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Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball,
O Thou Whose word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun, strike wisdom from my soul!
My soul, which flies to Thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.
Through this opaque of Nature and of soul,
This double night, transmit one pitying ray,
To lighten and to cheer! O lead my mind
(A mind that fain would wander from its woe),
Lead it through various scenes of life and death,
And from each scene the noblest truths inspire!
Nor less inspire my conduct than my song:
Teach my best reason, reason; my best will,
Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve
Wisdom to wed and pay her long arrear;
Nor let the vial of thy vengeance, poured
On this devoted head, be poured in vain!
By Nature's law, what may be, may be now;
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise
Than man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn?
Where is to-morrow? in another world:
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this “perhaps,”
This “peradventure," infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes, spin out eternal schemes
As we the Fatal Sisters could out-spin,
And, big with life's futurities, expire.
Not even Philander had bespoke his shroud,
Nor had he cause—a warning was denied :
How many fall as sudden, not as safe;
As sudden, though for years admonished home.
Of human ills the last extreme beware,
Beware, Lorenzo, a slow-sudden death!
How dreadful that deliberate surprise !
Be wise to-day; 't is madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 't is so frequent, this is stranger still.
While some affect the sun, and some the shade,
Some flee the city, some the hermitage,
Their aims as various as the roads they take
In journeying through life, the task be mine
To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb,
Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
These trav’llers meet. Thy succours I implore,
Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
The keys of hell and death.—The Grave, dread thing!
Men shiver when thou 'rt named: Nature, appalled,
Shakes off her wonted firmness. Ah, how dark
Thy long-extended realms and rueful wastes !
Where naught but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was chaos ere the infant sun
Was rolled together or had tried his beams
Athwart the gloom profound. The sickly taper
By glimm'ring through thy low-browed misty vaults,
Furred round with mouldy damps and ropy slime,
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,
Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms;
Where light-heeled ghosts and visionary shades,
Beneath the wan cold moon (as fame reports)
Embodied thick, perform their mystic rounds.
No other merriment, dull tree, is thine.
On this side and on that, men see their friends
Drop off, like leaves in autumn, yet launch out
Into fantastic schemes, which the long livers
In the world's hale and undegenerate days
Could scarce have leisure for; fools that we are,
Never to think of death and of ourselves
At the same time! as if to learn to die
Were no concern of ours. O more than sottish!
For creatures of a day in gamesome mood
To frolic on eternity's dread brink,
Unapprehensive, when, for aught we know,
The very first swoln surge shall sweep us in!
Think we, or think we not, time hurries on
With a resistless unremitting stream,
Yet treads more soft than e'er did midnight thief,
That slides his hand under the miser's pillow
And carries off his prize. What is this world?
What but a spacious burial-field unwalled,
Strewed with Death's spoils, the spoils of animals
Savage and tame, and full of dead men's bones!
The very turf on which we tread once lived;
And we that live must lend our carcases
To cover our own offspring; in their turns
They too must cover theirs. 'T is here all meet:
The shiv'ring Icelander and sun-burnt Moor;
Men of all climes, that never met before,
And of all creeds, the Jew, the Turk, the Christian.
Here the proud prince, and favourite yet prouder,
His sov'reign's keeper and the people's scourge,
Are huddled out of sight! Here lie abashed
The great negotiators of the earth,
And celebrated masters of the balance,
Deep read in stratagems and wiles of courts :
Now vain their treaty-skill; Death scorns to treat.
Here the o’erloaded slave Alings down his burden
From his galled shoulders; and when the stern tyrant,
With all his guards and tools of power about him,
Is meditating new unheard-of hardships,
Mocks his short arm, and, quick as thought, escapes
Where tyrants vex not and the weary rest.
Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel
When injured Thales bids the town farewell,
Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend
(I praise the hermit but regret the friend),
Resolved at length, from vice and London far,
To breathe in distant fields a purer air,
And, fixed on Cambria's solitary shore,
Give to St. David one true Briton more.
For who would leave, unbribed, Hibernia's land,
Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand?
There none are swept by sudden fate away,
But all whom hunger spares with age decay:
Here malice, rapine, accident conspire,
And now a rabble rages, now a fire;
Their ambush here relentless ruffians lay,
And here the fell attorney prowls for prey;
Here falling houses thunder on your head,
And here a female atheist talks you dead.
By numbers here from shame or censure free,
All crimes are safe but hated poverty.
This, only this, the rigid law pursues;
This, only this, provokes the snarling Muse;
The sober trader at a tattered cloak
Wakes from his dream and labours for a joke;
With brisker air the silken courtiers gaze,
And turn the varied taunt a thousand ways:
Of all the griefs that harass the distressed
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the gen'rous heart
Than when a blockhead's insult points the dart.
Has Heaven reserved, in pity to the poor,
No pathless waste or undiscovered shore?
No secret island in the boundless main ?
No peaceful desert yet unclaimed by Spain?
Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore,
And bear Oppression's insolence no more.
This mournful truth is ev'rywhere confessed:
Slow rises worth, by poverty depressed;
But here more slow, where all are slaves to gold,
Where looks are merchandise, and smiles are sold,
Where, won by bribes, by flatteries implored,
The groom retails the favours of his lord.
THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES
Let Observation, with extensive view,
Survey mankind from China to Peru,
Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife,
And watch the busy scenes of crowded life:
Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate,
O'erspread with snares the clouded maze of Fate,
Where wav'ring man, betrayed by vent'rous pride
To tread the dreary paths without a guide,
As treach'rous phantoms in the mist delude,
Shuns fancied ills or chases airy good;
How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice,
Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice;
How nations sink, by darling schemes oppressed,
When Vengeance listens to the fool's request.
Fate wings with ev'ry wish th' afflictive dart,
Each gift of nature and each grace of art:
With fatal heat impetuous courage glows,
With fatal sweetness elocution flows,
Impeachment stops the speaker's pow'rful breath,
And restless fire precipitates on death.
In full-blown dignity see Wolsey stand,
Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand :
To him the church, the realm, their pow'rs consign;
Through him the rays of regal bounty shine;
Turned by his nod the stream of honour flows;
His smile alone security bestows.
Still to new heights his restless wishes tow'r;
Claim leads to claim, and pow'r advances pow'r;
Till conquest unresisted ceased to please,