Few ages have been deeper in dispute about religion than this. The dispute about religion, and the practice of it, seldom go together. The shorter, therefore, the dispute, the better. I think it may be reduced to this single question, Is man immortal, or is he not? If he is not, all our disputes are mere amusements, or trials of skill. In this case, truth, reason, religion, which give our discourses such pomp and solemnity, are (as will be shown) mere empty sound, without any meaning in them. But if man is immortal, it will behove him to be very serious about eternal consequences; or, in other words, to be truly religious. And this great fundamental truth, unestablished, or unawakened in the minds of men, is, I conceive, the real source and support of all our infidelity; how remote soever the particular objections advanced may seem to be from it.
Sensible appearances affect most men much more than abstract reasonings; and we daily see bodies drop around us, but the soul is invisible. The power which inclination has over the judgment, is greater than can be well conceived by those that have not had an experience of it; and of what numbers is it the sad interest that souls should not survive! The heathen world confessed, that they rather hoped, than firmly believed, immortality; and how many heathens have we still amongst us! The sacred page assures us, that life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel: but by how many is the Gospel rejected or overlooked? From these considerations, and from my being accidentally privy to the sentiments of some particular persons, I have been long persuaded that most, if not all, our infidels (whatever name they take, and whatever scheme, for argument's sake, and to keep themselves in countenance, they patronise), are supported in their deplorable error, by some doubt of their immortality, at the bottom. And I am satisfied, that men once thoroughly convinced of their immortality, are not far from being Christians. For it is hard to conceive, that a man fully conscious eternal pain or happiness will certainly be his lot, should not earnestly and impartially inquire after the surest means of escaping the one, and securing the other. And of such an earnest and impartial inquiry I well know the consequence.
Here, therefore, in proof of this most fundamental truth, some plain arguments are offered; arguments derived from principles which infidels admit in common with believers; arguments which appear to me altogether irresistible; and such as, I am satisfied, will have great weight with all who give themselves the small trouble of looking seriously into their own bosoms, and of observing, with any tolerable degree of attention, what daily passes round about them in the world. If some arguments shall here occur, which others have declined, they are submitted, with all deference, to better judgments in this, of all points the most important. For, as to the being of a God, that is no longer disputed; but it is undisputed for this reason only, viz., because, where the least pretence to reason is admitted, it must for ever be indisputable. And of consequence no man can be betrayed into a dispute of that nature by vanity; which has a principal share in animating our modern combatants against other articles of our belief.
THE INFIDEL RECLAIMED.
She (for I know not yet her name in heaven),
Not early, like Narcissa, left the scene;
Nor sudden, like Philander. What avail?
This seeming mitigation but inflames;
This fancied medicine heightens the disease.
The longer known, the closer still she grew;
And gradual parting is a gradual death.
'Tis the grim tyrant's engine, which extorts,
By tardy pressure's still-increasing weight,
From hardest hearts, confession of distress.10
Oh, the long, dark approach through years of pain,
Death's gallery! (might I dare to call it so)
With dismal doubt, and sable terror, hung;
Sick hope's pale lamp its only glimmering ray:
There, fate my melancholy walk ordain'd,
Forbid self-love itself to flatter, there.
How oft I gazed, prophetically sad!
How oft I saw her dead, while yet in smiles! 18
In smiles she sunk her grief to lessen mine.
She spoke me comfort, and increased my pain.
Like powerful armies trenching at a town,
By slow, and silent, but resistless sap,
In his pale progress gently gaining ground,
Death urged his deadly siege; in spite of art,
Of all the balmy blessings nature lends
To succour frail humanity. Ye stars!
(Not now first made familiar to my sight)
And thou, O moon! bear witness, many a night
He tore the pillow from beneath my head,
Tied down my sore attention to the shock, 30
By ceaseless depredations on a life
Dearer than that he left me. Dreadful post
Of observation! darker every hour!
Less dread the day that drove me to the brink,
And pointed at eternity below;
When my soul shudder'd at futurity;
When, on a moment's point, th' important die
Of life and death spun doubtful, ere it fell,
And turn'd up life; my title to more woe.
But why more woe? More comfort let it be.40
Nothing is dead, but that which wish'd to die;
Nothing is dead, but wretchedness and pain;
Nothing is dead, but what encumber'd, gall'd,
Block'd up the pass, and barr'd from real life.
Where dwells that wish most ardent of the wise?
Too dark the sun to see it; highest stars
Too low to reach it; Death, great Death alone,
O'er stars and sun, triumphant, lands us there.
