellectual beam,

And gives him to the tumult of the world.

Hail, precious moments! stolen from the black waste

Of murder'd time! Auspicious midnight! hail!

The world excluded, every passion hush'd,

And open'd a calm intercourse with Heaven,

Here the soul sits in council; ponders past,

Predestines future, action; sees, not feels,

Tumultuous life, and reasons with the storm; 200

All her lies answers, and thinks down her charms.

What awful joy! what mental liberty!

I am not pent in darkness; rather say

(If not too bold) in darkness I'm embower'd.

Delightful gloom! the clustering thoughts around

Spontaneous rise, and blossom in the shade;

But droop by day, and sicken in the sun.

Thought borrows light elsewhere; from that first fire,

Fountain of animation! whence descends

Urania, my celestial guest! who deigns 210

Nightly to visit me, so mean; and now,

Conscious how needful discipline to man,

From pleasing dalliance with the charms of Night

My wandering thought recalls, to what excites

Far other beat of heart! Narcissa's tomb!

Or is it feeble nature calls me back,

And breaks my spirit into grief again?

Is it a Stygian vapour in my blood?

A cold, slow puddle, creeping through my veins?

Or is it thus with all men? -- Thus with all.220

What are we? how unequal! Now we soar,

And now we sink; to be the same, transcends

Our present prowess. Dearly pays the soul

For lodging ill; too dearly rents her clay.224

Reason, a baffled counsellor! but adds

The blush of weakness to the bane of woe.

The noblest spirit fighting her hard fate,

In this damp, dusky region, charged with storms,

But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly;

Or, flying, short her flight, and sure her fall.

Our utmost strength, when down, to rise again;

And not to yield, though beaten, all our praise.232

'Tis vain to seek in men for more than man.

Though proud in promise, big in previous thought,

Experience damps our triumph. I, who late,

Emerging from the shadows of the grave,

Where grief detain'd me prisoner, mounting high,

Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,

And call'd mankind to glory, shook off pain,

Mortality shook off, in ether pure, 240

And struck the stars; now feel my spirits fail;

They drop me from the zenith; down I rush,

Like him whom fable fledged with waxen wings,

In sorrow drown'd -- but not in sorrow lost.

How wretched is the man who never mourn'd!

I dive for precious pearl in sorrow's stream:

Not so the thoughtless man that only grieves;

Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain;

(Inestimable gain!) and gives Heaven leave

To make him but more wretched, not more wise.250

If wisdom is our lesson (and what else

Ennobles man? what else have angels learn'd?),

Grief! more proficients in thy school are made,

Than genius, or proud learning, e'er could boast.

Voracious learning, often over-fed,

Digests not into sense her motley meal.

This book-case, which dark booty almost burst, 257

This forager on others' wisdom, leaves

Her native farm, her reason, quite untill'd.

With mix'd manure she surfeits the rank soil,

Dung'd, but not dress'd; and rich to beggary.

A pomp untameable of weeds prevails.

Her servant's wealth, encumber'd wisdom mourns.263

And what says Genius? |Let the dull be wise.|

Genius, too hard for right, can prove it wrong;

And loves to boast, where blush men less inspired.

It pleads exemption from the laws of sense;

Considers reason as a leveller;

And scorns to share a blessing with the crowd.

That wise it could be, thinks an ample claim 270

To glory, and to pleasure gives the rest.

Crassus but sleeps, Ardelio is undone.

Wisdom less shudders at a fool, than wit.

But Wisdom smiles, when humbled mortals weep.

When sorrow wounds the breast, as ploughs the glebe,

And hearts obdurate feel her softening shower;

Her seed celestial, then, glad wisdom sows;

Her golden harvest triumphs in the soil.

If so, Narcissa , welcome my Relapse;

I'll raise a tax on my calamity, 280

And reap rich compensation from my pain.

I'll range the plenteous intellectual field;

And gather every thought of sovereign power

To chase the moral maladies of man;

Thoughts, which may bear transplanting to the skies,

Though natives of this coarse penurious soil;

Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs sing,

Refined, exalted, not annull'd, in heaven.

Reason, the sun that gives them birth, the same

In either clime, though more illustrious there.290

These choicely cull'd, and elegantly ranged, 291

Shall form a garland for Narcissa's tomb;

And, peradventure, of no fading flowers.

Say on what themes shall puzzled choice descend?

|Th' importance of contemplating the tomb;

Why men decline it; suicide's foul birth;

The various kind of grief; the faults of age;

And Death's dread character -- invite my song.|

And, first th' importance of our end survey'd.

Friends counsel quick dismission of our grief: 300

Mistaken kindness! our hearts heal too soon.

