[The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality.]

Night IV. The Christian Triumph.

Containing our only cure for the fear of death, and proper sentiments of heart on that inestimable blessing.

Humbly inscribed to the honourable Mr. Yorke.


As the occasion of this poem was real, not fictitious; so the method pursued in it was rather imposed by what spontaneously arose in the author's mind on that occasion, than meditated or designed: which will appear very probable from the nature of it; for it differs from the common mode of poetry, which is from long narrations to draw short morals. Here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the poem. The reason of it is, that the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thought of the writer.

It is evident from the First Night, where three deaths are mentioned, that the plan is not yet completed; for two only of those three have yet been sung. But, since this Fourth Night finishes one principal and important theme, naturally arising from all three, namely, the subduing our fear of death, it will be a proper pausing place for the reader, and the writer too. And it is uncertain whether Providence, or inclination, will permit him to go any farther.

I say "inclination,"for this thing was entered on purely as a refuge under uneasiness, when more proper studies wanted sufficient relish to detain the writer's attention to them. And that reason (thanks be to Heaven) ceasing, the writer has no farther occasion I should rather say "excuse" for giving-in so much to the amusements, amid the duties, of life.

1 A much-indebted Muse, O Yorke! intrudes.
2 Amid the smiles of Fortune, and of youth,
3 Thine ear is patient of a serious song.
4 How deep implanted in the breast of man
5 The Dread of Death! I sing its sovereign cure.
6 Why start at Death? Where is he? Death arrived
7 Is past; not come, or gone, he's never here.
8 Ere hope, sensation fails; black-boding man
9 Receives, not suffers, Death's tremendous blow.
10 The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave;
11 The deep, damp vault, the darkness, and the worm:
12 These are the bugbears of a winter's eve,
13 The terrors of the living, not the dead.
14 Imagination's fool, and Error's wretch,
15 Man makes a Death which Nature never made;
16 Then on the point of his own fancy falls,
17 And feels a thousand deaths in fearing one.
18 But were Death frightful, what has Age to fear?
19 If prudent, Age should meet the friendly foe,
20 And shelter in his hospitable gloom.
21 I scarce can meet a monument but holds
22 My younger: every date cries, "Come away."
23 And what recalls me? Look the world around
24 And tell me what: the wisest cannot tell.
25 Should any born of woman give his thought
26 Full range on just dislike's unbounded field;
27 Of things, the vanity; of men, the flaws;
28 Flaws in the best; the many, flaw all o'er;
29 As leopards, spotted; or as Ethiops, dark;
30 Vivacious ill; good dying immature;
31 (How immature, Narcissa's marble tells!)
