« PreviousContinue »
Fate's hasty prey! implore him, re-import
The period past; re-give the given hour!
Lorenzo-O for yesterday to come!
Such is the language of the man awake;
And is his ardor vain? Lorenzo! no!
To-day is yesterday return'd; return'd
Full power'd to cancel, expiate, raise, adorn,
And reinstate us on the rock of peace.
Let it not share its predecessor's fate;
Nor like its elder sisters, die a fool.
Shall we be pourer for the plenty pour'd?
More wretched for the clemencies of heaven?
$165. The Depravity of Man.
WHERE shall I find him? angels, tell me
You know him; he is near you: point him out;
Shall I see glories beaming from his brow?
Or trace his footsteps by the rising flow'rs?
Your golden wings, now hov'ring o'er him, shed
Protection, now, are waving in applause
To that blest son of foresight! lord of fate!
That awful independent on To-morrow!
Whose work is done; who triumphs in the past;
Whose yesterdays look backwards with a smile;
Nor, like the Parthian, wound him as they fly.
If not by guilt, they wound us by their flight,
If folly bounds our prospect by the grave:
All feeling of futurity benumb'd!
All relish of realties expir'd;
Renounc'd all correspondence with the skies;
Embruted every faculty divine;
Heart-buried in the rubbish of the world:
The world, that gulph of souls, immortal souls,
Souls elevate, angelic, wing'd with fire
To reach the distant skies, and triumph there
On thrones, which shall not mourn their masters
Tho' we from earth; ethereal, they that fell.
Such veneration due, O man, to man!
$166. Instability of Life.
WHO venerate themselves the world despise.
For what, gay friend! is this escutcheon'd
Which hangs out, Death is one eternal night?
A night that glooms us in the noontide ray,
And wrapts our thoughts, at banquets, in the
Life's little stage is a small eminence. [shroud.
Inch high the grave above; that home of man,
Where dwells the multitude: we gaze around,
We read their monuments; we sigh; and while
We sigh, we sink; and are what we deplor'd;
Lamenting, or lamented, all our lot!
Is death at distance! no: he has been on thee;
And given sure earnest of his final blow. [now?
Those hours which lately smil'd, where are they
Pallid to thought, and ghastly! drown'd, all
In that great deep, which nothing disembogues;
And, dying, they bequeath'd thee small renown.
The rest are on the wing: how fleet their flight!
Already has the fatal train took fire;
A moment, and the world's blown up to thee;
The sun is darkness, and the stars are dust.
§ 167. Vanity of Human Enjoyments, taught by Experience.
'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours; And ask them, what report they bore to [news.
And how they might have borne more welcome
Their answers form what men experience call:
If Wisdom's friend, her best: if not, worst foe.
O reconcile them! kind Experience cries,
The more our joy, the more we know it vain;
And by success are tutor'd to despair."
Nor is it only thus, but must be so:
Who knows not this, tho' grey, is still a child.
Loose then from earth the grasp of fond desire,
Weigh anchor, and some happier clime explore.
§ 168. Death unavoidable.
SINCE by life's passing breath, blown up from
Light as the summer's dust, we take in air
A moment's giddy flight; and fall again;
Join the dull mass, increase the trodden soil,
And sleep till earth herself shall be no more;
Since then (as emmets their small world o'er
We, sore amaz'd, from out earth's ruin crawl,
And rise to fate extreme, of foul or fair,
As man's own choice, controller of the skies!
As man's despotic will, this hour, decrees;
Should not each warning give a strong alarm?
Warning, far less than that of bosom torn
From bosom, bleeding o'er the sacred dead?
Sould not each dial strike us as we pass,
Portentous, as the written wall, which struck,
O'er midnight bowls, the proud Assyrian pale?
Like that, the dial speaks; and points to thee;
"O man, thy kingdom is departing from thee;
And, while it lasts, is emptier than my shade."
Know, like the Median, fate is in thy walls:
Man's make incloses the sure seeds of death;
Life feeds the murderer: ingrate! he thrives
On her own meal: and then his nurse devours.
