5 But, ah! can youth dwell on the tragic part?
6 Can I describe the trembling, panting heart? [Page 18]
7 In Fancy's frolic age can I relate
8 The pangs, the terrors of a dying state?
9 Yes — tho' unskill'd, I'll the grim shade pursue,
10 And bring the distant terror to my view;
11 Dwell on the horrors of that gloomy hour;
12 Death, made familiar, loses half his power.
13 Peace then, ye passions of ungovern'd youth,
14 Foes to reflection, enemies to truth!
15 Let me, unruffled by your clamorous voice,
16 Make the drear regions of the tomb my choice;
17 And while sad Fancy paints the dismal scene,
18 Where restless ghosts by midnight moons are seen
19 Stalk o'er the gloomy grave, Muse! be it thine
20 To rouse the vain, the giddy, and supine,
21 Who Pleasure's rounds pursue; while young Desire
22 Wakes the gay dream, and feeds the dangerous fire:[Page 19]
23 From these I fly — and now, my pensive soul,
24 Mark the harsh scream of yon death-boding owl;
25 Perhaps she calls some lingering, tardy ghost
26 To smell the world, ere the dread hour be lost
27 That parts the night from morn. Come, restless souls,
28 Relax from torture; you whom Fate controuls
29 To purge your earthly crimes in liquid fire,
30 In anguish plung'd, till ages shall expire;
31 (This, Rome's grand tenet) sin thus wash'd away,
32 Pure, bright, and cleans'd, you'll wing to endless day.
33 Presumption, hold! Lo, o'er yon misty tomb
34 Leans a sad spectre, and bemoans the doom
35 Of never-erring Justice; heavenly power!
36 Support and guard me in this gloomy hour
37 Of dread inquiry! — "Say, thou wretched soul,
38 O teach a young, rash, inexperienced fool,[Page 20]
39 What 'tis to die, and where thou wing'dst thy way,
40 When turn'd a wanderer from thy house of clay?
41 Did'st tread soft lawns, or seek Elysian groves,
42 Where Poets feign the lover's spirit roves?
43 Or, on light pinions cut the closing air,
44 And to each planetary world repair?
45 Or, guideless, stray where dismal groans resound,
46 And forked lightnings quiver on the ground?
47 Or did sad fiends thy unhous'd spirit meet,
48 And with shrill yellings the poor trembler greet
49 To the dark world? Describe that scene of woe
50 Which thou hast felt, and may I never know!"
51 "Thou'lt know, indeed," it answers with a groan,
52 "The pangs of death too sure shall be thy own;
53 Pains yet unfelt must seize thy every part,
54 And Death's cold horrors hover round thy heart;[Page 21]
55 Thy dying eyes fix'd on some darling friend,
56 While strong convulsions their wild orbs extend;
57 One gasp, and deep eternity in view,
58 The soul shoots forth, and groans a last adieu.
59 I dare no more — but Oh! too curious maid,
60 Seek not to pierce th'impenetrable shade
61 Which wraps futurity; thou 'rt sure to die;
62 Rest there, nor farther search, nor question why;
63 Scan not Omnipotence — of that beware;
64 Oft the too curious eye is dimm'd by blank despair."