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Expose the vain of life; weigh life and death;
Give Death his eulogy; thy fear subdue;
And labour that first palm of noble minds,
A manly scorn of terror from the tomb.'
This harvest reap from thy Narcissa's grave.
As poets feign'd from Ajax' streaming blood
Arose, with grief inscrib'd, a mournful flow'r,
Let wisdom blossom from my mortal wound.
And, first of dying friends; what fruit from these?
It brings us more than triple aid ; an aid
To chase our thoughtlessness, fear, pride, and guilt.
Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardours, and abate
That glare of life which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smoothe
Our rugged pass to death; to break those bars
Of terror and abhorrence Nature throws
Cross our obstructed way, and thus to make
Welcome, as safe, our port from every storm.
Each friend by Fate snatch'd from us is a plume
Pluck'd from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aërial heights,
And damp'd with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd,
Just skim earth's surface ere we break it up,
O'er putrid earth to scratch a little dust,
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love ;
For us they languish, and for us they die :
And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain?
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hovering shades,
Which wait the revolution in our hearts ?
Shall we disdain their silent, soft, address,
Their posthumous advice, and pious pray'r ?
Senseless as herds that graze their hallow'd graves,
Tread under foot their agonies and groans,
Frustrate their anguish, and destroy their deaths ?
Lorenzo! no; the thought of death indulge; Give it its wholesome empire ! let it reign, That kind chastiser of thy soul, in joy!
Its reign will spread thy glorious conquests far,
And still the tumults of thy ruffled breast.
Auspicious era! golden days, begin!
The thought of death shall, like a god, inspire.
And why not think on death ? Is life the theme
Of every thought? and wish of every hour?
And song of every joy? surprising truth!
The beaten spaniel's fondness not so strange.
To wave the numerous ills that seize on life
As their own property, their lawful prey;
Ere man has measur'd half his weary stage,
His luxuries have left him no reserve,
No maiden relishes, unbroach'd delights :
On cold-serv'd repetitions he subsists,
And in the tasteless present chews the past;
Disgusted chews, and scarce can swallow down,
Like lavish ancestors, his earlier years
Have disinherited his future hours,
Which starve on orts, and glean their former field.
Live ever here, Lorenzo !-shocking thought!
So shocking, they who wish disown it too;
Disown from shame what they from folly crave.
Live ever in the womb, nor see the light?
For what live ever here?-with labouring step
To tread our former footsteps? pace the rouud
Eternal ? to climb life's worn heavy wheel,
Which draws up nothing new ! to beat, and beat,
The beaten track? to bid each wretched day
The former mock ? to surfeit on the same,
And yawn our joys ? or thank a misery
For change, though sad! to see what we have seen?
Hear, till unheard, the same old slabber'd tale?
To taste the tasted, and at each return
Less tasteful ? o'er our palates to decant
Another vintage ? strain a flatter year
Through loaded vessels, and a laxer tone?
Crazy machines to grind earth's wasted fruits !
Ill ground, and worse concocted! load, not life!
The rational foul kennels of excess !
Still-streaming thoroughfares of dull debauch! Trembling each gulp, lest Death should snatch the
bowl. Such of our fine ones is the wish refin'd! So would they have it: elegant desire ! Why not invite the bellowing stalls and wilds ? But such examples might their riot awe. Through want of virtue, that is, want of thought, (Though on bright thought they father all their flights) To what are they reduc'd ? to love and hate The same vain world; to censure and espouse This painted shrew of life, who calls them fool Each moment of each day ; to flatter bad Through dread of worse; to cling to this rude rock, Barren to them of good, and sharp with ills, And hourly blacken'd with impending storms, And infamous for wrecks of human hope Scar'd at the gloomy gulf that yawns beneath. Such are their triumphs ! such their pangs of joy!
'Tis time, high time, to shift this dismal scene. This hugg'd, this hideous state, what art can cure? One only, but that one what all may reach : Virtue-she, wonder-working goddess! charms That rock to bloom, and tames the painted shrew; And, what will more surprise, Lorenzo ! gives To life's sick, nauseous iteration, change, And straightens Nature's circle to a line. Believ'st thou this, Lorenzo ? lend an ear, A patient ear, thou'lt blush to disbelieve.
