A Poem On The Last Day - Book I
While others sing the fortune of the great,
Empire and arms, and all the pomp of state;
With Britain's hero
set their souls on fire,
And grow immortal as his deeds inspire;
I draw a deeper scene; a scene that yields
A louder trumpet and more dreadful fields:-
The world alarm'd, both earth and heaven o'erthrown,
And gasping Nature's last tremendous groan;
Death's ancient sceptre broke, the teeming tomb,
The righteous Judge, and man's eternal doom.
'Twixt joy and pain I view the bold design,
And ask my anxious heart if it be mine.
Whatever great or dreadful has been done
Within the sight of conscious stars or sun,
Is far beneath my daring: I look down
On all the splendours of the British crown.
This globe is for my verse a narrow bound;
Attend me, all ye glorious worlds around!
O! all ye angels, howsoe'er disjoin'd,
Of every various order, place, and kind,
Hear and assist a feeble mortal's lays;
'Tis your eternal King I strive to praise.
But chiefly Thou, great Ruler, Lord of all!
Before whose throne archangels prostrate fall;
If at Thy nod, from discord and from night,
Sprang beauty, and yon sparkling worlds of light,
Exalt e'en me: all inward tumults quell;
The clouds and darkness of my mind dispel;
To my great subject Thou my breast inspire,
And raise my labouring soul with equal fire.
Man, bear thy brow aloft; view every grace
In God's great offspring, beauteous Nature's face:
See Spring's gay bloom; see golden Autumn's store;
See how Earth smiles, and hear old Ocean roar.
Leviathans but heave their cumbrous mail,
It makes a tide, and wind-bound navies sail.
Here, forests rise, the mountain's awful pride;
Here, rivers measure climes, and worlds divide;
There, valleys fraught with gold's resplendent seeds,
Hold kings and kingdoms' fortunes in their beds:
There, to the skies aspiring hills ascend,
And into distant lands their shades extend.
View cities, armies, fleets; of fleets the pride,
See Europe's law in Albion's Channel ride.
View the whole earth's vast landscape unconfined,
Or view in Britain all her glories join'd.
Then let the firmament thy wonder raise;
'T will raise thy wonder, but transcend thy praise.
How far from east to west? The labouring eye
Can scarce the distant azure bounds descry:
Wide theatre! where tempests play at large,
And God's right hand can all its wrath discharge.
Mark how those radiant lamps inflame the pole,
Call forth the seasons, and the year control:
They shine through time, with an unalter'd ray,
See this grand period rise, and that decay:
So vast, this world's a grain; yet myriads grace,
With golden pomp, the throng'd ethereal space;
So bright, with such a wealth of glory stored,
'T were sin in Heathens not to have adored.
How great, how firm, how sacred all appears!
How worthy an immortal round of years!
Yet all must drop, as autumn's sickliest grain,
And earth and firmament be sought in vain;
The tract forgot where constellations shone,
Or where the Stuarts fill'd an awful throne:
Time shall be slain, all Nature be destroy'd,
Nor leave an atom in the mighty void.
Sooner or later, in some future date,
(A dreadful secret in the book of fate!)
This hour, for aught all human wisdom knows,
Or when ten thousand harvests more have rose;
When scenes are changed on this revolving earth,
Old empires fall, and give new empires birth;
While other Bourbons rule in other lands,
And (if man's sin forbids not) other Annes;
While the still busy world is treading o'er
The paths they trod five thousand years before,
Thoughtless, as those who now life's mazes run,
Of earth dissolved, or an extinguish'd sun;
(Ye sublunary worlds, awake, awake!
Ye rulers of the nations, hear, and shake!)
Thick clouds of darkness shall arise on day,
In sudden night all earth's dominions lay;
Impetuous winds the scatter'd forests rend;
Eternal mountains, like their cedars, bend;
The valleys yawn, the troubled ocean roar,
And break the bondage of his wonted shore;
A sanguine stain the silver moon o'erspread;
Darkness the circle of the sun invade;
From inmost heaven incessant thunders roll,
And the strong echo bound from pole to pole.
When, lo, a mighty trump, one half conceal'd
In clouds, one half to mortal eye reveal'd,
Shall pour a dreadful note; the piercing call
Shall rattle in the centre of the ball;
The' extended circuit of creation shake,
The living die with fear, the dead awake.
O powerful blast! to which no equal sound
Did e'er the frighted ear of Nature wound,
Though rival clarions have been strain'd on high,
And kindled wars immortal through the sky;
Though God's whole enginery discharged, and all
The rebel angels bellow'd in their fall.
