Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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Nor thought to grow on planet, or on star.

Bulls, lions, scorpions, monsters here we feign ;

Ourselves more monstrous, not to see what here

Exists indeed ; a lecture to mankind.

What read we here? Th* existence of a GOD ? 655
Yes ; and of other beings, Man above j
Natives of aether ! sons of higher climes !
And, what may move LORENZO'S wonder more,
Eternity is written in the skies.

And whose eternity ? LORENZO ! thine ; 660

Mankind's eternity. Nor Faith alone,
Virtue grows here ; here springs the sov'reign cure
Of almost ev'ry vice ; but chiefly thine ;
Wrath, pride, ambition, and impure desire.

LORENZO! thou canst wake at midnight too, 665
Though not on morals bent : Ambition, Pleasure !
Those tyrants I for thee so lately fought,
Afford their harass'd slaves but slender rest.
Thou, to whom midnight is immoral noon,
And the sun's noon-tide blaze, prime dawn of day ;
Not by thy climate, but capricious crime, 671

Commencing one of our antipodes !
In thy nocturnal rove, one moment halt,
*T wixt stage and stage, of riot, and cabal j
And lift thine eye (if bold an eye to lift, 675

If bold to meet the face of injur'd Heav'n)


-To yonder stars : For other ends they shine,
Than to light revellers from shame to shame,
And, thus, be made accomplices in guilt.

Why from yon arch, that infinite of space, 680
With infinite of lucid orbs replete,
Which set the living firmament on fire,
At the first glance, in such an overwhelm
Of wonderful, on Man's astonish'd sight,
Rushes Omnipotence ? To curb our pride ; 685
Our reason rouse, and lead it to that Pow'r,
Whose love lets down these silver chains of light ;
To draw up Man's ambition to Himself,
And bind our chaste affections to his throne.
Thus the three virtues, least alive on earth, 690

And welcom'd on Heav'n's coast with most applause,
An humble, pure, and heav'nly-minded heart,
Are here inspir'd : And canst thou gaze too long ?

Nor stands thy wrath depriv'd of its reproof,
Or un-upbraided by this radiant choir. 695

The planets of each system represent
Kind neighbours ; mutual amity prevails ;
Sweet interchange of rays, received, return'd ;
Enlight'ning, and enlight'ned ! all, at once,
Attracting, and attracted ! Patriot-like, 700

None sins against the welfare of the whole ;
But their reciprocal, unselfish aid,
Affords an emblem of millenial love.
Nothing in nature, much less conscious being,
Was e'er created solely for itself: 705

Thus Man his sov'reign duty learns in this
Material picture of benevolence.

And know, of all our supercilious race,

N N 2


Thou most inflammable ; thou wasp of men !

Man's angry heart, inspected, would be found 710

As rightly set, as are the starry spheres ;

*T is Nature's structure, broke by stubborn will,

Breeds all that un-celestial discord there.

Wilt thou not feel the bias Nature gave ?

Canst thou descend from converse with the skies, 715

And seize thy brother's throat ? For what ? a clod?

An inch of earth ? The planets cry, " Forbear."

They chase our double darkness ; Nature's gloom,

And (kinder still \) our intellectual night.

And see, Day's amiable sister sends 720

Her invitation, in the softest rays
Of mitigated luftre j courts thy sight,
Which suffers from her tyrant-brother's blaze.
Night grants thee the full freedom of the skies,
Nor rudely reprimands thy lifted eye ; 725

With gain, and joy, she bribes thee to be wise.
Night opes the noblest scenes, and sheds an awe,
Which gives those venerable scenes full weight,
And deep reception, in th* intender'd heart j
While light peeps through the darkness like a spy : 730
And darkness shews its grandeur by the light.
Nor is the profit greater than the joy,
If human hearts at glorious objects glow,
And admiration can inspire delight.

What speak I more, than I, this moment, feel ! 735
With pleasing stupor first the soul it struck :
(Stupor ordain'd to make her truly wise !)
Then into transport starting from her trance,
With love and admiration how she glows !
This gorgeous apparatus ! this display 1 740


This ostentation of creative pow'r !

This theatre ! what eye can take it in ?

By what divine enchantment was it rais'd,

For minds of the firft magnitude to launch

In endless speculation, and adore ? 745

One sun by day, by night ten thousand shine j

And light us deep into the DEITY ;

How boundless in magnificence and might !

O what a confluence of ethereal fires,

From urns unnumber'd, down the steep of Heav'n,

Streams to a point, and centres in my sight! 751

Nor tarries there j I feel it at my heart.

My heart, at once, it humbles and exalts ;

Lays it in dust, and calls it to the skies.

Who sees it unexalted ? or unaw'd ? 755

Who sees it, and can stop at what is seen ?

Material offspring of Omnipotence !

Inanimate, all-animating birth !

Work worthy Him who made it ! worthy praise !

All praise ! praise more than human ! nor deny'd 760

Thy praise divine! But though Man, drown'd in sleep,

With-holds his homage, not alone I wake ;

Bright legions swarm unseen, and sing, unheard

By mortal ear, the glorious Architect,

In this his universal temple hung 765

With lustres, with innumerable lights,

That shed religion on the soul ; at once,

The temple, and the preacher ! O how loud

It calls devotion ! genuine growth of Night !

Devotion ! daughter of Astronomy ! 770

An uridevout astronomer is mad.
True j all things speak a GOD ; but in the small,


Men trace out Him ; in great, he seizes Man ;

Seizes, and elevates, and raps, and fills

With new inquiries, 'mid associates new. 775

Tell me, ye stars ! ye planets ! tell me, all

Ye starr'd, and planeted, inhabitants ! what is it ?

What are these sons of wonder ! say, proud arch !

(Within whose azure palaces they dwell)

Built with divine ambition! in disdain 780

Of limit built ! built in the taste of Heav'n !

Vast concave ! ample dome ! wast thou design'd

A meet apartment for the DEITY ?

Not so ; that thought alone thy state impairs,

Thy lofty sinks, and shallows thy profound, 785

And streightens thy diffusive ; dwarfs the whole,

And makes an universe an orrery.

But when I drop mine eye, and look on Man,
Thy right regain'd, thy grandeur is restor'd,
O Nature ! wide flies off th' expanding round. 790
As when whole magazines, at once, are fir'd,
The smitten air is hollow'd by the blow ;
The vast displosion dissipates the clouds ;
Shock' d aether's billows dash the distant skies ;
Thus (but far more) th' expanding round flies off, 795
And leaves a mighty void, a spacious womb,
Might teem with new creation ; re-inflam'd
Thy luminaries triumph, and assume
Divinity themselves. Nor was it strange,
Matter high-wrought to such surprising pomp, 800
Such godlike glory, stole the style of gods,
From ages dark, obtuse, and steep'd in sense 5
For, sure, to sense, they truly are divine,
And half-absolv'd idolatry from guilt j


2 79

Nay, turn'd it into virtue. Such it was 805

In those, who put forth all they had of Man
Unlost, to lift their thought, nor mounted higher ;
But, weak of wing, on planets perch'd ; and thought
What was their highest, must be their ador'd.

But they how weak, who could no higher mount !
And are there, then, LORENZO ! those to whom 8 1 1
Unseen, and unexistent, are the same ?
And if incomprehensible is join'd,
Who dare pronounce it madness, to believe ?
Why has the mighty Builder thrown aside 815

All measure in his work ; stretch'd out his line
So far, and spread amazement o'er the whole ?
Then (as he took delight in wide extremes),
Deep in the bosom of his universe,
Dropt down that reas'ning mite, that insect, Man, 820
To crawl, and gaze, and wonder at the scene ?
That Man might ne'er presume to plead amazement
For disbelief of wonders in himself.
Shall GOD be less miraculous, than what
His hand has form'd ? Shall mysteries descend 825
From un-mysterious ? Things more elevate,
Be more familiar ? Uncreated lie
More obvious than created, to the grasp
Of human thought ? The more of wonderful
Is heard in Him, the more we should assent. 830
Could we conceive him, GOD he could not be ;
Or he not GOD, or we could not be men.
A GOD alone can comprehend a GOD ;
Man's distance how immense ! on such a theme,
Know this, LORENZO ! (seem it ne'er so strange,) 835
Nothing can satisfy, but what confounds j


Nothing, but what astonishes, is true.

The scene thou seest, attests the truth I sing,

And every star sheds light upon thy creed.

These stars, this furniture, this cost of Heav'n, 840

If but reported, thou hadst ne'er believ'd ;

But thine eye tells thee, the romance is true.

The grand of nature is th' Almighty's oath,

In Reason's court, to silence Unbelief.

How my mind, opening at this scene, imbibes 845
The moral emanations of the skies,
While nought, perhaps, LORENZO less admires !
Has the great Sov'reign sent ten thousand worlds
To tell us, He resides above them all,
In glory's unapproachable recess ? 850

And dare Earth's bold inhabitants deny
The sumptuous, the magnific embassy
A moment's audience ? Turn we, nor will hear
From whom they come, or what they would impart
For Man's emolument ; sole cause that stoops 855
Their grandeur to Man's eye? LORENZO ! rouse;
Let thought, awaken'd, take the lightning's wing,
And glance from east to west, from pole to pole.
Who sees, but is confounded, or convinc'd ?
Renounces Reason, or a God adores ? 860

Mankind was sent into the world to see :
Sight gives the science needful to their peace ;
That obvious science asks small learning's aid.
Wouldst thou on metaphysic pinions soar ?
Or wound thy patience amid logic thorns ? 865

Or travel history's enormous round ?
Nature no such hard task injoins : She gave
A make to Man directive of his thought j


A make set upright, pointing to the stars,

As who should say, " Read thy chief lesson there." 870

Too late to read this manuscript of Heav'n,

When, like a parchment-scroll, shrunk up by flames*

It folds LORENZO'S lesson from his sight.

Lesson how various ! Not the God alone,
I see his ministers ; I see, diffused i~ 875

In radiant orders, essences sublime,
Of various offices, of various plume,
In heav'nly liveries distinctly clad,
Azure, green, purple, pearl, or downy gold,
Or all commix'd ; they stand, with wings outspread,
List'ning to catch the Master's least command, 88 1
And fly through Nature, ere the moment ends ;
Numbers innumerable ! well conceived
By Pagan, and by Christian ! O'er each sphere
Presides an angel, to direct its course, 885

And feed, or fan, its flames ; or to discharge
Other high trusts unknown. For who can see
Such pomp of matter, and imagine, mind,
For which alone inanimate was made,
More sparingly dispens'd ? That nobler son, 890

Far liker the great SIRE ! 'Tis thus the skies
Inform us of superiors numberless,
As much, in excellence, above mankind,
As above earth, in magnitude, the spheres.
These, as a cloud of witnesses, hang o'er us j 895
In a throng'd theatre are all our deeds ;
Perhaps, a thousand demigods descend
On ev'ry beam we see, to walk with men.
Awful reflection ! strong restraint from ill !

Yet, here, our virtue finds still stronger aid 900

o o


From these ethereal glories sense surveys.

Something, like magic, strikes from this blue vault;

With just attention is it view'd ? We feel

A sudden succour, unimplor'd, unthought ;

Nature herself does half the work of Man. 905

Seas, rivers, mountains, forests, deserts, rocks,

The promontory's height, the depth profound

Of subterranean, excavated grots,

Black-brow'd, and vaulted high, and yawning wide

From Nature's structure, or the scoop of Time ;

If ample of dimension, vast of size, 911

Ev'n these an aggrandizing impulse give ;

Of solemn thought enthusiastic heights

Ev'n these infuse. But what of vast in these ?

Nothing; or we must own the skies forgot. 915

Much less in Art. Vain Art ! thou pigmy pow'r !

How dost thou swell, and strut, with human pride,

To shew thy littleness ! What childish toys,

Thy watry columns squirted to the clouds !

