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Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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Nor want the gilt, illuminated roof,


That calls the wretched gay to dark delights.

Assemblies ? This is one divinely bright j 1190

Here, unendanger'd in health, wealth, or fame,

Range through the fairest, and the sultan scorn.

He, wise as thou, no crescent holds so fair,

As that, which on his turbant awes a world ;

And thinks the moon is proud to copy him. 1 195

Look on her, and gain more than worlds can give,

A mind superior to the charms of pow'r.

Thou muffled in delusions of this life !

Can yonder moon turn Ocean in his bed,

From side to side, in constant ebb and flow, 1 200

And purify from stench his watry realms ?

And fails her moral influence ? Wants she pow'r

To turn LORENZO'S stubborn tide of thought

From stagnating on Earth's infected shore,

And purge from nuisance his corrupted heart ? 1 205

Fails her attraction when it draws to Heav'n ?

Nay, and to what thou valu'st more, Earth's joy ?

Minds elevate, and panting for unseen,

And defecate from sense, alone obtain

Full relish of existence undeflower'd, 1210

The life of life, the zest of worldly bliss.

All else on earth amounts to what ? To this :

" Bad to be suffered ; blessings to be left :"

Earth's richest inventory boasts no more.

Of higher scenes be, then, the call obey'd. 1215
O let me gaze ! Of gazing there 's no end.
O let me think ! Thought too is wilder'd here ;
In mid-way flight imagination tires ;
Yet soon re-prunes her wings to soar anew,
Her point unable to forbear, or gainj 1220

p p 2


So great the pleasure, so profound the plan 1

A banquet this, where men, and angels, meet,

Eat the same manna, mingle earth, and heav'n.

How distant some of these nocturnal suns !

So distant (says the sage), 'twere not absurd 1225

To doubt, if beams, set out at Nature's birth,

Are yet arriv'd at this so foreign world ;

Though nothing half so rapid as their flight.

An eye of awe and wonder let me roll,

And roll for ever : Who can satiate sight 1230

In such a scene ? in such an ocean wide

Of deep astonishment ? where depth, height, breadth,

Are lost in their extremes ; and where to count

The thick-sown glories in this field of fire,

Perhaps a seraph's computation fails. 1 235

Now, go, Ambition! boast thy boundless might

In conquest, o'er the tenth part of a grain.

And yet LORENZO calls for miracles,
To give his tott'ring faith a solid base.
Why call for less than is already thine ? 1240

Thou art no novice in theology ;
What is a miracle ? 'T is a reproach,
*T is an implicit satire, on mankind ;
And while it satisfies, it censures too,
To common-sense, great Nature's course proclaims
A DEITY : When mankind falls asleep, 1 246

A miracle is sent, as an alarm,
To wake the world, and prove Him o'er again,
By recent argument, but not more strong.
Say, which imports more plenitude of pow'r 1250
Or Nature's laws to fix, or to repeal ?
To make a sun, or stop his mid-career ?


To countermand his orders, and send back

The flaming courier to the frighted East,

Warm'd, and astonish'd, at his ev'ning ray? 1255

Or bid the moon, as with her journey tir'd,

In Ajalon's soft, flow'ry vale repose?

Great things are these; still greater, to create.

From Adam's bow'r look down thro* the whole train

Of miracles; resistless is their pow'r? 1260

They do not, can not, more amaze the mind,

Than this, call'd un-miraculous survey,

If duly weigh'd, if rationally seen,

If seen with human eyes. The brute, indeed,

Sees nought but spangles here; the fool, no more. 1265

Say'st thou, " The course of Nature governs all ?"

The course of Nature is the art of GOD.

The miracles thou calFst for, this attest ;

For say, could Nature Nature's course control ?

