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With pious sacrilege, a grave I stole ;
With impious piety, that grave I wrong'd;
Short in my duty! coward in my grief!
More like her murderer, than friend, I crept,
With soft-suspended step, and muffled deep
In midnight darkness, whisper'd my last sigh.
I whisper'd what should echo through their realms;
Nor writ her name, whose tomb should pierce the
Presumptuous fear! How durst I dread her foes,
While Nature's loudest dictates I obey'd?
Pardon necessity, blest shade! Of grief
And indignation rival bursts I pour'd;
Half execration mingled with my prayer;
Kindled at man, while I his God ador'd;
Sore grudg'd the savage land her sacred dust;
Stampt the curst soil; and with humanity
(Denied Narcissa) wish'd them all a grave.
Glows my resentment into guilt? What guilt
Can equal violations of the dead?
The dead how sacred! Sacred is the dust
Of this Heaven-labor'd form, erect, divine!
This Heaven-assum'd majestic robe of Earth,
He deign'd to wear, who hung the vast expanse
With azure bright, and cloth'd the Sun in gold.
When every passion sleeps that can offend;
When strikes us every motive that can melt;
When man can wreak his rancor uncontroll'd,
That strongest curb on insult and ill-will;
Then, spleen to dust! the dust of innocence!
An angel's dust!-This Lucifer transcends;
When he contended for the patriarch's bones,
"Twas not the strife of malice, but of pride;
The strife of pontiff pride, not pontiff gall.
For less than this is shocking in a race
Most wretched, but from streams of mutual love;
And uncreated, but for love divine,
And, but for love divine, this moment lost.
By fate resorb'd, and sunk in endless night.
Man hard of heart to man! of horrid things
Most horrid! 'Mid stupendous, highly strange!
Yet oft his courtesies are smoother wrongs;
Pride brandishes the favors he confers,
And contumelious his humanity;
What then his vengeance? Hear it not, ye stars! And thou, pale Moon! turn paler at the sound; Man is to man the sorest, surest ill.
A previous blast foretells the rising storm;
O'erwhelming turrets threaten ere they fall;
Volcanoes bellow ere they disembogue;
Earth trembles ere her yawning jaws devour;
And smoke betrays the wide-consuming fire:
Ruin from man is most conceal'd when near,
And sends the dreadful tidings in the blow.
Is this the flight of fancy? Would it were!
Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings, but himself,
That hideous sight, a naked human heart.
Fir'd is the Muse? And let the Muse be fir'd:
Who not inflam'd, when what he speaks, he feels,
And in the nerve most tender, in his friends?
Shame to mankind! Philander had his foes:
He felt the truths I sing, and I in him.
But he, nor I, feel more; past ills, Narcissa!
Are sunk in thee, thou recent wound of heart!
Which bleeds with other cares, with other pangs;
Pangs numerous, as the numerous ills that swarm'd
O'er thy distinguish'd fate, and, clustering there
Thick as the locusts on the land of Nile,
Made death more deadly, and more dark the grave.
Reflect (if not forgot my touching tale)
How was each circumstance with aspics arm'd?
An aspic, each! and all, an hydra woe:
What strong Herculean virtue could suffice ?—
Or is it virtue to be conquer'd here?
This hoary cheek a train of tears bedews;
And each tear mourns its own distinct distress;
And each distress, distinctly mourn'd, demands
Of grief still more, as heighten'd by the whole.
A grief like this proprietors excludes:
Not friends alone such obsequies deplore;
They make mankind the mourner; carry sighs
Far as the fatal Fame can wing her way;
And turn the gayest thought of gayest age,
Down their right channel, through the vale of death
The vale of death! that hush'd Cimmerian vale,
Where darkness, brooding o'er unfinish'd fates,
With raven wing incumbent, waits the day
(Dread day!) that interdicts all future change!
That subterranean world! that land of ruin!
Fit walk, Lorenzo, for proud human thought!
There let my thought expatiate, and explore
Balsamic truths and healing sentiments,
Of all most wanted, and most welcome, here.
For gay Lorenzo's sake, and for thy own,
My soul! "The fruits of dying friends survey;
Expose the vain of life; weigh life and death;
Give death his eulogy; thy fear subdue;
And labor that first palm of noble minds,
A manly scorn of terror from the tomb."
