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A POEM Sacred to the MEMORY of Sir ISAAC NEWTON.


1 SHALL the great Soul of Newton quit this earth,
2 To mingle with his stars; and every muse,
3 Astonish'd into silence, shun the weight
4 Of honours due to his illustrious name?
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5 But what can man? Even now the sons of light,
6 In strains high-warbled to seraphic lyre,
7 Hail his arrival on the coast of bliss.
8 Yet am not I deterr'd, tho' high the theme,
9 And sung to harps of angels, for with you,
10 Ethereal Flames! ambitious, I aspire
11 In Nature's general symphony to joyn.
12 And what new wonders can ye show your guest!
13 Who, while on this dim spot, where mortals toil
14 Clouded in dust, from Motion's simple laws,
15 Could trace the secret hand of Providence,
16 Wide-working thro' this universal frame.
17 Have ye not listen'd while he bound the Suns,
18 And Planets to their spheres! th' unequal task
19 Of human kind till then. Oft had they roll'd
20 O'er erring Man the year, and oft disgrac'd
21 The pride of schools, before their course was known
22 Full in its causes and effects to him,
23 All-piercing sage! who sat not down and dream'd
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24 Romantic schemes, defended by the din
25 Of specious words, and tyranny of names;
26 But, bidding his amazing mind attend,
27 And with heroic patience years on years
28 Deep-searching, saw at last the System dawn,
29 And shine, of all his race, on him alone.
30 What were his raptures then! how pure! how strong!
31 And what the triumphs of old Greece and Rome,
32 By his diminish'd, but the price of boys
33 In some small fray victorious! when instead
34 Of shatter'd parcels of this earth usurp'd
35 By violence unmanly, and sore deeds
36 Of cruelty and Blood, Nature herself
37 Stood all subdu'd by him, and open laid
38 Her every latent glory to his view.
39 All intellectual eye, our solar Round
40 First gazing thro', he by the blended power
41 Of Gravitation and Projection saw
42 The whole in silent harmony revolve.
43 From unassisted vision hid, the Moons
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44 To chear remoter planets numerous pour'd,
45 By him in all their mingled tracts were seen.
46 He also fix'd the wandering Queen of Night,
47 Whether she wanes into a scanty orb,
48 Or, waxing broad, with her pale shadowy light,
49 In a soft deluge overflows the sky.
50 Her every motion clear-discerning, He
51 Adjusted to the mutual Main, and taught
52 Why now the mighty mass of water swells
53 Resistless, heaving on the broken rocks
54 And the full river turning; till again
55 The tide revertive, unattracted, leaves
56 A yellow waste of idle sands behind.
57 Then breaking hence, he took his ardent flight
58 Thro' the blue Infinite; and every Star,
59 Which the clear concave of a winter's night
60 Pours on the eye, or astronomic tube,
61 Far-stretching, snatches from the dark abyss,
62 Or such as farther in successive skies
63 To fancy shine alone, at his approach
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64 Blaz'd into Suns, the living centre each
65 Of an harmonious system: all combin'd,
66 And rul'd unerring by that single power,
67 Which draws the stone projected to the ground.
68 O unprofuse magnificence divine!
69 O Wisdom truly perfect! thus to call
70 From a few causes such a scheme of things,
71 Effects so various, beautiful, and great,
72 An universe compleat! and, O belov'd
73 Of heaven! whose well-purg'd penetrative eye,
74 The mystic veil transpiercing, inly scann'd
75 The rising, moving, wide-establish'd frame.
76 He, first of men, with awful wing pursu'd
77 The Comet thro' the long Eliptic curve,
78 As round innumerous worlds he wound his way;
79 Till, to the forehead of our evening sky
80 Return'd, the blazing wonder glares anew,
81 And o'er the trembling nations shakes dismay.
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82 The heavens are all his own; from the wild rule
83 Of whirling Vortices, and circling Spheres,
84 To their first great simplicity restor'd.
85 The schools astonish'd stood; but found it vain
86 To keep at odds with demonstration strong,
87 And, unawaken'd, dream beneath the blaze
88 Of truth. At once their pleasing visions sled,
89 With the gay shadows of the morning mix'd,
90 When Newton rose, our philosophie sun.
91 Th' aerial flow of Sound was known to him,
92 From whence it first in wavy circles breaks,
93 Till the touch'd organ takes the meaning in.
94 Nor could the darting Beam, of speed immense,
95 Escape his swift pursuit, and measuring eye.
96 Even Light itself, which every things displays,
97 Shone undiscover'd, till his brighter mind
98 Untwisted all the shining robe of day;
99 And, from the whitening undistinguish'd blaze,
100 Collecting every ray into his kind,
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101 To the charm'd eye educ'd the gorgeous train
102 Of Parent-Colours. First the flaming Red
103 Sprung vivid forth; the tawny Orange next;
104 And next delicious Yellow; by whose side
105 Fell the kind beams of all-refreshing Green.
106 Then the pure Blue, that swells autumnal skies,
107 Ethereal play'd; and then, of sadder hue,
108 Emerg'd the deepen'd Indico, as when
109 The heavy-skirted evening droops with frost.
110 While the last gleamings of refracted light