32 And at its death bequeathing endless pain;
33 His heart, though bold, would sicken at the sight,
34 And spend itself in sighs for future scenes.
35 But grant to Life (and just it is to grant
36 To lucky life) some perquisites of joy;
37 A time there is, when, like a thrice-told tale,
38 Long-rifled Life of sweet can yield no more,
39 But from our comment on the comedy,
40 Pleasing reflections on parts well-sustain'd,
41 Or purposed emendations where we fail'd,
42 Or hopes of plaudits from our candid Judge,
43 When, on their exit, souls are bid unrobe,
44 Toss Fortune back her tinsel, and her plume,
45 And drop this mask of flesh behind the scene.
46 With me, that time is come! my world is dead;
47 A new world rises, and new manners reign:
48 Foreign comedians, a spruce band, arrive,
49 To push me from the scene, or hiss me there.
50 What a pert race starts up! The strangers gaze,
51 And I at them: my neighbour is unknown;
52 Nor that the worst: ah me! the dire effect
53 Of loitering here, of Death defrauded long!
54 Of old so gracious, (and let that suffice,)
55 My very master knows me not.
56 Shall I dare say, peculiar is the fate?
57 I've been so long remember'd, I'm forgot.
58 An object ever pressing dims the sight,
59 And hides behind its ardour to be seen.
60 When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint,
61 They drink it as the nectar of the great;
62 And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow!
63 Refusal! canst thou wear a smoother form?
64 Indulge me, nor conceive I drop my theme:
65 Who cheapens life, abates the fear of death.
66 Twice-told the period spent on stubborn Troy,
67 Court-favour, yet untaken, I besiege;
68 Ambition's ill judged effort to be rich.
69 Alas! Ambition makes my little less;
70 Embittering the possess'd. Why wish for more?
71 Wishing of all employments is the worst;
72 Philosophy's reverse, and health's decay:
73 Were I as plump as stall'd Theology,
74 Wishing would waste me to this shade again.
75 Were I as wealthy as a South-Sea dream,
76 Wishing is an expedient to be poor.
77 Wishing, that constant hectic of a fool,
78 Caught at a court; purged off by purer air,
79 And simpler diet; gifts of rural life!
80 Bless'd be the Hand Divine, which gently kid
81 My heart at rest, beneath this humble shed.
82 The world's a stately bark, on dangerous seas,
83 With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril.
84 Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore,
85 I hear the tumult of the distant throng,
86 As that of seas remote, or dying storms;
87 And meditate on scenes more silent still;
88 Pursue my theme, and fight the fear of Death.
89 Here, like a shepherd gazing from his hut,
90 Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff,
91 Eager Ambition's fiery chase I see;
92 I see the circling hunt, of noisy men,
93 Burst Law's enclosure, leap the mounds of Right,
94 Pursuing, and pursued, each other's prey;
95 As wolves, for rapine; as the fox, for wiles;
96 Till Death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.
97 Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
98 What, though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame?
99 Earth's highest station ends in, "Here he lies:"
100 And "Dust to dust"concludes her noblest song.
101 If this song lives, posterity shall know
102 One, though in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
103 Who thought e'en gold might come a day too late;
104 Nor on his subtle death-bed plann'd his scheme
105 For future vacancies in Church or State;
106 Some avocation deeming it to die;
107 Unbit by rage canine of dying rich;
108 Guilt's blunder, and the loudest laugh of hell!
109 O my coëvals! remnants of yourselves!
110 Poor human ruins, tottering o'er the grave!
111 Shall we, shall aged men, like aged trees,
112 Strike deeper their vile root, and closer cling,
113 Still more enamour'd of this wretched soil?
114 Shall our pale, wither'd hands be still stretch'd out,
115 Trembling at once with eagerness and age,
116 With avarice and convulsions grasping hard?
117 Grasping at air! for what has earth beside?
118 Man wants but little; nor that little long:
119 How soon must he resign his very dust,
120 Which frugal Nature lent him for an hour!
121 Years unexperienced rush on numerous ills;
122 And soon as man, expert from time, has found
123 The key of life, it opes the gates of Death.
124 When in this vale of years I backward look,
125 And miss such numbers, numbers too of such,
126 Firmer in health, and greener in their age,
127 And stricter on their guard, and fitter far
128 To play life's subtle game, I scarce believe
129 I still survive. And am I fond of life,
130 Who scarce can think it possible I live?
131 Alive by miracle; or, what is next,
132 Alive by Mead! if I am still alive,
133 Who long have buried what gives life to live,
134 Firmness of nerve, and energy of thought.
135 Life's lee is not more shallow than impure
136 And vapid: Sense and Reason show the door,
137 Call for my bier, and point me to the dust.
138 O Thou great Arbiter of Life and Death!
139 Nature's immortal, immaterial Sun!
140 Whose all-prolific beam late call'd me forth
141 From darkness, teeming darkness, where I lay
142 The worm's inferior, and, in rank, beneath
143 The dust I tread on; high to bear my brow,
144 To drink the spirit of the golden day,
145 And triumph in existence; and couldst know
146 No motive but my bliss; and hast ordain'd
147 A rise in blessing! with the patriarch's joy,
148 Thy call I follow to the land unknown;
149 I trust in Thee, and know in whom I trust:
150 Or life, or death, is equal; neither weighs;
151 All weight in this O let me live to Thee!
152 Though Nature's terrors thus may be repress'd,
153 Still frowns grim Death; guilt points the tyrant's spear.
154 And whence all human guilt? From Death forgot.
155 Ah me! too long I set at nought the swarm
156 Of friendly warnings which around me flew;
157 And smiled unsmitten. Small my cause to smile!
158 Death's admonitions, like shafts upwards shot,
159 More dreadful by delay, the longer ere
160 They strike our hearts, the deeper is their wound.
161 O think how deep, Lorenzo! here it stings:
162 Who can appease its anguish? How it burns!
163 What hand the barb'd, envenom'd thought can draw?
164 What healing hand can pour the balm of peace,
165 And turn my sight undaunted on the tomb?
166 With joy, with grief, that healing hand I see;
167 Ah! too conspicuous! it is fix'd on high.
168 On high? What means my frenzy? I blaspheme!
169 Alas! how low! how far beneath the skies!
170 The skies it form'd; and now it bleeds for me
171 But bleeds the balm I want, yet still it bleeds;
172 Draw the dire steel ah no! the dreadful blessing
173 What heart or can sustain, or dares forego?
174 There hangs all human hope; that nail supports
175 The falling universe: that gone, we drop;
176 Horror receives us, and the dismal wish
177 Creation had been smother'd in her birth
178 Darkness his curtain, and his bed the dust;
179 When stars and sun are dust beneath his throne!
180 In heaven itself can such indulgence dwell?
181 O what a groan was there! a groan not His.
182 He seized our dreadful right; the load sustain'd;
183 And heaved the mountain from a guilty world.
184 A thousand worlds, so bought, were bought too dear:
185 Sensations new in angels' bosoms rise,
186 Suspend their song, and make a pause in bliss.
187 O for their song, to reach my lofty theme!
188 Inspire me, Night! with all thy tuneful spheres;
189 Whilst I with seraphs share seraphic themes,
190 And show to men the dignity of man;
191 Lest I blaspheme my subject with my song.
192 Shall Pagan pages glow celestial flame,
193 And Christian languish? On our hearts, not heads,
194 Falls the foul infamy. My heart, awake!
195 What can awake thee, unawaked by this,
196 "Expended Deity on human weal?"
