Resignation Pt 1
The days how few, how short the years
Of man's too rapid race!
Each leaving, as it swiftly flies,
A shorter in its place.
They who the longest lease enjoy,
Have told us with a sigh,
That to be born seems little more
Than to begin to die.
Numbers there are who feel this truth
With fears alarm'd; and yet,
In life's delusions lull'd asleep,
This weighty truth forget:
And am not I to these akin?
Age slumbers o'er the quill;
Its honour blots, whate'er it writes,
And am I writing still?
Conscious of nature in decline,
And languor in my thoughts;
To soften censure, and abate
Its rigour on my faults
Permit me, madam! ere to you
The promis'd verse I pay,
To touch on felt infirmity,
Sad sister of decay.
One world deceas'd, another born,
Like Noah they behold,
O'er whose white hairs, and furrow'd brows,
Too many suns have roll'd:
Happy the patriarch! he rejoic'd
His second world to see:
My second world, though gay the scene,
Can boast no charms for me.
To me this brilliant age appears
With desolation spread;
Near all with whom I liv'd, and smil'd,
Whilst life was life, are dead;
And with them died my joys; the grave
Has broken nature's laws;
And clos'd, against this feeble frame,
Its partial cruel jaws;
Cruel to spare! condemn'd to life!
A cloud impairs my sight;
My weak hand disobeys my will,
And trembles as I write.
What shall I write? Thalia, tell;
Say, long abandon'd muse!
What field of fancy shall I range?
What subject shall I choose?
A choice of moment high inspire,
And rescue me from shame,
For doting on thy charms so late,
By grandeur in my theme.
Beyond the themes, which most admire,
Which dazzle, or amaze,
Beyond renown'd exploits of war,
Bright charms, or empire's blaze,
Are themes, which, in a world of woe
Can best appease our pain;
And, in an age of gaudy guilt,
Gay folly's flood restrain;
Amidst the storms of life support
A calm, unshaken mind;
And with unfading laurels crown
The brow of the resign'd.
O resignation! yet unsung,
Untouch'd by former strains;
Though claiming every muse's smile,
And every poet's pains,
Beneath life's evening, solemn shade,
I dedicate my page
To thee, thou safest guard of youth!
Thou sole support of age!
All other duties crescents are
Of virtue faintly bright,
The glorious consummation, thou!
Which fills her orb with light:
How rarely fill'd! the love divine
In evils to discern,
This the first lesson which we want,
The latest, which we learn;
A melancholy truth! for know,
Could our proud hearts resign,
The distance greatly would decrease
'Twixt human and divine.
But though full noble is my theme,
Full urgent is my call
To soften sorrow, and forbid
The bursting tear to fall:
The task I dread; dare I to leave
Of humble prose the shore,
And put to sea? a dangerous sea?
What throngs have sunk before!
How proud the poet's billow swells!
The God! the God! his boast:
A boast how vain! What wrecks abound!
Dead bards stench every coast.
What then am I? Shall I presume,
On such a moulten wing,
Above the general wreck to rise,
And in my winter, sing;
When nightingales, when sweetest bards
Confine their charming song
To summer's animating heats,
Content to warble young?
Yet write I must; a lady(49) sues;
How shameful her request!
My brain in labour for dull rhyme!
Hers teeming with the best!
But you a stranger will excuse,
Nor scorn his feeble strain;
To you a stranger, but, through fate,
No stranger to your pain.
The ghost of grief deceas'd ascends,
His old wound bleeds anew;
His sorrows are recall'd to life
By those he sees in you;
Too well he knows the twisting strings
Of ardent hearts combin'd
When rent asunder, how they bleed,
How hard to be resign'd:
Those tears you pour, his eyes have shed;
The pang you feel, he felt;
Thus nature, loud as virtue, bids
His heart at yours to melt.
But what can heart, or head, suggest?
What sad experience say?
Through truths austere, to peace we work
Our rugged, gloomy way:
What are we? whence? for what? and whither?
Who know not, needs must mourn;
But thought, bright daughter of the skies!
Can tears to triumph turn.
Thought is our armour, 'tis the mind's
When, sent by fate, we meet our foes,
In sore affliction's field;
It plucks the frightful mask from ills,
Forbids pale fear to hide,
Beneath that dark disguise, a friend,
Which turns affection's tide.
Affection frail! train'd up by sense,
From reason's channel strays:
And whilst it blindly points at peace,
Our peace to pain betrays.
Thought winds its fond, erroneous stream
From daily dying flowers,
To nourish rich immortal blooms,
In amaranthine bowers;
Whence throngs, in ecstasy, look down
On what once shock'd their sight;
And thank the terrors of the past
For ages of delight.
All withers here; who most possess
Are losers by their gain,
Stung by full proof, that, bad at best,
Life's idle all is vain:
Vain, in its course, life's murmuring stream;
Did not its course offend,
But murmur cease; life, then, would seem
Still vainer, from its end.
How wretched! who, through cruel fate,
Have nothing to lament!
With the poor alms this world affords
Had not the Greek his world mistook,
His wish had been most wise;
To be content with but one world,
Like him, we should despise.
Of earth's revenue would you state
A full account and fair?
We hope; and hope; and hope; then cast
The total up---
Since vain all here, all future, vast,
Embrace the lot assign'd;
Heaven wounds to heal; its frowns are friends;
Its stroke severe, most kind.
But in laps'd nature rooted deep,
Blind error domineers;
And on fools' errands, in the dark,
Sends out our hopes and fears;
Bids us for ever pains deplore,
Our pleasures overprize;
These oft persuade us to be weak;
Those urge us to be wise.
