Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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Which, as it call'd forth all things, can recall,
And force Destruction to refund her spoil ? 915

Command the grave restore her taken prey ?
Bid Death's dark vale its human harvest yield,
And earth, and ocean, pay their debt of Man,
True to the grand deposit trusted there ?
Is there no potentate, whose out-stretch'd arm 920
When rip'ning time calls forth th' appointed hour,
Pluck'd from foul Devastation's famish'd maw,
Binds present, past, and future, to his throne ?
His throne, how glorious, thus divinely grac'd,
By germinating beings clust'ring round ! 925

A garland worthy the Divinity !
A throne, by Heav'n's omnipotence in smiles,
Built (like a Pharos tovv'ring in the waves)
Amidst immense effusions of his love !
An ocean of communicated bliss ! 930

An all-prolific, all-preserving God !
This were a God indeed. And such is Man,
As here presum'd : He rises from his fall.
Think'st thou omnipotence a naked root,

Each blossom fair of Deity destroy'd , ? 935


Nothing is dead ; nay, nothing sleeps ; each soul,

That ever animated human clay,

Now wakes ; is on the wing : And where, O where,

Will the swarm settle ? When the trumpet's call,

As sounding brass, collects us, round Heav'n's throne

Conglob'd we bask in everlasting day, 941

(Paternal splendour !) and adhere for ever.

Had not the soul this outlet to the skies,

In this vast vessel of the universe,

How should we gasp, as in an empty void ! 945

How in the pangs of famish'd hope expire !

How bright my prospect shines ! how gloomy thine!
A trembling world ! and a devouring God !
Earth, but the shambles of Omnipotence !
Heav'n's face all stain'd with causeless massacres 950
Of countless millions, born to feel the pang
Of being lost. LORENZO ! can it be ?
This bids us shudder at the thoughts of life.
Who would be born to such a phantom world,
Where nought substantial, but bur misery ? 955

Where joy (if joy) but heightens our distress,
So soon to perish, and revive no more ?
The greater such a joy, the more it pains.
A world, so far from great, (and yet how great
It shines to thee !) there 's nothing real in it j 960
Being, a shadow ! Consciousness, a dream !
A dream, how dreadful ! Universal blank
Before it, and behind ! Poor Man, a spark
From non-existence struck by wrath divine,
Glitt'ring a moment, nor that moment sure, 965

'Midst upper, nether, and surrounding night,
His sad, sure, sudden, and eternal tomb !


LORENZO ! dost thou feel these arguments ?
Or is there nought but vengeance can be felt ?
How hast thou dar'd the DEITY dethrone ? 970

How dar'd indict him of a world like this ?
If such the world, creation was a crime ;
For what is crime, but cause of misery ?
Retract, blasphemer ! and unriddle this,
Of endless arguments above, below, 975

Without us, and within, the short result
" If Mans immortal, there J s a GOD in Heav'n."

But wherefore such redundancy ? such waste
Of argument ? One sets my soul at rest j
One obvious, and at hand, and, oh ! at heart. 980
So just the skies, PHILANDER'S life so pain'd,
His heart so pure ; that or succeeding scenes
Have palms to give, or ne'er had he been born.

" What an old tale is this !" LORENZO cries.
I grant this argument is old ; but truth 985

No years 'impair ; and had not this been true,
Thou never hadst despis'd it for its age.
Truth is immortal as thy soul ; and fable
As fleeting as thy joys : Be wise, nor make
Heav'n's highest blessing, vengeance j O be wise ! 990
Nor make a curse of immortality.

Say, know'st thou what it is ? or what thou art ?
Know'st thou th* importance of a soul immortal ?
Behold this midnight glory : Worlds on worlds !
Amazing pomp ! Redouble this amaze ; 995

Ten thousand add ; add twice ten thousand more ;
Then weigh the whole ; one soul outweighs them all j
And calls th 1 astonishing magnificence
Of unintelligent creation poor.