197 Feel the great truths, which burst the tenfold night
198 Of Heathen error, with a golden flood
199 Of endless day. To feel, is to be fired;
200 And to believe, Lorenzo, is to feel.
201 Thou most indulgent, most tremendous Power!
202 Still more tremendous, for Thy wondrous love,
203 That arms, with awe more awful, Thy commands;
204 And foul transgression dips in sevenfold guilt:
205 How our hearts tremble at Thy love immense!
206 In love immense, inviolably just!
207 Thou, rather than Thy justice should be stain'd,
208 Didst stain the cross; and work of wonders far
209 The greatest, that Thy Dearest far might bleed.
210 Bold thought! shall I dare speak it, or repress?
211 Should man more execrate or boast the guilt
212 Which roused such vengeance, which such love inflamed?
213 O'er guilt (how mountainous!) with outstretch'd arms,
214 Stern Justice, and soft-smiling Love, embrace,
215 Supporting, in full majesty, thy throne,
216 When seem'd its majesty to need support,
217 Or that, or man, inevitably lost:
218 What but the fathomless of thought divine
219 Could labour such expedient from despair,
220 And rescue both? Both rescue! both exalt!
221 O how are both exalted by the deed!
222 The wondrous deed! or shall I call it more?
223 A wonder in Omnipotence itself!
224 A mystery no less to gods than men!
225 Not thus our infidels the' Eternal draw,
226 A God all o'er, consummate, absolute,
227 Full-orb'd, in his whole round of rays complete:
228 They set at odds Heaven's jarring attributes,
229 And with one excellence another wound;
230 Maim Heaven's perfection, break its equal beams,
231 Bid Mercy triumph over God himself,
232 Undeified by their opprobrious praise:
233 A God all mercy, is a God unjust.
234 Ye brainless wits, ye baptized infidels!
235 Ye worse for mending, wash'd to fouler stains!
236 The ransom was paid down; the fund of Heaven,
237 Heaven's inexhaustible, exhausted fund,
238 Amazing and amazed, pour'd forth the price,
239 All price beyond: though, curious to compute,
240 Archangels fail'd to cast the mighty sum:
241 Its value vast, ungrasp'd by minds create,
242 For ever hides and glows in the Supreme.
243 And was the ransom paid? It was: and paid
244 (What can exalt the bounty more?) for you.
