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

Night VI. The Infidel Reclaimed. In two Parts.

Containing the nature, proof, and importance of immortality.

Part I.

Where, among other things, glory and riches are particularly considered.

Humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable Henry Pelham, First Lord-Commissioner of the Treasury, and Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Few ages have been deeper in dispute about religion than this. The dispute about religion, and the practice of it, seldom go together. The shorter, therefore, the dispute, the better. I think it may be reduced to this single question, "Is man immortal, or is he not?"If he is not, all our disputes are mere amusements, or trials of skill. In this case, truth, reason, religion, which give our discourses such pomp and solemnity, are (as will be shown) mere empty sounds, without any meaning in them. But if man is immortal, it will behove him to be very serious about eternal consequences; or, in other words, to be truly religious. And this great fundamental truth unestablished, or unawakened, in the minds of men, is, I conceive, the real source and support of all our infidelity; how remote soever the particular objections advanced may seem to be from it.

Sensible appearances affect most men much more than abstract reasonings; and we daily see bodies drop around us, but the soul is invisible. The power which inclination has over the judgment, is greater than can be well conceived by those that have not had an experience of it; and of what numbers is it the sad interest, that souls should not survive! The Heathen world confessed that they rather hoped than firmly believed immortality: and how many Heathens have we still amongst us! The sacred page assures us, that life and immortality is brought to light by the gospel: but by how many is the gospel rejected or overlooked! From these considerations, and from my being, accidentally, privy to the sentiments of some particular persons, I have been long persuaded, that most, if not all, our infidels (whatever name they take, and whatever scheme, for argument's sake, and to keep themselves in countenance, they patronize) are supported in their deplorable error by some doubt of their immortality at the bottom. And I am satisfied that men, once thoroughly convinced of their immortality, are not far from being Christians. For it is hard to conceive that a man fully conscious eternal pain or happiness will certainly be his lot, should not earnestly and impartially inquire after the surest means of escaping one and securing the other. And of such an earnest and impartial inquiry I well know the consequence.

Here, therefore, in proof of this most fundamental truth, some plain arguments are offered; arguments derived from principles which infidels admit in common with believers; arguments which appear to me altogether irresistible; and such as, I am satisfied, will have great weight with all who give themselves the small trouble of looking seriously into their own bosoms, and of observing, with any tolerable degree of attention, what daily passes round about them in the world. If some arguments shall here occur which others have declined, they are submitted, with all deference, to better judgments in this, of all points the most important. For as to the being of a God, that is no longer disputed; but it is undisputed for this reason only, viz., because, where the least pretence to reason is admitted, it must for ever be indisputable. And, of consequence, no man can be betrayed into a dispute of that nature by vanity, which has a principal share in animating our modern combatants against other articles of our belief.

1 She (for I know not yet her name in heaven)
2 Not early, like Narcissa, left the scene;
3 Nor sudden, like Philander. What avail?
4 This seeming mitigation but inflames;
5 This fancied medicine heightens the disease.
6 The longer known, the closer still she grew;
7 And gradual parting is a gradual death.
8 'T is the grim tyrant's engine, which extorts
9 By tardy pressure's still-increasing weight,
10 From hardest hearts, confession of distress.
11 O the long, dark approach through years of pain,
12 Death's gallery, (might I dare to call it so,)
13 With dismal doubt and sable terror hung;
14 Sick Hope's pale lamp its only glimmering ray!
15 There Fate my melancholy walk ordain'd,
16 Forbid Self-love itself to flatter there.
17 How oft I gazed, prophetically sad!
18 How oft I saw her dead, while yet in smiles!
19 In smiles she sunk her grief, to lessen mine.
20 She spoke me comfort, and increased my pain.
21 Like powerful armies trenching at a town,
22 By slow and silent, but resistless, sap,
23 In his pale progress gently gaining ground,
24 Death urged his deadly siege; in spite of Art,
25 Of all the balmy blessings Nature lends
26 To succour frail humanity. Ye stars,
27 (Not now first made familiar to my sight,)