Thy bason'd rivers, and imprison'd seas ! 920

Thy mountains moulded into forms of men !

Thy hundred-gated capitals ! or those

Where three days travel left us much to ride;

Gazing on miracles by mortals wrought,

Arches triumphal, theatres immense, 925

Or nodding gardens pendent in mid-air !

Or temples proud to meet their gods half-way !

Yet these affect us in no common kind.

What then the force of such superior scenes ?

Enter a temple, it will strike an awe : 930

What awe from this the DEITY has built ?

A good man seen, though silent, counsel gives :

; . _ ' ' THE CONSOLATION. 283

The touch'd spectator wishes to be wise :

In a bright mirror his own hands have made,

Here we see something like the face of GOD. 935

Seems it not then enough, to say, LORENZO,

To Man abandon'd, " Hast thou seen the skies ?"

And yet, so thwarted Nature's kind design
By daring Man, he makes her sacred awe
(That guard from ill) his shelter, his temptation 940
To more than common guilt, and quite inverts
Celestial Art's intent. The trembling stars
See crimes gigantic, stalking through the gloom
With front erect, that hide their head by day,
And making night still darker by their deeds. 945
Slumb'ring in covert, till the shades descend,
Rapine and Murder, link'd, now prowl for prey.
The miser earths his treasure ; and the thief,
Watching the mole, half-beggars him ere morn.
Now plots, and foul conspiracies, awake ; 950

And, muffling up their horrors from the moon,
Havoc and devastation they prepare,
And kingdoms tott'ring in the field of blood.
Now sons of riot in mid-revel rage.
What shall I do ? suppress it ? or proclaim ? 955
Why sleeps the thunder ? Now, LORENZO! now,
His best friend's couch the rank adulterer
Ascends secure ; and laughs at gods and men,
Prepost'rous madmen, void of fear or shame,
Lay their crimes bare to these chaste eyes of heav'n ;
Yet shrink and shudder at a mortal's sight. 961

Were moon, and stars, for villains only made ?
To guide, yet screen them, with tenebrious light ?
No j they were made to fashion the sublime



Of human hearts, and wiser make the wise. 965

Those ends were answer'd once ; when mortals liv'd
Of stronger wing, of aquiline ascent
In theory sublime. O how unlike
Those vermin of the night, this moment sung,
"Who crawl on earth, and on her venom feed! 970
Those ancient sages, human stars ! They met
Their brothers of the skies, at midnight hour ;
Their counsel ask'd ; and, what they ask'd, obey'd.
The Stagirite, and Plato, he who drank
The poison'd bowl, and he of Tusculum, 975

With him of Corduba, (immortal names !)
Jn these unbounded, and Elysian, walks,
An area fit for gods, and godlike men,
They took their nightly round, through radiant paths
By seraphs trod ; instructed, chiefly, thus, 980

To tread in their bright footsteps here below ;
To walk in worth still brighter than the skies.
There, they contracted their contempt of Earth ;
Of hopes eternal kindled, there, the fire ;
There, as in near approach, they glow'd, and grew
(Great visitants !) more intimate with GOD, 986

More worth to men, more joyous to themselves.
Through various virtues, they, with ardour, ran
The zodiac of their learn'd, illustrious lives.

In Christian hearts, O for a Pagan zeal ! 990

A needful, but opprobrious pray'r ! As much
Our ardour less, as greater is our light.
How monstrous this in morals ! Scarce more strange
Would this phenomenon in nature strike,
A sun that froze us, or a star that warm'd. 995

What taught these heroes of the moral world ?


To these thou giv'st thy praise, give credit too ;

These doctors ne'er were pension'd to deceive thee j

And Pagan tutors are thy taste. They taught,

That, narrow views betray to misery: 1000

That, wise it is to comprehend the whole :

That, Virtue rose from Nature, ponder'd well,

The single base of Virtue built to Heav'n :

That, GOD, and Nature, our attention claim :

That, Nature is the glass reflecting GOD, 1005

As, by the sea, reflected is the sun,

Too glorious to be gaz'd on in his sphere :

That, mind immortal loves immortal aims :

That, boundless mind affects a boundless space :

That, vast surveys, and the sublime of things, 1010

The soul assimilate, and make her great :

That, therefore, Heav'n her glories, as a fund

Of inspiration, thus spreads out to Man.

