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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 sav'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 seize 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;
And his guard falling crushes him to death.
Not happiness itself makes good her name;
Our very wishes give us not our wish.
How distant oft the thing we doat on most
From that for which we doat, felicity!
The smoothest course of nature has its pains;
And truest friends, through error, wound our rest. Without misfortune, what calamities!
And what hostilities, without a foe!
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.
APOLOGY FOR THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE SUBJECT.
FROM NIGHT II.
THOU say'st I preach, Lorenzo; 'tis confest,
What if, for once, I preach thee quite awake?
Who wants amusement in the flame of battle?
Is it not treason in the soul immortal,
Her foes in arms, eternity the prize?
Will toys amuse, when medicines cannot cure?
When spirits ebb, when life's enchanting scenes
Their lustre lose, and lessen in our sight,
As lands and cities with their glittering spires,
To the poor shatter'd bark, by sudden storm
Thrown off to sea, and soon to perish there?
Will toys amuse? No: Thrones will then be toys,
And earth and skies seem dust upon the scale.
MADNESS OF MEN IN PURSUIT OF AMUSEMENTS. " FROM THE SAME.
AH! how unjust to Nature and himself,
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!
Like children, babbling nonsense in their sports,
We censure nature for a span too short;
That span too short, we tax as tedious too;
Torture invention, all expedients tire,
To lash the lingering moments into speed,
And whirl us (happy riddance!) from ourselves.
Art, brainless art! our furious charioteer
(For nature's voice unstifled would recal), Drives headlong towards the precipice of death; Death, most our dread; death thus more dreadful made:
O what a riddle of absurdity!
Leisure is pain; takes off our chariot wheels;
How heavily we drag the load of life!
Blest leisure is our curse; like that of Cain,
It makes us wander; wander earth around,
To fly that tyrant, thought. As Atlas groan'd
The world beneath, we groan beneath an hour.
for mercy to the next amusement;
The next amusement mortgages our fields;
Slight inconvenience! prisons hardly frown,
From hateful time if prisons set us free.
Yet when death kindly tenders us relief,
We call him cruel; years to moments shrink,
Ages to years. The telescope is turn'd.
To man's false optics (from his folly false)
Time, in advance, behind him hides his wings,
And seems to creep, decrepit with his age;
Behold him, when past by; what then is seen,
But his broad pinions swifter than the winds?
And all mankind, in contradiction strong,
Rueful, aghast, cry out on his career.
BLESSEDNESS OF THE SON OF FORESIGHT.
FROM THE SAME.
WHERE shall I find him? Angels! tell me where.
You know him: He is near you: Point him out:
Shall I see glories beaming from his brow?
Or trace his footsteps by the rising flowers?
Your golden wings, now hovering o'er him, shed
Protection: now, are waving in applause
To that blest son of foresight! lord of fate!
That awful independent on to-morrow!
Whose work is done; who triumphs in the past;
Whose yesterdays look backwards with a smile;
Nor, like the Parthian, wound him as they fly;
That common, but opprobrious lot! past hours,
If not by guilt, yet wound us by their flight,
If folly bounds our prospect by the grave,
All feeling of futurity benumb'd;
All god-like passion for eternals quencht;
All relish of realities expir'd;
Renounc'd all correspondence with the skies:
Our freedom chain'd; quite wingless our desire;
In sense dark-prison'd all that ought to soar;
Prone to the centre; crawling in the dust;