Nor dreadful our transition; though the mind,
An artist at creating self-alarms, 50
Rich in expedients for inquietude,
Is prone to paint it dreadful. Who can take 52
Death's portrait true? The tyrant never sat.
Our sketch all random strokes, conjecture all;
Close shuts the grave, nor tells one single tale.
Death, and his image rising in the brain,
Bear faint resemblance; never are alike;
Fear shakes the pencil; Fancy loves excess;
Dark Ignorance is lavish of her shades:
And these the formidable picture draw.60
But grant the worst; 'tis past; new prospects rise;
And drop a veil eternal o'er her tomb.
Far other views our contemplation claim,
Views that o'erpay the rigours of our life;
Views that suspend our agonies in death.
Wrapt in the thought of immortality,
Wrapt in the single, the triumphant thought!
Long life might lapse, age unperceived come on;
And find the soul unsated with her theme.
Its nature, proof, importance, fire my song.70
O that my song could emulate my soul!
Like her, immortal. No! -- the soul disdains
A mark so mean; far nobler hope inflames;
If endless ages can outweigh an hour,
Let not the laurel, but the palm, inspire.
Thy nature, Immortality! who knows?
And yet who knows it not? It is but life
In stronger thread of brighter colour spun,
And spun for ever; dipp'd by cruel Fate
In Stygian dye, how black, how brittle here! 80
How short our correspondence with the sun!
And while it lasts, inglorious! Our best deeds,
How wanting in their weight! our highest joys
Small cordials to support us in our pain,
And give us strength to suffer. But how great
To mingle interests, converse, amities, 86
With all the sons of Reason, scatter'd wide
Through habitable space, wherever born,
Howe'er endow'd! to live free citizens
Of universal nature! to lay hold
By more than feeble faith on the Supreme!
To call heaven's rich unfathomable mines
(Mines, which support archangels in their state) 93
Our own! To rise in science, as in bliss,
Initiate in the secrets of the skies!
To read creation; read its mighty plan
In the bare bosom of the Deity!
The plan, and execution, to collate!
To see, before each glance of piercing thought,
All cloud, all shadow, blown remote; and leave 100
No mystery -- but that of Love Divine,
Which lifts us on the seraph's flaming wing,
From earth's Aceldama, this field of blood,
Of inward anguish, and of outward ill,
From darkness, and from dust, to such a scene!
Love's element! true joy's illustrious home!
From earth's sad contrast (now deplored) more fair!
What exquisite vicissitude of fate!
Bless'd absolution of our blackest hour!
Lorenzo, these are thoughts that make man Man, 110
The wise illumine, aggrandize the great.
How great (while yet we tread the kindred clod,
And every moment fear to sink beneath
The clod we tread; soon trodden by our sons);
How great, in the wild whirl of Time's pursuits,
To stop, and pause, involved in high presage,
Through the long vista of a thousand years,
To stand contemplating our distant selves,
As in a magnifying mirror seen,
Enlarged, ennobled, elevate, divine! 120
To prophesy our own futurities;
To gaze in thought on what all thought transcends!
To talk, with fellow-candidates, of joys
As far beyond conception as desert,
Ourselves th' astonish'd talkers, and the tale!
Lorenzo, swells thy bosom at the thought?
The swell becomes thee: 'tis an honest pride.
Revere thyself; -- and yet thyself despise.
His nature no man can o'er-rate; and none
Can under-rate his merit. Take good heed, 130
Nor there be modest, where thou should'st be proud;
That almost universal error shun.
How just our pride, when we behold those heights!
Not those Ambition paints in air, but those
Reason points out, and ardent Virtue gains,
And angels emulate; our pride how just!
When mount we? when these shackles cast? when quit
This cell of the creation? this small nest,
Stuck in a corner of the universe,
Wrapt up in fleecy cloud, and fine-spun air? 140
Fine-spun to sense; but gross and feculent
To souls celestial; souls ordain'd to breathe
Ambrosial gales, and drink a purer sky;
Greatly triumphant on Time's farther shore,
Where Virtue reigns, enrich'd with full arrears;
While Pomp imperial begs an alms of peace.
In empire high, or in proud science deep,
Ye born of earth! on what can you confer,
With half the dignity, with half the gain,
The gust, the glow of rational delight, 150
As on this theme, which angels praise and share?
Man's fates and favours are a theme in heaven.
What wretched repetition cloys us here!
What periodic potions for the sick! 154
Distemper'd bodies! and distemper'd minds!
In an eternity, what scenes shall strike!
Adventures thicken! novelties surprise!
What webs of wonder shall unravel, there!
What full day pour on all the paths of heaven,
And light th' Almighty's footsteps in the deep!
