[The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality.]
Night V. The Relapse.
Humbly inscribed to the Right Hon. the Earl of Lichfield.
1 Lorenzo! to recriminate is just.
2 Fondness for fame is avarice of air.
3 I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.
4 Praise no man e'er deserved, who sought no more.
5 As just thy second charge. I grant the Muse
6 Has often blush'd at her degenerate sons,
7 Retain'd by Sense to plead her filthy cause
8 To raise the low, to magnify the mean,
9 And subtilize the gross into refined:
10 As if to magic numbers' powerful charm
11 'T was given to make a civet of their song
12 Obscene, and sweeten ordure to perfume.
13 Wit, a true Pagan, deifies the brute,
14 And lifts our swine-enjoyments from the mire.
15 The fact notorious, nor obscure the cause.
16 We wear the chains of Pleasure and of Pride:
17 These share the man; and these distract him too;
18 Draw different ways, and clash in their commands.
19 Pride, like an eagle, builds among the stars;
20 But Pleasure, lark-like, nests upon the ground.
21 Joys shared by brute-creation Pride resents,
22 Pleasure embraces. Man would both enjoy,
23 And both at once: a point how hard to gain!
24 But what can't Wit, when stung by strong desire?
25 Wit dares attempt this arduous enterprise.
26 Since joys of Sense can't rise to Reason's taste,
27 In subtle Sophistry's laborious forge
28 Wit hammers out a reason new, that stoops
29 To sordid scenes, and greets them with applause.
30 Wit calls the Graces the chaste zone to loose,
31 Nor less than a plump god to fill the bowl;
32 A thousand phantoms, and a thousand spells,
33 A thousand opiates scatters to delude,
34 To fascinate, inebriate, lay asleep,
35 And the fool'd mind delightfully confound.
36 Thus that which shock'd the Judgment, shocks no more;
37 That which gave Pride offence, no more offends.
38 Pleasure and Pride, by nature mortal foes,
39 At war eternal which in man shall reign,
40 By Wit's address, patch up a fatal peace,
41 And hand in hand lead on the rank debauch,
42 From rank refined to delicate and gay.
43 Art, cursed Art! wipes off the' indebted blush
44 From Nature's cheek, and bronzes every shame.
45 Man smiles in ruin, glories in his guilt,
46 And Infamy stands candidate for praise.
47 All writ by man in favour of the soul
48 These sensual ethics far in bulk transcend.
49 The flowers of eloquence profusely pour'd
50 O'er spotted Vice, fill half the letter'd world.
51 Can powers of genius exorcise their page,
52 And consecrate enormities with song?
53 But let not these inexpiable strains
54 Condemn the Muse that knows her dignity;
55 Nor meanly stops at Time, but holds the world —
56 As 't is, in Nature's ample field, a point —
57 A point in her esteem; from whence to start,
58 And run the round of universal space,
59 To visit being universal there,
60 And Being's Source, that utmost flight of mind!
61 Yet, spite of this so vast circumference,
62 Well knows, but what is moral, nought is great.
63 Sing sirens only? Do not angels sing?
64 There is in Poesy a decent pride,
65 Which well becomes her when she speaks to Prose,
66 Her younger sister; haply, not more wise.
67 Think'st thou, Lorenzo, to find pastimes here?
68 No guilty passion blown into a flame,
69 No foible flatter'd, dignity disgraced,
70 No fairy field of fiction, all on flower,
71 No rainbow colours here, or silken tale;
72 But solemn counsels, images of awe,
73 Truths which Eternity lets fall on man
74 With double weight, through these revolving spheres,
75 This death-deep silence, and incumbent shade:
76 Thoughts such as shall revisit your last hour;
77 Visit uncall'd, and live when life expires;
78 And thy dark pencil, Midnight, darker still
79 In melancholy dipp'd, embrowns the whole.
80 Yet this, e'en this, my laughter-loving friends!
81 Lorenzo, and thy brothers of the smile!
82 If what imports you most can most engage,
83 Shall steal your ear, and chain you to my song.
84 Or if you fail me, know, the wise shall taste
85 The truths I sing; the truths I sing shall feel;
86 And, feeling, give assent; and their assent
87 Is ample recompence; is more than praise.
88 But chiefly thine, O Lichfield! nor mistake:
89 Think not unintroduced I force my way;
90 Narcissa, not unknown, not unallied,
91 By virtue or by blood, illustrious youth,
92 To thee, from blooming amaranthine bowers,
93 Where all the language harmony, descends
94 Uncall'd, and asks admittance for the Muse;
95 A Muse that will not pain thee with thy praise;
96 Thy praise she drops, by nobler still inspired.
97 O Thou blest Spirit! whether the supreme,
98 Great antemundane Father! in whose breast
99 Embryo-creation, unborn being, dwelt,
100 And all its various revolutions roll'd
101 Present, though future, prior to themselves;
102 Whose breath can blow it into nought again;
103 Or from His throne some delegated Power,
104 Who, studious of our peace, dost turn the thought
105 From vain and vile to solid and sublime!
106 Unseen Thou lead'st me to delicious draughts
107 Of inspiration, from a purer stream,
108 And fuller of the God, than that which burst
109 From famed Castalia: nor is yet allay'd
110 My sacred thirst; though long my soul has ranged
111 Through pleasing paths of moral and Divine,
112 By Thee sustain'd, and lighted by the STARS.
113 By them best lighted are the paths of thought:
114 Nights are their days, their most illumined hours.
115 By day the soul, o'erborne by life's career,
116 Stunn'd by the din, and giddy with the glare,