245 The Sun beheld it No, the shocking scene
246 Drove back his chariot: midnight veil'd his face;
247 Not such as this, not such as Nature makes;
248 A midnight Nature shudder'd to behold;
249 A midnight new! a dread eclipse, (without
250 Opposing spheres,) from her Creator's frown!
251 Sun! didst thou fly thy Maker's pain? or start
252 At that enormous load of human guilt
253 Which bow'd His blessed head, o'erwhelm'd His cross,
254 Made groan the centre, burst earth's marble womb
255 With pangs, strange pangs! deliver'd of her dead?
256 Hell howl'd; and Heaven that hour let fall a tear;
257 Heaven wept, that men might smile! Heaven bled, that man
258 Might never die!
259 And is devotion virtue? 'T is compell'd:
260 What heart of stone but glows at thoughts like these?
261 Such contemplations mount us, and should mount
262 The mind still higher; nor ever glance on man
263 Unraptured, uninflamed. Where roll my thoughts
264 To rest from wonders? Other wonders rise;
265 And strike where'er they roll: my soul is caught;
266 Heaven's sovereign blessings, clustering from the cross,
267 Rush on her in a throng, and close her round,
268 The prisoner of amaze! In His bless'd life
269 I see the path, and in His death the price,
270 And in His great ascent the proof supreme,
271 Of immortality. And did He rise?
272 Hear, O ye nations! Hear it, O ye dead!
273 He rose! He rose! He burst the bars of death.
274 Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates,
275 And give the King of Glory to come in!
276 Who is the King of glory? He who left
277 His throne of glory for the pang of death.
278 Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates,
279 And give the King of glory to come in!
280 Who is the King of Glory? He who slew
281 The ravenous foe that gorged all human race!
282 The King of Glory, He whose glory fill'd
283 Heaven with amazement at His love to man;
284 And with Divine complacency beheld
285 Powers most illumined wilder'd in the theme!
286 The theme, the joy, how then shall man sustain?
287 O the burst gates, crush'd sting, demolish'd throne,
288 Last gasp, of vanquish'd Death! Shout, Earth and Heaven,
289 This sum of good to man! whose nature then
290 Took wing, and mounted with Him from the tomb.
291 Then, then I rose; then first humanity
292 Triumphant pass'd the crystal ports of light,
293 (Stupendous guest!) and seized eternal youth,
294 Seized in our name. E'er since, 't is blasphemous
295 To call man mortal. Man's mortality
296 Was then transferr'd to Death; and Heaven's duration
297 Unalienably seal'd to this frail frame,
298 This child of dust. Man, all immortal, hail!
299 Hail, Heaven, all lavish of strange gifts to man!
300 Thine all the glory; man's the boundless bliss.
301 Where am I rapt by this triumphant theme,
302 On Christian joy's exulting wing, above
303 The' Aonian mount? Alas, small cause for joy!
304 What, if to pain immortal? if extent
305 Of being, to preclude a close of woe?
306 Where, then, my boast of immortality?
307 I boast it still, though cover'd o'er with guilt:
308 For guilt, not innocence, His life He pour'd;
309 Tis guilt alone can justify His death;
310 Nor that, unless His death can justify
311 Relenting guilt in Heaven's indulgent sight.
312 If, sick of folly, I relent, He writes
313 My name in heaven with that inverted spear
314 (A spear deep dipp'd in blood!) which pierced His side,
315 And open'd there a font for all mankind
316 Who strive, who combat crimes, to drink and live
317 This, only this, subdues the fear of death.
318 And what is this? Survey the wondrous cure:
319 And at each step let higher wonder rise!
320 "Pardon for infinite offence; and pardon
321 Through means that speak its value infinite!
322 A pardon bought with blood; with blood Divine!
323 With blood Divine of Him I made my foe!
324 Persisted to provoke! though woo'd and awed,
325 Bless'd and chastised, a flagrant rebel still!
326 A rebel, 'midst the thunders of His throne!
327 Nor I alone; a rebel universe!
328 My species up in arms; not one exempt!
329 Yet for the foulest of the foul He dies:
330 Most joy'd, for the redeem'd from deepest guilt!
331 As if our race were held of highest rank;
332 And Godhead dearer, as more kind to man!"
333 Bound, every heart! and every bosom, burn!
334 O what a scale of miracles is here!
335 Its lowest round high-planted on the skies:
336 Its towering summit lost beyond the thought
337 Of man or angel! O that I could climb
338 The wonderful ascent, with equal praise!
339 Praise! flow for ever, (if astonishment
340 Will give thee leave,) my praise! for ever flow;
341 Praise ardent, cordial, constant, to high Heaven
342 More fragrant than Arabia sacrificed,
343 And all her spicy mountains in a flame.
344 So dear, so due to Heaven, shall Praise descend,
345 With her soft plume (from plausive angel's wing
346 First pluck'd by man) to tickle mortal ears,
347 Thus diving in the pockets of the great?
348 Is Praise the perquisite of every paw,
349 Though black as hell, that grapples well for gold?
350 O love of gold! thou meanest of amours!
351 Shall Praise her odours waste on Virtue's dead,
352 Embalm the base, perfume the stench of guilt,
353 Earn dirty bread by washing Ethiops fair,
354 Removing filth, or sinking it from sight,
355 A scavenger in scenes where vacant posts,
356 Like gibbets yet untenanted, expect
357 Their future ornaments? From courts and thrones
358 Return, apostate Praise! thou vagabond!
359 Thou prostitute! to thy flast love return;
360 Thy first, thy greatest, once unrivall'd theme.
361 There flow redundant; like Meander, flow
362 Back to thy fountain; to that parent Power
363 Who gives the tongue to sound, the thought to soar,
364 The soul to be. Men homage pay to men;
