Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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And finds all desert now; and meets the ghosts
Of my departed joys., a numerous train ! 230

1 riie the riches of my former fate ;
Sweet comfort's blasted clusters I lament ;
I tremble at the blessings once so dear ;
And ev'ry pleasure pains me to the heart.

Yet why complain ? or why- complain for one? 235


Hangs out the sun his lustre but Tor me,

The single man ? Are angels all beside ?

I mourn for millions: 'T is the common lot ;

In this shape, or in that, has Fate entail'd

The mother's throes on all of woman born, 240

Not more the children, than sure heirs of pain.

War, Famine, Pest, Volcana, Storm, and Fire,
Intestine Broils, Oppression, with her heart
Wrapt up in triple brass, besiege mankind.
GOD'S image, disinherited of day, 245

Here, plung'd in mines, forgets a sun was made.
There, beings, deathless as their haughty lord,
Are hammer'd to the galling oar for life ;
And plough the winter's wave, and reap despair.
Some, for hard masters, broken under arms, 250
In battle lopp'd away, with half their limbs,
Beg bitter bread through realms their valour sav'd,
If so the tyrant, or his minions, doom.
Want, and incurable Disease, (fell pair !)
On hopeless multitudes remorseless seize 255

At once ; and make a refuge of the grave.
How groaning hospitals eject their dead !
What numbers groan for sad admission there !
What numbers, once in Fortune's lap high-fed,
Solicit the cold hand of Charity ! 260

To shock us more, solicit it in vain !
Ye silken sons of pleasure ! since in pains
You rue more modish visits, visit here,
And breathe from your debauch : Give, and reduce
Surfeit's dominion o'er you : But so great 265

Your impudence, you blush at what is right.

Happy! did sorrow seize on such alone.
c 2,


Not prudence can defend, or virtue save ;

Disease invades the chastest temperance ;

And punishment the guiltless ; and alarm, 270

Through thickest shades, pursues the fond of peace.

Man's caution often into danger turns,

And, his guard falling, crushes him to death.

Not Happiness itself makes good her name 5

Our very wishes give us not our wish. 275

How distant oft the thing we doat on most,

From that for which we doat, felicity !

The smoothest course of Nature has its pains ;

And truest friends, through error, wound our rest.

Without misfortune, what calamities ! 280

And what hostilities, without a foe !

Nor are foes wanting to the best on earth.

But endless is the list of human ills,

And sighs might sooner fail, than cause to sigh.

A part how small of the terraqueous globe 285
Is tenanted by Man ! the rest a waste ;
Rocks, deserts, frozen seas, and burning sands !
Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and death,
Such is Earth's melancholy map ! But, far
More sad ! this earth is a true map of Man. 290

So bounded are his haughty lord's delights
To Woe's wide empire ; where deep troubles toss,
Loud sorrows howl, invenom'd passions bite,
Rav'nous calamities our vitals seize,
And threat'ning Fate wide opens to devour. 295

What then am I, who sorrow for myself?
In age, in infancy, from others aid
Is all our hope ; to teach us to be kind.
That, Nature's first, laft lesson to mankind;


The selfish heart deserves the pain it feels. 300

More gen'rous sorrow, while it sinks, exalts ;

And conscious virtue mitigates the pang.

Nor Virtue, more than Prudence, bids me give

Swoln thought a second channel ; who divide,

They weaken too, the torrent of their grief. 305

Take then, O world! thy much-indebted tear:

How sad a sight is human happiness,

To those whose thought can pierce beyond an hour !

thou, whate'er thou art, whose heart exults !
Wouldst thou I should congratulate thy fate? 310

1 know thou wouldst ; thy pride demands it from me.
Let thy pride pardon, what thy nature needs,

The salutary censure of a friend.

Thou happy wretch ! by blindness thou art blest ;

By dotage dandled to perpetual smiles. 315

Know, smiler ! at thy peril art thou pleas'd j

Thy pleasure is the promise of thy pain.

Misfortune, like a creditor severe,

But rises in demand for her delay ;

She makes a scourge of past prosperity, 320

To sting thee more, and double thy distress.

LORENZO, fortune makes her court to thee.
Thy fond heart dances, while the syren sings.
Dear is thy welfare ; think me not unkind ;
I would not damp, but to secure, thy joys. 325

Think not that Fear is sacred to the storm.
Stand on thy guard against the smiles of Fate.
Is Heav'n tremendous in its frowns ? most sure ;
And in its favours formidable too :
Its favours here are trials, not rewards ; 330

A call to duty, not discharge from care ;


And should alarm us, full as much as woes;

Awake us to their cause, and consequence ;

And make us tremble, weigh'd with our desert ;

Awe Nature's tumults, and chastise her joys, 335

Lest, while we clasp, we kill them ; nay, invert

To worse than simple misery, their charms.