Are they more kind than He, who struck the blow?

Who bid it do his errand in our hearts,

And banish peace, till nobler guests arrive,

And bring it back, a true and endless peace?

Calamities are friends: as glaring day

Of these unnumber'd lustres robs our sight;

Prosperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts

Of import high, and light divine, to man.

The man how blest, who, sick of gaudy scenes, 310

(Scenes apt to thrust between us and ourselves!)

Is led by choice to take his favourite walk,

Beneath death's gloomy, silent, cypress shades,

Unpierced by vanity's fantastic ray;

To read his monuments, to weigh his dust,

Visit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs!

Lorenzo read with me Narcissa's stone;

(Narcissa was thy favourite) let us read

Her moral stone; few doctors preach so well;

Few orators so tenderly can touch 320

The feeling heart. What pathos in the date!

Apt words can strike: and yet in them we see

Faint images of what we here enjoy.

What cause have we to build on length of life?

Temptations seize, when fear is laid asleep; 325

And ill foreboded is our strongest guard.

See from her tomb, as from an humble shrine,

Truth, radiant goddess! sallies on my soul,

And puts delusion's dusky train to flight;

Dispels the mists our sultry passions raise,

From objects low, terrestrial, and obscene;

And shows the real estimate of things; 332

Which no man, unafflicted, ever saw;

Pulls off the veil from virtue's rising charms;

Detects temptation in a thousand lies.

Truth bids me look on men, as autumn leaves,

And all they bleed for, as the summer's dust,

Driven by the whirlwind: lighted by her beams,

I widen my horizon, gain new powers,

See things invisible, feel things remote, 340

Am present with futurities; think nought

To man so foreign, as the joys possess'd;

Nought so much his, as those beyond the grave.

No folly keeps its colour in her sight;

Pale worldly wisdom loses all her charms;

In pompous promise, from her schemes profound,

If future fate she plans, 'tis all in leaves,

Like Sibyl, unsubstantial, fleeting bliss!

At the first blast it vanishes in air.

Not so, celestial: would'st thou know, Lorenzo! 350

How differ worldly wisdom, and divine?

Just as the waning and the waxing moon.

More empty worldly wisdom every day;

And every day more fair her rival shines.

When later, there's less time to play the fool.

Soon our whole term for wisdom is expired

(Thou know'st she calls no council in the grave):

And everlasting fool is writ in fire, 358

Or real wisdom wafts us to the skies.

As worldly schemes resemble Sibyl's leaves,

The good man's days to Sibyl's books compare,

(In ancient story read, thou know'st the tale),

In price still rising, as in number less,

Inestimable quite his final hour.364

For that who thrones can offer, offer thrones;

Insolvent worlds the purchase cannot pay.

|O let me die his death!| all nature cries.

|Then live his life| -- all nature falters there;

Our great physician daily to consult,

To commune with the grave, our only cure.370

What grave prescribes the best? -- A friend's; and yet,

From a friend's grave, how soon we disengage!

Even to the dearest, as his marble, cold.

Why are friends ravish'd from us? 'Tis to bind,

By soft affection's ties, on human hearts,

The thought of death, which reason, too supine,

Or misemploy'd, so rarely fastens there.

Nor reason, nor affection, no, nor both

Combined, can break the witchcrafts of the world.

Behold, th' inexorable hour at hand! 380

Behold, th' inexorable hour forgot!

And to forget it, the chief aim of life,

Though well to ponder it, is life's chief end.

Is Death, that ever threatening, ne'er remote,

That all-important, and that only sure

(Come when he will), an unexpected guest?

Nay, though invited by the loudest calls

Of blind imprudence, unexpected still;

Though numerous messengers are sent before,

To warn his great arrival. What the cause, 390

The wondrous cause, of this mysterious ill? 391

All heaven looks down astonish'd at the sight.

Is it, that life has sown her joys so thick,

We can't thrust in a single care between?

Is it, that life has such a swarm of cares,

The thought of death can't enter for the throng?

Is it, that time steals on with downy feet,

Nor wakes indulgence from her golden dream?

To-day is so like yesterday, it cheats;

We take the lying sister for the same.400

Life glides away, Lorenzo, like a brook;

For ever changing, unperceived the change.

In the same brook none ever bathed him twice:

To the same life none ever twice awoke.

We call the brook the same; the same we think

Our life, though still more rapid in its flow;

Nor mark the much, irrevocably lapsed,

And mingled with the sea. Or shall we say

(Retaining still the brook to bear us on)

That life is like a vessel on the stream? 410

In life embark'd, we smoothly down the tide

Of time descend, but not on time intent;

Amused, unconscious of the gliding wave;

Till on a sudden we perceive a shock;

We start, awake, look out; what see we there?