365 Thoughtless beneath whose dreadful eye they bow
366 In mutual awe profound, of clay to clay,
367 Of guilt to guilt; and turn their backs on Thee,
368 Great Sire! whom thrones celestial ceaseless sing;
369 To prostrate angels an amazing scene!
370 O the presumption of man's awe for man!
371 Man's Author, End, Restorer, Law, and Judge!
372 Thine, all; Day thine, and thine this gloom of Night,
373 With all her wealth, with all her radiant worlds.
374 What night eternal, but a frown from Thee?
375 What heaven's meridian glory, but Thy smile?
376 And shall not praise be Thine? not human praise,
377 While Heaven's high host on hallelujahs live?
378 O may I breathe no longer than I breathe
379 My soul in praise to Him who gave my soul,
380 And all her infinite of prospect fair,
381 Cut through the shades of hell, great Love, by thee,
382 O most adorable, most unadored!
383 Where shall that praise begin which ne'er should end?
384 Where'er I turn, what claim on all applause!
385 How is Night's sable mantle labour'd o'er!
386 How richly wrought with attributes divine!
387 What wisdom shines, what love! This midnight pomp,
388 This gorgeous arch with golden worlds inlaid!
389 Built with divine ambition! nought to Thee;
390 For others this profusion. Thou, apart,
391 Above, beyond! O tell me, mighty Mind,
392 Where art thou? Shall I dive into the deep?
393 Call to the sun, or ask the roaring winds,
394 For their Creator? Shall I question loud
395 The thunder, if in that the' Almighty dwells?
396 Or holds HE furious storms in straighten'd reins,
397 And bids fierce whirlwinds wheel his rapid car?
398 What mean these questions? Trembling I retract;
399 My prostrate soul adores the present God.
400 Praise I a distant Deity? He tunes
401 My voice (if tuned); the nerve that writes, sustains:
402 Wrapt in His being, I resound His praise:
403 But though past all diffused, without a shore,
404 His essence; local is His throne (as meet)
405 To gather the dispersed (as standards call
406 The listed from afar); to fix a point,
407 A central point, collective of his sons,
408 Since finite every nature but his own.
409 The nameless He, whose nod is Nature's birth;
410 And Nature's shield, the shadow of His hand;
411 Her dissolution, His suspended smile!
412 The great First-Last! pavilion'd high He sits
413 In darkness, from excessive splendour born,
414 By gods unseen, unless through lustre lost.
415 His glory, to created glory, bright
416 As that to central horrors; He looks down
417 On all that soars, and spans immensity.
418 Though Night unnumber'd worlds unfolds to view,
419 Boundless Creation! what art thou? A beam,
420 A mere effluvium of His majesty.
421 And shall an atom of this atom-world
422 Mutter, in dust and sin, the theme of Heaven?
423 Down to the centre should I send my thought
424 Through beds of glittering ore, and glowing gems,
425 Their beggar'd blaze wants lustre for my lay;
426 Goes out in darkness. If, on towering wing,
427 I send it through the boundless vault of stars;
428 The stars, though rich, what dross their gold to Thee,
429 Great, good, wise, wonderful, eternal King!
430 If to those conscious stars thy throne around,
431 Praise ever pouring, and imbibing bliss,
432 And ask their strain; they want it, more they want,
433 Poor their abundance, humble their sublime,
434 Languid their energy, their ardour cold:
435 Indebted still, their highest rapture burns,
436 Short of its mark, defective, though Divine.
437 Still more, this theme is man's, and man's alone;
438 Their vast appointments reach it not: they see
439 On earth a bounty not indulged on high,
440 And downward look for Heaven's superior praise!
441 First-born of ether, high in fields of light,
442 View man, to see the glory of your God!
443 Could angels envy, they had envied here;
444 And some did envy: and the rest, though gods,
445 Yet still gods unredeem'd, (there triumphs man,
446 Tempted to weigh the dust against the skies,)
447 They less would feel, though more adorn, my theme.
448 They sung Creation (for in that they shared);
449 How rose in melody that child of love!
450 Creation's great superior, man! is thine;
451 Thine is Redemption. They just gave the key;
452 'T is thine to raise and eternize the song,
453 Though human, yet Divine; for should not this
454 Raise man o'er man, and kindle seraphs here?
455 Redemption! 'twas creation more sublime;
456 Redemption! 'twas the labour of the skies;
457 Far more than labour, it was Death in heaven.
458 A truth so strange, 'twere bold to think it true,
459 If not far bolder still to disbelieve.
460 Here pause, and ponder. Was there death in heaven?
461 What then on earth? on earth, which struck the blow?
462 Who struck it? Who? O how is man enlarged,
463 Seen through this medium! How the pigmy towers!
464 How counterpoised his origin from dust!
465 How counterpoised to dust his sad return!
466 How voided his vast distance from the skies!
467 How near he presses on the seraph's wing!
468 Which is the seraph? which the born of clay?
469 How this demonstrates, through the thickest cloud
470 Of guilt and clay condensed, the son of Heaven;
471 The double son; the made, and the re-made!
472 And shall Heaven's double property be lost?
473 Man's double madness only can destroy.
474 To man the bleeding Cross has promised all;
475 The bleeding Cross has sworn eternal grace;
476 Who gave his life, what grace shall He deny?
477 O ye, who from this Rock of Ages leap,
478 Disdainful, plunging headlong in the deep!
479 What cordial joy, what consolation strong,
480 Whatever winds arise, or billows roll,
481 Our interest in the Master of the storm!
482 Cling there, and in wreck'd Nature's ruins smile,
483 While vile apostates tremble in a calm.
484 "Man, know thyself!"All wisdom centres there;