Revolted joys, like foes in civil war,

Like bosom friendships to resentment sour'd,

"With rage invenom'd rise against our peace. 340

Beware what earth calls happiness ; beware

All joys, but joys that never can expire.

Who builds on less than an immortal base,

Fond as he seems, condemns his joys to death.

Mine dy'd with thee, PHILANDER! thy last sigh 345
Dissolved the charm ; the disenchanted earth
Lost all her luftre. Where, her glitt'ring tow'rs ?
Her golden mountains, where ? all darkened down
To naked waste ; a dreary vale of tears :
The great magician's dead ! Thou poor pale piece 350
Of out-cast earth, in darkness ! what a change
From yesterday ! thy darling hope so near,
(Long-labour'd prize !) O how ambition flush'd
Thy glowing cheek ! ambition, truly great,
Of virtuous praise. Death's subtle seed within, 355
("Sly, treach'rous miner !) working in the dark,
Smil'd at thy well-concerted scheme, and beckon'd
The worm to riot on that rose so red,
Unfaded ere it fell ; one moment's prey !

Man's foresight is conditionally wise ; 360

LORENZO ! wisdom into folly turns
Oft, the first instant ; its idea fair
To lab'ring thought is born. How dim our eye !


The present moment terminates our sight ;

Clouds, thick as those on doomsday, drown the next;

We penetrate, we prophesy in vain. ^66

Time is dealt out by particles ; and each,

Ere mingled with the streaming sands of life y

By Fate's inviolable oath is sworn

Deep silence, " Where eternity begins." 37

By Nature's law, what may be, may be now j
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than Man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn ?
Where is to-morrow ? In another world. 375

For numbers this is certain ; the reverse
Is sure to none ; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes ; spin our eternal schemes, 380
As we the fatal sisters would out-spin,
And, big with life's futurities, expire.

Not ev'n PHILANDER had bespoke his shroud,
Nor had, he cause ; a warning was deny'd :
How many fall as sudden, not as safe! 385

As sudden, though for years admonish'd home.
Of human ills the last extreme beware,
Beware, LORENZO ! a slow -sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise !
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer; 390

Next day the fatal precedent will plead ;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time ;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves 395


The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

If not so frequent, would not this be strange ?

That J t is so frequent, this is stranger still.

Of Man's miraculous mistakes, this bears
The palm, " That all men are about to live," 400
For ever on the brink of being born.
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel ; and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise ;
At least their own ; their future selves applauds ; 405
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead !
Time lodg'd in their o'wn hands is Folly's vails ;
That lodg'd in Fate's, to Wisdom they consign ;
The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone :
'Tis not in folly, not to scorn a fool ; 410

And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory Man,
And that through ev'ry stage : When young, indeed,
In full content we, sometimes, nobly rest,
Un-anxious, for ourselves ; and only wifh, 415

As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
At thirty, Man suspects himself a fool ;
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan ;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve j 420

In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves ; and re-resolves ; then dies the same.

And why ? Because he thinks himself immortal.
All men think all men mortal, but themselves ;
Themselves, when some alarming shock of fate 425
Strikes thro' their wounded hearts the sudden dread j
But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air,


Soon close j where past the shaft, no trace is found.

As from the wing no scar the sky retains ;

The parted wave no furrow from the keel ; 430

So dies in human hearts the thought of death.

Ev'n with the tender tear which Nature sheds

O'er those we love, we drop it in their grave.

Can I forget PHILANDER ? That were strange :

my full heart! But should I give it vent, 435
The longest night, though longer far, would fail,
And the lark listen to my midnight song.

The sprightly lark's shrill matin wakes the morn ;
Grief's sharpest thorn hard pressing on my breast,

1 strive, with wakeful melody, to cheer 440
The sullen gloom, sweet Philomel ! like thee,

And call the stars to listen : Ev'ry star
Is deaf to mine, enamour'd of thy lay.
Yet be not vain ; there are, who thine excel,
And charm thro* distant ages : Wrapt in shade, 445
Pris'ner of darkness ! to the silent hours,
How often I repeat their rage divine,
To lull my griefs, and steal my heart from woe !
I roll their raptures, but not catch their fire.
Dark, though not blind, like thee, Masonides ! 450
Or, Milton ! thee j ah ! could I reach your strain !
Or his, who made Masonides our own.
Man too he sung : Immortal Man I sing.
Oft bursts my song beyond the bounds of life ;
What now, but immortality can please ? 455

