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The soul, which in this earthly mould
The Spirit of God doth secretly infuse,
Because at first she doth the earth behold,
And only this material world she views :
At first her mother-earth she holdeth dear,
And doth embrace the world and worldly things ;
She flies close by the ground, and hovers here,
And mounts not up with her celestial wings.'
Yet under heav'n she cannot light on aught
That with her heavenly nature doth agree;
She cannot rest, she cannot fix her thought,
She cannot in this world contented be.
For who did ever yet, in honour, wealth,
Or pleasure of the sense, contentment find?
Who ever ceas'd to wish, when he had health?
Or having wisdom, was not vex'd in mind?
With this desire she hath a native might
To find out every truth if she had time;
Th' innumerable effects to sort aright,
And by degree from cause to cause to climb.
But since our life so fast away doth slide*,
As doth a hungry eagle through the wind,
Or as a ship transported with the tide,
Which in their passage leave no print behind;
Of which swift little time so much we spend
While some few things we through the sense do strain,
That our short race of life is at an end,
Ere we the principles of skill attain.
Nosce Teipsum, by Sir John Davis, p. 68.
INSTABILITY OF HUMAN GREATNESS.
Fond man, that looks on earth for happiness,
And here long seeks what here is never found !
For all our good we hold from heav'n by lease,
forfeits and conditions bound;
Nor can we pay the fine and rentage due;
Though now but writ, and seald, and giv'n anew,
Yet daily we it break, then daily must renew.
* But since our life so fast away doth slide, &c.] So, Pope:
Life's stream for observation will not stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way:
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
On human actions reason though you can,
It may be reason, but it is not man:
His principles of action once explore,
That instant 'tis his principle no more.
Epist. to Sir R. Temple.
Why should'st thou here look for perpetual good,
At every loss against heav'n's face repining?
Do but behold where glorious cities stood,
With gilded tops, and silver turrets shining;
There now the hart fearless of greyhound feeds,
And loving pelican in safety breeds;
There shrieking satyrs fill the people's empty steads.
Where is th' Assyrian lion's golden hide*,
That all the east once grasp'd in lordly paw ?
Where that great Persian bear, whose swelling pride
The lion's self tore out with ravenous jaw?
Or he which 'twixt a lion and a pard,
Through all the world with nimble pinions far'd, And to his greedy whelps his conquer'd kingdoms shar'd?
Hardly the place of such antiquity,
Or note of these great monarchies, we find:
Only a fading verbal memory,
And empty name in writ, is left behind:
But when this second life and glory fades,
And sinks at length in time's obscurer shades, A second fall succeeds, and double death invades.
That monstrous beast, which, nurs'd in Tiber's fen,
Did all the world with hideous shape affray;
* Where is th' Assyrian lion's golden hide, &c.] Thus, Spenser, in The Ruines of Time:
What now is of th’ Assyrian lioness,
Of whom no footing now on earth appears?
What of the Persian bear's outrageousness,
Whose memory is quite worn out with years ?
Who of the Grecian libbard now ought hears,
That overran the East with greedy power,
And left his whelps their kingdoms to devour?
Hughes's Edit. p. 9.
That filld with costly spoil his gaping den,
And trod down all the rest to dust and clay :
His batt'ring horns, pulld out by civil hands,
And iron teeth, lie scatter'd on the sands; Back’d, bridled by a monk with seven heads yoked stands.
And that black vulture, which with deathful wing
O'ershadows half the earth ®, whose dismal sight
Frighted the muses from their native spring,
Already stoops, and flags with weary flight,
Who then shall hope for happiness beneath;
Where each new day proclaims chance, change, and death, And life itself's as Ait as is the air we breathe?
Purple Island, by P. Fletcher,
Cant. VII. St. 2–7.
* And that black vulture, which with deathful wing
O'ershadows half the earth.] Mr. Hayley, in his Essay on History, has a very bold and magnificent image of this kind. He is about to describe Livy:
Of mightier spirit, of majestic frame;
With powers proportion’d to the Roman fame,
When Rome's fierce eagle his broad wings unfurld,
And shadow'd with his plumes the subject world
In bright pre-eminence, &c.
The proudest pitch of that victorious spirit
Was but to win the world, whereby t' inherit
The airy purchase of a transitory
And glozing title of an age's glory;
Would'st thou by conquest win more fame than he,
Subdue thyself; thyself's a world to thee.
Earth's but a ball, that heaven hath quilted o'er
With Wealth and Honour, banded on the floor
Of fickle Fortune's false and slippery court,
Sent for a toy, to make us children sport,
Man's satiate spirits with fresh delights supplying,
To still the fondlings of the world from crying;
And he, whose merit mounts to such a' joy,
Gains but the honour of a mighty toy.
But would'st thou conquer, have thy conquest crown'd
By hands of Seraphims, triumph'd with the sound
Of heaven's loud trumpet, warbled by the shrill
Celestial quire, recorded with a quill
Pluck'd from the pinion of an angel's wing,
Contirm'd with joy by heaven's eternal king;
Conquer thyself, thy rebel thoughts repel,
And chace those false affections that rebel.
Hath heaven despoil'd what his full hand hath given thee?
Nipp'd thy succeeding blossoms? or bereaven thee
Of thy dear latest hope, thy bosom friend?
Doth sad Despair deny these griefs an end?
Despair's a whisp'ring rebel, that within thee,
Bribes all thy field, and sets thyself again' thee: