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Life's little stage is a small erainence,,
Inch-high the grave above; that home of man,
Where dwells the multitude: We gaze around;
We read their monuments; we sigh; and while
We sigh, we sink; and are what we deplor'd;
Lamenting, or lamented, all our lot!
Is Death at distance? No; he has been on thee, And giv'n sure earnest of his final blow. Those hours that lately smil'd, where are they now? Pallid to thought, and ghastly! drown'd, all drown'd In that great deep, which nothing disembogues! And, dying, they bequeath'd thee small renown. The rest are on the wing: how fleet their flight! Already has the fatal train took fire;
A moment, and the world's blown up to thee;
The Sun is darkness, and the stars are dust.
'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours; And ask them, what report they bore to Heaven; And how they might have borne more welcome
Their answers form what men experience call;
If wisdom's friend, her best; if not, worst foe.
O reconcile them! Kind Experience cries,
"There's nothing here, but what as nothing weights;
The more our joy, the more we know it vain;
And by success are tutor❜d to despair."
Nor is it only thus, but must be so.
Who knows not this, though gray, is still a child.
Loose then from Earth the grasp of fond desire,
Weigh anchor, and some happier clime explore.
Art thou so moor'd thou canst not disengage, Nor give thy thoughts a ply to future scenes?
Since by life's passing breath, blown up from Earth,
Light as the summer's dust, we take in air
A moment's giddy flight, and fall again;
Join the dull mass, increase the trodden soil,
And sleep, till Earth herself shall be no more;
Since then (as emmets, their small world o'erthrown)
We, sore amaz'd, from out Earth's ruins crawl,
And rise to fate extreme of foul or fair,
As man's own choice (controller of the skies!)
As man's despotic will, perhaps one hour,
(O how omnipotent is time!) decrees;
Should not each warning give a strong alarm?
Warning, far less than that of bosom torn
From bosom, bleeding o'er the sacred dead!
Should not each dial strike us as we pass,
Portentous, as the written wall, which struck,
O'er midnight bowls, the proud Assyrian pale,
Ere-while high-flusht with insolence and wine?
Like that, the dial speaks; and points to thee,
Lorenzo! loth to break thy banquet up.
"O man, thy kingdom is departing from thee;
And, while it lasts, is emptier than my shade."
Its silent language such: nor need'st thou call
Thy Magi, to decypher what it means.
Know, like the Median, fate is in thy walls:
Dost ask, How? Whence? Belshazzar-like, amaz d?
Man's make encloses the sure seeds of death;
Life feeds the murderer: Ingrate! he thrives
On her own meal, and then his nurse devours.
But here, Lorenzo, the delusion lies:
That solar shadow, as it measures life,
It life resembles too: life speeds away
From point to point, though seeming to stand still
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth:
Too subtle is the movement to be seen;
Yet soon man's hour is up, and we are gone.
Warnings point out our danger; gnomons, time:
As these are useless when the Sun is set;
So those, but when more glorious reason shines.
Reason should judge in all; in reason's eye,
That sedentary shadow travels hard.
But such our gravitation to the wrong,
So prone our hearts to whisper what we wish,
'T is later with the wise than he 's aware;
A Wilmington goes slower than the Sun:
And all mankind mistake their time of day;
E'en age itself. Fresh hopes are hourly sown
In furrow'd brows. To gentle life's descent
We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain.
We take fair days in winter, for the spring;
And turn our blessing into bane. Since oft
Man must compute that age he cannot feel,
He scarce believes he 's older for his years.
Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store
One disappointment sure, to crown the rest;
The disappointment of a promis'd hour.
On this, or similar, Philander! thou
Whose mind was moral, as the preacher's tongue;
And strong, to wield all science, worth the name;
How often we talk'd down the summer's Sun,
And cool'd our passions by the breezy stream!
How often thaw'd and shorten'd winter's eve,
By conflict kind, that struck out latent truth,
Best found, so sought; to the recluse more coy!
Thoughts disentangle passing o'er the lip;
Clean runs the thread; if not, 't is thrown away,
Or kept to tie up nonsense for a song;
Song, fashionably fruitless; such as stains
The fancy, and unhallow'd passion fires;
Chiming her saints to Cytherea's fane.
Know'st thou, Lorenzo! what a friend contains? As bees mixt nectar draw from fragrant flowers, So men from friendship, wisdom and delight; Twins ty'd by Nature; if they part, they die. Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach? Good sense will stagnate. Thoughts shut up want air,
And spoil, like bales unopen'd to the Sun.
Had thought been all, sweet speech had been denied; Speech, thought's canal! speech, thought's criterion too!
Thought, in the mine, may come forth gold, or dross;
When coin'd in word, we know its real worth.
If sterling, store it for thy future use:
'T will buy thee benefit; perhaps renown.
Thought, too, deliver'd, is the more possest ;
Teaching, we learn; and, giving, we retain
The births of intellect; when dumb, forgot.
Speech ventilates our intellectual fire;
Speech burnishes our mental magazine;
Brightens, for ornament; and whets, for use.
What numbers, sheath'd in erudition, lie,
Plung'd to the hilts in venerable tomes,
And rusted in; who might have borne an edge,
And play'd a sprightly beam, if born to speech;
If born blest heirs of half their mother's tongue!
'Tis thought's exchange, which, like th' alternate
Of waves conflicting, breaks the learned scum,
And defecates the student's standing pool.
In contemplation is his proud resource? 'T is poor, as proud, by converse unsustain'd. Rude thought runs wild in contemplation's field; Converse, the menage, breaks it to the bitt Of due restraint; and emulation's spur Gives graceful energy, by rivals aw'd. 'Tis converse qualifies for solitude; As exercise, for salutary rest. By that untutor'd, Contemplation raves ; And Nature's fool, by Wisdom is undone. Wisdom, though richer than Peruvian mines, And sweeter than the sweet ambrosial hive, What is she, but the means of happiness? That unobtain'd, than folly more a fool; A melancholy fool, without her bells. Friendship, the means of wisdom, richly gives The precious end, which makes our wisdom wise. Nature, in zeal for human amity, Denies, or damps, an undivided joy.
Joy is an import; joy is an exchange;
Joy flies monopolists: it calls for two;
Rich fruit! Heaven-planted! never pluckt by one.
Needful auxiliars are our friends, to give
To social man true relish of himself.
Full on ourselves, descending in a line,
Pleasure's bright beam is feeble in delight:
Delight intense is taken by rebound;
Reverberated pleasures fire the breast.