Our brittle bark is burst on Charon's shore.

Is this the cause death flies all human thought?

Or is it judgment, by the will struck blind,

That domineering mistress of the soul!

Like him so strong, by Dalilah the fair? 420

Or is it fear turns startled reason back,

From looking down a precipice so steep?

'Tis dreadful; and the dread is wisely placed,

By nature, conscious of the make of man.

A dreadful friend it is, a terror kind, 425

A flaming sword to guard the tree of life.

By that unawed, in life's most smiling hour,

The good man would repine; would suffer joys,

And burn impatient for his promised skies.

The bad, on each punctilious pique of pride,

Or gloom of humour, would give rage the rein;

Bound o'er the barrier, rush into the dark, 432

And mar the schemes of Providence below.

What groan was that, Lorenzo? -- Furies! rise,

And drown in your less execrable yell

Britannia's shame. There took her gloomy flight,

On wing impetuous, a black sullen soul,

Blasted from hell, with horrid lust of death;

Thy friend, the brave, the gallant Altamont,

So call'd, so thought -- and then he fled the field.440

Less base the fear of death, than fear of life.

O Britain, infamous for suicide!

An island in thy manners! far disjoin'd

From the whole world of rationals beside!

In ambient waves plunge thy polluted head,

Wash the dire stain, nor shock the Continent.

But thou be shock'd, while I detect the cause

Of self-assault, expose the monster's birth,

And bid abhorrence hiss it round the world.

Blame not thy clime, nor chide the distant sun; 450

The sun is innocent, thy clime absolved:

Immoral climes kind nature never made.

The cause I sing, in Eden might prevail,

And proves, it is thy folly, not thy fate.

The soul of man (let man in homage bow,

Who names his soul), a native of the skies!

High-born, and free, her freedom should maintain,

Unsold, unmortgaged for earth's little bribes.

Th' illustrious stranger, in this foreign land, 459

Like strangers, jealous of her dignity,

Studious of home, and ardent to return,

Of earth suspicious, earth's enchanted cup

With cool reserve light touching, should indulge

On immortality her godlike taste;

There take large draughts, make her chief banquet there.

But some reject this sustenance divine;

To beggarly vile appetites descend;

Ask alms of earth, for guests that came from heaven!

Sink into slaves; and sell, for present hire,

Their rich reversion, and (what shares its fate) 470

Their native freedom, to the prince who sways

This nether world. And when his payments fail,

When his foul basket gorges them no more,

Or their pall'd palates loathe the basket full;

Are instantly, with wild demoniac rage,

For breaking all the chains of Providence,

And bursting their confinement; though fast barr'd

By laws divine and human; guarded strong

With horrors doubled to defend the pass,

The blackest, nature, or dire guilt, can raise; 480

And moated round with fathomless destruction,

Sure to receive, and whelm them in their fall.

Such, Britons! is the cause, to you unknown,

Or worse, o'erlook'd; o'erlook'd by magistrates,

Thus criminals themselves. I grant the deed

Is madness, but the madness of the heart.

And what is that? Our utmost bound of guilt.

A sensual, unreflecting life, is big

With monstrous births, and suicide, to crown

The black infernal brood. The bold to break 490

Heaven's law supreme, and desperately rush,

Through sacred Nature's murder, on their own,

Because they never think of death, they die.493

'Tis equally man's duty, glory, gain,

At once to shun, and meditate, his end.

When by the bed of languishment we sit

(The seat of wisdom! if our choice, not fate),

Or, o'er our dying friends, in anguish hang,

Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head,

Number their moments, and, in every clock, 500

Start at the voice of an eternity;

See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift

An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,

Then sink again, and quiver into death,

That most pathetic herald of our own;

How read we such sad scenes? As sent to man

In perfect vengeance? No; in pity sent,

To melt him down, like wax, and then impress,

Indelible, Death's image on his heart;

Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.510

We bleed, we tremble, we forget, we smile.

The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry.

Our quick-returning folly cancels all;

As the tide rushing razes what is writ

In yielding sands, and smooths the letter'd shore.

Lorenzo! hast thou ever weigh'd a sigh?

Or studied the philosophy of tears?

(A science, yet unlectured in our schools!)

Hast thou descended deep into the breast,

And seen their source? If not, descend with me, 520

And trace these briny rivulets to their springs.

Our funeral tears from different causes rise,

As if from separate cisterns in the soul,

Of various kinds, they flow. From tender hearts,

By soft contagion call'd, some burst at once,

And stream obsequious to the leading eye.

