The days how few, how short the years
Of man's too rapid race!
Each leaving, as it swiftly flies,
A shorter in its place.
They who the longest lease enjoy,
Have told us with a sigh,
That to be born seems little more
Than to begin to die.
Numbers there are who feel this truth
With fears alarm'd; and yet,
In life's delusions lull'd asleep,
This weighty truth forget:
And am not I to these akin?
Age slumbers o'er the quill;
Its honour blots, whate'er it writes,
And am I writing still?
Conscious of nature in decline,
And languor in my thoughts;
To soften censure, and abate
Its rigour on my faults
Permit me, madam! ere to you
The promis'd verse I pay,
To touch on felt infirmity,
Sad sister of decay.
One world deceas'd, another born,
Like Noah they behold,
O'er whose white hairs, and furrow'd brows,
Too many suns have roll'd:
Happy the patriarch! he rejoic'd
His second world to see:
My second world, though gay the scene,
Can boast no charms for me.
To me this brilliant age appears
With desolation spread;
Near all with whom I liv'd, and smil'd,
Whilst life was life, are dead;
And with them died my joys; the grave
Has broken nature's laws;
And clos'd, against this feeble frame,
Its partial cruel jaws;
Cruel to spare! condemn'd to life!
A cloud impairs my sight;
My weak hand disobeys my will,
And trembles as I write.
What shall I write? Thalia, tell;
Say, long abandon'd muse!
What field of fancy shall I range?
What subject shall I choose?
A choice of moment high inspire,
And rescue me from shame,
For doting on thy charms so late,
By grandeur in my theme.
Beyond the themes, which most admire,
Which dazzle, or amaze,
Beyond renown'd exploits of war,
Bright charms, or empire's blaze,
Are themes, which, in a world of woe
Can best appease our pain;
And, in an age of gaudy guilt,
Gay folly's flood restrain;
Amidst the storms of life support
A calm, unshaken mind;
And with unfading laurels crown
The brow of the resign'd.
O resignation! yet unsung,
Untouch'd by former strains;
Though claiming every muse's smile,
And every poet's pains,
Beneath life's evening, solemn shade,
I dedicate my page
To thee, thou safest guard of youth!
Thou sole support of age!
All other duties crescents are
Of virtue faintly bright,
The glorious consummation, thou!
Which fills her orb with light:
How rarely fill'd! the love divine
In evils to discern,
This the first lesson which we want,
The latest, which we learn;
A melancholy truth! for know,
Could our proud hearts resign,
The distance greatly would decrease
'Twixt human and divine.
But though full noble is my theme,
Full urgent is my call
To soften sorrow, and forbid
The bursting tear to fall:
The task I dread; dare I to leave
Of humble prose the shore,
And put to sea? a dangerous sea?
What throngs have sunk before!
How proud the poet's billow swells!
The God! the God! his boast:
A boast how vain! What wrecks abound!
Dead bards stench every coast.
What then am I? Shall I presume,
On such a moulten wing,
Above the general wreck to rise,
And in my winter, sing;
When nightingales, when sweetest bards
Confine their charming song
To summer's animating heats,
Content to warble young?
Yet write I must; a lady(49) sues;
How shameful her request!
My brain in labour for dull rhyme!
Hers teeming with the best!
But you a stranger will excuse,
Nor scorn his feeble strain;
To you a stranger, but, through fate,
No stranger to your pain.
The ghost of grief deceas'd ascends,
His old wound bleeds anew;
His sorrows are recall'd to life
By those he sees in you;
Too well he knows the twisting strings
Of ardent hearts combin'd
When rent asunder, how they bleed,
How hard to be resign'd:
Those tears you pour, his eyes have shed;
The pang you feel, he felt;
Thus nature, loud as virtue, bids
His heart at yours to melt.
But what can heart, or head, suggest?
What sad experience say?
Through truths austere, to peace we work
Our rugged, gloomy way:
What are we? whence? for what? and whither?
Who know not, needs must mourn;
But thought, bright daughter of the skies!
Can tears to triumph turn.
Thought is our armour, 'tis the mind's
When, sent by fate, we meet our foes,
In sore affliction's field;
It plucks the frightful mask from ills,
Forbids pale fear to hide,
Beneath that dark disguise, a friend,
Which turns affection's tide.
