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The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination's fool, and error's wretch,
Man makes a death, which nature never made;
Then on the point of his own fancy falls;
And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one.
But were death frightful, what has age to fear?
If prudent, age should meet the friendly foe,
And shelter in his hospitable gloom.
I scarce can meet a monument, but holds
My younger; ev'ry date cries—" Come away."
And what recalls me ? Look the world around,
And tell me what : The wisest cannot tell.
Should any born of woman give his thought
Full range, on just dislike's unbounded field ;
Of things, the vanity; of men, the flaws;
Flaws in the best; the many, flaw all o'er;
As leopards, spotted, or, as Ethiops, dark;
Vivacious ill ; good dying immature ; .
(How immature, NARCISSA's marble tells !
And at his death bequeathing endless pain ;
His heart, tho' bold, would sicken at the sight,
And spend itself in sighs, for future scenes.
But grant to life (and just it is to grant
To lucky life) some perquisites of joy;
A time there is, when, like a thrice-told tale,
Long-rifled life of sweet can yield no more,
But from our comment on the comedy,
Pleasing reflections on parts well sustain'd,
Or purpos’d emendations where we fail'd,
Or hopes of plaudits from our candid Judge,
When, on their exit, souls are bid unrobe,
Toss fortune back her tinsel, and her plume,
And drop this mask of Aesh behind the scene..
With me, that time is come; my world is dead;
A new world rises, and new manners reign:
Foreign comedians, a spruce band ! arrive,
To push me from the scene, or hiss me there.
What a pert race starts up! the strangers gaze,
And I at them; my neighbour is unknown;
Nor that the worst : Ah me! the dire effect
Of loit'ring here, of death defrauded long;
Of old so gracious (and let that suffice),
My very master knows me not.
Shall I dare say, peculiar is the fate? I've been so long remember'd, I'm forgot. An object ever pressing dims the sight, And hides behind its ardor to be seen. When in his courtiers ears I pour my plaint, They drink it as the nectar of the great ; And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow. Refusal ! canst thou wear a smoother form?
Indulge me, nor conceive I drop my theme: . Who cheapens life, abates the Fear of Death : Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy, Court favour, yet untaken, I besiege ; Ambition's ill-judg'd effort to be rich. Alas! ambition makes my little less ; Embitt’ring the possess’d: Why wish for more? Wishing, of all employments, is the worst Philosophy's reverse ; and health's decay!
Were I as plump as stall'd theology,
Wishing would waste me to this shade again.
Were I as wealthy as a South-Sea dream,
Wishing is an expedient to be poor.
Wishing, that constant hectic of a fool;
Caught at a court; purg'd off by purer air,
And simpler diet; gifts of rural life!
Blest be that hand divine, which gently laid
My heart at rest, beneath this humble shed.
The world's a stately bark, on dang'rous seas,
With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril;
liere, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore,
I hear the tumult of the distant throng,
As that of seas remote, or dying storms:
And meditate on scenes, more silent still;
Pursue my theme, and fight the Fear of Death.
Here, like a shepherd gazing from his hut,
Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff,
Eager ambition's fiery chace I see;
I see the circling hunt, of noisy men,
Burst law's inclosure, leap the mounds of right,
Pursuing, and pursu'd, each other's prey;
As wolves, for rapine; as the fox, for wiles;
Till Death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.
Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour ? : What tho’ we wade in wealth, or soar in fame? Earth's highest station ends in “ Here he lies :". And “ dust to dust” concludes her noblest song. If this song lives, posterity shall know One, tho' in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
Who thought ev’n gold might come a day too late ;
Nor on his subtle death-bed plann'd his scheme
For future vacancies in church or state ;
Some avocation deeming it to die,
Unbit by rage canine of dying rich ;
Guilt's blunder! and the loudest laugh of hell,
O my coëvals ! remnants of yourselves !
Poor human ruins, tott’ring o'er the grave !
Shall we, shall aged men, like aged trees,
Strike deeper their vile root, and closer cling,
Still more enamour'd of this wretched soil?
Shall our pale, wither'd hands, be still stretch'd out,
Trembling, at once, with eagerness and age ?
With av'rice, and convulsions, grasping hard ?
Grasping at air! for what has earth beside ?
Man wants but little ; nor that little, long;
How soon must he resign his very dust,
Which frugal nature lent him for an hour!
Years unexperienc'd rush on num'rous ills;
And soon as man, expert from time, has found
The key of life, it opes the gates of death.
When in this vale of years I backward look,
And miss such numbers, numbers too of such,
Firmer in health, and greener in their age,
And stricter on their guard, and fitter far
To play life's subtle game, I scarce believe
I still survive: And am I fond of life,
• Who scarce can think it possible, I live?
Alive by miracle ! or, what is next,
Alive by MEAD! if I am still alive,
Who long have bury'd what gives life to live,
Firmness of nerve, and energy of thought.
Life's lee is not more shallow, than impure,
And vapid; Sense and Reason shew the door,
Call for my bier, and point me to the dust.
O thou great arbiter of life and death !
Nature's immortal, immaterial sun!
Whose all-prolific beam late call'd me forth
From darkness, teeming darkness, where I lay
The worms inferior, and, in rank, beneath
The dust I tread on, high to bear my brow,
To drink the spirit of the golden day,
And triumph in existence; and could know
No motive, but my bliss; and hast ordain'd
A rise in blessing! with the Patriarch's joy,
Thy call I follow to the land unknown;
I trust in thee, and know in whom I trust;
Or life, or death, is equal; neither weighs :
All weight in this, let me live to thee!
Tho' nature's terrors, thus, may be represt;
Still frowns grim Death ; guilt points the tyrant's spear.
And whence all human guilt? From death forgot.
Ah me! too long I set at nought the swarm
Of friendly warnings, which around me flew;
And smild, unsmitten: Small my cause to smile !
Death's admonitions, like shafts upward shot,
More dreadful by delay, the longer ere
They strike our hearts, the deeper is their wound;
O think how deep, LORENZO ! here it stings:
Who can appease its anguish? How it burns !