On the IMMORTALITY of the SOUL.
1 TO all inferior animals 'tis giv'n
2 T' enjoy the state allotted them by Heaven;
3 No vain researches e'er disturb their rest,
4 No fears of dark futurity molest.[Page 61]
5 Man, only Man solicitous to know
6 The springs whence Nature's operations flow,
7 Plods through a dreary waste with toil and pain,
8 And reasons, hopes, and thinks, and lives in vain;
9 For sable Death still hov'ring o'er his head,
10 Cuts short his progress, with his vital thread.
11 Wherefore, since Nature errs not, do we find
12 These seeds of Science in the human mind,
13 If no congenial fruits are predesign'd?
14 For what avails to man this pow'r to roam
15 Thro' ages past, and ages yet to come,
16 T' explore new worlds o'er all th' aetherial way,
17 Chain'd to a spot, and living but a day?
18 Since all must perish in one common grave,
19 Nor can these long laborious searches save,
20 Were it not wiser far, supinely laid,
21 To sport with Phyllis in the noontide shade?
22 Or at thy jovial festivals appear,
23 Great Bacchus, who alone the soul can clear
24 From all that it has felt, and all that it can fear?
25 Come on then, let us feast: let Chloe sing,
26 And soft Neaera touch the trembling string;
27 Enjoy the present hour, nor seek to know
28 What good or ill to-morrow may bestow.
29 But these delights soon pall upon the taste;
30 Let's try then if more serious cannot last:
31 Wealth let us heap on wealth, or fame pursue,
32 Let pow'r and glory be our points in view:[Page 62]
33 In courts, in camps, in senates let us live,
34 Our levees crowded like the buzzing hive:
35 Each weak attempt the same sad lesson brings,
36 Alas, what vanity in human things!
37 What means then shall we try? where hope to find
38 A friendly harbour for the restless mind?
39 Who still, you see, impatient to obtain
40 Knowledge immense, (so Nature's laws ordain)
41 Ev'n now, tho' fetter'd in corporeal clay,
42 Climbs step by step the prospect to survey,
43 And seeks, unweary'd, Truth's eternal ray.
44 No fleeting joys she asks, which must depend
45 On the frail senses, and with them must end;
46 But such as suit her own immortal fame,
47 Free from all change, eternally the same.
48 Take courage then, these joys we shall attain;
49 Almighty Wisdom never acts in vain;
50 Nor shall the soul, on which it has bestow'd
51 Such pow'rs, e'er perish, like an earthly clod;
52 But purg'd at length from foul corruption's stain,
53 Freed from her prison, and unbound her chain,
54 She shall her native strength, and native skies regain:
55 To heav'n an old inhabitant return,
56 And draw nectareous streams from truth's perpetual urn.
57 Whilst life remains, (if life it can be call'd
58 T' exist in fleshly bondage thus enthrall'd)
59 Tir'd with the dull pursuit of worldly things,
60 The soul scarce wakes, or opes her gladsome wings,[Page 63]
61 Yet still the godlike exile in disgrace
62 Retains some marks of her celestial race;
63 Else whence from Mem'ry's store can she produce
64 Such various thoughts, or range them so for use?
65 Can matter these contain, dispose, apply?
66 Can in her cells such mighty treasures lye?
67 Or can her native force produce them to the eye?
68 Whence is this pow'r, this foundress of all arts,
69 Serving, adorning life, thro' all its parts,
70 Which names impos'd, by letters mark'd those names,
71 Adjusted properly by legal claims,
72 From woods, and wilds collected rude mankind,
73 And cities, laws, and governments design'd?
74 What can this be, but some bright ray from heaven,
75 Some emanation from Omniscience given?
76 When now the rapid stream of Eloquence
77 Bears all before it, passion, reason, sense,
78 Can its dread thunder, or its lightning's force
79 Derive their essence from a mortal source?
80 What think you of the bard's enchanting art,
81 Which, whether he attempts to warm the heart
82 With fabled scenes, or charm the ear with rhyme,
83 Breathes all pathetic, lovely, and sublime?
84 Whilst things on earth roll round from age to age,
85 The same dull farce repeated; on the stage
86 The poet gives us a creation new,
87 More pleasing, and more perfect than the true;[Page 64]
88 The mind, who always to perfection hastes,
89 Perfection, such as here she never tastes,
90 With gratitude accepts the kind deceit,
91 And thence foresees a system more compleat.
92 Of those what think you, who the circling race
93 Of suns, and their revolving planets trace,
94 And comets journeying thro' unbounded space?
95 Say, can you doubt, but that th' all-searching soul,
96 That now can traverse heav'n from pole to pole;
97 From thence descending visits but this earth,
98 And shall once more regain the regions of her birth?
99 Could she thus act, unless some Power unknown,