O had he press'd his theme, pursu'd the track,
Which opens out of darkness into day !
O had he mounted on his wing of fire,
Soar'd, where I sink, and sung immortal Man!
How had it blest mankind, and rescu'd me ! 460





\VHEN the cock crew, he wept" Smote by that


Which looks on me, on all : That POW'R, who bids
This midnight centinel, with clarion mrill
(Emblem of that which shall awake the dead),
Rouse souls from slumber into thoughts of Heav'n. 5
Shall I too weep ? Where then is fortitude ?
And, fortitude abandon'd, where is Man ?
I know the terms on which he sees the light ;
He that is born, is listed ; life is war ;
Eternal war with woe. Who bears it best, 10

Deserves it least. On other themes I'll dwell.
LORENZO ! let me turn my thoughts on thee,
And thine, on themes may profit ; profit there,
Where most thy need. Themes, too, the genuine growth,

D 2


Of dear PHIL ANDER'S dust. He, thus, though dead, 15
May still befriend. What themes? Time's wondrous

Death, Friendship, and PHILANDER'S final scene.

So could I touch these themes, as might obtain
Thine ear, nor leave thy heart quite disengag'd,
The good deed would delight me ; half-impress 20
On my dark cloud an Iris ; and from grief
Call glory Dost thou mourn PHILANDER'S fate?
I know thou say'st it : Says thy life the same ?
He mourns the dead, who lives as they desire.
Where is that thrift, that avarice of Time 25

(O glorious avarice !) thought of death inspires,
As rumour'd robberies endear our gold ?
O Time ! than gold more sacred ; more a load
Than lead, to fools ; and fools reputed wise.
What moment granted Man without account ? 30
What years are squander'd, Wisdom's debt unpaid !
Our wealth in days all due to that discharge.
Haste, haste, he lies in wait, he's at the door,
Insidious Death ! should his strong hand arrest,
No composition sets the prisoner free. 35

Eternity's inexorable chain
Fast binds ; and Vengeance claims the full arrear.

How late I shudder'd on the brink ! how late
Life call'd for her last refuge in despair !
That time is mine, O MEAD! to thee I owe ; 40

Fain would I pay thee with Eternity.
But ill my genius answers my desire ;
My sickly song is mortal, past thy cure.
Accept the will; that dies not with my strain.

For what calls thy disease, LORENZO? Not 45


For Esculapian, but for moral aid.

Thou think'st it folly to be wise too soon.

Youth is not rich in time ; it may be, poor j

Part with it as with money, sparing ; pay

No moment but in purchase of its worth ; 50

And what its worth, ask death-beds j they can tell.

Part with it as with life : Reluctant ; big

With holy hope of nobler time to come ;

Time higher aim'd, still nearer the great mark

Of Men and Angels ; virtue more divine. 55

Is this our duty, wisdom, glory, gain ?
(These Heav'n benign in vital union binds,)
And sport we like the natives of the bough,
When vernal suns inspire ? Amusement reigns
Man's great demand ; to trifle is to live : 60

And is it then a trifle, too, to die ?

Thou say'st I preach, LORENZO! J Tis confest.
What if, for once, I preach thee quite awake ?
Who wants amusement in the flame of battle ?
Is it not treason to the soul immortal, 65

Her foes in arms, eternity the prize ?
Will toys amuse, when med'cines cannot cure ?
When spirits ebb, when life's enchanting scenes
Their lustre lose, and lessen in our sight,
As lands and cities with their glitt'ring spires 70

To the poor shattered bark, by sudden storm
Thrown ofi to sea, and soon to perish there ;
Will toys amuse ? No : Thrones will then be toys,
And earth and skies seem dust upon the scale.

Redeem we time ? Its loss we dearly buy. 75

What pleads LORENZO for his high-priz'd sports ?
lie pleads time's num'rous blanks ; he loudly pleads


The straw-like trifles on life's common stream.
From whom those blanks and trifles, but from thee ?
No blank, no trifle, Nature made or meant. 80

Virtue, or purposed virtue, still be thine ;
This cancels thy complaint at once ; this leaves
In act no trifle, and no blank in time.
This greatens, fills, immortalizes all ;
This, the blest art of turning all to gold : 85

This, the good heart's prerogative to raise
A royal tribute from the poorest hours ;
Immense revenue ! every moment pays.
If nothing more than purpose in thy pow'r ;
Thy purpose firm, is equal to the deed : 90

