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Strikes, like a pestilence, from breast to breast;
Riot, pride, perfidy, blue vapors breathe;
And inhumanity is caught from man,
From smiling man. A slight, a single glance,
And shot at random, often has brought home
A sudden fever to the throbbing heart,
Of envy, rancor, or impure desire.
We see, we hear, with peril; safety dwells
Remote from multitude; the world's a school
Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around!
We must or imitate; or disapprove;
Must list as their accomplices, or foes;
That stains our innocence; this wounds our peace.
From Nature's birth, hence, wisdom has been smit
With sweet recess, and languish'd for the shade.
This sacred shade, and solitude, what is it?
"Tis the felt presence of the Deity.
Few are the faults we flatter when alone,
Vice sinks in her allurements, is ungilt:
And looks, like other objects, black by night.
By night an atheist half-believes a God.
Night is fair virtue's immemorial friend;
The conscious Moon, through every distant age,
Has held a lamp to wisdom, and let fall,
On contemplation's eye, her purging ray.
The fam'd Athenian, he who woo'd from Heaven
Philosophy the fair, to dwell with men,
And form their manners, not inflame their pride,
While o'er his head, as fearful to molest
His laboring mind, the stars in silence slide,
And seem all gazing on their future guest,
See him soliciting his ardent suit
In private audience: all the livelong night,
Rigid in thought, and motionless, he stands;
Nor quits his theme, or posture, till the Sun
(Rude drunkard rising rosy from the main!)
Disturbs his nobler intellectual beam,
And gives him to the tumult of the world.
Hail, precious moments! stol'n from the black waste
Of murder'd time! Auspicious midnight! hail!
The world excluded, every passion husht,
And open'd a calm intercourse with Heaven,
Here the soul sits in council; ponders past,
Predestines future action; sees, not feels,
Tumultuous life, and reasons with the storm:
All her lies answers, and thinks down her charms.
What awful joy! what mental liberty!
I am not pent in darkness; rather say,
(If not too bold,) in darkness I'm embower'd.
Delightful gloom! the clustering thoughts around
Spontaneous rise, and blossom in the shade;
But droop by day, and sicken in the sun.
And hearts obdurate feel her softening shower;
Her golden harvest triumphs in the soil.
If so, Narcissa! welcome my Relapse;
I'll raise a tax on my calamity,
Thought borrows light elsewhere; from that first fire, Her seed celestial, then, glad wisdom sows;
Fountain of animation! whence descends
Urania, my celestial guest! who deigns
Nightly to visit me, so mean; and now,
Conscious how needful discipline to man,
From pleasing dalliance with the charms of night
My wandering thought recalls, to what excites
Far other beat of heart! Narcissa's tomb!
Or is it feeble Nature calls me back,
And breaks my spirit into grief again?
Is it a Stygian vapor in my blood?
A cold, slow puddle, creeping through my veins?
Or is it thus with all men?-Thus with all.
What are we? How unequal! Now we soar,
And now we sink: to be the same, transcends
Our present prowess. Dearly pays the soul
For lodging ill; too dearly rents her clay.
Reason, a baffled counsellor! but adds
The blush of weakness to the bane of woe.
The noblest spirit, fighting her hard fate,
In this damp, dusty region, charg'd with storms,
But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly;
Or, flying, short her flight, and sure her fall.
Our utmost strength, when down, to rise again;
And not to yield, though beaten, all our praise.
"Tis vain to seek in men for more than man.
Though proud in promise, big in previous thought,
Experience damps our triumph. I who late,
Emerging from the shadows of the grave,
Where grief detain'd me prisoner, mounting high,
Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,
And call'd mankind to glory, shook off pain,
Mortality shook off, in ether pure,
And struck the stars; now feel my spirits fail;
They drop me from the zenith; down I rush,
Like him whom fable fledg'd with waxen wings,
In sorrow drown'd-but not in sorrow lost.
How wretched is the man who never mourn'd!
I dive for precious pearl in sorrow's stream:
Not so the thoughtless man that only grieves;
Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain,
(Inestimable gain!) and gives Heaven leave
To make him but more wretched, not more wise.