Some ask more time, by curious art distill'd.527

Some hearts, in secret hard, unapt to melt,

Struck by the magic of the public eye,

Like Moses' smitten rock, gush out amain.

Some weep to share the fame of the deceased,

So high in merit, and to them so dear.

They dwell on praises, which they think they share; 533

And thus, without a blush, commend themselves.

Some mourn, in proof that something they could love:

They weep not to relieve their grief, but show.

Some weep in perfect justice to the dead,

As conscious all their love is in arrear.

Some mischievously weep, not unapprised

Tears, sometimes, aid the conquest of an eye.540

With what address the soft Ephesians draw

Their sable network o'er entangled hearts!

As seen through crystal, how their roses glow,

While liquid pearl runs trickling down their cheek!

Of hers not prouder Egypt's wanton queen,

Carousing gems, herself dissolved in love.

Some weep at death, abstracted from the dead,

And celebrate, like Charles, their own decease.

By kind construction some are deem'd to weep,

Because a decent veil conceals their joy.550

Some weep in earnest, and yet weep in vain;

As deep in indiscretion, as in woe.

Passion, blind Passion! impotently pours

Tears, that deserve more tears; while Reason sleeps;

Or gazes like an idiot, unconcern'd;

Nor comprehends the meaning of the storm;

Knows not it speaks to her, and her alone.

Irrationals all sorrow are beneath,

That noble gift! that privilege of man!

From sorrow's pang, the birth of endless joy.560

But these are barren of that birth divine:

They weep impetuous, as the summer storm,

And full as short! The cruel grief soon tamed,

They make a pastime of the stingless tale;

Far as the deep resounding knell, they spread

The dreadful news, and hardly feel it more.

No grain of wisdom pays them for their woe.

Half-round the globe, the tears pump'd up by Death

Are spent in watering vanities of life;

In making folly flourish still more fair, 570

When the sick soul, her wonted stay withdrawn,

Reclines on earth, and sorrows in the dust;

Instead of learning, there, her true support,

Though there thrown down her true support to learn.

Without Heaven's aid, impatient to be bless'd,

She crawls to the next shrub, or bramble vile,

Though from the stately cedar's arms she fell;

With stale, forsworn embraces, clings anew,

The stranger weds, and blossoms, as before,

In all the fruitless fopperies of life: 580

Presents her weed, well-fancied, at the ball,

And raffles for the Death's-head on the ring.

So wept Aurelia, till the destined youth

Stepp'd in, with his receipt for making smiles,

And blanching sables into bridal bloom.

So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate;

Who gave that angel boy, on whom he doats;

And died to give him, orphan'd in his birth!

Not such, Narcissa, my distress for thee.

I'll make an altar of thy sacred tomb, 590

To sacrifice to wisdom. -- What wast thou?

|Young, gay, and fortunate!| Each yields a theme.

I'll dwell on each, to shun thought more severe;

(Heaven knows I labour with severer still!) 594

I'll dwell on each, and quite exhaust thy death.

A soul without reflection, like a pile

Without inhabitant, to ruin runs.

And, first, thy youth. What says it to grey hairs?

Narcissa, I'm become thy pupil now --

Early, bright, transient, chaste, as morning dew,

She sparkled, was exhaled, and went to heaven.

Time on this head has snow'd; yet still 'tis borne 602

Aloft; nor thinks but on another's grave.

Cover'd with shame I speak it, age severe

Old worn-out vice sets down for virtue fair;

With graceless gravity, chastising youth,

That youth chastised surpassing in a fault,

Father of all, forgetfulness of death:

As if, like objects pressing on the sight,

Death had advanced too near us to be seen: 610

Or, that life's loan Time ripen'd into right;

And men might plead prescription from the grave;

Deathless, from repetition of reprieve.

Deathless? far from it! such are dead already;

Their hearts are buried, and the world their grave.

Tell me, some god! my guardian angel! tell,

What thus infatuates? what enchantment plants

The phantom of an age 'twixt us, and Death

Already at the door? He knocks, we hear,

And yet we will not hear. What mail defends 620

Our untouch'd hearts? what miracle turns off

The pointed thought, which from a thousand quivers

Is daily darted, and is daily shunn'd?

We stand, as in a battle, throngs on throngs

Around us falling; wounded oft ourselves;

Though bleeding with our wounds, immortal still!

We see Time's furrows on another's brow,

And Death intrench'd, preparing his assault; 628

How few themselves, in that just mirror, see,

Or, seeing, draw their inference as strong!

There, death is certain; doubtful here: he must,

And soon; we may, within an age, expire.

Though grey our heads, our thoughts and aims are green;

Like damaged clocks, whose hand and bell dissent;

Folly sings six, while Nature points at twelve.

