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The separating stroke
The thing that ends all other deeds,
Dissolution of our nature.
Law of nature, fix'd by fate.
Fate of all mankind.
Freed from the prison of their clay.
What is death?
Blood only stopp'd, and interrupted breath;
Death, with most grim and grisly visage seen,
On his pale steed erect the monarch stands,
The other shape,
(If shape it may be call'd, that shape had none
Or substance, that might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
What art thou, O thou great mysterious terror?
That day and night stand ready to receive us.
But what's beyond them? Who will draw this veil ?
Yet death's not there; no, 'tis a point of time,
The verge 'twixt mortal and immortal being—
It mocks our thought! HUGHES' SIEGE OF DAMASCUS.
'Tis what the guilty fear, the pious crave,
Sought by the wretch, and vanquish'd by the brave;
It eases lovers, sets the captive free,
And though a tyrant, offers liberty!
O harmless Death! whom still the valiant brave,
The wise expect, the sorrowful invite,
And all the good embrace, who know the grave
SIR W. DAVENANT.
Death we should prize as the first gift of nature;
As a safe inn, where weary travellers,
When they haye journey'd through a world of cares,
Whate'er death is,
Some dreadful thing, no doubt: for well thou know'st
To-day man's drest in gold and silver bright,
To-day he's nice, and scorns to feed on crumbs,
To-day he's honour'd, and in vast esteem,
To-morrow scorn'd, not one of them will wait;
Death generally comes without being called, and gives us no respite. He goes his rounds, day and night, and yet we live in as much security as if we thought he never would come near us.
Had we eyes sharp enough, we should see the arrows of death flying in all directions, and account it a wonder that our friends Cowper, escape them but a single day.
He that would live a little longer this day, would be as loth to die a thousand years heuce. Go we must at last; no matter how soon. It is the work of the Almighty to make us live long, but it is our business to make a short life sufficient; for people waste it, either in doing nothing, or doing that which does not belong to Bulstrode's Essays. It is the will of God and nature, that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life. This is but an embryo state, a preparation for living. A man is not completely born, till he is dead. Why, then, should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals, a new member added to their happy society? We are spirits, and bodies are lent us to aid us in doing good; it is a kind of benevolent act of God. When the reverse takes place, and the body is an inconvenience, a way is provided, by which we
may get rid of it. Death is that way.
Death is the king of terrors, and the terror of kings; 'tis the most terrible of all terribles. Wherever this horrid monster comes, he stagnates the movements of the blood, drives the breath out of the lungs, destroys all sensation in the nerves, puts an entire stop to all voluntary motion, tears the soul and body asunder, commands the man to leave the world and all his friends and sweetest enjoyments, turns the body to rottenness and ashes, summons the soul to appear before the great God in an invisible world, declares the good or bad qualities of the heart, seals up the character of all men, and bids us enter into a vast eternity, with the exercise of all our thinking powers, in a new way of perception and sensation, never be fore known or heard of in the whole history of man.
Ryland on the Beauties of Creation.
Ah! in what perils is vain life engag'd!
What slight neglects, what trivial faults, destroy
The hardiest frame! Of indolence, of toil,
We die; of want, of superfluity.
The all-surrounding heav'n, the vital air,
People form the most singular conception of the last struggle, the separation of the soul from the body; but this is all void of foundation. No man, certainly, ever felt what death is; and as insensibly as we enter into life, equally insensibly do we leave it. To die, means nothing more than to lose the vital power, by which the soul communicates sensation to the body; when that power ceases, man can have no sensation, of course no pain.
In proportion as this power decreases, we lose the power of sensation and of consciousness; and we cannot lose life, without at the same time, or before, losing our vital sensation, which requires the assistance of the tenderest organs. Experience tells us, that all those who ever passed through the first stage of death, felt nothing of dying; but sank at once into a state of insensibility. It is a mistake, to suppose that the convulsive throbs, the rattling in the throat, and the apparent pangs of death are painful; they are so, doubtless, to spectators; but the dying are not sensible of them,
The dreadful contortions of a person in an epileptic fit us; but the patient suffers nothing.
Men fear death, as children fear the dark; and as that natural fear is increased by frightful tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin and the passage to another world, is pious and wholesome; but the fear of it, as a debt due to nature, is weak and empty. Groans, convulsions, weeping friends, funeral ceremonies, and the like, show death terrible; yet there is no passion so weak, but can conquer the fear of it; and, of course, death is no such terrible enemy. Revenge, for instance, triumphs over death; love slights it; honour aspires to it; of shame prefers it; grief flies to it, and fear anticipates it. It is no less worthy of notice, how little alteration the approaches of death make in good minds, who appear the same to the last. Augustus died with a compliment; Tiberius in dissimulation; Vespasian with a jest; Galba with a sentence; and Septimus Severus with a form of despatch.
The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave;
Why should we fear to lose a thing, which being lost, can never be missed or lamented? And what matters it when it shall happen, since it is once inevitable? How ridiculous is it to trouble and afflict ourselves about taking the only step that is to deliver us from all misery and trouble! As our birth brought us to the birth of all things; so, in our death, is the death of all things included;
and therefore, to lament and take on,
that we shall not be alive one
hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not Death is the beginning of another life. Nothing can be grievous that occurs but once; and is it
alive one hundred years ago.