AN HYMN TO FORTITUDE.
1 NIGHT, brooding o'er her mute domain,
2 In aweful silence wraps her reign;
3 Clouds press on clouds, and, as they rise,
4 Condense to solid gloom the skies.
5 Portentous, thro' the foggy air,
6 To wake the Daemon of Despair,[Page 212]
7 The raven hoarse, and boding owl,
8 To Hecate curst anthems howl.
9 Intent with execrable art,
10 To burn the veins, and tear the heart,
11 The witch, unhallowed bones to raise,
12 Through funeral vaults and charnels strays;
13 Calls the damn'd shade from every cell,
14 And adds new labours to their hell.
15 And, shield me, heaven! what hollow sound,
16 Like Fate's dread knell, runs echoing round?
17 The bell strikes one, that magic hour,
18 When rising fiends exert their power.
19 And now, sure now, some cause unblest
20 Breathes more than horror thro' my breast:
21 How deep the breeze! how dim the light!
22 What spectres swim before my sight!
23 My frozen limbs pale Terror chains,
24 And in wild eddies wheels my brains:
25 My icy blood forgets to roll,
26 And Death e'en seems to seize my soul.
27 What sacred power, what healing art,
28 Shall bid my soul herself assert;
29 Shall rouze th' immortal active flame,
30 And teach her whence her being came?
31 O Fortitude! divinely bright,
32 O Virtue's child, and man's delight!
33 Descend, an amicable guest,
34 And with thy firmness steel my breast:[Page 213]
35 Descend, propitious to my lays,
36 And, while my lyre resounds thy praise,
37 With energy divinely strong,
38 Exalt my soul, and warm my song.
39 When raving in eternal pains,
40 And loaded with ten thousand chains,
41 Vice, deep in Phlegeton, yet lay,
42 Nor with her visage blasted day;
43 No fear to guiltless man was known,
44 For God and Virtue reign'd alone.
45 But, when from native flames and night,
46 The cursed monster wing'd her flight,
47 Pale Fear, among her hideous train,
48 Chas'd sweet Contentment from her reign;
49 Plac'd Death and Hell before each eye,
50 And wrapt in mist the golden sky;
51 Banish'd from day each dear delight,
52 And shook with conscious starts the night.
53 When, from th' imperial seats on high,
54 The Lord of Nature turn'd his eye,
55 To view the state of things below;
56 Still blest to make his creatures so:
57 From earth he saw Astraea fly,
58 And seek her mansions in the sky;
59 Peace, crown'd with olives, left her throne,
60 And white rob'd Innocence was gone:
61 While Vice, reveal'd in open day,
62 Sole tyrant rul'd with iron sway;[Page 214]
63 And Virtue veil'd her weeping charms,
64 And fled for refuge to his arms,
65 Her altars scorn'd, her shrines defac'd —
66 Whom thus th' Essential Good address'd.
67 "Thou, whom my soul adores alone,
68 Effulgent sharer of my throne,
69 Fair Empress of Eternity!
70 Who uncreated reign'st like me;
71 Whom I, who sole and boundless sway,
72 With pleasure infinite obey:
73 To yon diurnal scenes below,
74 Who feel their folly in their woe,
75 Again propitious turn thy flight;
76 Again oppose yon tyrant's might;
77 To earth thy cloudless charms disclose,
78 Revive thy friends, and blast thy foes:
79 Thy triumphs man shall raptur'd see,
80 Act, suffer, live, and die for thee.
81 But since all crimes their hell contain,
82 Since all must feel who merit pain,
83 Let Fortitude thy steps attend,
84 And be, like thee, to man a friend;
85 To urge him on the arduous road,
86 That leads to virtue, bliss, and God.
87 To blunt the sting of every grief,
88 And be to all a near relief."
89 He said; and she, with smiles divine,
90 Which made all heaven more brightly shine,[Page 215]
91 To earth return'd with all her train,
92 And brought the golden age again.
93 Since erring mortals, unconstrain'd,
94 The God, that warms their breast, profan'd,
95 She guardian of their joys no more,
96 Could only leave them, and deplore:
97 They, now the easy prey of Pain,
98 Curst in their wish, their choice obtain!
99 Till arm'd with heaven and fate, she came
100 Her destin'd honours to reclaim.
101 Vice and her slaves beheld her flight,
102 And fled like birds obscene from light,
103 Back to th' abode of plagues return,
104 To sin and smart, blaspheme and burn.
105 Thou, Goddess! since, with sacred aid,
106 Hast every grief and pain allay'd,
107 To joy converted every smart,
