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Strikes, like a pestilence, from breast to breast;
Riot, pride, perfidy, blue vapours breathe;
And inhumanity is caught from man,
From smiling man. A slight, a single glance,
And shot at random, often has brought home
A sudden fever to the throbbing heart,
Of envy, rancour, or impure desire.
We see, we hear, with peril; safety dwells
Remote from multitude; the world's a school
Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around!
We must or imitate, or disapprove;
Must list as their accomplices, or foes;
That stains our innocence; this wounds our peace.
From Nature's birth, hence, wisdom has been smit
With sweet recess, and languish'd for the shade.
This sacred shade, and solitude, what is it?
'Tis the felt presence of the Deity.
Few are the faults we flatter when alone,
Vice sinks in her allurements, is ungilt,
And looks, like other objects, black by night.
By night an atheist half-believes a God.
Night is fair virtue's immemorial friend; The conscious Moon, through every distant age, Has held a lamp to wisdom, and let fall, On contemplation's eye, her purging ray.
The fam'd Athenian, he who woo'd from Heaven
Philosophy the fair, to dwell with men,
And form their manners, not inflame their pride,
While o'er his head, as fearful to molest
His labouring mind, the stars in silence slide,
And seem all gazing on their future guest
See him soliciting his ardent suit
In private audience: all the live-long night,
Rigid in thought, and motionless, he stands;
Nor quits his theme, or posture, till the Sun
(Rude drunkard rising rosy from the main!)
Disturbs his nobler intellectual beam,
And gives him to the tumult of the world. [waste
Hail, precious moments! stol'n from the black
Of murder'd time! Auspicious midnight! hail!
The world excluded, every passion husht,
And open'd a calm intercourse with Heaven,
Here the soul sits in council; ponders past,
Predestines future action; sees, not feels,
Tumultuous life, and reasons with the storm:
All her lies answers, and thinks down her charms.
What aweful joy! what mental liberty!
I am not pent in darkness; rather say,
(If not too bold,) in darkness I'm embower'd.
Delightful gloom! the clustering thoughts around
Spontaneous rise, and blossom in the shade;
But droop by day, and sicken in the sun.
Thought borrows light elsewhere; from that first fire,
Fountain of animation! whence descends
Urania, my celestial guest! who deigns
Nightly to visit me, so mean; and now,
Conscious how needful discipline to man,
From pleasing dalliance with the charms of night
My wandering thought recalls, to what excites
Far other beat of heart! Narcissa's tomb!
Or is it feeble Nature calls me back,
And breaks my spirit into grief again'
Is it a Stygian vapour in my blood?
A cold, slow puddle, creeping through my veins?
Or is it thus with all men? Thus with all.
What are we? How unequal! Now we soar,
And now we sink: to be the same, transcends
Our present prowess. Dearly pays the soul
For lodging ill; too dearly rents her clay.
Reason, a baffled counsellor! but adds
The blush of weakness to the bane of woe.
The noblest spirit, fighting her hard fate,
In this damp, dusty region, charg'd with storms,
But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly;
Or, flying, short her flight, and sure her fall.
Our utmost strength, when down, to rise again;
And not to yield, though beaten, all our praise.
'T is vain to seek in men for more than man.
Though proud in promise, big in previous thought,
Experience damps our triumph. I who late,
Emerging from the shadows of the grave,
Where grief detain'd me prisoner, mounting high,
Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,
And call'd mankind to glory, shook off pain,
Mortality shook off, in ether pure,
And struck the stars; now feel my spirits fail
They drop me from the zenith; down I rush,
Like him whom fable fledg'd with waxen wings,
In sorrow drown'd- but not in sorrow lost.
How wretched is the man who never mourn'd!
I dive for precious pearl in sorrow's stream:
Not so the thoughtless man that only grieves,
Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain
(Inestimable gain!) and gives Heaven leave
To make him but more wretched, not more wise.
If wisdom is our lesson (and what else
Ennobles man? what else have angels learnt?)
Grief! more proficients in thy school are made,
Than genius, or proud learning, e'er could boast.
Voracious learning, often over-fed,
Digests not into sense her motley meal.
This book-case, with dark booty almost burst,
This forager on others' wisdom, leaves
Her native farm, her reason, quite untill'd.
With mixt manure she surfeits the rank soil,
Dung'd, but not dress'd; and rich to beggary.
A pomp untameable of weeds prevails.
Her servant's wealth, encumber'd wisdom mourns.
And what says genius?" Let the dull be wise.” Genius, too hard for right, can prove it wrong; And loves to boast, where blush men less inspir'd. It pleads exemption from the laws of sense; Considers reason as a leveller;
And scorns to share a blessing with the crowd.
That wise it could be, thinks an ample claim
To glory, and to pleasure gives the rest.
Crassus but sleeps, Ardelio is undone.
Wisdom less shudders at a fool, than wit.
But wisdom smiles, when humbled mortals weep. When sorrow wounds the breast, as ploughs the
And hearts obdurate feel her softening shower:
Her seed celestial, then, glad wisdom sows;
Her golden harvest triumphs in the soil.
If so, Narcissa! welcome my Relapse;
I'll raise a tax on my calamity,
And reap rich compensation from my pain.
I'll range the plenteous intellectual field;
And gather every thought of sovereign power
To chase the moral maladies of man;
Thoughts, which may bear transplanting to the skies,
Though natives of this coarse penurious soil :
Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs sing,
Refin'd, exalted, not annull'd, in Heaven.
Reason, the sun that gives them birth, the same
In either clime, though more illustrious there.
These choicely cull'd, and elegantly rang'd,
Shall form a garland for Narcissa's tomb;
And, peradventure, of no fading flowers.
Say on what themes shall puzzled choice descend ? "Th' importance of contemplating the tomb; Why men decline it; suicide's foul birth;
The various kind of grief; the faults of age;
And death's dread character· invite my song.'
And, first, th' importance of our end survey'd. Friends counsel quick dismission of our grief: Mistaken kindness! our hearts heal too soon. Are they more kind than he, who struck the blow? Who bid it do his errand in our hearts,
And banish peace, till nobler guests arrive,
And bring it back, a true and endless peace?
Calamities are friends: as glaring day
Of these unnumber'd lustres robs our sight;
Prosperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts
Of import high, and light divine, to man.
The man how blest, who, sick of gaudy scenes, (Scenes apt to thrust between us and ourselves!) Is led by choice to take his favourite walk, Beneath death's gloomy, silent, cypress shades, Unpierc'd by vanity's fantastic ray;