117 Reels far from reason, jostled by the throng.
118 By day the soul is passive, all her thoughts
119 Imposed, precarious, broken, ere mature.
120 By night, from objects free, from passion cool,
121 Thoughts uncontroll'd and unimpress'd, the births
122 Of pure election, arbitrary range,
123 Not to the limits of one world confined,
124 But from ethereal travels light on earth,
125 As voyagers drop anchor, for repose.
126 Let Indians, and the gay, like Indians, fond
127 Of feather'd fopperies, the sun adore:
128 Darkness has more divinity for me:
129 It strikes thought inward; it drives back the soul
130 To settle on herself, our point supreme!
131 There lies our theatre; there sits our judge.
132 Darkness the curtain drops o'er life's dull scene;
133 'T is the kind hand of Providence stretch'd out
134 'Twixt man and vanity; 't is Reason's reign,
135 And Virtue's too; these tutelary shades
136 Are man's asylum from the tainted throng.
137 Night is the good man's friend, and guardian too;
138 It no less rescues Virtue than inspires.
139 Virtue for ever frail, as fair, below,
140 Her tender nature suffers in the crowd,
141 Nor touches on the world without a stain.
142 The world's infectious; few bring back at eve,
143 Immaculate, the manners of the morn.
144 Something we thought, is blotted; we resolved,
145 Is shaken; we renounced, returns again.
146 Each salutation may slide-in a sin
147 Unthought before, or fix a former flaw.
148 Nor is it strange; light, motion, concourse, noise,
149 All scatter us abroad; Thought, outward-bound,
150 Neglectful of our home-affairs, flies off
151 In fume and dissipation, quits her charge,
152 And leaves the breast unguarded to the foe.
153 Present example gets within our guard,
154 And acts with double force, by few repell'd.
155 Ambition fires ambition; love of gain
156 Strikes like a pestilence, from breast to breast;
157 Riot, pride, perfidy, blue vapours breathe;
158 And inhumanity is caught from man,
159 From smiling man! A slight, a single glance,
160 And shot at random, often has brought home
161 A sudden fever to the throbbing heart
162 Of envy, rancour, or impure desire.
163 We see, we hear, with peril; Safety dwells
164 Remote from multitude; the world's a school
165 Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around!
166 We must or imitate or disapprove;
167 Must list as their accomplices, or foes;
168 That stains our innocence, this wounds our peace.
169 From Nature's birth, hence, Wisdom has been smit
170 With sweet recess, and languish'd for the shade.
171 This sacred shade and solitude, — what is it?
172 'T is the felt presence of the Deity.
173 Few are the faults we flatter when alone.
174 Vice sinks in her allurements, is ungilt,
175 And looks, like other objects, black by night:
176 By night an Atheist half-believes a God.
177 Night is fair Virtue's immemorial friend;
178 The conscious Moon, through every distant age,
179 Has held a lamp to Wisdom, and let fall
180 On Contemplation's eye her purging ray.
181 The famed Athenian, he who woo'd from heaven
182 Philosophy the fair, to dwell with men,
183 And form their manners, not inflame their pride, —
184 While o'er his head, as fearful to molest
185 His labouring mind, the stars in silence slide,
186 And seem all gazing on their future guest,
187 See him soliciting his ardent suit
188 In private audience: all the live-long night,
189 Rigid in thought, and motionless, he stands;
190 Nor quits his theme or posture till the sun
191 (Rude drunkard! rising rosy from the main)
192 Disturbs his nobler intellectual beam,
193 And gives him to the tumult of the world.
194 Hail, precious moments, stolen from the black waste
195 Of murder'd Time! auspicious Midnight, hail!
196 The world excluded, every passion hush'd,
197 And open'd a calm intercourse with Heaven,
198 Here the soul sits in council; ponders past,
199 Predestines future action; sees, not feels,
200 Tumultuous life, and reasons with the storm;
201 All her lies answers, and thinks down her charms.
202 What awful joy! what mental liberty!
203 I am not pent in darkness: rather say,
204 (If not too bold,) in darkness I'm embower'd.
205 Delightful gloom! the clustering thoughts around
206 Spontaneous rise, and blossom in the shade;
207 But droop by day, and sicken in the sun.
208 Thought borrows light elsewhere; from that flast fire,
209 Fountain of animation, whence descends
210 Urania, my celestial guest! who deigns
211 Nightly to visit me, so mean; and now,
212 Conscious how needful discipline to man,
213 From pleasing dalliance with the charms of Night,
214 My wandering thought recalls, to what excites
215 Far other beat of heart, — Narcissa's tomb!
216 Or is it feeble Nature calls me back,
217 And breaks my spirit into grief again?
218 Is it a Stygian vapour in my blood,
219 A cold, slow puddle, creeping through my veins?
220 Or is it thus with all men? — Thus with all.
221 What are we? how unequal! now we soar,
222 And now we sink. To be the same, transcends
223 Our present prowess. Dearly pays the soul
224 For lodging ill; too dearly rents her clay.
225 Reason, a baffled counsellor, but adds
226 The blush of weakness to the bane of woe.
227 The noblest spirit, fighting her hard fate
228 In this damp, dusky region, charged with storms,
229 But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly;
230 Or, flying, short her flight, and sure her fall.
231 Our utmost strength, when down, to rise again;
232 And not to yield, though beaten, all our praise.
233 'T is vain to seek in men for more than man.
