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To thee, Humanity, still true,
I'll wish the good I cannot do,
And give the wretch that passes by,
A soothing word- a tear-a sigh.

Howe'er exalted or depress'd,
Be ever mine the feeling breast.
From me remove the stagnant mind
Of languid indolence, reclined;

The soul that one long sabbath keeps,

And through the sun's whole circle sleeps;

Dull peace, that dwells in folly's eye,
And self-attending vanity.

Alike the foolish and the vain

Are strangers to the sense humane.

O for that sympathetic glow

Which taught the holy tear to flow,
When the prophetic eye survey'd
Sion in future ashes laid!

Or, raised to heaven, implored the bread,
That thousands in the desert fed!

Or, when the heart o'er friendship's grave,
Sigh'd, and forgot its power to save,
O for that sympathetic glow
Which taught the holy tear to flow!

It comes: it fills my labouring breast;
I feel my beating heart oppress'd.

Oh! hear that lonely widow's wail!
See her dim eye! her aspect pale!
To heaven she turns in deep despair,
Her infants wonder at her prayer,

And, mingling tears they know not why,
Lift up their little hands, and cry.

O God! their moving sorrows see!
Support them, sweet Humanity!

Life, fill'd with grief's distressful train,
For ever asks the tear humane.
Behold, in yon unconscious grove,
The victims of ill-fated love!
Heard you that agonizing throe!
Sure this is not romantic woe!
The golden day of joy is o'er:
And now they part to meet no more.
Assist them, hearts from anguish free!
Assist them, sweet Humanity!

Parent of virtue, if thine ear

Attend not now to sorrow's cry;

If now the pity-streaming tear

Should haply on thy cheek be dry;

Indulge my votive strain, O sweet Humanity!



As Phœbus darted forth his milder ray,
And lengthening shades confess'd the shortening day;
To Tiber's banks repair'd an amorous swain,
The love and envy of the neighbouring plain.
To cool his heat, he sought the breezy grove;
To cool his heat, but more the heat of love:
To soothe his cares, on the soft lute he play'd;
But the soft lute refresh'd the lovely maid:
Conspiring elms their umbrage shed around,
Waved with applause, and listen'd to the sound.
Sweet Philomel, the chorister of love,
The musical enchantress of the grove,

With wonder heard the shepherd as he play'd,
And stole, attentive, to the tuneful shade.
Perch'd o'er his head the silver syren sate,

With envy burning and with pride elate;
Ambitiously she lent a listening ear,

Charm'd with the very sounds she died to hear.

Each note, each flowing accent of the song,
She soothed and sweeten'd with her softer tongue;
Gently refined each imitated strain,

And paid him with his harmony again.

The shepherd wonder'd at the just replies,
At first mistaken for the vocal breeze;
But when he found his little rival near
Imbibing music both at eye and ear,
With a sublimer touch he swept the lute,
A summons to the musical dispute.

The summons she received, resolved to try,

And daring, warbled out a bold reply.

Now sweetest thoughts the gentle swain inspire,
And with a dying softness tune the lyre;
Echo the vernal music of the woods,

Warble the murmurs of the falling floods.
Thus sweet he sings, but sweetly sings in vain,
For Philomela breathes a softer strain;
With easier art she modulates each note,
More natural music melting in her throat.
Much he admired the magic of her tongue,
But more to find his lute and harp outdone.
And now to loftier airs he tunes the strings,
And now to loftier airs his echo sings;

Though loud as thunder, though as swift as thought,
She reach'd the swelling, caught the flying note;
In trembling treble, now in solemn bass,

She show'd how nature could his arts surpass.
Amazed, at length, with rage the shepherd burn'd,
His admiration into anger turn'd:

Inflamed, with emulating pride he stood,

And thus defied the charmer of the wood;

And wilt thou still my music imitate?

Then see thy folly, and thy task is great:
For, know, more powerful lays remain unsung,
Lays far superior to thy mimic tongue.

If not, this lute, this vanquish'd lute, I swear,
Shall never more delight the ravish'd ear;
But broke in scatter'd fragments strew the plain,
And mourn the glories which it could not gain.
He said, and as he said, his soul on fire,
With a disdainful air he struck the lyre.
Quick to the touch, the tides of music flow,
Swell into strength, or melt away in woe;
Now raise the shrilling trumpet's changing jar,
And imitated thunders rouse the war:

Now softening sounds, and sadly-pleasing strains,
Breathe out the lover's joys, and lover's pains.
He sung; and ceased her rival notes to hear,
As his died listening in the ambient air.
But now, too late, her noble folly found,

Sad Philomela stood subdued by sound:
Though vanquish'd, yet with gen'rous ardour fill'd,
Ignobly still she scorn'd to quit the field;
But slowly faint her pensive accents flow,
Weaken'd with grief and overcharged with woe.
Again she tunes her voice, again she sings,
Strains ev'ry nerve, and quivers on her wings;
In vain her sinking spirits fade away,

And in a tuneful agony decay;

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