But what in either sex, beyond
All parts, our glory crowns?
‘In ruffling seasons to be calm,
And smile, when fortune frowns.’
Heaven’s choice is safer than our own;
Of ages past inquire,
What the most formidable fate?
‘To have our own desire.’
If, in your wrath, the worst of foes
You wish extremely ill;
Expose him to the thunder’s stroke,
Or that of his own will.
What numbers, rushing down the steep
Of inclination strong,
Have perish’d in their ardent wish!
Wish ardent, ever wrong!
‘Tis resignation’s full reverse,
Most wrong, as it implies
Error most fatal in our choice,
Detachment from the skies.
By closing with the skies, we make
Omnipotence our own;
That done, how formidable ill’s
Whole army is o’erthrown!
No longer impotent, and frail,
Ourselves above we rise:
We scarce believe ourselves below!
We trespass on the skies!
The Lord, the soul, and source of all,
Whilst man enjoys his ease,
Is executing human will,
In earth, and air, and seas;
Beyond us, what can angels boast?
Archangels what require?
Whate’er below, above, is done,
Is done as-we desire.
What glory this for man so mean,
Whose life is but a span!
This is meridian majesty!
This, the sublime of man!
Beyond the boast of pagan song
My sacred subject shines!
And for a foil the lustre takes
Of Rome’s exalted lines.
‘All, that the sun surveys, subdued,
But Cato’s mighty mind.’
How grand! most true; yet far beneath
The soul of the resign’d:
To more than kingdoms, more than worlds,
To passion that gives law;
Its matchless empire could have kept
Great Cato’s pride in awe;
That fatal pride, whose cruel point
Transfix’d his noble breast;
Far nobler! if his fate sustain’d
And left to heaven the rest;
Then he the palm had borne away,
At distance Caesar thrown;
Put him off cheaply with the world,
And made the skies his own.
What cannot resignation do?
It wonders can perform;
That powerful charm, ‘Thy will be done,’
Can lay the loudest storm.
Come, resignation! then, from fields,
Where, mounted on the wing,
A wing of flame, blest martyrs’ souls
Ascended to their king.
Who is it calls thee? one whose need
Transcends the common size;
Who stands in front against a foe
To which no equal rise:
In front he stands, the brink he treads
Of an eternal state;
How dreadful his appointed post!
How strongly arm’d by fate:
His threatening foe! what shadows deep
O’erwhelm his gloomy brow!
His dart tremendous! -at fourscore
My sole asylum, thou!
Haste, then, O resignation! haste,
‘Tis thine to reconcile
My foe, and me; at thy approach
My foe begins to smile:
O! for that summit of my wish,
Whilst here I draw my breath,
That promise of eternal life,
A glorious smile in death:
What sight, heaven’s azure arch beneath,
Has most of heaven to boast?
The man resign’d; at once serene,
And giving up the ghost.
At death’s arrival they shall smile,
Who, not in life o’er gay,
Serious and frequent thought send out
To meet him on his way:
My gay coevals! (such there are)
If happiness is dear;
Approaching death’s alarming day
Discreetly let us fear:
The fear of death is truly wise,
Till wisdom can rise higher;
And, arm’d with pious fortitude,
Death dreaded once, desire:
Grand climacteric vanities
The vainest will despise;
Shock’d, when beneath the snow of age
Man immaturely dies:
But am not I myself the man?
No need abroad to roam
In quest of faults to be chastis’d;
What cause to blush at home?
In life’s decline, when men relapse
Into the sports of youth,
The second child out-fools the first,
And tempts the lash of truth;
Shall a mere truant from the grave
With rival boys engage?
His trembling voice attempt to sing,
And ape the poet’s rage?
Here, madam! let me visit one,
My fault who, partly, shares,
And tell myself, by telling him,
What more becomes our years;
And if your breast with prudent zeal
For resignation glows,
You will not disapprove a just
Resentment at its foes.
In youth, Voltaire! our foibles plead
For some indulgence due;
When heads are white, their thoughts and aims
Should change their colour too:
How are you cheated by your wit!