100 From matter quite distinct, and all her own,
101 Supported, and impell'd her? She approves
102 Self-conscious, and condemns, she hates, and loves,
103 Mourns, and rejoices, hopes, and is afraid,
104 Without the body's unrequested aid:
105 Her own internal strength her reason guides,
106 By this she now compares things, now divides;
107 Truth's scatter'd fragments piece by piece collects,
108 Rejoins, and thence her edifice erects;
109 Piles arts on arts, effects to causes ties,
110 And rears th' aspiring fabric to the skies:
111 From whence, as on a distant plain below,
112 She sees from causes consequences flow,
113 And the whole chain distinctly comprehends,
114 Which from th' Almighty's throne to earth descends:[Page 65]
115 And lastly, turning inwardly her eyes,
116 Perceives how all her own ideas rise,
117 Contemplates what she is, and whence she came,
118 And almost comprehends her own amazing frame.
119 Can mere machines be with such pow'rs endued,
120 Or conscious of those pow'rs, suppose they cou'd?
121 For body is but a machine alone
122 Mov'd by external force, and impulse not its own.
123 Rate not the extension of the human mind
124 By the plebeian standard of mankind,
125 But by the size of those gigantic few,
126 Whom Greece and Rome still offer to our view;
127 Or Britain well-deserving equal praise,
128 Parent of heroes too in better days.
129 Why should I try her num'rous sons to name
130 By verse, law, eloquence consign'd to fame?
131 Or who have forc'd fair Science into sight,
132 Long lost in darkness, and afraid of light.
133 O'er all superior, like the solar ray
134 First Bacon usher'd in the dawning day,
135 And drove the mists of sophistry away;
136 Pervaded nature with amazing force,
137 Following experience still throughout his course,
138 And finishing at length his destin'd way,
139 To Newton he bequeathed the radiant lamp of day.
140 Illustrious souls! if any tender cares
141 Affect angelic breasts for man's affairs,[Page 66]
142 If in your present happy heav'nly state,
143 You're not regardless quite of Britain's fate,
144 Let this degen'rate land again be blest
145 With that true vigour, which she once possest;
146 Compel us to unfold our slumb'ring eyes,
147 And to our ancient dignity to rise.
148 Such wond'rous pow'rs as these must sure be given
149 For most important purposes by heav'n;
150 Who bids these stars as bright examples shine
151 Besprinkled thinly by the hand divine,
152 To form to virtue each degenerate time,
153 And point out to the soul its origin sublime.
154 That there's a self which after death shall live,
155 All are concern'd about, and all believe;
156 That something's ours, when we from life depart,
157 This all conceive, all feel it at the heart;
158 The wise of learn'd antiquity proclaim
159 This truth, the public voice declares the same;
160 No land so rude but looks beyond the tomb
161 For future prospects in a world to come.
162 Hence, without hopes to be in life repaid,
163 We plant slow oaks posterity to shade;
164 And hence vast pyramids aspiring high
165 Lift their proud heads aloft, and time defy.
166 Hence is our love of fame, a love so strong,
167 We think no dangers great, or labors long,
168 By which we hope our beings to extend,
169 And to remotest times in glory to descend.
170 For fame the wretch beneath the gallows lyes,
171 Disowning every crime for which he dies;
172 Of life profuse, tenacious of a name,
173 Fearless of death, and yet afraid of shame.
174 Nature has wove into the human mind
175 This anxious care for names we leave behind,
176 T' extend our narrow views beyond the tomb,
177 And give an earnest of a life to come:
178 For, if when dead, we are but dust or clay,
179 Why think of what posterity shall say?
180 Her praise, or censure cannot us concern,
181 Nor ever penetrate the silent urn.
182 What mean the nodding plumes, the fun'ral train,
183 And marble monument that speaks in vain,
184 With all those cares, which ev'ry nation pays
185 To their unfeeling dead in diff'rent ways!
186 Some in the flow'r-strewn grave the corpse have lay'd,
187 And annual obsequies around it pay'd,
188 As if to please the poor departed shade;
189 Others on blazing piles the body burn,
190 And store their ashes in the faithful urn;
191 But all in one great principle agree
192 To give a fancy'd immortality.
193 Why should I mention those, whose ouzy soil
194 Is render'd fertile by th' o'erflowing Nile,
195 Their dead they bury not, nor burn with fires,
196 No graves they dig, erect no fun'ral pires,[Page 68]
197 But, washing first th' embowel'd body clean,
198 Gums, spice, and melted pitch they pour within;
199 Then with strong fillets bind it round and round,
