or, the Consolation of HUMAN LIFE. A MONODY.
— Animi natura videtur
Atque animae claranda meis jam versibus esse:
Et metus ille foras praeceps Acheruntis agendus
Funditus, humanam qui vitam turbat ab imo,
Omnia suffundus mortis nigrore.
1 WHEN black-brow'd Night her dusky mantle spread,
2 And wrapt in solemn gloom the sable sky;
3 When soothing Sleep her opiate dews had shed,
4 And seal'd in silken slumbers ev'ry eye:
5 My wakeful thoughts admit no balmy rest,
6 Nor the sweet bliss of soft oblivion share;
7 But watchful woe distracts my aching breast,
8 My heart the subject of corroding care:
9 From haunts of men with wand'ring steps and slow
10 I solitary steal, and sooth my pensive woe.
11 Yet no fell passion's rough discordant rage
12 Untun'd the music of my tranquil mind;
13 Ambition's tinsell'd charms could ne'er engage,
14 No harbour there could sordid av'rice find:[Page 227]
15 From lust's foul spring my grief disdains to flow,
16 No sighs of envy from my bosom break,
17 But soft compassion melts my soul to woe,
18 And social tears fast trickle down my cheek;
19 Ah me! when nature gives one general groan,
20 Each heart must beat with woe, each voice responsive moan.
21 Where'er I cast my moist'ned eyes around,
22 Or stretch my prospect o'er the distant land,
23 There foul Corruption's tainted steps are found,
24 And Death grim-visag'd waves his iron hand.
25 Tho' now soft Pleasure gild the smiling scene,
26 And sportive Joy call forth her festive train,
27 Sinking in night each vital form is seen,
28 Like air-blown bubbles on the wat'ry plain;
a Vid. VIRG. Aen. lib. 3. ver. 210. & scq. Fell Death, like brooding Harpy, the repast
