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Darkness the curtain drops o'er life's dull fcene;
'Tis the kind hand of Providence ftretcht out
'Twixt man and vanity; 'tis Reason's reign,
And Virtue's too; thefe tutelary fhades
Are man's afylum from the tainted throng.
$221. The Futility of Man's Refolutions. VIRTUE for ever frail, as fair below,
Her tender nature fuffers in the crowd,
Nor touches on the world, without a ftain:
The world's infectious; few bring back at eve
Immaculate the manners of the morn.
Something we thought, is blotted; we refolv'd,
Is thaken, we renounc'd, returns again.
Each falutation may flide in a fin
Unthought before, or fix a former flaw.
Nor is it ftrange, light, motion, concourfe, noife,
All, fcatter us abroad; thought outward bound,
Neglectful of our home affairs, flies off
In fume and diffipation, quits her charge,
And leaves the breaft unguarded to the foe.
§ 222. The Power of Example.
PRESENT example gets within our guard,
And acts with double force, by few repell'd.
Ambition fires ambition; love of gain
Strikes, like a peftilence, from breast to breast;
Riot, pride, perfidy, blue vapours breathe;
And inhumanity is caught from man;
From fmiling man. A flight, a fingle glance,
And fhot at random, often has brought hotne
A fudden fever, to the throbbing heart,
Of envy, rancour, or impure defire.
We fee, we hear with peril; fafety dwells
Remote from multitude; the world 's a school
Of wrong, and what proficients fwarm around!
We muft or imitate, or difapprove;
Muft lift as their accomplices, or foes;
That ftains our innocence; this wounds our peace.
From nature's birth, hence, witdom has been finit
With fweet recefs, and linguifh'd for the fhade.
THIS facred fhade, and folitude, what is it?
'Tis the felt prefence of the Deity.
Few are the faults we flatter when alone:
Vice finks in her allurements, is ungilt,
And looks, like other objects, black by night.
By night an atheift half-believes a God.
Night is fair Virtue's immemorial friend;
The confcious moon, through every diftant age,
Has held a lamp to Wifdom, and let fall
On Contemplation's eye her purging ray.
Hail, precious moments! ftol'n from the black
§ 224. Little to be expected from Man.
WHAT are we? how unequal! now we foar,
And now we fink: how dearly pays the
For lodging ill; too dearly rents her clay ! [foul
Reafon, a baffled counfellor! but adds
The blush of weaknefs to the bane of woe.
The nobleft fpirit fighting her hard fate,
In this damp, dufky region, charg'd with ftorms,
But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly.
'Tis vain to feek in men for more than man.
proud in promife, big in previous thought,
Experience damps our triumph. I, who late,
Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,
Emerging from the fhadows of the grave,
And call'd mankind to glory, down I rush,
In forrow drown'd-But not, in forrow, loft.
How wretched is the man, who never mourn'd!
dive for precious pearl, in forrow's stream: Not fo the thoughtless man that only grieves; Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain, (Ineftimable gain !) and gives heaven leave To make him but more wretched, not more wife.
IF wifdom is our leffon, (and what elfe
Ennobles man? what elfe have angels learnt?)
Grief, more proficients in thy fchool are made,
Than genius, or proud learning, e'er could boast,
Voracious learning, often over-fed,
Digefts not into fenfe her motley meal.
This forager on others' wifdom leaves
Her native farm, her reafon quite untill'd:
With mixt manure fhe furfeits the rank foil,
Dung'd, but not dreft; and rich to beggary:
A pomp untameable of weed prevails:
Her fervant's wealth encumber'd wifdom mourns.
And what fays Genius: "Let the dull be wife."
It pleads exemption from the laws of sense;
Confiders Reafon as a leveller,
And fcorns to fhare a bleffing with the crowd,
That wife it could be, thinks an ample claim
To glory, and to pleasure gives the reft.
Wildom lefs fhudders at a fool, than wit.
