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To read his monuments, to weigh his dust,
Visit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs!
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 foreboded is our strongest guard.
See from her tomb, as from an humbler shrine,
Truth, radiant goddess! sallies on my soul,
And puts Delusion's dusky train to flight;
Dispels the mists 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,
Driven 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 possest;
Nought so much his, as those beyond the grave.
No folly keeps its colour in her sight;
Pale worldly wisdom loses all her charms;
In pompous promise, from her schemes profound,
If future fate she plans, 't is all in leaves,
Like Sibyl, unsubstantial, fleeting bliss!
At the first blast it vanishes in air.
Not so, celestial: wouldst thou know, Lorenzo!
How differ worldly wisdom, and divine?
Just as the waning, and the waxing Moon.
More empty worldly wisdom every day;
And every day more fair her rival shines.
When later, there 's less time to play the fool.
Soon our whole term for wisdom is expir'd :
(Thou know'st she calls no council in the grave :)
And everlasting fool is writ in fire,
Or real wisdom wafts us to the skies.
As worldly schemes resemble Sibyls' leaves, The good man's days to Sibyls' books compare, (In ancient story read, thou know'st the tale,) In price still rising, as in number less, Inestimable quite his final hour.
For that who thrones can offer, offer thrones; Insolvent worlds the purchase cannot pay. "Oh let me die his death!" all Nature cries. "Then live his life." All Nature faulters there. Our great physician daily to consult,
To commune with the grave, our only cure.
What grave prescribes the best? — A friend's; and yet,
From a friend's grave how soon we disengage!
E'en to the dearest, as his marble, cold.
Why are friends ravisht from us? 'T is to bind,
By soft affection's ties, on human hearts,
The thought of death, which reason, too supine,
Or misemploy'd, so rarely fastens there.
Nor reason, nor affection, no, nor both
Combin'd, can break the witchcrafts of the world.
Behold, th' inexorable hour at hand!
Behold, th' inexorable hour forgot!
And to forget it, the chief aim of life,
Though well to ponder it, is life's chief end.
Is Death, that ever-threatening, ne'er remote,
That all-important, and that only sure,
(Come when he will) an unexpected guest?
Nay, though invited by the loudest calls
Of blind imprudence, unexpected still?
Though numerous messengers are sent before,
To warn his great arrival. What the cause,
The wondrous cause, of this mysterious ill?
All Heaven looks down astonish'd at the sight.
Is it, that life has sown her joys so thick,
We can't thrust in a single care between?
Is it, that life has such a swarm of cares,
The thought of death can't enter for the throng?
Is it, that time steals on with downy feet,
Nor wakes indulgence from her golden dream?
To-day is so like yesterday, it cheats;
We take the lying sister for the same.
Life glides away, Lorenzo! like a brook ;
For ever changing, unperceiv'd the change.
In the same brook none ever bath'd him twice:
To the same life none ever twice awoke.
We call the brook the same; the same we think
Our life, though still more rapid in its flow;
Nor mark the much, irrevocably laps'd,
And mingled with the sea. Or shall we say
(Retaining still the brook to bear us on)
That life is like a vessel on the stream?
In life embark'd, we smoothly down the tide
Of time descend, but not on time intent;
Amus'd, unconscious of the gliding wave;
Till on a sudden we perceive a shock;
We start, awake, look out; what see we there?
Our brittle bark is burst on Charon's shore.
Is this the cause death flies all human thought? Or is it judgment, by the will struck blind, That domineering mistress of the soul ! Like him so strong, by Dalilah the fair? Or is it fear turns startled reason back, From looking down a precipice so steep? 'Tis dreadful; and the dread is wisely plac'd, By Nature, conscious of the make of man. A dreadful friend it is, a terrour kind, A flaming sword to guard the tree of life. By that unaw'd, in life's most smiling hour, The good-man would repine; would suffer joys, And burn impatient for his promis'd skies. The bad, on each punctilious pique of pride, Or gloom of humour, would give rage the rein; Bound o'er the barrier, rush into the dark, And mar the schemes of Providence below.
What groan was that, Lorenzo? Furies! rise, And drown in your less execrable yell Britannia's shame. There took her gloomy flight, On wing impetuous, a black sullen soul, Blasted from Hell, with horrid lust of death. Thy friend, the brave, the gallant Altamont, So call'd, so thought And then he fled the field. Less base the fear of death, than fear of life.
O Britain, infamous for suicide!
An island in thy manners, far disjoin'd
From the whole world of rationals beside!
In ambient waves plunge thy polluted head,
Wash the dire stain, nor shock the continent.
But thou be shock'd, while I detect the cause
Of self-assault, expose the monster's birth,
And bid abhorrence hiss it round the world.
Blame not thy clime, nor chide the distant Sun;
The Sun is innocent, thy clime absolv'd:
Immoral climes kind Nature never made.
The cause I sing, in Eden might prevail,
And proves, it is thy folly, not thy fate.
The soul of man (let man in homage bow,
Who names his soul), a native of the skies!
High-born, and free, her freedom should maintain,
Unsold, unmortgag'd for Earth's little bribes.
Th' illustrious stranger, in this foreign land,
Like strangers, jealous of her dignity,
Studious of home, and ardent to return,
Of Earth suspicious, Earth's enchanted cup
With cool reserve light touching, should indulge
On immortality, her godlike taste,
There take large draughts; make her chief banquet
But some reject this sustenance divine;
To beggarly vile appetites descend; [Heaven:
Ask alms of Earth, for guests that came from
Sink into slaves; and sell, for present hire,
Their rich reversion, and (what shares its fate)
Their native freedom, to the prince who sways
This nether world. And when his payments fail,
When his foul basket gorges them no more,