200 To make each flaccid part compact, and sound;
201 And lastly paint the varnish'd surface o'er
202 With the same features, which in life it wore:
203 So strong their presage of a future state,
204 And that our nobler part survives the body's fate.
205 Nations behold remote from reason's beams,
206 Where Indian Ganges rolls his sandy streams,
207 Of life impatient rush into the fire,
208 And willing victims to their Gods expire!
209 Persuaded the loose soul to regions flies
210 Blest with eternal spring, and cloudless skies.
211 Nor is less fam'd the oriental wife
212 For stedfast virtue, and contempt of life:
213 These heroines mourn not with loud female cries
214 Their husbands lost, or with o'erflowing eyes,
215 But, strange to tell! their funeral piles ascend,
216 And in the same sad flames their sorrows end;
217 In hopes with them beneath the shades to rove,
218 And there renew their interrupted love.
219 In climes where Boreas breathes eternal cold,
220 See numerous nations, warlike, fierce, and bold,
221 To battle all unanimously run,
222 Nor fire, nor sword, nor instant death they shun:[Page 69]
223 Whence this disdain of life in ev'ry breast,
224 But from a notion on their minds imprest,
225 That all, who for their country die, are blest.
226 Add too to these the once prevailing dreams,
227 Of sweet Elysian groves, and Stygian streams:
228 All shew with what consent mankind agree
229 In the firm hope of Immortality.
230 Grant these th' inventions of the crafty priest,
231 Yet such inventions never could subsist.
232 Unless some glimmerings of a future state
233 Were with the mind coaeval, and innate:
234 For every fiction, which can long persuade,
235 In truth must have its first foundations laid.
236 Because we are unable to conceive,
237 How unembody'd souls can act, and live,
238 The vulgar give them forms, and limbs, and faces,
239 And habitations in peculiar places;
240 Hence reasoners more refin'd, but not more wise,
241 Struck with the glare of such absurdities,
242 Their whole existence sabulous suspect,
243 And truth and falshood in a lump reject;
244 Too indolent to learn what may be known,
245 Or else too proud that ignorance to own.
246 For hard's the task the daubing to pervade
247 Folly and fraud on Truth's fair form have laid;
248 Yet let that task be ours; for great the prize;
249 Nor let us Truth's celestial charms despise,
250 Because that priests, or poets may disguise.
251 That there's a God from Nature's voice is clear,
252 And yet what errors to this truth adhere?
253 How have the fears and follies of mankind
254 Now multiply'd their Gods, and now subjoin'd
255 To each the frailties of the human mind?
256 Nay superstition spread at length so wide,
257 Beasts, birds, and onions too were deify'd.
258 Th' Athenian sage revolving in his mind
259 This weakness, blindness, madness of mankind,
260 Foretold, that in maturer days, tho' late,
261 When time should ripen the decrees of Fate,
262 Some God would light us, like the rising day,
263 Thro' error's maze, and chase these clouds away.
264 Long since has Time fulfill'd this great decree,
265 And brought us aid from this divinity.
266 Well worth our search discoveries may be made
267 By Nature, void of the celestial aid:
268 Let's try what her conjectures then can reach,
269 Nor scorn plain Reason, when she deigns to teach.
270 That mind and body often sympathize
271 Is plain; such is this union Nature ties:
272 But then as often too they disagree,
273 Which proves the soul's superior progeny.
274 Sometimes the body in full strength we find.
275 Whilst various ails debilitate the mind;
276 At others, whilst the mind its force retains,
277 The body sinks with sickness and with pains:[Page 71]
278 Now did one common fate their beings end,
279 Alike they'd sicken, and alike they'd mend.
280 But sure experience, on the slightest view,
281 Shews us, that the reverse of this is true;
282 For when the body oft expiring lies,
283 Its limbs quite senseless, and half clos'd its eyes,
284 The mind new force, and eloquence acquires,
285 And with prophetic voice the dying lips inspires.
286 Of like materials were they both compos'd,
287 How comes it, that the mind, when sleep has clos'd
288 Each avenue of sense, expatiates wide
289 Her liberty restor'd, her bonds unty'd?
290 And like some bird who from its prison flies,
291 Claps her exulting wings, and mounts the skies.
292 Grant that corporeal is the human mind,
293 It must have parts in infinitum join'd;
294 And each of these must will, perceive, design,
295 And draw confus'dly in a different line;
296 Which then can claim dominion o'er the rest,
297 Or stamp the ruling passion in the breast?
298 Perhaps the mind is form'd by various arts
299 Of modelling, and figuring these parts;
300 Just as if circles wiser were than squares;
301 But surely common sense aloud declares
302 That site, and figure are as foreign quite
303 From mental pow'rs, as colours black or white.
304 Allow that motion is the cause of thought,
305 With what strange pow'rs must motion then be fraught?[Page 72]
306 Reason, sense, science, must derive their source
307 From the wheel's rapid whirl, or pully's force;
308 Tops whip'd by school-boys sages must commence,
309 Their hoops, like them, be cudgel'd into sense,
310 And boiling pots o'erflow with eloquence.
311 Whence can this very motion take its birth?
312 Not sure from matter, from dull clods of earth;
313 But from a living spirit lodg'd within,
314 Which governs all the bodily machine:
315 Just as th' Almighty Universal Soul
316 Informs, directs, and animates the whole.
317 Cease then to wonder how th' immortal mind
318 Can live, when from the body quite disjoin'd;
319 But rather wonder, if she e'er cou'd die,
320 So fram'd, so fashion'd for eternity;
321 Self-mov'd, not form'd of parts together ty'd,
322 Which time can dissipate, and force divide;
323 For beings of this make can never die,
324 Whose pow'rs within themselves, and their own essence lie.
325 If to conceive how any thing can be
326 From shape abstracted and locality
327 Is hard; what think you of the Deity?
328 His Being not the least relation bears,
329 As far as to the human mind appears,
330 To shape, or size, similitude or place,
331 Cloath'd in no form, and bounded by no space.
332 Such then is God, a Spirit pure refin'd
333 From all material dross, and such the human mind.[Page 73]
334 For in what part of essence can we see
335 More certain marks of Immortality?
336 Ev'n from this dark confinement with delight
337 She looks abroad, and prunes herself for flight;
338 Like an unwilling inmate longs to roam
339 From this dull earth, and seek her native home.
340 Go then forgetful of its toil and strife,
341 Pursue the joys of this fallacious life;
342 Like some poor fly, who lives but for a day,
343 Sip the fresh dews, and in the sunshine play,
344 And into nothing then dissolve away.
345 Are these our great pursuits, is this to live?
346 These all the hopes this much-lov'd world can give!
347 How much more worthy envy is their fate,
348 Who search for truth in a superior state?
349 Not groping step by step, as we pursue,
350 And following reason's much entangled clue,
351 But with one great, and instantaneous view.
352 But how can sense remain, perhaps you'll say,
353 Corporeal organs if we take away!
354 Since it from them proceeds, and with them must decay.
355 Why not? or why may not the soul receive
356 New organs, since ev'n art can these retrieve?
357 The silver trumpet aids th' obstructed ear,
358 And optic glasses the dim eye can clear;
359 These in mankind new faculties create,
360 And lift him far above his native state;[Page 74]
361 Call down revolving planets from the sky,
362 Earth's secret treasures open to his eye,
363 The whole minute creation make his own,
364 With all the wonders of a world unknown.
365 How cou'd the mind, did she alone depend
366 On sense, the errors of those senses mend?
367 Yet oft, we see those senses she corrects,
368 And oft their information quite rejects.
369 In distances of things, their shapes and size,
370 Our reason judges better than our eyes.
371 Declares not this the soul's preheminence
372 Superior to, and quite distinct from sense?
373 For sure 'tis likely, that, since now so high
374 Clogg'd and unfledg'd she dares her wings to try,
375 Loos'd, and mature, she shall her strength display,
376 And soar at length to Truth's refulgent ray.
377 Inquire you how these pow'rs we shall attain,
378 'Tis not for us to know; our search is vain:
379 Can any now remember or relate
380 How he existed in the embryo state?
381 Or one from birth insensible of day
382 Conceive ideas of the solar ray?
383 That light's deny'd to him, which, others see,
384 He knows, perhaps you'll say, — and so do we.
385 The mind contemplative finds nothing here
386 On earth, that's worthy of a wish or fear:
387 He, whose sublime pursuit is God and truth,
388 Burns, like some absent and impatient youth,[Page 75]
389 To join the object of his warm desires,
390 Thence to sequester'd shades, and streams retires,
391 And there delights his passion to rehearse
392 In wisdom's sacred voice, or in harmonious verse.
393 To me most happy therefore he appears,
394 Who having once, unmov'd by hopes or fears,
395 Survey'd this sun, earth, ocean, clouds, and flame,
396 Well satisfy'd returns from whence he came.
397 Is life a hundred years, or e'er so few,
398 'Tis repetition all, and nothing new:
399 A fair, where thousands meet, but none can stay,
400 An inn, where travellers bait, then post away;
401 A sea, where man perpetually is tost,
402 Now plung'd in bus'ness, now in trifles lost:
403 Who leave it first, the peaceful port first gain;
404 Hold then! no farther launch into the main:
405 Contract your sails; life nothing can bestow
406 By long continuance, but continu'd woe:
407 The wretched privilege daily to deplore
408 The funerals of our friends, who go before:
409 Diseases, pains, anxieties, and cares,
410 And age surrounded with a thousand snares.
411 But whither hurry'd by a generous scorn
412 Of this vain world, ah, whither am I borne?
413 Let's not unbid th' Almighty's standard quit,
414 Howe'er severe our post, we must submit.
415 Cou'd I a firm persuasion once attain
416 That after death no being wou'd remain;[Page 76]
417 To those dark shades I'd willingly descend,
418 Where all must sleep, this drama at an end:
419 Nor life accept, altho' renew'd by Fate
420 Ev'n from its earliest, and its happiest state.
421 Might I from Fortune's bounteous hand receive
422 Each boon, each blessing in her pow'r to give,
423 Genius, and science, morals, and good-sense,
424 Unenvy'd honors, wit and eloquence,
425 A numerous offspring to the world well known
426 Both for paternal virtues, and their own;
427 Ev'n at this mighty price I'd not be bound
428 To tread the same dull circle round, and round;
429 The soul requires enjoyments more sublime,
430 By space unbounded, undestroy'd by time.
1 GOD then thro' all creation gives, we find,
2 Sufficient marks of an indulgent mind,
3 Excepting in ourselves; ourselves of all
4 His works the chief on this terrestrial ball,
5 His own bright image, who alone unblest
6 Feel ills perpetual, happy all the rest.
7 But hold, presumptuous? charge not heav'n's decree
8 With such injustice, such partiality.
9 Yet true it is, survey we life around,
10 Whole hosts of ills on ev'ry side are found;
11 Who wound not here and there by chance a foe,
12 But at the species meditate the blow.[Page 77]
13 What millions perish by each others hands
14 In war's fierce rage? or by the dread commands
15 Of tyrants languish out their lives in chains,
16 Or lose them in variety of pains?
17 What numbers pinch'd by want and hunger die,
18 In spite of Nature's liberality?
19 (Those, still more numerous, I to name disdain,
20 By lewdness, and intemperance justly slain;)
21 What numbers, guiltless of their own disease,
22 Are snatch'd by sudden death, or waste by slow degrees?
23 Where then is Virtue's well deserv'd reward! —
24 Let's pay to Virtue ev'ry due regard:
25 That she enables man, let us confess,
26 To bear those evils, which she can't redress;
27 Gives hope, and conscious peace, and can assuage
28 Th' impetuous tempests both of lust, and rage;
29 Yet she's a guard so far from being sure,
30 That oft her friends peculiar ills endure:
31 Where Vice prevails severest is their fate,
32 Tyrants pursue them with a three-fold hate.
33 How many struggling in their country's cause,
34 And from their country meriting applause,
35 Have fall'n by wretches fond to be inslav'd,
36 And perish'd by the hands themselves had sav'd?
37 Soon as superior worth appears in view,
38 See knaves, and fools united to pursue!
39 The man so form'd they all conspire to blame,
40 And Envy's pois'nous tooth attacks his fame;[Page 78]
41 Shou'd he at length, so truly good and great,
42 Prevail, and rule with honest views the state,
43 Then must he toil for an ungrateful race,
44 Submit to clamor, libels, and disgrace;
45 Threaten'd, oppos'd, defeated in his ends,
46 By foes seditious, and aspiring friends.
47 Hear this and tremble! all who wou'd be great,
48 Yet know not what attends that dang'rous wretched state.
49 Is private life from all these evils free?
50 Vice of all kinds, rage, envy there we see,
51 Deceit, that Friendship's mask insidious wears,
52 Quarrels, and feuds, and law's intangling snares.
53 But there are pleasures still in human life,
54 Domestic ease, a tender loving wife,
55 Children, whose dawning smiles your heart engage,
56 The grace, and comfort of soft-stealing age.
57 If happiness exists, 'tis surely here —
58 But are these joys exempt from care and fear?
59 Need I the miseries of that state declare,
60 When diff'rent passions draw the wedded pair?
61 Or say how hard those passions to discern,
62 Ere the die's cast, and 'tis too late to learn?
63 Who can insure, that what is right, and good,
64 These children shall pursue? or if they shou'd,
65 Death comes, when least you fear so black a day,
66 And all your blooming hopes are snatch'd away.
67 We say not, that these ills from Virtue flow:
68 Did her wise precepts rule the world, we know[Page 79]
69 The golden ages wou'd again begin,
70 But 'tis our lot in this to suffer, and to sin.
71 Observing this, some sages have decreed
72 That all things from two causes must proceed;
73 Two principles with equal pow'r endu'd,
74 This wholly evil, that supremely good.
75 From this arise the miseries we endure,
76 Whilst that administers a friendly cure;
77 Hence life is chequer'd still with bliss, and woe,
78 Hence tares with golden crops promiscuous grow,
79 And poisonous serpents make their dread repose
80 Beneath the covert of the fragrant rose.
81 Can such a system satisfy the mind,
82 Are both these Gods in equal pow'r conjoin'd,
83 Or one superior? Equal if you say,
84 Chaos returns, since neither will obey.
85 Is one superior? good, or ill must reign,
86 Eternal joy, or everlasting pain.
87 Whiche'er is conquer'd must entirely yield,
88 And the victorious God enjoy the field.
89 Hence with these fictions of the Magi's brain!
90 Hence ouzy Nile, with all her monstrous train!
91 Or comes the Stoic nearer to the right?
92 He holds, that whatsoever yields delight,
93 Wealth, fame, externals all, are useless things;
94 Himself half starving happier far than kings.
95 'Tis fine indeed to be so wond'rous wise!
