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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. 'Tis 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 flings 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,
And rights submitted left him none to seize.
At length his sov'reign frowns-the train of state
Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate:
Where'er he turns he meets a stranger's eye;
His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly;
Now drops at once the pride of awful state-
The golden canopy, the glitt'ring plate,
The regal palace, the luxurious board,
The liv'ried army, and the menial lord.
With age, with cares, with maladies oppressed,
He seeks the refuge of monastic rest.
Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings,
And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings.
On what foundation stands the warror's pride,
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide.
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;
O'er love, o'er fear, extends his wide domain,
Unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain.
No joys to him pacific sceptres yield—
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their pow'rs combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign:
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain; "Think nothing gained," he cries, "till naught remain!
On Moscow's walls till Gothic standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky!"
The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait.
Stern Famine guards the solitary coast,
And Winter barricades the realms of Frost.
He comes; nor want nor cold his course delay—
Hide, blushing Glory, hide Pultowa's day!
The vanquished hero leaves his broken bands,
And shows his miseries in distant lands,
Condemned a needy supplicant to wait
While ladies interpose and slaves debate.
But did not Chance at length her error mend?
Did no subverted empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
Or hostile millions press him to the ground?
His fall was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand.
He left the name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral or adorn a tale.
Where, then, shall Hope and Fear their objects find? 75
Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?
Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies?
Enquirer, cease; petitions yet remain
Which Heav'n may hear. Nor deem religion vain;
Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to Heav'n the measure and the choice,
Safe in His pow'r Whose eyes discern afar
The secret ambush of a specious 'pray'r;'
Implore His aid, in His decisions rest,
Secure, whate'er He'gives, He gives the best.
Yet when the sense of Sacred Presence fires,
And strong devotion to the skies aspires,
Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind,
Obedient passions, and a will resigned;
For love, which scarce collective man can fill;
For patience, sov'reign o'er transmuted ill;
For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind Nature's signal of retreat:
These goods for man the laws of Heav'n ordain;
These goods He grants Who grants the pow'r to gain;
With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find.
In ev'ry village marked with little spire,
Embow'red in trees, and hardly known to fame,