Absurd longevity! More, more! it cries:

More life, more wealth, more trash of every kind.

And wherefore mad for more, when relish fails?

Object, and appetite, must club for joy;

Shall Folly labour hard to mend the bow, 640

Baubles, I mean, that strike us from without,

While Nature is relaxing every string?

Ask thought for joy; grow rich, and hoard within.

Think you the soul, when this life's rattles cease,

Has nothing of more manly to succeed?

Contract the taste immortal; learn even now

To relish what alone subsists hereafter.

Divine, or none, henceforth your joys for ever.

Of age the glory is, to wish to die.

That wish is praise, and promise; it applauds 650

Past life, and promises our future bliss.

What weakness see not children in their sires?

Grand-climacterical absurdities!

Grey-hair'd authority, to faults of youth,

How shocking! it makes folly thrice a fool;

And our first childhood might our last despise.

Peace and esteem is all that age can hope.

Nothing but wisdom gives the first; the last,

Nothing, but the repute of being wise.

Folly bars both; our age is quite undone.660

What folly can be ranker? Like our shadows,

Our wishes lengthen, as our sun declines.662

No wish should loiter, then, this side the grave.

Our hearts should leave the world, before the knell

Calls for our carcases to mend the soil.

Enough to live in tempest, die in port;

Age should fly concourse, cover in retreat

Defects of judgment; and the will subdue;

Walk thoughtful on the silent, solemn shore

Of that vast ocean it must sail so soon; 670

And put good works on board; and wait the wind

That shortly blows us into worlds unknown:

If unconsider'd too, a dreadful scene!

All should be prophets to themselves; foresee

Their future fate; their future fate foretaste;

This art would waste the bitterness of death.

The thought of death alone, the fear destroys.

A disaffection to that precious thought

Is more than midnight darkness on the soul,

Which sleeps beneath it, on a precipice, 680

Puff'd off by the first blast, and lost for ever.

Dost ask, Lorenzo, why so warmly press'd,

By repetition hammer'd on thine ear,

The thought of death? That thought is the machine,

The grand machine, that heaves us from the dust,

And rears us into men. That thought, plied home,

Will soon reduce the ghastly precipice

O'er-hanging hell, will soften the descent,

And gently slope our passage to the grave;

How warmly to be wish'd! What heart of flesh 690

Would trifle with tremendous? dare extremes?

Yawn o'er the fate of infinite? What hand,

Beyond the blackest brand of censure bold,

(To speak a language too well known to thee),

Would at a moment give its all to chance, 695

And stamp the die for an eternity?

Aid me, Narcissa! aid me to keep pace

With Destiny; and ere her scissors cut

My thread of life, to break this tougher thread

Of moral death, that ties me to the world.

Sting thou my slumbering reason to send forth

A thought of observation on the foe; 702

To sally; and survey the rapid march

Of his ten thousand messengers to man;

Who, Jehu-like, behind him turns them all.

All accident apart, by Nature sign'd,

My warrant is gone out, though dormant yet;

Perhaps behind one moment lurks my fate.

Must I then forward only look for Death?

Backward I turn mine eye, and find him there.710

Man is a self-survivor every year.

Man, like a stream, is in perpetual flow.

Death's a destroyer of quotidian prey.

My youth, my noontide, his; my yesterday;

The bold invader shares the present hour.

Each moment on the former shuts the grave.

While man is growing, life is in decrease;

And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.

Our birth is nothing but our death begun;

As tapers waste, that instant they take fire.720

Shall we then fear, lest that should come to pass,

Which comes to pass each moment of our lives?

If fear we must, let that Death turn us pale,

Which murders strength and ardour; what remains

Should rather call on Death, than dread his call.

Ye partners of my fault, and my decline!

Thoughtless of death, but when your neighbour's knell

(Rude visitant!) knocks hard at your dull sense,

And with its thunder scarce obtains your ear! 729

Be death your theme, in every place and hour;

Nor longer want, ye monumental sires!

A brother tomb to tell you ye shall die.

That death you dread (so great is Nature's skill)

Know, you shall court before you shall enjoy.

But you are learn'd; in volumes deep, you sit;

In wisdom, shallow: pompous ignorance!

Would you be still more learned than the learn'd?

Learn well to know how much need not be known,

And what that knowledge, which impairs your sense.

Our needful knowledge, like our needful food, 740

Unhedged, lies open in life's common field;

And bids all welcome to the vital feast.

You scorn what lies before you in the page

Of Nature, and Experience, moral truth;

Of indispensable, eternal fruit;

Fruit, on which mortals feeding, turn to gods:

And dive in science for distinguish'd names,

Dishonest fomentation of your pride!