234 Though proud in promise, big in previous thought,
235 Experience damps our triumph. I, who late,
236 Emerging from the shadows of the grave,
237 Where Grief detain'd me prisoner, mounting high,
238 Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,
239 And call'd mankind to glory, shook off pain,
240 Mortality shook off, in ether pure,
241 And struck the stars; now feel my spirits fail:
242 They drop me from the zenith; down I rush,
243 Like him whom Fable fledged with waxen wings,
244 In sorrow drown'd — but not in sorrow lost.
245 How wretched is the man who never mourn'd!
246 I dive for precious pearl in sorrow's stream:
247 Not so the thoughtless man that only grieves;
248 Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain,
249 (Inestimable gain!) and gives Heaven leave
250 To make him but more wretched, not more wise.
251 If wisdom is our lesson, (and what else
252 Ennobles man? what else have angels learnt?)
253 Grief, more proficients in thy school are made
254 Than Genius, or proud Learning, e'er could boast.
255 Voracious Learning, often over-fed,
256 Digests not into sense her motley meal.
257 This Book-case, with dark booty almost burst,
258 This forager on others' wisdom, leaves
259 Her native farm, her reason, quite untill'd.
260 With mix'd manure she surfeits the rank soil,
261 Dung'd, but not dress'd, and rich to beggary.
262 A pomp untameable of weeds prevails.
263 Her servant's wealth encumber'd Wisdom mourns.
264 And what says Genius? "Let the dull be wise."
265 Genius, too hard for right, can prove it wrong;
266 And loves to boast where blush men less inspired.
267 It pleads exemption from the laws of Sense;
268 Considers Reason as a leveller;
269 And scorns to share a blessing with the crowd;
270 That wise it could be, thinks an ample claim
271 To Glory, and to Pleasure gives the rest.
272 Crassus but sleeps, Ardelio is undone.
273 Wisdom less shudders at a fool than wit.
274 But Wisdom smiles when humbled mortals weep.
275 When Sorrow wounds the breast, as ploughs the glebe,
276 And hearts obdurate feel her softening shower;
277 Her seed celestial, then, glad Wisdom sows;
278 Her golden harvest triumphs in the soil.
279 If so, Narcissa! welcome my Relapse:
280 I'll raise a tax on my calamity,
281 And reap rich compensation from my pain.
282 I'll range the plenteous intellectual field;
283 And gather every thought of sovereign power,
284 To chase the moral maladies of man;
285 Thoughts which may bear transplanting to the skies,
286 Though natives of this coarse penurious soil;
287 Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs sing,
288 Refined, exalted, not annull'd, in heaven:
289 Reason, the sun that gives them birth, the same
290 In either clime, though more illustrious there.
291 These, choicely cull'd, and elegantly ranged,
292 Shall form a garland for Narcissa's tomb;
293 And, peradventure, of no fading flowers.
294 Say, on what themes shall puzzled choice descend?
295 "The"importance of contemplating the tomb;
296 Why men decline it; Suicide's foul birth;
297 The various kinds of Grief; the faults of Age;
298 And Death's dread character, "— invite my song.
299 And, first, the' importance of our end survey'd.
300 Friends counsel quick dismission of our grief.
301 Mistaken kindness! our hearts heal too soon.
302 Are they more kind than He who struck the blow,
303 Who bid it do His errand in our hearts,
304 And banish peace, till nobler guests arrive,
305 And bring it back a true and endless peace?
306 Calamities are friends: as glaring day
307 Of these unnumber'd lustres robs our sight,
308 Prosperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts
309 Of import high, and light Divine, to man.
310 The man how bless'd, who, sick of gaudy scenes,
311 (Scenes apt to thrust between us and ourselves!)
312 Is led by choice to take his favourite walk
313 Beneath Death's gloomy, silent, cypress shades,
314 Unpierced by Vanity's fantastic ray;
315 To read his monuments, to weigh his dust,
316 Visit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs!
317 Lorenzo! read with me Narcissa's stone;
318 (Narcissa was thy favourite;) let us read
319 Her moral stone: few doctors preach so well;
320 Few orators so tenderly can touch
321 The feeling heart. What pathos in the date!
322 Apt words can strike; and yet in them we see
323 Faint images of what we here enjoy.
324 What cause have we to build on length of life?
325 Temptations seize when Fear is laid asleep,
326 And Ill foreboded is our strongest guard.
327 See, from her tomb, as from an humble shrine,
328 Truth, radiant goddess, sallies on my soul,
329 And puts Delusion's dusky train to flight;
330 Dispels the mists our sultry passions raise,
331 From objects low, terrestrial, and obscene;
332 And shows the real estimate of things,
333 Which no man, unafflicted, ever saw;
334 Pulls off the veil from Virtue's rising charms;
335 Detects Temptation in a thousand lies.
336 Truth bids me look on men as autumn leaves,
337 And all they bleed for as the summer's dust,
338 Driven by the whirlwind. Lighted by her beams,
339 I widen my horizon, gain new powers,
340 See things invisible, feel things remote,
341 Am present with futurities; think nought
342 To man so foreign as the joys possess'd,
343 Nought so much his as those beyond the grave.
344 No folly keeps its colour in her sight;
345 Pale worldly Wisdom loses all her charms;
346 In pompous promise from her schemes profound,
347 If future fate she plans, 't is all in leaves,
348 Like Sibyl, unsubstantial, fleeting bliss!
349 At the first blast it vanishes in air.
350 Not so celestial. Wouldst thou know, Lorenzo,
351 How differ worldly Wisdom and Divine?
352 Just as the waning and the waxing moon.
353 More empty worldly Wisdom every day,
354 And every day more fair her rival shines.
355 When later, there's less time to play the fool.
356 Soon our whole term for Wisdom is expired,
357 (Thou know'st she calls no council in the grave,)
358 And "everlasting fool"is writ in fire,
359 Or real Wisdom wafts us to the skies.
360 As worldly schemes resemble Sibyl's leaves,
361 The good man's days to Sibyl's books compare,
362 (En ancient story read, thou know'st the tale,)
363 In price still rising, as in number less;
364 Inestimable quite his final hour.
365 For that, who thrones can offer, offer thrones:
366 Insolvent worlds the purchase cannot pay.
367 "O let me die his death!"all Nature cries.
368 "Then live his life!"— all Nature falters there.
369 Our great Physician daily to consult,
370 To commune with the Grave, our only cure.
371 What grave prescribes the best? A friend's; and yet
372 From a friend's grave how soon we disengage!
373 E'en to the dearest, as his marble, cold.
374 Why are friends ravish'd from us? 'T is to bind,
375 By soft Affection's ties, on human hearts,
376 The thought of death, which Reason, too supine,
377 Or misemploy'd, so rarely fastens there.
378 Nor Reason, nor Affection, no, nor both
379 Combined, can break the witchcrafts of the world.
380 Behold the' inexorable hour at hand!
381 Behold the' inexorable hour forgot!
382 And to forget it the chief aim of life,
383 Though well to ponder it is life's chief end.
384 Is Death, that ever threatening, ne'er remote,
385 That all-important, and that only sure,
386 (Come when he will,) an unexpected guest?
