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My eyes are dazzled, and my ravished heart
Leaps at the glorious sight. How bright's the luster,
How immense the worth, of those fair jewels!
Ay, such a treasure would expel forever
Base poverty and all its abject train;
The mean devices we 're reduced to use
To keep out famine and preserve our lives
From day to day; the cold neglect of friends;
The galling scorn, or more provoking pity,
Of an insulting world.
Possessed of these,
Plenty, content, and power, might take their turn,
And lofty pride bare its aspiring head
At our approach, and once more bend before us.
A pleasing dream! 'T is past; and now I wake
More wretched by the happiness I've lost;
For sure it was a happiness to think,
Though but a moment, such a treasure mine.
Nay, it was more than thought. I saw and touched
The bright temptation, and I see it yet.
'T is here — 't is mine — I have it in possession 1
Must I resign it? Must I give it back?
Am I in love with misery and want,
To rob myself, and court so vast a loss?
Retain it, then. — But how? There is a way.
Why sinks my heart? Why does my blood run cold?
Why am I thrilled with horror? 'T is not choice,
But dire necessity, suggests the thought.
Enter Old Wilmot.
Old Wilmot. The mind contented, with haw little pains The wandering senses yield to soft repose, And die to gain new life! He's fallen asleep Already — happy man! What dost thou think,
He seems to me a youth of great humanity: Just ere he closed his eyes, that swam in tears, He wrung my hand, and pressed it to his lips; And with a look that pierced me to the soul, Begged me to comfort thee: and — Dost thou hear me? What art thou gazing on? Fie, 't is not well! This casket was delivered to you closed: Why have you opened it? Should this be known, How mean must we appear!
Agnes. And who shall know it?
O.. Wil. There is a kind of pride, a decent dignity, Due to ourselves, which, spite of our misfortunes, May be maintained and cherished to the last. To live without reproach, and without leave To quit the world, shows sovereign contempt And noble scorn of its relentless malice.
Agnes. Shows sovereign madness, and a scorn of sense! Pursue-no further this detested theme: I will not die! I will not leave the world, For all that you can urge, until compelled.
O. Wil. . To chase a shadow when the setting sun Is darting his last rays, were just as wise As your anxiety for fleeting life, Now the last means for its support are failing: Were famine not as mortal as the sword, This warmth might be excused. But take thy choice. Die how you will, you shall not die alone.
Agnes. Nor live, I hope.
O. Wil. There is no fear of that.
Agnes. Then we '11 live both.
O. Wil. Strange folly! Where's the means?
Agnes. The means are there; those jewels.
O. Wil. Ha! take heed:
Perhaps thou dost but try me; yet take heed.
There's naught so monstrous but the mind of man
In some conditions may be brought to approve;
Theft, sacrilege, treason, and parricide,
When flattering opportunity enticed,
And desperation drove, have been committed
By those who once would start to hear them named.
Agnes. And add to these detested suicide,
Which, by a crime much less, we may avoid.
O. Wil. The inhospitable murder of our guest!
How couldst thou form a thought so very tempting,
So advantageous, so secure and easy, —
And yet so cruel, and so full of horror?
Agnes. 'T is less impiety, less against nature,
To take another's life, than end our own.
O. Wil. It is no matter whether this or that
Be in itself the less or greater crime:
Howe'er we may deceive ourselves or others,
We act from inclination, not by rule,
Or none could act amiss. And that all err,
None but the conscious hypocrite denies.
O, what is man, his excellence and strength,
When, in an hour of trial arid desertion,
Reason, his noblest power, may be suborned
To plead the cause of vile assassination!
Agnes. You 're too severe : reason may justly plead For her own preservation.
O. Wil. Rest contented:
Whate'er resistance I may seem to make,
I am betrayed within: my will's seduced,
And my whole soul infected. The desire
Of life returns, and brings with it a train
Of appetites, that rage to be supplied.
Whoever stands to parley with temptation
Does it to be o'ercome.
Agnes. Then naught remains
But the swift execution of a deed
That is not to be thought on, or delayed.
We must dispatch him sleeping: should he wake,
'T were madness to attempt it.
