PITY'S DESCENT TO EARTH,
AND ADVICE TO FRIENDSHIP.
1 WHEN from mount Ida "cloud-compelling Jove"
2 Cast round his eye of universal love,
3 And saw mankind with various ills oppress'd,
4 A heaving sigh came labouring from his breast;
5 Not e'en can Jove the ills of life restrain,
6 Nor his the power to free poor man from pain;
7 E'en he submits to Fate's all-powerful sway,
8 And the three Sisters all the gods obey;
9 The web of life keeps them in close employ,
10 Yet the fair web they weave but to destroy;
11 In vain the spindle from the distaff whirls,
12 Lengthens by fits, and as it lengthens twirls;
13 The chequer'd warp, for longer days begun,
14 With changeful shades is in succession run;
15 In the soft loom the silken tissue flows,
16 And brighter hues succeed the cloud of woes.
17 But oft as the gay shuttle glides along,
18 Skimming with ease the lighter shades among,
19 The fatal shears the fragile threads untie,
20 And the cropt rose gives up her crimson dye;
21 The distant views that dawn'd with early morn
22 Shut up their vistas e'er the eve's return;[Page 107]
23 Or sullen night her sable mantle shows,
24 And round the world her long dark curtain throws;
25 Such is the lot of man by Fate's decree,
26 Nor Jove himself can set the prisoner free.
27 But still compassion touch'd the mighty mind,
28 And thus he sorrow'd for oppress'd mankind:
29 "Shall these poor mortals, tenants of a day,
30 In life's rude path but tread the thorny way?
31 Gay fluttering insects that beneath the sky
32 Bask in the sun, and the next moment die!
33 A short-liv'd being, whom, so proud of breath,
34 A weaker insect stings to instant death!
35 The sport of winds, of sky, and varying showers,
36 The jest and pity of superior powers!
37 Shall these who're doom'd a thousand ills to meet,
38 And seldom see one growing wish complete,
39 Shall they all comfortless the journey take,
40 As onward wandering to the Stygian lake,
41 Without the aid of some benignant power —
42 Some heavenly hand to sooth the ruffl'd hour!
43 Ye blisful Synod who on Ida's height
44 Taste but one round of interchang'd delight,
45 Is there not one of all your blissful train
46 Prone to arrest the flying shafts of pain?
47 If such compassion touch th' immortal breast,
48 Be now the generous sentiment confess'd;
49 Descend to earth, and our protecting eye
50 Shall look with pleasure as your task ye ply!"
51 He said: while Pity round her forehead drew
52 Her filmy veil drench'd with her sacred dew;[Page 108]
53 But yet the filmy veil, so soft, so clear,
54 Gave to the sight the meek retiring tear;
55 The half-tun'd voice in trembling cadence fell,
56 And the long sigh on a half word would dwell.
57 She thus, whilst kneeling to almighty Jove,
58 Whose mind and essence is eternal love:
59 "Permit me, sire, to quit the blest abodes,
60 For what from Pity want the happy gods?
61 Not so with Man; deceiv'd by gilded show,
62 And painting happiness on scenes below,
63 Gives a clear sky, till the long prospect ends,
64 And plants a paradise for thousand friends;
65 But scarce the 'dawn unbars the gates of light,'
66 And meek Aurora dries the tears of night,
67 (Yet blushing dries them, lest the god of Day
68 Should rudely brush the trembling drops away —
69 E'en those soft drops his absence caus'd to rise,
70 And fall from Night's too fond despairing eyes,)
71 Till the storm gathers, and the sun retires
72 Muffl'd in clouds, extinguishing his fires;
73 E'er his blest heat the breast had taught to glow,
74 Or the young buds, just cherish'd, bolder grow;
75 Then breaking forth in all his former pride,
76 Hope, like a rainbow, brightens by his side;
77 Thus, thus deluded Man from day to day
78 Hopes and despairs his lingering life away!
79 But as a respite for his labouring cares,
80 And the slow growth of intermingl'd years,
81 Shall I not call forth every latent power
82 That knows to heal the sad distemper'd hour? [Page 109]
83 Yes; balmy Friendship knows to cure the wound,
84 And press the bosom till it's firmly sound!
85 I've trac'd her footsteps many a summer's morn,
86 And seen her tears augment the dropping thorn;
87 Have seen her wander by the lonely brook,
88 The world forsaking, by the world forsook;
89 Unknown her worth, they melancholy deem
90 This lone companion of the lonely stream;
91 To me be't given to show her matchless worth,
92 And softly draw her hidden virtues forth;
93 To teach mankind the only good they share
94 Is Friendship strengthen'd by a soul sincere."
95 Thus said; she lightly left the blessed abodes,
96 And Earth received the handmaid of the gods.
97 Friendship she sought amid her lonely bowers —
98 Her silent musings and her pensive hours,
99 Her tender feelings to herself best known,
100 And the heart-bleedings that are all her own.
101 "Why on these banks," she said, "o'erhung with yew
102 And weeping willows, shedding nightly dew, —
103 Why o'er this stream, that deep and black appears,
104 Drops the meek pearl, which some call trickling tears?"
105 "They fall to see yon willow bend so low,
106 A lifeless picture of heart-rending woe!"
107 "Are not the ills to human life confined
108 Enow to load thy melancholy mind,
