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To Contemplation's sober eye
Such is the race of man:
And they that creep, and they that fly,
Shall end where they began.
Alike the busy and the gay
But flutter through life's little day,
In fortune's varying colours drest:
Brush’d by the hand of rough Mischance,
Or chill'd by age, their airy dance
They leave, in dust to rest.
Methinks I hear in accents low
The sportive kind reply :
Poor moralist! and what art thou?
A solitary fly!
Thy joys no glittering female meets,
No hive hast thou of hoarded sweets,
No painted plumage to display :
On hasty wings thy youth is flown;
Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone—
We frolic, while ’tis May. -
Still had she gaz'd ; but 'midst the tide -
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream :
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betray’d a golden gleam.
The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first, and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretch'd in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish 2
Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch'd, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smil'd)
The slipp'ry verge her feet beguil'd,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mew'd to ev'ry wat'ry god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no nereid stirr'd;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A fav'rite has no friend
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne'er retriev'd,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all, that glisters, gold.
YE distant spires, ye antique towers,
That crown the wat'ry glade,
Where grateful Science still adores
Her HENRY's" holy shade;
And ye, that from the stately brow
Of WINDso R's heights th’ expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among
Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way.
Ah happy hills, ah pleasing shade,
Ah fields belov’d in vain,
Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
A stranger yet to pain!
I feel the gales, that from ye blow,
A momentary bliss bestow,
As waving fresh their gladsome wing,
My weary soul they seem to soothe. '
And, redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring.
Say, Father THAMEs, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race
Disporting on thy margent green
The paths of pleasure trace,
Who foremost now delight to cleave
With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
The captive linnet which enthrall ?
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed,
Or urge the flying ball?
While some on earnest business bent
Their murm'ring labours ply
'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint
To sweeten liberty:
Some bold adventurers disdain
The limits of their little reign,
And unknown regions dare descry:
Still as they run they look behind,
They hear a voice in every wind,
And snatch a fearful joy. -
Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possest;
The tear forgot as soon as shed,
The sunshine of the breast:
Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,
Wild wit, invention ever-new,
And lively cheer of vigour born ;
The thoughtless day, the easy night,
The spirits pure, the slumbers light,
That fly th' approach of morn.
Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play !
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond to-day :
Yet see how all around 'em wait
The ministers of human fate,
And black Misfortune's baleful train
Ah, shew them where in ambush stand
To seize their prey the murth’rous band!
Ah! tell them, they are men!
These shall the fury Passions tear, -
The vultures of the mind,
Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,
And Shame that skulks behind;
Or pining Love shall waste their youth,
Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,
That inly gnaws the secret heart,
And Envy wan, and faded Care,
Grim-visag’d comfortless Despair,
And Sorrow's piercing dart.
Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high,
To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning Infamy.
| The stings of Falsehood those shall try,
And hard Unkindness' alter'd eye,
That mocks the tear it forc'd to flow;
And keen Remorse with blood defil'd,
And moody Madness laughing wild
Amid severest woe.
Lo, in the vale of years beneath
A grisly troop are seen,
The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their Queen :
This racks the joints, this fires the veins,
That every labouring sinew strains,
Those in the deeper vitals rage:
Lo Poverty, to fill the band,
That numbs the soul with icy hand,
And slow-consuming Age.
To each his suff'rings: all are men,
Condemn’d alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
Th’ unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate 7
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies,
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.