Affection frail! train'd up by sense,
From reason's channel strays:
And whilst it blindly points at peace,
Our peace to pain betrays.
Thought winds its fond, erroneous stream
From daily dying flowers,
To nourish rich immortal blooms,
In amaranthine bowers;
Whence throngs, in ecstasy, look down
On what once shock'd their sight;
And thank the terrors of the past
For ages of delight.
All withers here; who most possess
Are losers by their gain,
Stung by full proof, that, bad at best,
Life's idle all is vain:
Vain, in its course, life's murmuring stream;
Did not its course offend,
But murmur cease; life, then, would seem
Still vainer, from its end.
How wretched! who, through cruel fate,
Have nothing to lament!
With the poor alms this world affords
Had not the Greek his world mistook,
His wish had been most wise;
To be content with but one world,
Like him, we should despise.
Of earth's revenue would you state
A full account and fair?
We hope; and hope; and hope; then cast
The total up---
Since vain all here, all future, vast,
Embrace the lot assign'd;
Heaven wounds to heal; its frowns are friends;
Its stroke severe, most kind.
But in laps'd nature rooted deep,
Blind error domineers;
And on fools' errands, in the dark,
Sends out our hopes and fears;
Bids us for ever pains deplore,
Our pleasures overprize;
These oft persuade us to be weak;
Those urge us to be wise.
From virtue's rugged path to right
By pleasure are we brought,
To flowery fields of wrong, and there
Pain chides us for our fault:
Yet whilst it chides, it speaks of peace
If folly is withstood;
And says, time pays an easy price,
For our eternal good.
In earth's dark cot, and in an hour,
And in delusion great,
What an economist is man
To spend his whole estate,
And beggar an eternity!
For which as he was born,
More worlds than one against it weigh'd,
As feathers he should scorn.
Say not, your loss in triumph leads
Religion's feeble strife;
Joys future amply reimburse
Joys bankrupts of this life.
But not deferr'd your joy so long,
It bears an early date;
Affliction's ready pay in hand,
Befriends our present state;
What are the tears, which trickle down
Her melancholy face,
Like liquid pearl? Like pearls of price,
They purchase lasting peace.
Grief softens hearts, and curbs the will,
Impetuous passion tames,
And keeps insatiate, keen desire
From launching in extremes.
Through time's dark womb, our judgment right,
If our dim eye was thrown,
Clear should we see, the will divine
Has but forestall'd our own;
At variance with our future wish,
Self-sever'd we complain;
If so, the wounded, not the wound,
Must answer for the pain:
The day shall come, and swift of wing,
Though you may think it slow,
When, in the list of fortune's smiles,
You'll enter frowns of woe.
For mark the path of Providence;
This course it has pursued-
'Pain is the parent, woe the womb,
Of sound, important good:'
Our hearts are fasten'd to this world
By strong and endless ties:
And every sorrow cuts a string,
And urges us to rise:
'Twill sound severe-Yet rest assur'd
I'm studious of your peace;
Though I should dare to give you joy-
Yes, joy of his decease:
An hour shall come, (you question this,)
An hour, when you shall bless,
Beyond the brightest beams of life,
Dark days of your distress.
Hear then without surprise a truth,
A daughter truth to this,
Swift turns of fortune often tie
A bleeding heart to bliss:
Esteem you this a paradox?
My sacred motto read;
A glorious truth! divinely sung
By one, whose heart had bled;
To resignation swift he flew,
In her a friend he found,
A friend, which bless'd him with a smile
When gasping with his wound.
On earth nought precious is obtain'd
But what is painful too;
By travel, and to travel born,
Our sabbaths are but few:
To real joy we work our way,
Encountering many a shock,
Ere found what truly charms; as found
A Venus in the block.
In some disaster, some severe
Appointment for our sins,
That mother blessing, (not so call'd,)
True happiness, begins.
No martyr e'er defied the flames,
By stings of life unvext;
First rose some quarrel with this world,
Then passion for the next.
You see, then, pangs are parent pangs,
The pangs of happy birth;
Pangs, by which only can be born
True happiness on earth.
The peopled earth look all around,
Or through time's records run!
And say, what is a man unstruck?
It is a man undone.
This moment, am I deeply stung-
My bold pretence is tried;
When vain man boasts, heaven puts to proof
The vauntings of his pride;
Now need I, madam! your support.-
How exquisite the smart;
How critically tim'd the news(50)
Which strikes me to the heart!
