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Beauty—thou pretty plaything, dear deceit, That steals so softly o'er the stripling's heart, And gives it a new pulse, unknown before, The grave discredits thee: thy charms expunged, Thy roses faded, and thy lilies soil'd, What hast thou more to boast of? Will thy lovers Flock round thee now, to gaze and do thee homage ? Methinks I see thee with thy head low laid, Whilst surfeited upon thy damask cheek The high fed worm, in lazy volumes roll’d, Riots unscared.-For this was all thy caution? For this thy painful labours at thy glass? T' improve those charms, and keep them in repair, For which the spoiler thanks thee not. Foul feeder, Coarse fare and carrion please thee full as well, And leave as keen a relish on the sense. Look how the fair one weeps ! the conscious tears Stand thick as dewdrops on the bells of flow'rs : Honest effusion! the swoll'n heart in vain Works hard to put a gloss on its distress.
Sure 'tis a serious thing to die! My soul,
What a strange moment must it be, when, near
Thy journey's end, thou hast the gulf in view!
That awful gulf no mortal e'er repass'd
To tell what's doing on the other side.
Nature runs back, and shudders at the sight,
And every life-string bleeds at thoughts of parting ;
For part they must: body and soul must part;
Fond couple ! link'd more close than wedded pair,
This wings its way to its almighty source,
The witness of its actions, now its judge ;
That drops into the dark and noisome grave,
Like a disabled pitcher of no use.
Tell us, ye dead, will none of you, in pity
To those you left behind, disclose the secret ;
Oh! that some courteous ghost would blab it out,
What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be!
I've heard that souls departed have sometimes
Forewarn’d men of their death: 'Twas kindly done
To knock and give the alarum.-But what means
This stinted charity ? 'Tis but lame kindness
That does its work by halves.-Why might you not
Tell us what 'tis to die? Do the strict laws
Of your society forbid your speaking
Upon a point so nice ?—I'll ask no more:
Sullen, like lamps in sepulchres, your shine
Enlightens but yourselves. Well, 'tis no matter:
A very little time will clear up all,
And make us learn'd as you are, and as close.
Death's shafts fly thick: Here falls the village-
And there his pamper'd lord.—The cup goes round:
And who so artful as to put it by!
'Tis long since death had the majority;
Yet strange! the living lay it not to heart.
See yonder maker of the dead man's bed,
The sexton, hoary-headed chronicle,
Of hard unmeaning face, down which ne'er stole
A gentle tear; with mattock in his hand, [ance
Digs through whole rows of kindred and acquaint-
By far his juniors.-Scarce a scull's cast up,
But well he knew its owner, and can tell
Some passage of his life.-Thus hand in hand
The sot has walk'd with death twice twenty years;
And yet ne'er yonker on the green laughs louder,
Or clubs a smuttier tale: when drunkards meet,
None sings a merrier catch, or lends a hand
More willing to his cup. Poor wretch! he minds
That soon some trusty brother of the trade (not
Shall do for him what he has done for thousands.
Poor man! how happy once in thy first state!
When yet but warm from thy great Maker's hand,
He stamp'd thee with his image, and, well pleased,
Smiled on his last fair work.-Then all was well.
Sound was the body, and the soul serene;
Like two sweet instruments, ne'er out of tune,
That play their several parts.' Nor head nor heart
Offer'd to ache: nor was there cause they should;
For all was pure within : no fell remorse,
Nor anxious castings-up of what might be,
Alarm’d his peaceful bosom.-Summer seas
Show not more smooth, when kiss'd by southern
Just ready to expire ; scarce importuned, [winds
The generous soil, with a luxurious hand,
Offer'd the various produce of the year,
And everything most perfect in its kind.
Blessed! thrice blessed days! But ah! how short!
Bless'd as the pleasing dreams of holy men ;
But fugitive like those, and quickly gone.
Oh! slipp’ry state of things. What sudden turns!
What strange vicissitudes in the first leaf
Of man's sad history!—To-day most happy,
And, ere to-morrow's sun has set, most abject.
How scant the space between these vast extremes!
Thus fared it with our sire: Not long h’ enjoy'd
His paradise.-Scarce had the happy tenant
Of the fair spot due time to prove its sweets,
Or sum them up, when straight he must be gone,
Ne'er to return again.—And must he go?
Can naught compound for the first dire offence
Of erring man ?-Like one that is condemn'd,
Fain would he trifle time with idle talk,
And parley with his fate.—But 'tis in vain.
Not all the lavish odours of the place,
Offer'd in incense, can procure his pardon,
Or mitigate his doom.-A mighty angel,
With flaming sword, forbids his longer stay,
And drives the loiterer forth; nor must he take
One last and farewell round.
Sure the last end Of the good man is peace! How calm his exit! Night-dews fall not more gently to the ground, Nor weary, worn-out winds expire so soft. Behold him in the evening-tide of life, A life well-spent, whose early care it was His riper years should not upbraid his green ; By unperceived degrees he wears away; Yet, like the sun, seems larger at his setting. (High in his faith and hopes), look how he reaches After the prize in view! and, like a bird That's hamperd, struggles hard to get away: Whilst the glad gates of sight are wide expanded To let new glories in, the first fair fruits Of the fast-coming harvest.-Then, oh then! Each earth-born joy grows vile, or disappears, Shrunk to a thing of naught.-Oh! how he longs To have his passport sign'd, and be dismiss'd! 'Tis done! and now he's happy!The glad soul Has not a wish uncrown'd.-Ev'n the lag flesh Rests too in hope of meeting once again Its better half, never to sunder more. Nor shall it hope in vain.—The time draws on When not a single spot of burial earth, Whether on land or in the spacious sea, But must give back its long-committed dust Inviolate : and faithfully shall these Make up the full account; not the least atom Embezzled or mislaid of the whole tale. Each soul shall have a body ready furnish'd ; And each shall have his own. Hence, ye profane ! Ask not how this can be.-Sure the same pow'r That reard the piece at first, and took it down, Can reassemble the loose scatter'd parts, And put them as they were. Almighty God Has done much more ; nor is his arm impaired Through length of days: and what he can, he will : His faithfulness stands bound to see it done. When the dread trumpet sounds, the slumb’ring dust
(Not unattentive to the call) shall wake:
And ev'ry joint possess its proper place,
With a new elegance of form unknown
To its first state.-Nor shall the conscious soul
Mistake its partner; but amidst the crowd
Singling its other half, into its arms
Shall rush with all th' impatience of a man
That's new come home, and, having long been absent,
With haste runs over ev'ry different room,
In pain to see the whole. Thrice happy meeting!
Nor time nor death shall ever part them more.
'Tis but a night, a long and moonless night;
We make the grave our bed, and then are gone,
Thus, at the shut of ev'n, the weary bird
Leaves the wide air, and in some lonely brake
Cow'rs down and dozes till the dawn of day,
Then claps his well-fledged wings and bears away,
JAMES THOMSON. 1700–1748.
Oh mortal man, who livest here by toil,
Do not complain of this thy hard estate ;
That like an emmet thou must ever moil,
Is a sad sentence of an ancient date;
And, certes, there is for it reason great ; [wail,
For, though sometimes it makes thee weep and
And curse thy star, and early drudge and late,
Withouten that would come an heavier bale,
Loose life, unruly passion, and diseases pale.
In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
With woody hill o'er hill encompass'd round,
A most enchanting wizard did abide,
Than whom a fiend more fell is nowhere found.