387 Nay, though invited by the loudest calls
388 Of blind Imprudence, unexpected still?
389 Though numerous messengers are sent before,
390 To warn his great arrival. What the cause,
391 The wondrous cause, of this mysterious ill?
392 All heaven looks down, astonish'd at the sight.
393 Is it, that Life has sown her joys so thick,
394 We can't thrust in a single care between?
395 Is it, that Life has such a swarm of cares,
396 The thought of death can't enter for the throng?
397 Is it, that Time steals on with downy feet,
398 Nor wakes Indulgence from her golden dream?
399 To-day is so like yesterday, it cheats;
400 We take the lying sister for the same.
401 Life glides away, Lorenzo, like a brook;
402 For ever changing, unperceived the change.
403 In the same brook none ever bathed him twice:
404 To the same life none ever twice awoke.
405 We call the brook the same; the same we think
406 Our life, though still more rapid in its flow;
407 Nor mark the much irrevocably lapsed,
408 And mingled with the sea. Or shall we say,
409 (Retaining still the brook to bear us on,)
410 That life is like a vessel on the stream?
411 In life embark'd, we smoothly down the tide
412 Of time descend, but not on time intent;
413 Amused, unconscious of the gliding wave;
414 Till on a sudden we perceive a shock;
415 We start, awake, look out; what see we there?
416 Our brittle bark is burst on Charon's shore.
417 Is this the cause Death flies all human thought?
418 Or is it Judgment by the Will struck blind,
419 (That domineering mistress of the soul,)
420 Like him so strong, by Delilah the fair?
421 Or is it Fear turns startled Reason back,
422 From looking down a precipice so steep?
423 'T is dreadful; and the dread is wisely placed,
424 By Nature, conscious of the make of man.
425 A dreadful friend it is, a terror kind,
426 A flaming sword to guard the tree of life.
427 By that unawed, in life's most smiling hour,
428 The good man would repine; would suffer joys,
429 And burn impatient for his promised skies.
430 The bad, on each punctilious pique of Pride,
431 Or gloom of Humour, would give Rage the rein,
432 Bound o'er the barrier, rush into the dark,
433 And mar the schemes of Providence below
434 What groan was that, Lorenzo? Furies! rise;
435 And drown, in your less execrable yell,
436 Britannia's shame. There took her gloomy flight,
437 On wing impetuous, a black sullen soul,
438 Blasted from hell, with horrid lust of death,
439 Thy friend, the brave, the gallant Altamont,
440 So call'd, so thought: — and then he fled the field.
441 Less base the fear of death than fear of life.
442 O Britain, infamous for suicide!
443 An island in thy manners! far disjoin'd
444 From the whole world of rationals beside!
445 In ambient waves plunge thy polluted head,
446 Wash the dire stain, nor shock the Continent.
447 But thou be shock'd, while I detect the cause
448 Of Self-Assault, expose the monster's birth,
449 And bid Abhorrence hiss it round the world.
450 Blame not thy clime, nor chide the distant sun;
451 The sun is innocent, thy clime absolved:
452 Immoral climes kind Nature never made.
453 The cause I sing in Eden might prevail,
454 And proves it is thy folly, not thy fate.
455 The soul of man, (let man in homage bow,
456 Who names his soul,) a native of the skies,
457 High-born and free, her freedom should maintain,
458 Unsold, unmortgaged for Earth's little bribes.
459 The' illustrious stranger, in this foreign land, —
460 Like strangers, jealous of her dignity,
461 Studious of home, and ardent to return, —
462 Of Earth suspicious, Earth's enchanted cup
463 With cool reserve light touching, should indulge
464 On Immortality her godlike taste;
465 There take large draughts; make her chief banquet there.
466 But some reject this sustenance Divine;
467 To beggarly vile appetites descend;
468 Ask alms of Earth for guests that came from heaven;
469 Sink into slaves; and sell, for present hire,
470 Their rich reversion, and (what shares its fate)
471 Their native freedom, to the prince who sways
472 This nether world; and, when his payments fail,
473 When his foul basket gorges them no more,
474 Or their pall'd palates loathe the basket full,
475 Are instantly, with wild demoniac rage,
476 For breaking all the chains of Providence,
477 And bursting their confinement; though fast barr'd
478 By laws Divine and human; guarded strong
479 With horrors doubled to defend the pass
480 The blackest Nature or dire Guilt can raise;
481 And moated round with fathomless destruction,
482 Sure to receive and whelm them in their fall.
483 Such, Britons! is the cause, to you unknown,
484 Or worse, o'erlook'd; o'erlook'd by magistrates,
485 Thus criminals themselves. I grant the deed
486 Is madness; but the madness of the heart.
487 And what is that? Our utmost bound of guilt.
488 A sensual, unreflecting life is big
489 With monstrous births, and Suicide, to crown
490 The black infernal brood. The bold to break
491 Heaven's law supreme, and desperately rush
492 Through sacred Nature's murder on their own,
493 Because they never think of death, they die.
494 'T is equally man's duty, glory, gain,
495 At once to shun and meditate his end.
496 When by the bed of languishment we sit,
497 (The seat of wisdom! if our choice, not fate,)
498 Or o'er our dying friends in anguish hang,
499 Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head,
500 Number their moments, and in every clock
501 Start at the voice of an eternity;
502 See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift
503 An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,
504 Then sink again, and quiver into death,
505 That most pathetic herald of our own: —
506 How read we such sad scenes? as sent to man
507 In perfect vengeance? No; in pity sent,
508 To melt him down, like wax, and then impress,
509 Indelible, Death's image on his heart;
510 Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.
511 We bleed, we tremble; we forget, we smile:
512 The mind turns fool before the cheek is dry.
513 Our quick-returning folly cancels all;
514 As the tide rushing rases what is writ
515 In yielding sands, and smooths the letter'd shore.
516 Lorenzo! hast thou ever weigh'd a sigh,
517 Or studied the philosophy of tears?
518 (A science yet unlectured in our schools:)
