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Though fortune too (our third and final theme,)
As an accomplice, play'd her gaudy plumes,
And ev'ry glitt'ring gewgaw, on her sight,
To dazzle, and debauch it from its mark.
Death's dreadful advent is the mark of man ;
And ev'ry thought that misses it, is blind.
Fortune, with youth and gaiety conspir'd
To weave a triple wreath of happiness
(If happiness on earth) to crown her brow.
And, could death charge thro' such a shining shield?
That shining shield invites the tyrant's spear,
As if to damp our elevated aims,
And strongly preach humility to man.
O, how portentous is prosperity!
How, comet-like, it threatens, while it shines!
Few years but yield us proof of death's ambition,
To cull his victims from the fairest fold,
And sheath his shafts in all the pride of life.
When flooded with abundance, purpled o'er
With recent honours, bloom'd with ev'ry bliss,
Set up in ostentation, made the gaze,
The gaudy centre of the public eye,
When fortune thus has toss'd her child in air,
Snatch'd from the covert of an humble state,
How often have I seen him dropp'd at once,
Our morning's envy, and our evening's sigh!
As if her bounties was the signal giv❜n,
The flow'ry wreath to mark the sacrifice,
And call death's arrows on the destin❜d prey.
High fortune seems in cruel league with fate.
Ask you for what? To give his war on man
The deeper dread, and more illustrious spoil;
Thus to keep daring mortals mere in awe.
And burns LORENZO still for the sublime
Of life? to hang his airy nest on high,
On the slight timber of the topmost bough,
Rock'd at each breeze, and menacing a fall?
Granting grim death at equal distance there;
Yet peace begins just where ambition ends.
What makes man wretched? Happiness deny'd?
LORENZO! no: 'Tis happiness disdain'd.
She comes too meanly dress'd to win our smile;
And calls herself Content, a homely name!
Our flame is transport, and content our scorn.
Ambition turns, and shuts the door against her,
And weds a toil, a tempest, in her stead;
A tempest to warm transport near akin.
Unknowing what our mortal state admits,
Life's modest joys we ruin, while we raise;
And all our ecstacies are wounds to peace:
Peace, the full portion of mankind below.
And since thy peace is dear, ambitious youth!
Of fortune fond, as thoughtless of thy fate!
As late I drew death's picture, to stir up
Thy wholesome fears; now, drawn in contrast, see
Gay fortune's, thy vain hopes to reprimand.
See, high in air, the sportive goddess hangs,
Unlocks her casket, spreads her glitt'ring ware,
And calls the giddy winds to puff abroad
Her random bounties o'er the gaping throng.
All rush rapacious; friends o'er trodden friends;
Sons o'er their fathers, subjects o'er their kings,
Priests o'er their gods, and lovers o'er the fair,
(Still more ador'd) to snatch the golden show'r.
Gold glitters most, where virtue shines no more ; As stars from absent suus have leave to shine.
O what a precious pack of votaries,
Unkennell❜d from the prisons, and the stews,
Pour in, all op'ning in their idol's praise!
All, ardent, eye each wafture of her hand,
And, wideexpanding their voracious jaws,
Morsel on morsel swallow down unchew'd,
Untasted, through mad appetite for more;
Gorg❜d to the throat, yet lean and ravʼnous still.
Sagacious all, to trace the smallest game,
And bold to seize the greatest. If (blest chance!)
Court-zephyrs sweetly breathe, they launch, they
O'er just, o'er sacred, all-forbidden ground,
Drunk with the burning scent of place or pow'r,
Staunch to the foot of lucre, till they die.
Or, if for men you take them, as I mark
Their manners, thou their various fates survey.
With aim mis-measur'd, and impetuous speed,
Some darting, strike their ardent wish far off,
Through fury to possess it: Some succeed,
But stumble, and let fall the taken prize;
From some, by sudden blasts, 'tis whirl'd away,
And lodg'd in bosoms that neʼer dream'd of gain;
To some it sticks so close, that, when torn off,
Torn is the man, and mortal is the wound,
Some, o'er-enamour'd of their bags, run mad,
Groan under gold, yet weep for want of bread.
Together some (unhappy rivals!) seize,
And rend abundance into poverty;
Loud croaks the raven of the law, and smiles : Smiles too the goddess: but smiles most at those, (Just victims of exorbitant desire !)
Who perish at their own request, and, whelm'd,
Beneath her load of lavish grants, expire.
Fortune is famous for her numbers slain,
The number small, which happiness can bear.
Though various for a while their fates; at last
One curse involves them all: At death's approach,
All read their riches backward into loss,
And mourn in just proportion to their store.
And death's approach (if orthodox my song)
Is hasten'd by the lure of fortune's smiles.
And art thou still a glutton of bright gold?
And art thou still rapacious of thy ruin?
Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow;
A blow, which, while it executes, alarms;
And startles thousands with a single fall.
As when some stately growth of oak or pine,
Which nods aloft, and proudly spreads her shade,
The sun's defiance, and the flocks' defence;
By the strong strokes of lab'ring hinds subdu'd,
Loud groans her last, and, rushing from her height,
In cumbrous ruin, thunders to the ground:
The conscious forest trembles at the shock,
And hill, and stream, and distant dale, resound.
These high-aim'd darts of death, and these alone,
Should I collect, my quiver would be full.
A quiver, which, suspended in mid air,
Or near Heav'n's archer, in the Zodiac, hung,
(So could it be) should draw the public eye,
The gaze and contemplation of mankind!
A constellation awful, yet benign,
To guide the gay through life's tempestuous ware,
Nor suffer them to strike the common rock,
"From greater danger to grow more secure,
And wrap'd in happiness, forget their fate."
LYSANDER, happy past the common lot, Was warn'd of danger, but too gay to fear. He woo'd the fair ASPASIA: She was kind :
In youth, form, fortune, fame, they both were bless'd :
All who knew, envy'd; yet in envy lov'd:
Can fancy form more finish'd happiness?
Fix'd was the nuptial hour. Her stately dome
Rose on the sounding beach. The glitt❜ring spires
Float in the wave, and break against the shore:
So break those glitt'ring shadows, human joys.
The faithless morning smil'd: He takes his leave,
To re-embrace in ecstacies, at eve.
The rising storm forbids. The news arrives:
Untold, she saw it in her servant's eye.
She felt it seen (her heart was apt to feel ;)
And, drown'd, without the furious ocean's aid,
In suffocating sorrows, shares his tomb.
Now, round the sumptuous, bridal monument,
The guilty billows innocently roar;
And the rough sailor passing, drops a tear.
A tear! Can tears suffice?-But not for me.
How vain our efforts! and our arts, how vain!
The distant train of thought I took, to shun,
Has thrown me on my fate-these dy'd together;
Happy in ruin! undivorc'd by death!
Or ne'er to meet, or ne'er to part, is peace-
NARCISSA! Pity bleeds at thought of thee.
Yet thou wast only near me ; not myself.
Survive myself?-That cures all other woe,
NARCISSA lives; PHILANDER is forgot.
O, the soft commerce! O, the tender ties,