485 To none man seems ignoble but to man.
486 Angels that grandeur men o'erlook admire;
487 How long shall human nature be their book,
488 Degenerate mortal, and unread by thee?
489 The beam dim Reason sheds shows wonders there;
490 What high contents, illustrious faculties!
491 But the grand comment, which displays at full
492 Our human height, scarce sever'd from Divine,
493 By Heaven composed, was publish'd on the cross.
494 Who looks on that, and sees not in himself
495 An awful stranger, a terrestrial god?
496 A glorious partner with the Deity
497 In that high attribute, immortal life?
498 If a God bleeds, he bleeds not for a worm:
499 I gaze, and, as I gaze, my mounting soul
500 Catches strange fire, Eternity! at thee;
501 And drops the world, or rather, more enjoys.
502 How changed the face of Nature! how improved!
503 What seem'd a chaos, shines a glorious world;
504 Or what a world, an Eden; heighten'd all!
505 It is another scene, another self;
506 And still another, as time rolls along;
507 And that a self far more illustrious still.
508 Beyond long ages, yet roll'd up in shades
509 Unpierced by bold Conjecture's keenest ray,
510 What evolutions of surprising fate!
511 How Nature opens, and receives my soul
512 In boundless walks of raptured thought! where gods
513 Encounter and embrace me! What new births
514 Of strange adventure, foreign to the sun;
515 Where what now charms, perhaps whate'er exists,
516 Old Time and fair Creation, are forgot!
517 Is this extravagant? Of man we form
518 Extravagant conception, to be just:
519 Conception unconfined wants wings to reach him:
520 Beyond its reach the Godhead only more.
521 He, the great Father, kindled at one flame
522 The world of rationals; one spirit pour'd
523 From Spirit's awful fountain; pour'd Himself
524 Through all their souls; but not in equal stream;
525 Profuse or frugal of the' inspiring God,
526 As His wise plan demanded; and, when past
527 Their various trials in their various spheres,
528 If they continue rational, as made,
529 Resorbs them all into Himself again;
530 His throne their centre, and His smile their crown.
531 Why doubt we, then, the glorious truth to sing,
532 Though yet unsung, as deem'd, perhaps, too bold?
533 Angels are men of a superior kind;
534 Angels are men in lighter habit clad,
535 High o'er celestial mountains wing'd in flight;
536 And men are angels loaded for an hour,
537 Who wade this miry vale, and climb, with pain
538 And slippery step, the bottom of the steep.
539 Angels their failings, mortals have their praise;
540 While here, of corps ethereal, such enroll'd,
541 And summon'd to the glorious standard soon,
542 Which flames eternal crimson through the skies.
543 Nor are our brothers thoughtless of their kin,
544 Yet absent; but not absent from their love.
545 Michael has fought our battles; Raphael sung
546 Our triumphs; Gabriel on our errands flown,
547 Sent by the SOVEREIGN: and are these, O man,
548 Thy friends, thy warm allies? and thou (shame burn
549 The cheek to cinder!) rival to the brute?
550 Religion's all. Descending from the skies
551 To wretched man, the goddess in her left
552 Holds out this world, and in her right the next.
553 Religion! the sole voucher man is man;
554 Supporter sole of man above himself;
555 E'en in this night of frailty, change, and death,
556 She gives the soul a soul that acts a god.
557 Religion! Providence! an after-state!
558 Here is firm footing; here is solid rock;
559 This can support us: all is sea besides;
560 Sinks under us; bestorms, and then devours.
561 His hand the good man fastens on the skies,
562 And bids earth roll, nor feels her idle whirl.
563 As when a wretch, from thick, polluted air,
564 Darkness, and stench, and suffocating damps,
565 And dungeon-horrors, by kind Fate discharged,
566 Climbs some fair eminence, where ether pure
567 Surrounds him, and Elysian prospects rise,
568 His heart exults, his spirits cast their load;
569 As if new-born, he triumphs in the change;
570 So joys the soul, when, from inglorious aims,
571 And sordid sweets, from feculence and froth
572 Of ties terrestrial, set at large, she mounts
573 To Reason's region, her own element,
574 Breathes hopes immortal, and affects the skies.
575 Religion! thou the soul of happiness,
576 And, groaning Calvary, of thee! There shine
577 The noblest truths; there strongest motives sting;
578 There sacred violence assaults the soul;
579 There nothing but compulsion is forborne.
580 Can love allure us, or can terror awe?
581 He weeps! the falling drop puts out the sun;
582 He sighs! the sigh earth's deep foundation shakes.
583 If in His love so terrible, what then
584 His wrath inflamed, His tenderness on fire?
585 Like soft, smooth oil, outblazing other fires!
586 Can prayer, can praise avert it? Thou, my all!
587 My theme, my inspiration, and my crown!
588 My strength in age, my rise in low estate!
589 My soul's ambition, pleasure, wealth, my world!
590 My light in darkness, and my life in death!
591 My boast through time, bliss through eternity!
592 Eternity, too short to speak Thy praise,
593 Or fathom Thy profound of love to man!
594 To man of men the meanest, e'en to me;
595 My Sacrifice, my God! what things are these?
596 What then art THOU? By what name shall I call Thee?
597 Knew I the name devout archangels use,
598 Devout archangels should the name enjoy,
599 By me unrivall'd: thousands more sublime,
600 None half so dear as that which, though unspoke,
601 Still glows at heart. O how Omnipotence
602 Is lost in Love! Thou great PHILANTHROPIST!
603 Father of angels, but the friend of man!
604 Like Jacob, fondest of the younger born!
605 Thou, who didst save him, snatch the smoking brand
606 From out the flames, and quench it in Thy blood!
607 How art Thou pleased, by bounty to distress,
608 To make us groan beneath our gratitude,
609 Too big for birth! to favour, and confound!
610 To challenge and to distance all return!
611 Of lavish love stupendous heights to soar,
612 And leave Praise panting in the distant vale!
613 Thy right too great defrauds Thee of Thy due;