But Wifdom fimiles, when humbled mortals
When Sorrow wounds the breast, as ploughs the
And hearts obdurate feel her foftening shower;
Her feed celeftial, then, glad Wisdom fows,
Her gelden harveft triumphs in the foil,
If fo, I'll gain by my calamity,
And reap rich compenfation from my pain,
I'll range the plenteous, intellectual field;
And gather every thought of fovereign power,
To chafe the moral maladies of man; [fkies,
Thoughts, which may bear tranfplanting to the
Tho' natives of this coarse penurious foil,
Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs fing;
Refin'd, exalted, not annull'd in heaven.
Of murder'd time: aufpicious midnight, hail!
The world excluded, every paffion hufh'd,
And open'd a calm intercourfe with heav'n;
Here the foul fits in council, ponders paft,
Predeftines fature action, fees, not feels,
Tumultuous life; and reafons with the form;
All her lies antivers, and thinks down her charms." Th' importance of contemplating the tomb;
§ 226. Reflections in a Church-yard.
on what themes fhall puzzled choice
"Why men decline it; Suicide's foul birth; "The various kinds of grief; the faults of age; "And Death's dread character-invite my fong." And firft, th' importance of our end furvey'd. Friends counfel quick difmiffion of our grief; Miftaken kindness! our hearts heal too foon. 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 thefe unnumber'd luftres robes our fight; Profperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts Of import high, and light divine to man. The man how bleft, who, fick of gaudy fcenes, (Scenes apt to thrust between us and ourselves 1) Is led by choice to take his favourite walk, Beneath Death's gloomy, filent, cyprefs shades, Unpierc'd by Vanity's fantastic ray; To read his monuments, to weigh his duft, Vifit his faults, and dwell among the tombs! Lorenzo, read with me Narciffa's stone; Few orators fo tenderly can touch The feeling heart. What pathos in the date! Apt words can strike, and yet in them we fee Faint images of what we here enjoy. What caufe have we to build on length of life? Temptations feize when fear is laid asleep; And ill-foreboded is our strongest guard.
See from her tomb, Truth fallies on my foul, And puts Delufion's dusky train to flight; Difpels the mifts our fultry paffions raife, And fhews the real eftimate of things, Which no man, unafflicted, ever faw; Pulls off the veil from Virtue's rifing charms; Detects Temptation in a thousand lies. Truth bids me look on men, as autumn's leaves, And all they bleed for, as the fummer's duft, Driven by the whirlwind: lighted by her beams, I widen my horizon, gain new powers, See things invifible, feel things remote, Am prefent with futurities; think nought To man fo foreign, as the joys poffeft, Nought fo much his as thofe beyond the grave. No folly keeps its colour in her fight: Pale worldly wisdom lofes all her charms. How differ worldly wisdom, and divine ? Juft as the waning and the waxing moon. More empty worldly wifdom every day; And every day more fair her rival fhines. But foon our term for wifdom is expir'd, And everlasting fool is writ in fire, Or real wisdom wafts us to the skies.
What grave prefcribes the best?—a friend's;
From a friend's grave how foon we difengage,
Even to the deareft, as his marble, cold!
Why are friends ravish'd from us! 'tis to bind,
By foft Affection's ties, on human hearts,
The thought of death, which Reafon, too fupine,
Or mifemploy'd, fo rarely faftens there.
Nor Reason, nor Affection, no, no both
Combin'd, can break the witchcrafts of the world.
Behold th' inexorable hour at hand!
§ 228. Life compared to a Stream. IS it, that Life has fown her joys fo thick,
We can't thrust in a fingle care between?
Is it, that life has fuch a fwarm of cares,
The thought of death can 't enter for the throng?
Is it, that time fteals on with downy feet,
Nor wakes indulgence from her golden dream?
To-day is fo like yesterday, it cheats;
We take the lying fifter for the fame.
Life glides away, Lorenzo, like a brook;
For ever changing, unperceiv'd the change.
In the fame brook none ever bath'd him twice:
To the fame life none ever twice awoke.