Who does the best his circumstance allows,
Does well, acts nobly ; angels could no more.
Our outward act, indeed, admits restraint :
J T is not in things o'er thought to domineer ;
Guard well thy thought j our thoughts are heard in
Heav'n. 95

On all-important time, through ev'ry age,
Though much, and warm, the wise have urg'd j the man
Is yet unborn, who duly weighs an hour.
" I've lost a day" the Prince who nobly cry'd,
Had been an emperor without his crown ; 100

Of Rome ? Say, rather, lord of human race :
He spoke, as if deputed by Mankind.
So should all speak : So Reason speaks in all j
From the soft whispers of that God in Man,
Why fly to folly, why to frenzy fly, 105

For rescue from the blessings we possess ?
Time, the supreme ! Time is eternity j
Pregnant with all eternity can give j


Pregnant with all that makes archangels smile.

Who murders time, he crushes in the birth no

A pow'r ethereal, only not ador'd.

Ah ! how unjust to Nature, and himself,
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent Man !
Like children babbling nonsense in their sports,
We censure Nature for a span too short ; 115

That span too short, we tax as tedious too ;
Torture invention, all expedients tire,
To lash the ling'ring moments into speed,
And whirl us (happy riddance I) from ourselves.
Art, brainless Art! our furious charioteer 120

(For Nature's voice unstifled would recal),
Drives headlong tow'rds the precipice of Death ;
Death, most our dread; Death thus more dreadful made;
O what a riddle of absurdity !

Leisure is pain ; takes off our chariot- wheels ; 125
How heavily we drag the load of life !
Blest leisure is our curse ; like that of Cain,
It makes us wander ; wander earth around
To fly that tyrant, Thought. As Atlas groan'd
The world beneath, we groan beneath an hour. 130
We cry for mercy to the next amusement ;
The next amusement mortgages our fields !
Slight inconvenience ! Prisons hardly frown,
From hateful Time if prisons set us free.
Yet when Death kindly tenders us relief, 135

We call him cruel ; years to moments shrink,
Ages to years. The telescope is turn'd,
To Man's false optics (from his folly false)
Time, in advance, behind him hides his wings,
And seems to creep decrepit with his age : 140


Behold him, when past by ; what then is seen,
But his broad pinions swifter than the winds ?
And all Mankind, in contradiction strong,
Rueful, aghast ! cry out on his career.

Leave to thy foes these errors, and these ills ; i 45
To Nature just, their cause and cure explore.
Not short Heav'n's bounty, boundless our expence ;
No niggard, Nature ; Men are prodigals.
We waste (not use) our time ; we breathe, not live.
Time wasted is existence, us'd is life. 150

And bare existence, Man, to live ordain'd,
Wrings and oppresses with enormous weight.
And why ? since time was giv'n for use, not waste.
Injoin'd to fly ; with tempest, tide, and stars,
To keep his speed, nor ever wait for Man ; 155

Time's use was doom'd a pleasure ; waste, a pain j
That Man might feel his error, if unseen :
And, feeling, fly to labour for his cure ;
Not, blund'ring, split on idleness for ease.
Life's cares are comforts, such by Heav'n design'd ; 1 60
He that has none, must make them, or be wretched.
Cares are employments ; and without employ
The soul is on the rack ; the rack of rest,
To souls most adverse ; action all their joy.

Here, then, the riddle, mark'd above, unfolds; 165
Then time turns torment, when Man turns a fool.
We rave, we wrestle with great Nature's plan ;
We thwart the Deity; and 'tis decreed,
Who thwart His will shall contradict their own.
Hence our unnat'ral quarrel with ourselves ; 170

Our thoughts at enmity ; our bosom-broil ;
We push Time from us, and we wish him back j

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Lavish of lustrums, and yet fond of life ;
Life we think long, and short ; Death seek, and shun ;
Body and soul, like peevish man and wife, 175

United jar, and yet are loth to part.

Oh the dark days of vanity ! while here,
How tasteless ! and how terrible when gone !
Gone ! they ne'er go ; when past, they haunt us still;
The spirit walks of ev'ry day deceased ; 180

.And smiles an angel, or a fury frowns.
Nor death, nor life, delight us. If time past,
And time possest, both pain us, what can please ?
That which the Deity to please ordain'd,
Time us'd. The Man who consecrates his hours 185
By vigorous effort, and an honest aim,
At once he draws the sting of life and death ;
He walks with Nature ; and her paths are peace.