The pangs of which I spoke, I feel:
If worth like thine is born,
O long-belov'd! I bless the blow,
And triumph, whilst I mourn.
Nor mourn I long; by grief subdued,
By reason's empire shown;
Deep anguish comes by heaven's decree,
Continues by our own;
And when continued past its point,
Indulg'd in length of time,
Grief is disgrac'd, and, what was fate,
Corrupts into a crime:
And shall I, criminally mean,
Myself and subject wrong?
No; my example shall support
The subject of my song.
Madam! I grant your loss is great;
Nor little is your gain?
Let that be weigh'd; when weigh'd aright,
It richly pays your pain:
When heaven would kindly set us free,
And earth's enchantment end;
It takes the most effectual means,
And robs us of a friend.
But such a friend! and sigh no more?
'Tis prudent; but severe:
Heaven aid my weakness, and I drop
All sorrow-with this tear.
Perhaps your settled grief to soothe,
I should not vainly strive,
But with soft balm your pain assuage,
Had he been still alive;
Whose frequent aid brought kind relief,
In my distress of thought,
Ting'd with his beams my cloudy page,
And beautified a fault:
To touch our passions' secret springs
Was his peculiar care;
And deep his happy genius div'd
In bosoms of the fair;
Nature, which favours to the few,
All art beyond, imparts,
To him presented, at his birth,
The key of human hearts.
But not to me by him bequeath'd
His gentle, smooth address;
His tender hand to touch the wound
In throbbing of distress;
Howe'er, proceed I must, unbless'd
With Esculapian art:
Know, love sometimes, mistaken love!
Plays disaffection's part:
Nor lands, nor seas, nor suns, nor stars,
Can soul from soul divide;
They correspond from distant worlds,
Though transports are denied:
Are you not, then, unkindly kind?
Is not your love severe?
O! stop that crystal source of woe;
Nor wound him with a tear.
As those above from human bliss
Receive increase of joy;
May not a stroke from human woe,
In part, their peace destroy?
He lives in those he left;-to what?
Your, now, paternal care,
Clear from its cloud your brighten'd eye,
It will discern him there;
In features, not of form alone,
But those, I trust, of mind;
Auspicious to the public weal,
And to their fate resign'd.
Think on the tempests he sustain'd;
Revolve his battles won;
And let those prophesy your joy
From such a father's son:
Is consolation what you seek?
Fan, then, his martial fire:
And animate to flame the sparks
Bequeath'd him by his sire:
As nothing great is born in haste,
Wise nature's time allow;
His father's laurels may descend,
And flourish on his brow.
Nor, madam! be surpris'd to hear
That laurels may be due
Not more to heroes of the field,
(Proud boasters!) than to you:
Tender as is the female frame,
Like that brave man you mourn,
You are a soldier, and to fight
Superior battles born;
Beneath a banner nobler far
Than ever was unfurl'd
In fields of blood; a banner bright!
High wav'd o'er all the world.
It, like a streaming meteor, casts
A universal light;
Sheds day, sheds more, eternal day
On nations whelm'd in night.
Beneath that banner, what exploit
Can mount our glory higher,
Than to sustain the dreadful blow,
When those we love expire?
Go forth a moral Amazon;
Arm'd with undaunted thought;
The battle won, though costing dear,
You'll think it cheaply bought:
The passive hero, who sits down
Unactive, and can smile
Beneath affliction's galling load,
Out-acts a Caesar's toil:
The billows stain'd by slaughter'd foes
Inferior praise afford;
Reason's a bloodless conqueror,
More glorious than the sword.
Nor can the thunders of huzzas,
From shouting nations, cause
Such sweet delight, as from your heart
Soft whispers of applause:
The dear deceas'd so fam'd in arms,
With what delight he'll view
His triumphs on the main outdone,
Thus conquer'd, twice, by you.
Share his delight; take heed to shun
Of bosoms most diseas'd
That odd distemper, an absurd
Reluctance to be pleas'd:
Some seem in love with sorrow's charms,
And that foul fiend embrace:
This temper let me justly brand,
And stamp it with disgrace:
Sorrow! of horrid parentage!
Thou second-born of hell!
Against heaven's endless mercies pour'd
How dar'st thou to rebel?
