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By the whole sable tribe, that painful watch
The sick man's door, and live upon the dead,
By letting out their persons by the hour,
To mimic sorrow when the heart's not sad.
How rich the trappings! now they're all unfurl'd,
And glittering in the sun; triumphant entries
Of conquerors, and coronation pomps,
In glory scarce exceed. Great gluts of people
Retard th' unwieldy show; whilst from the case.
And houses' tops, ranks behind ranks, close wedg'd,
Hang bellying o'er. But tell us, why this waste ?
Why this ado in earthing up a carcass
That's fall'n into disgrace, and in the nostril
Smells horrible ?-Ye undertakers, tell us,
Midst all the gorgeous figures you exhibit,
Why is the principal conceal’d, for which
You make this mighty stir ?_'Tis wisely done :
What would offend the eye in a good picture,
The painter casts discreetly into shades.
Proud lineage ! now how little thou appear'st
Below the envy of the private man!
Honour! that meddlesome officious ill,
Pursues thee ev'n to death ; nor there stops short.
Strange persecution! when the grave itself
Is no protection from rude sufferance.
Absurd to think to overreach the Grave;
And from the wreck of names to rescue ours.
The best concerted schemes men lay for fame,
Die fast away; only themselves die faster.
The far-fam'd sculptor, and the laurell'd bard,
These bold insurancers of deathless fame,
Supply their little feeble aids in vain.
The tapering pyramid, th’Egyptian's pride,
And wonder of the world, whose spiky top
Has wounded the thick cloud, and long outliv'd
The angry shaking of the winter's storm;
Yet spent at last by th' injuries of Heaven,
Shatter'd with age, and furrow'd o'er with years,
The mystic cone with hieroglyphics crusted,
At once gives way. Oh! lamentable sight!
The labour of whole ages tumbles down,
A hideous and misshapen length of ruins.
Sepulchral columns wrestle, but in vain,
With all-subduing Time: her cankering hand
With calm deliberate malice wasteth them :
Worn on the edge of days the brass consumes,
The busto moulders, and the deep-cut marble,
Unsteady to the steel, gives up its charge.
Ambition, half convicted of her folly,
Hangs down the head, and reddens at the tale.
Here all the mighty troublers of the Earth,
Who swam to sovereign rule through seas of blood;
Th’ oppressive, sturdy, man-destroying villains,
Who ravag'd kingdoms, and laid empires waste,
And in a cruel wantonness of power
Thinn'd states of half their people, and gave up
To want the rest ; now, like a storm that's spent,
Lie hush'd, and meanly sneak behind the covert.
Vain thought ! to hide them from the general scorn
That haunts and dogs them, like an injur'd ghost
Implacable.- Here too the petty tyrant
Whose scant domains geographer ne'er notic'd,
And, well for neighbouring grounds, of arm as short,
Who fix'd his iron talons on the poor,
And grip'd them like some lordly beast of prey;
Deaf to the forceful cries of gnawing hunger,
And piteous plaintive voice of misery :
(As if a slave was not a shred of nature,
Of the same common nature with his lord ;)
Now tame and humble, like a child that's whipp'd,
Shakes hands with dust, and calls the worm his
Nor pleads his rank and birthright. Under ground,
Precedency's a jest; vassal and lord,
Grossly familiar, side by side consume.
When self-esteem, or other's adulation, Would cunningly persuade us we were something Above the common level of our kind, [flattery, The Grave gainsays the smooth-complexion'd And with blunt truth acquaints us what we are.
Beauty !-thou pretty plaything, dear deceit, That steals so softly o’er the stripling's heart, And gives it a new pulse, unknown before, The grave discredits thee; thy charms expung'do Thy roses faded, and thy lilies soild, What hast thou more to boast of? Will thy lovers Flock round thee now, to gaze and do thee homage? Methinks I see thee with thy head low laid, Whilst surfeited upon thy damask cheek The high-fed worm, in lazy volumes roll’d, Riots unscar'd. For this, was all thy caution ? For this, thy painful labours at the glass? T'improve those charms, and keep them in repair? For which the spoiler thanks thee not, Foul feeder! Coarse fare and carrion please thee full as well, And leave as keen a relish on the sense. Look how the fair-one weeps!-the conscious tears Stand thick as dew-drops on the bells of flow'rs : , Honest effusion ! the swol’n heart in vain Works hard to put a gloss on its distress.
Strength, too--thou surly, and less gentle boast
Of those that loud laugh at the village ring;
A fit of common sickness pulls thee down
With greater ease, than e'er thou didst the stripling
That rashly dar'd thee to th' unequal fight.
What groan was that I heard ? deep groan indeed!
With anguish heavy laden ; let me trace it:
From yonder bed it comes, where the strong man,
By stronger arm belabour'd, gasps for breath
Like a hard-hunted beast. How his great heart
Beats thick! his roomy chest by far too scant
To give the lungs full play.-What now avail
The strong-built sinewy limbs, and well-spread
See how he tugs for life, and lays about him,
Mad with his pain !- Eager he catches hold
Of what comes next to hand, and grasps it hard,
Just like a creature drowning ; hideous sight!
Oh! how his eyes stand out, and stare full ghastly!
While the distemper's rank and deadly venom
Shoots like a burning arrow cross his bowels,
And drinks his marrow up.--Heard you that groan?
It was his last.–See how the great Goliah,
Just like a child that brawl'd itself to rest,
Lies still.–What mean'st thou then, O mighty
boaster! To vaunt of nerves of thine? what means the bull, Unconscious of his strength, to play the coward, And flee before a feeble thing like man, That, knowing well the slackness of his arm, Trusts only in the well-invented knife ?
With study pale, and midnight vigils spent, The star-surveying sage close to his eye Applies the sight-invigorating tube ; (space, And, travelling through the boundless length of
Marks well the courses of the far-seen orbs,
That roll with regular confusion there,
In ecstasy of thought. But ah! proud man,
Great heights are hazardous to the weak head;
Soon, very soon, thy firmest footing fails;
And down thou drop'st into that darksome place,
Where nor device nor knowledge ever came.
Here, the tongue-warrior lies, disabled now,
Disarm’d, dishonour'd, like a wretch that's gagg’d,
And cannot tell his ail to passers by. (change,
Great man of language !-whence this mighty
This dumb despair, and drooping of the head?
Though strong persuasion hung upon thy lip,
And sly insinuation's softer arts
In ambush lay about thy flowing tongue;
Alas! how chop-fall'n now! Thick mists and silence :
Rest, like a weary cloud, upon thy breast
Unceasing.–Ah! where is the lifted arm,
The strength of action, and the force of words,
The well-turn'd period, and the well-tun'd voice,
With all the lesser ornaments of phrase ?
Ah! fled for ever, as they ne'er had been ;
Raz'd from the book of fame; or, more provoking,
Perchance some hackney hunger-bitten scribbler
Insults thy memory, and blots thy tomb
With long flat narrative, or duller rhymes,
With heavy halting pace that drawl along: -
Enough to rouse a dead man into rage,
And warm with red resentment the wan cheek.
Here the great masters of the healing art,
These mighty mock defrauders of the tomb,
Spite of their juleps and catholicons,
Resign to fate. -Proud Æsculapius' son!
Where are thy boasted implements of art.