28 And thou, O Moon, bear witness! many a night
29 He tore the pillow from beneath my head,
30 Tied down my sore attention to the shock,
31 By ceaseless depredations on a life
32 Dearer than that he left me. Dreadful post
33 Of observation, darker every hour!
34 Less dread the day that drove me to the brink,
35 And pointed at Eternity below;
36 When my soul shudder'd at futurity;
37 When, on a moment's point, the' important die
38 Of life and death spun doubtful, ere it fell,
39 And turn'd up life; my title to more woe.
40 But why more woe? More comfort let it be.
41 Nothing is dead but that which wish'd to die;
42 Nothing is dead but wretchedness and pain;
43 Nothing is dead but what encumber'd, gall'd,
44 Block'd up the pass, and barr'd from real life.
45 Where dwells that wish most ardent of the wise?
46 Too dark the sun to see it; highest stars
47 Too low to reach it; Death, great Death alone,
48 O'er stars and sun triumphant, lands us there.
49 Nor dreadful our transition; though the mind,
50 An artist at creating self-alarms,
51 Rich in expedients for inquietude,
52 Is prone to paint it dreadful. Who can take
53 Death's portrait true? The tyrant never sat.
54 Our sketch all random strokes, conjecture all;
55 Close shuts the Grave, nor tells one single tale.
56 Death, and his image rising in the brain,
57 Bear faint resemblance; never are alike:
58 Fear shakes the pencil; Fancy loves excess;
59 Dark Ignorance is lavish of her shades:
60 And these the formidable picture draw.
61 But grant the worst; 't is past; new prospects rise,
62 And drop a veil eternal o'er her tomb.
63 Far other views our contemplation claim;
64 Views that o'erpay the rigours of our life,
65 Views that suspend our agonies in death.
66 Wrapt in the thought of immortality,
67 Wrapt in the single, the triumphant thought,
68 Long life might lapse, age unperceived come on,
69 And find the soul unsated with her theme.
70 Its nature, proof, importance, fire my song.
71 O that my song could emulate my soul!
72 Like her, immortal. No! the soul disdains
73 A mark so mean; far nobler hope inflames;
74 If endless ages can outweigh an hour,
75 Let not the laurel, but the palm, inspire.
76 Thy nature, Immortality, who knows?
77 And yet who knows it not? It is but life
78 In stronger thread of brighter colour spun,
79 And spun for ever; dipp'd by cruel Fate
80 In Stygian dye, how black, how brittle here!
81 How short our correspondence with the sun,
82 And, while it lasts, inglorious! Our best deeds,
83 How wanting in their weight! Our highest joys,
84 Small cordials to support us in our pain,
85 And give us strength to suffer. But how great
86 To mingle interests, converse, amities,
87 With all the sons of Reason, scatter'd wide
88 Through habitable space, wherever born,
89 Howe'er endow'd; to live free citizens
90 Of universal nature; to lay hold,
91 By more than feeble faith, on the Supreme!
92 To call Heaven's rich unfathomable mines
93 (Mines which support archangels in their state)