A languid, leaden iteration reigns, And ever must, o'er those whose joys are joys Of sight, smell, taste. The cuckow-seasons sing The same dull note to such as nothing prize But what those seasons, from the teeming earth, To doting sense indulge : but nobler minds, Which relish fruits unripen'd by the sun, Make their days various, various as the dyes On the dove's neck, which wanton in his rays. On minds of dove-like innocence possess'd, On lighten'd minds, that bask in virtue's beams,
Nothing hangs tedious, nothing old revolves
In that for which they long, for which they live.
Their glorious efforts, wing'd with heavenly hope,
Each rising morning sees still higher rise;
Each bounteous dawn its novelty presents
To worth maturing, new strength, lustre, fame;
While Nature's circle, like a chariot-wheel
Rolling beneath their elevated aims,
Makes their fair prospect fairer every hour,
Advancing virtue in a line to bliss ;
Vistue, which Christian motives best inspire !
And bliss, which Christian schemes alone ensure !
And shall we then, for virtue's sake, commence
Apostates, and turn infidels for joy?
A truth it is few doubt, but fewer trust,
' He sins against this life who slights the next.'
What is this life? how few their favorite know?
Fond in the dark, and blind in our embrace,
By passionately loving life we make
Lovd Life unlovely, hugging her to death.
We give to time eternity's regard,
And dreaming, take our passage for our port.
Life has no value as an end, but means;
An end deplorable! a means divine!
When 'tis our all, 'tis nothing ; worse than nought;
A nest of pains; when held as nothing, much.
Like some fair humorists, life is most enjoy'd
When'courted least; most worth when disesteem'd;
Then 'tis the seat of comfort, rich in peace;
In prospect richer far; important! awful!
Not to be mention'd but with shouts of praise !
Not to be thought on but with tides of joy!
The mighty basis of eternal bliss !
Where now the barren rock? the painted shrew? Where now, Lorenzo, life's eternal round ? Have I not made my triple promise good? Vain is the world, but only to the vain. To what compare we then this varying scene, Whose worth, ambiguous, rises and declines ? Waxes and wanes ? (in all propitious Night
Assists me here) compare it to the moon;
Dark in herself, and indigent, but rich
In borrow'd lustre from a higher sphere.
When gross guilt interposes, labouring earth,
O'ershadow'd, mourns a deep eclipse of joy:
Her joys, at brightest, pallid to that font
Of full effulgent glory whence they flow.
Nor is that glory distant. Oh, Lorenzo !
A good man and an angel ! these between
How thin the barrier? what divides their fate?
Perhaps a moment, or perhaps a year;
Or if an age, it is a moment still;
A moment, or eternity's forgot.
Then be what once they were who now are gods;
Be what Philander was, and claim the skies.
Starts timid Nature at the gloomy pass ?
The soft transition call it, and be cheer'd:
Such it is often, and why not to thee?
To hope the best is pious, brave, and wise,
And may itself procure what it presumes.
Life is much flatter'd, Death is much traduc'd;
Compare the rivals, and the kinder crown.
Strange competition !-True, Lorenzo ! strange!
So little life can cast into the scale.
Life makes the soul dependent on the dust,
Death gives her wings to mount above the spheres.
Through chinks, stil'd organs, dim life peeps at light;
Death bursts the' involving cloud, and all is day:
All eye, all ear, the disembody'd power.
Death has feign'd evils nature shall not feel;
Life, ills substantial wisdom cannot shun.
Is not the mighty mind, that sun of Heav'n !
By tyrant Life dethron’d, innprison'd, pain'd?
By Death enlarg'd, ennobled, deified ?
Death but intombs the body, life the soul.
* Is Death then guiltless? How he marks his way
With dreadful waste of what deserves to shine!
Art, genius, fortune, elevated power!
With various lustres these light up the world,
Which Death puts out, and darkens human race.'