From black and noxious vapours bred,
And nurs'd by want of thought,
And to the door of phrensy's self
By perseverance brought,
Thy most inglorious, coward tears
From brutal eyes have ran:
Smiles, incommunicable smiles!
Are radiant marks of man;
They cast a sudden glory round
Th' illumin'd human face;
And light in sons of honest joy
Some beams of Moses' face:
Is resignation's lesson hard?
Examine, we shall find
That duty gives up little more
Than anguish of the mind;
Resign; and all the load of life
That moment you remove,
Its heavy tax, ten thousand cares
Devolve on one above;
Who bids us lay our burthen down
On his almighty hand,
Softens our duty to relief,
To blessing a command.
For joy what cause! how every sense
Is courted from above
The year around, with presents rich,
The growth of endless love!
But most o'erlook the blessings pour'd,
Forget the wonders done,
And terminate, wrapp'd up in sense,
Their prospect at the sun;
From that, their final point of view,
From that their radiant goal,
On travel infinite of thought,
Sets out the nobler soul,
Broke loose from time's tenacious ties,
And earth's involving gloom,
To range at last its vast domain,
And talk with worlds to come:
They let unmark'd, and unemploy'd,
Life's idle moments run;
And doing nothing for themselves,
Imagine nothing done;
Fatal mistake! their fate goes on,
Their dread account proceeds,
And their not doing is set down
Amongst their darkest deeds;
Though man sits still, and takes his ease;
God is at work on man;
No means, no moment unemployed,
To bless him, if he can.
But man consents not, boldly bent
To fashion his own fate;
Man, a mere bungler in the trade,
Repents his crime too late;
Hence loud laments: let me thy cause,
Indulgent father! plead;
Of all the wretches we deplore,
Not one by thee was made.
What is thy whole creation fair?
Of love divine the child;
Love brought it forth; and, from its birth,
Has o'er it fondly smil'd:
Now, and through periods distant far,
Long ere the world began,
Heaven is, and has in travail been,
Its birth the good of man;
Man holds in constant service bound
The blustering winds and seas;
Nor suns disdain to travel hard
Their master, man, to please:
To final good the worst events
Through secret channels run;
Finish for man their destin'd course,
As 'twas for man begun.
One point (observ'd, perhaps, by few)
Has often smote, and smites
My mind, as demonstration strong;
That heaven in man delights:
What's known to man of things unseen,
Of future worlds, or fates?
So much, nor more, than what to man's
Sublime affairs relates;
What's revelation then? a list,
An inventory just
Of that poor insect's goods, so late
Call'd out of night and dust.
What various motives to rejoice!
To render joy sincere,
Has this no weight? our joy is felt
Beyond this narrow sphere:
Would we in heaven new heaven create,
And double its delight?
A smiling world, when heaven looks down,
How pleasing in its sight!
Angels stoop forward from their thrones
To hear its joyful lays;
As incense sweet enjoy, and join,
Its aromatic praise:
Have we no cause to fear the stroke
Of heaven's avenging rod,
When we presume to counteract
A sympathetic God?
If we resign, our patience makes
His rod an armless wand;
If not, it darts a serpent's sting,
Like that in Moses' hand;
Like that, it swallows up whate'er
Earth's vain magicians bring,
Whose baffled arts would boast below
Of joys a rival spring.
Consummate love! the list how large
Of blessings from thy hand!
To banish sorrow, and be blest,
Is thy supreme command.
Are such commands but ill obey'd?
Of bliss, shall we complain?
The man, who dares to be a wretch,
Deserves still greater pain.
Joy is our duty, glory, health;
The sunshine of the soul;
Our best encomium on the power
Who sweetly plans the whole:
Joy is our Eden still possess'd:
Begone, ignoble grief!
'Tis joy makes gods, and men exalts,
Their nature, our relief;
Relief, for man to that must stoop,
And his due distance know;
Transport's the language of the sides,
Content the style below.
Content is joy, and joy in pain
Is joy and virtue too;
Thus, whilst good present we possess,
More precious we pursue:
Of joy the more we have in hand,
The more have we to come;
Joy, like our money, interest bears,
Which daily swells the sum.
'But how to smile; to stem the tide
Of nature in our veins;
Is it not hard to weep in joy?
What then to smile in pains?'
