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And bind the task assigned thee to thine heart.
Happy the man there seeking and there found,
Happy the nation where such men abound.
How shall a verse impress thee? by what name
Shall I adjure thee not to court thy shame!
By theirs, whose bright example unimpeached
Directs thee to that eminence they reached,
Heroes and worthies of days past, thy sires?
Or His, who touched their heart with hallowed fires?
Their names, alas! in vain reproach an age,
Whom all the vanities they scorned engage;
And His, that seraphs trembled at, is hung
Disgracefully on every trifler's tongue,
Or serves the champion in forensic war
To flourish and parade with at the bar.
Pleasure herself perhaps suggests a plea,
If interest move thee, to persuade even thee;
By every charm that smiles upon her face,
By joys possessed, and joys still held in chace,
If dear society be worth a thought,
And if the feast of freedom cloy thee not,
Reflect that these and all that seems thine own,
Held by the tenure of his will alone,
Like angels in the service of their Lord,
Remain with thee, or leave thee at his word;
That gratitude and temperance in our use
Of what he gives unsparing and profuse,
Secure the favour, and enhance the joy,
That thankless waste and wild abuse destroy.
But above all reflect, how cheap soe'er
Those rights that millions envy thee, appear,
And though resolved to risk them, and swim down
The tide of pleasure heedless of His frown,
That blessings truly sacred, and when given,
Marked with the signature and stamp of heaven.
The word of prophecy, those truths divine
Which make that heaven, if thou desire it, thine,
(Awful alternative ! believed, beloved,
Thy glory; and thy shame if unimproved,)
Are never long vouchsafed, if pushed aside
With cold disgust or philosophic pride;
And that judicially withdrawn, disgrace,
Error and darkness occupy their place.
A world is up in arms, and thou a spot
Not quickly found if negligently sought,
Thy soul as ample as thy bounds are small,
Endurest the brunt, and darest defy them all:
And wilt thou join to this bold enterprise
A bolder still, a contest with the skies?
Remember, if he guard thee and secure,
Whoe'er assails thee, thy success is sure;
But if he leave thee, though the skill and power
Of nations, sworn to spoil thee and devour,
Were all collected in thy single arm,
And thou couldst laugh away the fear of harm,
That strength would Tail opposed against the push
And feeble onset of a pigmy rush.
Say not (and if the thought of such defence
Should spring within thy bosom drive it thence,)
What nation amongst all my foes is free
From crimes as base as any charged on me?
Their measure filled, they too shall pay the debt,
Which God, though long forborn, will not forget.
But know that wrath divine, when most severe,
Makes justice still the guide of his career,
And will not punish in one mingled crowd,
Them without light, and thee without a cloud.
Muse, hang this harp upon yon aged beech, Still murmuring with the solemn truths I teach, And while at intervals a cold blast sings Through the dry leaves, and pants upon the strings, My soul shall sigh in secret, and lament A nation scourged, yet tardy to repent. I know the warning song is sung in vain, That few will hear and fewer heed the strain; But if a sweeter voice, and one designed A blessing to my country and mankind, Reclaim the wandering thousands, and bring home A flock so scattered and so wont to roam, Then place it once again between my knees; The sound of truth will then be sure to please: And truth alone, where'er my life be cast, In scenes of plenty or the pining waste, Shall be my chosen theme, my glory to the last.
— doceas iter, et sacra ostia pandas.—Virg. Mn. 6.
ASK what is human life—the sage replies,
With disappointment lowering in his eyes,
A painful passage o'er a restless flood,
A vain pursuit of fugitive false good,
A scene of fancied bliss and heartfelt care,
Closing at last in darkness and despair.
The poor, inured to drudgery and distress,
Act without aim, think little, and feel less,
And nowhere, but in feigned Arcadian scenes,
Taste happiness, or know what pleasure means.
Riches are passed away from hand to hand,
As fortune, vice, or folly may command;
As in a dance the pair that take the lead
Turn downward, and the lowest pair succeed,
So shifting and so various is the plan,
By which heaven rules the mixt affairs of man:
Vicissitude wheels round the motley crowd,
The rich grow poor, the poor become purse-croud;
Business is labour, and man's weakness such
Pleasure is labour too, and tires as much;
The very sense of it foregoes its use,
By repetition palled, by age obtuse.
Youth lost in dissipation, we deplore,
Through life's sad remnant, what no sighs restore;
Our years, a fruitless race without a prize,
Too many, yet too few to make us wise.
Dangling his cane about, and taking snuff,
Lothario cries, What philosophic stuff!
Oh, querulous and weak !—whose useless brain
Once thought of nothing, and now thinks in vain;
Whose eye reverted weeps o'er all the past,
Whose prospect shows thee a disheartening waste;
Would age in thee resign his wintry reign,
And youth invigorate that frame again,
Renewed desire would grace with other speech
Joys always prized, when placed within our reach.
