Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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She bids us quit realities, for dreams ;

Safety and peace, for hazard and alarm j


That tyrant o'er the tyrants of the soul,

She bids Ambition quit its taken prize,

Spurn the luxuriant branch on which it sits, 1450

Though bearing crowns, to spring at distant game j

And plunge in toils and dangers for repose.

If hope precarious, and if things, when gairi'd,

Of little moment, and as little stay,

Can sweeten toils and dangers into joys ; J 45S

What then, that hope, which nothing can defeat,

Our leave unask'd? rich hope of boundless bliss !

Bliss, past Man's pow'r to paint it ; time's, to close !

This hope is earth's most estimable prize :
This is Man's portion, while no more than Man :
Hope, of all passions, most befriends us here ; 1461
Passions of prouder name befriend us less.
Joy has her tears ; and Transport has her death ;
Hope, like a cordial, innocent though strong,
Man's heart, at once, inspirits and serenes ; 1465

Nor makes him pay his wisdom for his joys :
'T is all, our present state can safely bear,
Health to the frame ! and vigour to the mind !
A joy attemper'd ! a chastis'd delight !
Like the fair summer-ev'ning, mild, and sweet ! 1470
'T is Man's full cup j his paradise below !

A blest hereafter, then, or hop'd, or gain'd,
Is all ; our whole of happiness : Full proof,
I chose no trivial or inglorious theme.
And know, ye foes to song ! (well-meaning Men, 1475
Though quite forgotten half your Bible's praise I)
Important truths, in spite of verse, may please :
Grave minds you praise ; nor can you praise too much :
If there is weight in an eternity,
Let the grave listen j and be graver still. 1480









AND has all Nature, then, espous'd my part ?

Have I brib'd heav'n, and earth, to plead against thee ?

And is thy soul immortal ? What remains ?

All, all, LORENZO; make immortal, blest.

Unblest immortals ! what can shock us more ? 5

And yet LORENZO still affects the world ;

There, stows his treasure j thence, his title draws,


Man of the World ! (for such wouldst thou be call'd j)

And art thou proud of that inglorious style ?

Proud of reproach ? for a reproach it was, 10

In ancient days ; and Christian in an age,

When men were men, and not asham'd of heav'n

Fir'd their ambition, as it crown'd their joy.

Sprinkled with dews from the Castalian font,

Fain would I re-baptize thee, and confer 1 5

A purer spirit, and a nobler name.

Thy fond attachments fatal, and inflam'd,
Point out my path, and dictate to my song :
To thee, the world how fair ! how strongly strikes
Ambition ! and gay Pleasure stronger still ! 20

Thy triple bane ! the triple bolt, that lays
Thy virtue dead ! be these my triple theme ;
Nor shall thy wit or wisdom be forgot.

Common the theme ; not so the song ; if she
My song invokes, Urania, deigns to smile. 25

The charm that chains us to the world, her foe,
If she dissolves, the man of earth, at once,
Starts from his trance, and sighs for other scenes ;
Scenes, where these sparks of night, these stars, shall


Unnumber'd suns (for all things, as they are, 30

The blest behold) ; and, in one glory, pour
Their blended blaze on Man's astonish'd sight j
A blaze the least illustrious objecl: there.

LORENZO ! since eternal is at hand,
To swallow Time's ambitions ; as the vast 35

Leviathan, the bubbles vain, that ride
High on the foaming billow ; what avail
High titles, high descent, attainments high,


If unattain'd our highest ? O LORENZO !
What lofty thoughts, these elements above, 40

What tow'ring hopes, what sallies from the sun,
What grand surveys of destiny divine,
And pompous presage of unfathom'd fate,
Should roll in bosoms, where a spirit burns,
Bound for eternity ! in bosoms read 45

By Him, who foibles in archangels sees !
On human hearts He bends a jealous eye,
And marks, and in heav'n's register inrolls,
The rise, and progress, of each option there ;
Sacred to doomsday ! That the page unfolds, 50