94 Our own! to rise in science as in bliss,
95 Initiate in the secrets of the skies!
96 To read Creation, read its mighty plan
97 In the bare bosom of the Deity!
98 The plan and execution to collate!
99 To see, before each glance of piercing thought,
100 All cloud, all shadow, blown remote, and leave
101 No mystery but that of love Divine,
102 Which lifts us on the seraph's flaming wing,
103 From earth's Aceldama, this field of blood,
104 Of inward anguish, and of outward ill,
105 From darkness and from dust, to such a scene;
106 Love's element, true joy's illustrious home,
107 From earth's sad contrast (now deplored) more fair!
108 What exquisite vicissitude of fate!
109 Bless'd absolution of our blackest hour!
110 Lorenzo, these are thoughts that make man Man,
111 The wise illumine, aggrandize the great.
112 How great, (while yet we tread the kindred clod,
113 And every moment fear to sink beneath
114 The clod we tread, soon trodden by our sons,)
115 How great, in the wild whirl of Time's pursuits,
116 To stop, and pause; involved in high presage,
117 Through the long vista of a thousand years,
118 To stand contemplating our distant selves,
119 As in a magnifying mirror seen,
120 Enlarged, ennobled, elevate, Divine!
121 To prophesy our own futurities,
122 To gaze in thought on what all thought transcends!
123 To talk, with fellow-candidates, of joys
124 As far beyond conception as desert,
125 Ourselves the' astonish'd talkers, and the tale!
126 Lorenzo, swells thy bosom at the thought?
127 The swell becomes thee; 't is an honest pride.
128 Revere thyself, and yet thyself despise.
129 His nature no man can o'er-rate, and none
130 Can under-rate his merit. Take good heed,
131 Nor there be modest where thou shouldst be proud;
132 That almost universal error shun.
133 How just our pride, when we behold those heights!
134 Not those Ambition paints in air, but those
135 Reason points out, and ardent Virtue gains,
136 And angels emulate. Our pride, how just!
137 When mount we? when these shackles cast? when quit
138 This cell of the creation? this small nest,
139 Stuck in a corner of the universe,
140 Wrapp'd up in fleecy cloud and fine-spun air?
141 Fine-spun to sense, but gross and feculent
142 To souls celestial; souls ordain'd to breathe
143 Ambrosial gales, and drink a purer sky;
144 Greatly triumphant on Time's farther shore,
145 Where Virtue reigns, enrich'd with full arrears,
146 While Pomp imperial begs an alms of Peace.
147 In empire high, or in proud science deep,
148 Ye born of earth, on what can you confer,
149 With half the dignity, with half the gain,
150 The gust, the glow of rational delight,
151 As on this theme, which angels praise and share?
152 Man's fates and favours are a theme in heaven.
153 What wretched repetition cloys us here!
154 What periodic potions for the sick,
155 Distemper'd bodies, and distemper'd minds!
156 In an eternity what scenes shall strike,
157 Adventures thicken, novelties surprise!
158 What webs of wonder shall unravel there!
159 What full day pour on all the paths of Heaven,
160 And light the' Almighty's footsteps in the deep!
161 How shall the blessed day of our discharge
162 Unwind, at once, the labyrinths of Fate,
163 And straighten its inextricable maze!
164 If inextinguishable thirst in man
165 To know, how rich, how full, our banquet there!
166 There, not the moral world alone unfolds;
167 The world material, lately seen in shades,
168 And in those shades by fragments only seen,
169 And seen those fragments by the labouring eye,
170 Unbroken, then, illustrious and entire,
171 Its ample sphere, its universal frame,
172 In full dimensions, swells to the survey,
173 And enters, at one glance, the ravish'd sight.
174 From some superior point, (where, who can tell?
175 Suffice it, 't is a point where gods reside,)
176 How shall the stranger man's illumined eye,
177 In the vast ocean of unbounded space,
178 Behold an infinite of floating worlds
179 Divide the crystal waves of ether pure,
180 In endless voyage, without port! The least
181 Of these disseminated orbs, how great!
182 Great as they are, what numbers these surpass,
183 Huge as Leviathan to that small race,
184 Those twinkling multitudes of little life,
185 He swallows unperceived! Stupendous these!
186 Yet what are these stupendous to the whole?
187 As particles, as atoms ill-perceived;
188 As circulating globules in our veins;
189 So vast the plan. Fecundity Divine!
190 Exuberant Source! perhaps I wrong thee still.
191 If admiration is a source of joy,
192 What transport hence! yet this the least in heaven.
193 What this to that illustrious robe He wears
194 Who toss'd this mass of wonders from His hand,
195 A specimen, an earnest of His power?
196 Tis to that glory, whence all glory flows,
197 As the mead's meanest floweret to the sun
198 Which gave it birth. But what this Sun of heaven?
199 This bliss supreme of the supremely bless'd?
200 Death, only Death, the question can resolve.
201 By Death, cheap-bought the' ideas of our joy;
202 The bare ideas! solid happiness
203 So distant from its shadow chased below.
204 And chase we still the phantom through the fire,
205 O'er bog, and brake, and precipice, till death?