For lift thy palsied head, shake off the gloom
That overhangs the borders of thy tomb,
See nature gay as when she first began,
With smiles alluring her admirer man;
She spreads the morning over eastern hills,
Earth glitters with the drops the night distils,
The sun obedient at her call appears,
To fling his glories o'er the robe she wears,
Banks clothed with flowers, groves filled with sprightly
sounds, The yellow tilth, green meads, rocks, rising grounds, Streams edged with osiers, fattening every field Where'er they flow, now seen and now concealed; From the blue rim where skies and mountains meet, Down to the very turf beneath thy feet, Ten thousand charms, that only 'ools despise, Or pride can look at with indifferent eyes, All speak one language, all with one sweet voice Cry to her universal realm, Rejoice! Man feels the spur of passions and desires, And she gives largely more than he requires; Not that his hours devoted all to care, Hollow-eyed abstinence, and lean despair, The wretch may pine, while to his smell, taste, sight, She holds a paradise of rich delight; But gently to rebuke his awkward fear, To prove that what she gives, she gives sincere, To banish hesitation, and proclaim His happiness, her dear, her only aim. 'Tis grave philosophy's absurdest dream, That heaven's intentions are not what they seem, That only shadows are dispensed below,
And earth has no reality but woe.
Thus things terrestrial wear a different hue, As youth or age persuades; and neither true: So Flora's wreath through coloured crystal seen. The rose or lily appears blue or green, But still the imputed tints are those alone The medium represents, and not their own.
To rise at noon, sit slipshod and undressed,
To read the news, or fiddle, as seems best,
Till half the world comes rattling at his door,
To fill the dull vacuity till four;
And just when evening turns the blue vault gray,
To spend two hours in dressing for the day;
To make the sun a bauble without use,
Save for the fruits his heavenly beams produce,
Quite to forget, or deem it worth no thought,
Who bids him shine, or if he shine or not;
Through mere necessity to close his eyes
Just when the larks and when the shepherds rise;
Is such a life, so tediously the same,
So void of all utility or aim,
That poor Jonquil with almost every breath
Sighs for his exit, vulgarly called death;
For he, with all his follies, has a mind
Not yet so blank, or fashionably blind,
But now and then perhaps a feeble ray
Of distant wisdom shoots across his way,
By which he reads, that life without a plan,
As useless as the moment it began,
Serves merely as a soil for discontent
To thrive in; an encumbrance ere half spent.
Oh, weariness beyond what asses feel,
That tread the circuit of the cistern wheel;
A dull rotation, never at a stay,
Yesterday's face twin image of to-day;
While conversation, an exhausted stock,
Grows drowsy as the clicking of a clock.
No need, he cries, of gravity stuffed out
With academic dignity devout,
To read wise lectures, vanity the text:
Proclaim the remedy, ye learned, next;
For truth self-evident with pomp impressed
Is vanity surpassing all the rest.
That remedy, not hid in deeps profound,
Yet seldom sought where only to be found,
While passion turns aside from its due scope
The inquirer's aim, that remedy is hope.
Life is His gift, from whom whate'er life needs
And every good and perfect gift proceeds;
Bestowed on man, like all that we partake,
Royally, freely, for his bounty's sake;
Transient, indeed, as is the fleeting hour,
And yet the seed of an immortal flower,
Designed in honour of his endless love,
To fill with fragrance his abode above:
No trifle, howsoever short it seem,
And, howsoever shadowy, no dream;
Its value what no thought can ascertain,
Nor all an angel's eloquence explain.
Men deal with life, as children with their play,
Who first misuse, then cast their toys away;
Live to no sober purpose, and contend
That their Creator had no serious end.
When God and man stand opposite in view,
Man's disappointment must of course ensue.
The just Creator condescends to write,
In beams of inextinguishable light,
His names of wisdom, goodness, power, and love,
On all that blooms below or shines above,
To catch the wandering notice of mankind,
And teach the world, if not perversely blind,
His gracious attributes, and prove the share
His offspring hold in his paternal care.
If, led from earthly things to things divine,
His creature thwart not his august design,
Then praise is heard instead of reasoning pride,
And captious cavil and complaint subside.
Nature, employed in her allotted place,
Is handmaid to the purposes of grace;
By good vouchsafed makes known superior good,
And bliss not seen by blessings understood:
That bliss revealed in Scripture, with a glow
Bright as the covenant-ensuring bow,
Fires all his feelings with a noble scorn
Of sensual evil, and thus hope is born.
Hope sets the stamp of vanity on all That men have deemed substantial since the fall, Yet has the wondrous virtue to educe From emptiness itself a real use; And while she takes, as at a father's hand, What health and sober appetite demand, From fading good derives, with chemic art, That lasting happiness, a thankful heart. Hope with uplifted foot set free from earth, Pants for the place of her ethereal birth, On steady wings sails through the immense abyss, Plucks amaranthine joys from bow«rs of bliss, And crowns the soul, while yet a mourner here, With wreaths like those triumphant spirits wear. Hope, as an anchor firm and sure, holds fast The Christian vessel, and defies the blast. Hope! nothing else can nourish and secure His newborn virtues, and preserve him pure; Hope ! let the wretch, once conscious of the joy,