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In His full beam, and ripen for the just!
Where momentary ages are no more!
Where Time, and Pain, and Chance, and Death expire!
And is it in the flight of threescore years,
To push eternity from human thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortal, spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness,
Thrown into tumult, raptur’d, or alarm’d
At aught this scene can threaten, or indulge,
Resembles ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly.
Where falls this censure it o'erwhelins myself; 155
How was my heart incrusted by the world!
O how self-fetter'd was my grov’ling soul!
How, like a worm, was I wrapt round and round
In silken thought, which reptile Fancy spun!
Till darken'd Reason lay quite clouded o'er
With soft conceit of endless comfort here,
Nor yet put forth her wings to reach the skies!
Night-visions may befriend (as sung above:) Our waking dreams are fatal. How I dreamt Of things impossible! (could Sleep do more?) 165 Of joys perpetual in perpetual change! Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave! Eternal sunshine in the storms of Life! How richly were my noontide trances hung With gorgeous tapestries of pictur’d joys, 170 Joy behind joy, in endless perspective! Till at Death's toll, whose restless iron tongue Calls daily for his millions at a meal, Starting I woke, and found myself undone.
Where's now my frenzy's pompous furniture? 175
The cobwebb’d cottage, with its ragged wall
Of mould'ring mud, is royalty to me.
The spider's most attenuated thread,
Is cord, is cable, to man's tender tie
On earthly bliss; it breaks at every breeze.
O ye blest scenes of permanent delight!
Full, above measure! lasting, beyond bound!
A perpetuity of bliss, is bliss.
Could you, so rich in rapture, fear an end,
That ghastly thought would drink up
And quite unparadise the realms of light.
Safe are you lodg’d above these rolling spheres;
The baleful influence of whose giddy dance
Sheds sad vicissitude on all beneath,
Here teems with revolutions ev'ry hour;
And rarely for the better; or the best,
More mortal than the common births of Fate.
Each moment has its sickle, emulous
Of Time's enormous scythe, whose ample sweep
Strikes empires from the root; each moment plays 195
His little weapon in the narrower sphere
Of sweet domestic comfort, and cuts down
The fairest bloom of sublunary bliss.
Bliss! sublunary bliss! -proud words, and vain!
Implicit treason to divine decrees!
A bold invasion of the rights of heav'n!
I clasp'd the phantoms, and I found them air;
O had I weigh'd it ere my fond embrace!
What darts of agony had miss'd my heart!
Death! great proprictor of all! 'tis thine
To tread out empire, and to quench the stars.
The sun himself by thy permission shines;
And, one day, thou shalt pluck him from his sphere.
Amidst such mighty plunder, why exhaust
Thy partial quiver on a mark so mean?
Why thy peculiar rancour wreak'd on me?
Insatiate archer! could not one suffice?
Thy shaft flew thrice; and thrice my peace was slain;
And thrice, e'er thrice yon moon had fill'd her horn.
( Cynthia! why so pale? Dost thou lament 215
Thy wretched neighbour? grieve to see thy wheel
Of ceaseless change outwhirl'd in human life?
How wanes my borrow'd bliss! from Fortune's smile,
Precarious courtesy! not Virtue's sure,
Self-given, solar, ray of sound delight.
220 In ev'ry vary'd posture, place, and hour, How widow'd ev'ry thought of ev'ry joy! Thought, busy thought! too busy for my peace; Through the dark postern of time long elaps'd, Led softly by the stillness of the night,
225 Led, like a murderer, (and such it proves!) Strays (wretched rover!) o'er the pleasing past; In quest of wretchedness perversely strays; And finds all desert now; and meets the ghosts Of my departed joys, a numerous train! I rue the riches of my former fate; Sweet comfort's blasted clusters I lament; I tremble at the blessings once so dear; And ev'ry pleasure pains me to the heart.
Yet why complain? or why complain for one? 235 Hangs out the sun his lustre but for me, The single man? Are angels all beside? I mourn for millions: 'Tis the common lot;
In this shape, or in that, has Fate entail'd
The mother's throes on all of woman born, 240
Not more the children, than sure heirs of pain.
War, Famine, Pest, Volcano, Storm, and Fire,
Intestine Broils, Oppression, with her heart
Wrapt up in triple brass, besiege mankind.
God's image, disinherited of day,
245 Here, plung'd in mines, forgets a sun was made; There, beings, deathless as their haughty lord, Are hammer'd to the galling oar for life; And plough the winter's wave, and reap despair. Some for hard masters, broken under arms, 250 In battle lopp'd away, with half their limbs, Beg bitter bread through realms their valour sav'd, If so the tyrant, or his minions, doom. Want, and incurable Disease, (fell pair!) On hopeless multitudes remorseless seize
255 At once; and make a refuge of the grave. How groaning hospitals eject their dead! What numbers groan for sad admission there! What numbers, once in Fortune's lap high-fed, Solicit the cold hand of Charity!
260 To shock us more, solicit it in vain! Ye silken sons of pleasure, since in pains You rue more modish visits, visit here, And breathe from your debauch: Give, and reduce Surfeit's dominion o'er you: But so great
265 Your impudence, you blush at what is right.
Happy! did sorrow scize on such alone. Not prudence can defend, or virtue save; Disease invades the chastest temperance; And punishment the guiltless; and alarm, 270
Through thickest shades, pursues the fond of peace.
Man's caution often into danger turns,
And, his guard falling, crushes him to death.
Not Happiness itself makes good her name;
Our very wishes give us not our wish.
How distant oft the thing we doat on most,
From that for which we doat, felicity!
The smoothest course of Nature has its pains;
And truest friends, through error, wound our rest.
Without misfortune, what calamities!
230 And what hostilities, without a foe! Nor are foes wanting to the best on earth. But endless is the list of human ills, And sighs might sooner fail than cause to sigh. A part
how small of the terraqueous globe 285
Is tenanted by Man! the rest a waste;
Rocks, deserts, frozen seas, and burning sands!
Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and death.
Such is Earth’s melancholy map! But, far
More sad! this earth is a true map of Man: 290
So bounded are his haughty lord's delights
To Woe's wide empire; where deep troubles toss,
Loud sorrows howl, invenom'd passions bite,
Rav’nous calamities our vitals seize,
And threat'ning Fate wide opens to devour. 295
What then am I, who sorrow for myself?
In age, in infancy, from others aid
Is all our hope; to teach us to be kind.
That, Nature's first, last lesson to mankind;
The selfish heart deserves the pain it feels.
More gen'rous sorrow, while it sinks, exalts;
And conscious virtue mitigates the pang.