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Of the rude injuries it late sustained,
Till tuned at length to some immortal song,
It sounds Jehovah's name, and pours his praise along.
. . . studiis florens ignobilis ott.
Virg. Georg. lib. 4.
Hackneyed in business, wearied at the oar
Which thousands, once fast chained to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish they could forego,
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequestered spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And having lived a trifler, die a man.
Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebelled against, not yet suppressed,
And calls a creature formed for God alone,
For heaven's high purposes and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are clustered close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove
Remind him of his Maker's power and love.
'Tis well if looked for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls that have long despised their heavenly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employed with ceaseless care
In catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Inveterate habits choke the unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tenderest part,
And draining its nutritious powers to feed
Their noxious growth, starve every better seed.
Happy if full of days,—but happier far If ere we yet discern life's evening star, Sick of the service of a world that feeds Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds, We can escape from custom's idiot sway, To serve the Sovereign we were born to obey. Then sweet to muse upon his skill displayed (Infinite skill) in all that he has made! To trace in Nature's most minute design, The signature and stamp of power divine, Contrivance intricate expressed with ease, Where unassisted sight no beauty sees, The shapely limb and lubricated joint, Within the small dimensions of a point, Muscle and nerve miraculously spun, His mighty work who speaks and it is done, The invisible in things scarce seen revealed, To whom an atom is an ample field. To wonder at a thousand insect forms, These hatched, and those resuscitated worms, New life ordained and brighter scenes to share. Once prone on earth, now buoyant upon air, Whose shape would make theni, had they bulk and size, More hideous foes than fancy can devise; With helmed heads and dragon scales adorned, The mighty myriads, now securely scorned, Would mock the majesty of man's high birth, Despise his bulwarks, and unpeople earth. Then with a glance of fancy to survey, Far as the faculty can stretch away, Ten thousand rivers poured at his command From urns that never fail through every land, These like a deluge with impetuous force, Those winding modestly a silent course, The cloud-surmounting alps, the fruitful vales, Seas on which every nation spreads her sails, The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light, The crescent moon, the diadem of night, Stars countless, each in his appointed place, Fast anchored in the deep abyss of space,— At such a sight to catch the poet's flame, And with a rapture like his own exclaim, These are thy glorious works, thou Source of good, How dimly seen, how faintly understood! Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care, This universal frame, thus wondrous fair; Thy power divine and bounty beyond thought, Adored and praised in all that thou hast wrought, Absorbed in that immensity I see, I shrink abased, and yet aspire to thee; Instruct me, guide me to that heavenly day, Thy words, more clearly than thy works display,
That while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine,
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
O blest proficiency! surpassing all
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompense that aits or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compared with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to show?
Thus studied, used and consecrated thus,
Whatever is, seems formed indeed for us,
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguiled,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires;
But as a scale by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends,
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferior beings up to God,
And sees by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for Him.
Not that I mean to approve, or would enforce
A superstitious and monastic course:
Truth is not local; God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffic and the shades,
And may be feared amid the busiest scenes,
Or scorned where business never intervenes.
But 'tis not easy with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest powers,
And in a world where (other ills apart)
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker's will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by that sacred test,
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no favourite sin,
And search the themes important above all,
Ourselves and our recovery from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind released
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increased,
How to secure in some propitious hour,
The point of interest or the post of power;
A soul serene, and equally retired
From objects too much dreaded or desired,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
Opening the map of God's extensive plan, We find a little isle, this life of man;
Eternity's unknown expanse appears
Circling around and limiting his years;
The busy race examine and explore
Each creek and cavern of the dangerous shore,
With care collect what in their eyes excels,
Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells,
Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great,
And happiest he that groans beneath his weight;
The waves o'ertake them in their serious play,
And every hour sweep multitudes away;
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng, with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Sealed with his signet whom they serve and love;
Scorned by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatched away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use;
The love of change that lives in every breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its votary to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of avarice, or the pompous prize
That courts display before ambitious eyes,
The fruits that hang on pleasure's flowery stem,
Whate'er enchants them are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest where the deer securely roves,
The fall of waters and the song of birds,
And hills that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excellmg all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief favourites share.
With eager step and caielessly arrayed,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleased fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that flit or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
O Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that Power who formed thee and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light though I should miss renown,
And poring on thy page, whose every line
Bears proofs of an intelligence divine,
May feel a heart enriched by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker's praise.
Woe to the man whose wit disclaims its use,
Glittering in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by,—
His hours of leisure and recess employs,
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
The lover, too, shuns business and alarms,
Tender'idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest prayers,
That he devotes not with a zeal like theirs;
'Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair,
Adores a creature, and devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain.
As woodbine weds the plants within her reach,
Rough elm, or smooth-grained ash, or glossy beech,
In spiral rings ascends the trunk, and lays
Her golden tassels on the leafy sprays,
But does a mischief while she lends a grace,
Straitening its growth by such a strict embrace,
So love that clings around the noblest minds,
Forbids the advancement of the soul he binds;
The suitor's air indeed he soon improves,
And forms it to the taste of her he loves,
Teaches his eyes a language, and no less
Refines his speech, and fashions his address;
But farewell promises of happier fruits,
Manly designs, and learning's grave pursuits;
Girt with a chain he cannot wish to break,
His only bliss is sorrow for her sake,
Who will may pant for glory and excel,
Her smile his aim, all higher aims farewell I
Thyrsis, Alexis, or whatever name
May least offend against so pure a flame,
Though sage advice of friends the most sincere
Sounds harshly in so delicate an ear,
And lovers, of all creatures tame or wild,
Can least brook management, however mild,