Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

. (page 10 of 24)
Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 10 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

O'er vales and mountains sumptuous cities


And gild our landscape with their glitt'ring spires.

Some 'mid the wand'ring waves majestic rise ;

And Neptune holds a mirror to their charms. 775

Far greater still ! (what cannot mortal might ?)

See, wide dominions ravish'd from the deep !

The narrow'd deep with indignation foams.

Or southward turn, to delicate, and grand j

The finer arts there ripen in the sun. 780

How the tall temples, as to meet their gods,

Ascend the skies ! the proud triumphal arch

Shews us half Heav'n beneath its ample bend.

High through mid air, here, streams are taught to flow;

Whole rivers, there, lay'd by in basons, sleep. 785

Here, plains turn oceans ; there, vast oceans join

Through kingdoms channePd deep from shore to shore j

And chang'd creation takes its face from Man.

Beats thy brave breast for formidable scenes,

Where fame and empire wait upon the sword ? 799

See fields in blood ; hear naval thunders rise ;

Britannia's voice ! that awes the world to peace.

How yon enormous mole projecting breaks

The mid-sea furious waves ! their roar amidst,

Out-speaks the Deity, and says, " O main ! 795

Thus far, nor farther ; new restraints obey."

Earth 's disembowel'd ! measur'd are the skies !

Stars are detected in their deep recess !

Creation widens ! vanquished Nature yields !

Her secrets are extorted ! Art prevails ! 800

What monument of genius, spirit, pow'r!

And now, LORENZO, raptur'd at this scene,
Whose glories render Heav'n superfluous ! say,
Whose footsteps these ? Immortals have been here.


Could less than souls immortal this have done ? 805
Earth 's cover'd o'er with proofs of souls immortal j
And proofs of immortality forgot.

To flatter thy grand foible, 1 confess,
These are Ambition's works : And these are great :
But this, the least immortal souls can do ; 810

Transcend them all. But what can these transcend?
Dost ask me, what ? One sigh for the distrest.
What then for infidels ? A deeper sigh.
*T is moral grandeur makes the mighty Man :
How little they, who think aught great below ! 815
All our ambitions Death defeats, but one ;
And that it crowns. Here cease we : But, ere long,
More pow'rful proof shall take the field against thee,
tronger than death, and smiling at the tomb.




AS we are at war with the power, it were well if we were at
war with the manners, of France. A land of levity is a land
of guilt. A serious mind is the native soil of every virtue, and
the single character that does true honour to mankind. The
soul's immortality has been the favourite theme with the serious
of all ages. Nor is it strange ; it is a subject by far the most
interesting, and important, that can enter the mind of Man.
Of highest moment this subject always was, and always will
be. Yet this its highest moment seems to admit of increase,
at this day ; a sort of occasional importance is superadded to
the natural weight of it ; if that opinion, which is advanced in
the preface to the preceding Night, be just. It is there supposed,
that all our infidels, whatever scheme, for argument's sake,
and to keep themselves in countenance, they patronize, are
betrayed into their deplorable error, by some doubt of their
immortality, at the bottom. And the more I consider this point,
the more I am persuaded of the truth of that opinion. Though
the distrust of a futurity is a strange error j yet it is an error
into which bad men may naturally be distressed. For it is im-
possible to bid defiance to final ruin, without some refuge in
imagination, some presumption of escape. And what pre-
sumption is there ? There are but two in Nature ; but two with-
in the compass of human thought. And these are That ei-
ther GOD will not, or can not, punish. Considering the di-
rine attributes, the first is too gross to be digested by our

X 2


strongest wishes. And, since Omnipotence is as much a di-
vine attribute as Holiness, that GOD cannot punish, is as ab-
surd a supposition as the former. GOD certainly can punish,
as long as wicked men exist. In non-existence, therefore, is
their only refuge ; and, consequently, non-existence is their
strongest wish. And strong wishes have a strange influence
on our opinions; they bias the judgment in a manner almost
incredible. And since on this member of their alternative,
there are some very small appearances in their favour, and none
at all on the other, they catch at this reed, they lay hold on this
chimera, to save themselves from the shock and horror of an
immediate and absolute despair.

