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Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes
Beholds his own hereditary skies.
From such rude principles our form began,
And earth was metamorphos'd into man.
The golden age was first; when man, yet new, No rule but uncorrupted reason knew; And, with a native bent, did god pursue. Unforc'd by punishinent, unaw'd by fear, His words were simple, and his soul sincere : Needless was written-law, where none opprest; The law of man was written in his breast : No suppliant crowds before the judge appear'd; No court erected yet, nor cause was heard ; But all was fafe, for conscience was their guard. The mountain-crees in distant prospect please, Ere yet the pine descended to the seas; Ere fails were spread, new oceans to explore; And happy mortals, unconcern’d for more, Confind their wishes to their native-Thore. No walls were yet, nor fence, nor mote, nor mound Nor drum was heard, nor trumpet's angry found : Nor swords were forg’d; but, void of care and crime, The soft creation slept away their time. The teeming earth, yet guiltless of the plough, And unprovok'd, did fruitful stores allow : Content with food, which nature freely bred, On wildings and on strawberries they fed ; Cornels and bramble-herries gave the rest, And falling acorns furnith'd out a fe ft.
The flowers unsown in fields and meadows reign'd;
And western winds inmortal Spring maintain’d.
In following years the bearded corn ensued
From earth unask'd, nor was that earth renew'd,
From veins of vallies milk and nectar broke;
And honey sweating through the pores of oak.
But when good Saturn, banish’d from above, Was driven to hell, the world was under Jove. Succeeding times a silver
Excelling brass, but more excell'd by gold.
Then Summer, Autumn, Winter, did appear;
And Spring was but a season of the year.
The sun his annual courie obliquely made,
Good days contracted, and enlarg'd the bad.
Then air with sultry heats began to glow,
The wings of winds were clog'd with ice and snow;
And livering mortals, into houses driven,
Sought shelter from th’inclemency of heaven.
Those houses, then, were caves, or homely sheds,
With twining oziers fenc'd, and moss their beds.
Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke,
And oxen labour'd first beneath the yoke.
THE BRA ZEN AGE. To this next came in course the brazen age, A warlike offspring, prompt to bloody rage, Not impious yet
Hard steel succeeded then;
And stubborn as the metal were the men.
Truth, Modesty, and Shame, the world forsook :
Fraud, Avarice, and Force, their places took.
Then sails were spreal to every wind that blew;
Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new :
Trees rudely hollow'd, did the waves sustain :
Ere ships in triumph plough'd the watery plain.
Then land-marks limited to each his right :
For all before was common as the light.
Nor was the ground alone requir'd to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share;
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg'd from her entrails first
Which next to hell the prudent Gods had laid ;
And that alluring ill to fight display'd;
Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold,
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold :
And double death did wretched man invade,
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray'd.
Now (brandish'd weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands;
No rights of hospitality remain :
The guest, by him who harbour'd him, is slain :
The son-in-law pursues the father's life :
The wife her husband murders, he the wife.
The step-dame poison for the son prepares,
The fon inquires into his father's years.
Faith Aies, and Piety in exile mourns ;
And Justice, here opprest, to heaven returns.
Nor were the Gods theinselves more safe above; Againit beleaguer'd heaven the giants move. Hills pild on hills, on mountains mountains lie, To make their mad approaches to the sky. Till Jove, no longer patient, took his time T'avenge with thunder their audacious crime : Red lightning play'd along the firmament, And their demolish'd works to pieces rent. Sing'd with the flames, and with the bolts transfix'd, With native earth their blood the monsters mix'd ; The blood, indued with animating heat, Did in th* impregnate earth new sons beget : They, like the feed from which they sprung, accurst, Against the Gods immortal hatred nurst: An impious, arrogant, and cruel brood ; Expressing their original froin blood. Which when the king of Gods beheld from high (Withal revolving in his memory, What he himself had found on earth of late, Lycaon's guilt, and his inhuman treat) He figh’d, nor longer with his pity ftrove; But kindled to a wrath becoming Jove ; Then callid a general council of the Gods; Who, fummon’d, issue from their blest abodes, And fill th' assembly with a shining train, A way there is, in heaven's expanded plain,
Which, when the skies are clear, is seen below,
And mortals by the name of milky know.
The ground-work is of stars; through which the road
Lies open to the thunderer's abode.
The Gods of greater nations dwell around,
And, on the right and left the palace bound;
The commons where they can ; the nobler fort,
With winding-doors wide open, front the court.
This place, as far as earth with heaven may vie,
I dare to call the Louvre of the sky.
When all were plac’d, in seats distinctly known,
And he their father had assum'd the throne,
Upon his ivory sceptre first he leant,
Then hook his head that shook the firmament:
Air, earth, and seas, obey'd th’almighty nod;
And, with a general fear, confess’d the God.
At length with indignation, thus he broke
His awful silence, and the powers bespoke :
I was not more concern'd in that debate
Of empire, when our universal state
Was put to hazard, and the giant race
Our captive skies were ready to embrace :
For, though the foe was fierce, the seeds of all
Rebellion (prung from one original ;
Now wheresoever ambient waters glide,
All are corrupt, and all must be destroy'd.
Let me this holy protestation make :
By hell and hell's inviolable lake,
I try'd whatever in the God-head lay,
But gangrend members must be lopt away,
Before the nobler parts are tainted to decay.