This harvest reap from thy Narcissa's grave.
As poets feign'd, from Ajax' streaming blood
Arose, with grief inscrib'd, a mournful flower;
Let wisdom blossom from my mortal wound.
And first, of dying friends; what fruit from these
It brings us more than triple aid; an aid
To chase our thoughtlessness, fear, pride, and guilt.
Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardors; and abate
That glare of life which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth
Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence Nature throws
Cross our obstructed way; and, thus to make
Welcome, as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by fate snatch'd from us, is a plume
Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aërial heights,
And, dampt with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd,
Just skim Earth's surface, ere we break it up,
O'er putrid earth to scratch a little dust.
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love;
For us they languish, and for us they die:
And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain?
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades,
Which wait the revolution in our hearts?
Shall we disdain their silent, soft address ;
Their posthumous advice, and pious prayer?
Senseless, as herds that graze their hallow'd graves
Tread under foot their agonies and groans;
Frustrate their anguish, and destroy their deaths?
Lorenzo! no; the thought of death indulge;
Give it its wholesome empire! let it reign,
That kind chastiser of thy soul in joy!
Its reign will spread thy glorious conquests far,
And still the tumults of thy ruffled breast:
Auspicious era! golden days, begin!
The thought of death shall, like a god, inspire.
And why not think on death? Is life the theme
Of every thought? and wish of every hour? Which relish fruits unripen'd by the Sun.
And song of every joy? Surprising truth! Make their days various ; various as the dyes
The beaten spaniel's fondness not so strange. On the dove's neck, which wanton in his rays.
To wave the numerous ills that seize on life On minds of dove-like innocence possest,
As their own property, their lawful prey ;
On lighten'd minds, that bask in virtue's beams,
Ere man has measur'd half his weary stage, Nothing hangs tedious, nothing old revolves
His luxuries have left him no reserve,
In that, for which they long; for which they live No maiden relishes, unbroach'd delights ;
Their glorious efforts, wing'd with heavenly hope, On cold-serv'd repetitions, he subsists,
Each rising morning sees still higher rise ; And in the tasteless present chew's the past ; Each bounteous dawn its novelty presents Disgusted chews, and scarce can swallow down. To worth maturing, new strength, lustre, fame; Like lavish ancestors, his earlier years
While Nature's circle, like a chariot-wheel
Have disinherited his future hours,
Rolling beneath their elevated aims,
Which starve on arts, and glean their former field. Makes their fair prospect fairer every hour;
Live ever here, Lorenzo !-shocking thought! Advancing virtue, in a line to bliss ;
So shocking, they who wish, disown it, too;
Virtue, which Christian motives best inspire! Disown from shame, what they from folly crave. And bliss, which Christian schemes alone insure. Live ever in the womb, nor see the light?
And shall we then, for Virtue's sake, commence
For what live ever here ?-With laboring step A postates; and turn infidels for joy?
To tread our former footsteps ? Pace the round A truth it is, few doubt, but fewer trust,
Eternal ? To climb life's worn, heavy wheel, “ He sins against this life, who slights the next."
Which draws up nothing new? To beat, and beat What is this life? How few their favorite know!
The beaten track? To bid each wretched day Fond in the dark, and blind in our embrace,
The former mock ? To surfeit on the same, By passionately loving life, we make
And yawn our joys ? Or thank a misery
Lov'd life unlovely; hugging her to death.
For change, though sad? To see what we have seen ? We give to time eternity's regard ;
Hear, till unheard, the same old slabber'd tale ? And, dreaming, take our passage for our port.
To taste the tasted, and at each return
Life has no value as an end, but means;
Less tasteful? O'er our palates to decant
An end deplorable! a means divine ! Another vintage ? Sirain a fatter year,
When 'tis our all, 'tis nothing! worse than nought; Through loaded vessels, and a laxer tone ?
A nest of pains: when held as nothing, much: Crazy machines to grind Earth's wasted fruits ! Like some fair hum'rists, life is most enjoy'd Ill-ground, and worse-concocted! Load, not life! When courted least; most worth, when disesteem'd. The rational foul kennels of excess!
Then 'tis the seat of comfort, rich in peace ; Still-streaming thoroughfares of dull debauch! In prospect richer far; important! awful! Trembling each gulp, lest death should snatch the Not to be mention'd, but with shouts of praise ! bowl.
