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FROM 'A NIGHT-PIECE ON DEATH.'
By the blue taper's trembling light,
No more I waste the wakeful night,
Intent with endless view to pore
The schoolmen and the sages o’er :
Their books from wisdom widely stray,
Or point at best the longest way.
I'll seek a readier path, and go
Where wisdom's surely taught below.
How deep yon azure dyes the sky,
Where orbs of gold unnumber'd lie,
While through their ranks in silver pride
The nether crescent seems to glide !
The slumbering breeze forgets to breathe,
The lake is smooth and clear beneath,
Where once again the spangled show
Descends to meet our eyes below.
The grounds which on the right aspire,
in dimness from the view retire :
The left presents a place of graves,
Whose wall the silent water laves
That steeple guides thy doubtful sight
Among the livid gleams of night.
There pass, with melancholy state,
By all the solemn heaps of fate,
And think, as softly-sad you tread
Above the venerable dead,
'Time was, like thee they life possest,
And time shall be, that thou shalt rest.'
Those graves, with bending osier bound, That nameless heave the crumbled ground, Quick to the glancing thought disclose, Where toil and poverty repose.
The flat smooth stones that bear a name.
The chisel's slender help to fame,
(Which ere our set of friends decay
Their frequent steps may wear away,)
A middle race of mortals own,
Men, half ambitious, all unknown.
The marble tombs that rise on high,
Whose dead in vaulted arches lie,
Whose pillars swell with sculptur'd stones,
Arms, angels, epitaphs, and bones,
These, all the poor remains of state,
Adorn the rich, or praise the great ;
Who while on earth in fame they live,
Are senseless of the fame they give.
Ha! while I gaze, pale Cynthia fades,
The bursting earth unveils the shades !
All slow, and wan, and wrapp'd with shrouds,
They rise in visionary crowds,
And all with sober accent cry,
"Think, mortal, what it is to die.'
FROM 'A HYMN TO CONTENTMENT.'
The silent heart, which grief assails,
Treads soft and lonesome o'er the vales,
Sees daisies open, rivers run,
And seeks, as I have vainly done,
Amusing thought ; but learns to know
That solitude's the nurse of woe.
No real happiness is found
In trailing purple o'er the ground;
Or in a soul exalted high,
To range the circuit of the sky,
Converse with stars above, and know
All nature in its forms below:
The rest it seeks, in seeking dies,
And doubts at last, for knowledge, rise.
Lovely, lasting peace, appear!
This world itself, if thou art here,
Is once again with Eden blest,
And man contains it in his breast.
'Twas thus, as under shade I stood,
I sung my wishes to the wood,
And lost in thought, no more perceiv'd
The branches whisper as they wav'd :
It seem'd, as all the quiet place
Confess'd the presence of the Grace.
When thus she spoke-'Go rule thy will,
Bid thy wild passions all be still,
Know God-and bring thy heart to know
The joys which from religion flow :
Then every Grace shall prove its guest,
And I'll be there to crown the rest.'
Oh! by yonder mossy seat,
In my hours of sweet retreat,
Might I thus my soul employ,
With sense of gratitude and joy !
Rais'd as ancient prophets were,
In heavenly vision, praise, and prayer ;
Pleasing all men, hurting none,
Pleas'd and bless'd with God alone :
Then while the gardens take my sight,
With all the colours of delight ;
While silver waters glide along,
To please my ear, and court my song ;
I'll lift my voice, and tune my string,
And thee, great source of nature, sing.
The sun that walks his airy way,
To light the world, and give the day;
The moon that shines with borrow'd light;
The stars that gild the gloomy night ;
The seas that roll unnumber'd waves ;
The wood that spreads its shady leaves ;
The field whose ears conceal the grain,
The yellow treasure of the plain ;
All of these, and all I see,
Should be sung, and sung by me:
They speak their maker as they can,
But want and ask the tongue of man.
Go search among your idle dreams,
Your busy or your vain extremes ;
And find a life of equal bliss,
Or own the next begun in this.
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew ;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well :
Remote from man, with God he pass'd the days,
Prayer all his business, all his pleasure praise.
A life so sacred, such serene repose,
Seem'd heaven itself, till one suggestion rose ;
That vice should triumph, virtue vice obey,
This sprung some doubt of Providence's sway:
His hopes no more a certain prospect boast,
And all the tenour of his soul is lost.
So when a smooth expanse receives imprest
Calm nature's image on its watery breast,
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow,
And skies beneath with answering colours glow:
But if a stone the gentle scene divide,
Swift ruffling circles curl on every side,
And glimmering fragments of a broken sun,
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run.
To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
To find if books, or swains, report it right,
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Whose feet came wandering o'er the nightly dew,)
He quits his cell; the pilgrim-staff he bore,
And fix'd the scallop in his hat before ;
Then with the sun a rising journey went,
Sedate to think, and watching each event.
The morn was wasted in the pathless grass,
And long and lonesome was the wild to pass ;
But when the southern sun had warm’d the day,
A youth came posting o'er a crossing way ;
His raiment decent, his complexion fair,
And soft in graceful ringlets wavd his hair.
Then near approaching, ‘Father, hail !' he cried ;
* And hail, my son,' the reverend sire replied ;
Words follow'd words, from question answer flow'd,
And talk of various kind deceiv'd the road ;
Till each with other pleas'd, and loth to part,
While in their age they differ, join in heart :
Thus stands an aged elm in ivy bound,
Thus youthful ivy clasps an elm around.
Now sunk the sun ; the closing hour of day Came onward, mantled o’er with sober gray ; Nature in silence bid the world repose ; When near the road a stately palace rose : There by the moon through ranks of trees they pass, Whose verdure crown'd their sloping sides of grass. It chanc'd the noble master of the dome Still made his house the wandering stranger's home ; Yet still the kindness, from a thirst of praise, Prov'd the vain flourish of expensive ease. The pair arrive : the liveried servants wait ; Their lord receives them at the pompous gate. The table groans with costly piles of food, And all is more than hospitably good.