Such are their doctrines ; such the night inspired.

And what more true ? What truth of greater weight ?
The soul of Man was made to walk the skies ; 1016
Delightful outlet of her prison here !
There, disincumber'd from her chains, the ties
Of toys terrestrial, she can rove at large ;
There, freely can respire, dilate, extend, 1020

In full proportion let loose all her pow'rs ;
And, undeluded, grasp at something great.
Nor, as a stranger, does she wander there ;
But, wonderful herself, through wonder strays ;
Contemplating their grandeur, finds her own j 1025
Dives deep in their economy divine,
Sits high in judgment on their various laws,
And, like a master, judges not amiss.


Hence greatly pleas'd, and justly proud, the soul
Grows conscious of her birth celestial j breathes 1030
More life, more vigour, in her native air ;
And feels herself at home among the stars ;
And, feeling, emulates her country's praise.

What call we, then, the firmament, LORENZO ?
As earth the body, since, the skies sustain 1035

The soul with food, that gives immortal life,
Call it, the noble pasture of the mind ;
Which there expatiates, strengthens, and exults,
And riots through the luxuries of thought.
Call it, the garden of the DEITY, 1040

Blossom'd with stars, redundant in the growth
Of fruit ambrosial; moral fruit to man.
Call it, the breast-plate of the true High-Priest,
Ardent with gems oracular, that give,
In points of highest moment, right response j 1045
And ill neglected, if we prize our peace.

Thus have we found a true astrology ;
Thus have we found a new and noble sense,
In which alone stars govern human fates.
O that the stars (as some have feign'd) let fall 1050
Bloodshed, and havoc, on embattled realms,
And rescu'd monarchs from so black a guilt !
Bourbon ! this wish how gen'rous in a foe !
Wouldst thou be great, wouldst thou become a god,
And stick thy deathless name among the stars, 1055
For mighty conquests on a needle's point ?
Instead of forging chains for foreigners,
Bastile thy tutor : Grandeur all thy aim ?
As yet thou know'st not what it is : How great,
How glorious, then, appears the mind of man, 1060


When in it all the stars, and planets, roll !
And what it seems, it is : Great objects make
Great minds, enlarging as their views enlarge ;
Those still more godlike, as these more divine. 1064

And more divine than these, thou canst not see.
Dazzled, o'erpower'd, with the delicious draught
Of miscellaneous splendours, how I reel
From thought to thought, inebriate, without end !
An Eden this ! a Paradise unlost !
I meet the DEITY in ev'ry view, 1070

And tremble at my nakedness before him !
O that I could but reach the tree of life !
For here it grows, unguarded from our taste :
No flaming sword denies our entrance here ;
Would man but gather, he might live for ever. 1075

LORENZO ! much of moral hast thou seen.
Of curious arts art thou more fond ? Then mark
The mathematic glories of the skies,
In number, weight, and measure, all ordain'd.
LORENZO'S boasted builders, Chance, and Fate, 1080
Are left to finish his aerial tow'rs ;
Wisdom, and Choice, their well-known characters
Here deep impress ; and claim it for their own.
Though splendid all, no splendour void of use ;
Use rivals Beauty: Art contends with Pow'r j 1085
No wanton waste, amid effuse expense j
The great ECONOMIST adjusting all
To prudent pomp, magnificently wise.
How rich the prospect ! and for ever new !
And newest to the man that views it most j 1090

For newer still in infinite succeeds.
Then, these aerial racers, O how swift !


How the shaft loiters from the strongest string !

Spirit alone can distance the career.

Orb above orb ascending without end! IO 95

Circle in circle, without end, inclos'd !

Wheel within wheel ; Ezekiel ! like to thine !