Have angels sinn'd? And shall not man beware?
How shall a son of earth decline the snare?
Not folded arms, and slackness of the mind,
Can promise for the safety of mankind:
None are supinely good; through care and pain,
And various arts, the steep ascent we gain.
This is the scene of combat, not of rest;
Man's is laborious happiness at best;
On this side death his dangers never cease;
His joys are joys of conquest, not of peace.
If then, obsequious to the will of fate,
And bending to the terms of human state,
When guilty joys invite us to their arms,
When beauty smiles, or grandeur spreads her charms,
The conscious soul would this great scene display,
Call down the' immortal hosts in dread array,
The trumpet sound, the Christian banner spread,
And raise from silent graves the trembling dead;
Such deep impression would the picture make,
No power on earth her firm resolve could shake;
Engaged with angels she would greatly stand,
And look regardless down on sea and land;
Not proffer'd worlds her ardour could restrain,
And Death might shake his threatening lance in vain!
Her certain conquest would endear the fight,
And danger serve but to exalt delight.
Instructed thus to shun the fatal spring
Whence flow the terrors of that day I sing,
More boldly we our labours may pursue,
And all the dreadful image set to view.
The sparkling eye, the sleek and painted breast,
The burnish'd scale, curl'd train, and rising crest,
All that is lovely in the noxious snake,
Provokes our fear, and bids us flee the brake:
The sting once drawn, his guiltless beauties rise
In pleasing lustre, and detain our eyes;
We view with joy what once did horror move,
And strong aversion softens into love.
Say, then, my Muse, whom dismal scenes delight,
Frequent at tombs, and in the realms of Night;
Say, melancholy maid, if bold to dare
The last extremes of terror and despair;
O say, what change on earth, what heart in man,
This blackest moment since the world began!
Ah mournful turn! The blissful Earth, who late
At leisure on her axle roll'd in state;
While thousand golden planets knew no rest,
Still onward in their circling journey press'd;
A grateful change of seasons some to bring,
And sweet vicissitude of fall and spring;
Some through vast oceans to conduct the keel,
And some those watery worlds to sink or swell;
Around her some, their splendours to display,
And gild her globe with tributary day:-
This world so great, of joy the bright abode,
Heaven's darling child, and favourite of her God,
Now looks an exile from her Father's care,
Deliver'd o'er to darkness and despair.
No sun in radiant glory shines on high;
No light, but from the terrors of the sky:
Fallen are her mountains, her famed rivers lost,
And all into a second chaos toss'd:
One universal ruin spreads abroad;
Nothing is safe beneath the throne of God.
Such, Earth, thy fate: what then canst thou afford
To comfort and support thy guilty lord?
Man, haughty lord of all beneath the moon,
How must he bend his soul's ambition down;
Prostrate, the reptile own, and disavow
His boasted stature and assuming brow;
Claim kindred with the clay, and curse his form,
That speaks distinction from his sister worm!
What dreadful pangs the trembling heart invade!
Lord, why dost Thou forsake whom Thou hast made?
Who can sustain Thy anger? who can stand
Beneath the terrors of Thy lifted hand?
It flies the reach of thought; O save me, Power
Of powers supreme, in that tremendous hour!
Thou who beneath the frown of Fate hast stood,
And in Thy dreadful agony sweat blood;
Thou, who for me, through every throbbing vein,
Hast felt the keenest edge of mortal pain;
Whom Death led captive through the realms below,
And taught those horrid mysteries of woe;
Defend me, O my God! O save me, Power
Of powers supreme, in that tremendous hour!
From east to west they fly, from pole to line,
Imploring shelter from the wrath Divine;
Beg flames to wrap, or whelming seas to sweep,
Or rocks to yawn, compassionately deep:
Seas cast the monster forth to meet his doom,
And rocks but prison up for wrath to come.
So fares a traitor to an earthly crown:
While death sits threatening in his prince's frown,
His heart's dismay'd; and now his fears command
To change his native for a distant land:
Swift orders fly, the king's severe decree
Stands in the channel, and locks up the sea;
The port he seeks, obedient to her lord,
Hurls back the rebel to his lifted sword.
But why this idle toil to paint that day,
This time elaborately thrown away?
Words all in vain pant after the distress,
The height of eloquence would make it less:
Heavens! how the good man trembles!-
And is there a Last Day? and must there come
A sure, a fix'd, inexorable doom?