§ 169. Life compared to the Sun-dial.
THAT solar shadow, as it measures life,
It life resembles too: life speeds away
From point to point, tho' seeming to stand still:
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth:
Too subtle is the movement to be seen,
Yet soon man's hour is up, and we are gone.
Warnings point out our danger, gnomons, time:
As these are useless when the sun is set;
So those, but when more glorious reason shines.
Reason should judge in all; in reason's eye,
That sedentary shadow travels hard :
But all mankind mistake their time of day;
Even age itself: fresh hopes are hourly sown
In furrow'd brows. So gentle life's descent,
We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain :
We take fair days in winter, for the spring:
We turn our blessings into bane; since oft
Man must compute that age he cannot feel:
He scarce believes he 's older for his years
Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store
One disappointment sure, to crown the rest;
The disappointment of a promis'd hour.
§ 170. Death of the good Man.
So sung Philander, O! the cordial warmth,
And clevating spirit, of a friend,
For twenty summers ripening by my side;
All feculence of falsehood long thrown down;
All social virtues rising in his soul;
As crystal clear; and smiling, as they rise!
On earth how lost! Philander is no more.
How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
His flight Philander took; it were profane
To quench a glory lighted at the skies,
And cast in shadows his illustrious close.
Strange! the theme most affecting, most sublime,
Momentous most to man, should sleep unsung!
Man's highest triumph! man's profoundest fall!
The death-bed of the just! is yet undrawn
By mortal hand; it nierits a divine:
Angels should paint it, angels ever there;
There, on a post of honor, and of joy.
The chamber where the good man meets his
Is privileg'd beyond the common walk
Of virtuous life, quite in the verge of heaven,
Fly, ye profane! or else draw near with awe,
For, here, resistless demonstration dwells;
Here tir'd dissimulation drops her mask,
Here real and apparent are the same.
You see the man; you see his hold on heaven:
Heaven waits not thelast moment, ownsitsfriends
On this side death; and points them out to
A lecture, silent, but of sovereign pow'r, [men;
To vice, confusion; and to virtue, peace!
Whatever farce the boastful hero plays, Virtue alone has majesty in death; And greater still, the more the tyrant frowns, Philander! he severely frown'd on thee, "No warning given! unceremonious fate! "A sudden rush from life's meridian joys! "A restless bed of pain! a plunge opaque "Beyond conjecture! feeble nature's dread! "Strong reason shudders at the dark unknown! "A sun extinguished! a just opening grave! "And oh! the last, last: what? (can words express?
His God sustains him in his final hour!
His final hour brings glory to his God!
Man's glory heaven vouchsafes to call its own.
Amazement strikes! devotion bursts to flame!
Christians adore! and infidels believe.
At that black hour, which general horror sheds
On the low level of the inglorious throng,
Sweet peace, and heavenly hope, and humble
Divinely beam on his exalted soul; [joy,
Destruction gild, and crown him for the skies.
Life, take thy chance; but oh for such an end!
§ 171. NIGHT III. Picture of Narcissa, Descrip-
tion of her Funeral, and a Reflection upon Man.
SWEET harmonist! and beautiful as sweet!
And young as beautiful! and soft as young!
And gay as soft! and innocent as gay!
And happy (if aught happy here) as good!
For fortune fond had built her nest on high.
Like birds quite exquisite of note and plume,
Transfix'd by fate (who loves a lofty mark)
How from the summit of the grove she fell,
And left it unharmonious! all its charms
Extinguish'd in the wonders of her song!
Her song still vibrates in my ravish'd car,
Still melting there, and with voluptuous pain
(O to forget her!) thrilling thro' my heart!
Song, Beauty, Youth, Love, Virtue, Joy! this
Of bright ideas, flow'rs of paradise,
As yet unforfeit! in one blaze we bind,
Kneel, and present it to the skies; as all
We guess of heaven, and these were all her own:
And she was mine; and I was
Gay title of the deepest misery!
As bodies grow more pond'rous robb'd of life.