206 And toil we still for sublunary pay,
207 Defy the dangers of the field and flood?
208 Or, spider-like, spin out our precious all,
209 Our more than vitals spin (if no regard
210 To great futurity) in curious webs
211 Of subtle thought, and exquisite design,
212 (Fine net-work of the brain!) to catch a fly,
213 The momentary buzz of vain renown,
214 A name, a mortal immortality?
215 Or, (meaner still,) instead of grasping air,
216 For sordid lucre plunge we in the mire?
217 Drudge, sweat, through every shame, for every gain,
218 For vile contaminating trash; throw up
219 Our hope in heaven, our dignity with man,
220 And deify the dirt, matured to gold?
221 Ambition, Avarice! the two demons these,
222 Which goad through every slough our human herd,
223 Hard travell'd from the cradle to the grave.
224 How low the wretches stoop! how steep they climb!
225 These demons burn mankind; but most possess
226 Lorenzo's bosom, and turn out the skies.
227 Is it in Time to hide Eternity?
228 And why not in an atom on the shore
229 To cover ocean? or a mote, the sun?
230 Glory and wealth! have they this blinding power?
231 What, if to them I prove Lorenzo blind?
232 Would it surprise thee? Be thou then surprised:
233 Thou neither know'st: their nature learn from me.
234 Mark well, as foreign as these subjects seem,
235 What close connexion ties them to my theme.
236 First, what is true ambition? The pursuit
237 Of glory, nothing less than man can share.
238 Were they as vain as gaudy-minded man,
239 As flatulent with fumes of self-applause,
240 Their arts and conquests animals might boast,
241 And claim their laurel crowns as well as we;
242 But not celestial. Here we stand alone;
243 As in our form, distinct, pre-eminent:
244 If prone in thought, our stature is our shame,
245 And man should blush his forehead meets the skies.
246 The Visible and Present are for brutes,
247 A slender portion, and a narrow bound!
248 These Reason, with an energy Divine,
249 O'erleaps, and claims the Future and Unseen;
250 The vast Unseen, the Future fathomless!
251 When the great soul buoys up to this high point,
252 Leaving gross Nature's sediments below,
253 Then, and then only, Adam's offspring quits
254 The sage and hero of the fields and woods,
255 Asserts his rank, and rises into man.
256 This is ambition: this is human fire.
257 Can Parts or Place (two bold pretenders!) make
258 Lorenzo great, and pluck him from the throng?
259 Genius and Art, Ambition's boasted wings,
260 Our boast but ill deserve. A feeble aid!
261 Daedalian engin'ry! if these alone
262 Assist our flight, Fame's flight is Glory's fall.
263 Heart-merit wanting, mount we ne'er so high,
264 Our height is but the gibbet of our name.
265 A celebrated wretch when I behold,
266 When I behold a genius bright and base,
267 Of towering talents, and terrestrial aims;
268 Methinks I see, as thrown from her high sphere,
269 The glorious fragments of a soul immortal,
270 With rubbish mix'd, and glittering in the dust.
271 Struck at the splendid, melancholy sight
272 At once compassion soft, and envy, rise
273 But wherefore envy? Talents angel-bright,
274 If wanting worth, are shining instruments
275 In false Ambition's hand, to finish faults
276 Illustrious, and give Infamy renown.
277 Great ill is an achievement of great powers:
278 Plain Sense but rarely leads us far astray.
279 Reason the means, Affections choose our end;
280 Means have no merit, if our end amiss.
281 If wrong our hearts, our heads are right in vain;
282 What is a Pelham's head to Pelham's heart?
283 Hearts are proprietors of all applause.
284 Right ends and means make wisdom; worldly-wise
285 Is but half-witted, at its highest praise.
286 Let Genius then despair to make thee great;
287 Nor flatter Station. What is Station high?
288 Tis a proud mendicant; it boasts, and begs;
289 It begs an alms of homage from the throng,
290 And oft the throng denies its charity.
291 Monarchs and ministers are awful names;
292 Whoever wear them, challenge our devoir.
293 Religion, public order, both exact
294 External homage, and a supple knee,
295 To beings pompously set up, to serve
296 The meanest slave: all more is Merit's due,
297 Her sacred and inviolable right;
298 Nor ever paid the monarch, but the man.
299 Our hearts ne'er bow but to superior worth,
300 Nor ever fail of their allegiance there.
301 Fools, indeed, drop the man in their account,
302 And vote the mantle into majesty.
303 Let the small savage boast his silver fur;
304 His royal robe unborrow'd and unbought,
305 His own, descending fairly from his sires.
306 Shall man be proud to wear his livery,
307 And souls in ermine scorn a soul without?
308 Can place or lessen us or aggrandize?
309 Pigmies are pigmies still, though perch'd on Alps;
310 And pyramids are pyramids in vales.
311 Each man makes his own stature, builds himself:
312 Virtue alone outbuilds the pyramids;
313 Her monuments shall last when Egypt's fall.
314 Of these sure truths dost thou demand the cause?
315 The cause is lodged in immortality.
316 Hear, and assent. Thy bosom burns for power;
317 What station charms thee? I'll install thee there;
318 'T is thine. And art thou greater than before?