Ambition, swell, and, thy proud sails to show,
Take all the winds that Vanity can blow;
Wealth, on a golden mountain blazing stand,
And reach an India forth in either hand;
Spread all thy purple clusters, tempting Vine,
And thou, more dreaded foe, bright Beauty, shine:
Shine all; in all your charms together rise;
That all, in all your charms, I may despise,
While I mount upward on a strong desire,
Borne, like Elijah, in a car of fire.
In hopes of glory to be quite involved!
To smile at death, to long to be dissolved!
From our decays a pleasure to receive,
And kindle into transport at a grave!
What equals this? And shall the victor now
Boast the proud laurels on his loaded brow?
Religion! O thou cherub, heavenly bright!
O joys unmix'd, and fathomless delight!
Thou, thou art all; nor find I in the whole
Creation aught but God and my own soul.
For ever then, my soul, thy God adore,
Nor let the brute creation praise Him more.
Shall things inanimate my conduct blame,
And flush my conscious cheek with spreading shame?
They all for Him pursue or quit their end;
The mounting flames their burning power suspend;
In solid heaps the' unfrozen billows stand,
To rest and silence awed by His command:
Nay, the dire monsters that infest the flood,
By nature dreadful, and athirst for blood,
His will can calm, their savage tempers bind,
And turn to mild protectors of mankind.
Did not the prophet this great truth maintain
In the deep chambers of the gloomy main,
When darkness round him all her horrors spread,
And the loud ocean bellow'd o'er his head?
When now the thunder roars, the lightning flies,
And all the warring winds tumultuous rise;
When now the foaming surges, toss'd on high,
Disclose the sands beneath, and touch the sky;
When death draws near, the mariners, aghast,
Look back with terror on their actions past;
Their courage sickens into deep dismay,
Their hearts, through fear and anguish, melt away;
Nor tears, nor prayers, the tempest can appease.
Now they devote their treasure to the seas;
Unload their shatter'd bark, though richly fraught,
And think the hopes of life are cheaply bought
With gems and gold: but O, the storm so high,
Nor gems nor gold the hopes of life can buy!
The trembling prophet then, themselves to save,
They headlong plunge into the briny wave.
Down he descends, and, booming o'er his head,
The billows close; he's number'd with the dead.
(Hear, O ye just! attend, ye virtuous few!
And the bright paths of piety pursue!)
Lo! the great Ruler of the world, from high,
Looks smiling down with a propitious eye,
Covers His servant with His gracious hand,
And bids tempestuous nature silent stand;
Commands the peaceful waters to give place,
Or kindly fold him in a soft embrace:
He bridles-in the monsters of the deep,
The bridled monsters awful distance keep;
Forget their hunger, while they view their prey,
And guiltless gaze, and round the stranger play.
But still arise new wonders. Nature's Lord
Sends forth into the deep His powerful word,
And calls the great leviathan: the great
Leviathan attends in all his state;
Exults for joy, and, with a mighty bound,
Makes the sea shake, and heaven and earth resound;
Blackens the waters with the rising sand,
And drives vast billows to the distant land.
As yawns an earthquake, when imprison'd air
Struggles for vent, and lays the centre bare,
The whale expands his jaws' enormous size:
The prophet views the cavern with surprise;
Measures his monstrous teeth, afar descried,
And rolls his wondering eyes from side to side;
Then takes possession of the spacious seat,
And sails secure within the dark retreat.
Now is he pleased the northern blast to hear,
And hangs on liquid mountains, void of fear;
Or falls immersed into the depths below,
Where the dead silent waters never flow;
To the foundations of the hills convey'd,
Dwells in the shelving mountain's dreadful shade:
Where plummet never reach'd, he draws his breath,
And glides serenely through the paths of death.
Two wondrous days and nights, through coral groves,
Through labyrinths of rocks and sands, he roves:
When the third morning with its level rays
The mountains gilds, and on the billows plays,
It sees the king of waters rise and pour
His sacred guest uninjured on the shore:
A type of that great blessing, which the Muse
In her next labour ardently pursues.
A Poem On The Last Day - Book Iii
The book unfolding, the resplendent seat
Of saints and angels, the tremendous fate
Of guilty souls, the gloomy realms of woe,
And all the horrors of the world below,
I next presume to sing. What yet remains
Demands my last, but most exalted, strains.
And let the Muse or now affect the sky,
Or in inglorious shades for ever lie.
She kindles, she's inflamed so near the goal;
She mounts, she gains upon the starry pole;
The world grows less as she pursues her flight,
And the sun darkens to her distant sight.
