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“ doceas iter, et sacra ostia pandas.”
VIRG. En. 6.
Ask what is human life—the sage replies,
With disappointment lowering in his eyes,
A painful passage o'er a restless flood,
A vain pursuit of fugitive false good,
A scene of fancied bliss and heartfelt care,
Closing at last in darkness and despair.
The poor, inured to drudgery and distress,
Act without aim, think little, and feel less,
And no where, but in feign’d Arcadian scenes,
Taste happiness, or know what pleasure means.
Riches are pass'd away from hand to hand,
As fortune, vice, or folly may command;
As in a dance the pair that take the lead
Turn downward, and the lowest pair succeed,
So shifting and so various is the plan,
By which Heaven rules the mixt affairs of man :
Vicissitude wheels round the motley crowd,
The rich grow poor, the poor become purse-proud;
Business is labour, and man's weakness such,
Pleasure is labour too, and tires as much;
The very sense of it foregoes its use,
By repetition pall’d, by age obtuse.
Youth lost in dissipation, we deplore,
Through life's sad remnant, what no sighs restore ;
Our years, a fruitless race without a prize,
Too many, yet too few to make us wise.
Dangling his cane about, and taking snuff,
Lothario cries, What philosophic stuff!
O querulous and weak !-whose useless brain
Once thought of nothing, and now thinks in vain ;
Whose eye reverted weeps o'er all the past,
Whose prospect shows thee a disheartening waste;
Would age in thee resign his wintry reign,
And youth invigorate that frame again,
Renew'd desire would grace with other speech
Joys always prized, when placed within our reach.
For lift thy palsied head, shake off the gloom
That overhangs the borders of thy tomb,
See Nature gay as when she first began,
With smiles alluring her admirer man;
She spreads the morning over eastern hills,
Earth glitters with the drops the night distils,
The sun obedient at her call appears,
To fling his glories o'er the robe she wears,
Banks clothed with flowers, groves fill’d with spright-
ly sounds, The yellow tilth, green meads, rocks, rising grounds, Streams edged with osiers, fattening every field Where'er they flow, now seen and now conceald; From the blue rim where skies and mountains meet, Down to the very turf beneath thy feet, Ten thousand charms, that only fools despise, Or pride can look at with indifferent eyes, All speak one language, all with one sweet voice Cry to her universal realm, Rejoice! Man feels the spur of passions and desires, And she gives largely more than he requires; Not that his hours devoted all to care, Hollow-eyed abstinence, and lean despair, The wretch may pine, while to his smell, taste,
sight, She holds a paradise of rich delight; But gently to rebuke his awkward fear, To prove that what she gives, she gives sincere, To banish hesitation, and proclaim His happiness, her dear, her only aim. 'Tis grave Philosophy's absurdest dream, That Heaven's intentions are not what they seem, That only shadows are dispensed below, And earth has no reality but woe.
Thus things terrestrial wear a different hue, As youth or age persuades; and neither true : So Flora's wreath through colour'd crystal seen, The rose or lily appears blue or green, But still the imputed tints are those alone The medium represents, and not their own.
To rise at noon, sit slipshod and undress’d, To read the news, or fiddle, as seems best, Till half the world comes rattling at his door, To fill the dull vacuity till four; And just when evening turns the blue vault grey, To spend two hours in dressing for the day; To make the sun a bauble without use, Save for the fruits his heavenly beams produce, Quite to forget, or deem it worth no thought, Who bids him shine, or if he shine or not; Through mere necessity to close his eyes Just when the larks and when the shepherds rise ; Is such a life, so tediously the same, So void of all utility or aim, That poor Jonquil with almost every breath Sighs for his exit, vulgarly called death; For he, with all his follies, has a mind Not yet so blank, or fashionably blind, But now and then perhaps a feeble ray Of distant wisdom shoots across his way, By which he reads, that life without a plan, As useless as the moment it began, Serves merely as a soil for discontent To thrive in an encumbrance ere half spent. Oh weariness beyond what asses feel, That tread the circuit of the cistern wheel; A dull rotation, never at a stay, Yesterday's face twin image of to-day; While conversation, an exhausted stock, Grows drowsy as the clicking of a clock. No need, he cries, of gravity stuff?d out With academic dignity devout, To read wise lectures, vanity the text : Proclaim the remedy, ve learned, next;
For truth self-evident with pomp impress’d
Is vanity surpassing all the rest.
That remedy, not hid in deeps profound,
Yet seldom sought where only to be found,
While passion turns aside from its due scope
The inquirer's aim, that remedy is Hope.
Life is His gift, from whom whate'er life needs,
And every good and perfect gift proceeds;
Bestow'd on man, like all that we partake,
Royally, freely, for his bounty's sake;
Transient, indeed, as is the fleeting hour,
And yet the seed of an immortal flower,
Design’d in honour of his endless love,
To fill with fragrance his abode above:
No trifle, howsoever short it seem,
And, howsoever shadowy, no dream;
Its value what no thought can ascertain,
Nor all an angel's eloquence explain.
Men deal with life, as children with their play,
Who first misuse, then cast their toys away;
Live to no sober purpose, and contend
That their Creator had no serious end.
When God and man stand opposite in view,
Man's disappointment must of course ensue.
The just Creator condescends to write,
In beams of inextinguishable light,
His names of wisdom, goodness, power, and love,
On all that blooms below or shines above,
To catch the wandering notice of mankind,
And teach the world, if not perversely blind,
His gracious attributes, and prove the share
His offspring hold in his paternal care.
If, led from earthly things to things divine,
His creature thwart not his august design,
Then praise is heard instead of reasoning pride,
And captious cavil and complaint subside.
Nature, employ'd in her allotted place,
Is handmaid to the purposes of Grace;
By good vouchsafed makes known superior good,
And bliss not seen by blessings understood :
That bliss reveal'd in Scripture, with a glow
Bright as the covenant-insuring bow,
Fires all his feelings with a noble scorn
Of sensual evil, and thus Hope is born.
Hope sets the stamp of vanity on all
That men have deem'd substantial since the fall,
Yet has the wondrous virtue to educe
From emptiness itself a real use;
And while she takes, as at a father's hand,
What health and sober appetite demand,
From fading good derives, with chemic art,
That lasting happiness, a thankful heart.
Hope with uplifted foot set free from earth,
Pants for the place of her ethereal birth,
On steady wings sails through the immense abyss,
Plucks amaranthine joys from bowers of bliss,
And crowns the soul, while yet a mourner here,
With wreaths like those triumphant spirits wear.
Hope, as an anchor firm and sure, hoids fast
The Christian vessel, and defies the blast.
Hope! nothing else can nourish and secure
His newborn virtues, and preserve him pure ;
Hope! let the wretch, once conscious of the joy,
Whom now despairing agonies destroy,
Speak, for he can, and none so well as he,
What treasures centre, what delights in thee.
Had he the gems, the spices, and the land
That boasts the treasure, all at his command,
The fragrant grove, the inestimable mine,
Were light, when weigh'd against one smile of thine.
Though clasp'd and cradled in his nurse's arms, He shine with all a cherub's artless charms, Man is the genuine offspring of revolt, Stubborn and sturdy, a wild ass's colt; His passions, like the watery stores that sleep Beneath the smiling surface of the deep, Wait but the lashes of a wintry storm, To frown and roar, and shake his feeble form. From infancy through childhood's giddy maze, Froward at school, and fretful in his plays,