On reviewing my subject, by the light which this argument,
and others of like tendency, throw upon It, I was more inclin-
ed than ever to pursue it, as it appeared to me to strike direct-
ly at the main root of all our infidelity. In the following pages,
it is, accordingly, pursued at large , and some arguments
for immortality, new (at least to me), are ventured on in
them. There also the writer has made an attempt to set the
gross absurdities and horrors of annihilation in a fuller and
more affecting view, than is (I think) to be met with else-

The gentlemen, for whose sake this attempt was chiefly
made, profess great admiration for the wisdom of heathen an-
tiquity : What pity 't is, they are not sincere ! If they were
sincere, how would it mortify them to consider, with what
contempt and abhorrence their notions would have been re-
ceived by those whom they so much admire ? What degree
of contempt and abhorrence would fall to their share, may be
conjectured by the following matter of fact (in my opinion)
extremely memorable. Of all their heathen worthies, Socrates
('tis well known) was the most guarded, dispassionate, and
composed : Yet this great master of temper was angry ; and
angry at his last hour ; and angry with his friend ; and angry
for what deferved acknowledgment ; angry, for a right and
tender instance of true friendship towards him. Is not this


surprising ? What could be the cause ? The cause was for his
honour , it was a truly noble, though, perhaps, a too punctilious
regard for immortality : For his friend asking him, with such an
affectionate concern as became a friend, " Where he should
deposit his remains," it was resented by Socrates, as implying
a dishonourable supposition, that he could be so mean, as to
have regard for any thing, even in himself, that was not im-

This fact, well considered, would make our infidels with-
draw their admiration from Socrates ; or make them endeavour,
by their imitation of this illustrious example, to share his glory :
And, consequently, it would incline them to peruse the fol-
lowing pages with candour and impartiality : Which is all I de-
sire ; and that, for their sakes : For I am persuaded, that an
unprejudiced infidel must necessarily receive some advantage-
ous impressions from them.

JULY 7, 1744.






JriEAV'N gives the needful, but neglected, call.

What day, what hour, but knocks at human hearts,

To wake the soul to sense of future scenes ?

Deaths stand, like Mercuries, in ev'ry way ;

And kindly point us to our journey's end. 5

POPE, who couldst make immortals ; art thou dead ?

I give thee joy : Nor will I take my leave ;

So soon to follow. Man but dives in death ;

Dives from the sun, in fairer day to rise ;

The grave, his subterranean road to b liss. 10


Yes, infinite indulgence plann'd it so :
Through various parts our glorious story runs ;
Time gives the preface, endless age unrolls
The volume (ne'er unrolFd) of human fate.

This, earth and skies already have proclaimed. 15
The world 's a prophesy of worlds to come ;
And who, what GOD fortels (who speaks in things,
Still louder than in words) shall dare deny ?
If Nature's arguments appear too weak,
Turn a new leaf, and stronger read in Man. 20

If Man sleeps on, untaught by what he sees,
Can he prove infidel to what he feels ?
He, whose blind thought Futurity denies,
Unconscious bears, Bellerophon ! like thee,
His own indictment j he condemns himself : 25

Who reads his bosom, reads immortal life j
Or, Nature, there, imposing on her sons,
Has written fables ; Man was made a lie.

Why discontent for ever harbour'd there ?
Incurable consumption of our peace ! 30

Resolve me, why the cottager and king,
He whom sea-sever'd realms obey, and he
Who steals his whole dominion from the waste,
Repelling winter blasts with mud and straw,
Disquieted alike, draw sigh for sigh, 35

In fate so distant, in complaint so near ?