From virtue's rugged path to right
By pleasure are we brought,
To flowery fields of wrong, and there
Pain chides us for our fault:
Yet whilst it chides, it speaks of peace
If folly is withstood;
And says, time pays an easy price,
For our eternal good.
In earth's dark cot, and in an hour,
And in delusion great,
What an economist is man
To spend his whole estate,
And beggar an eternity!
For which as he was born,
More worlds than one against it weigh'd,
As feathers he should scorn.
Say not, your loss in triumph leads
Religion's feeble strife;
Joys future amply reimburse
Joys bankrupts of this life.
But not deferr'd your joy so long,
It bears an early date;
Affliction's ready pay in hand,
Befriends our present state;
What are the tears, which trickle down
Her melancholy face,
Like liquid pearl? Like pearls of price,
They purchase lasting peace.
Grief softens hearts, and curbs the will,
Impetuous passion tames,
And keeps insatiate, keen desire
From launching in extremes.
Through time's dark womb, our judgment right,
If our dim eye was thrown,
Clear should we see, the will divine
Has but forestall'd our own;
At variance with our future wish,
Self-sever'd we complain;
If so, the wounded, not the wound,
Must answer for the pain:
The day shall come, and swift of wing,
Though you may think it slow,
When, in the list of fortune's smiles,
You'll enter frowns of woe.
For mark the path of Providence;
This course it has pursued-
'Pain is the parent, woe the womb,
Of sound, important good:'
Our hearts are fasten'd to this world
By strong and endless ties:
And every sorrow cuts a string,
And urges us to rise:
'Twill sound severe-Yet rest assur'd
I'm studious of your peace;
Though I should dare to give you joy-
Yes, joy of his decease:
An hour shall come, (you question this,)
An hour, when you shall bless,
Beyond the brightest beams of life,
Dark days of your distress.
Hear then without surprise a truth,
A daughter truth to this,
Swift turns of fortune often tie
A bleeding heart to bliss:
Esteem you this a paradox?
My sacred motto read;
A glorious truth! divinely sung
By one, whose heart had bled;
To resignation swift he flew,
In her a friend he found,
A friend, which bless'd him with a smile
When gasping with his wound.
On earth nought precious is obtain'd
But what is painful too;
By travel, and to travel born,
Our sabbaths are but few:
To real joy we work our way,
Encountering many a shock,
Ere found what truly charms; as found
A Venus in the block.
In some disaster, some severe
Appointment for our sins,
That mother blessing, (not so call'd,)
True happiness, begins.
No martyr e'er defied the flames,
By stings of life unvext;
First rose some quarrel with this world,
Then passion for the next.
You see, then, pangs are parent pangs,
The pangs of happy birth;
Pangs, by which only can be born
True happiness on earth.
The peopled earth look all around,
Or through time's records run!
And say, what is a man unstruck?
It is a man undone.
This moment, am I deeply stung-
My bold pretence is tried;
When vain man boasts, heaven puts to proof
The vauntings of his pride;
Now need I, madam! your support.-
How exquisite the smart;
How critically tim'd the news(50)
Which strikes me to the heart!
The pangs of which I spoke, I feel:
If worth like thine is born,
O long-belov'd! I bless the blow,
And triumph, whilst I mourn.
Nor mourn I long; by grief subdued,
By reason's empire shown;
Deep anguish comes by heaven's decree,
Continues by our own;
And when continued past its point,
Indulg'd in length of time,
Grief is disgrac'd, and, what was fate,
Corrupts into a crime:
And shall I, criminally mean,
Myself and subject wrong?
No; my example shall support
The subject of my song.
Madam! I grant your loss is great;
Nor little is your gain?
Let that be weigh'd; when weigh'd aright,
It richly pays your pain:
When heaven would kindly set us free,
And earth's enchantment end;
It takes the most effectual means,
And robs us of a friend.
But such a friend! and sigh no more?
'Tis prudent; but severe:
Heaven aid my weakness, and I drop
All sorrow-with this tear.
Perhaps your settled grief to soothe,
I should not vainly strive,
But with soft balm your pain assuage,
Had he been still alive;
Whose frequent aid brought kind relief,
In my distress of thought,
Ting'd with his beams my cloudy page,
And beautified a fault:
To touch our passions' secret springs
Was his peculiar care;
And deep his happy genius div'd
In bosoms of the fair;
Nature, which favours to the few,
All art beyond, imparts,
To him presented, at his birth,
The key of human hearts.
But not to me by him bequeath'd
His gentle, smooth address;
His tender hand to touch the wound
In throbbing of distress;
Howe'er, proceed I must, unbless'd
With Esculapian art:
Know, love sometimes, mistaken love!
Plays disaffection's part:
Nor lands, nor seas, nor suns, nor stars,
Can soul from soul divide;
They correspond from distant worlds,
Though transports are denied:
Are you not, then, unkindly kind?
Is not your love severe?
O! stop that crystal source of woe;
Nor wound him with a tear.
As those above from human bliss
Receive increase of joy;
May not a stroke from human woe,
In part, their peace destroy?
He lives in those he left;-to what?
Your, now, paternal care,
Clear from its cloud your brighten'd eye,
It will discern him there;
In features, not of form alone,
But those, I trust, of mind;
Auspicious to the public weal,
And to their fate resign'd.
Think on the tempests he sustain'd;
Revolve his battles won;
And let those prophesy your joy
From such a father's son:
Is consolation what you seek?
Fan, then, his martial fire:
And animate to flame the sparks
Bequeath'd him by his sire:
As nothing great is born in haste,
Wise nature's time allow;
His father's laurels may descend,
And flourish on his brow.