Our error's cause and cure are seen : See next
Time's nature, origin, importance, speed j 196

And thy great gain from urging his career.
All-sensual Man, because untouch'd, unseen,
He looks on time as nothing. Nothing else
Is truly Man's; 'tis Fortune's. Time's a god.
Hast thou ne'er heard of Time's omnipotence? 195
For, or against, what wonders can he do !
And will : To stand blank neuter he disdains.
Not on those terms was Time (Heav'n's stranger!) sent
On his important embassy to Man.
LORENZO ! no : On the long-destin'd hour, 200

From everlasting ages growing ripe,
That memorable hour of wondrous birth,
When the dread SIRE, on emanation bent,
And big with Nature, rising in his might,


Call'd forth creation (for then Time was born), 205

By Godhead streaming through a thousand worlds ;

Not on those terms, from the great days of Heav'n,

From old Eternity's mysterious orb,

Was Time cut off, and cast beneath the skies ;

The skies, which watch him in his new abode, 210

Measuring his motions by revolving spheres 5

That horologe machinery divine.

Hours, days, and months, and years, his children play,

Like numerous wings, around him, as he flies :

Or, rather, as unequal plumes they shape 215

His ample pinions, swift as darted flame,

To gain his goal, to reach his ancient rest,

And join anew Eternity his sire j

In his immutability to nest,

When worlds, that count his circles now, unhing'd 220

(Fate the loud signal sounding") headlong rush

To timeless night and chaos, whence they rose.

Why spur the speedy ? Why with levities
New-wing thy short, short day's too rapid flight ?
Know'st thou, or what thou dost, or what is done? 225
Man flies from Time, and Time from Man ; too soon
In sad divorce this double flight must end ;
And then, where are we? where, LORENZO! then
Thy sports ? thy pomps ? I grant thee, in a state
Not unambitious; in the ruffled shroud, 230

Thy Parian tomb's triumphant arch beneath.
Has Death his fopperies ? Then well may Life
Put on her plume, and in her rainbow shine.

Ye well-array'd ! Ye lilies of our land !
Ye lilies male! who neither toil nor spin 235

(As sister lilies might), if not so wise


As Solomon, more sump'tous to the sight !
Ye delicate ! who nothing can support,
Yourselves most insupportable ! for whom
The winter rose must blow, the Sun put on 240

A brighter beam in Leo, silky-soft
Favonius breathe still softer, or be chid,
And other worlds send odours, sauce, and song,
And robes, and notions, fram'd in foreign looms !
O ye LORENZOS of our age ! who deem 245

One moment unamus'd, a misery
Not made for feeble Man ! who call aloud
For ev'ry bauble, drivell'd o'er by sense,
For rattles, and conceits of ev'ry cast,
For change of f Jlies, and relays of joy, 250

To drag your patient through the tedious length
Of a short winter's day say, sages say!
Wit's oracles ; say, dreamers of gay dreams j
How will you weather an eternal night,
Where such expedients fail ? 255

O treach'rous Conscience ! while she seems to sleep
On rose and myrtle, lull'd with syren song ;
While she seems, nodding o'er her charge, to drop
On headlong Appetite the slacken'd rein,
And give us up to License, unrecall'd, 260

Unmark'd; see, from behind her secret stand,
The sly informer minutes ev'ry fault,
And her dread diary with horror fills.
Not the gross act alone employs her pen ;
She reconnoitres Fancy's airy band, 265

A watchful foe ! The formidable spy,
List'ning, o'erhears the whispers of our camp :
Our dawning purposes of heart explores,



And steals our embryos of iniquity.

As all-rapacious usurers conceal 270

Their doomsday-book from all-consuming heirs;

Thus, with indulgence most severe, she treats

Us spendthrifts of inestimable Time ;

Unnoted, notes each moment misapply'd j

In leaves more durable than leaves of brass, 275

Writes our whole history ; which Death shall read

In ev'ry pale delinquent's private ear ;

And judgment publish ; publish to more worlds

Than this ; and endless age in groans resound.

LORENZO, such that sleeper in thy breast! 280

Such is her slumber ; and her vengeance such

For slighted counsel ; such thy future peace !

And think'st thou still thou canst be wise too soon ?

But why on Time so lavish is my song ?
On this great theme kind Nature keeps a school, 285
To teach her sons herself. Each night we die,
Each morn are born anew : Each day, a life !
And shall we kill each day ? If trifling kills,
Sure vice must butcher. O what heaps of slain
Cry out for vengeance on us ! Time destroy'd 290
Is suicide, where more than blood is spilt.
Time flies, Death urges, knells call, Heav'n invites,
Hell threatens: All exerts; in effort, all;
More than creation labours ! labours more ?
And is there in creation, what, amidst 295

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 2 of 24)