We call the brook the fame; the fame we think
Our life, though ftill more rapid in its flow;
Nor mark the inuch irrevocably laps'd,
And mingled with the fea. Or fhall we fay
(Retaining fill the brook to bear us on)
That life is like a veffel on the stream?
In life embark'd, we fimoothly down the tide
Of time defcend, but not on time intent;
Amus'd, unconfcious of the gliding wave;
Till on a fudden we perceive a fhock;
We start, awake, look out; our bark is burst.
Is this the caufe death flies all human thought!
That domineering miftrefs of the foul !
Or is it judgment by the will struck blind,
Or is it fear turns ftartled reafon back,
From looking down a precipice fo fteep?
'Tis dreadful; and the dread is wifely plac'd,
By nature confcious of the make of man.
A dreadful friend it is, a terror kind,
A flaming fword to guard the tree of life.
By that unaw'd, man on each pique of pride,
Or gloom of humour, would give rage the rein,
Bound o'er the barrier, rufh into the dark,
And mar the schemes of Providence below.
O Britain infamous for fuicide;
An ifland in thy manners! far disjoin'd
From the whole world of rationals befide,
In ambient waves plunge thy polluted head,
Wash the dire ftain, nor fhock the continent.
But thou be shock'd, while I detect the caufe
Of felf-affault, expofe the monster's birth,
And bid abhorrence hifs it round the world.
Blame not thy clime, nor chide the distant fun;
Immoral climes kind nature never made.
The caufe I fing in Eden might prevail,
And proves it is thy folly, not thy fate.
The foul of man (let man in homage bow
Who names his foul) a native of the kies!
High-born, and free, her freedom fhould maintain.
Unfold, unmortgag'd for earth's little bribes.
Th' illuftrious ftranger, in this foreign land,
Like strangers, jealous of her dignity,
Studious of home, and ardent to return,
Of earth fufpicious, earth's enchanted cup
With cool referve light-touching, fhould indulge
On immortality her godlike taste;
There take large draughts; make her chief ban-
But fome reject this fuftenance divine;
To beggarly vile appetites defcend;
Afk alms of earth for gifts that came from heaven;
Sink into flaves; and fell, for prefent hire,
Their rich reverfion, and (what thares its fate)
Their native freedom, to the prince who fways
This nether world. And when his payments fail,
When his full basket gorges them no more;
Or their pall'd palates loath the basket full,
Are, inftantly, with wild demoniac rage,
For breaking all the chains of providence,
And bursting their confinement; tho' faft barr'd
By laws divine and human; guarded ftrong
With herrors doubled to defend the pafs,
The blackeft nature, or dire guilt can raise;
And moated round with fathomlefs deftruction,
Sure to receive, and whelm them in their fall.
Such, Britons! is the caufe, to you unknown,
Or worse, o'erlook'd; o'erlook'd by magiftrates,
Thus, criminals themfelves. I grant the deed
Is madnefs; but the madness of the heart.
And what is that? our utmost bound of guilt.
A fenfual, unreflecting life is big
With monftrous births, and fuicide, to crown
The black infernal brood. The bold to break
Heaven's law fupreme, and defperately rush
Thro' facred nature's murder, on their own,
Because they never think of death, they die.
When by the bed of languishment we fit,
Or, o'er our dying friends, in anguish hang,
Wipe the cold dew, or ftay the finking head,
Number their moments, and in ev'ry clock,
Start at the voice of an eternity;
See the dim lamp of life juft feebly lift
An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,
Then fink again, and quiver into death.
(That most pathetic herald of our own ;)
How read we fuch fad fcenes? as fent to man
In perfect vengeance no; in pity fent,
To melt him down, like wax, and then imprefs
Indelible, death's image on his heart;
Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.
We bleed, we tremble; we forget, we fmile:
The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry:
Our quick returning folly cancels all:
As the tide rufhing rates what is writ
In yielding fands, and fmooths the letter'd fhore.
LORENZO! haft thou ever weigh'd a figh?