But miracles apart, who sees Him not, 1270

Nature's Controller, Author, Guide, and End ?
Who turns his eye on Nature's midnight face,
But, must inquire " What hand behind the scene,
What arm almighty, put these wheeling globes
In motion, and wound up the vast machine? 1275
Who rounded in his palm these spacious orbs ?
Who bowl'd them flaming through the dark profound,
Num'rous as glitt'ring gems of morning dew,
Or sparks from populous cities in a blaze,
And set the bosom of old Night on fire? 1280

Peopled her desert, and made horror srm'le?"
Or, if the military style delights thee
(For stars have fought their battles, leagu'd with Man),
" Who marmals this bright host? enrols their names?


Appoints their posts, their marches, and returns,

Punctual, at stated periods ? Who disbands 1286

These vet'ran troops, their final duty done,

If e'er disbanded?" He, whose potent word,

Like the loud trumpet, levy'd first their pow'rs

In Night's inglorious empire, where they slept 1 290

In beds of darkness ; arm'd them with fierce flames,

Arrang'd, and disciplin'd, and cloth'd in goldj

And call'd them out of Chaos to the field,

"Where now they war with Vice and Unbelief.

O let us join this army! Joining these, 1295

Will give us hearts intrepid, at that hour,

When brighter flames shall cut a darker night -,

When these strong demonstrations of a GOD

Shall hide their heads, or tumble from their spheres,

And one eternal curtain cover all! 13

Struck at that thought, as new-awak'd, I lift
A more enlighten'd eye, and read the stars,
To Man still more propitious ; and their aid
(Though guiltless of idolatry) implore;
Nor longer rob them of their noblest name. 1305

O ye dividers of my time! ye bright
Accomptants of my days, and months, and years,
In your fair kalendar distinctly mark'd !
Since that authentic, radiant register,
Tho' Man inspects it not, stands good against him 51310
Since you, and years, roll on, tho' Man stands still j
Teach me my days to number, and apply
My trembling heart to wisdom ; now beyond
All fhadow of excuse for fooling on.
Age smooths our path to prudence ; sweeps aside 1315
The snares, keen appetite, and passion, spread


To catch stray souls; and woe to that grey head,

Whose folly would undo what age has done!

Aid, then, aid, all ye stars! Much rather, Thou,

Great Artift! Thou, whose finger set aright 1320

This exquisite machine, with all its wheels,

Though intervolv'd, exact; and pointing out

Life's rapid and irrevocable flight,

With such an index fair, as none can miss,

Who lifts an eye, nor sleeps till it is clos'd: 1325

Open mine eye, dread DEITY ! to read

The tacit doctrine of thy works ; to see

Things are they are, unalter'd through the glass

Of worldly wishes. Time, Eternity!

('Tis these, mis-measur'd, ruin all mankind,) 1330

Set them before me; let me lay them both

In equal scale, and learn their various weight.

Let Time appear a moment, as it is:

And let Eternity's full orb, at once,

Turn on my soul, and strike it into heav'n. *335

When shall I see far more than charms me now?

Gaze on creation's model in thy breast

Unveil'd, nor wonder at the transcript more ?

When, this vile, foreign, dust, which smothers all

That travel Earth's deep vale, shall I shake off? 1340

When shall my soul her incarnation quit,

And, re-adopted to thy blest embrace,

Obtain her apotheosis in Thee?

Dost think, LORENZO! this is wand'ring wide?
No, 'tis directly striking at the mark ; 1345

To wake thy dead devotion was my point;
And how I bless Night's consecrating shades,
Which to a temple turn an uni verse j


Fill us with great ideas full of Heav'n,

And antidote the pestilential earth ! 1350

In ev'ry storm, that either frowns, or falls,

What an asylum has the soul in pray'r!

And what a fane is this, in which to pray!

And what a GOD must dwell in such a fane!

O what a Genius must inform the skies! I 3S5

And is LORENZO'S salamander-heart

Cold, and untouch'd, amid these sacred fires ?

O ye nocturnal sparks! ye glowing embers,

On HeavVs broad hearth! who burn, or burn no more,

Who blaze, or die, as great JEHOVAH'S breath

Or blows you, or forbears; assist my song; 1361

Pour your whole influence; exorcise his heart,.

So long possest; and bring him back to Man.