For this, believe not me ; no man believe ; 1000
Trust not in words, but deeds ; and deeds no less
Than those of the SUPREME ; nor his, a few;
Consult them all ; consulted, all proclaim
Thy soul's importance: Tremble at thyself;
For whom Omnipotence has wak'd so long : 1005

Has wak'd, and work'd, for ages ; from the birth
Of Nature to this unbelieving hour.

In this small province of his vast domain
(All Nature bow, while I pronounce his name !)
What has GOD done, and not for this sole end, 1010
To rescue souls from death ? The soul's high price
Is writ in all the conduct of the skies.
The soul's high price is the creation's key,
Unlocks its mysteries, and naked lays
The genuine cause of ev'ry deed divine : 1015

That, is the chain of ages, which maintains
Their obvious correspondence, and unites
Most distant periods in one blest design :
That, is the mighty hinge, on which have turn'd
All revolutions, whether we regard 1020

The nat'ral, civil, or religious, world ;
The former two, but servants to the third :
To that their duty done, they both expire,
Their mass new-cast, forgot their deeds renown'd ;
And angels ask, " Where once they shone so fair ?"

To lift us from this abject, to sublime; 1026

This flux, to permanent; this dark, to day;
This foul, to pure ; this turbid, to serene ;
This mean, to mighty ! for this glorious end
Th' ALMIGHTY, rising, his long sabbath broke; 1030
The world was made ; was ruin'd ; was restor'd ;


Laws from the skies were publish'd ; were repeal'd ;

On earth, kings, kingdoms, rose; kings, kingdoms, fell j

Fam'd sages lighted up the Pagan world ;

Prophets from Sion darted a keen glance 10 35

Through distant age ; saints travelPd ; martyrs bled j

By wonders sacred Nature stood controll'd ;

The living were translated ; dead were rais'd ;

Angels, and more than angels, came from Heav'n ;

And, oh! for this, descended lower still ; 1040

Gilt was hell's gloom ; astonish'd at his guest,

For one short moment Lucifer ador'd :

LORENZO ! and wilt thou do less ? For this,

That hallow'd page, fools scoff at, was inspir'd,

Of all these truths thrice-venerable code ! 1045

Deists ! perform your quarantine ; and then

Fall prostrate, ere you touch it, lest you die.

Nor less intensely bent infernal pow'rs
To mar, than those of light, this end to gain.
O what a scene is here ! LORENZO ! wake, 1050
Rise to the thought ; exert, expand thy soul
To take the vast idea : It denies
All else the name of great. Two warring worlds,
Not Europe against Afric ; warring worlds,
Of more than mortal ! mounted on the wing ! 1055
On ardent wings of energy, and zeal,
High-hov'ring o'er this little brand of strife !
This sublunary ball but strife, for what?
In their own cause conflicting ? No ; in thine,
In Man 's. His single interest blows the flame ; 1060
His the sole stake ; his fate the trumpet sounds,
Which kindles war immortal. How it burns !
Tumultuous swarms of deities in arms !

Force, force opposing, till the waves run high,

And tempest Nature's universal sphere. 1065

Such opposites eternal, stedfast, stern,

Such foes implacable, are good, and ill ;

Yet Man, vain Man, would mediate peace between them.

Think not this fiction. " There was war in heav'n."
From heav'n's high crystal mountain, where it hung,
Th' ALMIGHTY'S out-stretcht arm took down his bow,
And shot his indignation at the deep : 1072

Re-thunder'd Hell, and darted all her fires.
And seems the stake of little moment still ?
And slumbers Man, who singly caus'd the storm ? 1075
He sleeps. And art thou shock'd at mysteries ?
The greatest, thou. How dreadful to reflect,
What ardour, care, and counsel, mortals cause
In breasts divine ! How little in their own !