Old age is bound to pay,
By nature’s law, a mind discreet,
For joys it takes away;
A mighty change is wrought by years,
Reversing human lot;
In age ’tis honour to lie hid,
‘Tis praise to be forgot;
The wise, as flowers, which spread at noon,
And all their charms expose,
When evening damps and shades descend,
Their evolutions close.
What though your muse has nobly soar’d,
Is that our truth sublime?
Ours, hoary friend! is to prefer
Eternity to time:
Why close a life so justly fam’d
With such bold trash as this? (54)
This for renown? yes, such as makes
Obscurity a bliss:
Your trash, with mine, at open war,
Is obstinately bent,(55)
Like wits below, to sow your tares
Of gloom and discontent:
With so much sunshine at command,
Why light with darkness mix?
Why dash with pain our pleasure?
Your Helicon with Styx?
Your works in our divided minds
Repugnant passions raise,
Confound us with a double stroke,
We shudder whilst we praise;
A curious web, as finely wrought
As genius can inspire,
From a black bag of poison spun,
With horror we admire.
Mean as it is, if this is read
With a disdainful air,
I can’t forgive so great a foe
To my dear friend Voltaire:
Early I knew him, early prais’d,
And long to praise him late;
His genius greatly I admire,
Nor would deplore his fate;
A fate how much to be deplor’d!
At which our nature starts;
Forbear to fall on your own sword.
To perish by your parts:
‘But great your name’-To feed on air,
Were then immortals born?
Nothing is great, of which more great,
More glorious is the scorn.
Can fame your carcass from the worm
Which gnaws us in the grave,
Or soul from that which never dies,
Applauding Europe save?
But fame you lose; good sense alone
Your idol, praise, can claim;
When wild wit murders happiness,
It puts to death our fame!
Nor boast your genius, talents bright;
E’en dunces will despise,
If in your western beams is miss’d
A genius for the skies;
Your taste too fails; what most excels
True taste must relish most!
And what, to rival palms above,
Can proudest laurels boast?
Sound heads salvation’s helmet seek,(56)
Resplendent are its rays,
Let that suffice; it needs no plume,
Of sublunary praise.
May this enable couch’d Voltaire
To see that-‘All is right,'(57)
His eye, by flash of wit struck blind,
Restoring to its sight;
If so, all’s well: who much have err’d,
That much have been forgiven;
I speak with joy, with joy he’ll hear,
‘Voltaires are, now, in heaven.’
Nay, such philanthropy divine,
So boundless in degree,
Its marvellous of love extends
(Stoops most profound!) to me:
Let others cruel stars arraign,
Or dwell on their distress;
But let my page, for mercies pour’d,
A grateful heart express:
Walking, the present God was seen,
Of old, in Eden fair;
The God as present, by plain steps
Of providential care,
I behold passing through my life;
His awful voice I hear;
And, conscious of my nakedness,
Would hide myself for fear:
But where the trees, or where the clouds,
Can cover from his sight?
Naked the centre to that eye,
To which the sun is night.
As yonder glittering lamps on high
Through night illumin’d roll;
My thoughts of him, by whom they shine,
Chase darkness from my soul;
My soul, which reads his hand as clear
In my minute affairs,
As in his ample manuscript
Of sun, and moon, and stars;
And knows him not more bent aright
To wield that vast machine,
Than to correct one erring thought
In my small world within;
A world, that shall survive the fall
Of all his wonders here;
Survive, when suns ten thousand drop,
And leave a darken’d sphere.
Yon matter gross, how bright it shines!
For time how great his care!
Sure spirit and eternity
Far richer glories share;
Let those our hearts impress, on those
Our contemplation dwell;
On those my thoughts how justly thrown,
By what I now shall tell:
When backward with attentive mind
Life’s labyrinth I trace,
I find him far myself beyond
Propitious to my peace:
Through all the crooked paths I trod,
My folly he pursued;
My heart astray to quick return
Due resignation home to press
On my capricious will,
How many rescues did I meet,
Beneath the mask of ill!
How many foes in ambush laid
Beneath my soul’s desire!