How shall the blessed day of our discharge
Unwind, at once, the labyrinths of fate, 162
And straighten its inextricable maze!
If inextinguishable thirst in man
To know; how rich, how full, our banquet there!
There, not the moral world alone unfolds;
The world material, lately seen in shades,
And, in those shades, by fragments only seen,
And seen those fragments by the labouring eye,
Unbroken, then, illustrious, and entire, 170
Its ample sphere, its universal frame,
In full dimensions, swells to the survey;
And enters, at one glance, the ravish'd sight.
From some superior point (where, who can tell?
Suffice it, 'tis a point where gods reside)
How shall the stranger man's illumined eye,
In the vast ocean of unbounded space,
Behold an infinite of floating worlds
Divide the crystal waves of ether pure,
In endless voyage, without port? The least 180
Of these disseminated orbs, how great!
Great as they are, what numbers these surpass,
Huge, as Leviathan, to that small race,
Those twinkling multitudes of little life,
He swallows unperceived! Stupendous these!
Yet what are these stupendous to the whole?
As particles, as atoms ill perceived;
As circulating globules in our veins; 188
So vast the plan. Fecundity divine!
Exuberant Source! perhaps, I wrong thee still.
If admiration is a source of joy,
What transport hence! Yet this the least in heaven.
What this to that illustrious robe He wears,
Who toss'd this mass of wonders from his hand,
A specimen, an earnest of his power?
'Tis to that glory, whence all glory flows,
As the mead's meanest floweret to the sun,
Which gave it birth. But what, this sun of heaven?
This bliss supreme of the supremely blest?
Death, only death, the question can resolve.200
By death, cheap bought th' ideas of our joy;
The bare ideas! solid happiness
So distant from its shadow chased below.
And chase we still the phantom through the fire,
O'er bog, and brake, and precipice, till death?
And toil we still for sublunary pay?
Defy the dangers of the field and flood,
Or, spider-like, spin out our precious all,
Our more than vitals spin (if no regard
To great futurity) in curious webs 210
Of subtle thought, and exquisite design;
(Fine network of the brain!) to catch a fly!
The momentary buzz of vain renown!
A name! a mortal immortality!
Or (meaner still!) instead of grasping air,
For sordid lucre plunge we in the mire?
Drudge, sweat, through every shame, for every gain,
For vile contaminating trash; throw up
Our hope in heaven, our dignity with man?
And deify the dirt, matured to gold? 220
Ambition, Avarice; the two demons these,
Which goad through every slough our human herd, 222
Hard-travell'd from the cradle to the grave.
How low the wretches stoop! how steep they climb!
These demons burn mankind; but most possess
Lorenzo's bosom, and turn out the skies.
Is it in time to hide eternity?
And why not in an atom on the shore
To cover ocean? or a mote, the sun?
Glory and wealth! have they this blinding power? 230
What if to them I prove Lorenzo blind?
Would it surprise thee? Be thou then surprised;
Thou neither know'st: their nature learn from me.
Mark well, as foreign as these subjects seem,
What close connexion ties them to my theme.
First, what is true ambition? The pursuit
Of glory, nothing less than man can share.
Were they as vain, as gaudy-minded man,
As flatulent with fumes of self-applause,
Their arts and conquests animals might boast, 240
And claim their laurel crowns, as well as we;
But not celestial. Here we stand alone;
As in our form, distinct, pre-eminent;
If prone in thought, our stature is our shame;
And man should blush, his forehead meets the skies.
The visible and present are for brutes,
A slender portion, and a narrow bound!
These Reason, with an energy divine,
O'erleaps; and claims the future and unseen;
The vast unseen! the future fathomless! 250
When the great soul buoys up to this high point,
Leaving gross nature's sediments below,
Then, and then only, Adam's offspring quits
The sage and hero of the fields and woods,
Asserts his rank, and rises into man.255
This is ambition: this is human fire.
Can Parts or Place (two bold pretenders!) make
Lorenzo great, and pluck him from the throng?
Genius and Art, ambition's boasted wings,
Our boast but ill deserve. A feeble aid!
Dedalian enginery! If these alone
Assist our flight, Fame's flight is Glory's fall.
Heart merit wanting, mount we ne'er so high, 263
Our height is but the gibbet of our name.
A celebrated wretch, when I behold,
When I behold a genius bright, and base,
Of towering talents, and terrestrial aims;
Methinks I see, as thrown from her high sphere,
The glorious fragments of a soul immortal,
With rubbish mix'd, and glittering in the dust.270
Struck at the splendid, melancholy sight,
At once compassion soft, and envy, rise --
But wherefore envy? Talents angel-bright,
If wanting worth, are shining instruments
In false ambition's hand, to finish faults
Illustrious, and give infamy renown.
