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

Night VIII. Virtue's Apology; or, The Man of the World Answered.

In which are considered, the love of this life; the ambition and pleasure, with the wit and wisdom, of the world.

1 And has all Nature, then, espoused my part?
2 Have I bribed Heaven and Earth to plead against thee?
3 And is thy soul immortal? What remains?
4 All, all, Lorenzo! Make immortal bless'd.
5 Unbless'd immortals! what can shock us more?
6 And yet Lorenzo still affects the world;
7 There, stows his treasure; thence, his title draws,
8 Man of the world! (for such wouldst thou be call'd!)
9 And art thou proud of that inglorious style?
10 Proud of reproach? for a reproach it was,
11 In ancient days; and Christian in an age,
12 When men were men, and not ashamed of Heaven
13 Fired their ambition, as it crown'd their joy.
14 Sprinkled with dews from the Castalian font,
15 Fain would I re-baptize thee, and confer
16 A purer spirit, and a nobler name.
17 Thy fond attachments, fatal and inflamed,
18 Point out my path, and dictate to my song:
19 To thee the World how fair! how strongly strikes
20 Ambition! and gay Pleasure stronger still!
21 Thy triple bane! the triple bolt, that lays
22 Thy Virtue dead! Be these my triple theme;
23 Nor shall thy wit or wisdom be forgot.
24 Common the theme; not so the song; if she
25 My song invokes, Urania, deigns to smile.
26 The charm that chains us to the World, her foe,
27 If she dissolves, the man of earth, at once,
28 Starts from his trance, and sighs for other scenes;
29 Scenes, where these sparks of night, these stars, shall shine
30 Unnumber'd suns; (for all things as they are
31 The bless'd behold;) and, in one glory, pour
32 Their blended blaze on man's astonish'd sight;
33 A blaze, the least illustrious object there.
34 Lorenzo! since Eternal is at hand,
35 To swallow Time's ambitions; as the vast
36 Leviathan, the bubbles vain that ride
37 High on the foaming billow; what avail
38 High titles, high descent, attainments high,
39 If unattain'd our highest? O Lorenzo!
40 What lofty thoughts, these elements above,
41 What towering hopes, what sallies from the sun,
42 What grand surveys of destiny Divine,
43 And pompous presage of unfathom'd fate,
44 Should roll in bosoms where a spirit burns,
45 Bound for eternity; in bosoms read
46 By Him who foibles in archangels sees!
47 On human hearts He bends a jealous eye,
48 And marks, and in Heaven's register enrols,
49 The rise and progress of each option there;
50 Sacred to doomsday! That the page unfolds,
51 And spreads us to the gaze of gods and men.
52 And what an option, O Lorenzo, thine!
53 This world! and this, unrivall'd by the skies!
54 A world, where Lust of Pleasure, Grandeur, Gold,
55 Three demons that divide its realms between them,
56 With strokes alternate buffet to and fro
57 Man's restless heart, their sport, their flying ball;
58 Till with the giddy circle sick and tired,
59 It pants for peace, and drops into despair.
60 Such is the world Lorenzo sets above
61 That glorious promise angels were esteem'd
62 Too mean to bring: a promise, their Adored
63 Descended to communicate, and press,
64 By counsel, miracle, life, death, on man.
65 Such is the world Lorenzo's wisdom wooes,
66 And on its thorny pillow seeks repose;
67 A pillow which, like opiates ill-prepared,
68 Intoxicates, but not composes; fills
69 The visionary mind with gay chimeras,
70 All the wild trash of sleep, without the rest;
71 What unfeign'd travail, and what dreams of joy!
72 How frail men, things! how momentary both!
73 Fantastic chase, of shadows hunting shades!
74 The gay, the busy, equal, though unlike;
75 Equal in wisdom, differently wise!
76 Through flowery meadows, and through dreary wastes,
77 One bustling, and one dancing, into death.
78 There's not a day but, to the man of thought,
79 Betrays some secret, that throws new reproach
80 On life, and makes him sick of seeing more.
81 The scenes of business tell us "what are men;"
82 The scenes of pleasure "what is all beside:"
83 There, others we despise; and here, ourselves.
84 Amid disgust eternal, dwells delight?
85 'T is approbation strikes the string of joy.
86 What wondrous prize has kindled this career,
87 Stuns with the din, and chokes us with the dust,
88 On Life's gay stage, one inch above the grave?
89 The proud run up and down in quest of eyes;
90 The sensual, in pursuit of something worse;
91 The grave, of gold; the politic, of power;
92 And all, of other butterflies, as vain!
93 As eddies draw things frivolous and light,
94 How is man's heart by vanity drawn in;
95 On the swift circle of returning toys,
96 Whirl'd, straw-like, round and round, and then ingulf'd,
97 Where gay delusion darkens to despair!
98 "This is a beaten track. " Is this a track
99 Should not be beaten? Never beat enough,
100 Till enough learn'd the truths it would inspire.
101 Shall Truth be silent because Folly frowns?
102 Turn the world's history; what find we there,
103 But Fortune's sports, or Nature's cruel claims,
104 Or woman's artifice, or man's revenge,
105 And endless inhumanities on man?
106 Fame's trumpet seldom sounds but, like the knell,
107 It brings bad tidings! How it hourly blows
108 Man's misadventures round the listening world!
109 Man is the tale of narrative Old Time;
110 Sad tale! which high as Paradise begins.
111 As if the toil of travel to delude,
112 From stage to stage, in his eternal round,
113 The Days, his daughters, as they spin our hours
114 On Fortune's wheel, where accident unthought
115 Oft, in a moment, snaps life's strongest thread,
116 Each, in her turn, some tragic story tells,
117 With, now-and-then, a wretched farce between;
118 And fills his chronicle with human woes.
119 Time's daughters, true as those of men, deceive us;
120 Not one but puts some cheat on all mankind:
121 While in their father's bosom, not yet ours,
122 They flatter our fond hopes; and promise much
123 Of amiable, but hold him not o'er-wise
124 Who dares to trust them; and laugh round the year
125 At still confiding, still confounded man,
126 Confiding, though confounded; hoping on,
127 Untaught by trial, unconvinced by proof,
128 And ever looking for the never-seen.
129 Life to the last, like harden'd felons, lies;
130 Nor owns itself a cheat, till it expires.
131 Its little joys go out by one and one,
132 And leave poor man, at length, in perfect night;
133 Night darker than what now involves the pole.
134 O THOU, who dost permit these ills to fall
135 For gracious ends, and wouldst that man should mourn!
136 O THOU, whose hand this goodly fabric framed,
137 Who know'st it best, and wouldst that man should know!
138 What is this sublunary world? A vapour!
139 A vapour all it holds; itself a vapour;
140 From the damp bed of Chaos, by Thy beam
141 Exhaled, ordain'd to swim its destined hour
142 In ambient air, then melt, and disappear!
143 Earth's days are number'd, nor remote her doom;
144 As mortal, though less transient than her sons:
145 Yet they dote on her, as the world and they
146 Were both eternal, solid; THOU, a dream.
147 They dote! on what? Immortal views apart,
148 A region of outsides, a land of shadows!
149 A fruitful field of flowery promises!
150 A wilderness for joys, perplex'd with doubts,
151 And sharp with thorns! a troubled ocean, spread
152 With bold adventurers, their all on board;
153 No second hope if here their fortune frowns:
154 Frown soon it must. Of various rates they sail,
155 Of ensigns various; all alike in this,
156 All restless, anxious; toss'd with hopes and fears
157 In calmest skies: obnoxious all to storm;
158 And stormy the most general blast of life:
159 All bound for happiness; yet few provide
160 The chart of Knowledge, pointing where it lies;
161 Or Virtue's helm, to shape the course design'd.
162 All, more or less, capricious Fate lament,
163 Now lifted by the tide, and now resorb'd,
164 And farther from their wishes than before:
165 All, more or less, against each other dash,
166 To mutual hurt by gusts of passion driven,
167 And suffering more from Folly than from Fate.
168 Ocean, thou dreadful and tumultuous home
169 Of dangers, at eternal war with man!
170 Death's capital, where most he domineers,
171 With all his chosen terrors frowning round,
172 (Though lately feasted high at Albion's cost,)
* Admiral Balchen, etc.
