1 The longest day in night must die,
2 And winter ends the year:
3 And so to contemplation's eye,
4 Must human life appear.
5 Herman had fourscore winters past,
6 His latest thread was spun:
7 Of many days he liv'd his last,
8 And view'd life's setting sun.
9 Yet ere his spirit took its leave
10 Of all it valued here;
11 One fond embrace he fain would give,
12 And bless his children dear.
13 His children dear approach his couch;
14 My sons he faintly said,
15 My heart still rests where I've lov'd much,
16 And shrinks from death with dread.
17 The parting stroke, were death no strife,
18 'Tis agony to bear;
19 From those who gave it's joy to life,
20 And ev'ry pleasing care.
21 Yet, ere my latest sand is shed,
22 And while a breath I draw,[Page 66]
23 May filial duty, from this bed,
24 Retain a father's law.
25 No well fill'd coffers you'll receive,
26 Or aught of wealth or cost,
27 But ah! a mansion I would give,
28 Which distant realms can boast.
29 And sure it was my anxious care,
30 To fit you for the road;
31 And while I warn'd the danger there,
32 The high reward I shew'd.
33 As thro' the wilderness no more
34 A pilot to your youth,
35 Be dying words, my living pow'r,
36 And your support, your truth.
37 And now they clasp his clammy hands,
38 Bathe them with many a tear,
39 And vow, his ever lov'd commands
40 Are more than life's blood dear.
41 'Tis well he said, the pow'r is good,
42 Who grants me strength to say,
43 The holy hermit of the wood,
44 Shall best direct your way.
45 Thus Herman breath'd his last adieu,
46 Low in the dust he lies;
47 And pious prayers and honours due,
48 Before his ashes rise.
49 His children dear, with honours meet,
50 Have mourn'd the pious dead;
51 And next the sainted sage they greet,
52 Who bless'd the solemn shade.
53 Hail holy hermit! oft they cry,
54 Thy suppliants are we,
55 And meek they raise th' imploring eye,
56 And low they bend the knee.
57 Oh! mark us out the safest way
58 To a bright mansion given;
59 For well thou canst, that saint did say,
60 Whose spirit rests in heaven.
61 With pious hands his mortal part,
62 Beneath the green sward laid,
63 And with the mourning of the heart,
64 His funeral honours paid.
65 His dying and his strict command,
66 'Tis thus we have pursu'd;[Page 68]
