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Thy thoughts to nobler meditations give,
And study how to die, not how to live.
How frail is beauty! Ah, how vain,
And how short-liv'd those glories are,
That vex our nights and days with pain,
And break our hearts with care ! In dust we no distinction see, Such Helen is; such, Myra, thou must be. How short is life! why will vain courtiers toil, And crowd a vainer monarch, for a smile ? What is that monarch, but a mortal man, His crown a pageant, and his life a span ? With all his guards, and his dominions, he Must sicken too, and die as well as we. Those boasted names of conquerors and kings Are swallow'd, and become forgotten things; One destin'd period men in common have, The great, the base, the coward, and the brave, Allfood alike for worms, companions in the grave: The prince and parasite together lie, No fortune can exalt, but death will climb as high.
A NIGHT-PIECE, ON DEATH.
By the blue taper's trembling light,
No more I waste the wakeful night,
Intent with endless view to pore
The schoolmen and the sages o'er :
Their books from wisdom widely stray,
Or point at best the longest way,
I'll seek a readier path, and go
Where wisdom's surely taught below.
How deep yon azure dyes the sky !
Where orbs of gold unnumber'd lie,
While through their ranks in silver pride
The nether crescent seems to glide.
The slumbering breeze forgets to breathe,
The lake is smooth and clear beneath,
Where once again the spangled show
Descends to meet our eyes below.
The grounds, which on the right aspire,
In dimness from the view retire :
The left presents a place of graves,
Whose wall the silent water laves.
That steeple guides thy doubtful sight
Among the livid gleams of night.
There pass, with melancholy state,
By all the solemn heaps of fate,
And think, as softly sad you tread
Above the venerable dead,
“Time was, like thee, they life possess'd;
And time shall be when thou shalt rest.'
Those, with bending osier bound, That nameless heave the crumbled ground, Quick to the glancing thought disclose Where toil and poverty repose.
The flat smooth stones that bear a name, The chisel slender help to fame, (Which ere our set of friends decay Their frequent steps may wear away ;) A middle race of mortals own, Men, half ambitious, all unknown.
The marble tombs that rise on high, Whose dead in vaulted arches lie,
Whose pillars swell with sculptur'd stones,
Arms, angels, epitaphs, and bones ;
These, all the poor remains of state,
Adorn the rich, or praise the great ;
Who while on earth in fame they live,
Are senseless of the fame they give.
Ha! while I gaze, pale Cynthia fades,
The bursting earth unveils the shades:
All slow, and wan, and wrap'd with shrouds,
They rise in visionary crowds,
And all with sober accent cry,
"Think, mortal, what it is to die !
Now from yon black and funeral yew,
That bathes the charnel-house with dew,
Methinks I hear a voice begin ;
(Ye ravens, cease your croaking din,
Ye tolling clocks, no time resound
O'er the long lake and midnight ground)
It sends a peal of hollow groans,
Thus speaking from among the bones :-
"When men my scythe and darts supply,
How great a King of Fears am I?
They view me like the last of things;
They make, and then they dread my stings.
Fools! if you less provok'd your fears,
No more my sceptred form appears.
a path that must be trod,
If man would ever pass to God:
A port of calms, a state of ease,
From the rough rage of swelling seas.
Why then thy flowing sable
Deep pendent cypress, mourning poles,
Loose scarfs to fall athwart thy weeds,
Long palls, drawn hearses, cover'd steeds,
And plumes of black, that, as they tread,
Nod o'er the 'scutcheons of the dead ?
• Nor can the parted body know,
Nor wants the soul, these forms of wo
As men who long in prison dwell,
With lamps that glimmer round the celi,
Whene'er their suffering years are run,
Spring forth to greet the glittering Sun:
Such joy, though far transcending sense,
Have pious souls at parting hence.
On Earth, and in the body plac'd,
A few, and evil years, they waste:
But when their chains are cast aside,
See the glad scenes unfolding wide,
Clap the glad wing, and tower away,
And mingle with the blaze of day.' Parnell.
My thoughts, that often mount the skies,
Go, search the world beneath Where Nature all in ruin lies,
And owns her sovereign, Death.
The tyrant, how he triumphs here !
His trophies spread around !
And heaps of dust and bones appear
Through all the hollow ground.
These skulls, what ghastly figures now!
How loathsome to the eyes ! These are the heads we lately knew
So beauteous and so wise.
But where the souls, those deathless things,
That left this dying clay ?
My thoughts, now stretch out all your wings
And trace eternity.
O that unfathomable sea!
Those deeps without a shore !
Where living waters gently play,
Or fiery billows roar.
Thus must we leave the banks of life,
And try this doubtful sea ;
Vain are our groans, and dying strife,
To gain a moment's stay.
There we shall swim in heavenly bliss,
Or sink in flaming waves,
While the pale carcass, thoughtless lies
Amongst the silent graves.
Some hearty friend shall drop his tear
On our dry bones, and say, "These once were strong, as mine appear,
And mine must be as they.'
Thus shall our mouldering members teach
What now our senses learn: For dust and ashes loudest preach Man's infinite concern.