Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

. (page 20 of 24)
Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 20 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Endearing; ah! how sweet in human ears!

Sweet in our ears, and triumph in our hearts! 2255

Father of immortality to Man!

A theme that lately set my soul on fire.

And Thou the next! yet equal! Thou, by whom

That blessing was convey 'd; far more! was bought;

Ineffable the price! by whom all worlds 2260

Were made; and one, redeem'd! Illuilrious light

From light illustrious! Thou, whose regal power,

Finite in time, but infinite in space,

On more than adamantine basis fix'd,

O'er more, far more, than diadems, and thrones,

Inviolably reigns; the dread of gods! 2266

And Oh! the Friend of Man! beneath whose foot,

And by the mandate of whose awful nod,

All regions, revolutions, fortunes, fates,

Of high, of low, of mind, and matter, roll 2270

Through the short channels of expiring time,


Or shoreless ocean of eternity,

Calm, or tempestuous (as Thy Spirit breathes),

In absolute subjection! And, O Thou

The glorious Third! distinct not separate! 22 75

Beaming from both ! with both incorporate !

And (strange to tell !) incorporate with dust!

By condescension, as thy glory, great,

Enshrin'd in Man ! of human hearts, if pure,

Divine inhabitant ! the tie divine 2280

Of heav'n with distant earth! by whom, I trust,

(If not inspir'd) uncensur'd this address

To Thee, to Them To whom ? Mysterious Power !

Reveal'd yet unreveal'd ! Darkness in light!

Number in unity! Our joy! Our dread! 2285

The triple bolt that lays all wrong in ruin!

That animates all right, the triple sun!

Sun of the soul! her never-setting sun!

Triune, unutterable, unconceiv'd,

Absconding, yet demonstrable, Great GOD! 2290

Greater than greatest! better than the best !

Kinder than kindest! with soft Pity's eye

Or (stronger still to speak it) with thine own,

From thy bright home, from that high firmament,

Where Thou, from all eternity, hast dwelt j 2295

Beyond archangels' unassisted ken;

From far above what mortals highest call;

From elevation's pinnacle; look down

Through What? Confounding interval! Through all,

And more than lab'ring fancy can conceive; 2300

Through radiant ranks of essences unknown ;

Through hierarchies from hierarchies detach'd

Round various banners of Omnipotence,


With endless change of rapt'rous duties fir'd ;

Through wondrous beings interposing swarms, 2305

All clust'ring at the call, to dwell in Thee;

Through this wide waste of worlds; this vista vast,

All sanded o'er with suns ; suns turn'd to night

Before thy feeblest beam Look down down down,

On a poor breathing particle in dust, 2310

Or, lower, an immortal in his crimes.

His crimes forgive! forgive his virtues, too !

Those smaller faults, half-converts to the right.

Nor let me close these eyes, which never more

May see the sun (though night's descending scale

Now weighs up morn), unpity'd, and unblest! 2316

In thy displeasure dwells eternal pain ;

Pain, our aversion ; pain, which strikes me now ;

And, since all pain is terrible to Man,

Though transient, terrible; at thy good hour, 2320

Gently, ah gently, lay me in my bed,

My clay-cold bed ! by nature, now, so near ;

By nature, near ; still nearer by disease !

Till then, be this, an emblem of my grave :

Let it out-preach the preacher; ev'ry night 2 3 2 5

Let it out-cry the boy at Philip's ear ;

That tongue of death ! that herald of the tomb !

And when (the shelter of thy wing implor'd)

My senses, sooth'd, shall sink in soft repose ;

O sink this truth still deeper in my soul, 2 33

Suggested by my pillow, sign'd by fate,

First, in Fate's volume, at the page of Man

' Man's sickly soul, though turn'd and toss'd for ever,

* From side to side, can rest on nought but THEE ;

4 Here, in full trust; hereafter in full joy;' 2 335


On THEE, the promis'd, sure, eternal down
Of spirits, toiPd in travel through this vale.
Nor of that pillow shall my soul despond ;
For Love Almighty ! Love Almighty ! (sing,
Exult, Creation!) Love Almighty, reigns! 2340

That death of death ! that cordial of despair !
And loud Eternity's triumphant song !

" Of whom no more: For, O Thou Patron-God!
Thou GOD and Mortal ! thence more GOD to Man!
Man's theme eternal ! Man's eternal theme ! 2 345
Thou can'st not 'scape uninjur'd from our praiae.
Uninjur'd from our praise can he escape,
Who, disembosom'd from the FATHER, bows
The heaven of heav'ns, to kiss the distant earth !
Breathes out in agonies a sinless soul ! 2 35

Against the cross, Death's iron sceptre breaks!
From famish'd Ruin plucks her human prey !
Throws wide the gates celestial to his foes !
Their gratitude, for such a boundless debt,
Deputes their suff'ring brothers to receive! 2 355

And, if deep human guilt in payment fails;
As deeper guilt prohibits our despair!
Injoins it, as our duty, to rejoice!
And (to close ail) omnipotently kind,
Takes his delight among the sons of men ?'* 2360

What words are these! And did they come from


And were they spoke to Man? To guilty Man?
What are all mysteries to love like this!
The song of angels, all the melodies
Of choral gods, are wafted in the sound;
Heal and exhilarate the broken heurt,


Though plung'd, before, in horrors dark as night :
Rich prelibation of consummate joy !
Nor wait we dissolution to be blest.