173 Wide opening and loud roaring still for more!
174 Too faithful mirror! how dost thou reflect
175 The melancholy face of human life!
176 The strong resemblance tempts me farther still;
177 And haply Britain may be deeper struck
178 By moral truth, in such a mirror seen,
179 Which Nature holds for ever at her eye.
180 Self-flatter'd, unexperienced, high in hope,
181 When young, with sanguine cheer, and streamers gay,
182 We cut our cable, launch into the world,
183 And fondly dream each wind and star our friend;
184 All, in some darling enterprise embark'd:
185 But where is he can fathom its event?
186 Amid a multitude of artless hands,
187 Ruin's sure perquisite, her lawful prize!
188 Some steer aright; but the black blast blows hard,
189 And puffs them wide of hope: with hearts of proof,
190 Full against wind and tide, some win their way;
191 And when strong Effort has deserved the port,
192 And tugg'd it into view, 't is won! 't is lost!
193 Though strong their oar, still stronger is their fate:
194 They strike; and while they triumph, they expire.
195 In stress of weather, most; some sink outright;
196 O'er them, and o'er their names, the billows close;
197 To-morrow knows not they were ever born.
198 Others a short memorial leave behind,
199 Like a flag floating, when the bark's ingulf'd;
200 It floats a moment, and is seen no more:
201 One Caesar lives; a thousand are forgot.
202 How few, beneath auspicious planets born,
203 (Darlings of Providence, fond Fate's elect!)
204 With swelling sails make good the promised port,
205 With all their wishes freighted! Yet e'en these,
206 Freighted with all their wishes, soon complain.
207 Free from misfortune, not from Nature free,
208 They still are men; and when is man secure?
209 As fatal Time as Storm! The rush of years
210 Beats down their strength; their numberless escapes
211 In ruin end: and now their proud success
212 But plants new terrors on the victor's brow:
213 What pain to quit the world just made their own,
214 Their nest so deeply down'd, and built so high!
215 Too low they build who build beneath the stars.
216 Woe then apart, (if woe apart can be
217 From mortal man,) and Fortune at our nod,
218 The gay, rich, great, triumphant, and august!
219 What are they? The most happy (strange to say!)
220 Convince me most of human misery:
221 What are they? Smiling wretches of to-morrow!
222 More wretched then than e'er their slave can be;
223 Their treacherous blessings, at the day of need,
224 Like other faithless friends, unmask and sting:
225 Then, what provoking indigence in wealth!
226 What aggravated impotence in power!
227 High titles, then, what insult of their pain!
228 If that sole anchor, equal to the waves,
229 Immortal Hope! defies not the rude storm,
230 Takes comfort from the foaming billow's rage,
231 And makes a welcome harbour of the tomb.
232 Is this a sketch of what thy soul admires?
233 "But here,"thou say'st, "the miseries of life
234 Are huddled in a group. A more distinct
235 Survey, perhaps, might bring thee better news."
236 Look on life's stages: they speak plainer still;
237 The plainer they, the deeper wilt thou sigh.
238 Look on thy lovely boy; in him behold
239 The best that can befall the best on earth;
240 The boy has virtue by his mother's side:
241 Yes, on Florello look: a father's heart
242 Is tender, though the man's is made of stone:
243 The truth, through such a medium seen, may make
244 Impression deep, and Fondness prove thy friend.
245 Florello, lately cast on this rude coast
246 A helpless infant; now a heedless child;
247 To poor Clarissa's throes, thy care succeeds:
248 Care full of love, and yet severe as hate!
249 O'er thy soul's joy how oft thy fondness frowns!
250 Needful austerities his will restrain;
251 As thorns fence-in the tender plant from harm.
252 As yet, his reason cannot go alone;
253 But asks a sterner nurse to lead it on.
254 His little heart is often terrified;
255 The blush of morning in his cheek turns pale;
256 Its pearly dew-drop trembles in his eye,
257 His harmless eye! and drowns an angel there.
258 Ah! what avails his innocence? The task
259 Enjoin'd must discipline his early powers;
260 He learns to sigh ere he has known to sin;
261 Guiltless, and sad! a wretch before the fall!
262 How cruel this! more cruel to forbear.
263 Our nature such, with necessary pains
264 We purchase prospects of precarious peace:
265 Though not a father, this might steal a sigh.
266 Suppose him disciplined aright; (if not,
267 'T will sink our poor account to poorer still;)
268 Ripe from the tutor, proud of liberty,
269 He leaps enclosure, bounds into the world:
270 The world is taken, after ten years' toil,
271 Like ancient Troy; and all its joys his own
272 Alas! the world's a tutor more severe;
273 Its lessons hard, and ill deserve his pains;
274 Unteaching all his virtuous nature taught,
275 Or books (fair Virtue's advocates!) inspired.
276 For who receives him into public life?
277 Men of the world, the terrae-filial breed,
278 Welcome the modest stranger to their sphere,
279 (Which glitter'd long, at distance, in his sight,)