Good lost weighs more in grief than gain'd in joy.`
Like blossom'd trees o'erturn'd by vernal storm,
Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay ;
And if in death still lovely, lovelier there;
Far lovelier! pity swells the tide of love.
And will not the severe excuse a sigh?
Scorn the proud man that is asham'd to weep;
Our tears indulg'd indeed deserve our shame.
Ye that e'er lost an angel! pity me.
Soon as the lustre languish'd in her eye,
Dawning a dimmer day of human sight;
And on her cheek, the residence of spring,
Pale omen sat, and scatter'd fears around
On all that saw, (and who could cease to gaze
That once had seen?)—with haste, parental aste,
[friend!" I flew, I snatch'd her from the rigid north,
Her native bed, on which black Boreas blew,
And bore her nearer to the sun; the sun
(As if the sun could envy) check'd his beam,
Denied his wonted succour; nor with more
Regret beheld her drooping, than the bells
Of lilies; fairest lilies, not so fair!
"Thought reach?) the last, last-silence of a
Thro' nature's wreck, thro' vanquish'd agonies,
Like the stars struggling thro' this midnight
What gleams of joy! what more than human
Where the frail mortal? the poor abject worm?
No, not in death, the mortal to be found.
His comforters he comforts; great in ruin,
With unreluctant grandeur, gives, not yields
His soul sublime; and closes with his fate.
How our hearts burnt within us at the scene!
Whence this brave bound o'er limits fixt to man!
Queen lilies! and ye painted populace
Who dwell in fields, and lead ambrosial lives :
In morn and ev'ning dew your beauties bathe,
And drink the sun; which gives your cheeks to
And out-blush (mine excepted) every fair [glow;
You gladlier grew, ambitious of her hand,
Which often cropp'd your odors, incense meet To thought so pure! Ye lovely fugitives! Coeval race with man! for man you smile; Why not smile at him too? You share indeed His sudden pass, but not his constant pain,
So man is made, nought ininisters delight,
But what his glowing passions can engage;
And glowing passions, bent on aught below,
Must soon or late with anguish turn the scale;,
And anguish, after rapture, how severe!
Rapture? Bold man! who tempts the wrath di-
By plucking fruit denied to mortal taste, [vine,
While here presuming on the rights of Heaven.
For transport dost thou call on ev'ry hour,
Lorenzo? At thy friends expence be wise;
Lean not on earth, 'twill pierce thee to the
A broken reed at best, but oft a spear; [heart:
On its sharp point peace bleeds, and hope expires.
Turn, hopeless thoughts! turn from her:
Resenting rallies, and wakes ev'ry woe,
Snatch'd ere thy prine, and in thy bridal hour!
And when kind fortune, with thy lover, smil'd!
And when high flavor'd thy fresh op'ning joys!
And when blind man pronounc'd thy bliss
And on a foreign shore, where strangers wept!
Strangers to thee; and, more surprising still,
Strangers to kindness wept: their eyes let fall
Inhuman tears; strange tears! that trickled down
From marble hearts! obdurate tenderness!
A tenderness that call'd them more severe;
In spite of nature's soft persuasion, steel'd;
While nature melted, superstition rav'd;
That mourn'd the dead, and this denied a grave.
Their sighs incens'd, sighs foreign to the will!
Their will the tiger suck'd, outrag'd the storm.
For, oh! the curs'd ungodliness of zeal!
While sinful flesh relented, spirit nurs'd
In blind infallibility's embrace,
The sainted spirit petrified the breast:
Denied the charity of dust, to spread
O'er dust! a charity their dogs enjoy.
What could I do? what succour?
With pious sacrilege a grave I stole,
With impious piety that grave I wrong'd;
Short in my duty, coward in my grief!
More like her murderer than friend, I crept
With soft suspended step, and muffled deep
In midnight darkness whisper'd my last sigh.
I whisper'd what should echo thro' their realms;
Nor writ her name whose tomb should pierce
Presumptuous fear! how durst I dread her foes,
While nature's loudest dictates I obey'd?