614 And sacrilegious our sublimest song.
615 But since the naked will obtains Thy smile,
616 Beneath this monument of praise unpaid,
617 And future life symphonious to my strain,
618 (That noblest hymn to Heaven,) for ever lie
619 Entomb'd my Fear of Death! and every fear,
620 The dread of every evil, but Thy frown.
621 Whom see I yonder so demurely smile?
622 Laughter a labour, and might break their rest.
623 Ye Quietists, in homage to the skies!
624 Serene, of soft address! who mildly make
625 An unobtrusive tender of your hearts,
626 Abhorring violence! who halt indeed;
627 But for the blessing wrestle not with Heaven!
628 Think you my song too turbulent, too warm?
629 Are passions, then, the Pagans of the soul?
630 Reason alone baptized? alone ordain'd
631 To touch things sacred? O for warmer still!
632 Guilt chills my zeal, and age benumbs my powers:
633 O for an humbler heart, and prouder song!
634 THOU, my much-injured theme! with that soft eye
635 Which melted o'er doom'd Salem, deign to look
636 Compassion to the coldness of my breast,
637 And pardon to the winter in my strain.
638 O ye cold-hearted, frozen formalists!
639 On such a theme, 't is impious to be calm;
640 Passion is reason, transport temper, here.
641 Shall Heaven, which gave us ardour, and has shown
642 Her own for man so strongly, not disdain
643 What smooth emollients in theology
644 Recumbent Virtue's downy doctors preach,
645 That prose of piety, a lukewarm praise?
646 Rise odours sweet from incense uninflamed?
647 Devotion, when lukewarm, is undevout;
648 But when it glows, its heat is struck to heaven;
649 To human hearts her golden harps are strung;
650 High heaven's orchestra chants Amen to man.
651 Hear I, or dream I hear, their distant strain,
652 Sweet to the soul, and tasting strong of heaven,
653 Soft-wafted on celestial Pity's plume,
654 Through the vast spaces of the universe,
655 To cheer me in this melancholy gloom?
656 O when will Death, (now stingless,) like a friend,
657 Admit me of their choir? O when will Death
658 This mouldering, old partition-wall throw down?
659 Give beings, one in nature, one abode?
660 O Death Divine! that giv'st us to the skies!
661 Great Future! glorious Patron of the Past
662 And Present! when shall I thy shrine adore?
663 From Nature's continent, immensely wide,
664 Immensely bless'd, this little isle of life,
665 This dark, incarcerating colony,
666 Divides us. Happy day that breaks our chain!
667 That manumits; that calls from exile home;
668 That leads to Nature's great metropolis,
669 And re-admits us, through the guardian hand
670 Of elder brothers, to our Father's throne,
671 Who hears our Advocate, and, through his wounds
672 Beholding man, allows that tender name.
673 'T is this makes Christian triumph a command;
674 'T is this makes joy a duty to the wise:
675 'T is impious in a good man to be sad.
676 Seest thou, Lorenzo, where hangs all our hope?
677 Touch'd by the Cross, we live, or more than die;
678 That touch which touch'd not angels; more Divine
679 Than that which touch'd confusion into form,
680 And darkness into glory: partial touch!
681 Ineffably pre-eminent regard!
682 Sacred to man, and sovereign through the whole
683 Long golden chain of miracles, which hangs
684 From heaven through all duration, and supports,
685 In one illustrious and amazing plan,
686 Thy welfare, Nature, and thy God's renown;
687 That touch, with charm celestial, heals the soul
688 Diseased, drives pain from guilt, lights life in death,
689 Turns earth to heaven, to heavenly thrones transforms
690 The ghastly ruins of the mouldering tomb.
691 Dost ask me when? When HE who died returns!
692 Returns, how changed! Where then the Man of Woe?
693 In glory's terrors all the Godhead burns;
694 And all His courts, exhausted by the tide
695 Of deities triumphant in His train,
696 Leave a stupendous solitude in heaven;
697 Replenish'd soon, replenish'd with increase
698 Of pomp and multitude; a radiant band
699 Of angels new, of angels from the tomb.
700 Is this by Fancy thrown remote? and rise
701 Dark doubts between the promise and event?
702 I send thee not to volumes for thy cure;
703 Read Nature; Nature is a friend to truth;
704 Nature is Christian; preaches to mankind,
705 And bids dead matter aid us in our creed.
706 Hast thou ne'er seen the comet's flaming flight?
707 The' illustrious stranger, passing, terror sheds
708 On gazing nations, from his fiery train
709 Of length enormous; takes his ample round
710 Through depths of ether; coasts unnumber'd worlds
711 Of more than solar glory; doubles wide
712 Heaven's mighty cape; and then revisits earth,
713 From the long travel of a thousand years.
714 Thus, at the destined period, shall return
715 HE, once on earth, who bids the comet blaze;
716 And, with Him, all our triumph o'er the tomb.
717 Nature is dumb on this important point,
718 Or Hope precarious in low whisper breathes:
719 Faith speaks aloud, distinct; e'en adders hear,
720 But turn, and dart into the dark again.
721 Faith builds a bridge across the gulf of Death,
722 To break the shock blind Nature cannot shun,
723 And lands Thought smoothly on the farther shore.
724 Death's terror is the mountain Faith removes,
725 That mountain-barrier between man and peace.
726 'T is Faith disarms Destruction, and absolves
727 From every clamorous charge the guiltless tomb.
728 Why disbelieve, Lorenzo? "Reason bids,
729 All-sacred Reason. " Hold her sacred still;
730 Nor shalt thou want a rival in thy flame.
731 All-sacred Reason! source and soul of all
732 Demanding praise, on earth, or earth above!
733 My heart is thine: deep in its inmost folds
734 Live thou with life; live dearer of the two.
735 Wear I the blessed Cross, by Fortune stamp'd
736 On passive Nature before Thought was born?
737 My birth's blind bigot! fired with local zeal!
738 No; Reason re-baptized me when adult,
739 Weigh'd true and false in her impartial scale;
740 My heart became the convert of my head,
741 And made that choice which once was but my fate.
742 "On argument alone my faith is built:"