Sinking in virtue, as you rise in fame.

Your learning, like the lunar beam, affords 750

Light, but not heat; it leaves you indevout,

Frozen at heart, while speculation shines.

Awake, ye curious indagators! fond

Of knowing all, but what avails you known.

If you would learn Death's character, attend.

All casts of conduct, all degrees of health,

All dies of fortune, and all dates of age,

Together shook in his impartial urn,

Come forth at random: or, if choice is made,

The choice is quite sarcastic, and insults 760

All bold conjecture, and fond hopes of man.

What countless multitudes not only leave,

But deeply disappoint us, by their deaths! 763

Though great our sorrow, greater our surprise.

Like other tyrants, Death delights to smite,

What, smitten, most proclaims the pride of power,

And arbitrary nod. His joy supreme,

To bid the wretch survive the fortunate;

The feeble wrap th' athletic in his shroud;

And weeping fathers build their children's tomb: 770

Me thine, Narcissa! -- What though short thy date?

Virtue, not rolling suns, the mind matures.

That life is long, which answers life's great end.

The time that bears no fruit, deserves no name;

The man of wisdom is the man of years.

In hoary youth Methusalems may die;

O how misdated on their flattering tombs!

Narcissa's youth has lectured me thus far.

And can her gaiety give counsel too?

That, like the Jews' famed oracle of gems, 780

Sparkles instruction; such as throws new light,

And opens more the character of Death;

Ill known to thee, Lorenzo! This thy vaunt:

|Give Death his due, the wretched, and the old;

Even let him sweep his rubbish to the grave;

Let him not violate kind Nature's laws,

But own man born to live as well as die.|

Wretched and old thou givest him; young and gay

He takes; and plunder is a tyrant's joy.

What if I prove, |The farthest from the fear, 790

Are often nearest to the stroke of Fate?|

All, more than common, menaces an end.

A blaze betokens brevity of life:

As if bright embers should emit a flame,

Glad spirits sparkled from Narcissa's eye,

And made youth younger, and taught life to live, 796

As Nature's opposites wage endless war,

For this offence, as treason to the deep

Inviolable stupor of his reign,

Where Lust, and turbulent Ambition, sleep,

Death took swift vengeance. As he life detests,

More life is still more odious; and, reduced

By conquest, aggrandizes more his power.803

But wherefore aggrandized? By Heaven's decree,

To plant the soul on her eternal guard,

In awful expectation of our end.

Thus runs Death's dread commission: |Strike, but so

As most alarms the living by the dead.|

Hence stratagem delights him, and surprise,

And cruel sport with man's securities.810

Not simple conquest, triumph is his aim;

And, where least fear'd, there conquest triumphs most.

This proves my bold assertion not too bold.

What are his arts to lay our fears asleep?

Tiberian arts his purposes wrap up

In deep dissimulation's darkest night.

Like princes unconfess'd in foreign courts,

Who travel under cover, Death assumes

The name and look of life, and dwells among us.

He takes all shapes that serve his black designs: 820

Though master of a wider empire far

Than that o'er which the Roman eagle flew.

Like Nero, he's a fiddler, charioteer,

Or drives his phaeton, in female guise;

Quite unsuspected, till, the wheel beneath,

His disarray'd oblation he devours.

He most affects the forms least like himself,

His slender self. Hence burly corpulence

Is his familiar wear, and sleek disguise.

Behind the rosy bloom he loves to lurk, 830

Or ambush in a smile; or wanton dive

In dimples deep; love's eddies, which draw in

Unwary hearts, and sink them in despair.

Such, on Narcissa's couch he loiter'd long

Unknown; and, when detected, still was seen

To smile; such peace has innocence in death!

Most happy they! whom least his arts deceive.

One eye on Death, and one full fix'd on heaven,

Becomes a mortal, and immortal man.

Long on his wiles a piqued and jealous spy, 840

I've seen, or dreamt I saw, the tyrant dress;

Lay by his horrors, and put on his smiles.

Say, Muse, for thou remember'st, call it back,

And show Lorenzo the surprising scene;

If 'twas a dream, his genius can explain.

'Twas in a circle of the gay I stood.

Death would have enter'd; Nature push'd him back;

Supported by a doctor of renown,

His point he gain'd. Then artfully dismiss'd

The sage; for Death design'd to be conceal'd.850

He gave an old vivacious usurer

His meagre aspect, and his naked bones;

In gratitude for plumping up his prey,

A pamper'd spendthrift; whose fantastic air,

Well-fashion'd figure, and cockaded brow,

He took in change, and underneath the pride

Of costly linen, tuck'd his filthy shroud.

