« PreviousContinue »
How complicate, how wonderful, is man! How passing wonder he who made him such! Who centred in our make such strange extremes ! From different natures marvellously mix'd, Connection exquisite of distant worlds! Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain! Midway from nothing to the Deity! A beam ethereal, sullied, and absorp'd! Though sullied and dishonour'd, still divine ! Dim miniature of greatness absolute ! · An heir of glory! a frail child of dust! Helpless immortal! insect infinite ! A worm! a god!—I tremble at myself, And in myself am lost! at home a stranger, Thought wanders up and down, surpris'd, aghast, And wondering at her own: How reason reels ! O what a miracle to man is man, Triumphantly distress'd! what joy, what dread! Alternately transported and alarm'd! What can preserve my life, or what destroy? An angel's arm can’t snatch me from the grave; Legions of angels can't confine me there.
'Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof: While o'er my limbs sleep's soft dominion spread, What though my soul fantastic measures trod O'er fairy fields; or mourn'd along the gloom Of pathless woods; or down the craggy steep Hurl's headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool; Or scal'd the cliff; or danc'd on hollow winds, With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain ?
Her ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her
nature Of subtler essence than the trodden clod; Active, aerial, towering, unconfin'd, Unfetter'd with her gross companions fall. Ev'n silent night proclaims my soul immortal ; Ev'n silent night proclaims eternal day. For human weal heaven husbands all events; Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.
Why then their loss deplore that are not lost?
Why wanders wretched thought their tombs around
In infidel distress? Are angels there?
Slumbers, rak”d up in dust, ethereal fire?
They live! they greatly live a life on earth
Unkindled, unconceiv'd; and from an eye
Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall
On me, more justly numbered with the dead,
This is the desert, this the solitude:
How populous, how vital, is the grave!
This is creation's melancholy vault,
The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom;
The land of apparitions, empty shades !
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!
This is the bud of being, the dim dawn,
The twilight of our day, the vestibule;
Life's theatre as yet is shut, and death,
Strong death, alone can heave the massy bar,
This gross impediment of clay remove,
And make us embryos of existence free
From real life; but little more remote
Is he, not yet a candidate for light,
The future embryo, slumbering in his sire.
Embryos we must be till we burst the shell,
Yon ambient azure shell, and spring to life,
The life of gods, O transport ! and of man.
Yet man, fool man! here buries all his thoughts ;
Inters celestial hopes without one sigh.
Prisoner of earth, and pent beneath the moon,
Here pinions all his wishes; wing'd by heaven
To fly at infinite; and reach it there
Where seraphs gather immortality,
On life's fair tree, fast by the throne of God.
What golden joys ambrosial clustering glow
In his full beam, and ripen for the just,
Where momentary ages are no more!
Where time, and pain, and chance, and death expire!
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 incrusted by the world ! O how self-fetter'd was my grovelling 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 !
Night-visions may befriend : (as sung above)
Our waking dreams are fatal. 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 noon-tide 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 now my phrenzy's pompous furniture ?
The cobwebb'd cottage, with its ragged wall
Of mouldering 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 every breeze,
Yet why complain? or why complain for one?
Hangs out the sun his lustre but for me,
The single man ? Are angels all beside ?
I mourn for millions : 'Tis the common lot;
In this shape, or in that, has fate entail'd
The mother's throes on all of woman born,
Not more the children than sure heirs of pain.
War, famine, pest, volcano, storm, and fire,
Intestine broils, oppression, with her heart
Wrapt up in triple brass, besiege mankind.
God's image disinherited of day,
Here, plung’d in mines, forgets a sun was made.
There, beings deathless as their haughty lord,
Are hammer'd to the galling oar for life,
And plough the winter's wave, and reap despair.
Some, for hard masters, broken under arms,
In battle lopp'd away, with half their limbs,
Beg bitter bread through realms their valour say’d,
If so the tyrant, or his minion, doom.
Want, and incurable disease, (fell pair!)
On hopeless multitudes remorseless seize
At once, and make a refuge of the grave,
How groaning hospitals eject their dead!
What numbers groan for sad admission there!
What numbers, once in fortune's lap high-fed,
Solicit the cold hand of charity!
To shock us more, solicit it in vain !
Ye silken sons of pleasure; since in pains
You rue more modish visits, visit here,
And breathe from your debauch: give, and reduce
Surfeit's dominion over you: but so great
Your impudence, you blush at what is right.
Happy! did sorrow seizę on such alone.
Not prudence can defend, or virtue save;
Disease invades the chastest temperance,
And punishment the guiltless, and alarm,
Through thickest shades, pursues the fond of peace.
Man's caution often into danger turns;