Or ftudied the philofophy of tears?
Haft thou defcended deep into the breast,
And feen their fource: If not, defcend with me,
And trace thefe briny riv'lets to their springs.
Our funeral tears from different caules rife :
Of various kinds they flow. From tender hearts,
By foft contagion call'd, fome burft at once,
And ftream obfequious to the leading eve.
Some afk more time, by curious art diffill'd.
Some hearts, in fecret hard, unapt to melt,
Struck by the public eye, gufh out amain.
Some weep to thare the fame of the deccas'd,
So high in merit, and to them fo dear:
They dwell on praifes, which they think they fhare.
Some mourn in proof that fomething they could
They weep not to relieve their grief, but fhow,
Some weep in perfect juftice to the dead,
As confcious all their love is in arrear.
Some mischievously weep, not unappriz'd,
Tears, fometimes, aid the conquest of an eye.
As feen through cryftal, how their rofes glow,
While liquid pearl runs trickling down their
By kind conftruction fome are deem'd to weep,
Becaufe a decent veil conceals their joy.
Some weep in earneft; and yet weep in vain; As deep in indifcretion, as in woe. Paffion, blind paffion! impotently pours Tears, that deferve more tears; while reafon fleeps Or gazes, like an idiot, unconcern'd; Nor comprehends the meaning of the ftorm. They weep impetuous, as the fummer ftorm, And full as fhort! the cruel grief foon tam'd, They make a paftime of the ftinglefs tale! Far as the deep-refounding knell, they spread The dreadful news, and hardly feel it more. No grain of wifdom pays them for their woe. When the fick foul, her wonted ftay withdrawe, Reclines on earth, and forrows in the duft; Inftead of learning there her true fupport, She crawls to the next fhrub, or bramble vile, The stranger weds, and bloffoms as before, in all the fruitless fopperies of life.
The pointed thought, which from a thousand § 233. The Caprice and univerfal Power of
Is daily darted, and is daily shunn'd? [quivers
We ftand as in a battle, throngs on throngs
Around us falling; wounded oft ourselves ;
Tho' bleeding with our wounds, immortal ftill!
We fee time's furrows on another's brow,
And death entrench'd, preparing his affault;
How few themselves, in that just mirror, see!
Abfurd Longevity! More, more, it cries:
More life, more wealth, more trash of every kind!
And wherefore mad for more, when relifh fails?
Shall folly labour hard to mend the bow,
While nature is relaxing ev'ry ftring?
Afk thought for joy; grow rich and hoard within.
Think you the foul, when this life's rattles ceafe,
Has nothing of more manly to fucceed?
Contract the tafte immortal; learn even now
To relifh what alone fubfifts hereafter:
Divine or none, henceforth your joys for ever.
Of age, the glory is to wish to die.
That with is praife and promife; it applauds
Paft life, and promifes our future blifs.
What weaknefs fee not children in their fires?
Grey-hair'd authority to faults of youth,
How fhocking! it makes folly thrice a fool;
And our first childhood might our laft defpife.
What folly can be ranker? like our fhadows,
Our wishes lengthen, as our fun declines.
No with fhould loiter, then, this fide the grave.
Our hearts fhould leave the world, before the knell
Calls for our carçafes to mend the foil.
Enough to live in tempeft; die in port.
Age thould fly concourfe, cover in retreat
Defects of judgment, and the will's fubdue;
Walk thoughtful on the filent, folemn fhore
Of that vaft ocean it must fail fo foon;
And put good works on board; and wait the wind
That fhortly blows us into worlds unknown;
If unconfider'd, too, a dreadful scene!
§ 232. Little Learning required, to be Good. BUT you are learn'd; in volumes deep you fit;
In wifdom fhallow: pompous ignorance!
Learn well to know how much need not be known;
And what that knowledge, which impairs your
Our needful knowledge, like our needful food,
Unhedg'd, lics open in life's cominon field;
And bids all welcome to the vital feast.
