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Why rage desires without control,
And rouse such whirlwinds in the soul ?
Why hope erects her towering crest,
And laughs and riots in the breast ?
Think not my weaker brain turns round;
Think not I tread on fairy ground;
Think not your pulse alone beats true,
Mine makes as healthful music too.
Our joys, when life's soft spring we trace,
Put forth their early buds apace :
See, the bloom loads the tender shoot;
The bloom conceals the future fruit.
Yes, manhood's warm meridian sun
Shall ripen what in spring begun.
Thus infant roses, ere they blow,
In germinating clusters grow;
And only wait the summer's ray,
To burst and blossom to the day.”
What said the gay unthinking boy?
Methought Hilario talked of joy!
Tell, if thou canst, whence joys arise,
Or what those mighty joys you prize.
You'll find (and trust superior years,)
The vale of life a vale of tears.
Could wisdom teach where joys abound,
Or riches purchase them when found,
Would sceptred Solomon complain
That all was fleeting, false, and vain ?
Yet sceptred Solomon could say,
Returning clouds obscured his day.
Those maxims which the preacher drew,
The royal sage experienced true.
He knew the various ills that wait
Our infant and meridian state;
That toys our earlier thoughts engage,
And different toys maturer age ;
That grief at every stage appears,
But different griefs at different years ;
That vanity is seen, in part,
Inscribed on every human heart;
In the child's breast the spark began,
Grows with his growth, and glares in man.
But when in life we journey late,
If follies die, do griefs abate ?
Ah! what is life at fourscore years ?
One dark rough road of sighs, groans, pains, and tears.
Perhaps you'll think I act the same
As a sly sharper plays his game :
You triumph every deal that's past,
He's sure to triumph at the last!
Who often wins some thousands more
Than twice the sums you won before.
But I'm a loser with the rest,
For life is all a deal at best,
Where not the prize of wealth or fame
Repays the trouble of the game ;
(A truth no winner e'er denied
An hour before that winner died);
Nor that with me these prizes shine,
For neither fame nor wealth is mine.
My cards a weak plebeian band,
With scarce an honour in my hand!
And, since my trumps are very few,
What have I more to boast than you?
Nor am I gainer by your fall,
That harlot, Fortune, bubbles all !
'Tis truth, (receive it ill or well,)
'Tis melancholy truth, I tell.
Why should the preacher take your pence,
And smother truth to flatter sense?
I'm sure physicians have no merit,
Who kill through lenity of spirit!
That life's a game, divines confess;
This says at cards, and that at chess :
But if our views be centred here,
'Tis all a losing game, I fear.
Sailors, you know, when wars obtain, And hostile vessels crowd the main, If they discover from afar A bark as distant as a star, Hold the perspective to their eyes, To learn its colours, strength, and size; And when this secret once they know, Make ready to receive the foe; Let you and I from sailors learn Important truths of like concern.
I closed the day as custom led, With reading till the time of bed; Where Fancy, at the midnight hour, Again displayed her magic power ; (For know that Fancy, like a sprite, Prefers the silent scenes of night,) She lodged me in a neighbouring wood, No matter where the thicket stood; The Genius of the place was nigh, And held two pictures to my eye; The curious painter had portrayed Life in each just and genuine shade. They who have only known its dawn May think these lines too deeply drawn; But riper years, I fear, will show The wiser artist paints too true. One piece presents a rueful wild, Where not a summer's sun had smiled ; The road with thorns is covered wide, And Grief sits weeping by the side; Here tears with constant tenor flow, And form a mournful lake below; Whose silent waters, dark and deep, Through all the gloomy valley creep. Passions that flatter, or that slay, Are beasts that fawn, or birds that prey. Here Vice assumes the serpent's shape; There Folly personates the ape :
Here Avarice gripes with harpy claws;
There Malice grins with tiger's jaws;
While sons of Mischief, Art, and Guile,
Are alligators of the Nile.
E'en Pleasure acts a treacherous part;
She charms the sense, but stings the heart;
And when she gulls us of our wealth,
Or that superior pearl, our health,
Restores us nought but pains and woe,
And drowns us in the lake below.
There a commissioned angel stands
With desolation in his hands;
He sends the all-devouring flame,
And cities hardly boast a name:
Or wings the pestilential blast,
And lo! ten thousand breathe their last.
He speaks-obedient tempests roar,
And guilty nations are no more :
He speaks—the Fury discord raves,
And sweeps whole armies to the graves ;
Or Famine lifts her mildewed hand,
And Hunger howls through all the land.
“Oh! what a wretch is man!” I cried ;
“ Exposed to death on every side !
And sure as born to be undone,
By evils which he cannot shun!
Besides a thousand baits to sin,
A thousand traitors lodge within !
For, soon as vice assaults the heart,
The rebels take the demon's part."
I sigh, my aching bosom bleeds;
When straight the milder plan succeeds.
The lake of tears, the dreary shore,
The same as in the piece before ;
But gleams of light are here displayed
To cheer the eye, and gild the shade ;
Affliction speaks a softer style,
And Disappointment wears a smile :
A group of virtues blossom near;
Their roots improve by every tear.
Here Patience, gentle maid! is nigh,
To calm the storm and wipe the eye;
Hope acts the kind physician's part,
And warms the solitary heart:
Religion nobler comfort brings,
Disarms our griefs, or blunts their stings;
Points out the balance on the whole,
And heaven rewards the struggling soul.
But while these raptures I pursue,
The Genius suddenly withdrew.