Maria Frances Cecilia Cowper

(1726-1797 / England)

This World Not Our Rest, &C - Poem by Maria Frances Cecilia Cowper

VAIN are those joys that erring man provides,
Vain the pursuit of sublunary things!
Wisdom the sandy edifice derides,
Scoffs at the fading pageantry of kings.
Sooner some witless trifler shall essay
To carve the image on the quivering flame,
Then wrest contentment from a single day
Giv'n to the world, to pleasure, wealth, or fame.

The noontide of Lorenzo's joy is o'er,
And youth's intoxicating smiles are gone;
The world's fantastic scenes delight no more;
Loud-laughing mirth, and wit and jest are flown.
Yet these are trivial losses, and he feels
A thousand woes than these far more intense;
With soul-distracting pangs of guilt he reels,
While threatening Death demands his victim hence.

Quick o'er his lonely couch, pale Sickness throws
The trembling horrors of some dire disease;
To injur'd Heaven he pours his impious vows;
But vows, not prayers, his frighted soul appease.
Alas, Lorenzo! what avail thee now
The gifts of Fortune, or the phantom Power,
Those idols, deaf and dumb, that ne'er bestow
One solid comfort in the trying hour?

As soon the trav'ler on his darksome way,
Benumb'd with winds and chilling frost, shall gain
New warmth and vigour from the feeble ray
Of meteors, gliding through th' ethereal plain.
To what new system shall Lorenzo fly?
Shall 'moral rectitude' his soul secure?
What 'deed' the force of quick'ning grace supply?
Or 'conscious virtue' make the sinner pure?

Say, can the tinkling of the neighb'ring stream
The riches of the Gospel truths convey?
Or can the glow-worm, with her languid beam,
Unfold the glories of immortal day?
As soon shall these the wondrous task perform,
To wounded minds the healing balm impart,
As, Manvain, impotent, self-righteous worm
With aught but faith console his aching heart.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, October 18, 2010

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