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Still scorn, with conscious pride, the mask of Art ;
On Vice's front let fearful Caution low'r,
And teach the diffident, discreeter part
Of knaves that plot, and fools that fawn for pow'r.
So, round thy brow when Age's honours spread,
When Death's cold hand unstrings thy Mason's lyre,
When the green turf lies lightly on his head,
Thy worth shall some superior bard inspire; He to the amplest bounds of Time's domain,
On Rapture's plume shall give thy name to fly; For trust, with rev'rence trust this Sabine strain: "The Muse forbids the virtuous Man to die."
ON THE MISERIES OF HUMAN LIFE.
AH! little think the gay licentious proud,
Whom pleasure, pow'r, and affluence surround;
They, who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth,
And wanton, often cruel, riot waste;
Ah! little think they, while they dance along,
How many feel, this very moment, death,
And all the sad variety of pain:
How many sink in the devouring flood,
Or more devouring flame: how many bleed,
By shameful variance betwixt Man and Man:
How many pine in want, and dungeon glooms;
Shut from the common air, and common use
Of their own limbs: how many drink the cup
Of baleful Grief, or eat the bitter bread
Of Misery: sore pierc'd by wintry winds,
How many shrink into the sordid hut
Of cheerless Poverty: how many shake
With all the fiercer tortures of the mind,
Unbounded passion, madness, guilt, remorse;
Whence, tumbling headlong from the height of life,
They furnish matter for the tragic muse:
Ev'n in the vale, where Wisdom loves to dwell,
With Friendship, Peace, and Contemplation join'd,
How many, rack'd with honest passions, droop
In deep retir'd distress: how many stand
Around the deathbed of their dearest friends,
And point the parting anguish.-Thought fond man
Of these, and all the thousand nameless ills,
That one incessant struggle render life,
One scene of toil, of suff'ring, and of fate,
Vice in his high career would stand appall'd,
And heedless rambling Impulse learn to think;
The conscious heart of Charity would warm,
And her wide wish Benevolence dilate;
The social tear would rise, the social sigh;
And into clear perfection, gradual bliss,
Refining still, the social passions work.
REFLECTIONS ON A FUTURE STATE.
'Tis done!-dread Winter spreads his latest glooms,
And reigns tremendous o'er the conquer'd year.
How dead the vegetable kingdom lies!
How dumb the tuneful! Horror wide extends
His desolate domain. Behold, fond Man!
See here thy pictur'd life: pass some few years,
Thy flow'ring Spring, thy Summer's ardent strength,
Thy sober Autumn fading into age,
And pale concluding Winter comes at last,
And shuts the scene. Ah! whither now are fled
Those dreams of greatness? those unsolid hopes
Of happiness? those longings after fame ?
Those restless cares? those busy bustling days?
Those gay-spent festive nights? those veering thoughts,
Lost between good and ill, that shar'd thy life?
All now are vanish'd! Virtue sole survives,
Immortal never-failing friend of Man,
His guide to happiness on high.-And see!
'Tis come, the glorious morn! the second birth
Of heav'n, and earth! awak'ning Nature hears
The new-creating word, and starts to life,
In ev'ry heighten'd form, from pain and death
For ever free. The great eternal scheme
Involving all, and in a perfect whole
Uniting as the prospect wider spreads,
To Reason's eye refin'd clears up apace.
Ye vainly wise! ye blind presumptuous!
Confounded in the dust, adore that Pow'r,
And Wisdom oft arraign'd: see now the cause,
Why unassuming Worth in secret liv'd,
And died, neglected: why the good man's share
In life was gall and bitterness of soul:
Why the lone widow, and her orphans, pin'd
In starving solitude; while Luxury
In palaces lay straining her low thought,
To form unreal wants: why heav'n-born Truth,
And Moderation fair, wore the red marks
Of Superstition's scourge: why licens'd Pain,
That cruel spoiler, that embosom'd foc,
Imbitter'd all our bliss. Ye good distress'd!
'Ye noble few! who here unbending stand
Beneath life's pressure, yet bear up awhile,
And what your bounded view, which only saw
A little part, deem'd Evil, is no more.
The storms of Wintry Time will quickly pass,
And one unbounded Spring encircle all.
BE wise to day; 'tis madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent will plead ;
Thus on, til wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
'The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
Of man's miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm, "That all men are about to live,"
For ever on the brink of being born.
All pay themselves the compliment to think,
They one day shall not drivel; and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise ;
At least, their own; their future selves applauds :
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead !
Time lodg'd in their own hands is Folly's vails;
That lodg'd in Fate's to Wisdom they consign;
The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone.
"Tis not in Folly, not to scorn a fool;
And scarce in human Wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through ev'ry stage. When young, indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to Resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought,
Resolves, and reresolves, then dies the same.
And why? Because he thinks himself immortal. All men think all men mortal, but themselves; Themselves, when some alarming shock of fate Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread ; But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air, Soon close; where pass'd the shaft, no trace is found. As from the wing no scar the sky retains, The parted wave no furrow from the keel, So dies in human hearts the thought of death. Ev'n with the tender tear, which nature sheds O'er those we love, we drop it in the grave.
THE PAIN ARISING FROM VIRTUOUS EMOTIONS
ATTENDED WITH PLEASURE.
BEHOLD the ways
Of Heav'n's eternal destiny to man,
For ever just, benevolent, and wise :
That Virtue's awful steps, howe'er pursued
By vexing Fortune and intrusive Pain,
Should never be divided from her chaste,
Her fair attendant, Pleasure. Need I urge
Thy tardy thought through all the various round
Of this existence, that thy soft'ning soul
At length may learn what energy the hand
Of Virtue mingles in the bitter tide
Of passion swelling with distress and pain,
To mitigate the sharp with gracious drops
Of cordial Pleasure? Ask the faithful youth,
Why the cold urn of her whom long he lov'd
So often fills his arms; so often draws
His lonely footsteps, at the silent hour,
pay the mournful tribute of his tears?
O! he will tell thee, that the wealth of worlds
Should ne'er seduce his bosom to forego
That sacred hour, when stealing from the noise
Of Care and Envy, sweet Remembrance soothes
With Virtue's kindest looks his aching breast,
And turns his tears to rapture.-Ask the crowd,
Which flies impatient from the village walk
To climb the neighb'ring cliffs, when far below
The cruel winds have hurl'd upon the coast
Some hapless bark; while sacred Pity melts
The gen'ral eye, or Terrour's icy hand
Smites their distorted limbs and horrent hair;
While ev'ry mother closer to her breast
Catches her child, and, pointing where the waves
Foam through the shatter'd vessel, shrieks aloud,
As one poor wretch, that spreads his piteous arms
For succour, swallow'd by the roaring surge,