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ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY.
To the Right Hon. Arthur Ontlowt Esq. Speaker of
the House of Commons. 'T'IR'D Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes: Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe, And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose I wake: how happy they who wake no more! Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave* I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams Tumultuous; where my wreck'd desponding thought From wave to wave of fancied misery At random drove, her helm of reason lost. Though now restor'd 'tis only change of pain, (A bitter change I) severer for severe: The day too short for my distress; and night, Ev'n in the zenith of her dark domain, Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess ! from her ebon throne, In ray less majesty, now stretches forth Her leaden sceptre o'er a slumbering world. Silence how dead! and darkness how profound! Nor eye nor listening ear an object finds; Creation sleeps. Tis as the general pulse Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause; An awful pause ! prophetic of her end. And let her prophecy be soon fulfill'*!: Fate! drop the cm tain; I can lose no more.
Silence and Darkness! solemn sisters! twins From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought To reason, and on reason build resolve. (That column of true majesty in man) Assist me ; I will thank you in the grave;
The grave your kingdom: there this frame shall fall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye ?—
Thou, who didst put to flight
0 Thou! whose word from solid darkness struck
Through this opaque of nature and of soul, This double night, transmit one pitying ray, To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind, (A mind that fain would wander from its woe) Lead it through various scenes of life and death, And from each scene the noblest truths inspire. Nor less inspire my conduct than my song; Teach my best reason, reason ; my best will Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear: Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour'd On this devoted head, be pour'd in vain.
The bell strikes One. We take no note of time But from its loss : to give it then a tongue Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke
1 feel the solemn sound. If heard aright. It is the knell of my departed hours.
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.
It is the signal that demands dispatch:
How much is to be done? My hopes and fears
Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down—on what ? A fathomless abyss.
A dread eternity ! how surely mine!
And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, How complicate, how wonderful, is man! How passing wonder He who made him such! Who center'd in cur make such strange extremes From different natures marvellously mix'd,
Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
Distinguished link in being's endless chain!
Midway from nothing to the Deity 1
A beam etherial, sullied and absorpt 1
Though sullied and dishonoui'd, still divine!
Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
An heir of glory ! a frail child of dust!
Helpless immortal! insect infinite!
A worm! a god !—I tremble at myself,
And in myself am lost. At home a stranger,
Thought wanders up and down, surpris'd, aghast,
And wondering at her own. How reason reels!
O what a miracle to man is man!
Tiiumphantly distress'd ! what joy! what dread!
Alternately transported and atarm'dl
What can preserve my life ! or what destroy!
An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.
*Tls past conjecture; all things rise in proof. While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spread, What though my soul fantastic measures trod O'er fairy fields, or mourn'd along the gloom Of pathless woods, or down the craggy steep Hurl'd headlong, swam with paiu the mantled pool, Or scal'd the cliff, or dane'd on hollow winds With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain! Her ceaseless flight, tho' devious, speaks her nature Of subtler essence than the trodden clod; Active, aerial, towering, unconfin'd, Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fall. Kv'n silent night proclaims my soul immortal; Ev'n silent night proclaims eternal day! For human weal Heav'n husbands all events: Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.
Why then their loss deplore that are not lost? Why wanders wretched Thought their tombs around In infidel distress? Are angels there? Slumbers, rak'd up in dust, etherial fire?
They live! they greatly live a life on earth Unkiudled, unconceiv'd, and from an eye
Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall
On me, more justly number'd with the dead.
This is the desert, this the solitude:
How populous, how vital is the grave!
This is Creation's melancholy vault,
The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom;
The land of apparitions, empty shades!
All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond
Is substance; the reverse is Folly's creed.
How solid all, where change shall be no more 1
This is the bud of being, the dim dawn,
Yet man, fool man! here buries all his thoughts,
At aught this scene can threaten or indulge,
Where falls this censure? it o'erwhelms myself.
Night-visions inay befriend (as sung above:)
0 ye blest scenes of permanent delight!