109 That thus imagin'd Sorrow claims her part,
110 And half divides thy far too tender heart?
111 Haste, haste to where thy sympathy may ease
112 The secret minings of a slow disease;[Page 110]
113 Where patient suffering makes no plaintive moan,
114 Or pain extracts more than a smother'd groan;
115 There watch each cloud that labours through the sky,
116 And the blue mist that rolls his damps on high;
117 Blame that or this for every growing pain,
118 The sunbeam's sultry heat, or cooling rain;
119 Marking each wish the weak voice cannot frame,
120 And feel a want before it takes a name:
121 But, above all, the drooping spirits raise,
122 And talk with certainty of better days;
123 Nor seem to doubt, or else the nerve will start,
124 Spreading its tremour to the trembling heart;
125 The trembling heart cold faintness shall surprise,
126 And, for a moment, close the sinking eyes.
127 "But to preserve the needful balm of rest,
128 Of all Health's cordials still the last and best,
129 Haste to sweet Slumber; softly at her gate
130 Tap with thy finger, and admittance wait;
131 Quick is her ear, for e'en the softest tread
132 Wakes every nerve, and thunders through the head;
133 Whilst startling Dreams their fluttering pinions lend,
134 Till vapoury visions in strange forms descend;
135 Sometimes a fairy land invites the sight,
136 And glow-worm prospects brighten in the night;
137 Sometimes she wanders through the world alone,
138 Or from the towering precipice is thrown;
139 Or wades through waters where no shore is near,
140 And feels a death in every deadly fear;
141 Demons and goblins point the dire abode,
142 And hissing snakes entwine the hideous road;[Page 111]
143 Lions and tigers stand with open jaw,
144 And flashing eyes, to fix the eager claw;
145 Till cheerful Health, with all her airy train,
146 Dispels the mists that settle on the brain, —
147 Removes the poppies on her temples spread,
148 And from translucent springs refreshment sheds.
149 The droning beetle, whose deep-booming horn
150 Deaden'd the soft voice of the whispering morn,
151 Wheels off in haste, nor lets his bugle sound
152 When Day's sweet concert wakes the world around;
153 The murmuring stream, that kept a dying fall,
154 No more complains, but from the mansion all
155 In secret channels hides from cheerful day,
156 And silent works his subterraneous way;
157 The mournful evergreens that crowd the door,
158 And wander all the gloomy garden o'er,
159 All creep about where cheering light should stray
160 And boldly venture into open day;
161 Through whose dark shades the lulling winds would sound,
162 Kiss the tall grass, and sigh along the ground;
163 The early bird, that rises with the day,
164 Rock'd by soft zephyrs slept the morn away;
165 And drizzling rain left such a weight on air,
166 That owls at midnight nod in ivy chair;
167 These Health destroy'd; for, from their bending boughs,
168 Nightly the noxious dew distils, and throws
169 Its baneful influence o'er the powers of rest,
170 For those who sleep but little sleep the best:
171 Not drowsy beings that, till noon-tide pours
172 His sultry steam, and drinks the breath of flowers,[Page 112]
173 Know the full rigour of a nerve unstrung,
174 Or, while in youth — as ought the being young —
175 Know not that breezes rising with the morn
176 Make them as light as dew-drops on the thorn, —
177 As gay as larks that, warbling as they fly,
178 Bear the first message to the morning sky; —
179 Fleet as the roe, that o'er the mountain bounds
180 When first his ear is threaten'd by the hounds; —
181 Cheerful as sunbeams that with lilies play,
182 Tinging with gold their paler looks away.
183 Thus, when weak mortals feel thy power to charm,
184 And the cold bosom grows a little warm,
185 'Tis then thy influence the mind must share,
186 Moulding to virtue, and the bliss of prayer, —
187 To moral duties by Religion taught,
188 Till the blest man becomes the man he ought.
189 This is thy charge, by Jove himself design'd;
190 Thou, next the gods, the good of all mankind;
191 Soothing thy manners, yet thy words sincere,
192 Speaking all truths the sickly soul can bear.
193 Nor ruffle thou the spirit of the proud,
194 Who never yet have to instruction bow'd;
195 But wind about their errors as you may,
196 And with sweet counsel weed their faults away;
197 By slow degrees Perfection must be wrought,
198 For slow's the growth of weak bewilder'd Thought;
199 Nor will one manner work alike with all,
200 Some in soft whispers thou must gently call;
201 Nor censure harsh, nor mark with critic eye
202 Those little faults that under virtues lie. [Page 113]
203 Others, again, thy freer speech demand,
204 And the correction of a bolder hand, —
205 Must have their vices marshall'd in their view,
206 And every error plainly pointed to;
207 Others, from seeming love, will hear thy voice,
208 And fondly think that virtue is their choice;
209 But should'st thou thwart them with a word more hard,
210 Or seem t' abate thy tender, warm regard,
211 Rage would run back to all the follies past,
212 And every day grow faultier than the last;
213 Such is thy task, congenial to thy mind,
214 The Friend, the Lover, of forlorn Mankind!