Is it, that things terrestrial can't content ?
Deep in rich pasture, will thy flocks complain ?
Not so ; but to their master is deny'd
To share their sweet serene. Man, ill at ease, 46
In this, not his own place, this foreign field,
Where Nature fodders him with other food,


Than was ordain'd his cravings to suffice,

Poor in abundance, famish' d at a feast,

Sighs on for something more, when most enjoy'd. 45

Is Heav'n then kinder to thy flocks than thee ?

Not so j thy pasture richer, but remote j

In part, remote ; for that remoter part

Man bleats from instinct, though, perhaps, debauch'd

By Sense, his Reason sleeps, nor dreams the cause. 50

The cause how obvious, when his Reason wakes !

His grief is but his grandeur in disguise ;

And discontent is immortality.

Shall sons of sether, shall the blood of Heav'n,
Set up their hopes on earth, and stable here, 55

With brutal acquiescence in the mire ?
LORENZO ! no ! they shall be nobly pain'd j
The glorious foreigners, distrest, shall sigh
On thrones ; and thou congratulate the sigh :
Man's misery declares him born for bliss j 60

His anxious heart asserts the truth I sing,
And gives the sceptic in his head the lie*

Our heads, our hearts, our passions, and our pow'rs,
Speak the same language ; call us to the skies :
Unripen'd these in this inclement clime, 65

Scarce rise above conjecture and mistake ;
And for this land of trifles those too strong
Tumultuous rise, and tempest human life :
What prize on earth can pay us for the storm ?
Meet objects for our passions Heav'n ordain'd, 70
Objects that challenge all their fire, and leave
No fault, but in defect : Blest Heav'n ! avert
A bounded ardour for unbounded bliss ;
O for a bliss unbounded ! Far beneath



A soul immortal, is a mortal joy. 75

Nor are our pow'rs to perish immature ;

But, after feeble effort here, beneath

A brighter sun, and in a nobler soil,

Transplanted from this sublunary bed,

Shall flourish fair, and put forth all their bloom. 80

Reason progressive, Instinct is complete ;
Swift Instinct leaps ; slow Reason feebly climbs.
Brutes soon their zenith reach ; their little all
Flows in at once ; in ages they no more
Could know, or do, or covet, or enjoy. 85

Were Man to live coeval with the sun,
The patriarch pupil would be learning still ;
Yet, dying, leave his lesson half-unlearnt.
Men perish in advance, as if the sun
Should set ere noon, in eastern oceans drown'd j 90
If fit, with dim, illustrious to compare,
The sun's meridian, with the soul of Man.
To Man, why, stepdame Nature ! so severe ?
Why thrown aside thy master-piece half-wrought,
While meaner efforts thy last hand enjoy ? 95

Or, if abortively, poor Man must die,

Nor reach, what reach he might, why die in dread ?

Why curst with foresight ? Wise to misery ?

Why of his proud prerogative the prey ?

Why less pre-eminent in rank, than pain ? 100

His immortality alone can tell ;

Full ample fund to balance all amiss,

And turn the scale in favour of the just !
His immortality alone can solve

That darkest of senigmas, human hope ; 105

Of all the darkest, if at death we die.


Hope, eager Hope, th' assassin of our joy,

All present blessings treading under-foot,

Is scarce a milder tyrant than Despair.

With no past toils content, still planning new, no

Hope turns us o'er to Death alone for ease.

Possession, why, more tasteless than Pursuit ?

Why is a wish far dearer than a crown ?

That wish accomplished, why, the grave of bliss ?

Because, in the great future bury'd deep, 115

Beyond our plans of empire, and renown,

Lies all that Man with ardour should pursue ;

And HE who made him, bent him to the right.