519 Hast thou descended deep into the breast,
520 And seen their source? If not, descend with me,
521 And trace these briny rivulets to their springs.
522 Our funeral tears from different causes rise.
523 As if from separate cisterns in the soul,
524 Of various kinds, they flow. From tender hearts,
525 By soft contagion call'd, some burst at once,
526 And stream obsequious to the leading eye.
527 Some ask more time, by curious art distill'd.
528 Some hearts, in secret hard, unapt to melt,
529 Struck by the magic of the public eye,
530 Like Moses' smitten rock, gush out amain.
531 Some weep to share the fame of the deceased,
532 So high in merit, and to them so dear.
533 They dwell on praises which they think they share;
534 And thus, without a blush, commend themselves.
535 Some mourn in proof that something they could love;
536 They weep, not to relieve their grief, but show.
537 Some weep in perfect justice to the dead,
538 As conscious all their love is in arrear.
539 Some mischievously weep, not unapprized
540 Tears sometimes aid the conquest of an eye.
541 With what address the soft Ephesians draw
542 Their sable net-work o'er entangled hearts!
543 As seen through crystal, how their roses glow,
544 While liquid pearl runs trickling down their cheek!
545 Of hers not prouder Egypt's wanton queen,
546 Carousing gems, herself dissolved in love.
547 Some weep at Death, abstracted from the dead,
548 And celebrate, like Charles, their own decease.
549 By kind construction some are deem'd to weep,
550 Because a decent veil conceals their joy.
551 Some weep in earnest, and yet weep in vain;
552 As deep in indiscretion as in woe.
553 Passion, blind Passion, impotently pours
554 Tears that deserve more tears, while Reason sleeps,
555 Or gazes, like an idiot, unconcern'd,
556 Nor comprehends the meaning of the storm;
557 Knows not it speaks to her, and her alone.
558 Irrationals all sorrow are beneath,
559 That noble gift, that privilege of man!
560 From Sorrow's pang, the birth of endless joy.
561 But these are barren of that birth Divine:
562 They weep impetuous as the summer storm,
563 And full as short! The cruel grief soon tamed,
564 They make a pastime of the stingless tale;
565 Far as the deep-resounding knell, they spread
566 The dreadful news, and hardly feel it more:
567 No grain of wisdom pays them for their woe.
568 Half round the globe, the tears pump'd up by Death
569 Are spent in watering vanities of life;
570 In making Folly flourish still more fair.
571 When the sick soul, her wonted stay withdrawn,
572 Reclines on earth, and sorrows in the dust,
573 Instead of learning there her true support,
574 Though there thrown down her true support to learn,
575 Without Heaven's aid impatient to be bless'd,
576 She crawls to the next shrub or bramble vile,
577 Though from the stately cedar's arms she fell;
578 With stale, forsworn embraces clings anew,
579 The stranger weds, and blossoms, as before,
580 In all the fruitless fopperies of life;
581 Presents her weed, well fancied, at the ball,
582 And raffles for the death's-head on the ring.
583 So wept Aurelia, till the destined youth
584 Stepp'd in with his receipt for making smiles,
585 And blanching sables into bridal bloom.
586 So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate,
587 Who gave that angel boy on whom he dotes;
588 And died to give him, orphan'd in his birth!
589 Not such, Narcissa, my distress for thee;
590 I'll make an altar of thy sacred tomb,
591 To sacrifice to Wisdom. What wast thou?
592 "Young, gay, and fortunate!"Each yields a theme:
593 I'll dwell on each, to shun thought more severe;
594 (Heaven knows I labour with severer still!)
595 I'll dwell on each, and quite exhaust thy death.
596 A soul without reflection, like a pile
597 Without inhabitant, to ruin runs.
598 And, first, thy youth: what says it to grey hairs?
599 Narcissa, I'm become thy pupil now. —
600 Early, bright, transient, chaste, as morning dew,
601 She sparkled, was exhaled, and went to heaven.
602 Time on this head has snow'd, yet still 't is borne
603 Aloft, nor thinks but on another's grave.
604 Cover'd with shame I speak it, Age severe
605 Old worn-out Vice sets down for Virtue fair;
606 With graceless gravity chastising Youth,
607 That Youth chastised surpassing in a fault,
608 Father of all, forgetfulness of Death!
609 As if, like objects pressing on the sight,
610 Death had advanced too near us to be seen;
611 Or, that life's loan Time ripen'd into right,
612 And men might plead prescription from the grave;
613 Deathless, from repetition of reprieve.
614 Deathless? far from it! such are dead already;
615 Their hearts are buried; and the world their grave.
616 Tell me, some god! my guardian angel, tell,
617 What thus infatuates? what enchantment plants
618 The phantom of an age 'twixt us and Death
619 Already at the door? He knocks; we hear him,
620 And yet we will not hear. What mail defends
621 Our untouch'd hearts? What miracle turns off
622 The pointed thought, which from a thousand quivers
623 Is daily darted, and is daily shunn'd?
624 We stand, as in a battle, throngs on throngs
625 Around us falling; wounded oft ourselves;
626 Though bleeding with our wounds, immortal still!
627 We see Time's furrows on another's brow,
628 And Death, intrench'd, preparing his assault:
629 How few themselves in that just mirror see!
630 Or, seeing, draw their inference as strong!
631 There Death is certain; doubtful here: he must,
632 And soon — we may, within an age — expire.
633 Though grey our heads, our thoughts and aims are green;
634 Like damaged clocks, whose hand and bell dissent;
635 Folly sings six, while Nature points at twelve.
636 Absurd longevity! "More, more,"it cries:
637 More life, more wealth, more trash of every kind.
638 And wherefore mad for more, when relish fails?
639 Object and Appetite must club for joy.
640 Shall Folly labour hard to mend the bow,
641 (Baubles I mean, that strike us from without,)
642 While Nature is relaxing every string?
643 Ask Thought for joy; grow rich, and hoard within.
644 Think you the soul, when this life's rattles cease,
645 Has nothing of more manly to succeed?
646 Contract the taste immortal; learn e'en now
647 To relish what alone subsists hereafter.
648 Divine or none, henceforth, your joys for ever.
649 Of age the glory is, to wish to die;
650 That wish is praise and promise; it applauds
651 Past life, and promises our future bliss.
652 What weakness see not children in their sires?
653 Grand-climacterical absurdities!
654 Grey-hair'd authority to faults of youth,
655 How shocking! it makes Folly thrice a fool;
656 And our first childhood might our last despise.
657 Peace and esteem is all that age can hope.
658 Nothing but wisdom gives the first; the last,
659 Nothing but the repute of being wise.
660 Folly bars both: our age is quite undone.
661 What folly can be ranker? Like our shadows,
662 Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.
