THERE is not any Thing, I believe, which calls forth the melancholy and sympathetic Passions more forcibly than a Sight of those Men who have once been great or famous, and have outlived their For tune or Faculties. Who can forbear sighing when he beholds a BELISARIUS? Whose Heart is not wrung when he views a SWIFT in his Dotage? — Reflections of this Kind gave Birth to the following Stanzas. They were written upon an old Man in a Coun try-Village, whose Strength, Activity, and rustic Ac complishments, were once the frequent Admiration of his Fellow-Swains; and when Age had deprived[Page 18] him of them, and rendered him feeble and decrepid, the Remembrance of his past Exploits was often the Subject of their Exclamations, and the honest Motive of their Pity and Condolence, as well as the frequent Topic of his own Lamentation. The Effect that this Remembrance had upon his Mind cannot, perhaps, be conveyed more feelingly than by informing the Reader that the Sentence which I have chosen for a Motto was common in his Mouth, and generally attended with a Sigh.
There is a Time to be born, and a Time to die.
1 I ONCE was young, alack the Day!
2 And Mirth and Jollity my Theme;
3 Now fourscore Summers, flown away,
4 Appear a half-forgotten Dream.
5 I once could dance, who nimbler seen
6 When May-Day Garlands deck'd the Pole?
7 Or, Prize propos'd to glide the Green,
8 Who sooner reach'd the distant Goal?
9 How slow and feeble now my Tread!
10 Those Feet which erst have won the Prize
11 Are only swift to reach the Bed
12 Where, undistinguish'd, Merit lies.
13 This Arm athletic once could raise
14 The massy Beam, the pond'rous Stone;
15 Loud echo'd forth the Village Praise
16 When I the whirling Quoit have thrown.
17 Behold it wither'd, now, and weak,
18 Its brawny Texture quite forgot;
19 Its languid Pulse, slow winding, seek
20 The Mansion where to rest and rot!
21 When I into the Circle sprung,
22 What hardy Youth durst e'er engage?
23 Who but would check his daring Tongue,
24 If, much provok'd, he saw my Rage?
25 Where's now the Terror of my Eye?
26 What Coward quakes tho' I should frown?
27 When agile Feats they yearly try,
28 Who brings to me the festive Crown?
29 My auburn Ringlets, once so gay,
30 Could win the Sigh, the wishing Glance;
31 And envied went that Lass away
32 Who join'd me in the rustic Dance.
33 My bald Head, sprinkled o'er with grey,
34 Wins nothing but predictive Tears,
35 Reminding Man, from Day to Day,
36 Th'Effects of much-desired Years.
37 I once could sing, what Voice so sweet
38 Could charm an inattentive Ear?
39 Or move the merry-making Feet,
40 Or melt the sighing Virgin's Tear?
41 Who now delights to hear my Voice?
42 Who now shall press the cheerly Song?
43 Who now shall listen? who rejoice?
44 Or give the Praise they gave me young?
45 Alas! what Voice hath drooping Age
46 To charm the sprightly Ear of Youth?
47 His Eye delights not in the Sage,
48 His Heart delights not in the Truth.