Man's heart th' ALMIGHTY to the future sets,
By secret and inviolable springs ; 120

And makes his hope his sublunary joy.
Man's heart eats all things, and is hungry still ;
" More, more !" the glutton cries : For something new
So rages appetite, if Man can't mount,
He will descend. He starves on the possest. 125

Hence, the world's master, from ambition's spire,
In Caprea plung'd ; and div'd beneath the brute.
In that rank sty why wallow'd empire's son
Supreme ? Because he could no higher fly ;
His riot was ambition in despair. 130

Old Rome consulted birds ; LORENZO ! thou,
With more success, the flight of Hope survey ;
Of restless Hope, for ever on the wing.
High-perch'd o'er ev'ry thought that falcon sits,
To fly at all that rises in her sight ; 135

And, never stooping, but to mount again
Next moment, she betrays her aim's mistake,
And owns her quarry lodg'd beyond the grave.

y 2


There should it fail us (it must fail us there,
If being fails), more mournful riddles rise, 140

And Virtue vies with Hope in mystery.
Why Virtue ? Where its praise, its being fled ?
Virtue is true self-interest pursu'd :
What true self-interest of quite-mortal Man ?
To close with all that makes him happy here. 145

If Vice (as sometimes) is our friend on earth,
Then Vice is Virtue ; 't is our sovereign good.
In self- applause is Virtue's golden prize ;
No self-applause attends it on thy scheme :
Whence self-applause ? From conscience of the right.
And what is right, but means of happiness ? 151

No means of happiness when Virtue yields ;
That basis failing, falls the building too,
And lays in ruin every virtuous joy.

The rigid guardian of a blameless heart, 155

So long rever'd, so long reputed wise,
Is weak ; with rank knight-errantries o'er-run.
Why beats thy bosom with illustrious dreams
Of self-exposure, laudable and great ?
Of gallant enterprise, and glorious death ? 160

Die for thy country , ? Thou romantic fool !
Seize, seize the plank thyself, and let her sink :
Thy country ! what to thee ? The Godhead, what ?
(I speak with awe !) though He should bid thee bleed ?
If, with thy blood, thy final hope is spilt, 165

Nor can Omnipotence reward the blow j
Be deaf j preserve thy being j disobey.

Nor is it disobedience : Know, LORENZO !
Whatever th* ALMIGHTY'S subsequent command,
His first command is this : " Man, love thyself." 170


In this alone, free-agents are not free.

Existence is the basis, bliss the prize ;

If Virtue costs existence, 't is a crime ;

Bold violation of our law supreme,

Black suicide ; though nations, which consult 175

Their gain, at thy expence, resound applause.

Since Virtue's recompense is doubtful, here,
If Man dies wholly, well may we demand,
Why is Man suffer'd to be good in vain ?
Why to be good in vain, is Man injoin'd ? 180

Why to be good in vain, is Man betray 'd ?
Betray'd by traitors lodg'd in his own breast,
By sweet complacencies from Virtue felt ?
Why whispers Nature lies on Virtue's part ?
Or if blind Instinct (which assumes the name 185
Of sacred Conscience) plays the fool in Man,
Why Reason made accomplice in the cheat ?
Why are the wisest loudest in her praise ?
Can Man by Reason's beam be led astray ?
Or, at his peril, imitate his God? 190

Since Virtue sometimes ruins us on earth,
Or both are true ; or Man survives the grave.

Or Man survives the grave, or own, LORENZO,
Thy boast supreme, a wild absurdity.
Dauntless thy spirit; cowards are thy scorn. 195

Grant Man immortal, and thy scorn is just.
The Man immortal, rationally brave,
Dares rush on Death because he cannot die.
But if Man loses all, when life is lost,
He lives a coward, or a fool expires. 200

A daring infidel (and such there are,
From pride, example, lucre, rage, revenge.,


Or pure heroical defect of thought),

Of all Earth's madmen, most deserves a chain.

