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Nor touches on the world without a stain.
The world's infectious; few bring back at eve,
Immaculate, the manners of the morn.
Something we thought, is blotted; we resolved,
Is shaken; we renounced, returns again.
Each salutation may slide in a sin
Unthought before, or fix a former flaw.
Nor is it strange; light, motion, concourse, noise,
All scatter us abroad. Thought, outward-bound,
Neglectful of our home affairs, flies off
In fume and dissipation, quits her charge,
And leaves the breast unguarded to the foe.
Present example gets within our guard,
And acts with double force, by few repell'd.
Ambition fires ambition; love of gain
Strikes, like a pestilence, from breast to breast
Riot, pride, perfidy, blue vapours breathe;
And inhumanity is caught from man,
From smiling man! A slight, a single glance,
And shot at random, often has brought home
A sudden fever to the throbbing heart
Of envy, rancour, or impure desire.
We see, we hear, with peril; Safety dwells
Remote from multitude. The world 's a school
Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around!
We must or imitate or disapprove;
Night is fair Virtue's immemorial friend.
The conscious Moon, through every distant age,
Must list as their accomplices or foes :
That stains our innocence, this wounds our peace.
From Nature's birth, hence, Wisdom has been smit
With sweet recess, and languish'd for the shade. 17
This sacred shade and solitude what is it?
"Tis the felt presence of the Deity!
Few are the faults we flatter when alone;
Vice sinks in her allurements, is unguilt,
And looks, like other objects, black by night.
By night an atheist half believes a God!
Has held a lamp to Wisdoin, and let fall,
On Contemplation's eye, her purging ray.
The famed Athenian, he who woo'd from Heaven
Philosophy the fair, to dwell with men,
And form their manners, not inflame their pride.
While o'er his head, as fearful to molest
His labouring mind, the stars in silence slide,
And scem all gazing on their future guest,
See hun soliciting his ardent suit
In private audience all the livelong night,
Rigid in thought, and motionless, he stands;
Nor quits his theme or posture till the Sun
(Rude drunkard! rising rosy from the main)
Disturbs his nobler intellectual beam,
And gives him to the tumult of the world.
Hail, precious moments! stolen from the black waste
Of murder'd time! auspicious Midnight, hail!
The world excluded, every passion hush'd,
And open'd a calm intercourse with Heaven,
Here the soul sits in council, ponders past,
Predestines future action; sees, not feels
Tumultuous Life, and reasons with the storm,
All her lies answers, and thinks down her charms.
What awful joy! what mental liberty!
I am not pent in darkness; rather say
(If not too bold) in darkness I'm imbower'd.
Delightful gloom! the clustering thoughts around 205
Spontaneous rise, and blossom in the shade;
But droop by day, and sicken in the Sun;
Urania, my celestial guest! who deigns
Nightly to visit me, so mean,
Conscious how needful discipline to man,
From pleasing dalliarce with the charms of Night,
My wandering thought recals, to what excites
Far other beat of heart, Narcissa's tomb!
Or is it feeble Nature calls me back,
Thought borrows light elsewhere; from that first fire, Fountain of animation! whence descends
And breaks my spirit into grief again?
Is it a Stygian vapour in my blood?
A cold slow puddle, creeping through my veins ?
Or is it thus with all men ?-Thus with all.
What are we? how unequal! now we soar,
And now we sink. To be the same transcends
Our present prowess. Dearly pays the soul
For lodging ill; too dearly rents her clay.
Reason, a baffled counsellor but adds
The blush of weakness to the bane of woe.
The noblest spirit, fighting her hard fate
In this damp dusky region, charged with storms,
But feebly flutters, yet untaught to fly;
Or, flying, short her flight, and sure her fall:
Our utmost strength, when down, to rise again;
And not to yield, though beaten, all our praise.
"Tis vain to seek in men for more than man.