Great ill is an achievement of great powers.
Plain sense but rarely leads us far astray.
Reason the means, affections choose our end;
Means have no merit, if our end amiss.280
If wrong our hearts, our heads are right in vain:
What is a Pelham's head, to Pelham's heart?
Hearts are proprietors of all applause.
Right ends, and means, make wisdom: worldly-wise
Is but half-witted, at its highest praise.
Let Genius then despair to make thee great;
Nor flatter Station: what is station high?
'Tis a proud mendicant; it boasts, and begs;
It begs an alms of homage from the throng, 289
And oft the throng denies its charity.
Monarchs and ministers, are awful names;
Whoever wear them, challenge our devoir.
Religion, public order, both exact
External homage, and a supple knee,
To beings pompously set up, to serve
The meanest slave: all more is merit's due,
Her sacred and inviolable right;
Nor ever paid the monarch, but the man.
Our hearts ne'er bow but to superior worth;
Nor ever fail of their allegiance there.300
Fools, indeed, drop the man in their account,
And vote the mantle into majesty.
Let the small savage boast his silver fur;
His royal robe unborrow'd, and unbought,
His own, descending fairly from his sires.
Shall man be proud to wear his livery,
And souls in ermine scorn a soul without?
Can place or lessen us, or aggrandize?
Pigmies are pigmies still, though perch'd on Alps;
And pyramids are pyramids in vales.310
Each man makes his own stature, builds himself:
Virtue alone outbuilds the pyramids:
Her monuments shall last, when Egypt's fall.
Of these sure truths dost thou demand the cause?
The cause is lodged in immortality.
Hear, and assent. Thy bosom burns for power;
What station charms thee? I'll install thee there;
'Tis thine. And art thou greater than before?
Then thou before wast something less than man.
Has thy new post betray'd thee into pride? 320
That treacherous pride betrays thy dignity;
That pride defames humanity, and calls
The being mean, which staffs or strings can raise.323
That pride, like hooded hawks, in darkness soars,
From blindness bold, and towering to the skies.
'Tis born of ignorance, which knows not man:
An angel's second; nor his second, long.
A Nero quitting his imperial throne,
And courting glory from the tinkling string,
But faintly shadows an immortal soul, 330
With empire's self, to pride, or rapture, fired.
If nobler motives minister no cure,
Even vanity forbids thee to be vain.
High worth is elevated place: 'tis more;
It makes the post stand candidate for thee;
Makes more than monarchs, makes an honest man;
Though no exchequer it commands, 'tis wealth;
And though it wears no riband, 'tis renown;
Renown, that would not quit thee, though disgraced,
Nor leave thee pendent on a master's smile.340
Other ambition Nature interdicts;
Nature proclaims it most absurd in man,
By pointing at his origin, and end;
Milk, and a swathe, at first, his whole demand;
His whole domain, at last, a turf, or stone;
To whom, between, a world may seem too small.
Souls truly great dart forward on the wing
Of just ambition, to the grand result,
The curtain's fall; there, see the buskin'd chief
Unshod behind this momentary scene; 350
Reduced to his own stature, low or high,
As vice, or virtue, sinks him, or sublimes;
And laugh at this fantastic mummery,
This antic prelude of grotesque events,
Where dwarfs are often stilted, and betray
A littleness of soul by worlds o'errun,
And nations laid in blood. Dread sacrifice 357
To Christian pride! which had with horror shock'd
The darkest Pagans, offer'd to their gods.
O thou most Christian enemy to peace!
Again in arms? Again provoking fate?
That prince, and that alone, is truly great,
Who draws the sword reluctant, gladly sheathes; 363
On empire builds what empire far outweighs,
And makes his throne a scaffold to the skies.
Why this so rare? Because forgot of all
The day of death; that venerable day,
Which sits as judge; that day, which shall pronounce
On all our days, absolve them, or condemn.
Lorenzo, never shut thy thought against it; 370
Be levees ne'er so full, afford it room,
And give it audience in the cabinet.
That friend consulted, flatteries apart,
Will tell thee fair, if thou art great, or mean.
To doat on aught may leave us, or be left,
Is that ambition? Then let flames descend,
Point to the centre their inverted spires,
And learn humiliation from a soul,
Which boasts her lineage from celestial fire.
Yet these are they, the world pronounces wise; 380
The world, which cancels nature's right and wrong,
And casts new wisdom: even the grave man lends
His solemn face, to countenance the coin.
Wisdom for parts is madness for the whole.