The deepest penitents are made
By what we most admire.
Have I not sometimes (real good
So little mortals know!)
Mounting the summit of my wish,
Profoundly plung’d in woe?
I rarely plann’d, but cause I found
My plan’s defeat to bless:
Oft I lamented an event;
It turn’d to my success.
By sharpen’d appetite to give
To good intense delight,
Through dark and deep perplexities
He led me to the right.
And is not this the gloomy path,
Which you are treading now?
The path most gloomy leads to light,
When our proud passions bow:
When labouring under fancied ill,
My spirits to sustain,
He kindly cur’d with sovereign draughts
Of unimagin’d pain.
Pain’d sense from fancied tyranny
Alone can set us free;
A thousand miseries we feel,
Till sunk in misery.
Cloy’d with a glut of all we wish,
Our wish we relish less;
Success, a sort of suicide,
Is ruin’d by success:
Sometimes he led me near to death,
And, pointing to the grave,
Bid terror whisper kind advice;
And taught the tomb to save:
To raise my thoughts beyond where worlds
As spangles o’er us shine,
One day he gave, and bid the next
My soul’s delight resign.
We to ourselves, but through the means
Of mirrors, are unknown;
In this my fate can you descry
No features of your own?
And if you can, let that excuse
These self-recording lines;
A record, modesty forbids,
Or to small bound confines:
In grief why deep ingulf’d? You see
You suffer nothing rare;
Uncommon grief for common fate!
That wisdom cannot bear.
When streams flow backward to their source,
And humbled flames descend,
And mountains wing’d shall fly aloft,
Then human sorrows end;
But human prudence too must cease,
When sorrows domineer,
When fortitude has lost its fire,
And freezes into fear:
The pang most poignant of my life
Now heightens my delight;
I see a fair creation rise
From chaos, and old night:
From what seem’d horror, and despair,
The richest harvest rose;
And gave me in the nod divine
An absolute repose.
Of all the plunders of mankind,
More gross, or frequent, none,
Than in their grief and joy misplac’d,
Eternally are shown.
But whither points all this parade?
It says, that near you lies
A book, perhaps yet unperus’d,
Which you should greatly prize:
Of self-perusal, science rare!
Few know the mighty gain;
Learn’d prelates, self-unread, may read
Their Bibles o’er in vain:
Self-knowledge, which from heaven itself
(So sages tell us) came,
What is it, but a daughter fair
Of my maternal theme?
Unletter’d and untravel’d men
An oracle might find,
Would they consult their own contents,
The Delphos of the mind.
Enter your bosom; there you’ll meet
A revelation new,
A revelation personal;
Which none can read but you.
There will you clearly read reveal’d
In your enlighten’d thought,
By mercies manifold, through life,
To fresh remembrance brought,
A mighty Being! and in him
A complicated friend,
A father, brother, spouse; no dread
Of death, divorce, or end:
Who such a matchless friend embrace,
And lodge him in their heart,
Full well, from agonies exempt,
With other friends may part:
As when o’erloaded branches bear
Large clusters big with wine,
We scarce regret one falling leaf
From the luxuriant vine.
My short advice to you may sound
Obscure or somewhat odd,
Though ’tis the best that man can give,-
‘E’en be content with God.’
Through love he gave you the deceas’d,
Through greater took him hence;
This reason fully could evince,
Though murmur’d at by sense.
This friend, far past the kindest kind,
Is past the greatest great;
His greatness let me touch in points
Not foreign to your state;
His eye, this instant, reads your heart;
A truth less obvious hear;
This instant its most secret thoughts
Are sounding in his ear:
Dispute you this? O! stand in awe,
And cease your sorrow; know,
That tears now trickling down, he saw
Ten thousand years ago;
And twice ten thousand hence, if you
Your temper reconcile
To reason’s bound, will he behold
Your prudence with a smile;
A smile, which through eternity
Diffuses so bright rays,
The dimmest deifies e’en guilt,
If guilt, at last, obeys:
Your guilt (for guilt it is to mourn
When such a sovereign reigns) ,
Your guilt diminish; peace pursue;
How glorious peace in pains!