Not to be thought on, but with tides of joy!
Such of our fine-ones is the wish refin'd! The mighty basis of eternal bliss !
So would they have it: elegant desire !
Where now the barren rock? the painted shreu ?
Why not invite the bellowing stalls, and wilds ? Where now, Lorenzo! life's eternal round ?
But such examples might their riot awe.
Have I not made my triple promise good ? Through want of virtue, that is, want of thought, Vain is the world; but only to the vain. (Though on bright thought they father all their To what compare we then this varying scene, flights.)
Whose worth ambiguous rises, and declines ? • To what are they reduc'd ? To love, and hate Waxes and wanes? (In all propitious, night
The same vain world ; to censure, and espouse, Assists me here) compare it to the Moon;
This painted shrew of life, who calls them fool Dark in herself, and indigent; but rich
Each moment of each day; to flatter bad,
In borrow'd lustre from a higher sphere.
Through dread of worse ; to cling to this rude rock, When gross guilt interposes, laboring Earth,
Barren, to them, of good, and sharp with ills, O'ershadow'd, mourns a deep eclipse of joy ;
And hourly blacken’d with impending storms, Her joys, at brightest, pallid, to that font
And infamous for wrecks of human hope-
Of full effulgent glory, whence they flow. Scar'd at the gloomy gulf, that yawns beneath. Nor is that glory distant: Oh Lorenzo! Such are their triumphs! such their pangs of joy! A good man, and an angel! these between
"Tis time, high time, to shift this dismal scene, How thin the barrier! what divides their fate? This hugg'd, this hideous state, what art can cure ? Perhaps a moment, or perhaps a year; One only; but that one, what all may reach ; Or, if an age, it is a moment still; Virtue—she, wonder-working goddess! charms A moment, or eternity 's forgot. That rock to bloom; and tames the painted shrew; Then be, what once they were, who now are gods; And, what will more surprise, Lorenzo! gives Be what Philander was, and claim the skies. To life's sick, nauseous iteration, change;
Starts timid Nature at the gloomy pass ? And straitens Nature's circle to a line.
The soft transition call it; and be cheer'd: Believ'st thou this, Lorenzo ? lend an ear,
Such it is often, and why not to thee? A patient ear, thou 'lt blush to disbelieve.
To hope the best, is pious, brave, and wise ; A languid, leaden, iteration reigns,
And may itself procure, what it presumes. And ever must, o'er those, whose joys are joys Life is much flatter'd, Death is much traduc'd; Of sight, smell, taste: the cuckoo-seasons sing Compare the rivals, and the kinder crown. The same dull note to such as nothing prize,
Strange competition !"— True, Lorenzo! strange! But what those seasons, from the teeming Earth, So little life can cast into the scale. To doting sense indulge. But nobler minds,
Life makes the soul dependent on the dust;
Death gives her wings to mount above the spheres. Through chinks, styl'd organs, dim life peeps light;
Rich death, that realizes all my cares,
Toils, virtues, hopes; without it a chimera!
Death, of all pain the period, not of joy ;
Joy's source, and subject, still subsists unhurt:
One, in my soul; and one, in her great Sire;
Though the four winds were warring for my dust.
Yes, and from winds, and waves, and central night,
Though prison'd there, my dust too I reclaim,
(To dust when drop proud Nature's proudest
Death bursts th' involving cloud, and all is day;
All eye, all ear, the disembodied power.
Death has feign'd evils, Nature shall not feel;
Life, ill substantial, Wisdom cannot shun.
Is not the mighty Mind, that son of Heaven?
By tyrant Life dethron'd, imprison'd, pain'd?
By Death enlarg'd, ennobled, deified?
Death but entombs the body; life the soul.
"Is Death then guiltless? How he marks his way
With dreadful waste of what deserves to shine!
Art, genius, fortune, elevated power!
With various lustres these light up the world,
Which Death puts out, and darkens human race."
I grant, Lorenzo! this indictment just:
And live entire. Death is the crown of life:
Were death denied, poor man would live in vain;
Were death denied, to live would not be life;
Were death denied, e'en fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure: we fall; we rise, we reign!
Spring from our fetters; fasten in the skies;
Where blooming Eden withers in our sight:
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost.
The sage, peer, potentate, king, conqueror!