108 And plac'd a heaven in every heart:
109 By thee we act, by thee sustain,
110 Thou sacred antidote of Pain!
111 At thy great nod them
m Alluding to the history of Hannibal. Alps subside,
112 Reluctant rivers turn their tide;
113 With all thy force Alcides warm'd,
114 His hand against Oppression arm'd:
115 By thee his mighty nerves were strung,
116 By thee his strength for ever young;[Page 216]
117 And whilst on brutal force he press'd,
118 His vigour with his foes increas'd.
119 By thee, like Jove's almighty hand,
120 Ambition's havock to withstand,
n Timoleon, having long in vain importuned his brother to resign the despotism of Corinth, at last restored the liberty of the people by stabbing him. Vid. Plut. Timoleon rose, the scourge of fate,
122 And hurl'd a tyrant from his state;
123 The brother in his soul subdu'd,
124 And warm'd the poniard in his blood;
125 A soul by so much virtue fir'd,
126 Not Greece alone, but heaven admir'd.
127 But in these dregs of human kind,
128 These days to guilt and fear resign'd,
129 How rare such views the heart elate!
130 To brave the last extremes of fate;
131 Like heaven's almighty power, serene,
132 With fix'd regard to view the scene,
133 When Nature quakes beneath the storm,
134 And Horror wears its direst form.
135 Tho' future worlds are now descry'd,
136 Though Paul has writ, and Jesus dy'd,
137 Dispell'd the dark infernal shade,
138 And all the heaven of heavens display'd;
139 Curst with unnumber'd groundless fears,
140 How pale yon shivering wretch appears! [Page 217]
141 For him the day-light shines in vain,
142 For him the fields no joys contain;
143 Nature's whole charms to him are lost,
144 No more the woods their Music boast;
145 No more the meads their vernal bloom,
146 No more the gales their rich perfume:
147 Impending mists deform the sky,
148 And beauty withers in his eye.
149 In hopes his terror to elude,
150 By day he mingles with the croud;
151 Yet finds his soul to fears a prey,
152 In busy crouds, and open day.
153 If night his lonely walk surprize,
154 What horrid visions round him rise!
155 That blasted oak, which meets his way,
156 Shown by the meteor's sudden ray,
157 The midnight murderer's known retreat,
158 Felt heaven's avengeful bolt of late;
159 The clashing chain, the groan profound,
160 Loud from yon ruin'd tower resound;
161 And now the spot he seems to tread,
162 Where some self-slaughter'd corse was laid:
163 He feels fixt Earth beneath him bend,
164 Deep murmurs from her caves ascend;
165 Till all his soul, by fancy sway'd,
166 Sees lurid phantoms croud the shade;
167 While shrouded manes palely stare,
168 And beckoning wish to breathe their care:[Page 218]
169 Thus real woes from false he bears,
170 And feels the death, the hell he fears.
171 O thou! whose spirit warms my song,
172 With energy divinely strong,
173 Erect his soul, confirm his breast,
174 And let him know the sweets of rest;
175 Till every human pain and care,
176 All that may be, and all that are,
177 But false imagin'd ills appear,
178 Beneath our hope, our grief, or fear.
179 And, if I right invoke thy aid,
180 By thee be all my woes allay'd;
181 With scorn instruct me to defy
182 Imposing fear, and lawless joy;
183 To struggle thro' this scene of strife,
184 The pains of death, the pangs of life,
185 With constant brow to meet my fate,
186 And meet still more, Euanthe's hate.
187 And when some swain her charms shall claim,
188 Who feels not half my generous flame,
189 Whose cares her angel-voice beguiles,
190 On whom she bends her heavenly smiles;
191 For whom she weeps, for whom she glows,
192 On whom her treasur'd soul bestows;
193 When perfect mutual joy they share,
194 Ah! joy enhanc'd by my despair!
195 Mix beings in each flaming kiss,
196 And blest, still rise to higher bliss:[Page 219]
197 Then, then, exert my utmost power,
198 And teach me being to endure;
199 Lest reason from the helm should start,
200 And lawless fury rule my heart;
201 Lest madness all my soul subdue,
202 To ask her Maker, What dost thou?
203 Yet, couldst thou in that dreadful hour,
204 On my rack'd soul all Lethe pour,
205 Or fan me with the gelid breeze,
206 That chains in ice th' indignant seas;
207 Or wrap my heart in tensold steel,
208 I still am man, and still must feel.