96 By the same reas'ning too he pain denies;[Page 80]
97 Roast him, or flea him, break him on the wheel,
98 Retract he will not, tho' he can't but feel:
99 Pain's not an ill, he utters with a groan;
100 What then? an inconvenience 'tis, he'll own.
101 What? vigour, health, and beauty? are these good?
102 No: they may be accepted, not pursued:
103 Absurd to squabble thus about a name,
104 Quibbling with diff'rent words, that mean the same.
105 Stoic, were you not fram'd of flesh and blood,
106 You might be blest without external good;
107 But know, be self-sufficient as you can,
108 You are not spirit quite, but frail, and mortal man.
109 But since these sages, so absurdly wise,
110 Vainly pretend enjoyments to despise,
111 Because externals, and in Fortune's pow'r,
112 Now mine, now thine, the blessings of an hour;
113 Why value then, that strength of mind, they boast,
114 As often varying, and as quickly lost?
115 A head-ach hurts it, or a rainy day,
116 And a slow fever wipes it quite away.
118 Once sav'd Britannia's almost sinking land:
119 Examples of the mind's extensive pow'r,
120 Examples too how quickly fades that flow'r.
c Dean Swift.Him let me add, whom late we saw excel
122 In each politer kind of writing well;[Page 81]
123 Whether he strove our follies to expose
124 In easy verse, or droll and hum'rous prose;
125 Few years, alas! compel his throne to quit
126 This mighty monarch o'er the realms of wit,
127 See self-surviving he's an ideot grown!
128 A melancholy proof our parts are not our own.
129 Thy tenets, Stoic, yet we may forgive,
130 If in a future state we cease to live.
131 For here the virtuous suffer much, 'tis plain;
132 If pain is evil, this must God arraign;
133 And on this principle confess we must,
134 Pain can no evil be, or God must be unjust.
135 Blind man! whose reason such strait bounds confine,
136 That ere it touches truth's extremest line,
137 It stops amaz'd, and quits the great design.
138 Own you not, Stoic, God is just and true?
139 Dare to proceed; secure this path pursue:
140 Twill soon conduct you far beyond the tomb,
141 To future justice, and a life to come.
142 This path you say is hid in endless night,
143 Tis self-conceit alone obstructs your sight,
144 You stop, ere half your destin'd course is run,
145 And triumph, when the conquest is not won;
146 By this the Sophists were of old misled:
147 See what a monstrous race from one mistake is bred!
148 Hear then my argument: — confess we must,
149 A God there is, supremely wise and just:[Page 82]
150 If so, however things affect our sight,
151 As sings our bard, whatever is, is right.
152 But is it right, what here so oft appears,
153 That vice shou'd triumph, virtue sink in tears?
154 The inference then, that closes this debate,
155 Is, that there must exist a future state.
156 The wise extending their enquiries wide
157 See how both states are by connection ty'd;
158 Fools view but part, and not the whole survey,
159 So crowd existence all into a day.
160 Hence are they led to hope, but hope in vain,
161 That Justice never will resume her reign;
162 On this vain hope adulterers, thieves rely,
163 And to this altar vile assassins fly.
164 "But rules not God by general laws divine?
165 "Man's vice, or virtues change not the design. "