And spreads us to the gaze of gods and men.
And what an option, O LORENZO! thine?
This world ! and this, unrivalPd by the skies !
A world, where lust of pleasure, grandeur, gold,
Three daemons that divide its realms between them, 55
With strokes alternate buffet to and fro
Man's restless heart, their sport, their flying ball j
Till, with the giddy circle sick and tir'd,
It pants for peace, and drops into despair.
Such is the world LORENZO sets above 6*0

That glorious promise, angels were esteem'd
Too mean to bring ; a promise, their Ador'd
Descended to communicate, and press,
By counsel, miracle, life, death, on Man.
Such is the world LORENZO'S wisdom vvoos, 65

And on its thorny pillow seeks repose ;
A pillow, which, like opiates ill-prepar'd,
Intoxicates, but not composes ; fills
The visionary mind with gay chimeras,
All the wild trash of sleep, without the rest j 70



What unfeign'd travel, and what dreams of joy !

How frail, men, things ! how momentary both 1
Fantastic chase, of shadows hunting shades !
The gay, the busy, equal, though unlike ;
Equal in wisdom, differently wise ! 75

Through flow'ry meadows, and through dreary wastes,
One bustling, and one dancing, into death.
There 's not a day, but, to the man of thought,
Betrays some secret, that throws new reproach
On life, and makes him sick of seeing more. 80

The scenes of bus'ness tell us " what are men ;"
The scenes of pleasure " what is all beside :"
There, others we despise ; and here, ourselves.
Amid disgust eternal, dwells delight ?
*T is approbation strikes the string of joy. 85

What wondrous prize has kindled this career,
Stuns with the din, and choaks us with the dust a
On life's gay stage, one inch above the grave ?
The proud run up and down in quest of eyes \
The sensual, in pursuit of something worse ; 90

The grave, of gold j the politic, of pow'r ;
And all, of other butterflies, as vain !
As eddies draw things frivolous, and light,
How is Man's heart by vanity drawn in !
On the swift circle of returning toys, 95

Whirl'd, straw-like, round arid round, and then in-

Where gay delusion darkens to despair !

" This is a beaten track." Is this a track
Should not be beaten ? Never beat enough,
Till enough learnt the truths it would inspire. 100
Shall Truth be silent, because Folly frowns ?


Turn the world's history ; what find we there,

But Fortune's sports, or Nature's cruel claims,

Or Woman's artifice, or Man's revenge,

And endless inhumanities on Man? 105

Fame's trumpet seldom sounds, but, like the knell,

It brings bad tidings ! How it hourly blows

Man's misadventures round the list'ning world !

Man is the tale of narrative old Time ;

Sad tale! which high as Paradife begins j HO

As if, the toil of travel to delude,

From stage to stage, in his eternal round,

The Days, his daughters, as they spin our hours

On Fortune's wheel, where accident unthought

Oft, in a moment, snaps life's strongest thread, 115

Each, in her turn, some tragic story tells,

With, now and then, a wretched farce between ;

And fills his chronicle with human woes.

Time's daughters, true as those of men, deceive us ;
Not one, but puts some cheat on all mankind : 120
While in their father's bosom, not yet ours,
They flatter our fond hopes ; and promise much
Of amiable ; but hold him not o'erwise,
Who dares to trufl them ; and laugh round the year,
At still-confiding, still-confounded Man ; 125

Confiding, though confounded ; hoping on,
Untaught by trial, unconvinc'd by proof,
And ever looking for the never-seen :
Life to the last, like harden'd felons, lies ;
Nor owns itself a cheat, till it expires. 130

Its little joys go out by one and one,
And leave poor Man, at length, in perfect night ;
Night, darker than what, now, involves the pole.