Nor, madam! be surpris'd to hear
That laurels may be due
Not more to heroes of the field,
(Proud boasters!) than to you:
Tender as is the female frame,
Like that brave man you mourn,
You are a soldier, and to fight
Superior battles born;
Beneath a banner nobler far
Than ever was unfurl'd
In fields of blood; a banner bright!
High wav'd o'er all the world.
It, like a streaming meteor, casts
A universal light;
Sheds day, sheds more, eternal day
On nations whelm'd in night.
Beneath that banner, what exploit
Can mount our glory higher,
Than to sustain the dreadful blow,
When those we love expire?
Go forth a moral Amazon;
Arm'd with undaunted thought;
The battle won, though costing dear,
You'll think it cheaply bought:
The passive hero, who sits down
Unactive, and can smile
Beneath affliction's galling load,
Out-acts a Caesar's toil:
The billows stain'd by slaughter'd foes
Inferior praise afford;
Reason's a bloodless conqueror,
More glorious than the sword.
Nor can the thunders of huzzas,
From shouting nations, cause
Such sweet delight, as from your heart
Soft whispers of applause:
The dear deceas'd so fam'd in arms,
With what delight he'll view
His triumphs on the main outdone,
Thus conquer'd, twice, by you.
Share his delight; take heed to shun
Of bosoms most diseas'd
That odd distemper, an absurd
Reluctance to be pleas'd:
Some seem in love with sorrow's charms,
And that foul fiend embrace:
This temper let me justly brand,
And stamp it with disgrace:
Sorrow! of horrid parentage!
Thou second-born of hell!
Against heaven's endless mercies pour'd
How dar'st thou to rebel?
From black and noxious vapours bred,
And nurs'd by want of thought,
And to the door of phrensy's self
By perseverance brought,
Thy most inglorious, coward tears
From brutal eyes have ran:
Smiles, incommunicable smiles!
Are radiant marks of man;
They cast a sudden glory round
Th' illumin'd human face;
And light in sons of honest joy
Some beams of Moses' face:
Is resignation's lesson hard?
Examine, we shall find
That duty gives up little more
Than anguish of the mind;
Resign; and all the load of life
That moment you remove,
Its heavy tax, ten thousand cares
Devolve on one above;
Who bids us lay our burthen down
On his almighty hand,
Softens our duty to relief,
To blessing a command.
For joy what cause! how every sense
Is courted from above
The year around, with presents rich,
The growth of endless love!
But most o'erlook the blessings pour'd,
Forget the wonders done,
And terminate, wrapp'd up in sense,
Their prospect at the sun;
From that, their final point of view,
From that their radiant goal,
On travel infinite of thought,
Sets out the nobler soul,
Broke loose from time's tenacious ties,
And earth's involving gloom,
To range at last its vast domain,
And talk with worlds to come:
They let unmark'd, and unemploy'd,
Life's idle moments run;
And doing nothing for themselves,
Imagine nothing done;
Fatal mistake! their fate goes on,
Their dread account proceeds,
And their not doing is set down
Amongst their darkest deeds;
Though man sits still, and takes his ease;
God is at work on man;
No means, no moment unemployed,
To bless him, if he can.
But man consents not, boldly bent
To fashion his own fate;
Man, a mere bungler in the trade,
Repents his crime too late;
Hence loud laments: let me thy cause,
Indulgent father! plead;
Of all the wretches we deplore,
Not one by thee was made.
What is thy whole creation fair?
Of love divine the child;
Love brought it forth; and, from its birth,
Has o'er it fondly smil'd:
Now, and through periods distant far,
Long ere the world began,
Heaven is, and has in travail been,
Its birth the good of man;
Man holds in constant service bound
The blustering winds and seas;
Nor suns disdain to travel hard
Their master, man, to please:
To final good the worst events
Through secret channels run;
Finish for man their destin'd course,
As 'twas for man begun.
One point (observ'd, perhaps, by few)
Has often smote, and smites
My mind, as demonstration strong;
That heaven in man delights:
What's known to man of things unseen,
Of future worlds, or fates?
So much, nor more, than what to man's
Sublime affairs relates;
What's revelation then? a list,
An inventory just
Of that poor insect's goods, so late
Call'd out of night and dust.
What various motives to rejoice!
To render joy sincere,
Has this no weight? our joy is felt
Beyond this narrow sphere:
Would we in heaven new heaven create,
And double its delight?
A smiling world, when heaven looks down,
How pleasing in its sight!
Angels stoop forward from their thrones
To hear its joyful lays;
As incense sweet enjoy, and join,
Its aromatic praise:
Have we no cause to fear the stroke
Of heaven's avenging rod,
When we presume to counteract
A sympathetic God?
If we resign, our patience makes
His rod an armless wand;
If not, it darts a serpent's sting,
Like that in Moses' hand;
Like that, it swallows up whate'er
Earth's vain magicians bring,
Whose baffled arts would boast below
Of joys a rival spring.
Consummate love! the list how large
Of blessings from thy hand!
To banish sorrow, and be blest,
Is thy supreme command.
Are such commands but ill obey'd?
Of bliss, shall we complain?
The man, who dares to be a wretch,
Deserves still greater pain.
Joy is our duty, glory, health;
The sunshine of the soul;
Our best encomium on the power
Who sweetly plans the whole:
Joy is our Eden still possess'd:
Begone, ignoble grief!
'Tis joy makes gods, and men exalts,
Their nature, our relief;
Relief, for man to that must stoop,
And his due distance know;
Transport's the language of the sides,
Content the style below.
Content is joy, and joy in pain
Is joy and virtue too;
Thus, whilst good present we possess,
More precious we pursue:
Of joy the more we have in hand,
The more have we to come;
Joy, like our money, interest bears,
Which daily swells the sum.
'But how to smile; to stem the tide
Of nature in our veins;
Is it not hard to weep in joy?
