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As the occasion of this Poem was real, not fictitious; so the method pursued in it was rather imposed by what spontaneously arose in the Author's mind on that occasion, than meditated or designed. Which will appear very probable from the nature of it. For it differs from the common mode of poetry ; which is, from long narrations to draw short morals. Here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the Poem. The reason of it is, that the facts mentioned did naturally poor these moral reflections on the thought of the Writer.
ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY. TO THE RIGHT HON. ARTHUR ONSLOW, ESQ.
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep! He, like the world, his ready visit pays Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes; e Swift on his downy pinion flies from woo, And lights on lids unsullied with a toar.
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose
Night, sable goddess ! from her ebon throne,
And let her prophecy be soon fulfill'd:
Silence and Darkness! solemn sistors! iwins
30 (That column of true majesty in man,) Assist me: I will thank you in the grave; The grave your kingdoni: there this frame shall fall A victim sacred to your dreary shrine. But what are ye?
35 Thou who didst put to flight Primeyal Silence, when the morning stars, Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball ; o Thou ! whose word from solid darkness struck That spark, the Sun, strike wisdom from my soul; 40 My soul, which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure, As misers to their gold, while others rest. Through this opaque of Nature and of Soui, This double night, transmit one pitying ray, To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind 45 (A mind that fain would wander from its woe,) Lead it through various scenes of life and death, And from each scene the noblest truths inspire. Nor less inspire my conduct than my song ; Teach my best reason, reason; my best will 50 Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve Wisdom to wed, and pay lier long arrear: Nor let tho phial of thy vengeance, pour'd On this devoted head, be poured in vain.
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time 55 But from its vss: to give it then a tongue Is wise in nian As if an angel spoke I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright, It is the knell of my departed hours. Where are they? With the years beyond the flood. 60 It is the signal that demands despatch: How much is to be done! My hopes and fears Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down-on what ? A fathomless abyss.
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
85 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.
90 'Tis past conjecture ; all things rise in proof: While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spreads, 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 95 Hurl'd headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool, Or scaled the cliff, or danced on hollow winds With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain ! ller ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her nature Of subtler essence than the trodden clos; -100 Active, aerial, toworing, unconfined,
Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fall.
Why then their loss deplore, that are not lost?
They live ! they greatly live! a life on earth
120 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,
125 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,
130 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:
135 Priscner of earth and pent beneath the moon, Here pinions all his wishes; wing'd by Heaven To fly at infinite, and reach it there,