Here, then, your sorrows cease; if not,
Think how unhappy they,
Who guilt increase by streaming tears,
Which guilt should wash away;
Of tears that gush profuse restrain;
Whence burst those dismal sighs?
They from the throbbing breast of one
(Strange truth!) most happy rise;
Not angels (hear it, and exult!)
Enjoy a larger share
Than is indulg’d to you, and yours,
Of God’s impartial care;
Anxious for each, as if on each
His care for all was thrown;
For all his care as absolute,
As all had been but one.
And is he then so near! so kind! –
How little then, and great,
That riddle, man! O! let me gaze
At wonders in his fate;
His fate, who yesterday did crawl
A worm from darkness deep,
And shall, with brother worms, beneath
A turf, to-morrow sleep;
How mean! -And yet, if well obey’d
His mighty Master’s call,
The whole creation for mean man
Is deem’d a boon too small:
Too small the whole creation deem’d
For emmets in the dust!
Account amazing! yet most true;
My song is bold, yet just:
Man born for infinite, in whom
Nor period can destroy
The power, in exquisite extremes,
To suffer, or enjoy;
Give him earth’s empire (if no more)
He’s beggar’d, and undone!
Imprison’d in unbounded space!
Benighted by the sun!
For what the sun’s meridian blaze
To the most feeble ray
Which glimmers from the distant dawn
Of uncreated day?
‘Tis not the poet’s rapture feign’d
Swells here the vain to please;
The mind most sober kindles most
At truths sublime as these;
They warm e’en me.-I dare not say,
Divine ambition strove
Not to bless only, but confound,
Nay, fright us with its love;
And yet so frightful what, or kind,
As that the rending rock,
The darken’d sun, and rising dead,
So formidable spoke?
And are we darker than that sun?
Than rocks more hard, and blind?
We are; -if not to such a God
In agonies resigned.
Yes, e’en in agonies forbear
To doubt almighty love;
Whate’er endears eternity,
Is mercy from above;
What most imbitters time, that most
And thus, by plunging in distress,
Exalts us to the spheres;
Joy’s fountain head! where bliss o’er bliss,
O’er wonders wonders rise,
And an Omnipotence prepares
Its banquet for the wise:
Ambrosial banquet! rich in wines
Nectareous to the soul!
What transports sparkle from the stream,
As angels fill the bowl!
Fountain profuse of every bliss!
Good-will immense prevails;
Man’s line can’t fathom its profound
An angel’s plummet fails.
Thy love and might, by what they know,
Who judge, nor dream of more;
They ask a drop, how deep the sea!
One sand, how wide the shore!
Of thy exuberant good-will,
The thousandth part who comprehends,
A deity is he.
How yonder ample azure field
With radiant worlds is sown!
How tubes astonish us with those
More deep in ether thrown!
And those beyond of brighter worlds
Why not a million more? –
In lieu of answer, let us all
Fall prostrate, and adore.
Since thou art infinite in power,
Nor thy indulgence less;
Since man, quite impotent and blind,
Oft drops into distress;
Say, what is resignation? ‘T is
Man’s weakness understood;
And wisdom grasping, with a hand
Far stronger, every good.
Let rash repiners stand appall’d,
In thee who dare not trust;
Whose abject souls, like demons dark,
Are murmuring in the dust;
For man to murmur, or repine
At what by thee is done,
No less absurd, than to complain
Of darkness in the sun.
Who would not, with a heart at ease,
Bright eye, unclouded brow,
Wisdom and goodness at the helm,
The roughest ocean plough?
What, though I’m swallow’d in the deep?
Though mountains o’er me roar?
Jehovah reigns! as Jonah safe,
I’m landed, and adore:
Thy will is welcome, let it wear
Its most tremendous form;
Roar, waves; rage, winds! I know that thou
Canst save me by a storm.