Though proud in promise, big in previous thought,
Experience damps our triumph. I, who late,
Emerging from the shadows of the grave,
Where grief detain'd me prisoner, mounting high,
Threw wide the gates of everlasting day,
And call'd mankind to glory, shook of pair,
Mortality shook off, in ether pure,
And struck the stars; now feel my spirits fail;
They drop me from the zenith; down I rush,
Like him whom fable fledged with waxen wings,
In sorrow drown'd-but not in sorrow lost.
How wretched is the man who never mourn'd:
I dive for precious pearl in Sorrow's stream:
Not so the thoughtless man that only grieves,
Takes all the torment, and rejects the gain,
(Inestimable gain!) and gives Heaven leave
To make him but more wretched, not more wise. 250
If wisdom is our lesson (and what else
Ennobles man? what else have angels learn'd?)
Grief! more proficients in thy school are made,
Than Genius or proud Learning e'er could boast.
Voracious Learning, often overfed,
Digests not into sense her motley meal.
This bookcase, with dark booty almost burst,
Th9 forager on others' wisdom, leaves
Her native farm, her reason, quite untill'd;
With mix'd manure she surfeits the rank soil,
Ding'd, but not dress'd, and rich to beggary:
A pomp untamable of weeds prevails:
Her servant's wealth encumber'd Wisdom mourns.
And what says Genius? Let the dull be wise!'
Genius, too hard for right, can prove it wrong,
And loves to boast, where blush men less inspired.
It pleads exemption from the laws of Sense,
Considers Reason as a leveller,
And scorns to share a blessing with the crowd.
That wise it could be, thinks an ample claim;
To glory and to pleasure gives the rest.
Crassus but sleeps, Ardelio is undone.
Wisdom less shudders at a fool than wit.
But Wisdom smiles, when humbled mortals weep. When Sorrow wounds the breast, as ploughs the glebe And hearts obdurate feel her softening shower; Her seed celestial, then, glad Wisdom sows Her golden harvest triumphs in the soil. If so, Narcissa! welcome my relapse; I'll raise a tax on my calamity, And reap rich compensation from my pain. I'll range the plenteous intellectual field, And gather every thought of sovereign power To chase the moral maladies of man;
Thoughts which may bear transplanting to the skies,
Though natives of this coarse penurious soil; 286
Nor wholly wither there, where seraphs sing,
Refined, exalted, not annull'd, in Heaven ·
Reason, the sun that gives them birth, the same
In either clime, though more illustrious there.
These choicely cull'd, and elegantly ranged,
Shall form a garland for Narcissa's tomb,
And, peradventure, of no fading flowers.
Say, on what themes shall puzzled choice descend: 'The' importance of contemplating the tomb; Why men decline it; suicide's foul birth: The various kinds of grief; the faults of age; And Death's dread character-invite my song.'
And, first, the' importance of our end survey'd. Friends counsel quick dismission of our grief. Mistaken kindness! our hearts heal too soon. Are they more kind than He who struck the blow? Who bid it do his errand in our hearts, And banish peace till nobler guests arrive, And bring it back a true and endless peace? Calamities are friends: as glaring day Of these unnumber'd lustres robs our sight, Prosperity puts out unnumber'd thoughts Of import high, and light divine, to man.
The man how bless'd, who, sick of gaudy scenes, (Scenes apt to thrust between us and ourselves!) 311 Is led by choice to take his favourite walk
Beneath Death's gloomy, silent, cypress shades,
Unpierced by Vanity's fantastic ray;
To read his monuments, to weigh his dust,
Visit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs!
Lorenzo! read with me Narcissa's stone;
(Narcissa was thy favourite) let us read
Her moral stone; few doctors preach so well;
Few orators so tenderly can touch
The feeling heart. What pathos in the date!
Apt words cau strike; and yet in them we see
Faint images of what we here enjoy.
What cause have we to build on length of life?
Temptations seize when fear is laid asleep,
And ill foreboded is our strongest guard.
See from her tomb, as from an hunble shrine.
Truth, radiant goddess! sallies or my soul,