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How dim our eye!
Lorenzo! wisdom into folly turns
Oft, the first instant, its idea fair
To labouring thought is born.
The present moment terminates our sight; [next;
Clouds, thick as those on doomsday, drown the
We penetrate, we prophesy in vain.
Time is dealt out by particles; and each,
Ere mingled with the streaming sands of life,
By Fate's inviolable oath is sworn
Deep silence, "Where eternity begins."
By Nature's law, what may be, may be now;
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn?
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant, we build
Our mountain hopes, spin out eternal schemes,
As we the fatal sisters could out-spin,
And, big with life's futurities, expire.
Not e'en Philander had bespoke his shroud :
Nor had he cause; a warning was deny'd:
How many fall as sudden, not as safe!
As sudden, though for years admonish'd home.
Of human ills the last extreme beware,
Beware, Lorenzo! a slow sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; 't is madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead ;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 't is so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes, this bears
The palm, "That all men are about to live,"
For ever on the brink of being born.
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise;
At least, their own; their future selves applaud; How excellent that life they ne'er will lead ! Time lodg'd in their own hands is folly's vails; That lodg'd in fate's, to wisdom they consign; The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone; 'T is not in folly, not to scorn a fool;
And scarce in human wisdom, to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage: when young, indeed,
In full content we, sometimes, nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves; and re-resolves; then dies the same.
And why? Because he thinks himself immortal. All men think all men mortal, but themselves;
Themselves, when some alarming shock of fate Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread;
But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air, Soon close; where, past the shaft, no trace is found.
As from the wing, no scar the sky retains;
The parted wave no furrow from the keel;
So dies in human hearts the thoughts of death.
E'en with the tender tear which Nature sheds
O'er those we love, we drop it in their grave.
Can I forget Philander? That were strange!
O my full heart! — But should I give it vent,
The longest night, though longer far, would fail,
And the lark listen to my midnight song.
The sprightly lark's shrill matin wakes the morn; Grief's sharpest thorn hard pressing on my breast, I strive, with wakeful melody, to cheer
The sullen gloom, sweet Philomel! like thee,
And call the stars to listen: every star
Is deaf to mine, enamour'd of thy lay.
Yet be not vain; there are, who thine excel,
And charm through distant ages: wrapt in shade,
Prisoner of darkness! to the silent hours,
How often I repeat their rage divine,
To lull my griefs, and steal my heart from woe!
I roll their raptures, but not catch their fire.
Dark, though not blind, like thee, Mæonides!
Or, Milton! thee; ah, could I reach your strain !
Or his, who made Mæonides our own.
Man too he sung: immortal man I sing;
Oft bursts my song beyond the bounds of life;
What, now, but immortality can please?
O had he press'd his theme, pursued the track,
Which opens out of darkness into day!
O had he, mounted on his wing of fire,
Soar'd where I sink, and sung immortal man
How had it blest mankind, and rescued me
TIME, DEATH, AND FRIENDSHIP.
TO THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL OF WILMINGTON
"When the cock crew, he wept” — smote by that eye
Which looks on me, on all: that power, who bids
This midnight sentinel, with clarion shrill,
Emblem of that which shall awake the dead,
Rouse souls from slumber, into thoughts of Heaven.
Shall I, too, weep? Where then is fortitude?
And, fortitude abandon'd, where is man?
I know the terms on which he sees the light;
He that is born, is 'listed; life is war;
Eternal war with woe. Who bears it best,
Deserves it least. On other themes I'll dwell.
Lorenzo! let me turn my thoughts on thee,
And thine, on themes may profit; profit there
Where most they need. Themes, too, the genuine
Of dear Philander's dust.
He thus, though dead, May still befriend- What themes? Time's won
Death, friendship, and Philander's final scene.
So could I touch these themes, as might obtain
Thine ear, nor leave thy heart quite disengag'd,
The good deed would delight me; half impress
On my dark cloud an Iris; and from grief
Dost thou mourn Philander's fate?
I know thou say'st it: Says thy life the same?
He mourns the dead, who lives as they desire.
Where is that thirst, that avarice of time,
(0 glorious avarice!) thought of death inspires,
As rumour'd robberies endear our gold?
O time! than gold more sacred; more a load
Than lead, to fools; and fools reputed wise.
What moment granted man without account?
What years are squander'd, wisdom's debt unpaid!
Our wealth in days, all due to that discharge.
Haste, haste, he lies in wait, he 's at the door,
Insidious Death! should his strong hand arrest,
No composition sets the prisoner free.
Eternity's inexorable chain
Fast binds; and vengeance claims the full arrear.
How late I shudder'd on the brink! how late
Life call'd for her last refuge in despair!
That time is mine, O Mead! to thee I owe;
Fain would I pay thee with eternity.
But ill my genius answers my desire;
My sickly song is mortal, past thy cure.
Accept the will; that dies not with my strain.
For what calls thy disease, Lorenzo? not
For Esculapian, but for moral aid.
Thou think'st it folly to be wise too soon.
Youth is not rich in time, it may be poor;