His crooked bow he straighten'd to a cane;

And hid his deadly shafts in Myra's eye.

The dreadful masquerader, thus equipp'd, 860

Out sallies on adventures. Ask you where?

Where is he not? For his peculiar haunts,

Let this suffice; sure as night follows day,

Death treads in pleasure's footsteps round the world, 864

When pleasure treads the paths, which reason shuns.

When, against reason, riot shuts the door,

And gaiety supplies the place of sense,

Then, foremost at the banquet, and the ball,

Death leads the dance, or stamps the deadly die;

Nor ever fails the midnight bowl to crown.870

Gaily carousing to his gay compeers,

Inly he laughs, to see them laugh at him,

As absent far: and when the revel burns,

When fear is banish'd, and triumphant thought,

Calling for all the joys beneath the moon,

Against him turns the key; and bids him sup

With their progenitors -- He drops his mask;

Frowns out at full; they start, despair, expire.

Scarce with more sudden terror and surprise,

From his black mask of nitre, touch'd by fire, 880

He bursts, expands, roars, blazes, and devours.

And is not this triumphant treachery,

And more than simple conquest, in the fiend?

And now, Lorenzo, dost thou wrap thy soul

In soft security, because unknown

Which moment is commission'd to destroy?

In death's uncertainty thy danger lies.

Is death uncertain? Therefore thou be fix'd;

Fix'd as a sentinel, all eye, all ear,

All expectation of the coming foe.890

Rouse, stand in arms, nor lean against thy spear;

Lest slumber steal one moment o'er thy soul,

And Fate surprise thee nodding. Watch, be strong:

Thus give each day the merit, and renown,

Of dying well; though doom'd but once to die.

Nor let life's period hidden (as from most)

Hide too from thee the precious use of life.

Early, not sudden, was Narcissa's fate.898

Soon, not surprising, Death his visit paid.

Her thought went forth to meet him on his way,

Nor gaiety forgot it was to die:

Though Fortune too (our third and final theme),

As an accomplice, play'd her gaudy plumes,

And every glittering gewgaw, on her sight, 904

To dazzle, and debauch it from its mark.

Death's dreadful advent is the mark of man;

And every thought that misses it, is blind.

Fortune, with youth and gaiety, conspired

To weave a triple wreath of happiness

(If happiness on earth) to crown her brow.910

And could Death charge through such a shining shield?

That shining shield invites the tyrant's spear.

As if to damp our elevated aims,

And strongly preach humility to man.

O how portentous is prosperity!

How, comet-like, it threatens, while it shines!

Few years but yield us proof of Death's ambition,

To cull his victims from the fairest fold,

And sheath his shafts in all the pride of life.

When flooded with abundance, purpled o'er 920

With recent honours, bloom'd with every bliss,

Set up in ostentation, made the gaze,

The gaudy centre, of the public eye,

When Fortune thus has toss'd her child in air,

Snatch'd from the covert of an humble state,

How often have I seen him dropp'd at once,

Our morning's envy! and our evening's sigh!

As if her bounties were the signal given,

The flowery wreath to mark the sacrifice,

And call Death's arrows on the destined prey.930

High Fortune seems in cruel league with Fate.

Ask you for what? To give his war on man 932

The deeper dread, and more illustrious spoil;

Thus to keep daring mortals more in awe.

And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime

Of life? to hang his airy nest on high,

On the slight timber of the topmost bough,

Rock'd at each breeze, and menacing a fall?

Granting grim Death at equal distance there;

Yet peace begins just where ambition ends.940

What makes man wretched? Happiness denied?

Lorenzo! no: 'tis happiness disdain'd.

She comes too meanly dress'd to win our smile;

And calls herself Content, a homely name!

Our flame is transport, and Content our scorn.

Ambition turns, and shuts the door against her,

And weds a toil, a tempest, in her stead;

A tempest to warm transport near of kin.

Unknowing what our mortal state admits,

Life's modest joys we ruin, while we raise; 950

And all our ecstasies are wounds to peace;

Peace, the full portion of mankind below.

And since thy peace is dear, ambitious youth!

Of fortune fond! as thoughtless of thy fate!

As late I drew Death's picture, to stir up

Thy wholesome fears; now, drawn in contrast, see

Gay Fortune's, thy vain hopes to reprimand.

See, high in air, the sportive goddess hangs,

Unlocks her casket, spreads her glittering ware,

And calls the giddy winds to puff abroad 960

Her random bounties o'er the gaping throng.