319 Then thou before wast something less than man.
320 Has thy new post betray'd thee into pride?
321 That treacherous pride betrays thy dignity;
322 That pride defames humanity, and calls
323 The being mean which staffs or strings can raise.
324 That pride, like hooded hawks, in darkness soars,
325 From blindness bold, and towering to the skies.
326 'T is born of Ignorance, which knows not man
327 An angel's second; nor his second long.
328 A Nero, quitting his imperial throne,
329 And courting glory from the tinkling string,
330 But faintly shadows an immortal soul,
331 With empire's self, to pride or rapture fired.
332 If nobler motives minister no cure,
333 E'en Vanity forbids thee to be vain.
334 High worth is elevated place: 't is more;
335 It makes the post stand candidate for thee;
336 Makes more than monarchs, makes an honest man;
337 Though no exchequer it commands, 't is wealth;
338 And though it wears no riband, 't is renown;
339 Renown, that would not quit thee, though disgraced,
340 Nor leave thee pendent on a master's smile.
341 Other ambition Nature interdicts;
342 Nature proclaims it most absurd in man,
343 By pointing at his origin and end;
344 Milk and a swathe, at first, his whole demand;
345 His whole domain, at last, a turf or stone;
346 To whom, between, a world may seem too small.
347 Souls truly great dart forward, on the wing
348 Of just Ambition, to the grand result,
349 The curtain's fall; there see the buskin'd chief
350 Unshod behind this momentary scene,
351 Reduced to his own stature, low or high,
352 As vice, or virtue, sinks him, or sublimes;
353 And laugh at this fantastic mummery,
354 This antic prelude of grotesque events,
355 Where dwarfs are often stilted, and betray
356 A littleness of soul by worlds o'er-run,
357 And nations laid in blood. Dread sacrifice
358 To Christian pride! which had with horror shock'd
359 The darkest Pagans, offer'd to their gods.
360 O thou most Christian enemy to peace!
361 Again in arms? again provoking Fate?
362 That prince, and that alone, is truly great,
363 Who draws the sword reluctant, gladly sheathes;
364 On empire builds what empire far outweighs,
365 And makes his throne a scaffold to the skies.
366 Why this so rare? Because forgot of all
367 The day of death; that venerable day,
368 Which sits as judge; that day which shall pronounce
369 On all our days, absolve them or condemn.
370 Lorenzo, never shut thy thought against it;
371 Be levees ne'er so full, afford it room,
372 And give it audience in the cabinet.
373 That friend consulted (flatteries apart)
374 Will tell thee fair if thou art great or mean.
375 To dote on aught may leave us, or be left,
376 Is that ambition? Then let flames descend,
377 Point to the centre their inverted spires,
378 And learn humiliation from a soul
379 Which boasts her lineage from celestial fire.
380 Yet these are they the world pronounces wise;
381 The world which cancels Nature's right and wrong,
382 And casts new wisdom: e'en the grave man lends
383 His solemn face to countenance the coin.
384 Wisdom for parts is madness for the whole.
385 This stamps the paradox, and gives us leave
386 To call the wisest weak, the richest poor,
387 The most ambitious unambitious, mean;
388 In triumph mean, and abject on a throne.
389 Nothing can make it less than mad in man,
390 To put forth all his ardour, all his art,
391 And give his soul her full unbounded flight,
392 But reaching Him who gave her wings to fly.
393 When blind Ambition quite mistakes her road,
394 And downward pores for that which shines above,
395 Substantial happiness, and true renown;
396 Then, like an idiot, gazing on the brook,
397 We leap at stars, and fasten in the mud;
398 At glory grasp, and sink in infamy.
399 Ambition! powerful source of good and ill!
400 Thy strength in man, like length of wing in birds,
401 When disengaged from earth, with greater ease
402 And swifter flight, transports us to the skies:
403 By toys entangled, or in guilt bemired,
404 It turns a curse; it is our chain and scourge
405 In this dark dungeon, where confined we lie,
406 Close-grated by the sordid bars of sense;
407 All prospect of eternity shut out;
408 And, but for execution, ne'er set free.
409 With error in ambition justly charged,
410 Find we Lorenzo wiser in his wealth?
411 What, if thy rental I reform, and draw
412 An inventory new to set thee right?
413 Where thy true treasure? Gold says, "Not in me;"
414 And, "Not in me,"the diamond. Gold is poor;
415 India's insolvent: seek it in thyself;
416 Seek in thy naked self, and find it there;
417 In being so descended, form'd, endow'd;
418 Sky-born, sky-guided, sky-returning race!
419 Erect, immortal, rational, Divine!
420 In senses, which inherit earth and heavens;
421 Enjoy the various riches Nature yields;
422 Far nobler! give the riches they enjoy;
423 Give taste to fruits, and harmony to groves,
424 Their radiant beams to gold, and gold's bright sire;
425 Take-in, at once, the landscape of the world,
426 At a small inlet, which a grain might close,
427 And half-create the wondrous world they see.
428 Our senses, as our reason, are Divine.
429 But for the magic organ's powerful charm,
430 Earth were a rude, uncolour'd chaos still.
431 Objects are but the' occasion: ours the' exploit;
432 Ours is the cloth, the pencil, and the paint,
433 Which Nature's admirable picture draws,
434 And beautifies Creation's ample dome.
435 Like Milton's Eve, when gazing on the lake,
436 Man makes the matchless image man admires.
437 Say then, shall man, his thoughts all sent abroad,
438 (Superior wonders in himself forgot,)
439 His admiration waste on objects round,
440 When Heaven makes him the soul of all he sees?
441 Absurd, not rare! so great, so mean, is man!
442 What wealth in senses such as these! What wealth
443 In Fancy fired to form a fairer scene
444 Than Sense surveys! in Memory's firm record!
445 Which, should it perish, could this world recall
446 From the dark shadows of o'erwhelming years,
447 In colours fresh, originally bright,
448 Preserve its portrait, and report its fate!
449 What wealth in Intellect, that sovereign power,
450 Which Sense and Fancy summons to the bar;
451 Interrogates, approves, or reprehends;
452 And from the mass those underlings import,
453 From their materials sifted, and refined,
454 And in Truth's balance accurately weigh'd,
455 Forms art and science, government and law;
456 The solid basis and the beauteous frame,
457 The vitals and the grace, of civil life;
458 And, manners (sad exception!) set aside,
459 Strikes out, with master-hand, a copy fair
460 Of His idea, whose indulgent thought,
461 Long, long ere Chaos teem'd, plann'd human bliss!
462 What wealth in souls that soar, dive, range around,
463 Disdaining limit or from place or time:
464 And hear at once, in thought extensive, hear
465 The' Almighty fiat, and the trumpet's sound!
466 Bold on Creation's outside walk, and view
467 What was, and is, and more than e'er shall be;
468 Commanding, with omnipotence of thought,
469 Creations new in Fancy's field to rise!
470 Souls, that can grasp whate'er the' Almighty made,
471 And wander wild through things impossible!
472 What wealth in faculties of endless growth,
473 In quenchless passions violent to crave,
474 In liberty to choose, in power to reach,
475 And in duration, (how thy riches rise!)
476 Duration to perpetuate boundless bliss!
477 Ask you, what power resides in feeble man
478 That bliss to gain? Is Virtue's, then, unknown?
479 Virtue, our present peace, our future prize!
480 Man's unprecarious, natural estate,
481 Improvable at will, in Virtue lies;
482 Its tenure sure; its income is Divine.
483 High-built abundance, heap on heap! for what?
484 To breed new wants, and beggar us the more!
485 Then, make a richer scramble for the throng.
486 Soon as this feeble pulse, which leaps so long
487 Almost by miracle, is tired with play,
488 Like rubbish from disploding engines thrown,
489 Our magazines of hoarded trifles fly;
490 Fly diverse; fly to foreigners, to foes;
491 New masters court, and call the former fool
492 (How justly!) for dependence on their stay.