663 No wish should loiter, then, this side the grave.
664 Our hearts should leave the world before the knell
665 Calls for our carcasses to mend the soil.
666 Enough to live in tempest, die in port.
667 Age should fly concourse, cover in retreat
668 Defects of judgment, and the will's subdue;
669 Walk thoughtful on the silent, solemn shore
670 Of that vast ocean it must sail so soon,
671 And put good works on board, and wait the wind
672 That shortly blows us into worlds unknown;
673 If unconsider'd too, a dreadful scene!
674 All should be prophets to themselves; foresee
675 Their future fate; their future fate foretaste:
676 This art would waste the bitterness of death.
677 The thought of death alone the fear destroys.
678 A disaffection to that precious thought
679 Is more than midnight darkness on the soul,
680 Which sleeps beneath it, on a precipice,
681 Puff'd off by the first blast, and lost for ever.
682 Dost ask, Lorenzo, why so warmly press'd,
683 By repetition hammer'd on thine ear,
684 The thought of Death? That thought is the machine,
685 The grand machine that heaves us from the dust,
686 And rears us into men! That thought plied home
687 Will soon reduce the ghastly precipice
688 O'erhanging hell, will soften the descent,
689 And gently slope our passage to the grave.
690 How warmly to be wish'd! What heart of flesh
691 Would trifle with tremendous, dare extremes,
692 Yawn o'er the fate of infinite? What hand,
693 Beyond the blackest brand of censure bold,
694 (To speak a language too well known to thee,)
695 Would at a moment give its all to chance,
696 And stamp the die for an eternity?
697 Aid me, Narcissa! aid me to keep pace
698 With Destiny; and ere her scissors cut
699 My thread of life, to break this tougher thread
700 Of moral death, that ties me to the world.
701 Sting thou my slumbering Reason to send forth
702 A thought of observation on the foe;
703 To sally, and survey the rapid march
704 Of his ten thousand messengers to man;
705 Who, Jehu-like, behind him turns them all.
706 All accident apart, by Nature sign'd,
707 My warrant is gone out, though dormant yet;
708 Perhaps behind one moment lurks my fate.
709 Must I then forward only look for Death?
710 Backward I turn mine eye, and find him there.
711 Man is a self-survivor every year.
712 Man, like a stream, is in perpetual flow.
713 Death's a destroyer of quotidian prey.
714 My youth, my noon-tide, his; my yesterday;
715 The bold invader shares the present hour.
716 Each moment on the former shuts the grave.
717 While man is growing, life is in decrease,
718 And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.
719 Our birth is nothing but our death begun;
720 As tapers waste that instant they take fire.
721 Shall we then fear lest that should come to pass,
722 Which comes to pass each moment of our lives?
723 If fear we must, let that death turn us pale
724 Which murders strength and ardour; what remains
725 Should rather call on Death, than dread his call.
726 Ye partners of my fault and my decline!
727 Thoughtless of death, but when your neighbour's knell
728 (Rude visitant!) knocks hard at your dull sense,
729 And with its thunder scarce obtains your ear!
730 Be death your theme in every place and hour;
731 Nor longer want, ye monumental sires,
732 A brother-tomb to tell you, you shall die.
733 That death you dread, (so great is Nature's skill!)
734 Know, you shall court, before you shall enjoy.
735 But you are learn'd; in volumes deep you sit,
736 In wisdom shallow. Pompous ignorance!
737 Would you be still more learned than the learn'd?
738 Learn well to know how much need not be known,
739 And what that knowledge which impairs your sense.
740 Our needful knowledge, like our needful food,
741 Unhedged, lies open in life's common field,
742 And bids all welcome to the vital feast.
743 You scorn what lies before you in the page
744 Of Nature and Experience, — moral truth,
745 Of indispensable, eternal fruit;
746 Fruit on which mortals, feeding, turn to gods, —
747 And dive in science for distinguish'd names,
748 Dishonest fomentation of your pride,
749 Sinking in virtue as you rise in fame.
750 Your learning, like the lunar beam, affords
751 Light, but not heat; it leaves you undevout,
752 Frozen at heart, while speculation shines.
753 Awake, ye curious indagators, fond
754 Of knowing all, but what avails you known.
755 If you would learn Death's character, attend.
756 All casts of conduct, all degrees of health,
757 All dies of fortune, and all dates of age,
758 Together shook in his impartial urn,
759 Come forth at random; or, if choice is made,
760 The choice is quite sarcastic, and insults
761 All bold conjecture and fond hopes of man.
762 What countless multitudes not only leave
763 But deeply disappoint us by their deaths!
764 Though great our sorrow, greater our surprise.
765 Like other tyrants, Death delights to smite
766 What, smitten, most proclaims the pride of power
767 And arbitrary nod. His joy supreme,
768 To bid the wretch survive the fortunate;
769 The feeble wrap the' athletic in his shroud;
770 And weeping fathers build their children's tomb:
771 Me thine, Narcissa! — What, though short thy date?
772 Virtue, not rolling suns, the mind matures.
773 That life is long which answers life's great end.
774 The time that bears no fruit deserves no name.
775 The man of wisdom is the man of years.
776 In hoary youth Methuselahs may die;
777 O how misdated on their flattering tombs!
778 Narcissa's youth has lectured me thus far.
779 And can her gaiety give counsel too?
780 That, like the Jews' famed oracle of gems,
781 Sparkles instruction; such as throws new light,
782 And opens more the character of Death,
783 Ill known to thee, Lorenzo! This thy vaunt:
784 "Give death his due, — the wretched and the old;