When to the grave we follow the renown'd 205
For valour, virtue, science, all we love,
And all we praise ; for worth, whose noon-tide beam,
Enabling us to think in higher style,
Mends our ideas of ethereal pow'rs ;
Dream we, that lustre of the moral world 210

Goes out in stench, and rottenness the close ?
Why was he wise to know, and warm to praise,
And strenuous to transcribe in human life,
The Mind Almighty ? Could it be, that Fate,
Just when the lineaments began to shine, 215

And dawn the Deity, should snatch the draught,
With night eternal blot it out, and give
The skies alarm, lest angels too might die I

If human souls, why not angelic too
Extinguished ? and a solitary God, 220

O'er ghastly ruin, frowning from his throne ?
Shall we this moment gaze on GOD in Man ?
The next, lose Man for ever in the dust ?
From dust we disengage, or Man mistakes ;
And there, where least his judgment fears a flaw. 225
Wisdom and worth, how boldly he commends !
AjVisdom and worth, are sacred names ; rever'd,
Where not embrac'd ; applauded ! deify'd !
Why not compassion'd too ? If spirits die,
Both are calamities, inflicted both 230

To make us but more wretched : Wisdom's eye
Acute, for what ? To spy more miseries ;
And worth so recompens'd, new-points their stings.
Or Man surmounts the grave, or gain is loss, .


And worth exalted humbles us the more. 235

Thou wilt not patronize a scheme that makes
Weakness, and Vice, the refuge of Mankind.

" Has Virtue then no joys?" Yes, joys dear-bought;
Talk ne'er so long, in this imperfect state,
Virtue, and Vice, are ac eternal war. 240

Virtue 's a combat ; and who fights for nought ?
Or for precarious, or for small reward ?
Who Virtue's self-reward so loud resound,
Would take degrees angelic here below,
And Virtue, while they compliment, betray, 245

By feeble motives, and unfaithful guards.
The crown, th' unfading crown, her soul inspires :
'T is that, and that alone, can countervail
The body's treach'ries, and the world's assaults :
On Earth's poor pay our famish'd virtue dies. 250
Truth incontestable ! in spite of all

A Bayle has preach'd, or a V e believ'd.

In Man the more we dive, the more we see

Heav'n's signet stamping an immortal make.

Dive to the bottom of his soul, the base 255

Sustaining all ; what find we ? Knowledge, Love.

As light, and heat, essential to the sun,

These to the soul. And why, if souls expire ?

How little lovely here ? how little known ?

Small knowledge we dig up with endless toil ! 260

And love unfeign'd may purchase perfect hate.

Why starv'd on earth, our angel-appetites ;

While brutal are indulg'd their fulsome fill ?

Were then capacities divine conferr'd

As a mock-diadem, in savage sport, 265

Rank insult of our pompous poverty,


Which reaps but pain, from seeming claims so fair ?

In future age lies no redress ? And shuts

Eternity the door on our complaint ?

If so, for what strange ends were mortals made ! 270

The worst to wallow, and the best to weep ;

The Man who merits most, must most complain.

Can we conceive a disregard in Heav'n,

What the worst perpetrate, or best endure ?

This cannot be. To love, and know, in Man 275
Is boundless appetite, and boundless pow'r ;
And these demonstrate boundless objects too.
Objects, pow'rs, appetites, Heav'n suits in all j
Nor, Nature through, e'er violates this sweet,
Eternal concord, on her tuneful string. 280

Is Man the sole exception from her laws ?
Eternity struck off from human hope
(I speak with truth, but veneration too),
Man is a monster, the reproach of Heav'n,
A stain, a dark impenetrable cloud 285

On Nature's beauteous aspect ; and deforms,
(Amazing blot !) deforms her with her Lord.
If such is Man's allotment, what is Heav'n ?
Or own the soul immortal, or blaspheme.

Or own the soul immortal, or invert 290

All order. Go, mock-majesty ! go, Man !
And bow to thy superiors of the stall ;
Through ev'ry scene of Sense superior far :
They graze the turf untill'd j they drink the stream
Unbrew'd, and ever full, and un-embitter'd 295

With doubts, fears, fruitless hopes, regrets, despairs j
Mankind's peculiar ! Reason's precious dow'r !
No foreign clime they ransack for their robes j

t'l !(: Hi. !. ;//.


t' eaoulAr ;

mucn>- /Ci&er jn/ our ct^i/ M

// ^ / /~i^ i /

;/z<2x att>&) ./Tie/ 4xt<tte/ of iSf <;//*/ .

