« PreviousContinue »
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,
Touchiny 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 enclosure, 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. And when he argues in favour of the immortality of man from the analogies of nature, with what exquisite taste and melody does he characterise the changes and varied appearances of creation :
Look nature through, 'tis revolution all !
All change, no death; day follows night, and night
The dying day; stars rise and set, and set and rise ;
Earth takes the example See, the Summer gay,
With her green chaplet and ambrosial flowers,
Droops into pallid Autumn: Winter gray,
Horrid with frost and turbulent with storm,
Blows Autumn and his golden fruits away,
Then melts into the Spring : soft Spring, with breath
Favopian, from warm chambers of the south,
Recalls the first. All, to reflourish, fades:
As in a wheel, all sinks to reascend :
lems of man, who passes, not expires. He thus moralises on human life:
Life speeds away
From point to point, though seeming to stand still.
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth,
Too subtle is the movement to be seen ;
Yet soon man's hour is up, and we are gone.
Warnings point out our danger; gnomons, time;
As these are useless when the sun is set,
So those, but when more glorious reason shines.'
Reason should judge in all; in reason's eye
That sedentary shadow travels hard.
But such our gravitation to the wrong,
So prone our hearts to whisper that we wish,
"Tis later with the wise than he's aware:
A Wilmington* goes slower than the sun :
And all mankind mistake their time of day;
Even age itself. Fresh hopes are hourly sowD
In furrowed brows. To gentle life's descent
We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain.
We take fair days in winter for the spring,
And turn our blessings into bane. Since oft
Man must compute that age he cannot feel,
He scarce believes he's older for his years,
Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store
One disappointment sure, to crown the rest
The disappointment of a promised hour.
And again in a still nobler strain, where he compares human life to the sea :
Self-flattered, unexperienced, high in hope,
When young, with sanguine cheer and streamers gay,
We cut our cable, launch into the world,
And fondly dream each wind and star our friend;
All in some darling enterprise embarked:
But where is he can fathom its event?
Amid a multitude of artless hands,
Ruin's sure perquisite, her lawful prize!
Some steer aright, but the black blast blows hard,
And puffs them wide of hope: with hearts of proof
Full against wind and tide, some win their way,
And when strong effort has deserved the port,
And tugged it into view, 'tis won ! 'tis lost!
Though strong their oars, still stronger is their fate :
They strike ! and while they triumph they expire.
In stress of weather most, some sink outright:
O'er them, and o'er their names the billows close;
To-morrow knows not they were ever born.
Others a short memorial leave behind,
Like a flag floating when the bark's ingulfed ;
It floats a moment, and is seen no more.
One Cæsar lives ; a thousand are forgot.
How few beneath auspicious planets born-
Darlings of Providence! fond fates elect !-
With swelling sails make good the promised port,
With all their wishes freighted ! yet even these,
Freighted with all their wishes, soon complain;
Free from misfortune, not from nature free,
They still are men, and when is man secure ?
As fatal time, as storm ! the rush of years
Beats downs their strength, their numberless escapes
In ruin end. And now their proud success
But plants new terrors on the victor's brow;
What pain to quit the world, just made their own,
Their nest so deeply downed, and built so high!
Too low they huila, who hnild beneath the stars. With a such a throng of poetical imagery, bursts of sentiment, and rays of fancy, does the poet-divine clothe the trite and simple truths, that all is vanity, and that man is born to die!
These thoughts, O Night! arc thine;
From thee they came like lovers' secret sighs,
While others slept. So Cynthia, poets feign,
In shadows veiled, soft, sliding from her sphere,
Her shepherd cheered; of her enamoured less
Than I of thee. And art thou still unsang,
Beneath whose brow, and by whose aid, I sing?
Immortal silence! where shall I begin ?
Where end ? or how steal music from the spheres
To soothe their goddess ?
O majestic Night!
Nature's great ancestor! Day's elder born!
And fated to survive the transient sun !
By mortals and immortals seen with awe!
A starry crown thy raven hrow adorns,
An azure zone thy waist ; clouds, in heaven's looma
Wrought through varieties of shape and shade,
In ample folds of drapery divine,
Thy flowing mantle form, and, heaven throughont,
Voluminously pour thy pompous train:
Thy gloomy grandeurg-Nature's most august,
Inspiring aspect !-claim a grateful verse;
And like a sable curtain starred with gold
Drawn o'er my labours past, shall clothe the scene. This magnificent apostrophe to Night has scarcely been equalled in our poetry since the epic strains of Milton.
On Life, Death, and Immortality.
Tired 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 disturbed 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 wrecked desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost
Though now restored, 'tis only change of pain-
A bitter change !-severer for severe :
The day too short for my distress; and ni
E'en 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 ncr 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 fulfilled :
Fate! drop the curtain : I can lose no more.
Silence and Darkness! solemn sisters ! twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thoug
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. Oh 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, poured
On this devoted head, be poured in vain. ...
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful is man;
How passing wonder He who made him such !
Who centred in our make such strange extremes,
From different natures marvellously mixed,
Connection exquisite of distant worlds !
Distinguished link in being's endless chain!
Midway from nothing to the Deity!
A beam ethereal, sullied and absorpt!
Though sullied and dishonoured, 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, surprised, aghast,
And wondering at her own. How reason reels!
Oh what a miracle to man is man!
Triumphantly distressed ! what joy! what dread!
Alternately transported and alarmed!
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 tröd
O'er fairy fields; or mourned along the gloom
Of silent woods; or, down the craggy steep
Hurled headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool:
Or scaled the cliff ; or danced on hollow winds,
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain ?
Her ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her nature
Of subtler essence than the common clod. ..
Even silent night proclaims my soul immortal!
Why, then, their loss deplore that are not lost ?
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; winged by heaven.
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 human thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortal, spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness,
Thrown into tumult, raptured or alarmed,
At aught this scene can threaten or indulge,
Resembles ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft & feather, or to drown a fly.
ty from humorescore years eath expire!
Thoughts on Time.
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its lose: 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 alarmed, 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 honr?
O time! than gold more sacred ; more a load
Than lead to fools, and fools reputed wise.
What moment granted man withont account?
What years are squandered, wisdom's debi 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.
Youth is not rich in time; it may be poor;
Part with it as with money, sparing; pay
No moment, but in purchase of its worth;
And what it's worth, ask death-beds; they can tell.
Part with it as with life, reluctant; big
With holy hope of nobler time to come;
Time bigher aimed, still nearer the great mark
Of men and angels, virtue more divine.
Ah! how unjust to nature and himself
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!
Like children babbling nonsense in their sports,
We censure Nature for a span too short;
That span too short we tax as tedious too;
Tortare invention, all expedients tire,
To lash the lingering moments into speed,
And whirl us (happy riddance) from ourselves,