493 Wide scatter, first, our playthings; then our dust.
494 Dost court abundance for the sake of peace?
495 Learn, and lament thy self-defeated scheme:
496 Riches enable to be richer still;
497 And richer still what mortal can resist?
498 Thus Wealth (a cruel task-master) enjoins
499 New toils, succeeding toils, an endless train!
500 And murders Peace, which taught it first to shine.
501 The poor are half as wretched as the rich,
502 Whose proud and painful privilege it is
503 At once to bear a double load of woe;
504 To feel the stings of Envy and of Want,
505 Outrageous Want, both Indies cannot cure.
506 A competence is vital to content.
507 Much wealth is corpulence, if not disease:
508 Sick, or encumber'd, is our happiness.
509 A competence is all we can enjoy.
510 O be content where Heaven can give no more!
511 More, like a flash of water from a lock,
512 Quickens our spirit's movement for an hour;
513 But soon its force is spent, nor rise our joys
514 Above our native temper's common stream.
515 Hence Disappointment lurks in every prize,
516 As bees in flowers, and stings us with success.
517 The rich man who denies it, proudly feigns,
518 Nor knows the wise are privy to the lie.
519 Much learning shows how little mortals know;
520 Much wealth, how little worldlings can enjoy:
521 At best it babies us with endless toys,
522 And keeps us children till we drop to dust.
523 As monkeys at a mirror stand amazed,
524 They fail to find what they so plainly see:
525 Thus men, in shining riches, see the face
526 Of Happiness, nor know it is a shade;
527 But gaze, and touch, and peep, and peep again
528 And wish, and wonder it is absent still.
529 How few can rescue opulence from want!
530 Who lives to Nature rarely can be poor;
531 Who lives to Fancy never can be rich.
532 Poor is the man in debt; the man of gold,
533 In debt to Fortune, trembles at her power:
534 The man of Reason smiles at her and Death.
535 O what a patrimony this! A being
536 Of such inherent strength and majesty,
537 Not worlds possess'd can raise it; worlds destroy'd
538 Can't injure; which holds on its glorious course,
539 When thine, O Nature! ends; too bless'd to mourn
540 Creation's obsequies. What treasure this!
541 The monarch is a beggar to the man.
542 IMMORTAL! Ages past, yet nothing gone!
543 Morn without eve! a race without a goal,
544 Unshorten'd by progression infinite!
545 Futurity for ever future! life
546 Beginning still where computation ends!
547 'T is the description of a Deity!
548 'T is the description of the meanest slave:
549 The meanest slave dares, then, Lorenzo scorn?
550 The meanest slave thy sovereign glory shares.
551 Proud youth, fastidious of the lower world!
552 Man's lawful pride includes humility;
553 Stoops to the lowest; is too great to find
554 Inferiors: all immortal! brothers all!
555 Proprietors eternal of thy love!
556 IMMORTAL! What can strike the sense so strong,
557 As this the soul? It thunders to the thought;
558 Reason amazes; gratitude o'erwhelms.
559 No more we slumber on the brink of fate;
560 Roused at the sound, the' exulting soul ascends,
561 And breathes her native air; an air that feeds
562 Ambitions high, and fans ethereal fires;
563 Quick kindles all that is Divine within us,
564 Nor leaves one loitering thought beneath the stars.
565 Has not Lorenzo's bosom caught the flame?
566 Immortal! Were but one immortal, how
567 Would others envy! how would thrones adore!
568 Because 't is common, is the blessing lost?
569 How this ties up the bounteous hand of Heaven!
570 O vain, vain, vain, all else! Eternity!
571 A glorious and a needful refuge, that,
572 From vile imprisonment in abject views.
573 'T is immortality, 't is that alone,
574 Amid Life's pains, abasements, emptiness,
575 The soul can comfort, elevate, and fill.
576 That only, and that amply, this performs,
577 Lifts us above Life's pains, her joys above;
578 Their terror those, and these their lustre, lose:
579 Eternity depending covers all;
580 Eternity depending all achieves;
581 Sets Earth at distance; casts her into shades;
582 Blends her distinctions; abrogates her powers:
583 The low, the lofty, joyous, and severe,
584 Fortune's dread frowns and fascinating smiles,
585 Make one promiscuous and neglected heap,
586 The man beneath; if I may call him man,
587 Whom immortality's full force inspires.
588 Nothing terrestrial touches his high thought:
589 Suns shine unseen, and thunders roll unheard,
590 By minds quite conscious of their high descent,
591 Their present province, and their future prize;
592 Divinely darting upward every wish,
593 Warm on the wing, in glorious absence lost!
594 Doubt you this truth? Why labours your belief?
595 If Earth's whole orb, by some due-distanced eye,
596 Were seen at once, her towering Alps would sink,
597 And levell'd Atlas leave an even sphere.
598 Thus Earth, and all that earthly minds admire,
599 Is swallow'd in Eternity's vast round.
600 To that stupendous view when souls awake,
601 So large of late, so mountainous to man,
602 Time's toys subside; and equal all below.
603 Enthusiastic this? then all are weak,
604 But rank enthusiasts. To this godlike height
605 Some souls have soar'd, or martyrs ne'er had bled:
606 And all may do what has by man been done.
607 Who, beaten by these sublunary storms,
608 Boundless, interminable joys can weigh,
609 Unraptured, unexalted, uninflamed?
610 What slave, unbless'd, who from to-morrow's dawn
611 Expects an empire? He forgets his chain,
612 And, throned in thought, his absent sceptre waves.
613 And what a sceptre waits us! what a throne!
614 Her own immense appointments to compute,
615 Or comprehend her high prerogatives,
616 In this her dark minority, how toils,
617 How vainly pants, the human soul Divine!
618 Too great the bounty seems for earthly joy.
619 What heart but trembles at so strange a bliss?
620 In spite of all the truths the Muse has sung,
621 Ne'er to be prized enough, enough revolved!
622 Are there who wrap the world so close about them,
623 They see no farther than the clouds; and dance
624 On heedless Vanity's fantastic toe,
625 Till, stumbling at a straw, in their career,
626 Headlong they plunge, where end both dance and song?
627 Are there, Lorenzo? is it possible?
628 Are there on earth (let me not call them men)
629 Who lodge a soul immortal in their breasts;
630 Unconscious as the mountain of its ore;
631 Or rock, of its inestimable gem?
632 When rocks shall melt, and mountains vanish, these
633 Shall know their treasure; treasure then no more.
634 Are there (still more amazing!) who resist
635 The rising thought? who smother, in its birth,
636 The glorious truth? who struggle to be brutes?
637 Who through this bosom-barrier burst their way;
638 And, with reversed ambition, strive to sink?
639 Who labour downwards through the' opposing powers
640 Of Instinct, Reason, and the World against them,
641 To dismal hopes, and shelter in the shock
642 Of endless night, night darker than the grave's?
643 Who fight the proofs of immortality?
644 With horrid zeal and execrable arts,
645 Work all their engines, level their black fires,
646 To blot from man this attribute Divine,
647 (Than vital blood far dearer to the wise,)
