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For these they live, they sacrifice to these,
And in their service wage perpetual war
With Conscience and with thee. Lust in their hearts,
And mischief in their hands, they roam the earth,
To prey upon each other: stubborn, fierce,
High-minded, foaming out their own disgrace.
Thy prophets speak of such; and, noting down
The features of the last degenerate times,
Exhibit every lineament of these.
Come then, and, added to thy many crowns,
Receive yet one, as radiant as the rest,
Due to thy last and most effectual work,
Thy word fulfill'd, the conquest of a world!
He is the happy man, whose life e'en now
Shews somewhat of that happier life to come;
Who, doom'd to an obscure but tranquil state,
Is pleas'd with it, and were he free to choose,
Would make his fate his choice; whom peace, the
fruit Of virtue, and whom virtue, fruit of faith, Prepare for happiness; bespeak him one Content indeed to sojourn while he must Below the skies, but having there his home. The world o'erlooks him in her busy search Of objects, more illustrious in her view; And, occupied as earnestly as she, Though more sublimely, he o'erlooks the world. She scorns his pleasures, for she knows them not; He seeks not hers, for he has proved them vain. He cannot skim the ground like summer birds Pursuing gilded flies; and such he deems Her honours, her emoluments, her joys. Therefore in contemplation is his bliss, Whose power is such, that whom she lifts from earth She makes familiar with a heaven unseen, And shews him glories yet to be reveal'd. Not slothful he, though seeming unemploy'd, And censured oft as useless. Stillest streams Oft water fairest meadows, and the bird, That flutters least, is longest on the wing. Ask him, indeed, what trophies he has raised, Or what achievements of immortal fame
He purposes, and he shall answer-None.
His warfare is within. There unfatigued
His fervent spirit labours. There he fights,
And there obtains fresh triumphs o'er himself,
And never-withering wreaths, compared with which,
The laurels that a Cæsar reaps are weeds.
Perhaps the self-approving haughty world,
That as she sweeps him with her whistling silks
Scarce deigns to notice him, or, if she see,
Deems him a cipher in the works of God,
Receives advantage from his noiseless hours,
Of which she little dreams. Perhaps she owes
Her sunshine and her rain, her blooming spring
And plenteous harvest, to the prayer he makes,
When, Isaac like, the solitary saint
Walks forth to meditate at eventide,
And think on her who thinks not for herself.
Forgive him then, thou bustler in concerns
Of little worth, an idler in the best,
If author of no mischief and some good,
He seeks his proper happiness by means
That may advance, but cannot hinder, thine.
Nor, though he tread the secret path of life,
Engage no notice and enjoy much ease.
Account him an encumbrance on the state,
Receiving benefits, and rendering none.
His sphere though humble, if that humble sphere
Shine with his fair example, and though small
His influence, if that influence all be spent
In soothing sorrow, and in quenching strife,
In aiding helpless indigence, in works,
From which at least a grateful few derive
Some taste of comfort in a world of woe,
Then let the supercilious great confess
He serves his country, recompenses well
The state, beneath the shadow of whose vine
He sits secure, and in the scale of life
Holds no ignoble, though a slighted, place.
The man, whose virtues are more felt than seen,
Must drop indeed the hope of public praise ;
But he may boast, what few that win it can,
That, if his country stand not by his skill,
At least his follies have not wrought her fall.
Polite Refinement offers him in vain
Her golden tube, through which a sensual world
Draws gross impurity, and likes it well,
The neat conveyance hiding all the offence.
Not that he peevishly rejects a mode
Because that world adopts it. If it bear
The stamp and clear impression of good sense,
And be not costly more than of true worth,
He puts it on, and for decorum sake
Can wear it e'en as gracefully as she.
She judges of refinement by the eye,
He by the test of conscience, and a heart
Not soon deceived; aware that what is base
No polish can make sterling; and that vice,
Though well perfumed and elegantly dress’d,
Like an unburied carcase trick'd with flowers,
Is but a garnish'd nuisance, fitter far
For cleanly riddance, than for fair attire.
So life glides smoothly and by stealth away,
More golden than that age of fabled gold
Renown'd in ancient song; not vex'd with care
Or stain'd with guilt, beneficent, approved
Of God and man, and peaceful in its end.
So glide my life away, and so at last,
My share of duties decently fulfill’d,
May some disease, not tardy to perform
Its destined office, yet with gentle stroke,
Dismiss me weary to a safe retreat,
Beneath the turf, that I have often trod.
It shall not grieve me then, that once, when call’d
To dress a Sofa with the flowers of verse,
I play'd awhile, obedient to the fair,
With that light task; but soon, to please her more,
Whom flowers alone I knew would little please,
Let fall the unfinish'd wreath, and roved for fruit;
Roved far, and gather'd much; some harsh, 'tis true,
Pick'd from the thorns and briers of reproof,
But wholesome, well-digested; grateful some
To palates that can taste immortal truth;
Insipid else, and sure to be despised.
But all is in his hand, whose praise I seek.
In vain the poet sings, and the world hears,
If he regard not, though divine the theme.
'Tis not in artful measures, in the chime
And idle tinkling of a minstrel's lyre,
To charm his ear, whose eye is on the heart;
Whose frown can disappoint the proudest strain,
Whose approbation-prosper even mine.
Dear Joseph-five and twenty years ago
Alas, how time escapes !~'tis even so—
With frequent intercourse, and always sweet,
And always friendly, we were wont to cheat
A tedious hour-and now we never meet!
As some grave gentleman in Terence says,
('Twas therefore much the same in ancient days)
Good lack, we know not what to-morrow brings
Strange fluctuation of all human things !
True. Changes will befall, and friends may part,
But distance only cannot change the heart:
And, were I call'd to prove th' assertion true,
One proof should serve--a reference to you.
Whence comes it, then, that in the wane of life,
Though nothing have occurr'd to kindle strife,
We find the friends we fancied we had won,
Though numerous once, reduced to few or none?
Can gold grow worthless, that has stood the touch ?
No; gold they seem’d, but they were never such.
Horatio's servant once, with bow and cringe, Swinging the parlour door upon its hinge, Dreading a negative, and overawed Lest he should trespass, begg'd to go abroad. Go, fellow !-whither ?-turning short aboutNay. Stay at home--you're always going out. 'Tis but a step, sir, just at the street's end.For what ?— An please you, sir, to see a friend.A friend! Horatio cried, and seem'd to startYea marry shalt thou, and with all my heart.And fetch my cloak; for, though the night be raw, I'll see him toothe first I ever saw.