Where-e'er I turn, how new proofs pour upon me !
How happily this wondrous view supports 1081

My former argument ! How strongly strikes
Immortal life's full demonstration, here !
Why this exertion ? why this strange regard
From heav'n's Omnipotent indulg'd to Man ? 1085
Because, in Man, the glorious, dreadful pow'r,
Extremely to be pain'd, or blest, for ever.
Duration gives importance ; swells the price.
An angel, if a creature of a day,
What would he be ? A trifle of no weight ; 1090

Or stand, or fall ; no matter which ; he 's gone.
Because immortal, therefore is indulg'd
This strange regard of deities to dust.
Hence, Heav'n looks down on Earth with all her eyes :
Hence, the soul's mighty moment in her sight : 1095

c c


Hence, ev'ry soul has partizans above,

And ev'ry thought a critic in the skies :

Hence, clay, vile clay ! has angels for its guard,

And ev'ry guard a passion for his charge :

Hence, from all age, the cabinet divine noo

Has held high counsel o'er the fate of Man.

Nor have the clouds those gracious counsels hid.
Angels undrew the curtain of the throne,
And PROVIDENCE came forth to meet mankind;
In various modes of emphasis and awe, 1105

He spoke his. will, and trembling Nature heard j
He spoke it loud, in thunder, and in storm.
Witness, thou Sinai ! whose cloud-cover'd height,
And shaken basis, own'd the present GOD :
Witftess, ye billows ! whose returning tide, ' 1 1 to
Breaking the chain that fasten'd it in air,
Swept Egypt, and her menaces, to hell :
Witness, ye flames th' Assyrian tyrant blew
To sev'n-fold rage, as impotent, as strong :
And thou, Earth! witness, whose expanding jaws 1115
Clos'd o'er presumption's sacrilegious sons :
Has not each element, in turn, subscrib'd
The soul's high price, and sworn it to the wise ?
Has not flame, ocean, aether, earthquake, strove
To strike this truth through adamantine Man? 1120
If not all-adamant, LORENZO ! hear ;
All is delusion, Nature is wrapt up,
In tenfold night, from Reason's keenest eye ;
There 's no consistence, meaning, plan, or end,
In all beneath the sun, in all above 1 125

(As far as Man can penetrate), or heav'n
Is an immense, inestimable prize - 9


Or all is nothing, or that prize is all.

And shall each toy be still a match for heav'n ?

And full equivalent for groans below ? 1 1 30

Who would not give a trifle to prevent

What he would give a thousand worlds to cure ?

LORENZO! thou hast seen (if thine, to see)
All Nature, and her GOD (by Nature's course,
And Nature's course controll'd), declare for me : 1135
The skies above proclaim " Immortal Man !"
And " Man immortal !" all below resounds.
The world 's a system of theology,
Read, by the greatest strangers to the schools ;
If honest, learn'd; and sages o'er a plough. 1140
Is not, LORENZO ! then, impos'd on thee
This hard alternative ; or, to renounce
Thy reason, and thy sense ; or, to believe ?
What then is unbelief ? 'T is an exploit ;
A strenuous enterprise : To gain it, Man 1 145

Must burst through ev'ry bar of common sense,
Of common shame, magnanimously wrong.
And what rewards the sturdy combatant ?
His prize, repentance ; infamy his crown.

But wherefore infamy ? For want of faith, 1150
Down the steep precipice of wrong he slides ;
There 's nothing to support him in the right.
Faith in the future wanting, is, at least
In embryo, ev'ry weakness, ev'ry guilt ;
And strong temptation ripens it to birth. XI 55

If this life's gain invites him to the deed,
Why not his country sold, his father slain ?
*T is virtue to pursue our good supreme ;
And his supreme, his only good is here.

c c 2


Ambition, Av'rice, by the wise disdain'd, 1160

Is perfect wisdom, while mankind are fools,

And think a turf, or tombstone, covers all :

These find employment, and provide for sense

A richer pasture, and a larger range ;

And sense by right divine ascends the throne, 1165

When Virtue's prize and prospect are no more ;

Virtue no more we think the will of Heav'n.

Would Heav'n quite beggar Virtue, if belov'd ?