This stamps the paradox, and gives us leave
To call the wisest weak, the richest poor,
The most ambitious, unambitious, mean;
In triumph, mean; and abject, on a throne.
Nothing can make it less than mad in man,
To put forth all his ardour, all his art, 390
And give his soul her full unbounded flight,
But reaching Him, who gave her wings to fly.
When blind Ambition quite mistakes her road,
And downwards pores, for that which shines above,
Substantial happiness, and true renown;
Then, like an idiot, gazing on the brook,
We leap at stars, and fasten in the mud;
At glory grasp, and sink in infamy.
Ambition! powerful source of good and ill!
Thy strength in man, like length of wing in birds, 400
When disengaged from earth, with greater ease,
And swifter flight, transports us to the skies;
By toys entangled, or in guilt bemired,
It turns a curse; it is our chain, and scourge,
In this dark dungeon, where confined we lie,
Close grated by the sordid bars of Sense;
All prospect of eternity shut out;
And, but for execution, ne'er set free.
With error in ambition justly charged,
Find we Lorenzo wiser in his wealth? 410
What if thy rental I reform? and draw
An inventory new, to set thee right?
Where thy true treasure? Gold says, |Not in me:|
And, |Not in me,| the diamond. Gold is poor;
India's insolvent: seek it in thyself,
Seek in thy naked self, and find it there;
In being, so descended, form'd, endow'd;
Sky-born, sky-guided, sky-returning race!
Erect, immortal, rational, divine!
In senses, which inherit earth, and heavens; 420
Enjoy the various riches Nature yields;
Far nobler! give the riches they enjoy;
Give taste to fruits; and harmony to groves;
Their radiant beams to gold, and gold's bright fire; 424
Take in, at once, the landscape of the world,
At a small inlet, which a grain might close,
And half create the wondrous world they see.
Our senses, as our reason, are divine.
But for the magic organ's powerful charm,
Earth were a rude, uncolour'd chaos still.
Objects are but th' occasion; ours th' exploit;
Ours is the cloth, the pencil, and the paint, 432
Which nature's admirable picture draws;
And beautifies creation's ample dome.
Like Milton's Eve, when gazing on the lake,
Man makes the matchless image man admires.
Say then, shall man, his thoughts all sent abroad,
Superior wonders in himself forgot,
His admiration waste on objects round,
When Heaven makes him the soul of all he sees? 440
Absurd! not rare! so great, so mean, is man.
What wealth in senses such as these! What wealth
In Fancy, fired to form a fairer scene
Than Sense surveys! In memory's firm record,
Which, should it perish, could this world recall
From the dark shadows of o'erwhelming years!
In colours fresh, originally bright,
Preserve its portrait, and report its fate!
What wealth in Intellect, that sovereign power!
Which Sense and Fancy summons to the bar; 450
Interrogates, approves, or reprehends;
And from the mass those underlings import,
From their materials sifted, and refined,
And in Truth's balance accurately weigh'd,
Forms art, and science, government, and law;
The solid basis, and the beauteous frame, 456
The vitals, and the grace of civil life!
And manners (sad exception!) set aside,
Strikes out, with master hand, a copy fair
Of His idea, whose indulgent thought
Long, long, ere chaos teem'd, plann'd human bliss.
What wealth in souls that soar, dive, range around,
Disdaining limit, or from place, or time; 463
And hear at once, in thought extensive, hear
Th' Almighty fiat, and the trumpet's sound!
Bold, on creation's outside walk, and view
What was, and is, and more than e'er shall be;
Commanding, with omnipotence of thought,
Creations new in fancy's field to rise!
Souls, that can grasp whate'er th' Almighty made, 470
And wander wild through things impossible!
What wealth, in faculties of endless growth,
In quenchless passions violent to crave,
In liberty to choose, in power to reach,
And in duration (how thy riches rise!)
Duration to perpetuate -- boundless bliss!
Ask you, what power resides in feeble man
That bliss to gain? Is Virtue's, then, unknown?
Virtue, our present peace, our future prize.
Man's unprecarious, natural estate, 480
Improveable at will, in virtue lies;
Its tenure sure; its income is divine.
High-built abundance, heap on heap! for what?
To breed new wants, and beggar us the more;
Then make a richer scramble for the throng?
Soon as this feeble pulse, which leaps so long
Almost by miracle, is tired with play,
Like rubbish from disploding engines thrown,
Our magazines of hoarded trifles fly;
Fly diverse; fly to foreigners, to foes; 490
New masters court, and call the former fools
(How justly!), for dependence on their stay.
Wide scatter, first, our playthings; then, our dust.