You fcorn what lies before you in the page
Of nature and experience, moral truth;
And dive in fcience for diftinguish'd names,
Sinking in virtue, as you rife in fame.
Your learning, like the lunar beam, affords
Light, but not heat; it leaves you undevout.
If you would learn death's character, attend.
All cafts of conduct, all degrees of health,
All dies of fortune, and all dates of age,
Together hook in his impartial urn,
Come forth at random, Or if choice is made,
The choice is quite farcaftic, and infults
All beld conjecture, and fond hopes of man.
LIKE other tyrants, Death delights to fmite,
What fmitten moft proclaims the pride of
And arbitrary nod. His joy fupreme, [power,
To bid the wretch furvive the fortunate;
The feeble wrap th' athletic in his shroud;
And weeping fathers build their children's tomb;
Me thine, Narciffa !-what tho' fhort thy date?
Virtue, not rolling funs, the mind matures.
That life is long, which anfwers life's great end.
The time that bears no fruit, deferves no name;
The man of wisdom is the man of years.
In hoary youth Methufalems may die,
O how mifdated on their flattering tombs !
All more than common menaces an end;
A blaze betokens brevity of life.
To plant the foul on her eternal guard,
In awful expectation of our end,"
Thus runs Death's dread commiffion; "Strike,
"As most alarms the living by the dead."
Hence ftratagem delights him, and furprise,
And cruel sport with man's fecurities.
Not fimple conqueft, triumph is his aim, [moft.
And where leaft fear'd, there conqueft triumphs
What are his arts to lay our fears afleep!
Tiberian arts his purposes wrap up
In deep diffimulation's darkest night.
Like princes unconfeft in foreign courts,
Who travel under cover, Death affumes
The name and look of life, and dwells among us.
Behind the rofy bloom he loves to lurk,
Or ambush in a fmile; or wanton dive
In dimples deep; love's eddies, which draw in
Unwary hearts, and fink them in defpair.
Moft happy they whom least his arts deceive.
One eye on Death, and one full fix'd on heaven,
Becomes a mortal, and immortal man.
Where is not Death? fure as night follows day,
Death treads in Pleafure's footsteps round the
When Pleasure treads the paths which Reafon
When, against reason riot shuts the door,
And gaiety fupplies the place of fenfc.
Then foremost at the banquet and the ball,
Death leads the dance, or ftamps the deadly die;
Nor ever fails the midnight bowl to crown.
Gaily caroufing to his gay compeers,
Inly he laughs, to fee them laugh at him,
As abfent 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 fup
With their progenitors-He drops his mask,
Frowns out at full; they start, defpair, expire!
Scarce with more fudden terror and furprife,
From his black mask of nitre, touch'd by fire
He burfts, expands, roars, blazes, and devours.
And is not this triumphant treachery,
And more than fimple conquest in the fiend?
And now, gay trifler, doft thou wrap thy foul
In foft fecurity, because unknown
Which moment is commiffion'd to destroy?
In death's uncertainty thy danger lies.
Is death uncertain? therefore thou be fix'd,
Fix'd as a fentinel, all eye, all ear,
All expectation of the coming foe.
Roufe, ftand in arms, nor lean against thy fpear,
Left flumber fteal one moment o'er thy foul,
And fate furprife thee nodding. Watch, be ftrong;
Thus give cach day the merit, and renown,
Of dying well, tho' doen'd but once to die.
Nor let life's period hidden (as from most),
Hide too from thee, the precious ufe of life.
Does wealth with youth and gaiety confpire
To weave a triple wreath of happiness?
That fhining mark invites the tyrant's fpear.
As if to damp our elevated aims,
And ftrongly preach humility to man,
O how portentous is profperity!
How, comet-like, it threatens while it fhines!
Few years but yield us proof of Death's ambition
To cull his victims from the faireft fold,
And fheath his fhafts in all the pride of life.