Heaven, opening, all its sacred pomp displays,
And overwhelms her with the rushing blaze!
The triumph rings! archangels shout around!
And echoing Nature lengthens out the sound!
Ten thousand trumpets now at once advance;
Now deepest silence lulls the vast expanse;
So deep the silence, and so strong the blast,
As Nature died when she had groan'd her last.
Nor man nor angel moves: the Judge on high
Looks round, and with His glory fills the sky:
Then on the fatal book His hand He lays,
Which high to view supporting seraphs raise;
In solemn form the rituals are prepared,
The seal is broken, and a groan is heard.
And thou, my soul, (O fall to sudden prayer,
And let the thought sink deep!) shalt thou be there?
See on the left, (for by the great command
The throng divided falls on either hand,)
How weak, how pale, how haggard, how obscene!
What more than death in every face and mien!
With what distress, and glarings of affright,
They shock the heart, and turn away the sight!
In gloomy orbs their trembling eye-balls roll,
And tell the horrid secrets of the soul.
Each gesture mourns, each look is black with care,
And every groan is loaden with despair.
Reader, if guilty, spare the Muse, and find
A truer image pictured in thy mind.
Shouldst thou behold thy brother, father, wife,
And all the soft companions of thy life,
Whose blended interests levell'd at one aim,
Whose mix'd desires sent up one common flame,
Divided far; thy wretched self alone
Cast on the left, of all whom thou hast known;
How would it wound! What millions wouldst thou give
For one more trial, one day more to live!
Flung back in time an hour, a moment's space,
To grasp with eagerness the means of grace;
Contend for mercy with a pious rage,
And in that moment to redeem an age!
Drive back the tide, suspend a storm in air,
Arrest the sun; but still of this despair.
Mark, on the right, how amiable a grace!
Their Maker's image fresh in every face!
What purple bloom my ravish'd soul admires,
And their eyes sparkling with immortal fires!
Triumphant beauty! charms that rise above
This world, and in bless'd angels kindle love!
To the great Judge with holy pride they turn,
And dare behold the' Almighty's anger burn;
Its flash sustain, against its terror rise,
And on the dread tribunal fix their eyes.
Are these the forms that moulder'd in the dust?
O the transcendent glory of the just!
Yet still some thin remains of fear and doubt
The' infected brightness of their joy pollute.
Thus the chaste bridegroom, when the priest draws nigh,
Beholds his blessing with a trembling eye,
Feels doubtful passions throb in every vein,
And in his cheeks are mingled joy and pain,
Lest still some intervening chance should rise,
Leap forth at once, and snatch the golden prize;
Inflame his woe by bringing it so late,
And stab him in the crisis of his fate.
Since Adam's family, from first to last,
Now into one distinct survey is cast;
Look round, vain-glorious Muse, and you whoe'er
Devote yourselves to Fame, and think her fair;
Look round, and seek the lights of human race,
Whose shining acts Time's brightest annals grace;
Who founded sects; crowns conquer'd, or resign'd;
Gave names to nations, or famed empires join'd;
Who raised the vale, and laid the mountain low,
And taught obedient rivers where to flow;
Who with vast fleets, as with a mighty chain,
Could bind the madness of the roaring main:
All lost! all undistinguish'd! nowhere found!
How will this truth in Bourbon's palace sound?
That hour, on which the' Almighty King on high
From all eternity has fix'd His eye,
Whether His right hand favour'd, or annoy'd,
Continued, alter'd, threaten'd, or destroy'd;
Southern or eastern sceptre downward hurl'd,
Gave north or west dominion o'er the world;
The point of time, for which the world was built,
For which the blood of God Himself was spilt,
That dreadful moment is arrived.
Aloft, the seats of bliss their pomp display,
Brighter than brightness this distinguish'd day;
Less glorious, when of old the' eternal Son
From realms of night return'd with trophies won;
Through heaven's high gates when He triumphant rode,
And shouting angels hail'd the victor God.
Horrors, beneath, darkness in darkness, hell
Of hell, where torments behind torments dwell;
A furnace formidable, deep, and wide,
O'er-boiling with a mad sulphureous tide,
Expands its jaws, most dreadful to survey,
And roars outrageous for the destined prey.
The sons of light scarce unappall'd look down,
And nearer press Heaven's everlasting throne.
Such is the scene; and one short moment's space
Concludes the hopes and fears of human race.
Proceed who dares!-I tremble as I write;
The whole creation swims before my sight:
I see, I see, the Judge's frowning brow:
Say not, 'tis distant; I behold it now.