30 Will snatch with talons foul, or sour its grateful taste.
31 Ye smiling glories of the youthful year,
32 That ope your fragrant bosoms to the day,
33 That clad in all the pride of spring appear,
34 And steep'd in dew your silken leaves display:
35 In Nature's richest robes tho' thus bedight,
36 Tho' her soft pencil trace your various dye,
37 Tho' lures your roseate hue the charmed sight,
38 Tho' odours sweet your nect'rous breath supply,
39 Soon on your leaves Time's cank'rous tooth shall prey,
40 Your dulcet dews exhale, your beauteous bloom decay.
41 Ye hedge-row elms, beneath whose spreading shade
42 The grazing herds defy the ratt'ling shower;
43 Ye lofty oaks, in whose wide arms display'd
44 The clam'rous rook builds high his airy bower;
45 Stript by hoar Winter's rough inclement rage,
46 In mournful heaps your leafy honours lie,
47 Ev'n your hard ribs shall feel the force of age,
48 And your bare trunks the friendly shade deny;
49 No more by cheerful vegetation green,
50 Your sapless bolls shall sink, and quit th' evanid scene.
51 Ye feather'd warblers of the vernal year
52 That careless sing, nor fear the frowns of fate,
53 Tune your sad notes to death and winter drear!
54 Ill suit these mirthful strains your transient state.
55 No more with cheerful song nor sprightly air
56 Salute the blushes of the rising day,
57 With doleful ditties, drooping wings repair
58 To the lone covert of the nightly spray:
59 Where love-lorn Philomela strains her throat,
60 Surround the budding thorn, and swell the mournful note.
61 Come, sighing Elegy, with sweetest airs
62 Of melting music teach my grief to flow,
63 I too must mix my sad complaint with theirs,
64 Our fates are equal, equal be our woe.[Page 229]
65 Come, Melancholy, spread thy raven wing,
66 And in thy ebon car, by Fancy led,
67 To the dark charnel vault thy vot'ry bring,
68 The murky mansions of the mould'ring dead,
69 Where dank dews breathe, and taint the sickly skies,
70 Where in sad loathsome heaps all human glory lies.
71 Wrapt in the gloom of uncreated night
72 Secure we slept in senseless matter's arms,
73 Nor pain could vex, nor pallid fear affright,
74 Our quiet fancy felt no dream's alarms.
75 Soon as to life our animated clay
76 Awakes, and conscious being opes our eyes,
77 Care's fretful family at once dismay,
78 With ghastly air a thousand phantoms rise,
79 Sad Horror hangs o'er all the deep'ning gloom,
80 Grief prompts the labour'd sigh, Death opes the marble tomb.
81 Yet life's strong love intoxicates the soul,
82 And thirst of bliss inflames the fev'rous mind,
83 With eager draughts we drain the pois'nous bowl,
84 And in the dregs the cordial hope to find.
85 O heav'n! for this light end were mortals made,
86 And plac'd on earth, with happiness in view,
87 To catch with cheated grasp the flitting shade,
88 And with vain toil the fancied form pursue,
89 Then give their short-liv'd being to the wind,
90 As the wing'd arrow flies, and leaves no track behind!
91 Thus lonely wand'ring thro' the nightly shade
92 Against the stern decrees of stubborn Fate,
93 To mockful Echo my complaints I made,
94 Of life's short period, or its toilsome state.
95 'Tis death-like silence all, no sound I hear,
96 Save the hoarse raven croaking from the sky,
97 Or scaly beetle murm'ring thro' the air,
98 Or screech-owl screaming with ill-o men'd cry;
99 Save when with brazen tongue from yon high tow'r
100 The clock deep-sounding speaks, and counts the passing hour.
101 Pale Cynthia mounted on her silver car
102 O'er heav'n's blue concave drives her nightly round:
103 See a torn abbey, wrapt in gloom, appear
104 Scatter'd in wild confusion o'er the ground.
105 Here rav'nous Ruin lifts her wasteful hands
106 O'er bri'ar-grown grots and bramble-shaded graves;
107 Safe from her wrath one weeping marble stands,
108 O'er which the mournful yew its umbrage waves;
109 Ope, ope thy pond'rous jaws, thou friendly tomb,
110 Close the sad deathful scene, and shroud me in thy womb!
111 Forth issuing lovely from the gloomy shade,
112 Which stately pines in phalanx deep compose,
113 Fair above mortals comes a smiling maid
114 To sooth my sighs, and cheer my heart-felt woes.[Page 231]
115 Here nurs'd by Contemplation, matron sage,
116 Where with mute Solitude she loves to dwell,
117 In truth's fair lore she form'd her early age,
118 And trim'd the midnight lamp in lonely cell,
119 Here learn'd clear reason's heav'n-sprung light to raise
120 O'er passion's low-born mists, or pleasure's spurious blaze.
121 Her azure mantle flows with easy grace,
122 Nor fashion's folds constrain, nor custom's tye;
123 An optic tube she bears, each sphere to trace
124 That rolls its rapid orbit round the sky:
125 Yet not to heav'n alone her view's confin'd;
126 A clear reflecting plane she holds, to show
127 The various movements of the reas'ning mind,
128 How strange ideas link, and habits grow,
129 Passion's fierce impulse, will's free power to scan,
130 To paint the featur'd soul, and mark th' internal man.
131 Whence these sad strains, said she, of plaintive grief,
132 Which pierce the sleep-clos'd ear of peaceful rest?
133 Oft has the sick'ning mind here found relief,
134 Here quell'd the throbbing tumults of the breast:
135 Lift up thy loaden eyes to yon fair cloud,
136 Where moon-sprungb
b A rainbow form'd by the rays of the moon at night: an object often visible, tho' from its languid colours not often observ'd. Iris blends her beauteous dyes:
137 I lift them soon, and as I gazing stood,
138 The fleeting phantom in a moment flies;[Page 232]
139 Where beam'd the gilded arch of gaudy hue,
140 Frowns the dark lou'ring cloud all gloomy to the view.
141 Life's emblem fit, said I, that roscid bow!
142 The gay illusive pageant of an hour
143 To real semblance tricks her air shew,
144 Then sinks in night's dull arms, and is no more!
145 Ah! fool, said she, tho' now to fancy's sight
146 The violet pale, the blushing red decays,
147 Tho' now no painted cloud reflect the light,
148 Nor drops prismatic break the falling rays,
149 Yet still the colours live, tho' none appear,
150 Glow in the darting beam that gilds yon crystal sphere.
151 Then let not Fancy with her vagrant blaze
152 Mislead in trackless paths of wild deceit;
153 On Reason's steady lamp still ardent gaze;
154 Led by her sober light to Truth's retreat.
155 Tho' wond'ring Ign'rance sees each form decay,
156 The breathless bird, bare trunk, and shrivel'd flow'r:
157 New forms successive catch the vital ray,
158 Sing their wild notes, or smile th' allotted hour,
159 And search creation's ample circuit round,
160 Tho' modes of being change, all life's immortal found.
161 See the slow reptile grov'ling o'er the green,
162 That trails thro' slimy paths its cumbrous load,
163 Start in new beauty from the lowly scene,
164 And wing with flutt'ring pride th' aetherial road;[Page 233]
165 Burst their shell-prisons, see the feather'd kind,
166 Where in dark durance pent awhile they lie,
167 Dispread their painted plumage to the wind,
168 Brush the brisk air, swift shooting thro' the sky,
169 Hail with their choral hymns the new-born day,
170 Distend their joy-swoln breasts, and carol the sweet lay.
171 See man by varied periods fixt by fate
172 Ascend perfection's scale by slow degree;
173 The plant-like foetus quits its senseless taste,
174 And helpless hangs sweet-smiling on the knee;
175 Soon outward objects steal into the brain,
176 Next prattling childhood lisps with mimic air,
177 Then mem'ry links her fleet ideal train,
178 And sober reason rises to compare,
179 The full-grown breast some manly passion warms,
180 It pants for glory's meed, or beats to love's alarms.
181 Then say, since nature's high behest appears
182 That living forms should change of being prove,
183 In which new joy the novel scene endears,
184 New objects rise to please, new wings to move;
185 Since man too, taught by sage experience, knows
186 His frame revolving treads life's varying stage,
187 That the man-plant first vegetating grows,
188 Then sense directs, then reason rules in age;
189 Say, is it strange, should death's all-dreaded hour
190 Waft to some unknown scenes, or wake some-untried pow'r?
191 The wise Creator wrapt in fleshly veil
192 The ray divine, the pure aetherial mate;
193 Tho' worn by age the brittle fabric fail,
194 The smiling soul survives the frowns of fate:
195 Each circling year, each quick-revolving day
196 Touches with mould'ring tooth thy flitting frame,
197 With furtive slight repairs th' unseen decay;
198 For ever changing, yet in change the same,
199 Oft hast thou dropt unhurt thy mortal part,
200 Dare the grim terror then, nor dread his guiltless dart.
201 The twinkling eye, whose various-humour'd round
202 Takes in soft net th' inverted form behind,
203 The list'ning ears, that catch the waving sound,
204 Are but mere organs of the feeling mind:
205 External matter thus can lend its aid,
206 And distant shapes with foreign pow'r supply;
207 Thus the long tube by Galilaeo made
208 Brings home the wonders of the peopled sky:
209 The pow'r percipient then feels no decay,
210 Tho' blind the tube, and darkness blot the visual ray.
211 When lock'd in short suspence by sleep's soft pow'r
212 In temporary death the senses lie,
213 When solemn silence reigns at midnight hour,
214 Deaf the dull ear, and clos'd the curtain'd eye;[Page 235]
215 Objects of sense, each conscious sense asleep,
216 With lively image strike the wakeful soul,
217 Some frowning rock that threats the foaming deep,
218 Or wood-hung vale, where streams meand'ring roll,
219 Some long-lost friend's returning voice you hear,
220 Clasp the life-pictur'd shade, and drop the pleasing tear.
221 Each outward organ, as ideas rise,
222 Gives easy entrance to the motley train;
223 Reflection calm, with retrospective eyes
