REFLECTIONS UPON THE SUBJECT — —
Quid juvat errores, mersâ jam puppe, fateri? Quid lacrymæ delicta juvant commissa secutæ?
Claudian. in Eutropium, lib. ii. lin. 7.
What avails it, when shipwreck'd, that error appears? Are the crimes we commit wash'd away by our tears?
1 When all the fiercer passions cease
2 (The glory and disgrace of youth);
3 When the deluded soul, in peace,
4 Can listen to the voice of truth;
5 When we are taught in whom to trust,
6 And how to spare, to spend, to give,
7 (Our prudence kind, our pity just,)
8 'T is then we rightly learn to live.
9 Its weakness when the body feels,
10 Nor danger in contempt defies;
11 To reason when desire appeals,
12 When, on experience, hope relies;
13 When every passing hour we prize,
14 Nor rashly on our follies spend;
15 But use it, as it quickly flies,
16 With sober aim to serious end;
17 When prudence bounds our utmost views,
18 And bids us wrath and wrong forgive;
19 When we can calmly gain or lose, —
20 'T is then we rightly learn to live. [Page 256]
21 Yet thus, when we our way discern,
22 And can upon our care depend,
23 To travel safely, when we learn,
24 Behold! we're near our journey's end
25 We've trod the maze of error round,
26 Long wand'ring in the winding glade;
27 And, now the torch of truth is found,
28 It only shows us where we stray'd:
29 Light for ourselves, what is it worth,
30 When we no more our way can choose?
31 For others, when we hold it forth,
32 They, in their pride, the boon refuse.
33 By long experience taught, we now
34 Can rightly judge of friends and foes,
35 Can all the worth of these allow,
36 And all their faults discern in those;
37 Relentless hatred, erring love,
38 We can for sacred truth forego;
39 We can the warmest friend reprove,
40 And bear to praise the fiercest foe:
41 To what effect? Our friends are gone
42 Beyond reproof, regard, or care;
43 And of our foes remains there one,
44 The mild relenting thoughts to share?
45 Now 't is our boast that we can quell
46 The wildest passions in their rage;
47 Can their destructive force repel,
48 And their impetuous wrath assuage:
49 Ah! Virtue, dost thou arm, when now
50 This bold rebellious race are fled;[Page 257]
51 When all these tyrants rest, and thou
52 Art warring with the mighty dead?
53 Revenge, ambition, scorn, and pride,
54 And strong desire, and fierce disdain,
55 The giant-brood by thee defied,
56 Lo! Time's resistless strokes have slain.
57 Yet Time, who could that race subdue,
58 (O'erpowering strength, appeasing rage,)
59 Leaves yet a persevering crew,
60 To try the failing powers of age.
61 Vex'd by the constant call of these,
62 Virtue awhile for conquest tries;
63 But weary grown and fond of ease,
64 She makes with them a compromise:
65 Av'rice himself she gives to rest,
66 But rules him with her strict commands,
67 Bids Pity touch his torpid breast,
68 And Justice hold his eager hands.
69 Yet is there nothing men can do,
70 When chilling Age comes creeping on?
71 Cannot we yet some good pursue?
72 Are talents buried? genius gone?
73 If passions slumber in the breast,
74 If follies from the heart be fled;
75 Of laurels let us go in quest,
76 And place them on the poet's head.
77 Yes, we'll redeem the wasted time,
78 And to neglected studies flee;
79 We'll build again the lofty rhyme,
80 Or live, Philosophy, with thee:[Page 258]
81 For reasoning clear, for flight sublime,
82 Eternal fame reward shall be;
83 And to what glorious heights we'll climb,
84 The admiring crowd shall envying see.
85 Begin the song! begin the theme! —
86 Alas! and is Invention dead?
87 Dream we no more the golden dream?
88 Is Mem'ry with her treasures fled?
89 Yes, 't is too late, — now Reason guides
90 The mind, sole judge in all debate;
91 And thus the important point decides,
92 For laurels, 't is, alas! too late.
93 What is possess'd we may retain,
94 But for new conquests strive in vain.
95 Beware then, Age, that what was won,
96 If life's past labours, studies, views,
97 Be lost not, now the labour's done,
98 When all thy part is, — not to lose:
99 When thou canst toil or gain no more,
100 Destroy not what was gain'd before.
101 For, all that's gain'd of all that's good,
102 When time shall his weak frame destroy
103 (Their use then rightly understood),
104 Shall man, in happier state, enjoy.
105 Oh! argument for truth divine,
106 For study's cares, for virtue's strife;
107 To know the enjoyment will be thine,
108 In that renew'd, that endless life!