785 E'en let him sweep his rubbish to the grave:
786 Let him not violate kind Nature's laws,
787 But own man born to live, as well as die"
788 Wretched and old thou givest him: young and gay
789 He takes; and plunder is a tyrant's joy.
790 What if I prove, "The farthest from the fear
791 Are often nearest to the stroke of Fate?"
792 All more than common, menaces an end.
793 A blaze betokens brevity of life:
794 As if bright embers should emit a flame,
795 Glad spirits sparkled from Narcissa's eye,
796 And made youth younger, and taught life to live.
797 As Nature's opposites wage endless war,
798 For this offence, as treason to the deep
799 Inviolable stupor of his reign,
800 Where Lust and turbulent Ambition sleep,
801 Death took swift vengeance. As he life detests,
802 More life is still more odious; and, reduced
803 By conquest, aggrandizes more his power.
804 But wherefore aggrandized? By Heaven's decree,
805 To plant the soul on her eternal guard,
806 In awful expectation of our end.
807 Thus runs Death's dread commission: "Strike, but so
808 As most alarms the living by the dead."
809 Hence stratagem delights him, and surprise,
810 And cruel sport with man's securities.
811 Not simple conquest, triumph is his aim;
812 And where least fear'd, there conquest triumphs most.
813 This proves my bold assertion not too bold.
814 What are his arts to lay our fears asleep?
815 Tiberian arts his purposes wrap up
816 In deep dissimulation's darkest night.
817 Like princes unconfess'd in foreign courts,
818 Who travel under cover, Death assumes
819 The name and look of Life, and dwells among us;
820 He takes all shapes that serve his black designs;
821 Though master of a wider empire far
822 Than that o'er which the Roman eagle flew,
823 Like Nero, he's a fiddler, charioteer;
824 Or drives his phaeton in female guise;
825 Quite unsuspected, till, the wheel beneath,
826 His disarray'd oblation he devours.
827 He most affects the forms least like himself,
828 His slender self: hence burly corpulence
829 Is his familiar wear, and sleek disguise.
830 Behind the rosy bloom he loves to lurk,
831 Or ambush in a smile; or, wanton, dive
832 In dimples deep: Love's eddies, which draw-in
833 Unwary hearts, and sink them in despair.
834 Such on Narcissa's couch he loiter'd long
835 Unknown, and, when detected, still was seen
836 To smile: such peace has Innocence in death!
837 Most happy they whom least his arts deceive!
838 One eye on Death, and one full fix'd on Heaven,
839 Becomes a mortal and immortal man.
840 Long on his wiles a piqued and jealous spy,
841 I've seen, or dreamt I saw, the tyrant dress,
842 Lay by his horrors, and put on his smiles.
843 Say, Muse, for thou remember'st, call it back;
844 And show Lorenzo the surprising scene:
845 If 'twas a dream, his genius can explain.
846 'T was in a circle of the gay I stood:
847 Death would have enter'd; Nature push'd him back;
848 Supported by a Doctor of renown,
849 His point he gain'd; then artfully dismiss'd
850 The sage, for Death design'd to be conceal'd.
851 He gave an old vivacious usurer
852 His meagre aspect, and his naked bones;
853 In gratitude for plumping up his prey,
854 A pamper'd spendthrift, whose fantastic air,
855 Well-fashion'd figure, and cockaded brow,
856 He took in change, and underneath the pride
857 Of costly linen tuck'd his filthy shroud.
858 His crooked bow he straighten'd to a cane,
859 And hid his deadly shafts in Myra's eye.
860 The dreadful masquerader, thus equipp'd,
861 Out-sallies on adventures. Ask you where?
862 Where is he not? For his peculiar haunts
863 Let this suffice: — Sure as night follows day,
864 Death treads in Pleasure's footsteps round the world,
865 When Pleasure treads the paths which Reason shuns.
866 When against Reason Riot shuts the door,
867 And Gaiety supplies the place of Sense,
868 Then foremost, at the banquet and the ball,
869 Death leads the dance, or stamps the deadly die:
870 Nor ever fails the midnight bowl to crown.
871 Gaily carousing to his gay compeers,
872 Inly he laughs to see them laugh at him,
873 As absent far; and when the revel burns,
874 When Fear is banish'd, and triumphant Thought,
875 Calling for all the joys beneath the moon,
876 Against him turns the key, and bids him sup
877 With their progenitors, — he drops his mask,
878 Frowns out at full; they start, despair, expire.
879 Scarce with more sudden terror and surprise
880 From his black mask of nitre, touch'd by fire,
881 He bursts, expands, roars, blazes, and devours.
882 And is not this triumphant treachery,
883 And more than simple conquest, in the fiend?
884 And now, Lorenzo, dost thou wrap thy soul
885 In soft security, because unknown
886 Which moment is commission'd to destroy?
887 In Death's uncertainty thy danger lies.
888 Is Death uncertain? Therefore thou be fix'd,
889 Fix'd as a sentinel, all eye, all ear,
890 All expectation of the coming foe.
891 Rouse, stand in arms, nor lean against thy spear,
892 Lest slumber steal one moment o'er thy soul,
893 And Fate surprise thee nodding. Watch, be strong:
894 Thus give each day the merit and renown
895 Of dying well, though doom'd but once to die.
896 Nor let life's period hidden (as from most)
897 Hide, too, from thee the precious use of life.
898 Early, not sudden, was Narcissa's fate:
899 Soon, not surprising, Death his visit paid:
900 Her Thought went forth to meet him on his way,
901 Nor Gaiety forgot it was to die;
902 Though Fortune, too, (our third and final theme,)
903 As an accomplice, play'd her gaudy plumes,
904 And every glittering gewgaw, on her sight,
905 To dazzle and debauch it from its mark.
906 Death's dreadful advent is the mark of man,
907 And every thought that misses it is blind.
908 Fortune, with Youth and Gaiety, conspired
909 To weave a triple wreath of happiness
910 (If happiness on earth) to crown her brow.
