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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,
Whom now despairing agonies destroy,
Speak, for he can, and none so well as he,
What treasures centre, what delights in thee.
Had he the gems, the spices, and the land
That boasts the treasure, all at his command,
The fragrant grove, the inestimable mine,
Were light, when weighed against one smile of thine.
Though clasped and cradled in his nurse's arms,
He shine with all a cherub's artless charms,
Man is the genuine offspring of revolt,
Stubborn and sturdy, a wild ass's colt;
His passions, like the watery stores that sleep
Beneath the smiling surface of the deep,
Wait but the lashes of a wintry storm,
To frown and roar, and shake his feeble form.
From infancy through childhood's giddy maze,
Froward at school, and fretful in his plays,
The puny tyrant burns to subjugate
The free republic of the whip-gig state.
If one, his equal in athletic frame,
Or, more provoking still, of nobler name,
Dare step across his arbitrary views,
An Iliad, only not in verse, ensues:
The little Greeks look trembling at the scales,
Till the best tongue, or heaviest hand prevails.
Now see him launched into the world at large;
If priest, supinely droning o'er his charge,
Their fleece his pillow, and his weekly drawl,
Though short, too long, the price he pays for all.
If lawyer, loud whatever cause he plead,
Put proudest of the worst, if that succeed.
Perhaps a grave physician, gathering fees,
Punctually paid for lengthening out disease;
No Cotton, whose humanity sheds rays
That make superior skill his second praise.
If arms engage him, he devotes to sport
His date of life, so likely to be short;
A soldier may be anything, if brave;
So may a tradesman, if not quite a knave.
Such stuff the world is made of; and mankind
To passion, interest, pleasure, whim resigned,
Insist on, as if each were his own Pope,
Forgiveness and the privilege of hope.
But conscience, in some awful silent hour,
When captivating lusts have lost their power,
Perhaps when sickness, or some fearful dream,
Reminds him of religion, hated theme!
Starts from the down on which she lately slept,
And tells of laws despised, at least not kept,
Shows with a pointing finger and no noise,
A pale procession of past sinful joys,
All witnesses of blessings foxilly scorned,
And life abused,—and not to be suborned.
Mark these, she says; these, summoned from afar,
Begin their march to meet thee at the bar;
There find a Judge inexorably just,
And perish there, as all presumption must.
Peace be to those (such peace as earth can give,)
Who live in pleasure, dead even while they live;
Bom capable indeed of heavenly truth,
But down to latest age from earliest youth,
Their mind a wilderness through want of care,
The plough of wisdom never entering there.
Peace (if insensibility may claim
A right to the meek honours of her name,)
To men of pedigree; their noble race,
Emulous always of the nearest place
To any throne, except the throne of grace.
Let cottagers and unenlightened swains
Revere the laws they dream that heaven ordains,
Resort on Sundays to the house of prayer,
And ask, and fancy they find blessings there;
Themselves, perhaps, when weary they retreat
To enjoy cool nature in a country seat,
To exchange the centre of a thousand trades,
For clumps, and lawns, and temples, and cascades,
May now and then their velvet cushions take,
And seem to pray, for good example sake;
Judging, in charity no doubt, the town
Pious enough, and having need of none.
Kind souls ! to teach their tenantry to prize
What they themselves, without remorse, despise:
Nor hope have they nor fear of aught to come,
As well for them had prophecy been dumb;
They could have held the conduct they pursue,
Had Paul of Tarsus lived and died a Jew;
And truth, proposed to reasoners wise as they,
Is a pearl cast—completely cast away.
They die.—Death lends them, pleased and as in sport.
All the grim honours of his ghastly court.
Far other paintings grace the chamber now,
Where late we saw the mimic landscape glow:
The busy heralds hang the sable scene
With mournful scutcheons and dim lamps between,
Proclaim their titles to the crowd around,
But they that wore them move not at the sound;
The coronet placed idly at their head,
Adds nothing now to the degraded dead,
And even the star that glitters on the bier
Can only say—Nobility lies here.
Peace to all such !—'twere pity to offend
By useless censure whom we cannot mend;
Life without hope can close but in despair,
'Twas there we found them, and must leave them there.