" Has Virtue charms ?" I grant her heav'nly fair ;
But if unportion'd, all will Int'rest wed j 1170

Though that our admiration, this our choice.
The Virtues grow on Immortality ;
That root destroyed, they wither and expire.
A DEITY believ'd, will nought avail j
Rewards and punishments make GOD ador'd ; i*75
And hopes and fears give Conscience all her pow'r.
As in the dying parent dies the child,
Virtue, with Immortality, expires.
Who tells me he denies his soul immortal,
Whate'er his boast, has told me, he's a knave. 1180
His duty 't is, to love himself alone j
Nor care though mankind perish, if he smiles.
Who thinks ere-long the Man shall wholly die,
Is dead already; nought but brute survives,

And are there such ? Such candidates there are
For more than death ; for utter loss of being, 1 1 86
Being, the basis of the DEITY !
Ask you the cause ? The cause they will not tell :
Nor need they : Oh the sorceries of sense !
They work this transformation on the soul, 1 190

Dismount her like the serpent at the fall,


Dismount her from her native wing (which soar'd
Ere-while ethereal heights), and throw her down,
To lick the dust, and crawl, in such a thought.

Is it in words to paint you ? O ye fall'n ! 1 195

Fall'n from the wings of reason, and of hope !
Erect in stature, prone in appetite !
Patrons of pleasure, posting into pain!
Lovers of argument, averse to sense !
Boasters of liberty, fast-bound in chains! 1200

Lords of the wide creation, and the shame !
More senseless than th' irrationals you scorn !
More base than those you rule ! than those you pity,
Far more Undone ! O ye most infamous
Of beings, from superior dignity! 1205

Deepest in woe from means of boundless bliss !
Ye curst by blessings infinite ! because
Most highly favoured, most profoundly lost !
Ye motley mass of contradiction strong !
And are you, too, convinced, your souls fly off 1210
In exhalation soft, and die in air,
From the full flood of evidence against you ?
In the coarse drudgeries and sinks of sense,
Your souls have quite worn out the make of heav'n,
By vice new-cast, and creatures of your own : 1215
But though you can deform, you can't destroy ;
To curse, not uncreate, is all your pow'r.

LORENZO ! this black brotherhood renounce j
Renounce St. Evremont, and read St. Paul.
Ere rapt by miracle, by reason wing'd, 1220

His mounting mind made long abode in heav'n.
This is freethinking, unconfin'd to parts,
To send the soul, on curious travel bent,


Through all the provinces of human thought ;

To dart her flight through the whole sphere of Man ;

Of this vast universe to make the tour j 1226

In each recess of space, and time, at home ;

Familiar with their wonders ; diving deep ;

And like a prince of boundless int'rests there,

Still most ambitious of the most remote; 1230

To look on truth unbroken, and entire j

Truth in the system, the full orb ; ^here truths

By truths enlightened, and sustain'd, afford

An arch-like, strong foundation, to support

Th' incumbent weight of absolute, complete 1235

Conviction ; here, the more we press, we stand

More firm ; who most examine most believe.

Parts, like half-sentences, confound j the whole

Conveys the sense, and GOD is understood ;

Who not in fragments writes to human race: 1240

Read his whole volume, sceptic ! then reply.

This, this, is thinking free, a thought that grasps
Beyond a grain, and looks beyond an hour.
Turn up thine eye, survey this midnight scene ;
What are earth's kingdoms, to yon boundless orbs,
Of human souls one day the destin'd range ? 1 246

And what yon boundless orbs to godlike Man ?
Those num'rous worlds that throng the firmament,
And ask more space in heav'n, can roll at large
In Man's capacious thought, and still leave room 1 250
For ampler orbs ; for new creations, there.
Can such a soul contract itself, to gripe
A point of no dimension, of no weight ?
It can ; it does : The world is such a point :
And of that point, how small a part enslaves ! 1255


How small a part ! of nothing, shall I say ?
Why not ? Friends, our chief treasure ! how they drop !
The grave, like fabled Cerberus, has op'd
A triple mouth ; and, in an awful voice, 1260

Loud calls my soul, and utters all I sing.
How the world falls to pieces round about us !
And leaves us in a ruin of our joy !
What says this transportation of my friends ?
It bids me love the place where now they dwell, 1265
And scorn this wretched spot, they leave so poor.
Eternity's vast ocean lies before thee ;
There, there, LORENZO ! thy CLARISSA sails.
Give thy mind sea-room ; keep it wide of earth,
That rock of souls immortal ; cut thy cord ; 1270
Weigh anchor ; spread thy sails j call ev'ry wind ;
Eye thy great Pole-star ; make the land of life.