What then to smile in pains?'
Victorious joy! which breaks the clouds,
And struggles through a storm;
Proclaims the mind as great, as good
And bids it doubly charm:
If doubly charming in our sex,
A sex, by nature, bold;
What then in yours? 'tis diamond there
Triumphant o'er our gold.
And should not this complaint repress,
And check the rising sigh?
Yet farther opiate to your pain
I labour to supply.
Since spirits greatly damp'd distort
Ideas of delight,
Look through the medium of a friend,
To set your notions right:
As tears the sight, grief dims the soul;
Its object dark appears;
True friendship, like a rising sun,
The soul's horizon clears.
A friend's an optic to the mind
With sorrow clouded o'er;
And gives it strength of sight to see
Redress unseen before.
Reason is somewhat rough in man;
Extremely smooth and fair,
When she, to grace her manly strength,
Assumes a female air:
A friend(51) you have, and I the same,
Whose prudent, soft address
Will bring to life those healing thoughts
Which died in your distress;
That friend, the spirit of my theme
Extracting for your ease,
Will leave to me the dreg, in thoughts
Too common; such as these:
Let those lament to whom full bowls
Of sparkling joys are given;
That triple bane inebriates life,
Imbitters death, and hazards heaven:
Woe to the soul at perfect ease!
'Tis brewing perfect pains;
Lull'd reason sleeps, the pulse is king;
Despotic body reigns;
Have you(52) ne'er pitied joy's gay scenes,
And deem'd their glory dark?
Alas! poor envy! she's stone-blind,
And quite mistakes her mark:
Her mark lies hid in sorrow's shades,
But sorrow well subdu'd;
And in proud fortune's frown defied
By meek, unborrow'd good.
By resignation; all in that
A double friend may find,
A wing to heaven, and, while on earth,
The pillow of mankind:
On pillows void of down, for rest
Our restless hopes we place;
When hopes of heaven lie warm at heart,
Our hearts repose in peace:
The peace, which resignation yields,
Who feel alone can guess;
'Tis disbeliev'd by murmuring minds,
They must conclude it less:
The loss, or gain, of that alone
Have we to hope or fear;
That fate controls, and can invert
The seasons of the year:
O! the dark days, the year around,
Of an impatient mind!
Thro' clouds, and storms, a summer breaks,
To shine on the resign'd:
While man by that of every grace,
And virtue, is possess'd;
Foul vice her pandaemonium builds
In the rebellious breast;
By resignation we defeat
The worst that can annoy;
And suffer, with far more repose,
Than worldlings can enjoy.
From small experience this I speak;
O! grant to those I love
Experience fuller far, ye powers,
Who form our fates above!
My love were due, if not to those
Who, leaving grandeur, came
To shine on age in mean recess,
And light me to my theme!
A theme themselves! A theme, how rare!
The charms, which they display,
To triumph over captive heads,
Are set in bright array:
With his own arms proud man's o'ercome,
His boasted laurels die:
Learning and genius, wiser grown,
To female bosoms fly.
This revolution, fix'd by fate,
In fable was foretold;
The dark prediction puzzled wits,
Nor could the learn'd unfold:
But as those ladies'(53) works I read,
They darted such a ray,
The latent sense burst out at once,
And shone in open day:
So burst, full ripe, distended fruits,
When strongly strikes the sun;
And from the purple grape unpress'd
Spontaneous nectars run.
Pallas, ('tis said,) when Jove grew dull,
Forsook his drowsy brain;
And sprightly leap'd into the throne
Of wisdom's brighter reign;
Her helmet took; that is, shot rays
Of formidable wit;
And lance,-or, genius most acute,
Which lines immortal writ;
And gorgon shield,-or, power to fright
Man's folly, dreadful shone,
And many a blockhead (easy change!)
Turn'd, instantly, to stone.
Our authors male, as, then, did Jove,
Now scratch a damag'd head,
And call for what once quarter'd there,
But find the goddess fled.
The fruit of knowledge, golden fruit!
That once forbidden tree,
Hedg'd-in by surly man, is now
To Britain's daughters free:
In Eve (we know) of fruit so fair
The noble thirst began;
And they, like her, have caus'd a fall,
A fall of fame in man:
And since of genius in our sex,
O Addison! with thee
The sun is set; how I rejoice
This sister lamp to see!
It sheds, like Cynthia, silver beams
On man's nocturnal state;
His lessen'd light, and languid powers,
I show, whilst I relate.
Resignation Pt 2
But what in either sex, beyond
All parts, our glory crowns?
'In ruffling seasons to be calm,
And smile, when fortune frowns.'
Heaven's choice is safer than our own;
Of ages past inquire,
What the most formidable fate?
'To have our own desire.'
If, in your wrath, the worst of foes
You wish extremely ill;
Expose him to the thunder's stroke,
Or that of his own will.
What numbers, rushing down the steep
Of inclination strong,
Have perish'd in their ardent wish!
Wish ardent, ever wrong!
'Tis resignation's full reverse,
Most wrong, as it implies
Error most fatal in our choice,
Detachment from the skies.
By closing with the skies, we make
Omnipotence our own;
That done, how formidable ill's
Whole army is o'erthrown!
No longer impotent, and frail,
Ourselves above we rise:
We scarce believe ourselves below!
We trespass on the skies!
The Lord, the soul, and source of all,
Whilst man enjoys his ease,
Is executing human will,
In earth, and air, and seas;
Beyond us, what can angels boast?
Archangels what require?
Whate'er below, above, is done,
Is done as-we desire.
What glory this for man so mean,
Whose life is but a span!
This is meridian majesty!
This, the sublime of man!
Beyond the boast of pagan song
My sacred subject shines!