And is LORENZO a demurrer still ?
Pride in thy parts provokes thee to contest 1365

Truths, which, contested, put thy parts to shame.
Nor shame they more LORENZO'S head than heart;
A faithless heart ? how despicably small!
Too strait, aught great, or gen'rous, to receive !
Fill'd with an atom! fill'd, and foul'd, with self! 1370
And self-mistaken! self, that lasts an hour !
Instincts and passions, of the nobler kind,
Lie suffocated there ; or they alone,
Reason apart, would wake high hope ; and open,
To ravish'd thought, that intellectual sphere, *375
Where Order, Wisdom, Goodness, Providence,
Their endless miracles of love display,
And promise all the truly great desire.
The mind that would be happy, must be great ;
Great in its wishes; great in its surveys. 1380


Extended views a narrow mind extend;

Push out its corrugate, expansive make,

Which, ere-long, more than planets shall embrace.

A man of compass makes a man of worth ;

Divine contemplate, and become divine. '385

As Man was made for glory, and for bliss,
All littleness is in approach to woe;
Open thy bosom, set thy wishes wide,
And let in manhood; let in happiness;
Admit the boundless theatre of thought 1 39 <>

From nothing, up to GOD; which makes a Man.
Take GOD from Nature, nothing great is left;
Man's mind is in a pit, and nothing sees ;
Man's heart is in a jakes, and loves the mire.
Emerge from thy profound; erect thine eye ; IJ95
See thy distress! How close art thou besieg'd!
Besieg'd by Nature, the proud sceptic's foe !
Inclos'd by these innumerable worlds,
Sparkling conviction on the darkest mind,
As in a golden net of Providence, 1400

How art thou caught, sure captive of belief!
From this thy blest captivity, what art,
What blasphemy to reason, sets thee free !
This scene is Heav'n's indulgent violence :
Canst thou bear up against this tide of glory ? 1405
What is earth bosom'd in these ambient orbs,
But, faith in GOD impos'd, and press'd on Man ?
Dar'st thou still litigate thy desp'rate cause,
Spite of these num'rous, awful witnesses,
And doubt the deposition of the skies ? 1410

O how laborious is thy way to ruin!

Laborious? 'Tis impracticable quite j


To sink beyond a doubt, in this debate,
With all his weight of wisdom, and of will,
And crime flagitious, I defy a fool.
Some wish they did; but no man disbelieves.
GOD is a spirit; spirit cannot strike
These gross, material organs: GOD by Man
As much is seen, as Man a GOD can see,
In these astonishing exploits of pow'r. 1420

What order, beauty, motion, distance, size!
Concerticn of design, how exquisite!
How complicate, in their divine police!
Apt means! great ends! consent to gen'ral good!
Each attribute of these material gods, I4 2 $

So long (and that with specious pleas) ador'd,
A separate conquest gains o'er rebel thought;
And leads in triumph the whole mind of Man.
LORENZO! this may seem harangue to thee;
Such all is apt to seem, that thwarts our will. 1430
And dost thou, then, demand a simple proof
Of this great master-moral of the skies,
Unskill'd, or disinclined, to read it there?
Since 'tis the basis, and all drops without it,
Take it, in one compact, unbroken chain. I 43S

Such proof insists on an attentive ear;
'T will not make one amid a mob of thoughts,
And, for thy notice, struggle with the world.
Retire ; the world shut out ; thy thoughts call home;
Imagination's airy wing repress; 144

Lock up thy senses; let no passion stir;
Wake all to Reason; let her reign alone;
Then, in tny soul's deep silence, and the depth
Of Nature's silence, midnight, thus inquire,


As I have done; and shall inquire no more. 1445
In Nature's channel, thus the queftions run :

" What am I? and from whence? I nothing know,
But that I am; and, since I am, conclude
Something eternal: Had there e'er been nought,
Nought still had been : Eternal there must be. 1 450
But what eternal? Why not human race?
And Adam's ancestors without an end ?
That's hard to be conceiv'd, since ey'ry link
Of that long-chain'd succession is so frail ;
Can ev'ry part depend, arid not the whole? J 455

