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And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay
As if created only, like the fly
That spreads his motely wings in the eye of noon,
To sport their season and be seen no more.
The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise,
And pregnant with discoveries new and rare.
Some write a narrative of wars and feats
Of heroes little known, and call the rant
A history; describe the man, of whom
His own coevals took but little note,
And paint his person, character and views,
As they had known him from his mother's womb.
They disentangle from the puzzled skein
In which obscurity has wrapped them up,
The threads of politic and shrewd design
That ran through all his purposes, and charge
His mind with meanings that he never had,
Or having, kept concealed. Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn
That He who made it and revealed its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
Some more acute and more industrious still
Contrive creation : travel nature up
To the sharp peak of her sublimest height,
And tell us whence the stars; why some are fixed,
And planetary some; what gave them first
Rotation, from what fountain flowed their light.
Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants, each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life s poor shallow lamp,
In playing tricks with nature, giving laws
To distant worlds and trifling in their own.
Is't not a pity now that tickling rheums
Should ever tease the lungs and blear the sight
Of oracles like these? Great pity too,
That having wielded the elements, and built
A thousand systems, each in his own way,
They should go out in fume and be forgot?
Ah! what is life thus spent? and what are they
But frantic who thus spend it? all for smoke,—
Eternity for bubbles, proves at last
A senseless bargain. When I see such games
Played by the creatures of a Power who swears
That he will judge the earth, and call the fool
To a sharp reckoning that has lived in vain;
And when I weigh this seaming wisdom well
And prove it in the infallible result
So hollow and so false,—I feel my heart
Dissolve in pity, and account the learned,
If this be learning, most of all deceived.
Great crimes alarm the conscience, but she sleeps
While thoughtful man is plausibly amused.
Defend me therefore common sense, say I,
From reveries so airy, from the toil
Of dropping buckets into smpty wells,
And growing old in drawing nothing up!
'Twere well, says one sage erudite, profound, Terribly arched and aquiline his nose, And overbuilt with most impending brows, 'Twere well could you permit the world to live As the world pleases. What's the world to you ?— Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk As sweet as charity from human breasts. I think, articulate, I laugh and weep And exercise all functions of a man. How then should I and any man that lives Be strangers to each other? Pierce my vein, Take of the crimson stream meandering there And catechise it well. Apply your glass, Search it, and prove now if it be not blood Congenial with thine own. And if it be, What edge of subtlety canst thou suppose Keen enough, wise and skilful as thou art, To cut the link of brotherhood, by which One common Maker bound me to the kino1 True; I am no proficient, I confess, In arts like yours. I cannot call the swift And perilous lightnings from the angry clouds, And bid them hide themselves in the earth beneath; I cannot analyse the air, nor catoh The parallax of yonder luminous point That seems half quenched in the immense abyss: Such powers I boast not ;—neither can I rest A silent witness of the headlong rage Or heedless folly by which thousands die, Bone of my bone, and kindred souls to mine.
God never meant that man should scale the heavens By strides of human wisdom. In his works Though wondrous, he commands us in his word To seek him rather, where his mercy shines. The mind indeed enlightened from above Views him in all; ascribes to the grand cause The grand effect; acknowledges with joy His manner, and with rapture tastes his style. But never yet did philosophic tube That brings the planets home into the eye Of observation, and discovers, else Not visible, his family of worlds, Discover Him that rules them; such a veil Hangs over mortal eyes, blind from the birth And dark in things divine. Full often too
Our wayward intellect, the more we learn
Of nature, overlooks her Author more,
From instrumental causes proud to draw
Conclusions retrograde and mad mistake.
But if his word once teach us, shoot a ray
Through all the heart's dark chambers, and reveal
Truths undiscerned but by that holy light,
Then all is plain. Philosophy baptized
In the pure fountain of eternal love
Has eyes indeed; and viewing all she sees
As meant to indicate a God to man,
Gives Him his praise, and forfeits not her own.
Learning has borne such fruit in other days
On all her branches. Piety has found
Friends in the friends of science, and true prayer
Has flowed from lips wet with Castalian dews.
Such was thy wisdom, Newton, child-like sage!
Sagacious reader of the works of God,
And in his word sagacious. Such too thine,
Milton, whose genius had angelic wings,
And fed on manna. And such thine in whom
Our British Themis gloried with just cause,
Immortal Hale ! for deep discernment praised
And sound integrity not more, than famed
For sanctity of manners undented.
All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades Like the fair flower dishevelled in the wind; Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream; The man we celebrate must find a tomb, And we that worship him, ignoble graves. Nothing is proof against the general curse Of vanity, that seizes all below. The only amaranthine flower on earth Is virtue, the only lasting treasure, truth. But what is truth? 'twas Pilate's question put To truth itself, that deigned him no reply. And wherefore? will not God impart his light To them that ask it ?—Freely ;—tis his joy, His glory, and his nature to impart: But to the proud, uncandid, insincere Or negligent, inquirer, not a spark. What's that which brings contempt upon a book And him that writes it, though the style be neat, The method clear, and argument exact? That makes a minister in holy things The joy of many and the dread of more, His name a theme for praise and for reproach? That while it gives us worth in God's account, Depreciates and undoes us in our own? What pearl is it that rich men cannot buy, That learning is too proud to gather up, But which the poor and the despised of all
Seek and obtain, awl often find uasosgri?
Oh, friendly to the best pursuits d'naas.