And for a foil the lustre takes
Of Rome's exalted lines.
'All, that the sun surveys, subdued,
But Cato's mighty mind.'
How grand! most true; yet far beneath
The soul of the resign'd:
To more than kingdoms, more than worlds,
To passion that gives law;
Its matchless empire could have kept
Great Cato's pride in awe;
That fatal pride, whose cruel point
Transfix'd his noble breast;
Far nobler! if his fate sustain'd
And left to heaven the rest;
Then he the palm had borne away,
At distance Caesar thrown;
Put him off cheaply with the world,
And made the skies his own.
What cannot resignation do?
It wonders can perform;
That powerful charm, 'Thy will be done,'
Can lay the loudest storm.
Come, resignation! then, from fields,
Where, mounted on the wing,
A wing of flame, blest martyrs' souls
Ascended to their king.
Who is it calls thee? one whose need
Transcends the common size;
Who stands in front against a foe
To which no equal rise:
In front he stands, the brink he treads
Of an eternal state;
How dreadful his appointed post!
How strongly arm'd by fate:
His threatening foe! what shadows deep
O'erwhelm his gloomy brow!
His dart tremendous! -at fourscore
My sole asylum, thou!
Haste, then, O resignation! haste,
'Tis thine to reconcile
My foe, and me; at thy approach
My foe begins to smile:
O! for that summit of my wish,
Whilst here I draw my breath,
That promise of eternal life,
A glorious smile in death:
What sight, heaven's azure arch beneath,
Has most of heaven to boast?
The man resign'd; at once serene,
And giving up the ghost.
At death's arrival they shall smile,
Who, not in life o'er gay,
Serious and frequent thought send out
To meet him on his way:
My gay coevals! (such there are)
If happiness is dear;
Approaching death's alarming day
Discreetly let us fear:
The fear of death is truly wise,
Till wisdom can rise higher;
And, arm'd with pious fortitude,
Death dreaded once, desire:
Grand climacteric vanities
The vainest will despise;
Shock'd, when beneath the snow of age
Man immaturely dies:
But am not I myself the man?
No need abroad to roam
In quest of faults to be chastis'd;
What cause to blush at home?
In life's decline, when men relapse
Into the sports of youth,
The second child out-fools the first,
And tempts the lash of truth;
Shall a mere truant from the grave
With rival boys engage?
His trembling voice attempt to sing,
And ape the poet's rage?
Here, madam! let me visit one,
My fault who, partly, shares,
And tell myself, by telling him,
What more becomes our years;
And if your breast with prudent zeal
For resignation glows,
You will not disapprove a just
Resentment at its foes.
In youth, Voltaire! our foibles plead
For some indulgence due;
When heads are white, their thoughts and aims
Should change their colour too:
How are you cheated by your wit!
Old age is bound to pay,
By nature's law, a mind discreet,
For joys it takes away;
A mighty change is wrought by years,
Reversing human lot;
In age 'tis honour to lie hid,
'Tis praise to be forgot;
The wise, as flowers, which spread at noon,
And all their charms expose,
When evening damps and shades descend,
Their evolutions close.
What though your muse has nobly soar'd,
Is that our truth sublime?
Ours, hoary friend! is to prefer
Eternity to time:
Why close a life so justly fam'd
With such bold trash as this? (54)
This for renown? yes, such as makes
Obscurity a bliss:
Your trash, with mine, at open war,
Is obstinately bent,(55)
Like wits below, to sow your tares
Of gloom and discontent:
With so much sunshine at command,
Why light with darkness mix?
Why dash with pain our pleasure?
Your Helicon with Styx?
Your works in our divided minds
Repugnant passions raise,
Confound us with a double stroke,
We shudder whilst we praise;
A curious web, as finely wrought
As genius can inspire,
From a black bag of poison spun,
With horror we admire.
Mean as it is, if this is read
With a disdainful air,
I can't forgive so great a foe
To my dear friend Voltaire:
Early I knew him, early prais'd,
And long to praise him late;
His genius greatly I admire,
Nor would deplore his fate;
A fate how much to be deplor'd!
At which our nature starts;
Forbear to fall on your own sword.
To perish by your parts:
'But great your name'-To feed on air,
Were then immortals born?
Nothing is great, of which more great,
More glorious is the scorn.
Can fame your carcass from the worm
Which gnaws us in the grave,
Or soul from that which never dies,
Applauding Europe save?
But fame you lose; good sense alone
Your idol, praise, can claim;
When wild wit murders happiness,
It puts to death our fame!
Nor boast your genius, talents bright;
E'en dunces will despise,
If in your western beams is miss'd
A genius for the skies;
Your taste too fails; what most excels
True taste must relish most!
And what, to rival palms above,
Can proudest laurels boast?
Sound heads salvation's helmet seek,(56)
Resplendent are its rays,
Let that suffice; it needs no plume,
Of sublunary praise.
May this enable couch'd Voltaire
To see that-'All is right,'(57)
His eye, by flash of wit struck blind,
Restoring to its sight;
If so, all's well: who much have err'd,
That much have been forgiven;
I speak with joy, with joy he'll hear,
'Voltaires are, now, in heaven.'
Nay, such philanthropy divine,
So boundless in degree,
Its marvellous of love extends
(Stoops most profound!) to me:
Let others cruel stars arraign,
Or dwell on their distress;
But let my page, for mercies pour'd,
A grateful heart express:
Walking, the present God was seen,
Of old, in Eden fair;
The God as present, by plain steps
Of providential care,
I behold passing through my life;
His awful voice I hear;
And, conscious of my nakedness,
Would hide myself for fear:
But where the trees, or where the clouds,
Can cover from his sight?