Yet grant it true; new difficulties rise;
I'm still quite out at sea; nor see the shore.
Whence earth, and these bright orbs? Eternal too?
Grant matter was eternal; still these orbs
Would want some other Father: Much design 1460
Is seen in all their motions, all their makes;
Design implies intelligence, and art:
That can't be from themselves or Man; that art
Man scarce can comprehend, could Man bestow?
And nothing greater, yet allow'd, than Man. 1465
Who, motion, foreign to the smallest grain,
Shot through vast masses of enormous weight?
Who bid brute matter's restive lump assume
Such various forms, and gave it wings to fly?
Has matter innate motion? Then each atom, 1470
Asserting its indisputable right
To dance, would form an universe of dust:
Has matter none? Then whence these glorious forms,
And boundless flights, from shapeless, and repos'd?
Has matter more than motion? Has it thought, 1475
Judgment, and genius? Is it deeply learn'd


In mathematics? Has it fram'd such laws,

Which, but to guess, a Newton made immortal?

If so, how each sage atom laughs at me,

Who think a clod inferior to a man! 1480

If art, to form; and counsel, to conduct;

And that with greater far than human skill;

Resides not in each block; a Godhead reigns.

Grant, then, invisible, eternal, Mind ;

That granted, all is solv'd. But, granting that,

Draw I not o'er me a still darker cloud? 1486

Grant I not that which I can ne'er conceive?

A Being without origin, or end!

Hail, human liberty! There is no GOD

Yet, why? On either scheme that knot subsists; 1490

Subsist it must, in GOD, or human race:

If in the last, how many knots beside,

Indissoluble all ? -Why choose it there,

Where, chosen, still subsist ten thousand more?

Reject it, where, that chosen, all the rest 1495

Dispers'd, leave Reason's whole horizon clear?

This is not Reason's dictate; Reason says,

Close with the side where one grain turns the scale;

What vaft preponderance is here! Can Reason

With louder voice exclaim Believe a GOD? 1500

And Reason heard, is the sole mark of Man.

What things impossible must Man think true,

On any other system! And how strange

To disbelieve, through mere credulity!"

If in this chain LORENZO finds no flaw, J 55

Let it for ever bind him to belief.

And where 's the link, in which a flaw he finds?

And, if a GOD there is, that GOD how great!


How great that Pow'r, whose providential care
Through these bright orbs' dark centres darts a ray!
Of Nature universal threads the whole! 1511

And hangs creation, like a precious gem,
Though little, on the footstool of his throne!

That little gem, how large! A weight let fall
From a fixt star, in ages can it reach I 5 I 5

This distant earth? Say then, LORENZO! where,
Where ends this mighty building? Where begin
The suburbs of creation? Where the wall
Whose battlements look o'er into the vale
Of non-existence, Nothing's strange abode? 152(1
Say, at what point of space JEHOVAH dropp'd
His slacken'd line, and laid his balance by;
Weigh'd worlds, and measured infinite, no more?
Where, rears his terminating pillar high
Its extra-mundane head? and says to gods, *5 2 5

In characters illustrious as the sun,
" I stand, the plan's proud period; I pronounce
The work accomplish'd ; the creation clos'd:
Shout, all ye gods! nor shout, ye gods, alone;
Of all that lives, or, if devoid of life, J 53

That rests, or rolls, ye heights, and depths, resound!
Resound! resound! ye depths, and heights, resound!"

Hard are those questions? Answer harder still.
Is this the sole exploit, the single birth,
The solitary son of Pow'r divine? J 535

Or has th' Almighty Father, with a breath,
Impregnated the womb of distant space?
Has he not bid, in various provinces,
Brother-creations the dark bowels burst
Of Night primaeval; barren, now, no more? 1540


And He the central sun, transpiercing all

Those giant-generations, which disport,

And dance, as motes, in his meridian ray;

That ray withdrawn, benighted, or absorb'd,

In that abyss of horror, whence they sprung; 1545

While Chaos triumphs, repossest of all

Rival creation ravish'd from his throne?