All rush rapacious; friends o'er trodden friends;

Sons o'er their fathers, subjects o'er their kings,

Priests o'er their gods, and lovers o'er the fair

(Still more adored), to snatch the golden shower.

Gold glitters most, where virtue shines no more;

As stars from absent suns have leave to shine.967

O what a precious pack of votaries

Unkennell'd from the prisons, and the stews,

Pour in, all opening in their idol's praise;

All, ardent, eye each wafture of her hand,

And, wide-expanding their voracious jaws,

Morsel on morsel swallow down unchew'd, 973

Untasted, through mad appetite for more;

Gorged to the throat, yet lean and ravenous still.

Sagacious all, to trace the smallest game,

And bold to seize the greatest. If (bless'd chance!)

Court-zephyrs sweetly breathe, they launch, they fly,

O'er just, o'er sacred, all-forbidden ground,

Drunk with the burning scent of place or power, 980

Staunch to the foot of lucre, till they die.

Or, if for men you take them, as I mark

Their manners, thou their various fates survey.

With aim mismeasured, and impetuous speed,

Some darting, strike their ardent wish far off,

Through fury to possess it: some succeed,

But stumble, and let fall the taken prize.

From some, by sudden blasts, 'tis whirl'd away,

And lodged in bosoms that ne'er dreamt of gain.

To some it sticks so close, that, when torn off, 990

Torn is the man, and mortal is the wound.

Some, o'er-enamour'd of their bags, run mad,

Groan under gold, yet weep for want of bread.

Together some (unhappy rivals!) seize,

And rend abundance into poverty;

Loud croaks the raven of the law, and smiles:

Smiles too the goddess; but smiles most at those

(Just victims of exorbitant desire!)

Who perish at their own request, and, whelm'd

Beneath her load of lavish grants, expire.1000

Fortune is famous for her numbers slain,

The number small, which happiness can bear.1002

Though various for a while their fates; at last

One curse involves them all: at Death's approach,

All read their riches backward into loss,

And mourn, in just proportion to their store.

And Death's approach (if orthodox my song)

Is hasten'd by the lure of Fortune's smiles.

And art thou still a glutton of bright gold?

And art thou still rapacious of thy ruin? 1010

Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow;

A blow, which, while it executes, alarms;

And startles thousands with a single fall.

As when some stately growth of oak, or pine,

Which nods aloft, and proudly spreads her shade,

The sun's defiance, and the flock's defence;

By the strong strokes of labouring hinds subdued,

Loud groans her last, and, rushing from her height,

In cumbrous ruin, thunders to the ground:

The conscious forest trembles at the shock, 1020

And hill, and stream, and distant dale, resound.

These high-aim'd darts of Death, and these alone,

Should I collect, my quiver would be full.

A quiver, which, suspended in mid-air,

Or near heaven's archer, in the zodiac, hung,

(So could it be) should draw the public eye,

The gaze and contemplation of mankind!

A constellation awful, yet benign,

To guide the gay through life's tempestuous wave;

Nor suffer them to strike the common rock, 1030

|From greater danger to grow more secure,

And, wrapt in happiness, forget their fate.|

Lysander, happy past the common lot,

Was warn'd of danger, but too gay to fear.

He woo'd the fair Aspasia: she was kind:

In youth, form, fortune, fame, they both were bless'd:

All who knew, envied; yet in envy loved: 1037

Can fancy form more finish'd happiness?

Fix'd was the nuptial hour. Her stately dome

Rose on the sounding beach. The glittering spires

Float in the wave, and break against the shore:

So break those glittering shadows, human joys.

The faithless morning smiled: he takes his leave, 1043

To re-embrace, in ecstasies, at eve.

The rising storm forbids. The news arrives:

Untold, she saw it in her servant's eye.

She felt it seen (her heart was apt to feel);

And, drown'd, without the furious ocean's aid,

In suffocating sorrows, shares his tomb.

Now, round the sumptuous bridal monument, 1050

The guilty billows innocently roar;

And the rough sailor passing, drops a tear.

A tear? -- can tears suffice? -- But not for me.

How vain our efforts! and our arts, how vain!

The distant train of thought I took, to shun,

Has thrown me on my fate -- these died together;

Happy in ruin! undivorced by death!

Or ne'er to meet, or ne'er to part, is peace --

Narcissa! pity bleeds at thought of thee.

Yet thou wast only near me; not myself.1060

Survive myself? -- That cures all other woe.

Narcissa lives; Philander is forgot.

O the soft commerce! O the tender ties,

Close twisted with the fibres of the heart!

Which, broken, break them; and drain off the soul

Of human joy; and make it pain to live --

And is it then to live? When such friends part,

'Tis the survivor dies -- My heart! no more.1068


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