Pardon necessity, blest shade! Of grief
And indignation rival bursts I pour'd;
Half execration mingled with my pray'r;
Kindled at man, while I his God ador'd;
Sore grudg'd the savage land her sacred dust;
Stamp'd the curs'd soil, and with humanity
(Denied Narcissa) wish'd them all a grave.
Glows my resentment into guilt? What guilt
Can equal violations of the dead?
The dead how sacred! Sacred is the dust
Of this heaven-labor'd form, erect, divine;
This heaven-assum'd majestic robe of earth
He deign'd to wear, who hung the vast expanse
With azure bright, and cloth'd the sun in gold.
When ev'ry passion sleeps that can offend;
When strikes us ev'ry motive that can melt;
When man can wreak his rancour uncontrol'd.
That strongest curb on insult and ill-will;
Then spleen to dust? the dust of innocence?
An angel's dust? This Lucifer transcends: |
When he contended for the patriarch's bones,
"Twas not the strife of malice, but of pride;
The strife of pontiff pride, not pontiff gail.
Far less than this is shocking, in a race
Most wretched but from streams of mutual
And uncreated but for love divine; [love,
And, but for love divine, this moment lost,
By fate resorb'd, and sunk in endless night.
Man hard of heart to man! of horrid things
Most horrid! 'Mid stupendous, highly strange!
Yet oft his courtesies are smoother wrongs;
Pride brandishes the favors he confers,
And contumelious his humanity:
What then his vengeance? hear it not, ye stars!
And thou, pale moon! turn paler at the sound!
Man is to man the sorest, surest ill,
A previous blast foretels the rising storm;
O'erwhelming turrets threaten ere they fall;
Volcanos bellow ere they disembogue;
Earth trembles ere her yawning jaws devour;
And smoke betrays the wide consuming fire:
Ruin from man is most conceal'd when near,
And sends the dreadful tidings in the blow.
Is this the flight of fancy? Would it were!
Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings but himself
That hideous sight, a naked human heart!
§ 172. NIGHT IV. Death not to be dreaded. How deep implanted in the breast of man The dread of death! I sing its sov'reign cure.
Why start at death? where is he? death arriv'd, Is past: not come, or gone, he 's never here. Ere hope, sensation fails; black-boding man Receives, not suffers, death's tremendous blow. The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave; The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the These are the bugbears of a winter's eve, [worm; The terrors of the living, not the dead. Imagination's fool, and error's wretch, Mau makes a death which nature never made; Then on the point of his own fancy falls; And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one.
Full range, on just dislike's unbounded field;
Of things, the vanity; of men, the flaws;
Flaws in the best: the many, flaw all o'er,
As leopards spotted, or as Ethiops, dark;
Vivacious ill; good dying immature;
And at its death bequeathing endless pain
His heart tho' bold would sicken at the sight,
And spend itself in sighs, for future scenes.
But grant to life some perquisites of joy;
A time there is, when, like a thrice-told tale,
Long rifled life of sweet can yield no more,
But from our comment on the comedy,
Pleasing reflections on parts well-sustain'd,
purpos'd emendations where we fail'd,
Or hopes of plaudits from our candid judge,
When, on their exit, souls are bid unrobe,
And drop this mask of flesh behind the scene.
With me, that time is come; my world is dead:
A new world rises, and new manners reign:
What a pert race starts up! the strangers gaze,
And I at thein; my neighbour is unknown.
$174. Folly of Human Pursuits. BLEST be that hand divine, which gently laid My heart at rest beneath this humble shed! The world's a stately bark, on dangerous seas, With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril; Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore, I hear the tumult of the distant throng, As that of seas remote, or dying storms; And meditate on scenes, more silent still; Pursue my theme, and fight the fear of death, Here like a shepherd, gazing from his hut, Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff, Eager ambition's fiery chace I
I see the circling hunt of noisy men
Burst law's inclosure, leap the mounds of right,
Pursuing and pursued, each other's prey;
As wolves, for rapine; as the fox for wiles;
Till death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.
Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
What, tho' we wade in wealth, or soar in fame?