166 What laws are these? instruct us if you can: —
167 There's one design'd for brutes, and one for man:
168 Another guides inactive matter's course,
169 Attracting, and attracted by its force:
170 Hence mutual gravity subsists between
171 Far distant worlds, and ties the vast machine.
172 The laws of life why need I call to mind,
173 Obey'd by birds, and beasts of ev'ry kind;
174 By all the sandy desart's savage brood,
175 And all the num'rous offspring of the flood;
176 Of these none uncontroul'd, and lawless rove,
177 But to some destin'd end spontaneous move.[Page 83]
178 Led by that instinct, heav'n itself inspires,
179 Or so much reason, as their state requires;
180 See all with skill acquire their daily food,
181 All use those arms, which Nature has bestow'd;
182 Produce their tender progeny, and feed
183 With care parental, whilst that care they need;
184 In these lov'd offices compleatly blest,
185 No hopes beyond them, nor vain fears molest.
186 Man o'er a wider field extends his views;
187 God thro' the wonders of his works pursues,
188 Exploring thence his attributes, and laws,
189 Adores, loves, imitates th' Eternal Cause;
190 For sure in nothing we approach so nigh
191 The great example of divinity,
192 As in benevolence: the patriot's soul
193 Knows not self-center'd for itself to roll,
194 But warms, enlightens, animates the whole:
195 Its mighty orb embraces first his friends,
196 His country next, then man; nor here it ends,
197 But to the meanest animal descends.
198 Wise Nature has this social law confirm'd,
199 By forming man so helpless, and unarm'd;
200 His want of others' aid, and pow'r of speech
201 T' implore that aid, this lesson daily teach.
202 Mankind with other animals compare,
203 Single how weak, and impotent they are!
204 But view them in their complicated state,
205 Their pow'rs how wond'rous, and their strength how great,[Page 84]
206 When social virtue individuals joins,
207 And in one solid mass, like gravity combines!
208 This then's the first great law by Nature giv'n,
209 Stamp'd on our souls, and ratify'd by Heav'n;
210 All from utility this law approve,
211 As ev'ry private bliss must spring from social love.
212 Why deviate then so many from this law?
213 See passions, custom, vice, and folly draw!
214 Survey the rolling globe from East to West,
215 How few, alas! how very few are blest?
216 Beneath the frozen poles, and burning line,
217 What poverty, and indolence combine,
218 To cloud with Error's mists the human mind?
219 No trace of man, but in the form we find.
220 And are we free from error, and distress,
221 Whom Heav'n with clearer light has pleas'd to bless?
222 Whom true Religion leads? (for she but leads
223 By soft persuasion, not by force proceeds;)
224 Behold how we avoid this radiant sun!
225 This proffer'd guide how obstinately shun,
226 And after Sophistry's vain systems run!
227 For these as for essentials we engage
228 In wars, and massacres, with holy rage;
229 Brothers by brothers' impious hands are slain,
230 Mistaken Zeal, how savage is thy reign!
231 Unpunish'd vices here so much abound,
232 All right, and wrong, all order they confound;[Page 85]
233 These are the giants, who the gods defy,
234 And mountains heap on mountains to the sky.
235 Sees this th' Almighty Judge, or seeing spares,
236 And deems the crimes of man beneath his cares?
237 He sees; and will at last rewards bestow,
238 And punishments, not less assur'd for being slow.
239 Nor doubt I, tho' this state confus'd appears,
240 That ev'n in this God sometimes interferes:
241 Sometimes, lest man should quite his pow'r disown,
242 He makes that pow'r to trembling nations known:
243 But rarely this; not for each vulgar end,
244 As Superstition's idle tales pretend,
245 Who thinks all foes to God, who are her own,
246 Directs his thunder, and usurps his throne.
247 Nor know I not, how much a conscious mind
248 Avails to punish, or reward mankind;
249 Ev'n in this life thou, impious wretch, must feel
250 The Fury's scourges, and th' infernal wheel;
251 Fom man's tribunal, tho' thou hop'st to run,
252 Thyself thou can'st not, nor thy conscience shun:
253 What must thou suffer, when each dire disease,
254 The progeny of Vice, thy fabric seize?
255 Consumption, fever, and the racking pain
256 Of spasms, and gout, and stone, a frightful train!
257 When life new tortures can alone supply,
258 Life thy sole hope thou'lt hate, yet dread to die.
259 Shou'd such a wretch to num'rous years arrive,
260 It can be little worth his while to live;[Page 86]
261 No honors, no regards his age attend,
262 Companions fly: he ne'er cou'd have a friend:
263 His flatterers leave him, and with wild affright
264 He looks within, and shudders at the sight:
265 When threatning Death uplifts his pointed dart,
266 With what impatience he applies to art,
267 Life to prolong amidst disease and pains!
268 Why this, if after it no sense remains?
269 Why shou'd he chuse these miseries to endure,
270 If Death cou'd grant an everlasting cure?
271 'Tis plain there's something whispers in his ear,
272 (Tho' fain he'd hide it) he has much to fear.