Dost court abundance for the sake of peace?
Learn, and lament thy self-defeated scheme:
Riches enable to be richer still;
And, richer still, what mortal can resist?
Thus wealth (a cruel taskmaster!) enjoins
New toils, succeeding toils, an endless train!
And murders peace, which taught it first to shine.500
The poor are half as wretched as the rich;
Whose proud and painful privilege it is
At once, to bear a double load of woe;
To feel the stings of envy, and of want,
Outrageous want! both Indies cannot cure.
A competence is vital to content.
Much wealth is corpulence, if not disease;
Sick, or encumber'd, is our happiness,
A competence is all we can enjoy.
Oh, be content, where Heaven can give no more! 510
More, like a flash of water from a lock,
Quickens our spirits' movement for an hour;
But soon its force is spent, nor rise our joys
Above our native temper's common stream.
Hence disappointment lurks in every prize,
As bees in flowers; and stings us with success.
The rich man, who denies it, proudly feigns;
Nor knows the wise are privy to the lie.
Much learning shows how little mortals know;
Much wealth, how little worldlings can enjoy: 520
At best, it babies us with endless toys,
And keeps us children till we drop to dust.
As monkeys at a mirror stand amazed,
They fail to find what they so plainly see; 524
Thus men, in shining riches, see the face
Of happiness, nor know it is a shade;
But gaze, and touch, and peep, and peep again,
And wish, and wonder it is absent still.
How few can rescue opulence from want!
Who lives to Nature, rarely can be poor;
Who lives to Fancy, never can be rich.
Poor is the man in debt; the man of gold, 532
In debt to Fortune, trembles at her power.
The man of reason smiles at her, and Death.
Oh! what a patrimony this! a being
Of such inherent strength and majesty,
Not worlds possess'd can raise it; worlds destroy'd
Can't injure; which holds on its glorious course,
When thine, O Nature! ends; too blest to mourn
Creation's obsequies. What treasure, this! 540
The monarch is a beggar to the man.
Immortal! Ages past, yet nothing gone!
Morn without eve! a race without a goal!
Unshorten'd by progression infinite!
Futurity for ever future! Life
Beginning still where computation ends!
'Tis the description of a deity!
'Tis the description of the meanest slave:
The meanest slave dares then Lorenzo scorn?
The meanest slave thy sovereign glory shares.550
Proud youth! fastidious of the lower world!
Man's lawful pride includes humility;
Stoops to the lowest; is too great to find
Inferiors; all immortal! brothers all!
Proprietors eternal of thy love.
Immortal! What can strike the sense so strong,
As this the soul? It thunders to the thought;
Reason amazes; gratitude o'erwhelms; 558
No more we slumber on the brink of fate;
Roused at the sound, th' exulting soul ascends,
And breathes her native air; an air that feeds
Ambitions high, and fans ethereal fires;
Quick kindles all that is divine within us;
Nor leaves one loitering thought beneath the stars.
Has not Lorenzo's bosom caught the flame?
Immortal! Were but one immortal, how
Would others envy! how would thrones adore!
Because 'tis common, is the blessing lost?
How this ties up the bounteous hand of Heaven! 569
Oh, vain, vain, vain, all else! Eternity!
A glorious and a needful refuge, that,
From vile imprisonment, in abject views.
'Tis immortality, 'tis that alone,
Amid life's pains, abasements, emptiness,
The soul can comfort, elevate, and fill.
That only, and that amply, this performs;
Lifts us above life's pains, her joys above;
Their terror those, and these their lustre lose;
Eternity depending covers all;
Eternity depending all achieves; 580
Sets earth at distance; casts her into shades;
Blends her distinctions; abrogates her powers;
The low, the lofty, joyous, and severe,
Fortune's dread frowns, and fascinating smiles,
Make one promiscuous and neglected heap,
The man beneath; if I may call him man,
Whom immortality's full force inspires.
Nothing terrestrial touches his high thought;
Suns shine unseen, and thunders roll unheard,
By minds quite conscious of their high descent, 590
Their present province, and their future prize;
Divinely darting upward every wish, 592
Warm on the wing, in glorious absence lost!
Doubt you this truth? Why labours your belief?
If earth's whole orb by some due distanced eye
Were seen at once, her towering Alps would sink,
And levell'd Atlas leave an even sphere.
Thus earth, and all that earthly minds admire,
Is swallow'd in eternity's vast round.
To that stupendous view, when souls awake, 600
So large of late, so mountainous to man,
Time's toys subside; and equal all below.
Enthusiastic, this? Then all are weak,
But rank enthusiasts. To this godlike height
Some souls have soar'd; or martyrs ne'er had bled,
And all may do, what has by man been done.