O THOU, who dost permit these ills to fall, 134
For gracious ends, and wouldst that Man should mourn!
O THOU, whose hand this goodly fabric fram'd,
Who kno w'st it best, and wouldst that Man should know!
What is this sublunary world ? a vapour !
A vapour all it holds j itself a vapour,
From the damp bed of chaos, by thy beam 140

Exhal'd, ordain'd to swim its destin'd hour
In ambient air, then melt, and disappear.
Earth's days are numbered, nor remote her doom ;
As mortal, though less transient, than her sons j
Yet they doat on her, as the world and they 145

Were both eternal, solid ; THOU ! a dream. .
They doat, on what ? Immortal views apart,
A region of outsides ! a land of shadows !
A fruitful field of flow'ry promises !
A wilderness of joys, perplex'd with doubts, 150

And sharp with thorns ! a troubled ocean, spread
With bold adventurers, their all on board ;
No second hope, if here their fortune frowns ;
Frown soon it must. Of various rates they sail,
Of ensigns various i all alike in this, 155

All restless, anxious ; tost with hopes and fears,
In calmest skies ; obnoxious all to storm !
And stormy the most general blast of life ;
All bound for Happiness ; yet few provide
The chart of Knowledge, pointing where it lies ; 1 60
Or Virtue's helm, to shape the course design'd ;
All, more or less, capricious fate lament,
Now lifted by the tide, and now resorb'd,
And farther from their wishes than before ;
All, more or less, against each other dash, 165


To mutual hurt, by gusts of passion driv'n,
And suff'ring more from folly than from fate.

Ocean ! thou dreadful and tumultuous home
Of dangers, at eternal war with Man !
Death's capital, where most he domineers, 170

With all his chosen terrors frowning round
(Though lately feasted high at Albion 's cost),
Wide-op'ning, and loud-roaring still for more !
Too faithful mirror ; how dost thou reflect
The melancholy face of human life ! 175

The strong resemblance tempts me farther still :
And, haply, Britain may be deeper struck
By moral truth, in such a mirror seen,
Which Nature holds for ever at her eye.

Self-flatter'd, unexperienc'd, high in hope, 180
When young, with sanguine cheer, and streamers gay,
We cut our cable, launch into the world,
And fondly dream each wind and star our friend ;
All, in some darling enterprise embark'd :
But where is he can fathom its event ? 185

Amid a multitude of artless hands,
Ruin's sure perquisite, her lawful prize,
Some steer aright ; but the black blast blows hard,
And puffs them wide of hope : With hearts of proof,
Full against wind and tide, some win their way; 190
And when strong effort has deserved the port,
And tugg'd it into view, 't is won ! 't is lost !
Though strong their oar, still stronger is their fate :
They strike ; and while they triumph, they expire.
In stress of weather, most ; some sink outright ; 195
O'er them, and o'er their names, the billows close j
Tp-morrow knows not they were ever born,


Others a short memorial leave behind,

Like a flag floating, when the bark 's ingulph'd ;

It floats a moment, and is seen no more : 200

One Cassar lives ; a thousand are forgot.

How few, beneath auspicious planets born,

(Darlings of Providence ! fond Fate's elect !)

With swelling sails make good the promis'd port,

With all their wishes freighted ! Yet ev'n these, 205

Freighted with all their wishes, soon complain ;

Free from misfortune, not from nature free,

They still are Men ; and when is Man secure ?

As fatal time as storm ! the rush of years

Beats down their strength ; their numberless escapes 210

In ruin end : And, now, their proud success

But plants new terrors on the victor's brow :

What pain to quit the world, just made their own,

Their nest so deeply down'd, and built so high !

Too low they build, who build beneath the stars. 215

Woe then apart (if woe apart can be
From mortal Man), and fortune at our nod,
The gay, rich, great, triumphant, and august,
What are they ? The most happy (strange to say !)
Convince me most of human misery : 220

What are they ? smiling wretches of to-morrow !
More wretched, then, than e'er their slave can be ;
Their treach'rous blessings, at the day of need,
Like other faithless friends, unmask, and sting :
Then, what provoking indigence in wealth ! 225

What aggravated impotence in power !
High titles, then, what insult of their pain !
If that sole anchor, equal to the waves,
Immortal Hope ! defies not the rude storm,


Takes comfort from the foaming billow's rage, 230
And makes a welcome harbour of the tomb.