Chaos! of Nature both the womb and grave!

Think'st thou,my scheme, LORENZO, spreadstoo wide?

Is this extravagant? No; this is just; 1550

Just, in conjecture, though 'twere false in fact.

If 'tis an error, 'tis an error sprung

From noble root, high thought of the Most-High.

But wherefore error? Who can prove it such?

He that can set Omnipotence a bound. 1555

Can Man conceive beyond what GOD can do?

Nothing, but quite impossible, is hard.

He summons into being, with like ease,

A whole creation, and a single grain. 1559

Speaks He the word? a thousand worlds are born!

A thousand worlds? There's space for millions more!

And in what space can his great fiat fail?

Condemn me not, cold critic! but indulge

The warm imagination: Why condemn? J 5^4

Why not indulge such thoughts, as swell our hearts

With fuller admiration of that Pow'r,

Who gives our hearts with such high thoughts to swell?

Why not indulge in his augmented praise?

Darts not his glory a still brighter ray,

The less is left to Chaos, and the realms J 57

Of hideous Night, where Fancy strays aghast;

And, though most talkative, makes no report?


'Still seems my thought enormous? Think again
Experience* self shall aid thy lame belief.
Glasses (that revelation to the sight!) 1575

Have they not let us deep in the disclose
Of fine-spun Nature, exquisitely small,
And, though demonstrated, still ill-conceiv'd?
If then, on the reverse, the mind would mount
In magnitude, what mind can mount too far, 1583
To keep the balance, and creation poise?
Defect alone can err on such a theme;
What is too great, if we the Cause survey ?
Stupendous Architect! Thou, Thou art all!
My soul flies up and down in thoughts of Thee, 1585
And finds herself but at the centre still!
I AM, thy name! Existence, all thine own!
Creation's nothing; flatter'd much, if styl'd
" The thin, the fleeting atmosphere of GOD."

O for the voice of what? of whom? what voice
Can answer to my wants, in such ascent, I 59 l

As dares to deem one universe too small ?
Tell me, LORENZO! (for now fancy glows,
Fir'd in the vortex of Almighty Pow'r)
Is not this home-creation, in the map *595

Of universal Nature, as a speck,
Like fair Britannia in our little ball;
Exceeding fair, and glorious, for its size,
But, eh e where, far outmeasur'd, far outshone?
In fancy (for the fact beyond us lies) 1600

Canst thou not figure it, an isle, almost
Too small for notice, in the vast of being;
Sever'd by mighty seas of unbuilt space,
From other realms^ from ample continents


Of higher life, where nobler natives dwell j 1605

Less northern, less remote from DEITY,

Glowing beneath the line of the SUPREME ;

Where souls in excellence make hafte, put forth

Luxuriant growths; nor the late autumn wait

Of human worth, but ripen soon to gods? 1610

Yet why drown fancy in such depths as these ?
Return, presumptuous rover ! and confess
The bounds of Man ; nor blame them, as too small.
Enjoy we not full scope in what is seen ?
Full ample the dominions of the sun! 1615

Full glorious to behold ! How far, how wide,
The matchless monarch, from his flaming throne,
Lavish of lustre, throws his beams about him,
Farther, and faster, than a thought can fly,
And feeds his planets with eternal fires! 1620

This Heliopolis, by greater far,
Than the proud tyrant of the Nile, was built ;
And He alone, who built it, can destroy.
Beyond this city, why strays human thought?
One wonderful, enough for Man to know! 1625

One infinite, enough for Man to range !
One firmament, enough for Man to read !
O what voluminous instruction here !
What page of wisdom is deny'd him ? None ;
If learning his chief lesson makes him wise. 1 630
Nor is instruction, here, our only gain ;
There dwells a noble pathos in the skies,
Which warms our passions, proselytes our hearts.
How eloquently shines the glowing pole !
With what authority it gives its charge,
Remonstrating great truths in style sublime,


Though silent, loud ; heard earth around ; above
The planets heard ; and not unheard in hell :
Hell has her wonder, though too proud to praise.
Is earth, then, more infernal? Has she those, 1640
Who neither praise (LORENZO!) nor admire?