Victorious joy! which breaks the clouds,
And struggles through a storm;
Proclaims the mind as great, as good
And bids it doubly charm:
If doubly charming in our sex,
A sex, by nature, bold;
What then in yours? 'tis diamond there
Triumphant o'er our gold.
And should not this complaint repress,
And check the rising sigh?
Yet farther opiate to your pain
I labour to supply.
Since spirits greatly damp'd distort
Ideas of delight,
Look through the medium of a friend,
To set your notions right:
As tears the sight, grief dims the soul;
Its object dark appears;
True friendship, like a rising sun,
The soul's horizon clears.
A friend's an optic to the mind
With sorrow clouded o'er;
And gives it strength of sight to see
Redress unseen before.
Reason is somewhat rough in man;
Extremely smooth and fair,
When she, to grace her manly strength,
Assumes a female air:
A friend(51) you have, and I the same,
Whose prudent, soft address
Will bring to life those healing thoughts
Which died in your distress;
That friend, the spirit of my theme
Extracting for your ease,
Will leave to me the dreg, in thoughts
Too common; such as these:
Let those lament to whom full bowls
Of sparkling joys are given;
That triple bane inebriates life,
Imbitters death, and hazards heaven:
Woe to the soul at perfect ease!
'Tis brewing perfect pains;
Lull'd reason sleeps, the pulse is king;
Despotic body reigns;
Have you(52) ne'er pitied joy's gay scenes,
And deem'd their glory dark?
Alas! poor envy! she's stone-blind,
And quite mistakes her mark:
Her mark lies hid in sorrow's shades,
But sorrow well subdu'd;
And in proud fortune's frown defied
By meek, unborrow'd good.
By resignation; all in that
A double friend may find,
A wing to heaven, and, while on earth,
The pillow of mankind:
On pillows void of down, for rest
Our restless hopes we place;
When hopes of heaven lie warm at heart,
Our hearts repose in peace:
The peace, which resignation yields,
Who feel alone can guess;
'Tis disbeliev'd by murmuring minds,
They must conclude it less:
The loss, or gain, of that alone
Have we to hope or fear;
That fate controls, and can invert
The seasons of the year:
O! the dark days, the year around,
Of an impatient mind!
Thro' clouds, and storms, a summer breaks,
To shine on the resign'd:
While man by that of every grace,
And virtue, is possess'd;
Foul vice her pandaemonium builds
In the rebellious breast;
By resignation we defeat
The worst that can annoy;
And suffer, with far more repose,
Than worldlings can enjoy.
From small experience this I speak;
O! grant to those I love
Experience fuller far, ye powers,
Who form our fates above!
My love were due, if not to those
Who, leaving grandeur, came
To shine on age in mean recess,
And light me to my theme!
A theme themselves! A theme, how rare!
The charms, which they display,
To triumph over captive heads,
Are set in bright array:
With his own arms proud man's o'ercome,
His boasted laurels die:
Learning and genius, wiser grown,
To female bosoms fly.
This revolution, fix'd by fate,
In fable was foretold;
The dark prediction puzzled wits,
Nor could the learn'd unfold:
But as those ladies'(53) works I read,
They darted such a ray,
The latent sense burst out at once,
And shone in open day:
So burst, full ripe, distended fruits,
When strongly strikes the sun;
And from the purple grape unpress'd
Spontaneous nectars run.
Pallas, ('tis said,) when Jove grew dull,
Forsook his drowsy brain;
And sprightly leap'd into the throne
Of wisdom's brighter reign;
Her helmet took; that is, shot rays
Of formidable wit;
And lance,-or, genius most acute,
Which lines immortal writ;
And gorgon shield,-or, power to fright
Man's folly, dreadful shone,
And many a blockhead (easy change!)
Turn'd, instantly, to stone.
Our authors male, as, then, did Jove,
Now scratch a damag'd head,
And call for what once quarter'd there,
But find the goddess fled.
The fruit of knowledge, golden fruit!
That once forbidden tree,
Hedg'd-in by surly man, is now
To Britain's daughters free:
In Eve (we know) of fruit so fair
The noble thirst began;
And they, like her, have caus'd a fall,
A fall of fame in man:
And since of genius in our sex,
O Addison! with thee
The sun is set; how I rejoice
This sister lamp to see!
It sheds, like Cynthia, silver beams
On man's nocturnal state;
His lessen'd light, and languid powers,
I show, whilst I relate.
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.