I faint, my tardy blood forgets to flow,
My soul recoils at the stupendous woe;
That woe, those pangs, which from the guilty breast,
In these, or words like these, shall be express'd:-
``Who burst the barriers of my peaceful grave?
Ah, cruel Death! that would no longer save,
But grudged me e'en that narrow dark abode,
And cast me out into the wrath of God;
Where shrieks, the roaring flame, the rattling chain,
And all the dreadful eloquence of pain,
Our only song; black fire's malignant light,
The sole refreshment of the blasted sight.
``Must all those powers Heaven gave me to supply
My soul with pleasure, and bring-in my joy,
Rise up in arms against me, join the foe,
Sense, Reason, Memory, increase my woe?
And shall my voice, ordain'd on hymns to dwell,
Corrupt to groans, and blow the fires of hell?
O! must I look with terror on my gain,
And with existence only measure pain?
What! no reprieve, no least indulgence given,
No beam of hope from any point of heaven?
Ah, Mercy! Mercy! art thou dead above?
Is love extinguish'd in the Source of Love?
``Bold that I am! did Heaven stoop down to hell?
The' expiring Lord of Life my ransom seal?
Have not I been industrious to provoke?
From His embraces obstinately broke?
Pursued, and panted for His mortal hate,
Earn'd my destruction, labour'd out my fate?
And dare I on extinguish'd love exclaim?
Take, take full vengeance, rouse the slackening flame;
Just is my lot-but O! must it transcend
The reach of time, despair a distant end?
With dreadful growth shoot forward, and arise,
Where Thought can't follow, and bold Fancy dies?
``NEVER! Where falls the soul at that dread sound?
Down an abyss how dark, and how profound!
Down, down, (I still am falling,-horrid pain!)
Ten thousand thousand fathoms still remain;
My plunge but still begun.-And this for sin?
Could I offend, if I had never been,
But still increased the senseless happy mass,
Flow'd in the stream, or shiver'd in the grass?
``Father of Mercies! why from silent earth
Didst Thou awake, and curse me into birth?
Tear me from quiet, ravish me from night,
And make a thankless present of Thy light?
Push into being a reverse of Thee,
And animate a clod with misery?
``The beasts are happy; they come forth, and keep
Short watch on earth, and then lie down to sleep.
Pain is for man; and O! how vast a pain,
For crimes which made the Godhead bleed in vain,
Annull'd His groans, as far as in them lay,
And flung His agonies and death away!
As our dire punishment for ever strong,
Our constitution too for ever young;
Cursed with returns of vigour, still the same,
Powerful to bear and satisfy the flame;
Still to be caught, and still to be pursued;
To perish still, and still to be renew'd!
``And this, my Help! my God! at Thy decree?
Nature is changed, and hell should succour me.
And canst Thou, then, look down from perfect bliss,
And see me plunging in the dark abyss?
Calling Thee Father in a sea of fire?
Or pouring blasphemies at Thy desire?
With mortals' anguish wilt Thou raise Thy name,
And by my pangs Omnipotence proclaim?
``Thou, who canst toss the planets to and fro,
Contract not Thy great vengeance to my woe;
Crush worlds; in hotter flames fallen angels lay:
On me Almighty wrath is cast away.
Call back Thy thunders, Lord, hold-in Thy rage,
Nor with a speck of wretchedness engage:
Forget me quite, nor stoop a worm to blame;
But lose me in the greatness of Thy name.
Thou art all love, all mercy, all Divine;
And shall I make those glories cease to shine?
Shall sinful man grow great by his offence,
And from its course turn back Omnipotence?
``Forbid it! and O! grant, great God, at least
This one, this slender, almost no request:
When I have wept a thousand lives away,
When torment is grown weary of its prey,
When I have raved ten thousand years in fire,
Ten thousand thousand, let me then expire.''
Deep anguish, but too late! The hopeless soul,
Bound to the bottom of the burning pool,
Though loath, and ever loud blaspheming, owns,
He's justly doom'd to pour eternal groans;
Enclosed with horrors, and transfix'd with pain,
Rolling in vengeance, struggling with his chain;
To talk to fiery tempests; to implore
The raging flame to give its burnings o'er;
To toss, to writhe, to pant beneath his load,
And bear the weight of an offended God.