From the immortal spirits born,
To thee, their fountain, flow,
If wise; as curl’d around to theirs
Meandering streams below:
Not less compell’d by reason’s call,
To thee our souls aspire,
Than to thy skies, by nature’s law,
High mounts material fire;
To thee aspiring they exult,
I feel my spirits rise,
I feel myself thy son, and pant
For patrimonial skies;
Since ardent thirst of future good,
And generous sense of past,
To thee man’s prudence strongly ties,
And binds affection fast;
Since great thy love, and great our want,
And men the wisest blind,
And bliss our aim; pronounce us all
Distracted, or resigned;
Resign’d through duty, interest, shame;
Deep shame! dare I complain,
When (wondrous truth!) in heaven itself
Joy ow’d its birth to pain?
And pain for me! for me was drain’d
Gall’s overflowing bowl;
And shall one dropp to murmur bold
Provoke my guilty soul?
If pardon’d this, what cause, what crime
Can indignation raise?
The sun was lighted up to shine,
And man was born to praise;
And when to praise the man shall cease,
Or sun to strike the view;
A cloud dishonors both; but man’s
The blacker of the two:
For oh! ingratitude how black!
With most profound amaze
At love, which man belov’d o’erlooks,
Astonish’d angels gaze.
Praise cheers, and warms, like generous wine;
Praise, more divine than prayer;
Prayer points our ready path to heaven;
Praise is already there.
Let plausive resignation rise,
And banish all complaint;
All virtues thronging into one,
It finishes the saint;
Makes the man bless’d, as man can be;
Life’s labours renders light;
Darts beams through fate’s incumbent gloom,
And lights our sun by night;
‘T is nature’s brightest ornament,
The richest gift of grace,
Rival of angels, and supreme
Proprietor of peace;
Nay, peace beyond, no small degree
Of rapture ‘t will impart;
Know, madam! when your heart’s in heaven,
‘All heaven is in your heart.’
But who to heaven their hearts can raise?
Denied divine support,
All virtue dies; support divine
The wise with ardour court:
When prayer partakes the seraph’s fire,
‘T is mounted on his wing,
Bursts thro’ heaven’s crystal gates, and
Sure audience of its king:
The labouring soul from sore distress
That bless’d expedient frees;
I see you far advanc’d in peace;
I see you on your knees:
How on that posture has the beam
Divine for ever shone!
An humble heart, God’s other seat! (58)
The rival of his throne:
And stoops Omnipotence so low!
And condescends to dwell,
Well pleas’d, in such a cell?
Such honour how shall we repay?
How treat our guest divine?
The sacrifice supreme be slain!
Let self-will die: resign.
Thus far, at large, on our disease;
Now let the cause be shown,
Whence rises, and will ever rise,
The dismal human groan:
What our sole fountain of distress?
Strong passion for this scene;
That trifles make important, things
Of mighty moment mean:
When earth’s dark maxims poison shed
On our polluted souls,
Our hearts and interests fly as far
Asunder, as the poles.
Like princes in a cottage nurs’d,
Unknown their royal race,
With abject aims, and sordid joys,
Our grandeur we disgrace;
O! for an Archimedes new,
Of moral powers possess’d,
The world to move, and quite expel
That traitor from the breast.
No small advantage may be reap’d
From thought whence we descend;
From weighing well, and prizing weigh’d
Our origin, and end:
From far above the glorious sun
To this dim scene we came:
And may, if wise, for ever bask
In great Jehovah’s beam:
Let that bright beam on reason rous’d
In awful lustre rise,
Earth’s giant ills are dwarf’d at once,
And all disquiet dies.
Earth’s glories too their splendour lose,
Those phantoms charm no more;
Empire’s a feather for a fool,
And Indian mines are poor:
Then levell’d quite, whilst yet alive,
The monarch and his slave;
Not wait enlighten’d minds to learn
That lesson from the grave:
A George the Third would then be low
As Lewis in renown,
Could he not boast of glory more
Than sparkles from a crown.
When human glory rises high
As human glory can;
When, though the king is truly great,
Still greater is the man;
The man is dead, where virtue fails;
And though the monarch proud
In grandeur shines, his gorgeous robe
Is but a gaudy shroud.