Earth's highest station ends in "here he lies,"
Aud "dust to dust" concludes her noblest song.
If this song lives, posterity shall know
One, tho' in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
Who thought even gold might come a day too
Nor on his subtle death-bed plann'd his scheme
For future vacancies in church, or state;
Some avocation deeming it. to die ;
Unbit by rage canine of dying rich:
Guilt's blunder! and the loudest laugh of hell.
§ 175. Folly of the Love of Life in the Aged.
O MY COevals! remnant of yourselves!
Poor human ruins, tott'ring o'er the grave!
Shall we, shall aged men, like aged trees,
Strike deeper their vile root, and closer cling.
Still more enamour'd of this wretched soil? [out,
Shall our pale, wither'd hands be still stretch'd
Trembling, at once with eagerness and age?
With avarice, and convulsions grasping hard?
Grasping at air! for what has earth beside? Man wants but little; nor that little, long: How soon must he resign his very dust, Which frugal nature lent him for an hour?* Years unexperienc'd rush on numerous ills; And soon as man, expert from time, has found The key of life, it opes the gates of death.
When in this vale of years I backward look, And miss such numbers, numbers too of such, Firmer in health, and greener in their age, And stricter on their guard, and fitter far To play life's subtle game, I scarce believe I still survive, and ain I fond of life, Who scarce can think it possible I live? Alive by miracle! if still alive,
Who long have bury'd what gives life to live, Firmness of nerve, and energy of thought. Life's lee is not more shallow, than impure, And vapid; sense and reason show the door, Call for my bier, and point me to the dust.
§ 176. Address to the Deity.
O THOU great arbiter of life and death!
Nature's immortal, immaterial sun!
Whose all-prolific beam late call'd me forth
From darkness, teeming darkness, where I lay
The worm's inferior, and, in rank, beneath
The dust I tread on, high to bear my brow,
To drink the spirit of the golden day,
And triumph in existence; and could'st know
No motive, but my bliss; with Abraham's joy,
Thy call I follow to the land unknown;
I trust in thee, and know in whom I trust;
Or life or death is equal; neither weighs,
All weight in this O let me live to thee!
What healing hand can pour the balm of peace And turn my sight undaunted on the tomb?
With joy, with grief, that healing hand I Onhigh?-Whatmeansmyphrenzy? Iblaspheme Ah! too conspicuous! it is fix'd on high! [see; Alas! how low! how far beneath the skies!
The skies it form'd; and now it bleeds for me-
But bleeds the balm I want-yet still it bleeds:
Draw the dire steel-ah no!-the dreadful
What heart or can sustain? or dares forego?
There hangs all human hope: that nail supports
Our falling universe: that gone, we drop:
Horror receives us, and the dismal wish
Creation had been smother'd in her birth.
Darkness his curtain, and his bed the dust,
When stars and sun are dust beneath his throne!
In heaven itself can such indulgence dwell?
O what a groan was there? A groan not his,
He seis'd our dreadful right, the load sustain'd,
And heav'd the mountain from a guilty world.
A thousand worlds so bought, were bought too
Sensations new in angels' bosoms rise! [dear.
Suspend their song; and silence is in heaven.
O for their song to reach my lofty theme!
Inspire me, Night, with all thy tuneful spheres!
Much rather, Thou! who dost those spheres
Lest I blaspheme my subject with my song.
Thou most indulgent, most tremendous, power!
Still more tremendous, for thy wond'rous love!
That arms, with awe more awful, thycommands;
And foul transgression dips in sevenfold night,
How our hearts tremble at thy love immense!
In love immense, inviolably just! [stretch'd arms.
O'er guilt, (how mountainous!) with out-
Stern justice, and soft-smiling love, embrace,
Supporting, in full majesty, thy throne,
When secin'd its majesty to need support,
Or that, or man inevitably lost.
What, but the fathomless of thought divine
Could labor such expedient from despair,
And rescue both? Both rescue! both exalt!
O how are both exalted by the deed!
A wonder in omnipotence itself!
A mystery, no less to gods than men!
