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Of misery wait, and mark their future prey !
Ah! why, All-righteous Father, didst thou make
This creature, man? Why wake th' unconscious
To life and wretchedness? O better far
Still had he slept in uncreated night,
If this the lot of being !-Was it for this
Thy breath divine kindled within his breast
The vital flame? For this was thy fair image
Stamp'd on his soul in godlike lineaments ?
For this dominion given him absolute
O'er all thy creatures, only that he might reign
Supreme in wo? From the bless'd source of good
Could Pain and Death proceed? Could such foul il
Fall from fair Mercy's hands? Far be the thought,
The impious thought! God never made a creature
But what was good. He made a living man:
The man of death was made by man himself.
Forth from his Maker's hands he sprung to life,
Fresh with immortal bloom; no pain he knew,
No fear of death, no check to his desires,
Save one command. That one command, (which
stood "Twixt him and ruin, the test of his obedience,) Urg'd on by wanton curiosity He broke. There in one moment was undone The fairest of God's works. The same rash hand That pluck'd in evil hour the fatal fruit, Unbarr'd the gates of Hell, and let loose Sin And Death, and all the family of Pain, To prey upon mankind. Young Nature saw The monstrous crew, and shook through all her
frame. Then fled her new-born lustre, then began
Heaven's cheerful face to low'r: then vapours
chok'd The troubled air, and form'd a vale of clouds To hide the willing Sun. The earth, convuls'd With painful throes, threw forth a bristly crop Of thorns and briars; and insect, bird, and beast, That wont before with admiration fond To gaze at man, and fearless crowd around him, Now fled before his face, shunning in haste Th’infection of his misery. He alone Who justly might, th' offended Lord of man, Turn'd not away his face; he, full of pity, Forsook not in this uttermost distress His best-lov'd work. That comfort still remain'd, (That best, that greatest comfort in affliction) The countenance of God, and through the gloom Shot forth some kindly gleams, to cheer and warm Th' offender's sinking soul. Hope, sent from
Heaven, Uprais'd his drooping head, and show'd afar A happier scene of things; the promis'd seed Trampling upon the serpent's humbled crest, Death of his sting disarm'd, and the dank grave Made pervious to the realms of endless day, No more the limit, but the gate of life.
Cheer'd with the view, man went to till the earth From whence he rose; sentenc'd indeed to toil, As to a punishment; yet (ev’n in wrath So merciful is Heaven!) this toil became The solace of his woes, the sweet employ Of many a live-long hour, and surest guard Against disease and death.-Death, though de
nounc'd, Was yet a distant ill, by feeble arm
Of Age, his sole support, led slowly on.
Not then, as since, the short-liv'd sons of men
Flock'd to his realms in countless multitudes;
Scarce in the course of twice five hundred years
One solitary ghost went shivering down
To his unpeopled shore. In sober state,
Through the sequester'd vale of rural life,
The venerable patriarch guileless held
The tenor of his way; Labour prepar'd
His simple fare, and Temperance rul'd his board,
Tir'd with his daily toil, at early eve
He sunk to sudden rest; gentle and pure
As breath of evening zephyr, and as sweet
Were all his slumbers; with the Sun he rose,
Alert and vigilant as he, to run
His destin'd course. Thus nery'd with giant strength,
He stem'd the tide of time, and stood the shock
Of ages rolling harmless o'er his head.
At life's meridian point arriv’d, he stood,
And looking round saw all the valleys filld.
With nations from his loins; full well content
To leave his race thus scatter'd o'er the earth,
Along the gentle slope of life's decline
He bent his gradual way, till full of years
He dropt like mellow fruit into his grave.
Such in the infancy of time was man;
So calm was life, so impotent was death.
O, had he but preserv'd those few remains,
Those shatter'd fragments of lost happiness,
Snatch'd by the hand of Heaven from the sad wreck
Of innocence primeval, still had he liv'd
Great ev'n in ruin, though fallen, yet not forlorn ;
Though mortal, yet not every where beset
With Death in every shape! But he, impatient
To be completely wretched, hastes to fill up
The measure of his woes. "Twas man himself
Brought Death into the world, and man himself
Gave keenness to his darts, quicken'd his pace,
And multiplied destruction on mankind.
First Envy, eldest born of Hell, embru'd
Her hands in blood, and taught the sons of men
To make a death which Nature never made,
And God abhor'd, with violence rude to break
The thread of life, ere half its length was run,
And rob a wretched brother of his being.
With joy Ambition saw, and soon improv'd
The execrable deed. 'Twas not enough
By subtle Fraud, to snatch a single life,
Puny impiety! whole kingdoms fell
To sate the lust of pow'r; more horrid still,
The foulest stain and scandal of our nature
Became its boast.-One murder made a villain,
Millions a hero. Princes were privileg'd
To kill, and numbers sanctified the crime.
Ah! why will kings forget that they are men ?
And men that they are brethren? Why delight
In human sacrifice? Why burst the tics
Of nature, that should knit their souls together
In one soft bond of amity and love?
Yet still they breathe destruction, still go on
Inhumanly ingenious to find out
New pains for life, new terrors for the grave,
Artificers of Death! Still monarchs dream
Of universal empire growing up
From universal ruin.-Blast the design,
Great God of hosts, nor let thy creatures fall
Unpitied victims at Ambition's shrine !
Yet say, should tyrants learn at last to feel,
And the loud din of battle cease to roar;
Should dove-ey'd Peace o’er all the earth extend
Her olive branch, and give the world repose;
Would Death be foil'd? Would health, and strength,
Defy his power? Has he no arts in store,
No other shafts save those of war?--Alas!
Evin in the smile of Peace, that smile which sheds
A heavenly sunshine o'er the soul, there basks
That serpent Luxury. War its thousands slays,
Peace its ten thousands; in th' embattled plain,
Though Death exults, and claps his raven wings,
Yet reigns he not ev'n there so absolute,
So merciless, as in yon frantic scenes
Of midnight revel and tumultuous mirth,
Where in th' intoxicating draught conceal’d,
Or couch'd beneath the glance of lawless love,
He snares the simple youth, who nought suspecting
Means to be blest—but finds himself undone.
Down the smooth stream of life the stripling darts,
Gay as the morn ; bright glows the vernal sky,
Hope swells his sails, and fancy steers his course;
Safe glides his little bark along the shore,
Where virtue takes her stand; but if too far:
He launches forth, beyond discretion's mark,
Sudden the tempest scowls, the surges roar,
Blot his fair day, and plunge him in the deep.
O sad but sure mischance! O happier far
To lie like gallant Howe, 'midst Indian wilds,
A breathless corse, cut off by savage hands
In earliest prime, a generous sacrifice
To freedom's holy cause ; than so to fall,
Torn immature from life's meridian joys,
A prey to vice, intemperance, and disease.