67 When we implore thy guiding hand,
68 Oh hermit of the wood!
69 The hermit rais'd them from the ground,
70 And cheering was his look;
71 Compassion in his face they found,
72 And in the words he spoke.
73 For well of all the hermit knew,
74 In past nor future scant,
75 To holy men, 'twas held as true,
76 Heaven did such knowledge grant.
77 Far as my faithful word may guide,
78 The holy hermit said,
79 My counsel shall not be denied,
80 To those who seek my aid.
81 He took them to his simple cell,
82 Of fare he gave his best:
83 Bright water from the purest well,
84 And fruits of dainty taste.
85 And then around each neck he threw,
86 A chain of purest gold;
87 Which, to each breast a lock so true,
88 In forms of anchors hold.
89 Tho' small in size, of countless worth,
90 Three lamps the chains suspend,
91 And thus the hermit well set forth,
92 Their value and their end.
93 Sons of my friend! I hold you dear,
94 Accept these gifts of love:
95 These answers to your prayers appear,
96 And your true guides shall prove.
97 And now he takes them to the grove,
98 And shews the prospect round:
99 And points out with parental love,
100 Where the safe path is found.
101 Beyond he says your country lies,
102 Nor rest in aught beneath;
103 That narrow path commands the prize,
104 Which Herman did bequeath.
105 Tho' narrow, and too little trod,
106 These lamps shall guide your feet,
107 Be your conductors thro' the road,
108 And find yon blest retreat.
109 They were not wrought by mortal hand,
110 Observe and mark them well,[Page 70]
111 These lights two different views command,
112 To lead and to repel.
113 By each your way be ever known,
114 Tho' some might seem more fair.
115 Thro' this is the bright region shewn,
116 That crowns your course of care.
117 The last from specious snares shall warn,
118 Still potent to disclose;
119 Altho' some transient charms adorn,
120 The depth of hidden woes.
121 I mark impatience in each eye,
122 Thus youth is wont to be;
123 Still ardent unknown scenes to try,
124 Ere they their dangers see.
125 Yet for a moment I detain,
126 And further counsel hold;
127 Whate'er I gave and said were vain,
128 If aught remain'd untold.
129 While mindful of their destin'd use,
130 Their owners these employ;
131 As them no mortal could produce,
132 No mortal can destroy.
133 But with such sacred art combin'd,
134 And so united glows,
135 That one neglected still you'll find,
136 Shades o'er the others throws.
137 Well, Herman's sons observe each word,
138 So speed you in your course,
139 And may the counsel you've implor'd,
140 Be your secure resource.
141 And much he grieved their thoughtless haste,
142 Which scant their thanks could spare;
143 And fear'd those counsels must be waste,
144 Which scarce to hear they bear.
145 Till sight could them no more disclose,
146 The Hermit's eyes pursued;
147 Then care to sooth, with calm repose,
148 He sought his native wood.
149 Together yet their pilgrim feet,
150 The bidden path pursue;
151 Observe the bonds for kindred meet,
152 And to their faith keep true.
153 And bitterly I trust was rued,
154 That pride which first begun,[Page 72]
155 Pernicious counsels to intrude,
156 In Herman's oldest son.
157 This present from our friend, he said,
158 Was made with kind design;
159 But as I cannot need its aid,
160 I think but light of mine.
161 To some it were a potent spell;
162 The weak are prone to err,
163 And ignorance, I know it well,
164 Is moved by hope and fear.
165 Then this he said, and touch'd the spring,
166 To others may have use,
167 To me, a poor and trifling thing,
168 My path, I know and chuse.
169 And potent were those words to lose,
170 The talisman that bound,
171 The sacred charm around his neck,
172 That shew'd his safest ground.
173 Ah! charm no more, the anchor fails,
174 The links desert the chain;
175 The lamp a lasting darkness veils,
176 Nor fear or hope remain.
177 In conscious virtue all elate,
178 His wisdom was his pride,
179 He parts, as from a vain conceit,
180 With an unerring guide.
181 He yet a while the path pursues,
182 Tho' some appear more fair;
183 Some dangers too, he well subdues,
184 Which he encounters there.
185 Such snares and dangers yet he tried,
186 As haughty minds can scorn,
187 But those which are to pride allied,
188 It ever ill has born.
189 As o'er the youth his gentle nature yearns,
190 To the first painting then Alcestes turns;
191 Observe he said, in Herman's oldest hope,
192 High thoughts of self, which ill to counsel stoop,
193 He views the country with familiar air,
194 As if he deem'd a guide superfluous there:
195 Yet there is something noble in his mein,
196 The traits of honour, and a soul within;
197 But much I fear the legend will disclose,
198 That airy honour meets with potent foes:
199 Foes, which his lamp had sov'reign power to check,
200 But that you see is falling from his neck;[Page 74]
201 Sovereign by shewing to the traveller's eye,
202 The high reward of glorious victory;
203 Shewing the scenes that fallen virtue wait,
204 A sovereign warning from its dreadful fate:
205 Dark is the guide and dubious is the way,
206 Its end, you see no glorious prize display;
207 Its dangerous wanderings, there inspire no dread,
208 No gulphs of fire are seen, or horrors spread;
209 But now the legend will those scenes relate,
210 Which self-exalted virtue mourns too late:
211 For now, adapted to his mind,
212 See lofty hills invite;
213 He leaves the humble vale behind,
214 To climb the envied height.
215 Vainly affection prompts his stay,
216 With brethren once so dear;
217 Vainly they point the safer way,
218 The bliss or danger near.
219 The apt temptation, strong of power,
220 A weak defence o'erthrows;
221 As broken bulwarks guard the shore,
222 When mighty seas oppose.
223 And now the giddy height he gain'd,
224 Nor thought of gulphs below:[Page 75]
225 But ill the slippery path sustain'd,
226 Along the mountain's brow.
227 Alass, he dreamt of solid bliss,
228 And straight was seen no more:
229 'Twas fear'd he found a dread abyss.