Two kinds of life has double-natur'd Man,
And two of death ; the last far more severe.
Life animal is nurtur'd by the sun ; I2 75

Thrives on his bounties, triumphs in his beams.
Life rational subsists on higher food,
Triumphant in his beams, who made the day.
When we leave that sun, and are left by this
(The fate of all who die in stubborn guilt), 1280

'T is utter darkness ; strictly double death.
We sink by no judicial stroke of Heav'n,
But Nature's course ; as sure as plummets fall.
Since GOD, or Man, must alter, ere they meet
(Since light and darkness blend not in one sphere),
'T is manifest, LORENZO! who must change. 1286

If, then, that double death should prove thy lot,


Blame not the bowels of the DEITY ;

Man shall be blest, as far as Man permits.

Not Man alone, all rationals, Heav'n arms 1 290

With an illustrious, but tremendous pow'r

To counteract its own most gracious ends ;

And this, of strict necessity, not choice :

That pow'r deny'd, men, angels were no more,

But passive engines, void of praise, or blame. 1295

A nature rational implies the pow'r

Of being blest, or wretched, as we please ;

Else idle Reason would have nought to do ;

And he that would be barr'd capacity

Of pain, courts incapacity of bliss. ^oo

Heav'n wills our happiness, allows our doom ;

Invites us ardently, but not compels ;

Heav'n but persuades, almighty Man decrees j

Man is the maker of immortal fates.

Man falls by Man, if finally he falls ; 1305

And fall he must, who learns from Death alone

The dreadful secret that he lives for ever.

Why this to thee ? thee yet, perhaps, in doubt
Of second life ! But wherefore doubtful still ?
Eternal life is Nature's ardent wish : 1 Z IQ

What ardently we wish, we soon believe ;
Thy tardy faith declares that wish destroy'd :
What has destroy'd it ? Shall I tell thee, what ?
When fear'd the future, 't is no longer wish'd ;
And, when unwish'd, we strive to disbelieve. 13*5
" Thus Infidelity our guilt betrays."
Nor that the sole detection ! Blush, LORENZO !
Blush for hypocrisy, if not for guilt.
The future fear'd ? An infidel ! and fear !


Fear what ? a dream ? a fable ? How thy dread, 1320

Unwilling evidence, and therefore strong,

Affords my cause an undesign'd support !

How disbelief affirms, what it denies !

" It, unawares, asserts immortal life."

Surprising! Infidelity turns out *3 2 5

A creed, and a confession of our sins :

Apostates, thus, are orthodox divines.

LORENZO ! with LORENZO clash no more :
Nor longer a transparent vizor wear.
Think'st thou, Religion only has the mask ? 1330
Our infidels are Satan's hypocrites,
Pretend the worst, and, at the bottom, fail.
When visited by thought (thought will intrude),
Like him they serve, they tremble, and believe.
Is there hypocrisy so foul as this ? J 335

So fatal to the welfare of the world ?
"What detestation, what contempt, their due !
And, if unpaid, be thank'd for their escape
That Christian candour they strive hard to scorn.
If not for that asylum, they might find 1340

A hell on earth ; nor 'scape a worse below.

With insolence, and impotence of thought,
Instead of racking fancy, to refute,
Reform thy manners, and the truth enjoy.
But shall I dare confess the dire result ? 1345

Can thy proud Reason brook so black a brand ?
From purer manners, to sublimer faith,
Is Nature's unavoidable ascent j
An honest deist, where the gospel shines,
Matur'd to nobler, in the Christian ends.
When that blest change arrives, e'en cast aside



This song superfluous ; life immortal strikes

Conviction, in a flood of light divine.

A Christian dwells, like Uriel, in the sun.

Meridian evidence puts Doubt to flight j J 355

And ardent Hope anticipates the skies.