Death humbles these; more barbarous life, the man. This king of terrors is the prince of peace.
When shall I die to vanity, pain, death?
When shall I die?-When shall I live for ever?
Life is the triumph of our mouldering clay;
Death, of the spirit infinite! divine!
Death has no dread, but what frail life imparts;
Nor life true joy, but what kind death improves.
No bliss has life to boast, till death can give
Far greater; life's a debtor to the grave,
Dark lattice! letting in eternal day.
Lorenzo! blush at fondness for a life,
Which sends celestial souls on errands vile,
To cater for the sense; and serve at boards,
Where every ranger of the wilds, perhaps
Each reptile, justly claims our upper hand.
Luxurious feast! a soul, a soul immortal,
In all the dainties of a brute bemir'd!
Lorenzo! blush at terror for a death,
Which gives thee to repose in festive bowers,
Where nectars sparkle, angels minister,
And more than angels share, and raise, and crown,
And eternize, the birth, bloom, bursts of bliss.
What need I more? O Death, the palm is thine.
Then welcome, Death! thy dreaded harbingers,
Age, and disease; disease, though long my guest;
That plucks my nerves, those tender strings of life;
Which, pluck'd a little more, will toll the bell,
That call my few friends to my funeral;
Where feeble Nature drops, perhaps, a tear,
While Reason and Religion, better taught,
Congratulate the dead, and crown his tomb
With wreath triumphant. Death is victory;
It binds in chains the raging ills of life:
Lust and ambition, wrath and avarice,
Dragg'd at his chariot-wheel, applaud his power.
That ills corrosive, cares importunate,
Are not immortal too, O Death! is thine.
Our day of dissolution!-name it right;
"Tis our great pay-day; 'tis our harvest, rich
And ripe. What though the sickle, sometimes
Just scars us as we reap the golden grain?
More than thy balm, O Gilead! heals the wound.
Birth's feeble cry, and Death's deep dismal groan,
Are slender tributes low-tax'd Nature pays
For mighty gain: the gain of each, of life!
But O! the last the former so transcends,
Life dies, compar'd; life lives beyond the grave.
And feel I, Death! no joy from thought of thee?
Death, the great counsellor, who man inspires
With every nobler thought, and fairer deed!
Death, the deliverer, who rescues man!
Death, the rewarder, who the rescued crowns!
Death, that absolves my birth; a curse without it!
Containing our only Cure for the Fear of Death; and proper Sentiments of that inestimable Blessing.
TO THE HONORABLE MR. YORKE.
A MUCH-INDEBTED Muse, O Yorke! intrudes.
Amid the smiles of fortune, and of youth,
Thine ear is patient of a serious song.-
How deep implanted in the breast of man
The dread of death! I sing its sovereign cure.
Why start at Death? Where is he? Death
Is past; not come or gone, he's never here.
Ere hope, sensation fails; black-boding man
Receives, not suffers, Death's tremendous blow.
The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave;
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm;
These are the bugbears of a winter's eve,
The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination's fool, and error's wretch.
Man makes a death, which Nature never made;
Then on the point of his own fancy falls;
And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one.
But were Death frightful, what has age to fear?
If prudent, age should meet the friendly foe,
And shelter in his hospitable gloom.
I scarce can meet a monument, but holds
My younger; every date cries—“Come away.”
And what recalls me? Look the world around,
And tell me what: the wisest cannot tell.
Should any born of woman give his thought
Full range on just dislike's unbounded field;
Of things, the vanity; of men, the flaws;
Flaws in the best; the many, flaw all o'er;
As leopards, spotted, or, as Ethiops, dark;
Vivacious ill; good dying immature;
(How immature, Narcissa's marble tells!)
And at his death bequeathing endless pain;
His heart, though bold, would sicken at the sight,
And spend itself in sighs, for future scenes.
But grant to life (and just it is to grant
To lucky life) some perquisites of joyi
A time there is, when, like a thrice-told tale,
Long-rifled life of sweet can yield no more,
But from our comment on the comedy,
Pleasing reflections on parts well sustain'd,
Or purpos'd emendations where we fail'd,
Or hopes of plaudits from our candid Judge,
When, on their exit, souls are bid unrobe,
Toss Fortune back her tinsel, and her plume,
And drop this mask of flesh behind the scene.