Naked the centre to that eye,
To which the sun is night.
As yonder glittering lamps on high
Through night illumin'd roll;
My thoughts of him, by whom they shine,
Chase darkness from my soul;
My soul, which reads his hand as clear
In my minute affairs,
As in his ample manuscript
Of sun, and moon, and stars;
And knows him not more bent aright
To wield that vast machine,
Than to correct one erring thought
In my small world within;
A world, that shall survive the fall
Of all his wonders here;
Survive, when suns ten thousand drop,
And leave a darken'd sphere.
Yon matter gross, how bright it shines!
For time how great his care!
Sure spirit and eternity
Far richer glories share;
Let those our hearts impress, on those
Our contemplation dwell;
On those my thoughts how justly thrown,
By what I now shall tell:
When backward with attentive mind
Life's labyrinth I trace,
I find him far myself beyond
Propitious to my peace:
Through all the crooked paths I trod,
My folly he pursued;
My heart astray to quick return
Due resignation home to press
On my capricious will,
How many rescues did I meet,
Beneath the mask of ill!
How many foes in ambush laid
Beneath my soul's desire!
The deepest penitents are made
By what we most admire.
Have I not sometimes (real good
So little mortals know!)
Mounting the summit of my wish,
Profoundly plung'd in woe?
I rarely plann'd, but cause I found
My plan's defeat to bless:
Oft I lamented an event;
It turn'd to my success.
By sharpen'd appetite to give
To good intense delight,
Through dark and deep perplexities
He led me to the right.
And is not this the gloomy path,
Which you are treading now?
The path most gloomy leads to light,
When our proud passions bow:
When labouring under fancied ill,
My spirits to sustain,
He kindly cur'd with sovereign draughts
Of unimagin'd pain.
Pain'd sense from fancied tyranny
Alone can set us free;
A thousand miseries we feel,
Till sunk in misery.
Cloy'd with a glut of all we wish,
Our wish we relish less;
Success, a sort of suicide,
Is ruin'd by success:
Sometimes he led me near to death,
And, pointing to the grave,
Bid terror whisper kind advice;
And taught the tomb to save:
To raise my thoughts beyond where worlds
As spangles o'er us shine,
One day he gave, and bid the next
My soul's delight resign.
We to ourselves, but through the means
Of mirrors, are unknown;
In this my fate can you descry
No features of your own?
And if you can, let that excuse
These self-recording lines;
A record, modesty forbids,
Or to small bound confines:
In grief why deep ingulf'd? You see
You suffer nothing rare;
Uncommon grief for common fate!
That wisdom cannot bear.
When streams flow backward to their source,
And humbled flames descend,
And mountains wing'd shall fly aloft,
Then human sorrows end;
But human prudence too must cease,
When sorrows domineer,
When fortitude has lost its fire,
And freezes into fear:
The pang most poignant of my life
Now heightens my delight;
I see a fair creation rise
From chaos, and old night:
From what seem'd horror, and despair,
The richest harvest rose;
And gave me in the nod divine
An absolute repose.
Of all the plunders of mankind,
More gross, or frequent, none,
Than in their grief and joy misplac'd,
Eternally are shown.
But whither points all this parade?
It says, that near you lies
A book, perhaps yet unperus'd,
Which you should greatly prize:
Of self-perusal, science rare!
Few know the mighty gain;
Learn'd prelates, self-unread, may read
Their Bibles o'er in vain:
Self-knowledge, which from heaven itself
(So sages tell us) came,
What is it, but a daughter fair
Of my maternal theme?
Unletter'd and untravel'd men
An oracle might find,
Would they consult their own contents,
The Delphos of the mind.
Enter your bosom; there you'll meet
A revelation new,
A revelation personal;
Which none can read but you.
There will you clearly read reveal'd
In your enlighten'd thought,
By mercies manifold, through life,
To fresh remembrance brought,
A mighty Being! and in him
A complicated friend,
A father, brother, spouse; no dread
Of death, divorce, or end:
Who such a matchless friend embrace,
And lodge him in their heart,
Full well, from agonies exempt,
With other friends may part:
As when o'erloaded branches bear
Large clusters big with wine,
We scarce regret one falling leaf
From the luxuriant vine.
My short advice to you may sound
Obscure or somewhat odd,
Though 'tis the best that man can give,-
'E'en be content with God.'
Through love he gave you the deceas'd,
Through greater took him hence;
This reason fully could evince,
Though murmur'd at by sense.
This friend, far past the kindest kind,
Is past the greatest great;
His greatness let me touch in points
Not foreign to your state;
His eye, this instant, reads your heart;
A truth less obvious hear;
This instant its most secret thoughts
Are sounding in his ear:
Dispute you this? O! stand in awe,
And cease your sorrow; know,
That tears now trickling down, he saw
Ten thousand years ago;
And twice ten thousand hence, if you
Your temper reconcile
To reason's bound, will he behold
Your prudence with a smile;
A smile, which through eternity
Diffuses so bright rays,
The dimmest deifies e'en guilt,
If guilt, at last, obeys:
Your guilt (for guilt it is to mourn
When such a sovereign reigns) ,
Your guilt diminish; peace pursue;
How glorious peace in pains!
Here, then, your sorrows cease; if not,
Think how unhappy they,
Who guilt increase by streaming tears,
Which guilt should wash away;
Of tears that gush profuse restrain;
Whence burst those dismal sighs?
They from the throbbing breast of one
(Strange truth!) most happy rise;
Not angels (hear it, and exult!)
Enjoy a larger share
Than is indulg'd to you, and yours,
Of God's impartial care;
Anxious for each, as if on each
His care for all was thrown;
For all his care as absolute,
As all had been but one.