If wisdom is our lesson (and what else
Ennobles man? what else have angels learnt?)
Grief! more proficients in thy school are made,
Than genius, or proud learning, e'er could boast.
Voracious learning, often over-fed,
Digests not into sense her motley meal.
This book-case, with dark booty almost burst,
This forager on others' wisdom, leaves
Her native farm, her reason, quite untill'd.
With mixt manure she surfeits the rank soil,
Dung'd, but not dress'd; and rich to beggary.
A pomp untamable of weeds prevails.
Her servant's wealth, encumber'd wisdom mourns.
And what says genius? "Let the dull be wise.". Genius, too hard for right, can prove it wrong; And loves to boast, where blush men less inspir'd. It pleads exemption from the laws of sense; Considers reason as a leveller;
And scorns to share a blessing with the crowd.
That wise it could be, thinks an ample claim
To glory, and to pleasure gives the rest.
Crassus but sleeps, Ardelio is undone.
Wisdom less shudders at a fool, than wit.
But wisdom smiles, when humbled mortals weep. When sorrow wounds the breast, as plows the glebe,
And reap rich compensation from my pain.
I'll range the plenteous intellectual field;
And gather every thought of sovereign power
To chase the moral maladies of man;
Thoughts, which may bear transplanting to the skies,
Though natives of this coarse penurious soil:
Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs sing,
Refin'd, exalted, not annull'd, in Heaven.
Reason, the sun that gives them birth, the same
In either clime, though more illustrious there.
These choicely cull'd, and elegantly rang'd,
Shall form a garland for Narcissa's tomb;
And, peradventure, of no fading flowers.
Say on what themes shall puzzled choice descond?
Th' importance of contemplating the tomb;
Why men decline it; suicide's foul birth;
The various kind of grief; the faults of age;
And death's dread character-invite my song.'
And, first, th' importance of our end survey'd. Friends counsel quick dismission of our grief: Mistaken kindness! our hearts heal too soon. Are they more kind than he, who struck the blow? Who bid it do his errand in our hearts, And banish peace, till nobler guests arrive, And bring it back, a true and endless peace? Calamities are friends: as glaring day Of these unnumber'd lustres robs our sight; Prosperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts Of import high, and light divine, to man.
The man how blest, who, sick of gaudy scenes,
(Scenes apt to thrust between us and ourselves!)
Is led by choice to take his favorite walk,
Beneath death's gloomy, silent, cypress shades,
Unpierc'd by vanity's fantastic ray;
To read his monuments, to weigh his dust,
Visit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs !
Lorenzo! read with me Narcissa's stone;
(Narcissa was thy favorite!) let us read
Her moral stone! few doctors preach so well;
Few orators so tenderly can touch
The feeling heart. What pathos in the date!
Apt words can strike: and yet in them we see
Faint images of what we, here, enjoy.
What cause have we to build on length of life?
Temptations seize, when fear is laid asleep;
And ill foreboded is our strongest guard.
See from her tomb, as from an humbler shrine,
Truth, radiant goddess! sallies on my soul,
And puts Delusion's dusky train to flight;
Dispels the mists our sultry passions raise,
From objects low, terrestrial, and obscene:
And shows the real estimate of things;
Which no man, unafflicted, ever saw;
Pulls off the veil from Virtue's rising charms;
Detects Temptation in a thousand lies.
Truth bids me look on men, as autumn leaves,
And all they bleed for, as the summer's dust,
Driven by the whirlwind: lighted by her beams,
I widen my horizon, gain new powers,
See things invisible, feel things remote,
Am present with futurities; think nought
To man so foreign, as the joys possest;
Nought so much his, as those beyond the grave.
No folly keeps its color in her sight;
Pale worldly wisdom loses all her charms;
In pompous promise, from her schemes profound,
If future fate she plans, 'tis all in leaves,
Like Sibyl, unsubstantial, fleeting bliss!
At the first blast it vanishes in air.
Not so, celestial: wouldst thou know, Lorenzo!
How differ worldly wisdom, and divine?
Just as the waning, and the waxing Moon.
