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And many a powerful smile,
Cherish their flatteries of wit, While I my life of fame beguile,
And under my own vine uncourted sit.
For I have seen the pine,
Famed for its travels o'er the sea, Broken with storms and age, decline,
And in some creek unpitied rot away.
I have seen cedars fall,
And in their room mushroom grow; I have seen comets threatening all,
Vanish themselves : I have seen princes so.
Vain, trivial dust! weak man !
Where is that virtue of thy breath That others save or ruin can,
When thou thyself art called to account by death ?
When I consider thee,
The scorn of time and sport of fate, How can I turn to jollity
My ill-strung harp, and court the delicate ?
How can I but disdain
The empty fallacies of mirth, And in my midnight thoughts retain,
How high soe'er I spread my roots in earth ?
Fond youth! too long I played
The wanton with a false deright, Which when I touched I found a shade,
That only wrought on th' error of my sight.
Then since pride doth decay
The soul to flattered ignorance,
I from the world will steal
And by humility my thoughts advance
Edmund WALLER was born at Coleshill, in Hertfordshire, in 1605, was educated at Eton, and at King's College, Cambridge. He was sent to parliament at the age of eighteen; frequented the court of James I., and suffered considerably during the civil war for his attachment to the monarchy, but closed his long life in peace, at Beaconsfield, in 1687. Waller was a fine poet, and he excelled all his contemporaries in his command of the harmonies of the English language. " He belonged,” says Hazlitt,“ to the same class as Suckling : the sportive, the sparkling, and the polished.” His sublimest poem is on the Death of Cronwell ; but many of his religious pieces are distinguished for dignity and beauty.
Till love appear, we live in anxious doubt ;
But smoke will vanish when that flame breaks out.
This is the fire that would consume our dross,
Refine and make us richer by the loss.
Could we forbear dispute and practise love,
We should agree as angels do above.
Where love presides, not vice alone does find
No entrance there, but virtues stay behind.
Both Faith and Hope, and all the meaner train
Of moral virtues, at the door remain ;
Love only enters as a native there,
For born in heaven, it does but sojourn here.
Weak, though we are, to love is no hard task,
And love for love is all that Heaven does ask:
Love that would all men just and temperate make,
Kind to themselves and others, for his sake.
'Tis with our minds as with a fertile ground,
Wanting this love, they must with weeds abound:
Unruly passions, whose effects are worse
Than thorns and thistles springing from the curse.
That early love of creatures yet unmade
To frame the world the Almighty did persuade :
For love it was that first created light,
Moved on the waters, chased away the night
From the rude chaos, and bestowed new grace
On things disposed of to their proper place,
Some to rest here, and some to shine above :
Earth, sea, and heaven, were all th' effects of love.
And love would be returned, but there was none
That to themselves or others yet were known.
The world a palace was without a guest,
Till one appears that must excel the rest ;
One like the Author, whose capacious mind
Might by the glorious work the Maker find;
Might measure heaven, and give each star a name,
With art and courage the rough ocean tame;
Over the globe with swelling sails might go,
And that 'tis round by his experience know;
Make strongest beasts obedient to his will,
And serve his use the fertile earth to till.
When by his word God had accomplished all,
Man to create He did a council call;
Employed his hand to give the dust He took
A graceful figure and majestic look ;
With his own breath conveyed into his breast
Life and a soul, fit to command the rest,
Worthy alone to celebrate his name,
For such a gift, and tell from whence it came:
Birds sing his praises in a wilder note,
But not with lasting numbers, and with thought,
Man's great prerogative. But above all,
abounds in his new favorite's fall.
If He create, it is a world He makes;
If He be angry, the creation shakes.
From his just wrath our guilty parents fled;
He cursed the earth, but bruised the serpent's head.
Amidst the storm his bounty did exceed,
In the rich promise of the virgin's Seed;
Though Justice death as satisfaction craves,
Love finds a way to pluck us from our graves.
The Grecian muse has all their gods survived,
Nor Jove at us, nor Phæbus, is arrived ;
Frail deities, which first the poets made,
And then invoked to give their fancies aid !
Yet if they still divert us with their
What may be hoped for in a better age,
When not from Helicon's imagined spring,
But sacred writ, we borrow what we sing ?
This with the fabric of the world begun,
Elder than light, and shall outlast the sun.
Before this oracle, like Dagon, all
The false pretenders, Delphos, Hammon, fall:
Long since despised and silent, they afford
Honor and triumph to the eternal Word.
As late Philosophy our globe has graced,
And rolling earth among the planets placed,
So has this Book entitled us to heaven,
And rules to guide us to that mansion given ;
Tells the conditions how our peace was made,
And is our pledge for the great Author's aid.
His power in nature's ample book we find ;
But the less volume doth
his mind. This light unknown, bold Epicurus taught, That his blest gods vouchsafe us not a thought, But unconcerned, let all below them slide, As fortune does, or human wisdom, guide. Religion thus removed, the sacred yoke, And band of all society, is broke: What use of oaths, of promise, or of test, Where men regard no God but interest ?
What endless war would jealous nations bear,
If none above did witness what they swear ?
Sad fate of unbelievers, and yet just,
Among themselves to find so little trust!
Were Scripture silent, nature would proclaim,
Without a God, our falsehood and our shame.
To know our thoughts the object of his eyes,
Is the first step towards being good or wise ;
For though with judgment we on things reflect,
Our will determines, not our intellect:
Slaves to their passion, reason men employ
Only to compass what they would enjoy ;
His fear to guard us from ourselves we need,
And sacred writ our reason doth exceed :
For though heaven shows the glory of the Lord,
Yet something shines more glorious in his word;
His mercy this, (which all his work excels,)
His tender kindness and compassion tells :
While we, informed by that celestial Book,
Into the bowels of cur Maker look.