And is he then so near! so kind! -
How little then, and great,
That riddle, man! O! let me gaze
At wonders in his fate;
His fate, who yesterday did crawl
A worm from darkness deep,
And shall, with brother worms, beneath
A turf, to-morrow sleep;
How mean! -And yet, if well obey'd
His mighty Master's call,
The whole creation for mean man
Is deem'd a boon too small:
Too small the whole creation deem'd
For emmets in the dust!
Account amazing! yet most true;
My song is bold, yet just:
Man born for infinite, in whom
Nor period can destroy
The power, in exquisite extremes,
To suffer, or enjoy;
Give him earth's empire (if no more)
He's beggar'd, and undone!
Imprison'd in unbounded space!
Benighted by the sun!
For what the sun's meridian blaze
To the most feeble ray
Which glimmers from the distant dawn
Of uncreated day?
'Tis not the poet's rapture feign'd
Swells here the vain to please;
The mind most sober kindles most
At truths sublime as these;
They warm e'en me.-I dare not say,
Divine ambition strove
Not to bless only, but confound,
Nay, fright us with its love;
And yet so frightful what, or kind,
As that the rending rock,
The darken'd sun, and rising dead,
So formidable spoke?
And are we darker than that sun?
Than rocks more hard, and blind?
We are; -if not to such a God
In agonies resigned.
Yes, e'en in agonies forbear
To doubt almighty love;
Whate'er endears eternity,
Is mercy from above;
What most imbitters time, that most
And thus, by plunging in distress,
Exalts us to the spheres;
Joy's fountain head! where bliss o'er bliss,
O'er wonders wonders rise,
And an Omnipotence prepares
Its banquet for the wise:
Ambrosial banquet! rich in wines
Nectareous to the soul!
What transports sparkle from the stream,
As angels fill the bowl!
Fountain profuse of every bliss!
Good-will immense prevails;
Man's line can't fathom its profound
An angel's plummet fails.
Thy love and might, by what they know,
Who judge, nor dream of more;
They ask a drop, how deep the sea!
One sand, how wide the shore!
Of thy exuberant good-will,
The thousandth part who comprehends,
A deity is he.
How yonder ample azure field
With radiant worlds is sown!
How tubes astonish us with those
More deep in ether thrown!
And those beyond of brighter worlds
Why not a million more? -
In lieu of answer, let us all
Fall prostrate, and adore.
Since thou art infinite in power,
Nor thy indulgence less;
Since man, quite impotent and blind,
Oft drops into distress;
Say, what is resignation? 'T is
Man's weakness understood;
And wisdom grasping, with a hand
Far stronger, every good.
Let rash repiners stand appall'd,
In thee who dare not trust;
Whose abject souls, like demons dark,
Are murmuring in the dust;
For man to murmur, or repine
At what by thee is done,
No less absurd, than to complain
Of darkness in the sun.
Who would not, with a heart at ease,
Bright eye, unclouded brow,
Wisdom and goodness at the helm,
The roughest ocean plough?
What, though I'm swallow'd in the deep?
Though mountains o'er me roar?
Jehovah reigns! as Jonah safe,
I'm landed, and adore:
Thy will is welcome, let it wear
Its most tremendous form;
Roar, waves; rage, winds! I know that thou
Canst save me by a storm.
From the immortal spirits born,
To thee, their fountain, flow,
If wise; as curl'd around to theirs
Meandering streams below:
Not less compell'd by reason's call,
To thee our souls aspire,
Than to thy skies, by nature's law,
High mounts material fire;
To thee aspiring they exult,
I feel my spirits rise,
I feel myself thy son, and pant
For patrimonial skies;
Since ardent thirst of future good,
And generous sense of past,
To thee man's prudence strongly ties,
And binds affection fast;
Since great thy love, and great our want,
And men the wisest blind,
And bliss our aim; pronounce us all
Distracted, or resigned;
Resign'd through duty, interest, shame;
Deep shame! dare I complain,
When (wondrous truth!) in heaven itself
Joy ow'd its birth to pain?
And pain for me! for me was drain'd
Gall's overflowing bowl;
And shall one dropp to murmur bold
Provoke my guilty soul?
If pardon'd this, what cause, what crime
Can indignation raise?
The sun was lighted up to shine,
And man was born to praise;
And when to praise the man shall cease,
Or sun to strike the view;
A cloud dishonors both; but man's
The blacker of the two:
For oh! ingratitude how black!
With most profound amaze
At love, which man belov'd o'erlooks,
Astonish'd angels gaze.
Praise cheers, and warms, like generous wine;
Praise, more divine than prayer;
Prayer points our ready path to heaven;
Praise is already there.
Let plausive resignation rise,
And banish all complaint;
All virtues thronging into one,
It finishes the saint;
Makes the man bless'd, as man can be;
Life's labours renders light;
Darts beams through fate's incumbent gloom,
And lights our sun by night;
'T is nature's brightest ornament,
The richest gift of grace,
Rival of angels, and supreme
Proprietor of peace;
Nay, peace beyond, no small degree
Of rapture 't will impart;
Know, madam! when your heart's in heaven,
'All heaven is in your heart.'
But who to heaven their hearts can raise?
Denied divine support,
All virtue dies; support divine
The wise with ardour court:
When prayer partakes the seraph's fire,
'T is mounted on his wing,
Bursts thro' heaven's crystal gates, and
Sure audience of its king:
The labouring soul from sore distress
That bless'd expedient frees;
I see you far advanc'd in peace;
I see you on your knees:
How on that posture has the beam
Divine for ever shone!
An humble heart, God's other seat! (58)
The rival of his throne:
And stoops Omnipotence so low!
And condescends to dwell,
Well pleas'd, in such a cell?
Such honour how shall we repay?