Not, thus, our infidels th' Eternal draw,
A God all o'er, consummate, absolute,
Full orb'd, in his whole round of rays complete:
They set at odds heaven's jarring attributes;
And with one excellence another wound;
Maim heaven's perfection, break its equal beams,
Bid mercy triumph over- God himself,
Undeify'd by their opprobrious praise;
A God all mercy, is a God unjust.
Ye brainless wits, ye baptiz'd infidels,
The ransom was paid down; the fund of heaven
Amazing, and amaz'd, pour'd forth the price,
All price beyond: tho' curious to compute,
Archangels fail'd to cast the mighty sum:
Its value vast, ungrasp'd by minds create,
For ever hides, and glows in the supreme.
And was the ransom paid? It was: and paid
(What can exalt the bounty more?) for you,
The sun beheld it-no' the shocking scene
Drove back his chariot; midnight veil'd his face
Not such as this; not such as nature makes;
A midnight, nature shudder'd to behold;
A midnight new! from her Creator's frown!
Sun! didst thou fly thy Maker's pain? or start
At that enormous load of human guilt, [cross;
Which bow'd his bless'd head; o'erwhelmed his
With pangs, strange pangs! deliver'd of her dead:
Hell howl'd; and heav'n, that hour, let fall a tear;
Heav'n wept, that man might smile! heaven bled,
That man might never die-
Heav'n's sov'reign blessings clust'ring from the
Rush on her, in a throng, and close her round,
The prisoner of amaze! - In his blest life,
I see the path, and, in his death, the price,
And in his great ascent, the proof supreme
Of immortality. And did he rise?
Hear, O ye nations! hear it, O ye dead!
He rose! he rose! he burst the bars of death
Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates,
And give the king of glory to come in!
Who is the king of glory? he who left
His throne of glory, for the pang of death:
Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates,
And give the king of glory to coine in!
Who is the king of glory? he who slew
The ravenous foe, that gorg'd all human race?
The king of glory, he, whose glory fill'd
Heaven with amazement at his love to man;
And with divine complacency beheld
Powers most illumin'd wilder'd in the theme.
The theme, the joy, howthen shallmansustain?
Oh the burst gates! crush'd sting! demolish'd
Last gasp! of vanquish'd death. Shout earth and
This sum of good to man: whose nature, then,
Took wing, and mounted with him from the
Then, then, I rose; then first humanity [tomb!
Triumphant pass'd the crystal ports of light,
And seis'd eternal youth. Mortality
Was then transferr'd to death; and heaven's du
Unalienably seal'd to this frail frame, [ration
This child of dust.—Man, all-immortal! hail;
Hail, heaven! all lavish of strange gifts to man!
Thine all the glory! man's the boundless bliss.
Where am I rapt by this triumphant theine,
Ou christian joy's exulting wing, above
Th' Aonian mount?-Alas! small cause for joy?
What if to pain, immortal? if extent
Of being, to preclude a close of woe?
Where, then, my boast of immortality?
I boast it still, tho' cover'd o'er with guilt;
For guilt, not innocence, his life he pour'd.
'Tis guilt alone can justify his death;
Nor that, unless his death can justify
Relenting guilt in heaven's indulgent sight.
If sick of folly, I relent; he writes
My name in heaven, with that inverted spear
(A spear deep dipt in blood!) which pierc'd his
And open'd there a font for all mankind [side,
Who strive, who combat crimes, to drink, and
This, only this, subdues the fear of death. [live:
$178. Greatness of the Redemption.} AND what is this?-Survey the wond'rous
And, at each step, let higher wonder rise! "Pardon for infinite offence! and pardon
What heart of stone but glows at thoughts" Thro' means that speak its value infinite! [mount "A pardon bought with blood! with blood divine!
Such contemplations mount us; and should
The mind still higher; nor even glance on man," With blood divine of him I made my foe;
Unraptur'd, uninflam'd; where roll my thoughts "Persisted to provoke! tho' woo'd-and aw'd,
To rest from wonders? How my soul is caught! "Bless'd, and chastis'd, a flagrant rebel still!