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I chase the moments with a serious song.
Song sooths our pains, and age has pains to sooth.
When age, care, crime, and friends, embrac'd at
Torn from my bleeding breast, and death's dark shade,
Which hovers o'er me, quench th' ethereal fire,
Canst thou, O Night! indulge one labour more?
One labour more indulge! then sleep, my strain !
Till, haply, wak'd by Raphael's golden lyre,
Where night, death, age, care, crime, and sorrow
To-bear a part in everlasting lays;
Tho' far, far higher set in aim, I trust,
Symphonious to this humble prelude here.
Has not the muse asserted pleasures pure,
Like those above, exploding other joys?
Weigh what was urg'd, Lorenzo! fairly weigh,
And tell me, hast thou cause to triumph still?
I think thou wilt forbear a boast so bold :
But if beneath the favour of mistake,
Thy smiles sincere, not more sincere can be
Lorenzo's smile, than my compassion for him.
The sick in body call for aid; the sick
In mind are covetous of more disease,
And when at worst, they dream themselves quite well.
To know ourselves diseas'd is half our cure.
When Nature's blush by custom is wip'd off,
And conscience deaden'd by repeated strokes,
Has into manners naturaliz'd our crimes,
The curse of curses is our curse to love,
To triumph in the blackness of our guilt,
(As Indians glory in the deepest jet.)
And throw aside our senses with our peace.
But grant no guilt, no shame, no least alloy ;
Grant joy, and glory quite unsully'd shone ;
Yet still it ill deserves Lorenzo's heart.
No joy, no glory, glitters in thy sight,
But, thro' the thin partition of an hour,
I see its sables wove by destiny,
And that in sorrow bury'd, this in shame,
While howling furies ring the doleful knell,
And Conscience, now so soft thou scarce canst hear
Her whisper, echoes her eternal peal.
Where the prime actors of the last year's scene,
Their port so proud; their buskin, and their plume?
How many sleep who kept the world awake
With lustre and with noise ? Has death proclaim'l
A truce, and hung his sated lance on high?
Tis brandish'd still, nor shall the present year
Be more tenacious of her human leaf,
Or spread, of feeble life, a thinner fall.
But needless monuments to wake the thought;
Life's gayest scenes speak man's mortality,
Tho' in a style more florid, full as plain
As mausoleums, pyramids, and tombs.
What are our noblest ornaments, but Death's
Turn'd flatterers of life in paint or marble,
The well stain'd canvass, or the featur'd stone ?
Our father's grace, or rather haunt, the scene.
Joy peoples her pavillion from the dead.
« Profess'd diversiops! cannot these escape ?"
Far from it: these present us with a shroud,
And talk of death like garlands o'er a grave.
As some bold plunderers for bury'd wealth,
We ransack tombs for pastime; from the dust
Call up the sleeping hero; bid him tread
The scene for our amusement. How like gods
We sit, and, wrapt in immortality,
Shed gen'rous tears on wretches born to die,
Their fate deploring to forget our own?
What all the pomps and triumphs of our lives But legacies in blossom? Our lean soil, Luxuriant grown, and rank in vanities, From friends interr'd beneath a rich manure ! Like other worms we banquet on the dead ; Like other worms, shall we crawl on, nor know Our present frailties or approaching fate ?
Lorenzo! such the glories of the world! What is the world itself? Thy world-a grave. Where is the dust that has not been alive? The spade, the plough, disturb our ancestors.
From human mould we reap our daily bread.
The globe around earth’s hollow surface shakes,
And is the cieling of her sleeping sons.
O’er devastation we blind revels keep:
Whole bury'd towns support the dancer's heel.
The moist of human frame the sun exhales :
Winds scatter thro’ the mighty void the dry :
Earth repossesses part of what she gave,
And the freed spirit mounts on wings of fire :
Each element partakes our scatter'd spoils ;
As nature wide our ruins spread. Man's death
Inhabits all things but the thought of man.
Nor man alone ; his breathing bust expires;
His tomb is mortal: empires die: where now
The Roman? Greek? they stalk, an empty name!
Yet few regard them in this useful light,
Tho' half our learning is their epitaph.
When down thy vale, unlock’d by midnight thought,
That loves to wander in thy sunless realms,
O Death! I stretch my view, what visions rise !
What triumphs ! toils imperial ! arts divine !
In wither'd laurels glide before my sight!
What lengths of far fam'd ages billow'd high
With human habitation, roll along
In unsubstantial images of air!
The melancholy ghosts of dead Renown,
Whisp'ring faint echoes of the world's applause,
With penitential aspect, as they pass,
All point at earth, and hiss at human pride,
The wisdom of the wise, and prancings of the great.
But, O Lorenzo! far the rest above,
Of ghastly nature, and enormous size,
Onef orm assaults my sight, and chills my blood,
And shakes my frame. Of one departed world
I see the mighty shadow : oozy wreath
And dismal sea-weed crown her : o'er her urn
Reclin’d, she weeps her desolated realms,
And bloated sons, and weeping, prophesies
Another's dissolution, soon, in flames:
But, like Cassandra, prophesies in vain;
In vain to many ; not I trust to thee.
For, know'st thou not, or art thou loath to know
The great decree, the counsel of the skies?
Deluge and conflagration, dreadful pow’rs !
Prime ministers of vengeance? chain'd in caves
Distinct, apart, the giant furies roar;
Apart, or such their horrid rage for ruin,
In mutual conflict would they rise, and wage
Eternal war, till one was quite devour'd.
But not for this ordain’d their boundless rage.
When heaven's inferior instruments of wrath,
War, famine, pestilence, are found too weak
To scourge a world for her enormous crimes,