224 Surveys her treasures in the formful brain;
225 Tho' Death relentless shed his baleful dew,
226 In Lethe dip each form-conveying pow'r,
227 Unhurt Reflection may her themes pursue,
228 Smile at the ruin, safe amidst her store;
229 Without one sense's aid in life's low vale,
230 Fancy can furnish joys, and reason lift her scale.
231 Thus the lone lover in the pensive shade
232 In day-dreams rapt of soft ecstatic bliss,
233 Pursues in thought the visionary maid,
234 Feasts on the fancy'd smile, and favour'd kiss:
235 Thus the young poet at the close of day
236 Led by the magic of some fairy song
237 Thro' the dun umbrage winds his heedless way,
238 Nor hears the babbling brook that brawls along:
239 Thus deathless Newton deaf to nature's cries
240 Would measure Time and Space, and travel 'round the skies.
241 When just expiring hangs life's trembling light,
242 And fell disease strikes deep the deadly dart,
243 Reason and mem'ry burn with ardour bright,
244 And gen'rous passions warm the throbbing heart;
245 Oft will the vig'rous soul in life's last stage
246 With keenest relish taste pure mental joys:
247 Since the fierce efforts of distemper's rage
248 Nor 'bates her vigour, nor her pow'rs destroys,
249 Say, shall her lustre death itself impair?
250 When in high noon she rides, then sets in dark despair?
251 Tho' through the heart no purple tide should flow,
252 No quiv'ring nerve should vibrate to the brain,
253 The mental pow'rs no mean dependence know;
254 Thought may survive, and each fair passion reign;
255 As when Lucina ends the pangful strife,
256 Lifts the young babe, and lights her lambent flame,
257 Some pow'rs new-waking hail the dawning life,
258 Some unsuspended live, unchang'd, the same;
259 So from our dust fresh faculties may bloom,
260 Some posthumous survive, and triumph o'er the tomb.
261 This fibrous frame by nature's kindly law,
262 Which gives each joy to keen sensation here,
263 O'er purer scenes of bliss the veil may draw,
264 And cloud reflection's more exalted sphere.[Page 237]
265 When Death's cold hand with all-dissolving pow'r
266 Shall the close tie with friendly stroke unbind,
267 Alike our mortal as our natal hour
268 May to new being raise the waking mind:
269 On death's new genial day the soul may rise,
270 Born to some higher life, and hail some brighter skies.
271 The moss-grown tree, that shrinks with rolling years,
272 The drooping flow'rs that die so soon away,
273 Let not thy heart alarm with boding fears,
274 Nor thy own ruin date from their decay:
275 The blushing rose that breathes the balmy dew,
276 No pleasing transports of perception knows,
277 The rev'rend oak, that circling springs renew,
278 Thinks not, nor by long age experienc'd grows;
279 Thy fate and theirs confess no kindred tie:
280 Tho' their frail forms may fade, shall sense and reason die?
281 Nor let life's ills, that in dire circle rage,
282 Steal from thy heaving breast those labour'd sighs;
283 These, the kind tutors of thy infant age,
284 Train the young pupil for the future skies:
285 Unschool'd in early prime, in riper years
286 Wretched and scorn'd still struts the bearded boy;
287 The tingling rod bedew'd with briny tears
288 Shoots forth in graceful fruits of manly joy:
289 The painful cares that vex the toilsome spring
290 Shall plenteous crops of bliss in life's last harvest bring.
291 She ceas'd, and vanish'd into sightless wind —
292 O'er my torn breast alternate passions sway,
293 Now Doubt desponding damps the wav'ring mind,
294 Now Hope reviving sheds her cheerful ray.
295 Soon from the skies in heav'nly white array'd,
296 Faith to my sight reveal'd, fair Cherub! stood,
297 With life replete the volume she display'd,
298 Seal'd with the ruddy stains of crimson blood;
299 Each fear now starts away, as spectres fly
300 When the sun's orient beam first gilds the purple sky.
301 Mean while the faithful herald of the day
302 The village cock crows loud with trumpet shrill,
303 The warbling lark soars high, and morning grey
304 Lifts her glad forehead o'er the cloud-wrapt hill:
305 Nature's wild music fills the vocal vale;
306 The bleating flocks that bite the dewy ground,
307 The lowing herds that graze the woodland dale,
308 And cavern'd echo, swell the cheerful sound;
309 Homeward I bend with clear unclouded mind,
310 Mix with the busy world, and leave each care behind.