The favour'd of their Judge in triumph move
To take possession of their thrones above;
Satan's accursed desertion to supply,
And fill the vacant stations of the sky;
Again to kindle long-extinguish'd rays,
And with new lights dilate the heavenly blaze;
To crop the roses of immortal youth,
And drink the fountain-head of sacred truth;
To swim in seas of bliss, to strike the string,
And lift the voice to their Almighty King;
To lose eternity in grateful lays,
And fill heaven's wide circumference with praise.
But I attempt the wondrous height in vain,
And leave unfinish'd the too lofty strain;
What boldly I begin, let others end;
My strength exhausted, fainting I descend,
And choose a less, but no ignoble, theme,-
Dissolving elements, and worlds in flame.
The fatal period, the great hour, is come,
And Nature shrinks at her approaching doom;
Loud peals of thunder give the sign, and all
Heaven's terrors in array surround the ball;
Sharp lightnings with the meteors' blaze conspire,
And, darted downward, set the world on fire;
Black rising clouds the thicken'd ether choke,
And spiry flames dart through the rolling smoke,
With keen vibrations cut the sullen night,
And strike the darken'd sky with dreadful light;
From heaven's four regions, with immortal force,
Angels drive-on the wind's impetuous course
To' enrage the flame: it spreads, it soars on high,
Swells in the storm, and billows through the sky:
Here winding pyramids of fire ascend,
Cities and deserts in one ruin blend;
Here blazing volumes, wafted, overwhelm
The spacious face of a far-distant realm;
There, undermined, down rush eternal hills,
The neighbouring vales the vast destruction fills.
Hear'st thou that dreadful crack? that sound which broke
Like peals of thunder, and the centre shook?
What wonders must that groan of Nature tell!
Olympus there, and mightier Atlas, fell;
Which seem'd above the reach of fate to stand,
A towering monument of God's right hand;
Now dust and smoke, whose brow so lately spread
O'er shelter'd countries its diffusive shade.
Show me that celebrated spot, where all
The various rulers of the sever'd ball
Have humbly sought wealth, honour, and redress,
That land which Heaven seem'd diligent to bless,
Once call'd Britannia: can her glories end?
And can't surrounding seas her realms defend?
Alas! in flames behold surrounding seas!
Like oil, their waters but augment the blaze.
Some angel say, Where ran proud Asia's bound?
Or where with fruits was fair Europa crown'd?
Where stretch'd waste Libya? Where did India's store
Sparkle in diamonds, and her golden ore?
Each lost in each, their mingling kingdoms glow,
And all, dissolved, one fiery deluge flow:
Thus earth's contending monarchies are join'd,
And a full period of ambition find.
And now whate'er or swims, or walks, or flies,
Inhabitants of sea, or earth, or skies;
All on whom Adam's wisdom fix'd a name;
All plunge and perish in the conquering flame.
This globe alone would but defraud the fire,
Starve its devouring rage: the flakes aspire,
And catch the clouds, and make the heavens their prey;
The sun, the moon, the stars, all melt away;
All, all is lost; no monument, no sign,
Where once so proudly blazed the gay machine.
So bubbles on the foaming stream expire,
So sparks that scatter from the kindling fire.
The devastations of one dreadful hour
The great Creator's six days' work devour.
A mighty, mighty ruin! yet one soul
Has more to boast, and far outweighs the whole;
Exalted in superior excellence,
Casts down to nothing such a vast expense.
Have you not seen the' eternal mountains nod,
An earth dissolving, a descending God?
What strange surprises through all nature ran!
For whom these revolutions, but for man?
For him, Omnipotence new measures takes,
For him, through all eternity awakes;
Pours on him gifts sufficient to supply
Heaven's loss, and with fresh glories fill the sky.
Think deeply then, O man, how great thou art;
Pay thyself homage with a trembling heart.
What angels guard, no longer dare neglect;
Slighting thyself, affront not God's respect.
Enter the sacred temple of thy breast,
And gaze, and wander there, a ravish'd guest;
Gaze on those hidden treasures thou shalt find,
Wander through all the glories of thy mind.
Of perfect knowledge, see, the dawning light
Foretells a noon most exquisitely bright!
Here springs of endless joy are breaking forth!
There buds the promise of celestial worth!
Worth, which must ripen in a happier clime,
And brighter sun, beyond the bounds of time.
Thou, minor, canst not guess thy vast estate,
What stores, on foreign coasts, thy landing wait:
Lose not thy claim: let virtue's path be trod;
Thus glad all heaven, and please that bounteous God,
Who, to light thee to pleasures, hung on high
Yon radiant orb, proud regent of the sky;
That service done, its beams shall fade away,
And God shine forth in one eternal day.
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!