Is this a sketch of what thy soul admires ?
" But here (thou say'st) the miseries of life
Are huddled in a group. A more distinct
Survey, perhaps, might bring thee better news." 235
Look on life's stages : They speak plainer still ;
The plainer they, the deeper wilt thou sigh.
Look on thy lovely boy \ in him behold
The best that can befal the best on earth ;
The boy has virtue by his mother's side : 240

Yes, on Florello look : A father's heart
Is tender, though the man's is made of stone ;
The truth, through such a medium seen, may make .
Impression deep, and fondness prove thy friend.

Florello, lately cast on this rude coast 245

A helpless infant ; now a heedless child ;
To poor Clarissa's throes, thy care succeeds j
Care full of love, and yet severe as hate !
O'er thy soul's joy how oft thy fondness frowns !
Needful austerities his will restrain ; 250

As thorns fence in the tender plant from harm.
As yet, his reason cannot go alone ;
But asks a sterner nurse to lead it on.
His little heart is often terrify'd ;
The blush of morning, in his cheek, turns pale ; 255
Its pearly dew-drop trembles in his eye ;
His harmless eye ! and drowns an angel there.
Ah ! what avails his innocence ? The task
Injoin'd must discipline his early pow'rs ;
He learns to sigh, ere he is known to sin ; 260

Guiltless, and sad ! a wretch before the fall !


How cruel this ! more cruel to forbear.

Our nature such, with necessary pains

We purchase prospects of precarious peace :

Though not a father, this might steal a sigh. 265

Suppose him disciplin'd aright (if not,
'Twill sink our poor account to poorer still) j
Ripe from the tutor, proud of liberty,
He leaps inclosure, bounds into the world ;
The world is taken, after ten years toil, 270

Like ancient Troy, and all its joys ,his own.
Alas ! the world 's a tutor more severe ;
Its lesson 's hard, and ill deserves his pains ;
Unteaching all his virtuous nature taught,
Or books (fair Virtue's advocates) inspir'd. 275

For who receives him into public life ?
Men of the world, the terras-filial breed,
Welcome the modest stranger to their sphere
(Which glitter'd long, at distance, in his sight),
And, in their hospitable arms, inclose : 280

Men, who think nought so strong of the romance,
So rank knight- errant, as a real friend :
Men, that act up to Reason's golden rule,
All weakness of affection quite subdu'd :
Men, that would blush at being thought sincere, 285
And feign, for glory, the few faults they want ;
That love a lie, where truth would pay as well ;
As if, to them, Vice shone her own reward.

LORENZO ! canst thou bear a shocking sight ?
Such, for Florello's sake, J t will now appear : 290
See, the steel* d files of seasoned veterans,
Train'd to the world, in burnish'd falsehood bright ;
Deep in the fatal stratagems of peace j


All soft sensation, in the throng, rubb'd off;

All their keen purpose, in politeness, sheath'd ; 295

His friends eternal -during interest ;

His foes implacable when worth their while ;

At war with ev'ry welfare, but their own ;

As wise as Lucifer ; and half as good ;

And by whom none, but Lucifer, can gain-^- 300

Naked, through these (so common fate ordains),

Naked of heart, his cruel course he runs,

Stung out of all most amiable in life,

Prompt truth, and open thought, and smiles unfeign'd ;

Affection, as his species, wide diffiis'd ; 305

Noble presumptions to mankind's renown ;

Ingenuous trust, and confidence of love.