Of that bright sun, LORENZO ! scale the sphere ;

'T is easy ; it invites thee ; it descends

From heav'n to woo, and waft thee whence it came :

Read and revere the sacred page ; a page 1360

Where triumphs immortality ; a page

Which not the whole creation could produce j

Which not the conflagration shall destroy ;

In Nature's ruins not one letter lost :

'T is printed in the mind of gods for ever. 1365

In proud disdain of what e'en gods adore,
Dost smile ? Poor wretch ! thy guardian angel weeps.
Angels, and Men, assent to what I sing ;
Wits smile, and thank me for my midnight dream.
How vicious hearts fume phrenzy to the brain ! 1370
Parts push us on to pride, and pride to shame ;
Pert Infidelity is Wit's cockade,
To grace the brazen brow that braves the skies,
By loss of being, dreadfully secure.
LORENZO ! if thy doctrine wins the day, '375

And drives my dreams, defeated, from the field ;
If this is all, if earth 's the final scene,
Take heed ; stand fast ; be sure to be a knave ;
A knave in grain ! ne'er deviate to the right :
Shouldst thou be good how infinite thy loss! 1380
Guilt only makes annihilation gain.
Blest scheme ! which life deprives of comfort, death
Of hope , and which Vice only recommends.


If so ; where, infidels ! your bait thrown out
To catch weak converts ? Where your lofty boast 1385
Of zeal for Virtue, and of love to Man ?
Annihilation ! I confess, in these.

What can reclaim you ? Dare I hope profound
Philosophers the converts of a song ?
Yet know, its title flatters you, not me; I 39

Yours be the praise to make my title good ;
Mine, to bless Heav'n, and triumph in your praise.
But since so pestilential your disease,
Though sov'reign is the med'cine I prescribe,
As yet, I'll neither triumph, nor despair: 1395

But hope, ere long, my midnight dream will wake
Your hearts, and teach your wisdom to be wise :
For why should souls immortal, made for bliss,
E'er wish (and wish in vain !) that souls could die ?
What ne'er can die, oh ! grant to live ; and crown
The wish, and aim, and labour of the skies j 1401
Increase, and enter on the joys of heav'n :
Thus shall my title pass a sacred seal,
Receive an imprimatur from above,
While angels shout An Infidel reclaim'd! 1405

To close, LORENZO ! spite of all my pains,
Still seems it strange, that thou shouldst live for ever ?
Is it less strange that thou shouldst live at all ?
This is a miracle ; and that no more.
Who gave beginning, can exclude an end. 1410

Deny thou art : Then doubt if thou shalt be.
A miracle with miracles inclos'd,
Is Man : And starts his faith at what is strange ?
What less than wonders, from the Wonderful ?
What less than miracles from GOD can flow? 1415

D D 2


Admit a GOD that mystery supreme !

That Cause uncaus'd ! All other wonders cease j

Nothing is marvellous for him to do :

Deny him all is mystery besides ;

Millions of mysteries! each darker far, 1420

Than that thy wisdom would, unwisely, shun.

If weak thy faith, why chuse the harder side ?

We nothing know, but what is marvellous ;

Yet what is marvellous, we can't believe.

So weak our reason, and so great our GOD, 1425

What most surprises in the sacred page,

Or full as strange, or stranger, must be true.

Faith is not Reason's labour, but repose.

To Faith, and Virtue, why so backward Man ?
From hence : The present strongly strikes us allj 1430
The future, faintly : Can we, then, be Men ?
If Men, LORENZO ! the reverse is right.

Reason is Man's peculiar : Sense, the brute's.
The present is the scanty realm of Sense ;

The future, Reason's empire unconfin'd : J 435

On that expending all her godlike pow'r,

She plans, provides, expatiates, triumphs, there ;

There builds her blessings ; there expects her praise ;

And nothing asks of Fortune, or of Men.

And what is Reason ? Be she thus defin'd : 1440

Reason is upright stature in the soul.

Oh ! be a Man ; and strive to be a God.

" For what? (thou say'st:) To damp the joys of life?"

No ; to give heart and substance to thy joys.

That tyrant Hope, mark, how she domineers ; 1445

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Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 12 of 24)