648 Blasphemers, and rank atheists to themselves?
649 To contradict them, see all Nature rise!
650 What object, what event, the moon beneath,
651 But argues, or endears, an after-scene?
652 To Reason proves, or weds it to Desire?
653 All things proclaim it needful; some advance
654 One precious step beyond, and prove it sure.
655 A thousand arguments swarm round my pen,
656 From Heaven, and Earth, and Man. Indulge a few,
657 By nature, as her common habit, worn;
658 So pressing Providence a truth to teach,
659 Which truth untaught, all other truths were vain.
660 THOU! whose all-providential eye surveys,
661 Whose hand directs, whose Spirit fills and warms
662 Creation, and holds empire far beyond!
663 Eternity's Inhabitant august;
664 Of two eternities amazing Lord!
665 One past, ere man's or angel's had begun:
666 Aid! while I rescue from the foe's assault
667 Thy glorious immortality in man:
668 A theme for ever, and for all, of weight,
669 Of moment infinite! but relish'd most
670 By those who love Thee most, who most adore.
671 Nature, Thy daughter, ever-changing birth
672 Of Thee the great Immutable, to man
673 Speaks wisdom; is his oracle supreme;
674 And he who most consults her is most wise.
675 Lorenzo, to this heavenly Delphos haste;
676 And come back all-immortal, all-Divine:
677 Look Nature through, 't is revolution all;
678 All change, no death. Day follows night; and night,
679 The dying day; stars rise, and set, and rise;
680 Earth takes the' example. See, the Summer gay,
681 With her green chaplet and ambrosial flowers,
682 Droops into pallid Autumn: Winter grey,
683 Horrid with frost, and turbulent with storm,
684 Blows Autumn and his golden fruits away;
685 Then melts into the Spring: soft Spring, with breath
686 Favonian, from warm chambers of the south
687 Recalls the first. All, to re-flourish, fades;
688 As in a wheel, all sinks, to re-ascend:
689 Emblems of man, who passes, not expires.
690 With this minute distinction, emblems just,
691 Nature revolves, but man advances: both
692 Eternal; that a circle, this a line;
693 That gravitates, this soars. The' aspiring Soul,
694 Ardent and tremulous, like flame, ascends;
695 Zeal and Humility her wings to heaven.
696 The world of matter, with its various forms,
697 All dies into new life. Life, born from Death,
698 Rolls the vast mass, and shall for ever roll.
699 No single atom, once in being, lost,
700 With change of counsel charges the Most High.
701 What hence infers Lorenzo? Can it be?
702 Matter immortal? And shall spirit die?
703 Above the nobler, shall less noble rise?
704 Shall man alone, for whom all else revives,
705 No resurrection know? Shall man alone,
706 Imperial man! be sown in barren ground,
707 Less privileged than grain on which he feeds?
708 Is man, in whom alone is power to prize
709 The bliss of being, or with previous pain
710 Deplore its period, by the spleen of Fate,
711 Severely doom'd Death's single unredeem'd?
712 If Nature's revolution speaks aloud,
713 In her gradation hear her louder still.
714 Look Nature through; 't is neat gradation all.
715 By what minute degrees her scale ascends!
716 Each middle nature join'd at each extreme,
717 To that above it join'd, to that beneath.
718 Parts into parts reciprocally shot
719 Abhor divorce. What love of union reigns!
720 Here, dormant matter waits a call to life;
721 Half-life, half-death, join there: here, life and sense;
722 There, sense from reason steals a glimmering ray;
723 Reason shines out in man. But how preserved
724 The chain unbroken upward, to the realms
725 Of incorporeal life? those realms of bliss
726 Where Death hath no dominion? Grant a make
727 Half-mortal, half-immortal; earthy part,
728 And part ethereal: grant the soul of man
729 Eternal; or in man the series ends.
730 Wide yawns the gap; connexion is no more;
731 Check'd Reason halts; her next step wants support;
732 Striving to climb, she tumbles from her scheme;
733 A scheme Analogy pronounced so true:
734 Analogy, man's surest guide below.
735 Thus far all Nature calls on thy belief.
736 And will Lorenzo, careless of the call,
737 False attestation on all Nature charge,
738 Rather than violate his league with Death?
739 Renounce his reason, rather than renounce
740 The dust beloved, and run the risk of heaven?
741 O what indignity to deathless souls!
742 What treason to the majesty of man,
743 Of man immortal hear the lofty style:
744 "If so decreed, the' almighty will be done.
745 Let earth dissolve, yon ponderous orbs descend,
746 And grind us into dust: the soul is safe;
747 The man emerges; mounts above the wreck.
748 As towering flame from Nature's funeral pyre;
749 O'er Devastation, as a gainer, smiles;
750 His charter, his inviolable rights,
751 Well-pleased to learn from Thunder's impotence,
752 Death's pointless darts, and Hell's defeated storms."
753 But these chimeras touch not thee, Lorenzo!
754 The glories of the world thy sevenfold shield.
755 Other ambition than of crowns in air,
756 And superlunary felicities,
757 Thy bosom warms. I'll cool it, if I can;
758 And turn those glories that enchant, against thee.
759 What ties thee to this life proclaims the next.
760 If wise, the cause that wounds thee is thy cure.
761 Come, my ambitious! let us mount together,
762 (To mount, Lorenzo never can refuse,)
763 And from the clouds, where Pride delights to dwell,
764 Look down on Earth. What seest thou? Wondrous things!
765 Terrestrial wonders, that eclipse the skies.
766 What lengths of labour'd lands! what loaded seas!
767 Loaded by man for pleasure, wealth, or war!
768 Seas, winds, and planets, into service brought,
769 His art acknowledge, and promote his ends.
770 Nor can the' eternal rocks his will withstand:
771 What levell'd mountains, and what lifted vales!
772 O'er vales and mountains sumptuous cities swell,
773 And gild our landscape with their glittering spires.
774 Some 'mid the wondering waves majestic rise;
775 And Neptune holds a mirror to their charms.
776 Far greater still! (what cannot mortal might?)
777 See wide dominions ravish'd from the deep:
778 The narrow'd deep with indignation foams.
779 Or southward turn: to delicate and grand
780 The finer arts there ripen in the sun.
781 How the tall temples, as to meet their gods,
782 Ascend the skies! The proud triumphal arch
783 Shows us half heaven beneath its ample bend.
784 High through mid-air, here streams are taught to flow;
785 Whole rivers, there, laid by in basins, sleep.
786 Here, plains turn oceans; there, vast oceans join
787 Through kingdoms channell'd deep from shore to shore,
788 And changed Creation takes its face from man.
789 Beats thy brave breast for formidable scenes.
790 Where fame and empire wait upon the sword?
791 See fields in blood; hear naval thunders rise,
792 Britannia's voice, that awes the world to peace!
793 How yon enormous mole projecting breaks
794 The mid-sea furious waves! Their roar amidst,
795 Out-speaks the Deity, and says, "O main!
796 Thus far, nor farther! new restraints obey."
797 Earth's disembowell'd! measured are the skies!
798 Stars are detected in their deep recess!
799 Creation widens! vanquish'd Nature yields!
800 Her secrets are extorted! Art prevails!
801 What monuments of genius, spirit, power!
802 And now, Lorenzo, raptured at this scene,
803 Whose glories render heaven superfluous! say,
804 Whose footsteps these? Immortals have been here.
805 Could less than souls immortal this have done?
806 Earth's cover'd o'er with proofs of souls immortal,
807 And proofs of immortality forgot.
808 To flatter thy grand foible, I confess,
809 These are Ambition's works; and these are great:
810 But this the least immortal souls can do:
811 Transcend them all. "But what can these transcend?"
812 Dost ask me, what? One sigh for the distress'd.
813 "What then for infidels?" A deeper sigh.
814 'T is moral grandeur makes the mighty man:
815 How little they who think aught great below!
816 All our ambitions Death defeats, but one;
817 And that it crowns. Here cease we; but, ere long,
818 More powerful proof shall take the field against thee,
819 Stronger than Death, and smiling at the tomb.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): [The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality.] Night VI. The Infidel Reclaimed. In two Parts.
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.