O. Wil. True, his strength,
Single, is more, much more, than ours united;
• So may his life, perhaps, as far exceed
Ours in duration, should he 'scape this snare.
Generous, unhappy man! O, what could move thee
To put thy life and fortune in the hands
Of wretches mad with anguish!
Agnes. By what means, —
By stabbing, suffocation, or by strangling,—
Shall we effect his death?
O. Wil. Why, what a fiend!
How cruel, how remorseless, how impatient,
Have pride and poverty made thee!
Agnes. Barbarous man!
Whose wasteful riots ruined our estate,
And drove our son, ere the first down had spread
His rosy cheeks, s'pite of my sad presages,
Earnest entreaties, agonies, and tears,
To seek his bread 'mongst strangers, and to perish
In some remote inhospitable land.
The loveliest youth, in person and in mind,
That ever crowned a groaning mother's pains!
Where was thy pity, where thy patience, then?
Thou cruel husband! thou unnatural father!
Thou most remorseless, most ungrateful man!
To waste my fortune, rob me of my son;
To drive me to despair, and? then reproach me !.
O. WU. Dry thy tears:
I ought not to reproach thee. I confess
That thou hast suffered much : so have we both.
But chide no more: I'm wrought up to thy purpose.
The poor, ill-fated, unsuspecting victim,
Ere he reclined him on the fatal couch,
From which he's ne'er to rise, took off the sash
And costly dagger that thou saw'st him wear;
And thus, unthinking, furnished us with arms
Against himself. Which shall I use?
Agnes. The sash.
If you make use of that, I can assist.
O. WU. No.
'T is a dreadful office, and I '11 spare
Thy trembling hands the guilt. Steal to the door,
And bring me word if he be still asleep. [Exit Agnet.
Or I'm deceived, or he pronounced himself
The happiest of mankind. Deluded wretch!
Thy thoughts are perishing; thy youthful joys,
Touched by the icy hand of grisly death,
Are withering in their bloom. But though extinguished,
He '11 never know the loss, nor feel the pangs
Of bitter disappointment. Then I was wrong
In counting him a wretch :, to die well pleased
Is all the happiest of mankind can hope for.
To be a wretch, is fo survive the loss
Of every joy, and even hope itself,
As I have done. Why do I mourn him, then?
For, by the anguish of my tortured soul,
He's to be envied, if compared with me!
The Vanity of the World. — Francis Quarles.*
1. False world, thou ly'st: thou canst not lend The least delight;
* The author sf "Emblems." He flourished from 1583 to 1644.
Thy favors cannot gain a friend, 1
They are so slight;
Thy morning pleasures make an end
To please at night:
Poor are the wants that thou supply'st,
And yet thou vaunt'st, and yet thou vy'st
With heaven; fond earth, thou boasts; false world, thou ly'st
2. Thy bubbling tongue tells golden tales Of endless treasure;
Thy bounty offers easy sales
Of lasting pleasure;
Thou ask'st the conscience what she ails,
And swear'st to ease her:
There's none can want where thou supply'st:
There 's'none can give where thou deny'st.
Alas! fond "World, thou boasts; false world, thou ly'st.
3. What well-advistd ear regards
What earth can say? -
Thy words are gold, but thy rewards
Are painted clay;
Thy cunning can but pack the cards,
Thou canst not play:
Thy game at weakest, still thou vy'st;
If seen, and then revy'd, deny'st;
Thou art not what thou seem'st; false world, thou ly'st.
4. Thy tinsel bosom seems a mint Of new-coined treasure;
A paradise, that has no stint, ,^
No change, no measure;
A painted cask, but nothing in't,
Nor wealth, nor pleasure:
Vain earth! that falsely thus comply'st
With man; vain man! that thou rely'st
On earth; vain man, thou dot'st; vain earth, thou ly'st
5. What mean dull souls, in this high measure, To haberdash
In earth's base wares, whose greatest treasure
Is dross and trash?
The height of whose enchanting pleasure
Is but a flash?
Are these the goods that thou supply'st
Us mortals with? Are these the high'st?
Can these bring cordial peace? felsfe world, thou ly'st