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Ice upon ice, the well-adjusted parts in
Were soon conjoined, nor other cement asked
Than water interfused to make them one.
Lamps gracefully disposed, and of all hues,
Illumined every side : a watery light
Gleamed through the clear transparency, that seemed
Another moon new risen, or meteor fallen
From Heaven to Earth, of lambent flame serene.
So stood the brittle prodigy; though smooth
And slippery the materials, yet frost-bound
Firm as a rock. Nor wanted aught within,
That royal residence might well befit,
For grandeur or for use. Long wavy wreaths
Of flowers that feared no enemy but warmth,
Blushed on the pannels. Mirror needed none
Where all was vitreous ;' but in order due
Convivial table and commodious seat
(What seemed at least commodious seat) were there;
Sofa, and couch, and high-built throne august.
The same lubricity was found in all,
And all was moist to the warm touch; a scene
Of evanescent glory, once a stream,
And soon to slide into a stream again.
Alas! 'twas but a mortifying stroke
Of undesigned severity, that glanced
(Made by a monarch) on her own estate,
On human grandeur and the courts of kings.
'Twas transient in its nature, as in show
'Twas durable; as worthless, as it seemed
Intrinsically precious ; to the foot . Treacherous and false; it smiled, and it was cold,
Great princes have great playthings. Some have At hewing mountains into men, and some [played At building human wonders mountain-high. Some have amused the dull, sad years of life, (Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad) With schemes of monumental fame; and sought By pyramids and mausolean pomp, Short-lived themselves, t'immortalize their bones. Some seek diversion in the tented field, And make the sorrows of mankind their sport. But war's a game, which, were their subjects wise, Kings would not play at. Nations would do well T'extort their truncheons from the puny hands Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds Are gratified with mischief; and who spoil, Because men suffer it, their toy the World.
When Babel was confounded, and the great Confederacy of projectors wild and vain Was split into diversity of tongues Then, as a shepherd separates his flock, These to the upland, to the valley those, God drave asunder, and assigned their lot To all the nations. Ample was the boon He gave them, in its distribution fair And equal; and he'bade them dwell in peace. Peace was a while their care: they ploughed and
And reaped their plenty without grudge or strife.
But violence can never longer sleep,
Than human passions please. In every heart
Are sown the sparks, that kindle fiery war;
Occasion needs but fan them, and they blaze.
Cain had already shed a brother's blood :
The deluge washed it out; but left unquenched
The seeds of murder in the breast of man.
Soon by a righteous judgment in the line
Of his descending progeny was found
The first artificer of death; the shrewd
Contriver, who first sweated at the forge,
And forced the blunt and yet unbloodied steel
To a keen edge, and made it bright for war.
Him, Tubal named, the Vulcan of old times,
The sword and falchion their inventor claim;
And the first smith was the first murderer's son.
His art survived the waters; and ere long,
When man was multiplied and spread abroad
In tribes and clans, and had begun to call
These meadows and that range of bills his own,
The tasted sweets of property begat
Desire of more, and industry in some,
T'improve and cultivate their just demesne,
Made others covet what they saw so fair.
Thus war began on earth : these fought for spoil,
And those in self-defence. Savage at first
The onset, and irregular. At length
One eminent above the rest for strength,
For stratagem, for courage, or for all,
Was chosen leader ; him they served in war,
And him in peace, for sake of warlike deeds
Reverenced no less. Who could with him compare ?
Or who so worthy to control themselves,
As he, whose prowess had subdued their foes :
Thus war, affording field for the display Of virtue, made one chief, whom times of peace, Which have their exigencies too, and call For skill in government, at length made king. King was a name too proud for man to wear With modesty and meekness; and the crown, So dazzling in their eyes, who set it on, Was sure t'intoxicate the brows it bound. It is the abject property of most, That, being parcel of the common mass, And destitute of means to raise themselves, They sink, and settle lower than they need. They know not what it is to feel within A comprehensive faculty, that grasps Great purposes with ease, that turns and wields, Almost without an effort, plans too vast For their conception, which they cannot move. Conscious of impotence they soon grow drunk With gazing, when they see an able man Step forth to notice : and, besotted thus, Build him a pedestal, and say, “ Stand there, And be our admiration and our praise.” They roll themselves before him in the dust, Then most deserving in their own account, When most extravagant in his applause, As if exalting him they raised themselves. Thus by degrees, seif-cheated of their sound And sober judgment, that he is but man, They demi-deify and fume him so, That in due season he forgets it too. Inflated and astrut with self-conceit,
He gulps the windy diet; and ere long,
Adopting their mistake, profoundly thinks .
The World was made in vain, if not for him.
Thenceforth they are his cattle; drudges, born
To bear his burthens, drawing in his gears,
And sweating in his service, his caprice
Becomes the soul, that animates them all.
He deems a thousand, or ten thousand lives,
Spent in the purchase of renown for him,
An easy reckoning; and they think the same.
Thus kings were first invented, and thus kings
Were burnished into heroes, and became
The arbiters of this terraqueous swamp;
Storks among frogs, that have but croaked and died.
Strange, that such folly, as lifts bloated man
To eminence fit only for a god,
Should ever drivel out of human lips,
E'en in the cradled weakness of the World !
Still stranger much, that when at length mankind
Had reached the sinewy firmness of their youth,
And could discriminate and argue well
On subjects more mysterious, they were yet
Babes in the cause of freedom, and should fear
And quake before the gods themselves had made ;
But above measure strange, that neither proof
Of sad experience, nor examples set
By some, whose patriot virtue has prevailed,
Can even now, when they are grown mature
In wisdoin, and with philosophic deeds
Familiar, serve t'emancipate the rest !
Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone