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How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful is man!
How passing wonder He, who made him such!
Who center'd in our make such strange extremes !
All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond
Is substance; the reverse is folly's creed;
How solid all, where change shall be no more! p.17.
And is it in the flight of threescore years,
To push eternity from human thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortal, spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness,
Thrown into tumult, raptur'd, or alarm'd,
At aught this scene can threaten, or indulge,
Resembles ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly.
Where falls this censure? It o'erwhelms myself.
How was my heart encrusted by the world!
O how self-fetter'd was my groveling soul!
How, like a worm, was I wrapt round and round
In silken thought, which reptile fancy spun,
'Till darken'd reason lay quite clouded o'er
With soft conceit of endless comfort here,
Nor yet put forth her wings to reach the skies!
may befriend;- -our waking dreams are
Fatai: how I dream'd of things impossible! (could
Sleep do more?) Of joys perpetual, in perpetual change!
Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave!
Eternal sunshine in the storms of life!
How richly were my noontide trances hung
With gorgeous tapestries of pictur'd joys!
Joy behind joy, in endless perspective!
Till at Death's toll, whose restless iron tongue
Calls daily for his millions at a meal,
Starting, I woke, and found myself undone.
Where's now my phrenzy's pompous furniture?
The cobweb'd cottage, with its ragged wall
Of mould'ring mud, is royalty to me!
The spider's most attenuated thread
Is cord, is cable, to man's tender tie
On earthly bliss; it breaks at ev'ry breeze. p. 19.
Here teems with revolutions ev'ry hour;
And rarely for the better; or the best.
Each moment has its sickle, emulous
Of time's enormous scythe, whose ample sweep
Strikes empires from the root; each moment plays
His little weapon in the narr’wer sphere
Of sweet domestic comfort, and cuts down
The fairest bloom of sublunary bliss.
Bliss! sublunary bliss!-proud words, and vain!
I clasp'd the phantoms, and I found them air.
O had I weigh'd it ere my fond embrace!
What darts of agony had miss'd my heart!
Death! great proprietor of all! 'tis thine to tread
Out empire, and to quench the stars.
Thy shaft flew thrice; and thrice my peace was slain; And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had fill'd her horn.
How wanes my borrow'd bliss!—Precarious courtesy !
Virtue's sure, self-given, solar, ray of sound delight.
How widow'd every thought of ev'ry joy!
I mourn for millions: 'tis the common lot;
And breathe from your debauch; give, and reduce
Surfeits dominion o’er you: but so great
Your impudence, you blush at what is right !
Man's caution often into danger turns,
And his guard falling, crushes him to death.
The smoothest course of nature has its pains,
And truest friends, through error, wound our rest ;
Nor are foes wanting to the best on earth :
But endless is the list of human ills,
And sighs might sooner fail, than cause to sigh.
Is heaven tremendous in its frowns ? most sure;
And in its favours formidable too :
Its favours here are trials, not rewards;
A call to duty, not discharge from care ;
And should alarm us, full as much as woes
Awake us to their cause, and consequence,
And make us tremble, weigh'd with our desert;
Awe nature's tumult, and chastise her joys,
Lest, while we clasp, we kill them ; nay, invert
To worse than simple misery their charms :
Revolted joys, like foes in civil war,
Like bosom-friendships to resentment sour'd,
With rage envenom'd rise against our peace. p. 25.
By nature's law, what may be, may now:
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn?
Where is to-morrow? in another world.
For numbers this is certain ; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes;
And big with life's futurities expire.
Of human ills the last extreme beware,
Beware, Lorenzo ! a slow-sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise !
Be wise to-day, 'tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life:
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes, this bears
The palm, “ That all men are about to live,"
For ever on the brink of being born.
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They, one day, shall not drivel; and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise ;
At least, their own; their future selves applaud;