More empty worldly wisdom every day;
And every day more fair her rival shines.
When later, there's less time to play the fool.
Soon our whole term for wisdom is expir'd:
(Thou know'st she calls no council in the grave:)
And everlasting fool is writ in fire,
Or real wisdom wafts us to the skies.
As worldly schemes resemble Sibyls' leaves, The good man's days to Sibyls' books compare, (In ancient story read, thou know'st the tale,) In price still rising, as in number less, Inestimable quite his final hour.
For that who thrones can offer, offer thrones;
Insolvent worlds the purchase cannot pay.
"Oh let me die his death!" all Nature cries.
"Then live his life."-All Nature falters there.
Our great physician daily to consult,
To commune with the grave, our only cure.
What grave prescribes the best?-A friend's;
From a friend's grave how soon we disengage!
E'en to the dearest, as his marble, cold.
Why are friends ravisht from us? "Tis to bind,
By soft affection's ties, on human hearts,
The thought of death, which reason, too supine,
Or misemploy'd, so rarely fastens there,.
Nor reason, nor affection, no, nor both
Combin'd, can break the witcherafts of the world
Behold, th' inexorable hour at hand!
Behold, th' inexorable hour forgot!
And to forget it, the chief aim of life,
Though well to ponder it, is life's chief end.
Is Death, that ever-threatening, ne'er remote,
That all-important, and that only sure,
(Come when he will) an unexpected guest?
Nay, though invited by the loudest calls
Of blind imprudence, unexpected still?
Though numerous messengers are sent before,
To warn his great arrival. What the cause,
The wondrous cause, of this mysterious ill?
All Heaven looks down astonish'd at the sight.
Is it, that life has sown her joys so thick,
We can't thrust in a single care between?
Is it, that life has such a swarm of cares,
The thought of death can't enter for the throng?
Is it, that time steals on with downy feet,
Nor wakes indulgence from her golden dream?
To-day is so like yesterday, it cheats;
We take the lying sister for the same.
Life glides away, Lorenzo! like a brook;
For ever changing, unperceiv'd the change.
In the same brook none ever bath'd him twice:
To the same life none ever twice awoke.
We call the brook the same; the same we think
Our life, though still more rapid in its flow;
Nor mark the much, irrevocably laps'd,
And mingled with the sea. Or shall we say
|(Retaining still the brook to bear us on)
That life is like a vessel on the stream?
In life embark'd, we smoothly down the tide
Of time descend, but not on time intent;
Amus'd, unconscious of the gliding wave;
Till on a sudden we perceive a shock;
We start, awake, look out; what see we there ?
| Our brittle bark is burst on Charon's shore.
Is this the cause death flies all human thought! Or is it judgment, by the will struck blind, That domineering mistress of the soul! Like him so strong, by Dalilah the fair? Or is it fear turns startled reason back, From looking down a precipice so steep? "Tis dreadful; and the dread is wisely plac'd, By Nature, conscious of the make of man. A dreadful friend it is, a terror kind,
A flaming sword to guard the tree of life.
By that unaw'd, in life's most smiling hour,
The good man would repine; would suffer joys,
And burn impatient for his promis'd skies.
The bad, on each punctilious pique of pride.
Or gloom of humor, would give rage the rein;
Bound o'er the barrier, rush into the dark,
And mar the schemes of Providence below.
What groan was that, Lorenzo ?-Furies! rise,
And drown in your less execrable yell
Britannia's shame. There took her gloomy flight,
On wing impetuous, a black sullen soul,
Blasted from Hell, with horrid lust of death.
Thy friend, the brave, the gallant Altamont,
So call'd, so thought-And then he fled the field.
Less base the fear of death, than fear of life.
O Britain, infamous for suicide!
An island in thy manners, far disjoin'd
From the whole world of rationals beside!
In ambient waves plunge thy polluted head,
Wash the dire stain, nor shock the continent.
But thou be shock'd, while I detect the cause
Of self-assault, expose the monster's birth,
And bid abhorrence hiss it round the world.
Blame not thy clime, nor chide the distant Sun;
The Sun is innocent, thy clime absolv'd:
Immortal climes kind Nature never made.
The cause I sing, in Eden might prevail,
And proves, it is thy folly, not thy fate.
The soul of man (let man in homage bow,
Who names his soul,) a native of the skies!
High-born, and free, her freedom should maintain,
Unsold, unmortgag'd for Earth's little bribes.
Th' illustrious stranger, in this foreign land,
Like strangers, jealous of her dignity,
Studious of home, and ardent to return,
Of Earth suspicious, Earth's enchanted cup
With cool reserve light touching, should indulge
On immortality, her godlike taste,
There take large draughts; make her chief banquet
But some reject this sustenance divine;
To beggarly vile appetites descend;
Ask alms of Earth, for guests that came from Heaven:
Sink into slaves; and sell, for present hire,
Their rich reversion, and (what shares its fate)
Their native freedom, to the prince who sways
This nether world. And when his payments fail,
When his foul basket gorges them no more,
Or their pall'd palates lothe the basket full;
Are instantly, with wild demoniac rage,
For breaking all the chains of Providence,
And bursting their confinement; though fast barr'd
By laws divine and human; guarded strong
With horrors doubled to defend the pass,
The blackest, nature, or dire guilt can raise;
And moated round with fathomless destruction,
Sure to receive, and whelm them in their fall.
Such, Britons! is the cause, to you unknown,
Or worse, o'erlook'd; o'erlook'd by magistrates,
Thus criminals themselves. I grant the deed
Is madness: but the madness of the heart.
And what is that? Our utmost bound of guilt.
A sensual, unreflecting life, is big
With monstrous births, and suicide, to crown
The black infernal brood. The bold to break
Heaven's law supreme, and desperately rush
Through sacred Nature's murder, on their own,
Because they never think of death, they die.
"Tis equally man's duty, glory, gain,
At once to shun, and meditate, his end.
When by the bed of languishment we sit,
(The seat of wisdom! if our choice, not fate,)
Or, o'er our dying friends, in anguish hang,
Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head,
Number their moments, and, in every clock,
Start at the voice of an eternity;
See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift
An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,
Then sink again, and quiver into death,
That most pathetic herald of our own!
How read we such sad scenes? As sent to man
In perfect vengeance? No; in pity sent;
To melt him down, like wax, and then impress,
Indelible, Death's image on his heart;
Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.
We bleed, we tremble, we forget, we smile.
The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry.
Our quick-returning folly cancels all;
As the tide rushing rases what is writ
In yielding sands, and smoothes the letter'd shore.
Lorenzo! hast thou ever weigh'd a sigh?
Or studied the philosophy of tears?
(A science, yet unlectur'd in our schools!)
Hast thou descended deep into the breast,
And seen their source? If not, descend with me,
And trace these briny rivulets to their springs.
Our funeral tears from different causes rise, As if from separate cisterns in the soul, Of various kinds, they flow. From tender hearts, By soft contagion call'd, some burst at once, And stream obsequious to the leading eye. Some ask more time, by curious art distill'd. Some hearts, in secret hard, unapt to melt, Struck by the magic of the public eye, Like Moses' smitten rock, gush out amain. Some weep to share the fate of the deceas'd, So high in merit, and to them so dear.
They dwell on praises, which they think they share, And thus, without a blush, commend themselves. Some mourn, in proof, that something they could love:
They weep not to relieve their grief, but show.
Some weep in perfect justice to the dead,
As conscious all their love is in arrear.
Some mischievously weep, not unappriz'd.
Tears, sometimes, aid the conquest of an eye.
With what address the soft Ephesians draw
Their sable net-work o'er entangled hearts!
As seen through crystal, how their roses glow,
While liquid pearl runs trickling down their cheek!
Of hers not prouder Egypt's wanton queen,
Carousing gems, herself dissolv'd in love.
Some weep at death, abstracted from the dead,
And celebrate, like Charles, their own decease.
By kind construction some are deem'd to weep,
Because a decent veil conceals their joy.
Some weep in earnest, and yet weep in vain; As deep in indiscretion, as in woe. Passion, blind passion! impotently pours Tears, that deserve more tears; while reason sleeps Or gazes like an idiot, unconcern'd; Nor comprehends the meaning of the storm; Knows not it speaks to her, and her alone. Irrationals all sorrow are beneath, That noble gift! that privilege of man! From sorrow's pang, the birth of endless joy. But these are barren of that birth divine: They weep impetuous, as the summer storm, And full as short! The cruel grief soon tam'd, They make a pastime of the stingless tale; Far as the deep-resounding knell they spread The dreadful news, and hardly feel it more. No grain of wisdom pays them for their woe.
Half-round the globe, the tears pump'd up by death Are spent in watering vanities of life; In making folly flourish still more fair, When the sick soul, her wonted stay withdrawn, Reclines on earth, and sorrows in the dust;
Instead of learning, there, her true support,
Though there thrown down her true support to learn,
Without Heaven's aid, impatient to be blest,
She crawls to the next shrub, or bramble vile,
Though from the stately cedar's arms she fell ;
With stale, forsworn embraces, clings anew,
The stranger weds, and blossoms, as before,
In all the fruitless fopperies of life:
Presents her weed, well fancied, at the ball,
And raffles for the death's-head on the ring.
So wept Aurelia, till the destin'd youth
Stepp'd in, with his receipt for making smiles,
And blanching sables into bridal bloom.
So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate;
Who gave that angel boy, on whom he dotes;
And died to give him, orphan'd in his birth!
Not such, Narcissa, my distress for thee.
I'll make an altar of thy sacred tomb,
To sacrifice to wisdom. What wast thou?
"Young, gay, and fortunate!" Each yields a theme.
I'll dwell on each, to shun thought more severe;
(Heaven knows I labor with severer still!)
I'll dwell on each, and quite exhaust thy death.
A soul without reflection, like a pile
Without inhabitant, to ruin runs.
Ask thought for joy; grow rich, and hoard within.
Think you the soul, when this life's rattles cease,
Has nothing of more manly to succeed?
Contract the taste immortal: learn e'en now
To relish what alone subsists hereafter.
Divine, or none, henceforth your joys for ever,
Of age the glory is, to wish to die.
That wish is praise, and promise; it applauds
Past life, and promises our future bliss.
What weakness see not children in their sires?
Grey-hair'd authority, to faults of youth,
How shocking! it makes folly thrice a fool,
And our first childhood might our last despise.
Peace and esteem is all that age can hope.
Nothing but wisdom gives the first; the last,
Nothing, but the repute of being wise.
Folly bars both; our age is quite undone.
What folly can be ranker? Like our shadows,
Our wishes lengthen, as our sun declines.
No wish should loiter, then, this side the grave.
Our hearts should leave the world, before the knell
Calls for our carcasses to mend the soil.
Enough to live in tempest, die in port:
Age should fly concourse, cover in retreat
Defects of judgment, and the will subdue;
Walk thoughtful on the silent, solemn shore
Of that vast ocean it must sail so soon;
And put good-works on board; and wait the wind
That shortly blows us into worlds unknown;
If unconsider'd too, a dreadful scene!
And, first, thy youth. What says it to grey hairs? Narcissa, I'm become thy pupil nowEarly, bright, transient, chaste, as morning dew, She sparkled, was exhal'd, and went to Heaven. Time on this head has snow'd; yet still 'tis borne Aloft; nor thinks but on another's grave. Cover'd with shame I speak it, age severe Old worn-out vice sets down for virtue fair; With graceless gravity, chastising youth, That youth chastis'd surpassing in a fault. Father of all, forgetfulness of death: As if, like objects passing on the sight, Death had advanc'd too near us to be seen: Or, that life's loan time ripen'd into right; And men might plead prescription from the grave; Deathless, from repetition of reprieve. Deathless? far from it! such are dead already: Their hearts are buried, and the world their grave.
Tell me, some god! my guardian angel! tell, What thus infatuates? what enchantment plants The phantom of an age, 'twixt us and death Already at the door? He knocks, we hear, And yet we will not hear. What mail defends Our untouch'd hearts? What miracle turns off The pointed thought, which from a thousand quivers Is daily darted, and is daily shunn'd? We stand, as in a battle, throngs on throngs Around us falling; wounded oft ourselves; Though bleeding with our wounds, immortal still! We see Time's furrows on another's brow, And Death intrench'd, preparing his assault. How few themselves in that just mirror see! Or, seeing, draw their inference as strong! There death is certain; doubtful here: he must, And soon; we may, within an age, expire. [green; Though grey our heads, our thoughts and aims are Like damag'd clocks, whose hand and bell dissent; Folly sings six, while Nature points at twelve.
Absurd longevity! More, more, it cries: More life, more wealth, more trash of every kind. And wherefore mad for more, when relish fails? Object, and appetite, must club for joy; Shall folly labor hard to mend the bow, Baubles, I mean, that strike us from without, While Nature is relaxing every string?
All should be prophets to themselves; foresee Their future fate; their future fate foretaste; This art would waste the bitterness of death. The thought of death alone, the fear destroys. A disaffection to that precious thought Is inore than midnight darkness on the soul, Which sleeps beneath it, on a precipice, Puff'd off by the first blast, and lost for ever.
Dost ask, Lorenzo, why so warmly prest,
By repetition hammer'd on thine ear,
The thought of death? That thought is the machine,
The grand machine! that heaves us from the dust,
And rears us into men. That thought, plied home,
Will soon reduce the ghastly precipice
O'er-hanging Hell, will soften the descent,
And gently slope our passage to the grave;
How warmly to be wish'd! What heart of flesh
Would trifle with tremendous? dare extremes?
Yawn o'er the fate of infinite? What hand,
Beyond the blackest brand of censure bold,
(To speak a language too well known to thee,)
Would at a moment give its all to chance,
And stamp the die for an eternity?
Aid me, Narcissa, aid me to keep pace
With Destiny; and ere her scissars cut
My thread of life, to break this tougher thread
Of moral death, that ties me to the world.
Sting thou my slumbering reason to send forth
A thought of observation on the foe;
To sally; and survey the rapid march
Of his ten thousand messengers to man;
Who, Jehu-like, behind him turns them all.
All accident apart, by Nature sign'd,
My warrant is gone out, though dormant yet;
Perhaps behind one moment lurks my fate.
Must I then forward only look for Death?
Backward I turn mine eye, and find him there
Man is a self-survivor every year.
Man, like a stream, is in perpetual flow
Death's a destroyer of quotidian prey.
My youth, my noon-tide, his; my yesterday,
The bold invader shares the present hour.
Each moment on the former shuts the grave.
While man is growing, life is in decrease;
And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.
Our birth is nothing but our death begun;
As tapers waste that instant they take fire.
Shall we then fear, lest that should come to pass,
Which comes to pass each moment of our lives?
If fear we must, let that death turn us pale,
Which murders strength and ardor; what remains
Should rather call on death, than dread his call.
Ye partners of my fault, and my decline!
Thoughtless of death, but when your neighbor's
(Rude visitant!) knocks hard at your dull sense,
And with its thunder scarce obtains your ear!
Be death your theme, in every place and hour;
Nor longer want, ye monumental sires!
A brother tomb to tell you ye shall die.
That death you dread (so great is Nature's skill!)
Know, you shall court before you shall enjoy.
But you are learn'd; in volumes, deep you sit;
In wisdom, shallow: pompous ignorance!
Would you be still more learned than the learn'd?
Learn well to know how much need not be known,
And what that knowledge, which impairs your sense.
Our needful knowledge, like our needful food,
Unhedg'd, lies open in life's common field;
And bids all welcome to the vital feast.
You scorn what lies before you in the page
Of Nature, and Experience, moral truth:
Of indispensable, eternal fruit;
Fruit, on which mortals feeding, turn to gods:
And dive in science for distinguish'd names,
Dishonest fomentation of your pride!
Sinking in virtue, as you rise in fame.
Your learning, like the lunar beam, affords
Light, but not heat; it leaves you undevout,
Frozen at heart, while speculation shines.
Awake, ye curious indagators! fond
Of knowing all, but what avails you known.
