Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

He stemm'd the tide of time, and stood the shock
Of ages rolling harmless o'er his head.
At life's meridian point arriv'd, he stood,
And looking round, saw all the valleys fill’d
With nations from his loins ; full well content
To leave his race thus scatter'd o'er the earth,
Along the gentle slope of life's decline
He bent his gradual way, till full of years
He dropt like mellow fruit into his grave.

Such in the infancy of Time was Man;
So calm was life, so impotent was Death!
O had he but preserved these few remains,
The shattered fragments of lost happiness,
Snatch'd by the hand of Heav'n from the sad wreck
Of innocence primæval; still had he liv'd
In ruin great ; though fallen, yet not forlorn ;
Though mortal, yet not every where beset
With Death in every shape ! But he, impatient
To be completely wretched, hastes to fill up
The measure of his woes :Twas Man himself
Brought Death into the world ; and Man himself
Gave keenness to his darts, quicken'd his pace,
And múltiplied destruction on mankind.

First Envy, eldest-born of Hell, embru'd Her hands in blood, and taught the Sons of Men To make a Death which Nature never made, And God abhorr'd; with violence rude to break The thread of life ere half its length was 'run, And rob a wretched brother of his being. With joy Ambition saw, and soon improv'd The execrable deed. 'Twas not enough By subtle fraud to snatch a single life ;

1

Puny impiety! whole kingdoms fell
To sate the lust of power : more horrid still,
The foulest stain and scandal of our nature,
Became its boast. One murder made a villain ;
Millions a hero. Princes were privileg'd
To kill, and numbers sanctified the crime.
Ah! why will Kings forget that they are Men?
And Men that they are brethren? Why delight
In human sacrifice ? Why burst the ties
Of Nature, that should knit their souls together
In one soft bond of amity and love ?
Yet still they breathe destruction, still go on
Inhumanly ingenious to find out
New pains for life, new terrors for the grave,
Artificers of Death! Still Monarchs dream
Of universal empire growing up
From universal ruin. Blast the design,
Great God of Hosts, nor let thy creatures fall
Unpitied victims at Ambition's shrine !

Yet say, should Tyrants learn at last to feel,
And the loud din of battle cease to bray ;
Should dove-eyed Peace o’er all the earth extend
Her olive-branch, and give the world repose,
Would Death be foild? Would health, and strength

and youth Defy his power? Has he no arts in store, No other shafts save those of War? Alas! Ev’n in the smile of Peace, that smile which sheds A heavenly sunshine o'er the soul, there basks That serpent Luxury. War its thousand slays ; Peace its ten thousands. In the embattled plain, Thoug Death exults, and claps his raven wings,

Yet reigns he not ev'n there so absolute,
So merciless, as in yon frantic scenes
Of midnight revel and tumultuous mirth,
Where in the intoxicating draught conceald,
Or couch'd beneath the glance of lawless love,
He snares the simple youth, who, nought suspecting,
Means to be blest-but finds himself undone.

Down the smooth stream of life the stripling darts,
Gay as the morn; bright glows the vernal sky.
Hope swells his sails, and Passion steers his course,
Safe glides his little bark along the shore
Where Virtue takes her stand; but if too far
He launches forth beyond Discretion's mark,
Sudden the tempest scowls, the surges roar,
Blot his fair day, and plunge him in the deep.
O sad but sure mischance ! O happier far
To lie like gallant Howe 'midst Indian wilds
A breathless corse, cut off by savage hands
In earliest prime, a generous sacrifice
To freedom's holy cause, than so to fall,
Torn immature from life's meridian joys,
A prey to Vice, Intemperance, and Disease.

Yet die ev’n thus, thus rather perish still, Ye sons of Pleasure by the Almighty stricken,

Than ever dare (though oft, alas! ye dare) To lift against yourselves the murderous steel, To wrest from God's own hand the sword of Justice, And be your own avengers ! Hold, rash Man, Though with anticipating speed thou'st rang'd Through every region of delight, nor left One joy to gild the evening of thy days : Though life seem one uncomfortable void,

Guilt at thy heels, before thy face Despair ;
Yet gay this scene, and light this load of wo,
Compard with thy hereafter. Think, O think,
And ere thou plunge into the vast abyss,
Pause on the verge awhile : look down and see
Thy future mansion. Why that start of horror ?
From thy slack hand why drops the uplifted steel?
Didst thou not think such vengeance must await
The wretch, that with his crimes all fresh about him
Rushes irreverent, unprepard, uncallid,
Into his Maker's presence, throwing back
With insolent disdain his choicest gift?

Live then, while heav'n in pity lends thee life,
And think it all too short to wash away,
By penitential tears and deep contrition,
The scarlet of thy crimes. So shalt thou find
Rest to thy soul ; so unappall’d shalt meet
Death when he comes, not wantonly invite
His lingering stroke. Be it thy sole concern
With innocence to live : with patience wait
The appointed hour; too soon that hour will come,
Though Nature run her course. But Nature's God,
If need require, by thousand various ways,
Without thy aid can shorten that short span,
And quench the lamp of life. O when he comes,
Rous'd by the cry of wickedness extreme,
To Heaven ascending from some guilty land,
Now ripe for vengeance ; when he comes array'd
In all the terrors of Almighty wrath,
Forth from his bosom plucks his lingering arm,
And on the miscreants pours destruction down;
Vho can abide his coming? Who can bear

His whole displeasure? In no common form
Death then appears, but starting into size
Enormous, measures with gigantic stride
The astonish'd Earth, and from his looks throws round
Unutterable horror and dismay;
All Nature lends her aid. Each element
Arms in his cause. Ope fly the doors of Heav'n;
The fountains of the deep their barriers break;
Above, below, the rival torrents pour,
And drown Creation; or, in floods of fire
Descends a livid cataract, and consumes
An impious race. Sometimes, when all seems peace,
Wakes the grim whirlwind, and with rude embrace
Sweeps nations to their grave, or in the deep
Whelms the proud wooden world ; full many a youth
Floats on his watery bier, or lies unwept
On some sad desert shore ! At dead of night,
In sullen silence stalks forth Pestilence;
Contagion close behind taints all her steps
With poisonous dew; no smiting hand is seen,
No sound is heard; but soon her secret path
Is mark'd with desolation; heaps on heaps
Promiscuous drop. No friend, no refuge near ;
All, all is false and treacherous around;
All that they touch, or taste, or breathe, is Death.

But ah ! what means that ruinous roar ? why fail
These tottering feet? Earth to its centre feels
The Godhead's power, and trembling at his touch
Through all its pillars, and in every pore,
Hurls to the ground, with one convulsive heave,
Precipitating domes, and towns, and towers,
The work of ages. Crush'd beneath the weight

« ForrigeFortsett »