How treat our guest divine?
The sacrifice supreme be slain!
Let self-will die: resign.
Thus far, at large, on our disease;
Now let the cause be shown,
Whence rises, and will ever rise,
The dismal human groan:
What our sole fountain of distress?
Strong passion for this scene;
That trifles make important, things
Of mighty moment mean:
When earth's dark maxims poison shed
On our polluted souls,
Our hearts and interests fly as far
Asunder, as the poles.
Like princes in a cottage nurs'd,
Unknown their royal race,
With abject aims, and sordid joys,
Our grandeur we disgrace;
O! for an Archimedes new,
Of moral powers possess'd,
The world to move, and quite expel
That traitor from the breast.
No small advantage may be reap'd
From thought whence we descend;
From weighing well, and prizing weigh'd
Our origin, and end:
From far above the glorious sun
To this dim scene we came:
And may, if wise, for ever bask
In great Jehovah's beam:
Let that bright beam on reason rous'd
In awful lustre rise,
Earth's giant ills are dwarf'd at once,
And all disquiet dies.
Earth's glories too their splendour lose,
Those phantoms charm no more;
Empire's a feather for a fool,
And Indian mines are poor:
Then levell'd quite, whilst yet alive,
The monarch and his slave;
Not wait enlighten'd minds to learn
That lesson from the grave:
A George the Third would then be low
As Lewis in renown,
Could he not boast of glory more
Than sparkles from a crown.
When human glory rises high
As human glory can;
When, though the king is truly great,
Still greater is the man;
The man is dead, where virtue fails;
And though the monarch proud
In grandeur shines, his gorgeous robe
Is but a gaudy shroud.
Wisdom! where art thou? None on earth,
Though grasping wealth, fame, power,
But what, O death! through thy approach,
Is wiser every hour;
Approach how swift, how unconfin'd!
Worms feast on viands rare,
Those little epicures have kings
To grace their bill of fare:
From kings what resignation due
To that almighty will,
Which thrones bestows, and, when they fail,
Can throne them higher still!
Who truly great? The good and brave,
The masters of a mind
The will divine to do resolv'd,
To suffer it resign'd.
Madam! if that may give it weight,
The trifle you receive
Is dated from a solemn scene,
The border of the grave;
Where strongly strikes the trembling soul
Eternity's dread power,
As bursting on it through the thin
Partition of an hour;
Hear this, Voltaire! but this, from me,
Runs hazard of your frown;
However, spare it; ere you die,
Such thoughts will be your own.
In mercy to yourself forbear
My notions to chastise,
Lest unawares the gay Voltaire
Should blame Voltaire the wise:
Fame's trumpet rattling in your ear,
Now, makes us disagree;
When a far louder trumpet sounds,
Voltaire will close with me:
How shocking is that modesty,
Which keeps some honest men
From urging what their hearts suggest,
When brav'd by folly's pen.
Assaulting truths, of which in all
Is sown the sacred seed!
Our constitution's orthodox,
And closes with our creed:
What then are they, whose proud conceits
Superior wisdom boast?
Wretches, who fight their own belief,
And labour to be lost!
Though vice by no superior joys
Her heroes keeps in pay;
Through pure disinterested love
Of ruin they obey!
Strict their devotion to the wrong,
Though tempted by no prize;
Hard their commandments, and their creed
A magazine of lies
From fancy's forge: gay fancy smiles
At reason plain, and cool;
Fancy, whose curious trade it is
To make the finest fool.
Voltaire! long life's the greatest curse
That mortals can receive,
When they imagine the chief end
Of living is to live;
Quite thoughtless of their day of death,
That birthday of their sorrow!
Knowing, it may be distant far,
Nor crush them till-to-morrow.
These are cold, northern thoughts, conceiv'd
Beneath an humble cot;
Not mine, your genius, or your state,
No castle is my lot:(59)
But soon, quite level shall we lie;
And, what pride most bemoans,
Our parts, in rank so distant now,
As level as our bones;
Hear you that sound? Alarming sound!
Prepare to meet your fate!
One, who writes finis to our works,
Is knocking at the gate;
Far other works will soon be weigh'd;
Far other judges sit;
Far other crowns be lost or won,
Than fire ambitious wit:
Their wit far brightest will be prov'd,
Who sunk it in good sense;
And veneration most profound
Of dread omnipotence.
'Tis that alone unlocks the gate
Of blest eternity;
O! mayst thou never, never lose
That more than golden key! (60)
Whate'er may seem too rough excuse,
Your good I have at heart:
Since from my soul I wish you well;
As yet we must not part:
Shall you, and I, in love with life,
Life's future schemes contrive,
The world in wonder not unjust,
That we are still alive?
What have we left? How mean in man
A shadow's shade to crave!
When life, so vain! is vainer still,
'Tis time to take your leave:
Happier, than happiest life, is death,
Who, falling in the field
Of conflict with his rebel will,
Writes vici, on his shield;
So falling man, immortal heir
Of an eternal prize;
Undaunted at the gloomy grave,
Descends into the skies.
O! how disorder'd our machine,
When contradictions mix!
When nature strikes no less than twelve,
And folly points at six!
To mend the moments of your heart,
How great is my delight
Gently to wind your morals up,
And set your hand aright!
That hand, which spread your wisdom wide
To poison distant lands:
Repent, recant; the tainted age
Your antidote demands;
To Satan dreadfully resign'd,
Whole herds rush down the steep
Of folly, by lewd wits possess'd,
And perish in the deep.
Men's praise your vanity pursues;
'Tis well, pursue it still;
But let it be of men deceas'd,
And you'll resign the will;
And how superior they to those
At whose applause you aim;
How very far superior they
In number, and in name!