These claims to joy (if mortals joy might claim)
Will cost him many a sigh ; till time, and pains,
From the slow mistress of this school, Experience, 310
And her assistant, pausing, pale, Distrust,
Purchase a dear-bought clue, to lead his youth
Through serpentine obliquities of life,
And the dark labyrinth of human hearts.
And happy ! if the clue shall come so cheap ; 315
For, while we learn to fence with public guilt,
Full oft we feel its foul contagion too,
If less than heav'nly Virtue is our guard.
Thus, a strange kind of curst necessity
Brings down the sterling temper of his soul, 320

By base alloy, to bear the current stamp,
Below call'd wisdom ; sinks him into safety ;
And brands him into credit with the world j
Where specious titles dignify disgrace j
And Nature's injuries are arts of life 5 325



Where brighter reason prompts to bolder crimes j
And heav'nly talents make infernal hearts ;
That unsurmountable extreme of guilt !

Poor Machiavel ! who laboured hard his plan,
Forgot, that Genius need not go to school j 330

Forgot, that Man, without a tutor wise,
His plan had practised, long before *t was writ.
The world 's all title-page, there *s no contents ;
The world 's all face ; the man who shews his heart,
Is hooted for his nudities, and scorn'd. 335

A man I knew, who liv'd upon a smile ;
And well it fed him ; he look'd plump and fair ;
While rankest venom foam'd through every vein.
LORENZO ! what I tell thee, take not ill :
Living, he fawn'd on ev'ry fool alive ; 340

And, dying, curst the friend on whom he liv'd.
To such proficients thou art half a saint.
In foreign realms (for thou hast travell'd far)
How curious to contemplate two state-rooks,
Studious their nests to feather in a trice, 345

With all the necromantics of their art,
Playing the game of faces on each other,
Making court sweet-meats of their latent gall,
In foolish hope, to steal each other's trust ;
Both cheating, both exulting, both deceived ; 350
And, sometimes, both (let Earth rejoice) undone !
Their parts we doubt not ; but be that their shame ;
Shall men of talents, fit to rule mankind,
Stoop to mean wiles, that would disgrace a fool !
And lose the thanks of those few friends they serve ?
For who can thank the man he cannot see ? 356

Why so much cover ? it defeats itself.


Ye that know all things ! know ye riot men's hearts
Are therefore known, because they are conceal'd ?
For why conceal'd ? The cause they need not tell. 360
I give him joy, that 's awkward at a lie ;
Whose feeble nature truth keeps still in awe j
His incapacity is his renown.

'T is great, *t is manly, to disdain disguise ;
It shews our spirit, or it proves our strength. 365
Thou say'st, 't is needful : Is it therefore right ?
Howe'er, I grant it some small sign of grace,
To strain at an excuse : And wouldst thou then
Escape that cruel need ? Thou may'st, with ease ;
Think no post needful that demands a knave. 370
When late our civil helm was shifting hands,
So P thought : Think better, if you can.

But this, how rare ! the public path of life
Is dirty : Yet, allow that dirt its due,
It makes the noble mind more noble still : 375

The world 's no neuter ; it will wound, or save ;
Our virtue quench, or indignation fire.
You say, the world, well-known, will make a man :
The world, well-known, will give our hearts to Heav'n,
Or make us daemons, long before we die. 380

To shew how fair the world (thy mistress) shines,
Take either part, sure ills attend the choice ;
Sure, though not equal, detriment ensues.
Not Virtue's self is deify'd on earth ;
Virtue has her relapses, conflicts, foes ; 385

Foes, that ne'er fail to make her feel their hate.
Virtue has her peculiar set of pains.
True ; friends to Virtue, last, and least, complain ;
But if they sigh, can others hope to smile ?

F F 2


If Wisdom has her miseries to mourn, 390

How can poor Folly lead a happy life ?
And if both suffer, what has Earth to boast,
Where he *s most happy, who the least laments ?
Where much, much patience, the most envy'd state,
And some forgiveness, needs, the best of friends ? 395
For friend, or happy life, who looks not higher,
Of neither shall he find the shadow here.