Wisdom! where art thou? None on earth,
Though grasping wealth, fame, power,
But what, O death! through thy approach,
Is wiser every hour;
Approach how swift, how unconfin’d!
Worms feast on viands rare,
Those little epicures have kings
To grace their bill of fare:
From kings what resignation due
To that almighty will,
Which thrones bestows, and, when they fail,
Can throne them higher still!
Who truly great? The good and brave,
The masters of a mind
The will divine to do resolv’d,
To suffer it resign’d.
Madam! if that may give it weight,
The trifle you receive
Is dated from a solemn scene,
The border of the grave;
Where strongly strikes the trembling soul
Eternity’s dread power,
As bursting on it through the thin
Partition of an hour;
Hear this, Voltaire! but this, from me,
Runs hazard of your frown;
However, spare it; ere you die,
Such thoughts will be your own.
In mercy to yourself forbear
My notions to chastise,
Lest unawares the gay Voltaire
Should blame Voltaire the wise:
Fame’s trumpet rattling in your ear,
Now, makes us disagree;
When a far louder trumpet sounds,
Voltaire will close with me:
How shocking is that modesty,
Which keeps some honest men
From urging what their hearts suggest,
When brav’d by folly’s pen.
Assaulting truths, of which in all
Is sown the sacred seed!
Our constitution’s orthodox,
And closes with our creed:
What then are they, whose proud conceits
Superior wisdom boast?
Wretches, who fight their own belief,
And labour to be lost!
Though vice by no superior joys
Her heroes keeps in pay;
Through pure disinterested love
Of ruin they obey!
Strict their devotion to the wrong,
Though tempted by no prize;
Hard their commandments, and their creed
A magazine of lies
From fancy’s forge: gay fancy smiles
At reason plain, and cool;
Fancy, whose curious trade it is
To make the finest fool.
Voltaire! long life’s the greatest curse
That mortals can receive,
When they imagine the chief end
Of living is to live;
Quite thoughtless of their day of death,
That birthday of their sorrow!
Knowing, it may be distant far,
Nor crush them till-to-morrow.
These are cold, northern thoughts, conceiv’d
Beneath an humble cot;
Not mine, your genius, or your state,
No castle is my lot:(59)
But soon, quite level shall we lie;
And, what pride most bemoans,
Our parts, in rank so distant now,
As level as our bones;
Hear you that sound? Alarming sound!
Prepare to meet your fate!
One, who writes finis to our works,
Is knocking at the gate;
Far other works will soon be weigh’d;
Far other judges sit;
Far other crowns be lost or won,
Than fire ambitious wit:
Their wit far brightest will be prov’d,
Who sunk it in good sense;
And veneration most profound
Of dread omnipotence.
‘Tis that alone unlocks the gate
Of blest eternity;
O! mayst thou never, never lose
That more than golden key! (60)
Whate’er may seem too rough excuse,
Your good I have at heart:
Since from my soul I wish you well;
As yet we must not part:
Shall you, and I, in love with life,
Life’s future schemes contrive,
The world in wonder not unjust,
That we are still alive?
What have we left? How mean in man
A shadow’s shade to crave!
When life, so vain! is vainer still,
‘Tis time to take your leave:
Happier, than happiest life, is death,
Who, falling in the field
Of conflict with his rebel will,
Writes vici, on his shield;
So falling man, immortal heir
Of an eternal prize;
Undaunted at the gloomy grave,
Descends into the skies.
O! how disorder’d our machine,
When contradictions mix!
When nature strikes no less than twelve,
And folly points at six!
To mend the moments of your heart,
How great is my delight
Gently to wind your morals up,
And set your hand aright!
That hand, which spread your wisdom wide
To poison distant lands:
Repent, recant; the tainted age
Your antidote demands;
To Satan dreadfully resign’d,
Whole herds rush down the steep
Of folly, by lewd wits possess’d,
And perish in the deep.
Men’s praise your vanity pursues;
‘Tis well, pursue it still;
But let it be of men deceas’d,
And you’ll resign the will;
And how superior they to those
At whose applause you aim;
How very far superior they
In number, and in name!
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