Like thine, it seems a vision or a dream ;

Though seen, we labour to believe it true !

What involution! what extent ! what swarms noo

Of worlds, that laugh at Earth ! immensely great !

Immensely distant from each others' spheres !

What then, the wondrous space thro* which they roll ?

At once it quite ingulphs all human thought j

'Tis Comprehension's absolute defeat. 1 105

Nor think thou seest a wild disorder here 5
Through this illustrious chaos to the sight,
Arrangement neat, and chastest order, reign.
The path prescribed, inviolably kept,
Upbraids the lawless sallies of mankind. 1 1 10

Worlds, ever thwarting, never interfere ;
What knots are ty'd ! how soon are they dissolv'd,
And set the seeming married planets free !
They rove for ever, without error rove ;
Confusion unconfus'd : Nor less admire 1115

This tumult untumultuous ; all on wing !
In motion, all ! yet what profound repose !
What fervid action, yet no noise ! as aw'd
To silence, by the presence of their LORD ;
Or hush'd, by his command, in love to Man,
And bid let fall soft beams on human rest,
Restless themselves. On yon cserulean plain,
In exultation to their GOD, and thine,
They dance, they sing eternal jubilee.


Eternal celebration of His praise. 1 125

But, since their song arrives not at our ear,

Their dance perplex'd exhibits to the sight

Fair hieroglyphic of His peerless pow'r.

Mark, how the labyrinthian turns they take,

The circles intricate, and mystic maze, 1 130

Weave the grand cipher of Omnipotence ;

To gods, how great ! how legible to Man !

Leaves so much wonder greater wonder still ?
Where are the pillars that support the skies ?
What more than Atlantean shoulder props 1 135

Th J incumbent load ? What magic, what strange art,
In fluid air these pond'rous orbs sustains ?
Who would not think them hung in golden chains ?
And so they are ; in the high will of Heav'n,
Which fixes all ; makes adamant of air, 1149

Or air of adamant ; makes all of nought,
Or nought of all ; if such the dread decree.

Imagine from their deep foundations torn
The most gigantic sons of earth, the broad
And tow'ring Alps, all tost into the sea j 1145

And, light as down, or volatile as air,
Their bulks enormous dancing on the waves,
In time, and measure, exquisite ; while all
The winds, in emulation of the spheres,
Tune their sonorous instruments aloft ; 1 150

The concert swell, and animate the ball.
Would this appear amazing ? What, then, worlds,
In a far thinner element sustain'd,
And acting the same part, with greater skill,
More rapid movement, and for noblest ends ? 1155

More obvious ends to pass, are not these stars

p P


The seats majestic, proud imperial thrones,

On which angelic delegates of Heav'n,

At certain periods, as the Sov'reign nods,

Discharge high trusts of vengeance, or of love ; 1 160

To clothe, in outward grandeur, grand design,

And acts most solemn still moer solemnize ?

Ye citizens of air ! what ardent thanks,
What full effusion of the grateful heart,
Is due from Man indulg'd in such a sight ! 1 1 65

A sight so noble ! and a sight so kind !
It drops new truths at ev'ry new survey !
Feels not LORENZO something stir within,
That sweeps away all period ? As these spheres
Measure duration, they no less inspire 1170

The godlike hope of ages without end.
The boundless space, through which these rovers take
Their restless roam, suggests the sister-thought
Of boundless time. Thus, by kind Nature's skill,
To Man unlabour'd, that important guest, 11 75

Eternity, finds entrance at the sight :
And an eternity for Man ordain'd,
Or these his destin'd midnight counsellors,
The stars, had never whisper'd it to Man.
Nature informs, but ne'er insults, her sons. 1 1 80

Could she then kincile the most ardent wish
To disappoint it? That is blasphemy.
Thus, of thy creed a second article,
Momentous, as th' existence of a GOD,
Is found (as I conceive) where rarely sought ; 1185
And thou may'st read thy soul immortal, here.

Here, then, LORENZO! on these glories dwell 5

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Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 17 of 24)