743 Reason pursued is Faith; and, unpursued,
744 Where proof invites, 't is Reason then no more;
745 And such our proof, that or our Faith is right,
746 Or Reason lies, and Heaven design'd it wrong.
747 Absolve we this? what then is blasphemy?
748 Fond as we are, and justly fond, of Faith,
749 Reason, we grant, demands our first regard;
750 The mother honour'd, as the daughter dear.
751 Reason the root, fair Faith is but the flower:
752 The fading flower shall die, but Reason lives
753 Immortal as her Father in the skies.
754 When Faith is virtue, Reason makes it so.
755 Wrong not the Christian: think not Reason yours;
756 'T is Reason our great Master holds so dear;
757 'T is Reason's injured rights His wrath resents;
758 'T is Reason's voice obey'd His glories crown:
759 To give lost Reason life, He pour'd His own.
760 Believe, and show the reason of a man;
761 Believe, and taste the pleasure of a God;
762 Believe, and look with triumph on the tomb.
763 Through Reason's wounds alone thy Faith can die;
764 Which, dying, tenfold terror gives to Death,
765 And dips in venom his twice-mortal sting.
766 Learn hence what honours, what loud paeans, due
767 To those who push our antidote aside;
768 Those boasted friends to Reason and to man,
769 Whose fatal love stabs every joy, and leaves
770 Death's terror heighten'd, gnawing on his heart.
771 These pompous sons of Reason idolized,
772 And vilified at once; of Reason dead,
773 Then deified, as monarchs were of old;
774 What conduct plants proud laurels on their brow?
775 While love of truth through all their camp resounds,
776 They draw Pride's curtain o'er the noon-tide ray,
777 Spike up their inch of reason on the point
778 Of philosophic wit, call'd Argument,
779 And then, exulting in their taper, cry,
780 "Behold the sun!"and, Indian-like, adore.
781 Talk they of morals? O Thou bleeding Love!
782 Thou Maker of new morals to mankind!
783 The grand morality is love of Thee.
784 As wise as Socrates, if such they were,
785 (Nor will they 'bate of that sublime renown,)
786 "As wise as Socrates,"might justly stand
787 The definition of a modern fool.
788 A CHRISTIAN is the highest style of man.
789 And is there who the blessed cross wipes off,
790 As a foul blot, from his dishonour'd brow?
791 If angels tremble, 't is at such a sight;
792 The wretch they quit, desponding of their charge,
793 More struck with grief or wonder who can tell?
794 Ye sold to sense! ye citizens of earth!
795 (For such alone the Christian banner fly,)
796 Know ye how wise your choice, how great your gain?
797 Behold the picture of earth's happiest man:
798 "He calls his wish, it comes; he sends it back,
799 And says he call'd another; that arrives,
800 Meets the same welcome; yet he still calls on;
801 Till One calls him, who varies not his call,
802 But holds him fast in chains of darkness bound,
803 Till Nature dies, and Judgment sets him free;
804 A freedom far less welcome than his chain."
805 But grant man happy; grant him happy long;
806 Add to life's highest prize her latest hour;
807 That hour, so late, is nimble in approach,
808 That, like a post, comes on in full career.
809 How swift the shuttle flies that weaves thy shroud!
810 Where is the fable of thy former years?
811 Thrown down the gulf of time; as far from thee
812 As they had ne'er been thine; the day in hand,
813 Like a bird struggling to get loose, is going;
814 Scarce now possess'd, so suddenly 't is gone;
815 And each swift moment, fled, is death advanced
816 By strides as swift. Eternity is all;
817 And whose eternity? who triumphs there?
818 Bathing for ever in the font of bliss!
819 For ever basking in the Deity!
820 Lorenzo, who? Thy conscience shall reply.
821 O give it leave to speak; 'twill speak ere long,
822 Thy leave unask'd: Lorenzo, hear it now,
823 While useful its advice, its accent mild.
824 By the great edict, the divine decree,
825 Truth is deposited with man's last hour;
826 An honest hour, and faithful to her trust.
827 Truth, eldest daughter of the Deity!
828 Truth, of his council when he made the worlds;
829 Nor less, when he shall judge the worlds he made!
830 Though silent long, and sleeping ne'er so sound,
831 Smother'd with errors, and oppress'd with toys,
832 That heaven-commission'd hour no sooner calls
833 But from her cavern in the soul's abyss,
834 Like him they fable under Aetna whelm'd,
835 The goddess bursts in thunder and in flame,
836 Loudly convinces, and severely pains.
837 Dark demons I discharge, and hydra-stings:
838 The keen vibration of bright Truth is hell:
839 Just definition! though by schools untaught.
840 Ye deaf to Truth, peruse this parson'd page,
841 And trust, for once, a prophet and a priest:
842 "Men may live fools, but fools they cannot die."


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): [The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality.] Night IV. The Christian Triumph.
Author: Edward Young
Themes: philosophical enquiry; death
Genres: blank verse; meditation; graveyard school

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Source edition

Young, Edward, 1683-1765. Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality; and a paraphrase on part of the Book of Job. By the Rev. Edward Young, LL.D., sometime rector of Welwyn, Herts. Revised and collated with the early Quarto editions. With a life of the author by Dr. [John] Doran [poem only]. Illustrated. Third edition. London: William Tegg and Co., 85, Queen-Street, Cheapside, 1859. 

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.