230 A deep without a shore.
231 Now to the painting, see him gain'd the height,
232 And how his looks express his vast delight:
233 No air more suited, could ambition breathe,
234 But quite conceal'd the gulph which yawns beneath:
235 The gulph which finishes his mad career,
236 And on its brink you see him next appear;
237 One foot upon the sloping surface see,
238 The next, within the dread abyss must be:
239 To save a mortal tongue the dreadful tale,
240 See charity prepared to spread her veil;
241 The motto there in golden letters read,
242 Judge not of him, but shun the sinner's meed.
243 The second painting now we should explain,
244 And to the legend must return again:
245 His rashness, oft his brothers mourn,
246 And much they doubt his fate;
247 How sad 'tis needful aid to scorn,
248 They fear he found too late.
249 Another's errors ever meet
250 Our wonder and our blame;
251 Nor think what may our peace defeat,
252 And blast our virtuous name.
253 'Twas ill the second brother cries,
254 The hermit's gift to slight;
255 To me he added, 'tis a prize,
256 View'd by the pleasing light.
257 The other was to me no store,
258 So perish'd by neglect;
259 To use it was to keep its pow'r,
260 So did the sage direct.
261 Ill-fated youth! so said the sage,
262 And further said most true;
263 One clouded, did he well presage,
264 Would shade the other view.
265 Distant and faint those prospects rise,
266 Which glory would disclose;
267 And darkness only meets the eyes,
268 Where terrors should oppose.
269 But yet, a while he safely treads,
270 Charm'd by a distant good;[Page 77]
271 Nor yet ambition's glare misleads,
272 Dangers or toils subdued.
273 But ah! yon flattering scene beware,
274 Yon way so like the true;
275 That pleasure's near enticing snare
276 Cheat not the distant view.
277 Whether that road may guide as near,
278 He said I soon shall learn;
279 If wrong, when there it shall appear,
280 'Tis easy to return.
281 Misguided youth! thy hopes are vain,
282 Thy rash resolve I grieve;
283 For never more shalt thou regain,
284 What thoughtless thou shalt leave.
285 All vain a brother's tears may flow,
286 He thinks it causeless grief;
287 His lamp reveal'd him nought of woe,
288 Nor counsel gain'd belief.
289 Dread pits, which sedgy verdure o'er
290 Had speciously conceal'd;
291 As now the traveller's feet explore,
292 Are fatally reveal'd.
293 Careless of warning, perish'd he,
294 Who came so near the prize;
295 Then whilst we pity, let us be
296 By sad example wise.
297 And now my youthful friends, Alcestes cries,
298 To the next painting I would lead your eyes;
299 The dullest eye may note the temper here,
300 Benevolence was never mark'd more clear;
301 This figure, now his lamp delighted tries,
302 As if he saw some pleasing prospect rise:
303 What pity that a mind so form'd for bliss,
304 Our legend says, that happiness could miss;
305 Now be his lamp the object of your sight,
306 His hand, observe it, covers o'er one light;
307 As if some view he dreaded to receive,
308 But nought unneedful would the Hermit give;
309 If mercy and reward were all his view,
310 He found temptations that could those subdue:
311 Alcestes view'd them with a moment's pause,
312 And to the legend their attention draws:
313 And now of Herman's sons so lov'd,
314 The youngest but remain'd:
315 All that obedient to him prov'd,
316 Or the bright mansion gain'd.
317 And well he might obtain the prize,
318 Who mark'd his guide with care;
319 And saw the blissful prospect rise,
320 And saw the dreadful snare.
321 And now my friends, Alcestes says once more,
322 The paintings let us yet again explore:
323 One figure still perhaps is unobserv'd,
324 And pleasing hope for that we have reserv'd;
325 The whole expression of this face you see,
326 Is soften'd by a sweet humility;
327 And here the painter, master of his art,
328 Displays the very movements of his heart.
329 Revered Alphonso! here thy love is seen,
330 For me thy pencil traced this moral scene;
331 To these he fixed my mind with early care,
332 And bid me place my guardian safety there;
333 There, warnings to my youth, these scenes have brought,
334 There, lessons to the young my age has taught.
335 Observe this lamp with both its lights display'd,
336 With care you see this figure seems to tread;
337 In every winding dreadful gulphs are seen,
338 The onward path leads to yon glorious scene.
339 Enough our honour'd friend! the brothers cry,
340 Thy generous purpose we can well apply;[Page 80]
341 The glowing tints speak from that striking scene,
342 A lesson that shall point thy wish within;
343 Strong but in weakness, in our strength most weak,
344 Our conscious weakness, now these aids would seek;
345 More diffident our course of virtue run,
346 And chuse the lamp of Herman's youngest son.