273 See the reverse! how happy those we find,
274 Who know by merit to engage mankind?
275 Prais'd by each tongue, by ev'ry heart belov'd,
276 For Virtues practis'd, and for Arts improv'd:
277 Their easy aspects shine with smiles serene,
278 And all is peace, and happiness within:
279 Their sleep is ne'er disturb'd by fears, or strife,
280 Nor lust, nor wine, impair the springs of life.
281 Him Fortune can not sink, nor much elate,
282 Whose views extend beyond this mortal state;
283 By age when summon'd to resign his breath,
284 Calm, and serene, he sees approaching death,
285 As the safe port, the peaceful silent shore,
286 Where he may rest, life's tedious voyage o'er:
287 He, and he only, is of death afraid,
288 Whom his own conscience has a coward made;[Page 87]
289 Whilst he, who Virtue's radiant course has run,
290 Descends like a serenely-setting sun:
291 His thoughts triumphant Heav'n alone employs,
292 And hope anticipates his future joys.
293 So good, so blest th' illustriousd
d Bishop of Worcester.Hough we find,
294 Whose image dwells with pleasure on my mind;
295 The Mitre's glory, Freedom's constant friend,
296 In times which ask'd a champion to defend;
297 Who after near a hundred virtuous years,
298 His senses perfect, free from pains and fears,
299 Replete with life, with honors, and with age,
300 Like an applauded actor left the stage;
301 Or like some victor in th' Olympic games,
302 Who having run his course, the crown of Glory claims.
303 From this just contrast plainly it appears,
304 How Conscience can inspire both hopes and fears;
305 But whence proceed these hopes, or whence this dread,
306 If nothing really can affect the dead?
307 See all things join to promise, and presage
308 The sure arrival of a future age!
309 Whate'er their lot is here, the good and wise,
310 Nor doat on life, nor peevishly despise.
311 An honest man, when Fortune's storms begin,
312 Has Consolation always sure within,
313 And, if she sends a more propitious gale,
314 He's pleas'd, but not forgetful it may fail.
315 Nor fear that he, who sits so loose to life,
316 Shou'd too much shun its labors, and its strife;[Page 88]
317 And scorning wealth, contented to be mean,
318 Shrink from the duties of this bustling scene;
319 Or, when his country's safety claims his aid,
320 Avoid the fight inglorious, and afraid:
321 Who scorns life most must surely be most brave,
322 And he, who pow'r contemns, be least a slave:
323 Virtue will lead him to Ambition's ends,
324 And prompt him to defend his country, and his friends.
325 But still his merit you can not regard,
326 Who thus pursues a posthumous reward;
327 His soul, you cry, is uncorrupt and great,
328 Who quite uninfluenc'd by a future state,
329 Embraces Virtue from a nobler sense
330 Of her abstracted, native excellence,
331 From the self-conscious joy her essence brings,
332 The beauty, fitness, harmony of things.
333 It may be so: yet he deserves applause,
334 Who follows where instructive Nature draws;
335 Aims at rewards by her indulgence giv'n,
336 And soars triumphant on her wings to heav'n.
337 Say what this venal virtuous man pursues,
338 No mean rewards, no mercenary views;
339 Not wealth usurious, or a num'rous train,
340 Not fame by fraud acquir'd, or title vain!
341 He follows but where Nature points the road,
342 Rising in Virtue's school, till he ascends to God.
343 But we th' inglorious common herd of man,
344 Sail without compass, toil without a plan;[Page 89]
345 In Fortune's varying storms for ever tost,
346 Shadows pursue, that in pursuit are lost;
347 Mere infants all, till life's extremest day,
348 Scrambling for toys, then tossing them away.
349 Who rests of Immortality assur'd
350 Is safe, whatever ills are here endur'd:
351 He hopes not vainly in a world like this,
352 To meet with pure uninterrupted bliss;
353 For good and ill, in this imperfect state,
354 Are ever mix'd by the decrees of Fate.
355 With Wisdom's richest harvest Folly grows,
356 And baleful hemlock mingles with the rose;
357 All things are blended, changeable, and vain,
358 No hope, no wish we perfectly obtain;
359 God may perhaps (might human Reason's line
360 Pretend to fathom infinite design)
361 Have thus ordain'd things, that the restless mind
362 No happiness compleat on earth may find;
363 And, by this friendly chastisement made wise,
364 To heav'n her safest, best retreat may rise.
365 Come then, since now in safety we have past
366 Thro' Error's rocks, and see the port at last,
367 Let us review, and recollect the whole. —
368 Thus stands my argument. — The thinking soul
369 Cannot terrestrial, or material be,
370 But claims by Nature Immortality:
371 God, who created it, can make it end,
372 We question not, but cannot apprehend[Page 90]
373 He will; because it is by him endued
374 With strong ideas of all perfect Good:
375 With wond'rous pow'rs to know, and calculate
376 Things too remote from this our earthly state;
377 With sure presages of a life to come,
378 All false and useless; if beyond the tomb
379 Our beings cease: we therefore can't believe
380 God either acts in vain, or can deceive.
381 If ev'ry rule of equity demands,
382 That Vice and Virtue from the Almighty's hands,
383 Shou'd due rewards, and punishments receive,
384 And this by no means happens whilst we live,
385 It follows, that a time must surely come,
386 When each shall meet their well-adjusted doom:
387 Then shall this scene, which now to human sight
388 Seems so unworthy Wisdom infinite,
389 A system of consummate skill appear,
390 And ev'ry cloud dispers'd, be beautiful and clear.
391 Doubt we of this! what solid proof remains,
392 That o'er the world a wise Disposer reigns?
393 Whilst all Creation speaks a pow'r divine,
394 Is it deficient in the main design?
395 Not so: the day shall come, (pretend not now
396 Presumptuous to enquire or when, or how)
397 But after death shall come th' important day,
398 When God to all his justice shall display;
399 Each action with impartial eyes regard,
400 And in a just proportion punish and reward.
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About this text
Title (in Source Edition): On the IMMORTALITY of the SOUL.
Author: Soame Jenyns
Themes: philosophical enquiry; religion; virtue; vice
Genres: heroic couplet; philosophic poetry; imitation; translation; paraphrase
References: DMI 27831
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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.
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