If you would learn Death's character, attend.
All casts of conduct, all degrees of health,
All dies of fortune, and all dates of age,
Together shook in his impartial urn,
Come forth at random: or, if choice is made,
The choice is quite sarcastic, and insults
All bold conjecture, and fond hopes of man.
What countless multitudes not only leave,
But deeply disappoint us, by their deaths!
Though great our sorrow, greater our surprise.
Like other tyrants, Death delights to smite,
What, smitten, most proclaims the pride of power,
And arbitrary nod. His joy supreme,
To bid the wretch survive the fortunate;
The feeble wrap th' athletic in his shroud;
And weeping fathers build their children's tomb:
Me thine, Narcissa!-What though short thy date?
Virtue, not rolling suns, the mind matures.
That life is long, which answers life's great end.
The time that bears no fruit, deserves no name;
The man of wisdom is the man of years.
In hoary youth Methusalems may die;
O how misdated on their flattering tombs!
Narcissa's youth has lectur'd me thus far.
And can her gaiety give counsel too?
That, like the Jews' fam'd oracle of gems,
Sparkles instruction; such as throws new light,
And opens more the character of death;
Ill-known to thee, Lorenzo! this thy vaunt:
Give Death his due, the wretched, and the old;
E'en let him sweep his rubbish to the grave;
Let him not violate kind Nature's laws,
But own man born to live as well as die."
Wretched and old thou giv'st him; young and gay
He takes; and plunder is a tyrant's joy.
What if I prove, "That furthest from the fear,
Are often nearest to the stroke of fate?"
All more than common, menaces an end.
A blaze betokens brevity of life:
As if bright embers should emit a flame,
Glad spirits sparkled from Narcissa's eye,
And made youth younger, and taught life to live.
As Nature's opposites wage endless war,
For this offence, as treason to the deep
Inviolable stupor of his reign,
Where lust, and turbulent ambition, sleep,
Death took swift vengeance. As he life detests,
More life is still more odious; and, reduc'd
By conquest, aggrandizes more his power.
But wherefore aggrandiz'd? By Heaven's decree,
To plant the soul on her eternal guard,
In awful expectation of our end.
Thus runs Death's dread commission: "Strike, but so
As most alarms the living by the dead."
Hence stratagem delights him, and surprise,
And cruel sport with man's securities.
Not simple conquest, triumph is his aim:
And, where least fear'd, there conquest triumphs most.
This proves my bold assertion not too bold.
What are his arts to lay our fears asleep?
Tiberian arts his purposes wrap up
In deep dissimulation's darkest night.
Like princes unconfest in foreign courts,
Who travel under cover, Death assumes
The name and look of life, and dwells among us.
He takes all shapes that serve his black designs:
Though master of a wider empire far
Than that o'er which the Roman eagle flew.
Like Nero, he's a fiddler, charioteer,
Or drives his phaeton in female guise;
Quite unsuspected, till, the wheel beneath,
His disarray'd oblation he devours.
He most affects the forms least like himself,
His slender self. Hence burly corpulence
Is his familiar wear, and sleek disguise.
Behind the rosy bloom he loves to lurk,
Or ambush in a smile; or wanton dive
In dimples deep; love's eddies, which draw in
Unwary hearts, and sink them in despair.
Such, on Narcissa's couch he loiter'd long
Unknown; and, when detected, still was seen
To smile; such peace has innocence in death!
Most happy they! whom least his arts deceive.
One eye on Death, and one full fix'd on Heaven,
Becomes a mortal, and immortal man.
Long on his wiles a piqu'd and jealous spy,
I've seen, or dreamt I saw, the tyrant dress;
Lay by his horrors, and put on his smiles.
Say, Muse, for thou remember'st, call it back,
And show Lorenzo the surprising scene;
If 'twas a dream, his genius can explain.
"Twas in a circle of the gay I stood.
Death would have enter'd; Nature push'd him back,
Supported by a doctor of renown,
His point he gain'd. Then artfully dismist
The sage; for Death design'd to be conceal'd.
He gave an old vivacious usurer
2 X 2