280 And in their hospitable arms enclose:
281 Men who think nought so strong of the romance,
282 So rank knight-errant, as a real friend:
283 Men that act up to Reason's golden rule,
284 All weakness of affection quite subdued:
285 Men that would blush at being thought sincere,
286 And feign, for glory, the few faults they want;
287 That love a lie, where Truth would pay as well;
288 As if, to them, Vice shone her own reward.
289 Lorenzo! canst thou bear a shocking sight?
290 Such, for Florello's sake, 't will now appear:
291 See the steel'd files of season'd veterans,
292 Train'd to the world, in burnish'd falsehood bright;
293 Deep in the fatal stratagems of peace;
294 All soft sensation in the throng rubb'd off;
295 All their keen purpose in politeness sheathed;
296 His friends eternal during interest;
297 His foes implacable when worth their while;
298 At war with every welfare but their own;
299 As wise as Lucifer, and half as good;
300 And by whom none but Lucifer can gain:
301 Naked, through these, (so common Fate ordains,)
302 Naked of heart, his cruel course he runs,
303 Stung out of all most amiable in life,
304 Prompt truth, and open thought, and smiles unfeign'd;
305 Affection, as his species, wide diffused;
306 Noble presumptions to mankind's renown;
307 Ingenuous trust, and confidence of love.
308 These claims to joy (if mortals joy might claim)
309 Will cost him many a sigh, till time, and pains,
310 From the slow mistress of this school, Experience,
311 And her assistant, pausing, pale Distrust,
312 Purchase a dear-bought clue to lead his youth
313 Through serpentine obliquities of life,
314 And the dark labyrinth of human hearts.
315 And happy if the clue shall come so cheap!
316 For while we learn to fence with public guilt,
317 Full oft we feel its foul contagion too,
318 If less than heavenly Virtue is our guard.
319 Thus, a strange kind of cursed necessity
320 Brings down the sterling temper of his soul,
321 By base alloy, to bear the current stamp,
322 Below call'd Wisdom; sinks him into safety;
323 And brands him into credit with the world;
324 Where specious titles dignify disgrace,
325 And Nature's injuries are arts of life;
326 Where brighter Reason prompts to bolder crimes,
327 And heavenly talents make infernal hearts,
328 That unsurmountable extreme of guilt!
329 Poor Machiavel, who labour'd hard his plan,
330 Forgot that Genius needs not go to school;
331 Forgot that man, without a tutor wise,
332 His plan had practised long before 'twas writ.
333 The world's all title-page, there's no contents:
334 The world's all face; the man who shows his heart
335 Is hooted for his nudities, and scorn'd.
336 A man I knew who lived upon a smile;
337 And well it fed him; he look'd plump and fair,
338 While rankest venom foam'd through every vein.
339 Lorenzo! what I tell thee, take not ill.
340 Living, he fawn'd on every fool alive;
341 And, dying, cursed the friend on whom he lived.
342 To such proficients thou art half a saint.
343 In foreign realms, (for thou hast travell'd far,)
344 How curious to contemplate two state-rooks,
345 Studious their nests to feather in a trice,
346 With all the necromantics of their art,
347 Playing the game of faces on each other,
348 Making court-sweetmeats of their latent gall,
349 In foolish hope to steal each other's trust;
350 Both cheating, both exulting, both deceived;
351 And, sometimes, both (let earth rejoice) undone!
352 Their parts we doubt not; but be that their shame.
353 Shall men of talents, fit to rule mankind,
354 Stoop to mean wiles, that would disgrace a fool?
355 And lose the thanks of those few friends they serve?
356 For who can thank the man he cannot see?
357 Why so much cover? It defeats itself.
358 Ye that know all things! know ye not men's hearts
359 Are therefore known, because they are conceal'd?
360 For why conceal'd? The cause they need not tell.
361 I give him joy that's awkward at a lie;
362 Whose feeble nature Truth keeps still in awe:
363 His incapacity is his renown.
364 'T is great, 't is manly, to disdain disguise;
365 It shows our spirit, or it proves our strength.
366 Thou say'st 't is needful. Is it therefore right?
367 Howe'er, I grant it some small sign of grace,
368 To strain at an excuse. And wouldst thou then
369 Escape that cruel need? Thou mayst with ease:
370 Think no post needful that demands a knave.
371 When late our civil helm was shifting hands,
372 So P thought: think better, if you can.
373 But this, how rare! The public path of life
374 Is dirty. Yet allow that dirt its due;
375 It makes the noble mind more noble still.
376 The world's no neuter; it will wound or save;
377 Our virtue quench, or indignation fire.
378 You say, "The world, well-known, will make a man:"
379 The world, well-known, will give our hearts to Heaven,
380 Or make us demons long before we die.
381 To show how fair the world, thy mistress, shines,
382 Take either part, sure ills attend the choice:
383 Sure, though not equal, detriment ensues.
384 Not Virtue's self is deified on earth:
385 Virtue has her relapses, conflicts, foes;
386 Foes that ne'er fail to make her feel their hate.
387 Virtue has her peculiar set of pains.
388 True, friends to virtue last and least complain:
389 But if they sigh, can others hope to smile?
390 If Wisdom has her miseries to mourn,
391 How can poor Folly lead a happy life?
392 And if both suffer, what has Earth to boast,
393 Where he most happy who the least laments?
394 Where much, much patience, the most envied state;
395 And some forgiveness needs the best of friends?
396 For friend or happy life who looks not higher,
397 Of neither shall he find the shadow here.
398 The world's sworn advocate, without a fee,
399 Lorenzo smartly, with a smile, replies:
400 "Thus far thy song is right; and all must own,
401 Virtue has her peculiar set of pains.
402 And joys peculiar who to Vice denies,
403 If Vice it is with Nature to comply?
404 If Pride and Sense are so predominant,
405 To check, not overcome, them makes a saint:
406 Can Nature in a plainer voice proclaim
407 Pleasure and glory the chief good of man?"
408 Can Pride and Sensuality rejoice?
409 From purity of thought all pleasure springs;
410 And from an humble spirit, all our peace.
411 Ambition, pleasure! let us talk of these:
412 Of these the Porch and Academy talk'd;
413 Of these, each following age had much to say:
414 Yet unexhausted still the needful theme.
415 Who talks of these, to mankind all at once
416 He talks; for where the saint from either free?
417 Are these thy refuge? No; these rush upon thee,
418 Thy vitals seize, and, vulture-like, devour.
419 I'll try if I can pluck thee from thy rock,
420 Prometheus! from this barren ball of earth:
421 If Reason can unchain thee, thou art free.
422 And first, thy Caucasus, Ambition, calls:
423 Mountain of torments! eminence of woes!
424 Of courted woes! and courted through mistake!
425 'T is not Ambition charms thee: 't is a cheat
426 Will make thee start, as H—— at his Moor.
427 Dost grasp at greatness? First, know what it is:
428 Think'st thou thy greatness in distinction lies?
429 Not in the feather, wave it e'er so high,
430 By Fortune stuck, to mark us from the throng,
431 Is glory lodged: 't is lodged in the reverse;
432 In that which joins, in that which equals, all,
433 The monarch and his slave; "a deathless soul,
434 Unbounded prospect, and immortal kin,
435 A Father God, and brothers in the skies;"
436 Elder, indeed, in time; but less remote
437 In excellence, perhaps, than thought by man.
438 Why greater what can fall, than what can rise?
439 If still delirious now, Lorenzo! go;
440 And with thy full-blown brothers of the world,
441 Throw scorn around thee; cast it on thy slaves;
442 Thy slaves, and equals: how scorn cast on them
443 Rebounds on thee! If man is mean, as man,
444 Art thou a god? If Fortune makes him so,
445 Beware the consequence: a maxim that,
446 Which draws a monstrous picture of mankind,
447 Where, in the drapery, the man is lost;
448 Externals fluttering, and the soul forgot:
449 Thy greatest glory when disposed to boast,
450 Boast that aloud in which thy servants share.
451 We wisely strip the steed we mean to buy:
452 Judge we, in their caparisons, of men?
453 It nought avails thee where, but what, thou art:
454 All the distinctions of this little life
455 Are quite cutaneous, foreign to the man!
456 When through Death's straits Earth's subtle serpents creep,
457 Which wriggle into wealth, or climb renown,
458 As crooked Satan the forbidden tree,
459 They leave their party-colour'd robe behind,
460 All that now glitters, while they rear aloft
461 Their brasen crests, and hiss at us below.
462 Of Fortune's fucus strip them, yet alive;
463 Strip them of body, too; nay, closer still,
464 Away with all, but moral, in their minds;
465 And let what then remains impose their name,
466 Pronounce them weak, or worthy! great, or mean!
467 How mean that snuff of glory Fortune lights,
468 And Death puts out! Dost thou demand a test
469 (A test at once infallible and short)