The world's sworn advocate, without a fee,
LORENZO smartly, with a smile, replies :
" Thus far my song is right ; and all must own, 400
Virtue has her peculiar set of pains.
And joys peculiar who to Vice denies ?
If vice it is, with nature to comply :
If pride, and sense, ate so predominant,
To check, not overcome, them, makes a saint ; 405
Can Nature in a plainer voice proclaim
Pleasure, and glory, the chief good of Man ?"

Can Pride, and Sensuality, rejoice ?
From purity of thought, all pleasure springs ;
And, from an humble spirit, all our peace. 410

Ambition, Pleasure ! let us talk of these ;
Of these, the Porch and Academy talk'd ;
Of these, each following age had much to say ;
Yet unexhausted, still, the needful theme.
Who talks of these, to mankind all at once 415

He talks ; for where J s the saint from either free ?
Are these thy refuge ? No ; these rush upon thee ;
Thy vitals seize, and, vulture-like, devour :
I '11 try, if I can pluck thee from thy rock,
Prometheus ! from this barren ball of earth ; 420

If Reason can unchain thee, thou art free.


And, first, thy Caucasus, Ambition calls ;
Mountain of torments ! eminence of woes !
Of courted woes ! and courted through mistake !
'T is not Ambition charms thee ; 't is a cheat 425

Will make thee start, as H at his Moor.

Dost grasp at greatness ? first, know what it is :

Think'st thou thy greatness in distinction lies ?

Not in the feather, wave it e'er so high,

By Fortune stuck to mark us from the throng, 430

Is glory lodg'd : 'T is lodg'd in the reverse j

In that which joins, hi that which equals all,

The monarch, and his slave ; ; " a deathless soul,

Unbounded prospect, and immortal kin,

A father GOD, and brothers in the skies ;" 435

Elder, indeed, in time ; but less remote

In excellence, perhaps, than thought by Man ;

Why greater what can fall, than what can rise ?

If still delirious, now, LORENZO ! go ;
And with thy full-blown brothers of the world, 4_,o
Throw scorn around thee ; cast it on thy slaves ;
Thy slaves, and equals : How scorn cast on them
Rebounds on thee ! If Man is mean, as Man,
Art thou a God ? If Fortune makes him so,
Beware the consequence : A maxim that, 445

Which draws a monstrous picture of mankind,
Where, in the drapery, the man is lost.;
Externals fluttering, and the soul forgot.
Thy greatest glory, when dispos'd to boast,
Boast that aloud, in which thy servants share. 450

We wisely strip the steed we mean to buy :
Judge we, in their caparisons, of men ?
It nought avails thee, where, but what, them art }


All the distinctions of this little life

Are quite cutaneous, foreign to the man. 455

When, through Death's streights, Earth's subtle serpents


Which wriggle into wealth, or climb renown,
As crooked Satan the forbidden tree j
They leave their party-colour'd robe behind,
All that now glitters, while they rear aloft 460

Their brazen crests, and hiss at us below.
Of Fortune's fucus strip them, yet alive ;
Strip them of body too ; nay, closer still,
Away with all, but moral, in their minds ;
And let, what then remains, impose their name, 465
Pronounce them weak, or worthy ; great, or mean.
How mean that snuff of glory Fortune lights,
And Death puts out ! Dost thou demand a test
(A test, at once infallible and short)
Of real greatness ? That man greatly lives, 470

Whate'er his fate, or fame, who greatly dies ;
High-flush'd with hope, where heroes shall despair.
If this a true criterion, many courts,
Illustrious, might afford but few grandees.

Th' ALMIGHTY, from his throne, on earth surveys
Nought greater, than an honest, humble heart ; 476
An humble heart, his residence ! pronounc'd
His second seat ; and rival to the skies.
The private path, the secret acts of men,
If noble, far the noblest of our lives ! 480

How far above LORENZO'S glory sits
Th' illustrious master of a name unknown ;
Whose worth unrivall'd, and unwitness'd, loves
Life's sacred shades, where gods converse with men j


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Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 13 of 24)