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Or their pall'd palates loath the basket full;
Are instantly, with wild demoniac rage,
For breaking all the chains of Providence,
And bursting their confinement; though fast barr'd
By laws divine and human; guarded strong
With horrours doubled to defend the pass,
The blackest, nature, or dire guilt can raise ;
And moted round with fathomless destruction,
Sure to receive, and whelm them in their fall.
Such, Britons! is the cause, to you unknown, Or worse, o'erlook'd; o'erlook'd by magistrates, Thus criminals themselves. I grant the deed Is madness: but the madness of the heart. And what is that? Our utmost bound of guilt. A sensual, unreflecting life, is big With monstrous births, and suicide, to crown The black infernal brood. The bold to break Heaven's law supreme, and desperately rush Through sacred Nature's murder, on their own, Because they never think of death, they die. 'T is equally man's duty, glory, gain, At once to shun, and meditate, his end. When by the bed of languishment we sit, (The seat of wisdom! if our choice, not fate,) Or, o'er our dying friends, in anguish hang, Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head, Number their moments, and, in every clock, Start at the voice of an eternity;
See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift
An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,
Then sink again, and quiver into death,
That most pathetic herald of our own!
How read we such sad scenes? As sent to man
In perfect vengeance? No; in pity sent;
To melt him down, like wax, and then impress,
Indelible, Death's image on his heart;
Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.
We bleed, we tremble, we forget, we smile.
The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry.
Our quick-returning folly cancels all;
As the tide rushing rases what is writ
In yielding sands, and smooths the letter'd shore.
Lorenzo! hast thou ever weigh'd a sigh?
Or study'd the philosophy of tears?
(A science, yet unlectur'd in our schools!)
Hast thou descended deep into the breast,
And seen their source? If not, descend with me,
And trace these briny rivulets to their springs.
Our funeral tears from different causes rise, As if from separate cisterns in the soul, Of various kinds, they flow. From tender hearts, By soft contagion call'd, some burst at once, And stream obsequious to the leading eye. Some ask more time, by curious art distill'd. Some hearts, in secret hard, unapt to melt, Struck by the magic of the public eye, Like Moses' smitten rock, gush out amain. Some weep to share the fate of the deceas'd, So high in merit, and to them so dear.
They dwell on praises, which they think they share; And thus, without a blush, commend themselves. Some mourn, in proof, that something they could love :
They weep not to relieve their grief, but show.
Some weep in perfect justice to the dead,
As conscious all their love is in arrear.
Some mischievously weep, not unappris'd.
Tears, sometimes, aid the conquest of an eye.
With what address the soft Ephesians draw
Their sable net-work o'er entangled hearts!
As seen through crystal, how their roses glow,
While liquid pearl runs trickling down their cheek!
Of hers not prouder Egypt's wanton queen,
Carousing gems, herself dissolv'd in love.
Some weep at death, abstracted from the dead,
And celebrate, like Charles, their own decease.
By kind construction some are deem'd to weep,
Because a decent veil conceals their joy.
Some weep in earnest, and yet weep in vain ;
As deep in indiscretion, as in woe.
Passion, blind passion! impotently pours
Tears, that deserve more tears; while reason sleeps, gazes like an idiot, unconcern'd;
Nor comprehends the meaning of the storm;
Knows not it speaks to her, and her alone.
Irrationals all sorrow are beneath,
That noble gift! that privilege of man!
From sorrow's pang, the birth of endless joy.
But these are barren of that birth divine:
They weep impetuous, as the summer storm,
And full as short! The cruel grief soon tam'd,
They make a pastime of the stingless tale;
Far as the deep resounding knell they spread
The dreadful news, and hardly feel it more.
No grain of wisdom pays them for their woe. [death
Half-round the globe, the tears pump'd up by
Are spent in watering vanities of life;
In making folly flourish still more fair,
When the sick soul, her wonted stay withdrawn,
Reclines on earth, and sorrows in the dust;
Instead of learning, there, her true support,
Though there thrown down her true support to learn,
Without Heaven's aid, impatient to be blest,
She crawls to the next shrub, or bramble vile,
Though from the stately cedar's arms she fell;
With stale, forsworn embraces, clings anew,
The stranger weds, and blossoms, as before,
In all the fruitless fopperies of life :
Presents her weed, well fancied, at the ball,
And raffles for the death's head on the ring.
So wept Aurelia, till the destin'd youth Stepp'd in, with his receipt for making smiles, And blanching sables into bridal bloom. So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate; Who gave that angel boy, on whom he dotes; And died to give him, orphan'd in his birth! Not such, Narcissa, my distress for thee. I'll make an altar of thy sacred tomb, To sacrifice to wisdom. What wast thou? "Young, gay, and fortunate!" Each yields a theme. I'll dwell on each, to shun thought more severe; (Heaven knows I labour with severer still!) I'll dwell on each, and quite exhaust thy death. A soul without reflection, like a pile Without inhabitant, to ruin runs.
And, first, thy youth. What says it to gray hairs? Narcissa, I'm become thy pupil now
Early, bright, transient, chaste, as morning dew,
She sparkled, was exhal'd, and went to Heaven.
Time on this head has snow'd; yet still 't is borne
Aloft; nor thinks but on another's grave.
Cover'd with shame I speak it, age severe
Old worn-out vice sets down for virtue fair;
With graceless gravity, chastising youth,
That youth chastis'd surpassing in a fault.
Father of all, forgetfulness of death:
As if, like objects passing on the sight,
Death had advanc'd too near us to be seen:
Or, that life's loan time ripen'd into right;
And men might plead prescription from the grave;
Deathless, from repetition of reprieve.
Deathless? far from it! such are dead already;
Their hearts are buried, and the world their grave.
Tell me, some god! my guardian angel! tell,
What thus infatuates? what enchantment plants
The phantom of an age, 'twixt us and death
Already at the door? He knocks, we hear,
And yet we will not hear. What mail defends
Our untouch'd hearts? What miracle turns off
The pointed thought, which from a thousand quivers
Is daily darted, and is daily shunn'd?
We stand, as in a battle, throngs on throngs
Around us falling; wounded oft ourselves;
Though bleeding with our wounds, immortal still!
We see Time's furrows on another's brow,
And Death entrench'd, preparing his assault.
How few themselves in that just mirror see!
Or, seeing, draw their inference as strong!
There death is certain; doubtful here: he must,
And soon; we may, within an age, expire.