111 Dy'd in the fainting Violet away.
112 These, when the clouds distil the rosy shower,
113 Shine out distinct adown the watry bow;
114 While o'er our heads the dewy vision bends
115 Delightful, melting on the fields beneath.
116 Myriads of mingling dies from these result,
117 And myriads still remain Infinite source
118 Of beauty, ever-flushing, ever-new!
119 Did ever poet image ought so fair,
120 Dreaming in whispering groves, by the hoarse brook!
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121 Or prophet, to whose rapture heaven descends!
122 Even now the setting sun and shifting clouds,
123 Seen, Greenwich, from thy lovely heights, declare
124 How just, how beauteous the refractive Law.
125 The noiseless Tide of Time, all bearing down
126 To vast Eternity's unbounded sea
127 Where the green islands of the happy shine,
128 He stemm'd alone; and to the source (involv'd
129 Deep in primaeval gloom) ascending, rais'd
130 His lights at equal distances, to guide
131 Historian, wilder'd on his darksome way.
132 But who can number up his labours? who
133 His high discoveries sing? when but a few
134 Of the deep-studying race can stretch their minds
135 To what he knew: in fancy's lighter thought,
136 How shall the muse then grasp the mighty theme?
137 What wonder thence that his Devotion swell'd
138 Responsive to his knowledge! for could he,
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139 Whose piercing mental eye diffusive saw
140 The finish'd University of things,
141 In all its order, magnitude, and parts,
142 Forbear incessant to adore that Power
143 Who fills, sustains, and actuates the whole.
144 Say, ye who best can tell, ye happy few,
145 Who saw him in the softest lights of life,
146 All un-with-held, indulging to his friends
147 The vast unborrow'd treasures of his mind,
148 Oh speak the wondrous man! how mild, how calm,
149 How greatly humble, how divinely good;
150 How firm establish'd on eternal truth;
151 Fervent in doing well, with every nerve
152 Still pressing on, forgetful of the past,
153 And panting for perfection: far above
154 Those little cares, and visionary joys,
155 That so perplex the fond impassion'd heart
156 Of ever-cheated, ever-trusting man.
157 This, Conduit, from thy rural hours we hope;
158 As thro' the pleasing shade, where Nature pours
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159 Her every sweet, in studious ease you walk;
160 The social passions smiling at thy heart,
161 That glows with all the recollected sage.
162 And you, ye hopeless gloomy-minded tribe,
163 You who, unconscious of those nobler flights
164 That reach impatient at immortal life,
165 Against the prime endearing pivilege
166 Of Being dare contend, say, can a soul
167 Of such extensive, deep, tremendous powers,
168 Enlarging still, be but a finer breath
169 Of spirits dancing thro' their tubes awhile,
170 And then for ever lost in vacant air?
171 But hark! methinks I hear a warning voice,
172 Solemn as when some awful change is come,
173 Sound thro' the world "'Tis done! The measure's full;
174 " And I resign my charge. Ye mouldering stones,
175 That build the towering pyramid, the proud
176 Triumphal arch, the monument effac'd
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177 By ruthless ruin, and whate'er supports
178 The worshipp'd name of hoar antiquity,
179 Down to the dust! what grandeur can ye boast
180 While Newton lifts his column to the skies,
181 Beyond the waste of time Let no weak drop
182 Be shed for him. The virgin in her bloom
183 Cut off, the joyous youth, and darling child,
184 These are the tombs that claim the tender tear,
185 And Elegiac song. But Newton calls
186 For other notes of gratulation high,
187 That now he wanders thro' those endless worlds
188 He here so well descried, and wondering talks,
189 And hymns their author with his glad compeers.
190 O Britain's boast! whether with angels thou
191 Sittest in dread discourse, or fellow-blest,
192 Who joy to see the honour of their kind;
193 Or whether, mounted on cherubic wing,
194 Thy swift career is with the whirling orbs,
195 Comparing things with things, in rapture lost,
196 And grateful adoration, for that light
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197 So plenteous ray'd into thy mind below,
198 From Light Himself; Oh look with pity down
199 On human-kind, a frail erroneous race!
200 Exalt the spirit of a downward world!
201 O'er thy dejected country chief preside,
202 And be her Genius call'd! her studies raise,
203 Correct her manners, and inspire her youth.
204 For, tho' deprav'd and sunk, she brought thee forth,
205 And glories in thy name; she points thee out
206 To all her sons, and bids them eye thy star:
207 While in expectance of the second life,
208 When Time shall be no more, thy sacred dust
209 Sleeps with her kings, and dignifies the scene.
The END.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): A POEM Sacred to the MEMORY of Sir ISAAC NEWTON.
Author: James Thomson
Themes: science; Universe
Genres: blank verse

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Source edition

The four seasons, and other poems. By James Thomson London: printed for J. Millan, near Scotland-Yard, White-Hall; and A. Millar, in the Strand, M.DCC.XXXV., 1735, pp. 51-62. [2];77,[3];64;72;79,[1]p.,plates; 8⁰. (ESTC T83; Foxon T242; OTA K019862.000)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.