LORENZO'S admiration, pre-engag'd,
Ne'er ask'd the moon one question; never held
Least correspondence with a single star;
Ne'er rear'd an altar to the queen of heav'n 1645

Walking in brightness; or her train ador'd.
Their sublunary rivals have long since
Engross'd his whole devotion; stars malign,
Which made their fond astronomer run mad,
Darken his intellect, corrupt his heart; 1650

Cause him to sacrifice his fame and peace
To momentary madness, call'd delight.
Idolater, more gross than ever kiss'd
The lifted hand to Luna, or pour'd out
The blood to Jove! O Thou, to whom belongs 1655
All sacrifice! O Thou great Jove unfeign'd!
Divine Instructor! Thy first volume this,
For Man's perusal; all in capitals!
In moon and stars (Heav'n's golden alphabet!)
Emblaz'd to seize the sight; who runs, may read; 1660
Who reads, can understand. 'Tis unconfin'd
To Christian land, or Jewry; fairly writ,
In language universal, to Mankind:
A language, lofty to the learn'd; yet plain
To those that feed the flock, or guide the plough, 1 665
Or, from its husk, strike out the bounding grain.
A language, worthy the great MIND, that speaks!
Preface, and comment, to the sacred page !



Which oft refers its reader to the skies,
As presupposing his first lesson there, 1670

And scripture-self a fragment, that unread.
Stupendous book of wisdom, to the wise!
Stupendous book! and open'd, Night! by thee.

By thee much open'd, I confess, O Night!
Yet more I wish; but how shall I prevail? l ^75

Say, gentle Night ! whose modest, maiden beams
Give us a new creation, and present
The world's great picture soften'd to the sight;
Nay, kinder far, far more indulgent still,
Say, thou, whose mild dominion's silver key 1680
"Unlocks our hemisphere, arid sets to view
Worlds beyond number; worlds conceal'd by day
Behind the proud and envious star of noon!
Canst thou not draw a deeper scene? and shew
The mighty Potentate, to whom belong 1685

These rich regalia pompously display'd
To kindle that high hope? Like him of Uz,
I gaze around; I search on every side
O for a glimpse of Him my soul adores!
As the chas'd hart, amid the desert waste, 1 690

Pants for the living stream; for Him who made her,
So pants the thirsty soul, amid the blank
Of sublunary joys. Say, goddess! where,
Where blazes his bright court ? where burns his throne ?
Thou know'st; for thou art near him; by thee, round
His grand pavilion, sacred Fame reports 1696

The sable curtain 's drawn. If not, can none
Of thy fair daughter-train, so swift of wing,
Who travel far, discover where He dwells?
A star his dwelling pointed out below. 1700



Ye Pleiades! Arcturus! Mazaroth!

And thou, Orion! of still keener eye!

Say ye, who guide the wilder'd in the waves,

And bring them out of tempest into port!

On which hand must I bend my course to findHim? 1 705

These courtiers keep the secret of their King;

I wake whole nights, in vain, to steal it from them.

I wake ; and waking, climb Night's radiant scale,
From sphere to sphere; the steps by Nature set
For Man's ascent; at once to tempt and aid ; 1710
To tempt his eye, and aid his tow'ring thought;
Till it arrives at the gfeat Goal of all.

In ardent Contemplation's rapid car,
From earth, as from my barrier, I set out.
How swift I mount! diminish'd earth recedes; 1715
I pass the moon; and, from her farther side,
Pierce Heav'n's blue curtain; strike into remote;
Where, with his lifted tube, the subtile sage
His artificial, airy journey takes,

And to celestial lengthens human sight. 1720

I pause at ev'ry planet on my road,
And ask for Him who gives their orbs to roll,
Their foreheads fair to shine. From Saturn's ring,
In which, of earths an army might be lost,

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