« PreviousContinue »
NIGHT I. ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY. To the Right Hon. Arthur Onslow, Esg. Speaker of
the House of Commons. TIRD Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes : Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe, And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose
I wake: how happy they who wake no more!
Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous; where my wreck'd desponding thought
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost.
Though now restor'd 'tis only change of pain,
(A bitter change!) severer for severe :
The day too short for my distress; and night,
Er'n in the zenith of her dark domain,
Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess ! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o'er a slumbering world.
Silence how dead! and darkness how profound!
Nor eye nor listening ear an object finds;
Creation sleeps. 'Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause ;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfill'd:
Fate! drop the curtain; I can lose no more.
Silence and Darkness ! solemn sisters ! twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought
To reason, and on reason build resolve,
(That column of true majesty in man)
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave your kingdom: there this frame shall fall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye?-
Thou, who didst put to fight
Primeval 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;
My soul, which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
Aš misers to their gold, while others rest.
Through this opaque of nature and of soul, This double night, transmit one pitying ray, To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind, (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 Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear: Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour'd On this devoted head, be pour'd in vain.
The bell strikes One. We take no note of time But from its loss : to give it then a tongue Is wise in man. 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. It is the signal that demands dispatch : 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. A dread eternity ! how surely mine! And can eternity belong to me, Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, How complicate, how wonderful, is man ! How passing wonder He who made him such ! Who center'd in cur make such strange extremes From different natures marvellously mix'd,
Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain !
Midway from nothing to the Deity!
A beam etherial, sullied and absorpt!
Though sullied and dishonour'd, still divine!
Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
An heir of glory! a frail child of dust!
Helpless immortal ! insect infinite !
A worm!.a god !-I tremble at myself,
And in myself am lost. At home a stranger,
Thought wanders up and down, sürpris’d, aghast,
And wondering at her own. How reason reels !
O what a miracle to man is man !
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.
"Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof.
While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spread,
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
Hurl's headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool,
Or scal'd the cliff, or danc'd on hollow winds
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain !
Her ceaseless flight, tho' devious, speaks her nature
Of subtler essence than the trodden clod;
Active, aërial, towering, unconfin'd,
Upfetter'd with her gross companion's fall.
Ev'n silent night proclaims my soul immortal ;
Ev'n silent night proclaims eternal day!
For human weal Heav'n husbands all events:
Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.
Why then their loss deplore that are not lost? Why wanders wretched Thought their tombs around In infidel distress? Are angels there? Slumbers, rak'd up in dust, etherial fire ?
They live! they greatly live a life on earth Unkindled, unconceiv'd, and from an eye
Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall
On me, more justly number'd with the dead.
This is the desert, this the solitude:
How populous, how vital is the grave !
This is Creation's melancholy vault,
The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom;
The land of apparitions, empty shades !
All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond
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,
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,
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;
Prisoner of earth and pent beneath the moon,
Here pinions all his wishes; wing'd by Heg 'n
To fly at infinite, and reach it there,
Where seraphs gather immortality.
On Life's fair tree, fast by the throne of God,
What golden joys ambrosial clustering glow
In his full beam, and ripen for the just,
Where momentary ages are no more!
Where Time, and Pain, and Chance, and Death
And is it in the flight of threescore years
To push eternity from bumau thought,
And smother souls immortal in the dust?
A soul immortalz spending all her fires,
Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness,
Thrown into tumult, raptur'd, or alarm'd
At aught this scene can threaten or indulge,
Resembles ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly.
Where falls this censure? it o'erwhelms myself.
How was my heart instructed by the world!
O how self-fetter'd was my groveling soul !
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,
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 frenzy's pompous furniture ?
The cobweb'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.
O ye blest scenes of permanent delight!
Full above measure! lasting beyond bound !
A perpetuity of bliss is bliss.
Could you, so rich in rapture, fear an end,
That ghastly thought would drink up all your joy,
And quite unparadise the realms of light.
Safe are you lodg'd above these rolling spheres,
The baleful influence of whose giddy dance
Sheds sad vicissitude on all beneath,
Here teems with revolutions every hour,
And rarely for the better; or the best