Who, beaten by these sublunary storms,
Boundless, interminable joys can weigh,
Unraptured, unexalted, uninflamed?
What slave unblest, who from to-morrow's dawn 610
Expects an empire? He forgets his chain,
And, throned in thought, his absent sceptre waves.
And what a sceptre waits us! what a throne!
Her own immense appointments to compute,
Or comprehend her high prerogatives,
In this her dark minority, how toils,
How vainly pants, the human soul divine!
Too great the bounty seems for earthly joy;
What heart but trembles at so strange a bliss?
In spite of all the truths the Muse has sung, 620
Ne'er to be prized enough! enough revolved!
Are there who wrap the world so close about them,
They see no farther than the clouds; and dance
On heedless vanity's fantastic toe,
Till, stumbling at a straw, in their career,
Headlong they plunge, where end both dance and song?
Are there, Lorenzo? is it possible? 627
Are there on earth (let me not call them men)
Who lodge a soul immortal in their breasts;
Unconscious as the mountain of its ore;
Or rock of its inestimable gem?
When rocks shall melt, and mountains vanish, these
Shall know their treasure; treasure, then, no more.633
Are there (still more amazing!) who resist
The rising thought? who smother, in its birth,
The glorious truth? who struggle to be brutes?
Who through this bosom-barrier burst their way,
And, with reversed ambition, strive to sink?
Who labour downwards through th' opposing powers
Of instinct, reason, and the world against them, 640
To dismal hopes, and shelter in the shock
Of endless night; night darker than the grave's?
Who fight the proofs of immortality?
With horrid zeal, and execrable arts,
Work all their engines, level their black fires,
To blot from man this attribute divine
(Than vital blood far dearer to the wise),
Blasphemers, and rank atheists to themselves?
To contradict them, see all nature rise!
What object, what event, the moon beneath, 650
But argues, or endears, an after-scene?
To reason proves, or weds it to desire?
All things proclaim it needful; some advance
One precious step beyond, and prove it sure.
A thousand arguments swarm round my pen,
From heaven, and earth, and man. Indulge a few,
By Nature, as her common habit, worn;
So pressing Providence a truth to teach,
Which truth untaught, all other truths were vain.
Thou! whose all-providential eye surveys, 660
Whose hand directs, whose Spirit fills and warms
Creation, and holds empire far beyond!
Eternity's inhabitant august!
Of two eternities amazing Lord!
One past, ere man's, or angel's, had begun
Aid! while I rescue from the foe's assault
Thy glorious immortality in man:
A theme for ever, and for all, of weight,
Of moment infinite! but relish'd most
By those who love Thee most, who most adore.670
Nature, thy daughter, ever-changing birth
Of Thee the Great Immutable, to man
Speaks wisdom, is his oracle supreme;
And he who most consults her, is most wise.
Lorenzo, to this heavenly Delphos haste;
And come back all-immortal, all-divine:
Look nature through, 'tis revolution all;
All change; no death. Day follows night; and night
The dying day; stars rise, and set, and rise;
Earth takes th' example. See, the summer gay, 680
With her green chaplet, and ambrosial flowers,
Droops into pallid autumn: winter grey,
Horrid with frost, and turbulent with storm,
Blows autumn, and his golden fruits, away:
Then melts into the spring: soft spring, with breath
Favonian, from warm chambers of the south,
Recalls the first. All, to re-flourish, fades;
As in a wheel, all sinks, to re-ascend.
Emblems of man, who passes, not expires.
With this minute distinction, emblems just, 690
Nature revolves, but man advances; both
Eternal, that a circle, this a line.
That gravitates, this soars. Th' aspiring soul,
Ardent, and tremulous, like flame, ascends, 694
Zeal and humility her wings, to heaven.
The world of matter, with its various forms,
All dies into new life. Life born from death
Rolls the vast mass, and shall for ever roll.
No single atom, once in being, lost,
With change of counsel charges the Most High.
What hence infers Lorenzo? Can it be?
Matter immortal? And shall Spirit die? 702
Above the nobler, shall less noble rise?
Shall Man alone, for whom all else revives,
No resurrection know? Shall Man alone,
Imperial Man! be sown in barren ground,
Less privileged than grain, on which he feeds?
Is Man, in whom alone is power to prize
The bliss of being, or with previous pain
Deplore its period, by the spleen of fate, 710
Severely doom'd Death's single unredeem'd?
If Nature's revolution speaks aloud,
In her gradation, hear her louder still.
Look nature through, 'tis neat gradation all.
By what minute degrees her scale ascends!
Each middle nature join'd at each extreme,
To that above it join'd, to that beneath.
Parts, into parts reciprocally shot,
Abhor divorce: what love of union reigns!
Here, dormant matter waits a call to life; 720
Half life, half death, join there; here, life and sense;
There, sense from reason steals a glimmering ray;
Reason shines out in man. But how preserved
The chain unbroken upward, to the realms
Of incorporeal life? those realms of bliss,
Where Death hath no dominion? Grant a make
Half mortal, half immortal; earthy, part,
And part ethereal; grant the soul of man 728
Eternal; or in man the series ends.
Wide yawns the gap; connexion is no more;
Check'd Reason halts; her next step wants support;
Striving to climb, she tumbles from her scheme;
A scheme, analogy pronounced so true;
Analogy, man's surest guide below.734
Thus far, all nature calls on thy belief.
And will Lorenzo, careless of the call,
False attestation on all nature charge,
Rather than violate his league with Death?
Renounce his reason, rather than renounce
The dust beloved, and run the risk of heaven? 740
Oh, what indignity to deathless souls!
What treason to the majesty of man!
Of man immortal! Hear the lofty style:
|If so decreed, th' Almighty Will be done.
Let earth dissolve, yon ponderous orbs descend,
And grind us into dust. The soul is safe;
The man emerges; mounts above the wreck,
As towering flame from Nature's funeral pyre;
O'er devastation, as a gainer, smiles;
His charter, his inviolable rights, 750
Well pleased to learn from thunder's impotence,
Death's pointless darts, and hell's defeated storms.|
But these chimeras touch not thee, Lorenzo!
The glories of the world thy sevenfold shield.
Other ambition than of crowns in air,
And superlunary felicities,
Thy bosom warm. I'll cool it, if I can;
And turn those glories that enchant, against thee.
What ties thee to this life, proclaims the next.759
If wise, the cause that wounds thee is thy cure.
Come, my ambitious! let us mount together
(To mount, Lorenzo never can refuse);
And from the clouds, where pride delights to dwell,
Look down on earth. -- What seest thou? Wondrous things!
Terrestrial wonders, that eclipse the skies.
What lengths of labour'd lands! what loaded seas!
Loaded by man, for pleasure, wealth, or war!
Seas, winds, and planets, into service brought,
His art acknowledge, and promote his ends.
Nor can th' eternal rocks his will withstand; 770
What levell'd mountains! and what lifted vales!
O'er vales and mountains sumptuous cities swell.
And gild our landscape with their glittering spires.
Some mid the wondering waves majestic rise;
And Neptune holds a mirror to their charms.
Far greater still! (what cannot mortal might?)
See, wide dominions ravish'd from the deep!
The narrow'd deep with indignation foams.
Or southward turn; to delicate and grand,
The finer arts there ripen in the sun.780
How the tall temples, as to meet their gods,
Ascend the skies! the proud triumphal arch
Shows us half heaven beneath its ample bend.
High through mid-air, here, streams are taught to flow;
Whole rivers, there, laid by in basins, sleep.
Here, plains turn oceans; there, vast oceans join
Through kingdoms channell'd deep from shore to shore;
And changed creation takes its face from man.
Beats thy brave breast for formidable scenes,
Where fame and empire wait upon the sword? 790
See fields in blood; hear naval thunders rise;
Britannia's voice! that awes the world to peace.
How yon enormous mole projecting breaks 793
The mid-sea, furious waves! Their roar amidst,
Out-speaks the Deity, and says, |O main!
Thus far, nor farther; new restraints obey.|
Earth's disembowell'd! measured are the skies!
Stars are detected in their deep recess!
Creation widens! vanquish'd Nature yields!
Her secrets are extorted! Art prevails! 800
What monument of genius, spirit, power!
And now, Lorenzo! raptured at this scene,
Whose glories render heaven superfluous! say,
Whose footsteps these? -- Immortals have been here.
Could less than souls immortal this have done?
Earth's cover'd o'er with proofs of souls immortal;
And proofs of immortality forgot.
To flatter thy grand foible, I confess,
These are Ambition's works: and these are great:
But this, the least immortal souls can do; 810
Transcend them all -- but what can these transcend?
Dost ask me what? -- One sigh for the distress'd.
What then for infidels? A deeper sigh.
'Tis moral grandeur makes the mighty man:
How little they, who think aught great below!
All our ambitions death defeats, but one;
And that it crowns. -- Here cease we: but, ere long,
More powerful proof shall take the field against thee,
Stronger than death, and smiling at the tomb.819
THE NATURE, PROOF, AND IMPORTANCE