With me, that time is come; my world is dead;
A new world rises, and new manners reign:
Foreign comedians, a spruce band! arrive,
To push me from the scene, or hiss me there.
What a pert race starts up! the strangers gaze,
And I at them; my neighbor is unknown;
Nor that the worst: Ah me! the dire effect
Of loitering here, of death defrauded long;
Of old so gracious (and let that suffice,) ·
My very master knows me not.-
Shall I dare say, peculiar is the fate?
I've been so long remember'd, I'm forgot.
An object ever pressing dims the sight,
And hides behind its ardor to be seen.
When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint,
They drink it as the nectar of the great;
And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow.
Refusal! canst thou wear a smoother form?
Indulge me, nor conceive I drop my theme:
Who cheapens life, abates the fear of death:
Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy,
Court favor, yet untaken, I besiege;
Ambition's ill-judged effort to be rich.
Alas! ambition makes my little less;
Embittering the possest. Why wish for more?
Wishing, of all employments, is the worst;
Philosophy's reverse; and health's decay.
Were I as plump as stall'd theology,
Wishing would waste me to this shade again.
Were I as wealthy as a South-sea dream,
Wishing is an expedient to be poor.
Wishing, that constant hectic of a fool;
Caught at a court; purg'd off by purer air,
And simpler diet; gifts of rural life!
Blest be that hand divine, which gently laid
My heart at rest, beneath this humble shed.
The world's a stately bark, on dangerous seas,
With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril;
Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore,
I hear the tumult of the distant throng,
As that of seas remote, or dying storms:
And meditate on scenes, more silent still;
Pursue my theme, and fight the fear of death.
Here, like a shepherd gazing from his hut,
Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff,
Eager ambition's fiery chase I see;
I see the circling hunt, of noisy men,
Burst law's inclosure, leap the mounds of right,
Pursuing, and pursued, each other's prey;
As wolves, for rapine; as the fox, for wiles;
Till Death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.
Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame?
Earth's highest station ends in, “Here he lies,"
And "Dust to dust" concludes her noblest song.
If this song lives, posterity shall know
One, though in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
Who thought e'en gold might come a day too late;
Nor on his subtle death-bed plann'd his scheme
For future vacancies in church or state;
Some avocation deeming it-to die,
Horror receives us, and the dismal wish
Creation had been smother'd in her birth-
Darkness his curtain, and his bed the dust;
When stars and Sun are dust beneath his throne!
In Heaven itself can such indulgence dwell?
O what a groan was there! a groan not his.
He seiz'd our dreadful right; the load sustain'd;
And heav'd the mountain from a guilty world.
A thousand worlds, so bought, were bought too dear;
Sensations new in angels' bosoms rise;
Suspend their song! and make a pause in bliss.
O for their song; to reach my lofty theme!
Inspire me, Night! with all thy tuneful spheres;
Whilst I with seraphs share seraphic themes!
And show to men the dignity of man;
The Sun beheld it-no, the shocking scene
Drove back his chariot: midnight veil'd his face;
Not such as this; not such as Nature makes;
A midnight Nature shudder'd to behold;
A midnight new! a dread eclipse (without
Opposing spheres) from her Creator's frown!
Sun! didst thou fly thy Maker's pain? Or start
At that enormous load of human guilt,
Which bow'd his blessed head; o'erwhelm'd his cross;
Made groan the centre; burst Earth's marble womb,
With pangs, strange pangs! deliver'd of her dead?
Hell howl'd; and Heaven that hour let fall a tear;
Heaven wept, that men might smile! Heaven bled,
Might never die!
And is devotion virtue? "Tis compell'd.
Lest I blaspheme my subject with my song.
Shall Pagan pages glow celestial flame,
What heart of stone but glows at thoughts like these?
And Christian languish? on our hearts, not heads, Such contemplations mount us; and should mount
Falls the foul infamy: my heart! awake.
What can awake thee, unawak'd by this,
"Expended deity on human weal?"
The mind still higher; nor ever glance on man
Unraptur'd, uninflam'd.-Where roll my thoughts
To rest from wonders? other wonders rise;
Feel the great truths, which burst the tenfold night And strike where'er they roll: my soul is caught:
Of heathen error, with a golden flood
Heaven's sovereign blessings, clustering from the
Of endless day to feel, is to be fir'd;
And to believe, Lorenzo! is to feel.