Ni^.t ;. i..i

/ attw

h' J.fartoru, u , Atemosttr Awf. I >ft f I " J-J<)3 .


Nor brothers cite to the litigious bar j

Their good is good entire, unmix'd, unmarr'd ; 300-

They find a paradise in ev'ry field,

On boughs forbidden where no curses hang :

Their ill, no more than strikes the sense ; unstretch'd

By previous dread, or murmur in the rear ;

When the worst comes, it comes unfear'd ; one stroke

Begins, and ends, their woe : They die but once j 306

Blest, incommunicable privilege ! for which

Proud Man, who rules the globe, and reads the stars,

Philosopher, or hero, sighs in vain.

Account for this prerogative in brutes. 3 1 o

No day, no glimpse of day, to solve the knot,
But what beams on it from Eternity.
O sole and sweet solution ! that unties
The difficult, and softens the severe ;
The cloud on Nature's beauteous face dispels ; 315
Restores bright order ; casts the brute beneath ;
And re-inthrones us in supremacy
Of joy, ev'n here : Admit immortal life,
And Virtue is knight-errantry no more ;
Each Virtue brings in hand a golden dow'r, 320

Far richer in reversion : Hope exults ;
And though much bitter in our cup is thrown,
Predominates, and gives the taste of Heav'n.
O wherefore is the DEITY so kind ?
Astonishing beyond astonishment! 325

Heav'n our reward for Heav'n enjoy'd below.

Still unsubdu'd thy stubborn heart ? For there
The traitor lurks, who doubts the truth I sing.
Reason is guiltless ; Will alone rebels.
What, in that stubborn heart, if I should find 330



New, unexpected witnesses against thee ?
Ambition, Pleasure, and the Love of Gain !
Canst thou suspect that these, which make the soul
The slave of Earth, should own her heir of Heav'n ?
Canst thou suspect what makes us disbelieve 335

Our immortality, should prove it. sure ?

First, then, Ambition summon to the bar.
Ambition's shame, extravagance, disgust,
And inextinguishable nature, speak.
Each much deposes ; hear them in their turn. 340

Thy soul, how passionately fond of fame !
How anxious, that fond passion to conceal !
We blush, detected in designs on praise,
Though for best deeds, and from the best of men ;
And why ? Because immortal. Art divine 345

Has made the body tutor to the soul :
Heav'n kindly gives our blood a moral flow ;
Bids it ascend the glowing cheek, and there
Upbraid that little heart's inglorious aim,
Which stoops to court a character from Man j 350
While o'er us, in tremendous judgment sit
Far more than Man, with endless praise, and blame.

Ambition's boundless appetite out-speaks
The verdict of its shame. When souls take fire
At high presumptions of their own desert, 355

One age is poor applause ; the mighty shout,
The thunder by the living few begun,
Late time must echo ; worlds unborn, resound.
We wish our names eternally to live :
Wild dream ! which ne'er had haunted human thought,
Had not our natures been eternal too. 361

Instinct points out an int'rest in hereafter j


But our blind reason sees not where it lies ;
Or, seeing, gives the substance for the shade.

Fame is the shade of immortality, 365

And in itself a shadow. Soon as caught,
Contemn'd ; it shrinks to nothing in the grasp.
Consult th* ambitious, 't is ambition's cure.
" And is this all ?" cry'd Caesar at his height,
Disgusted. This third proof Ambition brings 370
Of immortality. The first in fame,
Observe him near, your envy will abate:
Sham'd at the disproportion vast, between
The passion and the purchase, he will sigh
At such success, and blush at his renown. 375

And why ? Because far richer prize invites
His heart ; far more illustrious glory calls ;
It calls in whispers, yet the deafest hear.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 10 of 24)