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The face of nature in a rich disguise,
And brighten'd every object to my eyes:
For ev'ry shrub, and every blade of grass,
And ev'ry pointed thorn, seem'd wrought in glass,
In pearls and rubies rich the hawthorns shew,
While thro' the ice the crimson berries glow.
The thick-sprung reeds the wat'ry marshes yield
Seem polish'd lances in a hostile field.
The stag, in limpid currents, with surprise
Sees crystal branches on his forehead rise.
The spreading oak, the beech, and tow'ring pine,
Glaz'd over, in the freezing æther shine.
The frighted birds the rattling branches shun,
That wave and glitter in the distant sun.
When, if a sudden gust of wind arise,
The brittle forest into atoms flies:
The crackling wood beneath the tempest bends,
And in a spangled show'r the prospect ends;
Or, if a southern gale the region warm,
And by degrees unbind the wint'ry charm,
The traveller a miry country sees,
And journeys sad beneath the dropping trees.
Like some deluded peasant Merlin leads
Thro' fragrant bow'rs, and thro' delicious meads;
While here enchanted gardens to him rise,
And airy fabrics there attract his eyes,
His wand'ring feet the magic paths pursue;
And, while he thinks the fair illusion true,
The trackless scenes disperse in fluid air,
And woods, and wilds, and thorny ways, appear:
A tedious road the weary wretch returns,
And, as he goes, the transient vision mourns.
ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY. To the Right Hon. Arthur Onslow, Esq. Speaker of the House of Commons.
TIR'D Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays
Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes:
Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe,
And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose
I wake: how happy they who wake no more!
Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous; where my wreck'd desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost.
Though now restor'd 'tis only change of pain,
(A bitter change!) severer for severe :
The day too short for my distress; and night,
Ev'n in the zenith of her dark domain,
Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o'er a slumbering world.
Silence how dead! and darkness how profound!
Nor eye nor listening ear an object finds;
Creation sleeps. 'Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfill'd:
Fate! drop the curtain; I can lose no more.
Silence and Darkness! solemn sisters! twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought
To reason, and on reason build resolve,
(That column of true majesty in man)
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave your kingdom: there this frame shall fall A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye?
Thou, who didst put to flight
Primeval Silence, when the morning stars,
Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball;
O Thou! whose word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun, strike wisdom from my soul;
My soul, which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.
Through this opaque of nature and of soul, This double night, transmit one pitying ray, To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind, (A mind that fain would wander from its woe) Lead it through various scenes of life and death, And from each scene the noblest truths inspire. Nor less inspire my conduct than my song; Teach my best reason, reason; my best will Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear: Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour'd On this devoted head, be pour'd in vain.
The bell strikes One. We take no note of time But from its loss: to give it then a tongue
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke
I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright,
It is the knell of my departed hours.
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.
It is the signal that demands dispatch:
How much is to be done? My hopes and fears
Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down-on what? A fathomless abyss.
A dread eternity! how surely mine!
And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful, is man!
How passing wonder He who made him such!
Who center'd in our make such strange extremes
From different natures marvellously mix'd,
Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain!
Midway from nothing to the Deity!
A beam etherial, sullied and absorpt!
Though sullied and dishonour'd, still divine!
Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
An heir of glory! a frail child of dust!
Helpless immortal! insect infinite!
A worm! a god!-I tremble at myself,
And in myself am lost. At home a stranger,
Thought wanders up and down, surpris'd, aghast,
And wondering at her own. How reason reels!
O what a miracle to man is man!
Triumphantly distress'd! what joy! what dread!
Alternately transported and alarm'd!
What can preserve my life! or what destroy!
An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.
"Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof.
While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spread,
What though my soul fantastic measures trod
O'er fairy fields, or mourn'd along the gloom
Of pathless woods, or down the craggy steep
Hurl'd headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool,
Or scal'd the cliff, or danc'd on hollow winds
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain!
Her ceaseless flight, tho' devious, speaks her nature
Of subtler essence than the trodden clod;
Active, aërial, towering, unconfin'd,
Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fall.
Ev'n silent night proclaims my soul immortal;
Ev'n silent night proclaims eternal day!
For human weal Heav'n husbands all events:
Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.
Why then their loss deplore that are not lost?
Why wanders wretched Thought their tombs around
In infidel distress? Are angels there?
Slumbers, rak'd up in dust, etherial fire?
They live! they greatly live a life on earth
Unkindled, unconceiv'd, and from an eye
Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall
On me, more justly number'd with the dead.
This is the desert, this the solitude:
How populous, how vital is the grave!
This is Creation's melancholy vault,
The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom;
The land of apparitions, empty shades!
All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond
Is substance; the reverse is Folly's creed.
How solid all, where change shall be no more!
This is the bud of being, the dim dawn,
The twilight of our day, the vestibule.
Life's theatre as yet is shut, and Death,
Strong Death, alone can heave the massy bar,
This gross impediment of clay remove,
And make us, embryos of existence, free.
From real life but little more remote
Is he, not yet a candidate for light,
The future embryo, slumbering in his sire.
Embryos we must be till we burst the shell,
Yon ambient azure shell, and spring to life,
The life of gods, O transport! and of man.
Yet man, fool man! here buries all his thoughts,
Inters celestial hopes without one sigh;
Prisoner of earth and pent beneath the moon,
Here pinions all his wishes; wing'd by Hea 'n
To fly at infinite, and reach it there,
Where seraphs gather immortality.
On Life's fair tree, fast by the throne of God,
What golden joys ambrosial clustering glow
In his full beam, and ripen for the just,
Where momentary ages are no more!
Where Time, and Pain, and Chance, and Death expire !
And is it in the flight of threescore years
To push eternity from humau thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortal; spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness,
Thrown into tumult, raptur'd, or alarm'd