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Start at the voice of an eternity ;
See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift
An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,
Then sink again, and quiver into death,
That most pathetic herald of our own ;
How read we such sad scenes? As sent to man
In perfect vengeance ? no; in pity sent,
To melt him down, like wax, and then impress,
Indelibly, Death's image on his heart,
Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.
Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardours, and abate
That glare of life which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth
Our rugged pass to death ; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence Nature throws
Cross our obstructed way, and thus to make
Welcome, as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by Fate snatch'd from us is a plume
Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aërial heights,
And, damp'd with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd,
Just skim earth's surface ere we break it up,
O’er putrid earth to scratch a little dust,
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love;
For us they languish, and for us they die :
And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain ?
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades,
Which wait the revolution in our hearts ?
Shall we disdain their silent, soft, address,
Their posthumous advice, and pious pray’r ?
Senseless as herds that graze their hallow'd graves,
Tread under foot their agonies and groans,
Frustrate their anguish, and destroy their deaths?
LORENZO! read with me Narcissa's stone;
(Narcissa was thy favourite) let us read
Her moral stone; few doctors preach so well;
Few orators so tenderly can touch
The feeling heart. What pathos in the date !
Apt words can strike; and yet in them we see
Faint images of what we here enjoy.
What cause have we to build on length of life?
Temptations seize when fear is laid asleep,
And ill foreboding is our strongest guard.
See from her tomb, as from an humble shrine,
Truth, radiant goddess ! sallies on my soul,
And puts Delusion's dusky train to flight;
Dispels the mist our sultry passions raise,
From objects low, terrestrial, and obscene,
And shows the real estimate of things,
Which no man, unafflicted, ever saw;
Pulls off the veil from Virtue's rising charms;
Detects temptation in a thousand lies.
Truth bids me look on men as autumn-leaves,
And all they bleed for as the summer's dust
Driv'n by the whirlwind ; lighted by her beams,
I widen my horizon, gain new powers,
See things invisible, feel things remote,
Am present with futurities; think nought
To man so foreign as the joys possess'd,
Nought so much his as those beyond the grave,
KNOW THY3ELF. What am I? how produc'd ? and for what end? Whence drew I being ? to what period tend ? Am I th' abandon'd orphan of blind chance, Dropp'd by wild atoms ini disorder'd dance ? Or from an endless chain of causes wrought, And of unthinking substance, born with thought: By motion which began without a cause, Supremely wise, without design or laws? Am I but what I seem, mere flesh and blood ? A branching channel, with a mazy flood ? The purple stream that through my vessels glides, Dull and unconscious flows, like common tides; The pipes through which the circling juices stray, Are not that thinking I, no more than they : This frame, compacted with transcendent skill Of moving joints obedient to my will, Nursd from the fruitful glebe, like yonder tree, Waxes and wastes; I call it mine, not me. New matter still the mould'ring mass sustains : The mansion chang'd, the tenant still remains, And from the fleeting stream repair'd by food, Distinct, as is the swimmer from the flood.
What am I then ? sure of a noble birth ; By parents' right, I own as mother, Earth; But claim superior lineage by my sire, Who warm'd th’unthinking clod with heavenly fire; Essence divine, with lifeless clay allay'd, By double nature, double instinct sway'd : With look erect, Í dart my longing eye, Seem wing'd to part, and gain my native sky; I strive to mount, but strive, alas! in vain, Tied to this massy globe with magic chain
Now with swift thought I range from pole to pole,
View worlds around their flaming centres roll:
What steady pow'rs their endless motions guide
Through the same trackless paths of boundless void!
I trace the blazing comet's fiery tail,
And weigh the whirling planets in a scale;
These godlike thoughts while eager I pursue,
Some glittring trifle offer'd to my view,
A gnat, an insect of the meanest kind,
Erase the new-born image from my mind :
Some beastly want, craving, importunate,
Vile as the grinning mastiff at my gate,
Calls off from heavenly truth this reas'ning me,
And tells me I'm a brute as much as he.
If, on sublimer wings of love and praise,
My soul above the starry vault I raise,
Lur'd by some vain conceit, or shameful lust,
I flag, I drop, and flutter in the dust.
The tow'ring lark thus, from her lofty strain,
Stoops to an emmet, or a barley grain.
By adverse gusts of jarring instincts tost,
I rove to one, now to the other coast;
To bliss unknown my lofty soul aspires,
My lot unequal to my vast desires.
As 'mongst the hinds a child of royal birth
Finds his high pedigree by conscious worth;
So man, amongst his fellow brutes expos'd,
Sees he's a king, but 'tis a king depos'd.
Pity him, beasts! you by no law confin'd,
And barr'd from devious paths by being blind;
Whilst man, through op'ning views of various ways
Confounded, by the aid of knowledge strays;
Too weak to choose, yet choosing still in haste,
One moment gives the pleasure and distaste;
Bilk'd by past minutes, while the present cloy,
The flatt'ring future still must give the joy :
Not happy, but amus'd upon the road,
And (like you) thoughtless of his last abode,
Whether next sun his being shall restrain
To endless nothing, happiness or pain.
Around me, lo! the thinking thoughtless crew
(Bewilder'd each) their diff'rent paths pursue;
Of them I ask the way; the first replies,
Thou art à god; and sends me to the skies:
Down on the turf, the next, two-legged beast,
There fix thy lot, thy bliss and endless rest:
Between these wide extremes the length is such,
I find I know too little or too much.
• Almighty pow'r, by whose most wise command,
Helpless, forlorn, uncertain here I stand; ·
Take this faint glimm'ring of thyself away,
Or break into my soul with perfect day!'
This said, expanded lay the sacred text,
The balm, the light, the guide of souls perplex'd.
Thus the benighted traveller, that strays
Through doubtful paths, enjoys the morning rays:
The nightly mist, and thick descending dew,
Parting, unfolds the fields and vaulted blue.
'O Truth divine! enlighten'd by thy ray,
I grope and guess no more, but see my way;
Thou clear'dst the secret of my high descent,
And told'st me what those mystic tokens meant;
Marks of my birth, which I had worn in vain,
Too hard for worldly sages to explain.
Zeno's were vain, vain Epicurus' schemes,
Their systems false, delusive were their dreams;
Unskill'd my two-fold nature to divide,
One nurs'd my pleasure, and one nurs'd my pride