470 Of real greatness? That man greatly lives,
471 Whate'er his fate or fame, who greatly dies;
472 High-flush'd with hope where heroes shall despair.
473 If this a true criterion, many courts,
474 Illustrious, might afford but few grandees.
475 The' Almighty, from His throne, on earth surveys
476 Nought greater than an honest humble heart;
477 An humble heart, His residence! pronounced
478 His second seat; and rival to the skies.
479 The private path, the secret acts of men,
480 If noble, far the noblest of our lives!
481 How far above Lorenzo's glory sits
482 The' illustrious master of a name unknown;
483 Whose worth unrivall'd, and unwitness'd, loves
484 Life's sacred shades, where gods converse with men;
485 And Peace, beyond the world's conceptions, smiles!
486 As thou (now dark) before we part shalt see.
487 But thy great soul this skulking glory scorns.
488 Lorenzo's sick but when Lorenzo's seen;
489 And, when he shrugs at public business, lies.
490 Denied the public eye, the public voice,
491 As if he lived on others' breath, he dies.
492 Fain would he make the world his pedestal;
493 Mankind the gazers, the sole figure he.
494 Knows he that mankind praise against their will,
495 And mix as much detraction as they can?
496 Knows he that faithless Fame her whisper has,
497 As well as trumpet? that his vanity
498 Is so much tickled from not hearing all?
499 Knows this all-knower that, from itch of praise,
500 Or from an itch more sordid, when he shines,
501 Taking his country by five hundred ears,
502 Senates at once admire him, and despise,
503 With modest laughter lining loud applause,
504 Which makes the smile more mortal to his fame?
505 His fame, which, (like the mighty Caesar,) crown'd
506 With laurels, in full senate, greatly falls,
507 By seeming friends that honour, and destroy.
508 We rise in glory as we sink in pride;
509 Where boasting ends, there dignity begins;
510 And yet, mistaken beyond all mistake,
511 The blind Lorenzo's proud of being proud;
512 And dreams himself ascending in his fall.
513 An eminence, though fancied, turns the brain;
514 All vice wants hellebore; but of all vice
515 Pride loudest calls, and for the largest bowl;
516 Because, all other vice unlike, it flies,
517 In fact, the point in fancy most pursued.
518 Who court applause, oblige the world in this:
519 They gratify man's passion to refuse.
520 Superior honour, when assumed, is lost;
521 E'en good men turn banditti, and rejoice,
522 Like Kouli Khan, in plunder of the proud.
523 Though somewhat disconcerted, steady still
524 To the world's cause, with half a face of joy,
525 Lorenzo cries, "Be, then, Ambition cast;
526 Ambition's dearer far stands unimpeach'd,
527 Gay Pleasure! Proud Ambition is her slave;
528 For her he soars at great, and hazards ill;
529 For her he fights, and bleeds or overcomes;
530 And paves his way with crowns to reach her smile:
531 Who can resist her charms?" Or, should? Lorenzo!
532 What mortal shall resist, where angels yield?
533 Pleasure's the mistress of ethereal powers;
534 For her contend the rival gods above;
535 Pleasure's the mistress of the world below.
536 And well it is for man that Pleasure charms:
537 How would all stagnate, but for Pleasure's ray!
538 How would the frozen stream of action cease!
539 What is the pulse of this so busy world?
540 The love of Pleasure: that, through every vein,
541 Throws motion, warmth; and shuts out death from life.
542 Though various are the tempers of mankind,
543 Pleasure's gay family hold all in chains:
544 Some most affect the black, and some the fair:
545 Some honest pleasure court, and some obscene.
546 Pleasures obscene are various, as the throng
547 Of passions that can err in human hearts;
548 Mistake their objects, or transgress their bounds.
549 Think you there's but one whoredom? Whoredom all,
550 But when our Reason licenses delight.
551 Dost doubt, Lorenzo? Thou shalt doubt no more.
552 Thy father chides thy gallantries; yet hugs
553 An ugly common harlot in the dark;
554 A rank adulterer with others' gold:
555 And that hag, Vengeance, in a corner, charms.
556 Hatred her brothel has, as well as Love,
557 Where horrid epicures debauch in blood.
558 Whate'er the motive, Pleasure is the mark!
559 For her the black assassin draws his sword;
560 For her dark statesmen trim their midnight lamp,
561 To which no single sacrifice may fall;
562 For her the saint abstains, the miser starves;
563 The Stoic proud, for pleasure, pleasure scorn'd;
564 For her Affliction's daughters grief indulge,
565 And find, or hope, a luxury in tears;
566 For her, guilt, shame, toil, danger we defy;
567 And, with an aim voluptuous, rush on death.
568 Thus universal her despotic power.
569 And as her empire wide, her praise is just.
570 Patron of pleasure, doter on delight!
571 I am thy rival; pleasure I profess;
572 Pleasure the purpose of my gloomy song.
573 Pleasure is nought but Virtue's gayer name:
574 I wrong her still, I rate her worth too low:
575 Virtue the root, and Pleasure is the flower;
576 And honest Epicurus' foes were fools.
577 But this sounds harsh, and gives the wise offence;
578 If o'erstrain'd wisdom still retains the name.
579 How knits Austerity her cloudy brow,
580 And blames, as bold and hazardous, the praise
581 Of Pleasure to mankind, unpraised too dear!
582 Ye modern Stoics! hear my soft reply:
583 Their senses men will trust; we can't impose;
584 Or if we could, is imposition right?
585 Own honey sweet, but, owning, add this sting,
586 "When mix'd with poison, it is deadly too."
587 Truth never was indebted to a lie.
588 Is nought but Virtue to be praised as good?
589 Why then is health preferr'd before disease?
590 What Nature loves is good, without our leave.
591 And where no future drawback cries, "Beware!"
592 Pleasure, though not from Virtue, should prevail.
593 'T is balm to life, and gratitude to Heaven:
594 How cold our thanks for bounties unenjoy'd!
595 The Love of Pleasure is man's eldest-born,
596 Born in his cradle, living to his tomb.
597 Wisdom, her younger sister, though more grave,
598 Was meant to minister, and not to mar
599 Imperial Pleasure, queen of human hearts.
600 Lorenzo, thou, Her Majesty's renown'd
601 (Though uncoif'd) counsel, learned in the world,
602 Who think'st thyself a Murray, with disdain
603 Mayst look on me. Yet, my Demosthenes,
604 Canst thou plead Pleasure's cause as well as I?
605 Know'st thou her "nature, purpose, parentage?"
606 Attend my song, and thou shalt know them all;
607 And know thyself; and know thyself to be
608 (Strange truth!) the most abstemious man alive.
609 Tell not Calista! she will laugh thee dead;
610 Or send thee to her hermitage with L .
611 Absurd presumption! Thou who never knew'st
612 A serious thought, shalt thou dare dream of joy?
613 No man e'er found a happy life by chance,
614 Or yawn'd it into being with a wish;
615 Or, with the snout of grovelling Appetite,
616 E'er smelt it out, and grubb'd it from the dirt.
617 An art it is, and must be learn'd; and learn'd
618 With unremitting effort, or be lost,
619 And leave us perfect blockheads in our bliss.
620 The clouds may drop down titles and estates;
621 Wealth may seek us; but Wisdom must be sought;
622 Sought before all; but (how unlike all else
623 We seek on earth!) 't is never sought in vain.
624 First, Pleasure's birth, rise, strength, and grandeur see:
625 Brought forth by Wisdom, nursed by Discipline,
626 By Patience taught, by Perseverance crown'd,
627 She rears her head majestic; round her throne,
628 Erected in the bosom of the just,
629 Each Virtue, listed, forms her manly guard.
630 For what are Virtues? (formidable name!)
631 What but the fountain or defence of joy?
632 Why then commanded? Need mankind commands
633 At once to merit and to make their bliss?
634 Great Legislator, scarce so great as kind!
635 If men are rational, and love delight,
636 Thy gracious law but flatters human choice;
637 In the transgression lies the penalty;
638 And they the most indulge who most obey.
639 Of Pleasure next the final cause explore;
640 Its mighty purpose, its important end.
641 Not to turn human brutal, but to build
642 Divine on human, Pleasure came from heaven.
643 In aid to Reason was the goddess sent;
644 To call up all its strength by such a charm.
645 Pleasure first succours Virtue; in return,
646 Virtue gives Pleasure an eternal reign.
647 What but the pleasure of food, friendship, faith,
648 Supports life natural, civil, and Divine?
649 'T is from the pleasure of repast we live;
650 'T is from the pleasure of applause we please;
651 'T is from the pleasure of belief we pray:
652 (All prayer would cease, if unbelieved the prize:)
653 It serves ourselves, our species, and our God;
654 And to serve more, is past the sphere of man.
655 Glide, then, for ever, Pleasure's sacred stream!
656 Through Eden, as Euphrates ran, it runs,
657 And fosters every growth of happy life;
658 Makes a new Eden where it flows; but such
659 As must be lost, Lorenzo, by thy fall.
660 "What mean I by thy fall?" Thou'lt shortly see,
661 While Pleasure's nature is at large display'd;
662 Already sung her origin and ends.
663 Those glorious ends, by kind, or by degree,
664 When Pleasure violates, 't is then a vice,
665 And vengeance too; it hastens into pain.
666 From due refreshment, life, health, reason, joy;
667 From wild excess, pain, grief, distraction, death:
668 Heaven's justice this proclaims, and that her love.
669 What greater evil can I wish my foe,
670 Than his full draught of pleasure, from a cask
671 Unbroach'd by just Authority, ungauged
672 By Temperance, by Reason unrefined?
673 A thousand demons lurk within the lee.
674 Heaven, others, and ourselves! uninjured these,
675 Drink deep; the deeper, then, the more Divine;
676 Angels are angels from indulgence there;
677 'T is unrepenting Pleasure makes a god.
678 Dost think thyself a god from other joys?
679 A victim rather! shortly sure to bleed.
680 The wrong must mourn: can Heaven's appointments fail?
681 Can man outwit Omnipotence? strike out
682 A self-wrought happiness unmeant by Him
683 Who made us, and the world we would enjoy?
684 Who forms an instrument, ordains from whence
685 Its dissonance or harmony shall rise.
686 Heaven bade the soul this mortal frame inspire;
687 Bade Virtue's ray Divine inspire the soul
688 With unprecarious flows of vital joy;
689 And, without breathing, man as well might hope
690 For life, as, without piety, for peace.
691 "Is Virtue, then, and Piety the same?"
692 No; Piety is more; 't is Virtue's source;
693 Mother of every worth, as that of joy.
694 Men of the world this doctrine ill digest;
695 They smile at Piety; yet boast aloud
696 Good-will to men; nor know they strive to part
697 What Nature joins; and thus confute themselves.
698 With Piety begins all good on earth:
699 'T is the first-born of Rationality.