911 And could Death charge through such a shining shield?
912 That shining shield invites the tyrant's spear,
913 As if to damp our elevated aims,
914 And strongly preach humility to man.
915 O how portentous is prosperity!
916 How, comet-like, it threatens while it shines!
917 Few years but yield us proof of Death's ambition,
918 To cull his victims from the fairest fold,
919 And sheathe his shafts in all the pride of life.
920 When flooded with abundance, purpled o'er
921 With recent honours, bloom'd with every bliss,
922 Set up in ostentation, made the gaze,
923 The gaudy centre, of the public eye;
924 When Fortune thus has toss'd her child in air,
925 Snatch'd from the covert of an humble state,
926 How often have I seen him dropp'd at once,
927 Our morning's envy, and our evening's sigh!
928 As if her bounties were the signal given,
929 The flowery wreath, to mark the sacrifice,
930 And call Death's arrows on the destined prey!
931 High Fortune seems in cruel league with Fate.
932 Ask you for what? To give his war on man
933 The deeper dread, and more illustrious spoil;
934 Thus to keep daring mortals more in awe.
935 And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime
936 Of life? to hang his airy nest on high,
937 On the slight timber of the topmost bough,
938 Rock'd at each breeze, and menacing a fall?
939 Granting grim Death at equal distance there,
940 Yet peace begins just where ambition ends.
941 What makes man wretched? happiness denied?
942 Lorenzo! no: 't is Happiness disdain'd.
943 She comes too meanly dress'd to win our smile,
944 And calls herself Content, a homely name:
945 Our flame is Transport, and Content our scorn.
946 Ambition turns, and shuts the door against her,
947 And weds a Toil, a Tempest, in her stead;
948 A Tempest, to warm Transport near of kin.
949 Unknowing what our mortal state admits
950 Life's modest joys we ruin while we raise,
951 And all our ecstasies are wounds to peace;
952 Peace, the full portion of mankind below.
953 And since thy peace is dear, ambitious youth!
954 Of Fortune fond, as thoughtless of thy fate!
955 As late I drew Death's picture, to stir up
956 Thy wholesome fears; now, drawn in contrast, see
957 Gay Fortune's, thy vain hopes to reprimand.
958 See, high in air the sportive goddess hangs,
959 Unlocks her casket, spreads her glittering ware,
960 And calls the giddy winds to puff abroad
961 Her random bounties o'er the gaping throng.
962 All rush rapacious, — friends o'er trodden friends,
963 Sons o'er their fathers, subjects o'er their kings,
964 Priests o'er their gods, and lovers o'er the fair,
965 (Still more adored,) — to snatch the golden shower.
966 Gold glitters most where Virtue shines no more,
967 As stars from absent suns have leave to shine.
968 O what a precious pack of votaries,
969 Unkennell'd from the prisons and the stews,
970 Pour in, all opening in their Idol's praise!
971 All, ardent, eye each wafture of her hand,
972 And, wide-expanding their voracious jaws
973 Morsel on morsel swallow down unchew'd,
974 Untasted, through mad appetite for more;
975 Gorged to the throat, yet lean and ravenous still;
976 Sagacious all to trace the smallest game,
977 And bold to seize the greatest. If (blest chance!)
978 Court-zephyrs sweetly breathe, they launch, they fly
979 O'er just, o'er sacred, all forbidden ground,
980 Drunk with the burning scent of place or power,
981 Staunch to the foot of Lucre, till they die.
982 Or, if for men you take them, as I mark
983 Their manners, thou their various fates survey.
984 With aim mismeasured and impetuous speed,
985 Some, darting, strike their ardent wish far off,
986 Through fury to possess it: some succeed,
987 But stumble, and let fall the taken prize.
988 From some, by sudden blasts, 't is whirl'd away,
989 And lodged in bosoms that ne'er dream'd of gain.
990 To some it sticks so close, that, when torn off,
991 Torn is the man, and mortal is the wound.
992 Some, o'er-enamour'd of their bags, run mad,
993 Groan under gold, yet weep for want of bread.
994 Together some (unhappy rivals!) seize,
995 And rend abundance into poverty.
996 Loud croaks the raven of the law, and smiles:
997 Smiles too the goddess; but smiles most at those
998 (fust victims of exorbitant desire!)
999 Who perish at their own request, and, whelm'd
1000 Beneath her load of lavish grants, expire.
1001 Fortune is famous for her numbers skin:
1002 The number small which happiness can bear.
1003 Though various for a while their fates, at last
1004 One curse involves them all: at Death's approach,
1005 All read their riches backward into loss,
1006 And mourn in just proportion to their store.
1007 And Death's approach (if orthodox my song)
1008 Is hasten'd by the lure of Fortune's smiles.
1009 And art thou still a glutton of bright gold?
1010 And art thou still rapacious of thy ruin?
1011 Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow;
1012 A blow which, while it executes, alarms,
1013 And startles thousands with a single fall.
1014 As when some stately growth of oak, or pine,
1015 Which nods aloft, and proudly spreads her shade,
1016 The sun's defiance and the flock's defence,
1017 By the strong strokes of labouring hinds subdued,
1018 Loud groans her last, and, rushing from her height,
1019 In cumbrous ruin thunders to the ground;
1020 The conscious forest trembles at the shock,
1021 And hill, and stream, and distant dale resound.
1022 These high-aim'd darts of Death, and these alone,
1023 Should I collect, my quiver would be full;
1024 A quiver which, suspended in mid air,
1025 Or near Heaven's Archer, in the zodiac, hung,
1026 (So could it be,) should draw the public eye,
1027 The gaze and contemplation of mankind;
1028 A constellation awful, yet benign,
1029 To guide the gay through life's tempestuous wave;
1030 Nor suffer them to strike the common rock, —
1031 "From greater danger to grow more secure,
1032 And, wrapp'd in happiness, forget their fate."
1033 Lysander, happy past the common lot,
1034 Was warn'd of danger, but too gay to fear.
1035 He woo'd the fair Aspasia; she was kind:
1036 In youth, form, fortune, fame, they both were bless'd:
1037 All who knew envied, yet in envy loved:
1038 Can Fancy form more finish'd happiness?
1039 Fix'd was the nuptial hour. Her stately dome
1040 Rose on the sounding beach. The glittering spires
1041 Float in the wave, and break against the shore:
1042 So break those glittering shadows, human joys!
1043 The faithless morning smiled; he takes his leave,
1044 To re-embrace, in ecstasies, at eve.
1045 The rising storm forbids. The news arrives;
1046 Untold she saw it in her servant's eye.
1047 She felt it seen; (her heart was apt to feel;)
1048 And, drown'd without the furious ocean's aid,
1049 In suffocating sorrows, shares his tomb.
1050 Now round the sumptuous bridal monument
1051 The guilty billows innocently roar;
1052 And the rough sailor, passing, drops a tear.
1053 A tear! — can tears suffice? — but not for me.
1054 How vain our efforts! and our arts how vain!
1055 The distant train of thought I took, to shun,
1056 Has thrown me on, my fate. — These died together;
1057 Happy in ruin! undivorced by death!
1058 Or ne'er to meet, or ne'er to part, is peace. —
1059 Narcissa! Pity bleeds at thought of thee;
1060 Yet thou wast only near me; not myself.
1061 Survive myself? — That cures all other woe.
1062 Narcissa lives; Philander is forgot.
1063 O the soft commerce! O the tender ties,
1064 Close twisted with the fibres of the heart!
1065 Which, broken, break them, and drain off the soul
1066 Of human joy, and make it pain to live. —
1067 And is it then to live? When such friends part,
1068 Tis the survivor dies. — My heart! no more.