When flooded with abundance, purpled o'er
With recent honours, bloom'd with ev'ry blifs;
Set up in oftentation, made the gaze,
The gaudy centre of the public eve;
When fortune, thus, has tofs'd her child in air,
Snatch'd from the covert of an humble state,
How often have I feen him dropp'd at once,
Our morning's envy, and our ev'ning's figh!
As if her bounties were the fignal giv'n,
The flow'ry wreath, to mark the facrifice,
And call Death's arrows on the deftin'd prey.
NIGHT VI. The Death of Narciffa. SHE (for I know not yet her name in heaven) Not carly, like Narciffa, left the scene; Nor fudden, like Philander. What avail? This feeming mitigation but inflames; This fancy'd medicine heightens the difeafe. The longer known, the clofer still she grew; And gradual parting is a gradual death.
O the long dark approach thro' years of pain, Death's gallery with fable terror hung; Sick hope's pale lamp its only glimmering ray! There fate my melancholy walk ordain'd. How oft I gaz'd, prophetically fad !
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 woɛ.
How oft I law her dead while yet in fmiles!
In fmiles fhe funk her grief to leffen mine:
She spoke me comfort, and inci cas'd my pain.
Like powerful armies trenching at a town,
By flow and filent, but refiftlefs fap,
In his pale progrefs gently gaining ground,
Death urg'd his deadly fiege: in ipite of art,
Of all the balmy bleflings nature lends
To fuccour frail humanity. Ye ftars!
And thou, O moon! bear witnefs; many a night
He tore the pillow from beneath my head,
Tied down my fore attention to the shock,
By ceafelefs depredations on a life,
Dearer than that he left me. Dreadful poft
Of obfervation darker every hour!
Lefs dread the day that drove me to the brink,
And pointed at eternity below.
When my foul thudder'd at futurity,
But why more woe? more comfort let it be. Nothing is dead, but that which with'd to die; Nothing is dead, but wretchednefs and pain: Nothing is dead, but what encumber'd, gall'd, Block'd up the pafs, and barr'd from real life. Where dwells that with most ardent of the wife? Too dark the fun to fee it; highest ftars Too low to reach it; death, great death alone, O'er ftars and fun triumphant, lands us there. Nor dreadful our tranfition; tho' the mind, An artift at creating felf-alarms, Rich in expedients for inquietude, Is prone to paint it dreadful. Who can take Death's portrait true? the tyrant never fat. Cur fketch, all random ftrokes, conjecture all; Clofe thuts the grave, nor tells one fingle tale. Death, and his image rifing in the brain, Bear faint refemblance; never are alike; Fear thakes the pencil, Fancy loves excefs, Dark Ignorance is lavish of her fhades; And thefe the formidable picture draw.
But grant the worst; 'tis paft; new prospects rife ; 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 fufpend our agonies in death. Wrapt in the thought of immortality, Long life might lapfe, age unperceiv'd come on; And find the foul untated with her theme. Its nature, proof, importance, fire my fong.
§ 235. Reflections on Man and Immortality. THY nature, immortality, who knows
And yet who knows it not? It is but life
In ftronger thread of brighter colour spun,
And spun for ever; black and brittle here!
How thort our correfpondence with the fun!
And while it lafts, inglorious! our beft deeds,
How wanting in their weight! our highest joys,
Small cordials to fupport us in our pain,
And give us ftrength to fuffer. But how great
To mingle interefts, converfe, amities,
With all the fons of Reason, scatter'd wide
Through habitable space, wherever born,
Howe'er endow'd' to live free citizens
of univerfal Nature! to lay hold
By more than feeble faith on the Supreme!
to call heaven's rich unfathomable mines
Our own! to rife in fcience as in blifs,
Initiate in the fecrets of the fkies!
To read creation; read its mighty plan
In the bare bofom of the Deity!
The plan and execution to collate!
To fee, before each glance of piercing thought,
All cloud, all fhadow blown remote; and leave
No mystery-but that of love divine,
Which lifts us on the feraph's flaming wing,
From earth's Aceldama, this field of blood,
Of inward anguish, and of outward ill,
From darknets, and from duft, to fuch a feene!