700 Conscience, her first law broken, wounded lies;
701 Enfeebled, lifeless, impotent to good;
702 A feign'd affection bounds her utmost power.
703 Some we can't love but for the' Almighty's sake:
704 A foe to God was ne'er true friend to man;
705 Some sinister intent taints all he does;
706 And in his kindest actions he's unkind.
707 On piety humanity is built;
708 And on humanity much happiness:
709 And yet still more on piety itself.
710 A soul in commerce with her God is heaven;
711 Feels not the tumults and the shocks of life;
712 The whirls of passions, and the strokes of heart.
713 A Deity believed, is joy begun;
714 A Deity adored, is joy advanced;
715 A Deity beloved, is joy matured.
716 Each branch of piety delight inspires;
717 Faith builds a bridge from this world to the next,
718 O'er Death's dark gulf, and all its horror hides;
719 Praise, the sweet exhalation of our joy,
720 That joy exalts, and makes it sweeter still;
721 Prayer ardent opens heaven, lets down a stream
722 Of glory on the consecrated hour
723 Of man, in audience with the Deity.
724 Who worships the great God, that instant joins
725 The first in heaven, and sets his foot on hell.
726 Lorenzo, when wast thou at church before?
727 Thou think'st the service long; but is it just?
728 Though just, unwelcome; thou hadst rather tread
729 Unhallow'd ground; the Muse, to win thine ear,
730 Must take an air less solemn. She complies.
731 Good conscience! at the sound the world retires:
732 Verse disaffects it, and Lorenzo smiles;
733 Yet has she her seraglio full of charms;
734 And such as age shall heighten, not impair.
735 Art thou dejected? Is thy mind o'ercast?
736 Amid her fair ones, thou the fairest choose,
737 Thy gloom to chase. "Go, fix some weighty truth;
738 Chain down some passion; do some generous good;
739 Teach Ignorance to see, or Grief to smile;
740 Correct thy friend; befriend thy greatest foe;
741 Or, with warm heart, and confidence Divine,
742 Spring up, and lay strong hold on Him who made thee."
743 Thy gloom is scatter'd, sprightly spirits flow,
744 Though wither'd is thy vine, and harp unstrung.
745 Dost call the bowl, the viol, and the dance,
746 Loud mirth, mad laughter? Wretched comforters!
747 Physicians, more than half of thy disease!
748 Laughter, though never censured yet as sin,
749 (Pardon a thought that only seems severe,)
750 Is half-immoral: is it much indulged?
751 By venting spleen, or dissipating thought,
752 It shows a scorner, or it makes a fool;
753 And sins, as hurting others or ourselves.
754 'T is Pride, or Emptiness, applies the straw
755 That tickles little minds to mirth effuse;
756 Of grief approaching, the portentous sign!
757 The house of laughter makes a house of woe.
758 A man triumphant is a monstrous sight;
759 A man dejected is a sight as mean.
760 What cause for triumph where such ills abound?
761 What for dejection, where presides a Power
762 Who call'd us into being to be bless'd?
763 So grieve, as conscious grief may rise to joy;
764 So joy, as conscious joy to grief may fall.
765 Most true, a wise man never will be sad:
766 But neither will sonorous, bubbling mirth
767 A shallow stream of happiness betray:
768 Too happy to be sportive, he's serene.
769 Yet wouldst thou laugh, (but at thy own expense,)
770 This counsel strange should I presume to give:
771 "Retire, and read thy Bible, to be gay."
772 There truths abound of sovereign aid to peace;
773 Ah! do not prize them less because inspired,
774 As thou and thine are apt and proud to do.
775 If not inspired, that pregnant page had stood
776 Time's treasure, and the wonder of the wise!
777 Thou think'st, perhaps, thy soul alone at stake;
778 Alas! should men mistake thee for a fool,
779 What man of taste for genius, wisdom, truth,
780 Though tender of thy fame, could interpose?
781 Believe me, Sense here acts a double part,
782 And the true critic is a Christian too.
783 But these, thou think'st, are gloomy paths to joy.
784 True joy in sunshine ne'er was found at first.
785 They first themselves offend, who greatly please;
786 And travail only gives us sound repose.
787 Heaven sells all pleasure; effort is the price;
788 The joys of conquest are the joys of man;
789 And Glory the victorious laurel spreads
790 O'er Pleasure's pure, perpetual, placid stream.
791 There is a time when toil must be preferr'd,
792 Or Joy, by mis-timed fondness, is undone.
793 A man of pleasure is a man of pains.
794 Thou wilt not take the trouble to be bless'd.
795 False joys, indeed, are born from want of thought;
796 From thought's full bent and energy, the true;
797 And that demands a mind in equal poise,
798 Remote from gloomy grief and glaring joy.
799 Much joy not only speaks small happiness,
800 But happiness that shortly must expire.
801 Can joy, unbottom'd in reflection, stand?
802 And in a tempest can reflection live?
803 Can joy like thine secure itself an hour?
804 Can joy like thine meet accident unshock'd?
805 Or ope the door to honest Poverty?
806 Or talk with threatening Death, and not turn pale?
807 In such a world, and such a nature, these
808 Are needful fundamentals of delight:
809 These fundamentals give delight indeed;
810 Delight, pure, delicate, and durable;
811 Delight, unshaken, masculine, Divine;
812 A constant and a sound, but serious, joy.
813 "Is Joy the daughter of Severity?"
814 It is: yet far my doctrine from severe.
815 "Rejoice for ever!"it becomes a man;
816 Exalts, and sets him nearer to the gods.
817 "Rejoice for ever,"Nature cries, "rejoice!"
818 And drinks to man in her nectareous cup,
819 Mix'd up of delicates for every sense;
820 To the great Founder of the bounteous feast
821 Drinks glory, gratitude, eternal praise;
822 And he that will not pledge her is a churl.
823 Ill firmly to support, good fully taste,
824 Is the whole science of felicity.
825 Yet sparing pledge: her bowl is not the best
826 Mankind can boast. "A rational repast;
827 Exertion, vigilance, a mind in arms,
828 A military discipline of thought,
829 To foil Temptation in the doubtful field;
830 And ever-waking ardour for the right:"
831 'T is these first give, then guard, a cheerful heart.
832 Nought that is right think little; well aware,
833 What Reason bids, God bids; by His command
834 How aggrandized the smallest thing we do!
835 Thus nothing is insipid to the wise:
836 To thee insipid all but what is mad;
837 Joys season'd high, and tasting strong of guilt.
838 "Mad!" (thou repliest, with indignation fired:)
839 "Of ancient sages proud to tread the steps,
840 I follow Nature. " Follow Nature still,
841 But look it be thine own: is Conscience then
842 No part of Nature? Is she not supreme?
843 Thou regicide! O raise her from the dead!
844 Then follow Nature, and resemble God.
845 When, spite of Conscience, Pleasure is pursued,
846 Man's nature is unnaturally pleased:
847 And what's unnatural is painful too
848 At intervals, and must disgust e'en thee!
849 The fact thou know'st, but not perhaps the cause.
850 Virtue's foundations with the world's were laid;
851 Heaven mix'd her with our make, and twisted close
852 Her sacred interests with the strings of life.
853 Who breaks her awful mandate, shocks himself,
854 His better self: and is it greater pain,
855 Our soul should murmur, or our dust repine?
856 And one, in their eternal war, must bleed.
857 If one must suffer, which should least be spared?
858 The pains of mind surpass the pains of sense:
859 Ask, then, the Gout, what torment is in guilt.
860 The joys of sense to mental joys are mean:
861 Sense on the present only feeds; the soul
862 On past and future forages for joy.
863 'T is hers, by retrospect, through time to range;
864 And, forward, Time's great sequel to survey.
865 Could human courts take vengeance on the mind,
866 Axes might rust, and racks and gibbets fall:
867 Guard then thy mind, and leave the rest to fate.
868 Lorenzo, wilt thou never be a man?
869 The man is dead, who for the body lives,
870 Lured, by the beating of his pulse, to list
871 With every lust that wars against his peace;
872 And sets him quite at variance with himself.
873 Thyself first know, then love: a self there is
874 Of Virtue fond, that kindles at her charms.
875 A self there is, as fond of every vice,
876 While every virtue wounds it to the heart!
877 Humility degrades it, Justice robs,
878 Bless'd Bounty beggars it, fair Truth betrays,
879 And godlike Magnanimity destroys.
880 This self, when rival to the former, scorn;
881 When not in competition, kindly treat,
882 Defend it, feed it: but when Virtue bids,
883 Toss it or to the fowls, or to the flames.
884 And why? 'T is Love of Pleasure bids thee bleed;
885 Comply, or own Self-Love extinct, or blind.
886 For what is Vice? Self-Love in a mistake:
887 A poor blind merchant buying joys too dear.
888 And Virtue, what? 'T is Self-Love in her wits,
889 Quite skilful in the market of Delight.
890 Self-Love's good sense is love of that dread Power,
891 From whom herself, and all she can enjoy.
892 Other Self-Love is but disguised Self-Hate;
893 More mortal than the malice of our foes;
894 A Self-Hate now scarce felt; then felt full sore,
895 When Being cursed, Extinction loud implored,
896 And every thing preferr'd to what we are.
897 Yet this Self-Love Lorenzo makes his choice;
898 And, in this choice triumphant, boasts of joy.
899 How is his want of happiness betray'd,
900 By disaffection to the present hour!
901 Imagination wanders far afield:
902 The future pleases: why? The present pains.
903 "But that's a secret. " Yes, which all men know;
904 And know from thee, discover'd unawares.
905 Thy ceaseless agitation, restless roll
906 From cheat to cheat, impatient of a pause;
907 What is it? Tis the cradle of the Soul,
908 From Instinct sent, to rock her in disease,
909 Which her physician, Reason, will not cure.
910 A poor expedient! yet thy best; and while
911 It mitigates thy pain, it owns it too.
912 Such are Lorenzo's wretched remedies!
913 The weak have remedies; the wise have joys.
914 Superior wisdom is superior bliss.
915 And what sure mark distinguishes the wise?
916 Consistent Wisdom ever wills the same;
917 Thy fickle wish is ever on the wing.
918 Sick of herself, is Folly's character;
919 As Wisdom's is, a modest self-applause.
920 A change of evils is thy good supreme;
921 Nor, but in motion, canst thou find thy rest.
922 Man's greatest strength is shown in standing still.
923 The first sure symptom of a mind in health
924 Is rest of heart, and pleasure felt at home.
925 False Pleasure from abroad her joys imports;
926 Rich from within, and self-sustain'd, the true.
927 The true is fix'd, and solid as a rock;
928 Slippery the false, and tossing as the wave.
929 This, a wild wanderer on earth, like Cain:
930 That, like the fabled self-enamour'd boy,
931 Home-contemplation her supreme delight;
932 She dreads an interruption from without,
933 Smit with her own condition; and the more
934 Intense she gazes, still it charms the more.
935 No man is happy till he thinks on earth
936 There breathes not a more happy than himself:
937 Then Envy dies, and Love o'erflows on all;
938 And Love o'erflowing makes an angel here.
939 Such angels all, entitled to repose
940 On Him who governs fate: though Tempest frowns,
941 Though Nature shakes, how soft to lean on Heaven!
942 To lean on Him on whom archangels lean!
943 With inward eyes, and silent as the grave,
944 They stand collecting every beam of thought,
945 Till their hearts kindle with Divine delight;
946 For all their thoughts, like angels seen of old
947 In Israel's dream, come from, and go to, heaven:
948 Hence are they studious of sequester'd scenes;
949 While noise and dissipation comfort thee.
950 Were all men happy, revellings would cease,
951 That opiate for inquietude within.
952 Lorenzo! never man was truly bless'd,
953 But it composed, and gave him such a cast,
954 As Folly might mistake for want of joy:
955 A cast unlike the triumph of the proud;
956 A modest aspect, and a smile at heart.
957 O for a joy from thy Philander's spring!
958 A spring perennial, rising in the breast,
959 And permanent as pure! no turbid stream
960 Of rapturous exultation, swelling high;
961 Which, like land-floods, impetuous pour awhile,
962 Then sink at once, and leave us in the mire.
963 What does the man who transient joy prefers?
964 What, but prefer the bubbles to the stream?
965 Vain are all sudden sallies of delight;
966 Convulsions of a weak, distemper'd joy:
967 Joy's a fix'd state; a tenure, not a start.
968 Bliss there is none, but unprecarious bliss:
969 That is the gem: sell all, and purchase that.
970 Why go a-begging to contingencies,
971 Not gain'd with ease, nor safely loved, if gain'd?
972 At good fortuitous, draw back, and pause;
973 Suspect it; what thou canst insure, enjoy;
974 And nought but what thou givest thyself is sure.
975 Reason perpetuates joy that Reason gives,
976 And makes it as immortal as herself:
977 To mortals, nought immortal but their worth.
978 Worth, conscious Worth, should absolutely reign,
979 And other Joys ask leave for their approach;
980 Nor, unexamined, ever leave obtain.
981 Thou art all anarchy; a mob of Joys
982 Wage war, and perish in intestine broils;
983 Not the least promise of internal peace!
984 No bosom-comfort, or unborrow'd bliss!
985 Thy Thoughts are vagabonds; all outward-bound,
986 Mid sands, and rocks, and storms, to cruise for pleasure;
987 If gain'd, dear-bought; and better miss'd than gain'd.
988 Much pain must expiate what much pain procured.
989 Fancy and Sense from an infected shore,
990 Thy cargo bring; and pestilence the prize.
991 Then, such thy thirst, (insatiable thirst!
992 By fond indulgence but inflamed the more!)
993 Fancy still cruises when poor Sense is tired.
994 Imagination is the Paphian shop,
995 Where feeble Happiness, like Vulcan, lame,
996 Bids foul Ideas, in their dark recess,
997 And hot as hell, (which kindled the black fires,)
998 With wanton art, those fatal arrows form
999 Which murder all thy time, health, wealth, and fame.
1000 Wouldst thou receive them, other Thoughts there are,
1001 On angel-wing, descending from above,
1002 Which these, with art Divine, would counterwork,
1003 And form celestial armour for thy peace.
1004 In this is seen Imagination's guilt;
1005 But who can count her follies? She betrays thee
1006 To think in grandeur there is something great.
1007 For works of curious art, and ancient fame,
1008 Thy genius hungers, elegantly pain'd;
1009 And foreign climes must cater for thy taste.
1010 Hence, what disaster! Though the price was paid,
1011 That persecuting priest, the Turk of Rome,
1012 Whose foot, (ye gods!) though cloven, must be kiss'd,
1013 Detain'd thy dinner on the Latian shore;
1014 (Such is the fate of honest Protestants!)
1015 And poor Magnificence is starved to death.
1016 Hence just resentment, indignation, ire!
1017 Be pacified: if outward things are great,
1018 'T is magnanimity great things to scorn;
1019 Pompous expenses, and parades august,
1020 And courts, that insalubrious soil to peace!
1021 True happiness ne'er enter'd at an eye;
1022 True happiness resides in things unseen.
1023 No smiles of Fortune ever bless'd the bad,
1024 Nor can her frowns rob Innocence of joys;
1025 That jewel wanting, triple crowns are poor:
1026 So tell His Holiness, and be revenged.
1027 Pleasure, we both agree, is man's chief good;
1028 Our only contest, what deserves the name.
1029 Give Pleasure's name to nought but what has pass'd
1030 The' authentic seal of Reason, (which, like Yorke,
1031 Demurs on what it passes,) and defies
1032 The tooth of Time; when pass'd, a pleasure still;
1033 Dearer on trial, lovelier for its age,
1034 And doubly to be prized, as it promotes
1035 Our future, while it forms our present, joy.
1036 Some joys the future overcast; and some
1037 Throw all their beams that way, and gild the tomb.
1038 Some joys endear eternity; some give
1039 Abhorr'd annihilation dreadful charms.
1040 Are rival joys contending for thy choice?
1041 Consult thy whole existence, and be safe;
1042 That oracle will put all doubt to flight.
1043 Short is the lesson, though my lecture long:
1044 "Be good" and let Heaven answer for the rest.
1045 Yet, with a sigh o'er all mankind, I grant,
1046 In this our day of proof, our land of hope,
1047 The good man has his clouds that intervene;
1048 Clouds, that obscure his sublunary day,
1049 But never conquer: e'en the best must own,
1050 Patience and Resignation are the pillars
1051 Of human Peace on earth. The pillars, these:
1052 But those of Seth not more remote from thee,
1053 Till this heroic lesson thou hast learn'd,
1054 To frown at pleasure, and to smile in pain.
1055 Fired at the prospect of unclouded bliss,
1056 Heaven in reversion, like the sun, as yet
1057 Beneath the' horizon, cheers us in this world;
1058 It sheds, on souls susceptible of light,
1059 The glorious dawn of our eternal day.
1060 "This,"says Lorenzo, "is a fair harangue:
1061 But can harangues blow back strong Nature's stream;
1062 Or stem the tide Heaven pushes through our veins,
1063 Which sweeps away man's impotent resolves,
1064 And lays his labour level with the world?"
1065 Themselves men make their comment on mankind;
1066 And think nought is but what they find at home:
1067 Thus weakness to chimera turns the truth.
1068 Nothing romantic has the Muse prescribed.
1069 Above, Lorenzo saw the man of earth,
1070 The mortal man; and wretched was the sight.
1071 To balance that, to comfort and exalt,
1072 Now see the man immortal: him, I mean,
1073 Who lives as such; whose heart, full-bent on heaven,
1074 Leans all that way, his bias to the stars.
1075 The world's dark shades, in contrast set, shall raise
1076 His lustre more, though bright without a foil.
1077 Observe his awful portrait, and admire;
1078 Nor stop at wonder; imitate, and live.
1079 Some angel guide my pencil, while I draw,
1080 What nothing less than angel can exceed,
1081 A man on earth devoted to the Skies,
1082 Like ships in seas, while in, above, the world!
1083 With aspect mild, and elevated eye,
1084 Behold him seated on a mount serene,
1085 Above the fogs of Sense, and Passion's storm:
1086 All the black cares and tumults of this life,
1087 Like harmless thunders breaking at his feet,
1088 Excite his pity, not impair his peace.
1089 Earth's genuine sons, the sceptred, and the slave,
1090 A mingled mob, a wandering herd, he sees,
1091 Bewilder'd in the vale; in all unlike!
1092 His full reverse in all! What higher praise?
1093 What stronger demonstration of the right?
1094 The present all their care; the future his.
1095 When public welfare calls, or private want,
1096 They give to fame; his bounty he conceals.
1097 Their virtues varnish nature; his exalt.
1098 Mankind's esteem they court; and he his own.
1099 Theirs the wild chase of false felicities;
1100 His the composed possession of the true.
1101 Alike throughout is his consistent peace,
1102 All of one colour, and an even thread;
1103 While party-colour'd shreds of happiness,
1104 With hideous gaps between, patch up for them
1105 A madman's robe; each puff of Fortune blows
1106 The tatters by, and shows their nakedness.
1107 He sees with other eyes than theirs: where they
1108 Behold a sun, he spies a Deity;
1109 What makes them only smile, makes him adore;
1110 Where they see mountains, he but atoms sees;
1111 An empire, in his balance, weighs a grain.
1112 They things terrestrial worship as Divine;
1113 His hopes immortal blow them by as dust,
1114 That dims his sight, and shortens his survey,
1115 Which longs, in infinite, to lose all bound.
1116 Titles and honours (if they prove his fate)
1117 He lays aside to find his dignity;
1118 No dignity they find in aught besides.
1119 They triumph in externals, (which conceal
1120 Man's real glory,) proud of an eclipse.
1121 Himself too much he prizes to be proud,
1122 And nothing thinks so great in man as MAN.
1123 Too dear he holds his interest, to neglect
1124 Another's welfare, or his right invade;
1125 Their interest, like a lion, lives on prey.
1126 They kindle at the shadow of a wrong:
1127 Wrong he sustains with temper, looks on Heaven,
1128 Nor stoops to think his injurer his foe;
1129 Nought but what wounds his virtue wounds his peace.
1130 A cover'd heart their character defends;
1131 A cover'd heart denies him half his praise.
1132 With nakedness his innocence agrees;
1133 While their broad foliage testifies their fall.
1134 Their no-joys end where his full feast begins;
1135 His joys create, theirs murder, future bliss.
1136 To triumph in existence, his alone;
1137 And his alone, triumphantly to think
1138 His true existence is not yet begun.
1139 His glorious course was, yesterday, complete:
1140 Death then was welcome; yet life still is sweet.
1141 But nothing charms Lorenzo like the firm,
1142 Undaunted breast. And whose is that high praise?
1143 They yield to pleasure, though they danger brave,
1144 And show no fortitude but in the field;
1145 If there they show it, 't is for glory shown:
1146 Nor will that cordial always man their hearts.
1147 A cordial his sustains that cannot fail:
1148 By pleasure unsubdued, unbroke by pain,
1149 He shares in that Omnipotence he trusts;
1150 All-bearing, all-attempting, till he falls;
1151 And, when he falls, writes VICI on his shield:
1152 From magnanimity, all fear above;
1153 From nobler recompence, above applause,
1154 Which owes to man's short out-look all its charms.
1155 Backward to credit what he never felt,
1156 Lorenzo cries, "Where shines this miracle?
1157 From what root rises this immortal man?"
1158 A root that grows not in Lorenzo's ground:
1159 The root dissect, nor wonder at the flower.
1160 He follows nature, (not like thee!) and shows us
1161 An uninverted system of a man.
1162 His appetite wears Reason's golden chain,
1163 And finds in due restraint its luxury.
1164 His passion, like an eagle well reclaim'd,
1165 Is taught to fly at nought but infinite.
1166 Patient his hope, unanxious is his care,
1167 His caution fearless, and his grief (if grief
1168 The gods ordain) a stranger to despair.
1169 And why? Because affection, more than meet,
1170 His wisdom leaves not disengaged from Heaven.
1171 Those secondary goods that smile on earth,
1172 He, loving in proportion, loves in peace.
1173 They most the world enjoy, who least admire.
1174 His understanding 'scapes the common cloud
1175 Of fumes arising from a boiling breast.
1176 His head is clear, because his heart is cool,
1177 By worldly competitions uninflamed.
1178 The moderate movements of his soul admit
1179 Distinct ideas, and matured debate,
1180 An eye impartial, and an even scale:
1181 Whence judgment sound, and unrepenting choice.
1182 Thus, in a double sense, the good are wise;
1183 On its own dunghill, wiser than the world.
1184 What then the world? It must be doubly weak;
1185 Strange truth! as soon would they believe the Creed.
1186 Yet thus it is; nor otherwise can be;
1187 So far from aught romantic what I sing.
1188 Bliss has no being, Virtue has no strength,
1189 But from the prospect of immortal life.
1190 Who think earth all, or (what weighs just the same)
1191 Who care no farther, must prize what it yields;
1192 Fond of its fancies, proud of its parades.
1193 Who thinks earth nothing, can't its charms admire;
1194 He can't a foe, though most malignant, hate,
1195 Because that hate would prove his greater foe.
1196 'T is hard for them (yet who so loudly boast
1197 Good-will to men?) to love their dearest friend;
1198 For may not he invade their good supreme,
1199 Where the least jealousy turns love to gall?
1200 All shines to them, that for a season shines.
1201 Each act, each thought, he questions, "What its weight,
1202 Its colour what, a thousand ages hence?"
1203 And what it there appears, he deems it now.
1204 Hence, pure are the recesses of his soul;
1205 The god-like man has nothing to conceal.
1206 His virtue, constitutionally deep,
1207 Has Habit's firmness, and Affection's flame;
1208 Angels, allied, descend to feed the fire;
1209 And Death, which others slays, makes him a god.
1210 And now, Lorenzo, bigot of this world,
1211 Wont to disdain poor bigots caught by Heaven!
1212 Stand by thy scorn, and be reduced to nought:
1213 For what art thou? Thou boaster! while thy glare,
1214 Thy gaudy grandeur, and mere worldly worth,
1215 Like a broad mist, at distance strikes us most;
1216 And, like a mist, is nothing when at hand;
1217 His merit, like a mountain, on approach,
1218 Swells more, and rises nearer to the skies,
1219 By promise now, and by possession soon,
1220 (Too soon, too much, it cannot be,) his own.
1221 From this thy just annihilation rise,
1222 Lorenzo! rise to something, by reply.
1223 The World, thy client, listens and expects;
1224 And longs to crown thee with immortal praise.
1225 Canst thou be silent? No; for Wit is thine;
1226 And Wit talks most when least she has to say,
1227 And Reason interrupts not her career.
1228 She'll say, that "mists above the mountains rise;"
1229 And with a thousand pleasantries amuse.
1230 She'll sparkle, puzzle, flutter, raise a dust,
1231 And fly conviction in the dust she raised.
1232 Wit, how delicious to man's dainty taste!
1233 'T is precious, as the vehicle of sense;
1234 But, as its substitute, a dire disease.
1235 Pernicious talent! flatter'd by the world,
1236 By the blind world, which thinks the talent rare.
1237 Wisdom is rare, Lorenzo! wit abounds;
1238 Passion can give it; sometimes wine inspires
1239 The lucky flash; and madness rarely fails.
1240 Whatever cause the spirit strongly stirs,
1241 Confers the bays, and rivals thy renown.
1242 For thy renown 'twere well was this the worst:
1243 Chance often hits it; and, to pique thee more,
1244 See, Dulness, blundering on vivacities,
1245 Shakes her sage head at the calamity
1246 Which has exposed and let her down to thee.
1247 But Wisdom, awful Wisdom, which inspects,
1248 Discerns, compares, weighs, separates, infers,
1249 Seizes the right, and holds it to the last;
1250 How rare! in senates, synods, sought in vain!
1251 Or if there found, 't is sacred to the few;
1252 While a lewd prostitute to multitudes,
1253 Frequent, as fatal, Wit: in civil life,
1254 Wit makes an enterpriser; Sense, a man.
1255 Wit hates authority, commotion loves,
1256 And thinks herself the lightning of the storm.
1257 In states, 't is dangerous; in religion, death:
1258 Shall Wit turn Christian, when the dull believe?
1259 Sense is our helmet, Wit is but the plume;
1260 The plume exposes, 't is our helmet saves.
1261 Sense is the diamond, weighty, solid, sound;
1262 When cut by Wit, it casts a brighter beam;
1263 Yet, Wit apart, it is a diamond still.
1264 Wit, widow'd of Good Sense, is worse than nought;
1265 It hoists more sail to run against a rock.
1266 Thus, a half-Chesterfield is quite a fool;
1267 Whom dull fools scorn, and bless their want of wit.
1268 How ruinous the rock I warn thee shun,
1269 Where Sirens sit to sing thee to thy fate!
1270 A joy in which our reason bears no part
1271 Is but a sorrow tickling ere it stings.
1272 Let not the cooings of the World allure thee;
1273 Which of her lovers ever found her true?
1274 Happy, of this bad World who little know!
1275 And yet we much must know her to be safe.
1276 To know the World, not love her, is thy point;
1277 She gives but little, nor that little long.
1278 There is, I grant, a triumph of the pulse,
1279 A dance of spirits, a mere froth of joy,
1280 Our thoughtless Agitation's idle child,
1281 That mantles high, that sparkles, and expires,
1282 Leaving the soul more vapid than before;
1283 An animal ovation! such as holds
1284 No commerce with our reason, but subsists
1285 On juices, through the well-toned tubes well-strain'd;
1286 A nice machine! scarce ever tuned aright;
1287 And when it jars thy Sirens sing no more,
1288 Thy dance is done; the demi-god is thrown
1289 (Short apotheosis!) beneath the man,
1290 In coward gloom immersed, or fell despair.
1291 Art thou yet dull enough, despair to dread,
1292 And startle at destruction? If thou art,
1293 Accept a buckler, take it to the field;
1294 (A field of battle is this mortal life!)
1295 When danger threatens, lay it on thy heart;
1296 A single sentence proof against the world:
1297 "Soul, body, fortune! every good pertains
1298 To one of these; but prize not all alike:
1299 The goods of fortune to thy body's health,
1300 Body to soul, and soul submit to God."
1301 Wouldst thou build lasting happiness? Do this:
1302 The' inverted pyramid can never stand.
1303 Is this truth doubtful? It outshines the sun;
1304 Nay, the sun shines not but to show us this,
1305 The single lesson of mankind on earth.
1306 And yet Yet, what? No news! Mankind is mad!
1307 Such mighty numbers list against the right,
1308 (And what can't numbers, when bewitch'd, achieve?)
1309 They talk themselves to something like belief,
1310 That all earth's joys are theirs: as Athens' fool
1311 Grinn'd from the port on every sail his own.
1312 They grin; but wherefore? and how long the laugh?
1313 Half ignorance their mirth, and half a lie;
1314 To cheat the world, and cheat themselves, they smile.
1315 Hard either task! The most abandon'd own,
1316 That others, if abandon'd, are undone:
1317 Then, for themselves, the moment Reason wakes,
1318 (And Providence denies it long repose,)
1319 O how laborious is their gaiety!
1320 They scarce can swallow their ebullient spleen,
1321 Scarce muster patience to support the farce,
1322 And pump sad laughter till the curtain falls.
1323 Scarce, did I say? some cannot sit it out;
1324 Oft their own daring hands the curtain draw,
1325 And show us what their joy by their despair.
1326 The clotted hair! gored breast! blaspheming eye!
1327 Its impious fury still alive in death!
1328 Shut, shut the shocking scene! But Heaven denies
1329 A cover to such guilt; and so should man.
1330 Look round, Lorenzo! see the reeking blade,
1331 The' envenom'd phial, and the fatal ball;
1332 The strangling cord, and suffocating stream;
1333 The loathsome rottenness, and foul decays
1334 From raging riot; (slower suicides!)
1335 And pride in these, more execrable still!
1336 How horrid all to thought! But horrors these
1337 That vouch the truth, and aid my feeble song.
1338 From Vice, Sense, Fancy, no man can be bless'd:
1339 Bliss is too great to lodge within an hour:
1340 When an immortal being aims at bliss,
1341 Duration is essential to the name.
1342 O for a joy from Reason! joy from that
1343 Which makes man man; and, exercised aright,
1344 Will make him more: a bounteous joy! that gives,
1345 And promises; that weaves, with art Divine,
1346 The richest prospect into present peace:
1347 A joy ambitious! joy in common held
1348 With thrones ethereal, and their Greater far:
1349 A joy high-privileged from Chance, Time, Death;
1350 A joy which Death shall double, Judgment crown;
1351 Crown'd higher, and still higher, at each stage,
1352 Through bless'd eternity's long day; yet still,
1353 Not more remote from sorrow than from Him
1354 Whose lavish hand, whose love stupendous, pours
1355 So much of Deity on guilty dust!
1356 There, O my Lucia! may I meet thee there,
1357 Where not thy presence can improve my bliss!
1358 Affects not this the sages of the world?
1359 Can nought affect them but what fools them too?
1360 Eternity depending on an hour,
1361 Makes serious thought man's wisdom, joy, and praise.
1362 Nor need you blush (though sometimes your designs
1363 May shun the light) at your designs on heaven:
1364 Sole point, where over-bashful is your blame!
1365 Are you not wise? You know you are: yet hear
1366 One truth, amid your numerous schemes, mislaid,
1367 Or overlook'd, or thrown aside, if seen:
1368 "Our schemes to plan by this world, or the next,
1369 Is the sole difference between wise and fool."
1370 All worthy men will weigh you in this scale;
1371 What wonder, then, if they pronounce you light?
1372 Is their esteem alone not worth your care?
1373 Accept my simple scheme of common sense:
1374 Thus save your fame, and make two worlds your own.
1375 The World replies not; but the World persists;
1376 And puts the cause off to the longest day,
1377 Planning evasions for the day of doom:
1378 So far, at that re-hearing, from redress,
1379 They then turn witnesses against themselves.
1380 Hear that, Lorenzo! nor be wise to-morrow.
1381 Haste, haste! a man, by nature, is in haste:
1382 For who shall answer for another hour?
1383 'T is highly prudent to make one sure friend;
1384 And that thou canst not do this side the skies.
1385 Ye sons of earth! (nor willing to be more!)
1386 Since verse you think from priestcraft somewhat free,
1387 Thus, in an age so gay, the Muse plain truths
1388 (Truths which, at church, you might have heard in prose)
1389 Has ventured into light; well-pleased the verse
1390 Should be forgot, if you the truths retain,
1391 And crown her with your welfare, not your praise.
1392 But praise she need not fear: I see my fate,
1393 And headlong leap, like Curtius, down the gulf.
1394 Since many an ample volume, mighty tome,
1395 Must die, and die unwept; O thou minute,
1396 Devoted page! go forth among thy foes;
1397 Go, nobly proud of martyrdom for truth,
1398 And die a double death. Mankind, incensed,
1399 Denies thee long to live: nor shalt thou rest
1400 When thou art dead; in Stygian shades arraign'd
1401 By Lucifer, as traitor to his throne,
1402 And bold blasphemer of his friend, the World;
1403 The World, whose legions cost him slender pay,
1404 And, volunteers, around his banner swarm;
1405 Prudent as Prussia in her zeal for Gaul.
1406 "Are all, then, fools?"Lorenzo cries. Yes, all,
1407 But such as hold this doctrine (new to thee):
1408 "The mother of true Wisdom is the Will;"
1409 The noblest intellect a fool without it.
1410 World-wisdom much has done, and more may do,
1411 In arts and sciences, in wars and peace;
1412 But art and science, like thy wealth, will leave thee,
1413 And make thee twice a beggar at thy death.
1414 This is the most Indulgence can afford:
1415 "Thy wisdom all can do but make thee wise."
1416 Nor think this censure is severe on thee;
1417 Satan, thy master, I dare call a dunce.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): [The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality.] Night VIII. Virtue's Apology; or, The Man of the World Answered.
Author: Edward Young
Themes: philosophical enquiry; death
Genres: blank verse; meditation; graveyard school

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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.