This final effort of the moral muse, 2370

How justly titled! Not for me alone;
For all that read; \vhat spirit of support,
What heights of CONSOLATION crown my song!

Then farewell NIGHT! Of darkness, now, no more:
Joy breaks; shines; triumphs; 'tis eternal day. 2375
Shall that which rises out of nought complain
Of a few evils, paid with endless joys ?
My soul ! henceforth, in sweetest union join
The two supports of human happiness,
Which some, erroneous, think can never meet; 2380
True taste of life, and constant thought of death;
The thought of death, sole victor of its dread !
Hope be thy joyj and probity thy skill ;
Thy patron HE, whose diadem has dropp'd
Yon gems of heaven; Eternity, thy prize: 2385

And leave the racers of the world their own,
Their feather, and their froth, for endless toils :
They part with all for that which is not bread ;
They mortify, they starve, on wealth, fame, power;
And laugh to scorn the fools that aim at more. 2390
How must a spirit, late escap'd from earth,
The truth of things new blazing in its eye,
Look back, astonish'd, on the ways of men,
Whose lives' whole drift is to forget their graves !
And when our present privilege is past, 2396

To scourge us with due sense of its abuse,
The same astonishment will feize us all.


What then must pain us, would preserve us now.
LORENZO! 'tis not yet too late: LORENZO! 2400
Seize wisdom, ere 'tis torment to be wisej
That is, seize wifdom, ere she seizes thee.
For, what, my small philosopher! is hell?
'T is nothing, but full knowledge of the truth,
When Truth, resisted long, is sworn our foe; 2405
And calls Eternity to do her right*

Thus, darkness aiding intellectual light,
And sacred silence whispering truths divine,
And truths divine converting pain to peace,
My song the midnight raven has outwing'd, 2410

And shot, ambitious of unbounded scenes,
Beyond the flaming limits of the world,
Her gloomy flight. But what avails the flight
Of fancy, when our hearts remain below ?
Virtue abounds in flatterers, and foes ; 2415

*T is pride, to praise her; penance, to perform.
To more than words, to more than worth of tongue,
LORENZO! rise, at this auspicious hour;
An hour, when Heav'n's most intimate with Man ;
When, like a falling star, the ray divine 2420

Glides swift into the bosom of the just;
And just are all, determin'd to reclaim ;
Which sets that title high, within thy reach.
Awake then, thy PHILANDER calls: Awake!
Thou, who shalt wake, when the creation sleeps; 2425
When, like a taper, all these suns expire ;
When Time, like him of Gaza in his wrath,
Plucking the pillars that support the world,
In Nature's ample ruins lies intomb'd ;
And Midnight, universal Midnight ! reigns. 243-

u u






WHATEVER respective value it may be proper to set on the other
sciences, those, which are of the most extensive utility, and the
most interesting to mankind, are poetry, history, and eloquence.
For, at the same time that they constitute what is called polite
literature, they are accompanied with graces and charms of pecu-
liar attraction.

It is needless to inform the intelligent reader, that the art of
poetry, profane, as it is become, by its shameful prostitution, was
originally invented to render the public homage of adoration to the
Divine Being ; and, to teach mankind the most important truths of
religion. Such was the purity of its first institution. A learned
prelate of our own country considers it as of divine origin ; and
such, indeed, appears to have been the opinion of the more informed
part of the heathen world. They considered poetry, we are told,
as something sacred and celestial ; not produced by human genius,
but altogether a divine gift. The mysteries and ceremonies of their
religion, and the worship of their deities, were performed in verse ;
and the most antient of their compositions, the oracles^ always
consisted of numbers.

It ought to be observed, as a circumstance of still greater consi-
deration, that, in the oracles of divine truth itself, there are some
of the first and choicest specimens of poetic taste ; and that in this,
as well as in many other respects, the SACRED SCRIPTURES will for
ever remain unrivalled. Nor is it any dishonour to the Author or
the Night Thoughts, that his work is enriched and dignified with
Tarious treasures from that source.

" If men of the first intellectual powers had dedicated their talents
to the sublimest of all subjects, and had followed the example of
u u 2


this excellent writer ; if they had recommended every moral and re
ligious duty, with all the charms of numbers^ and in all the colours
of a fine imagination ; they might have inspired those with a love of
Christianity and virtue) who are now feduced, by a licentious muse,
to vice and scepticism. Let men of genius enter this field ; let
them recollect that they have Homer and Cattimacbus, in some mea-
sure, for their model ; or, which is better still, that Milton derived
from facred subjects a style of poetry, which all the enlightened
world admire."

The design of our Author is evidently that of exposing the vanity
of the world, and the insufficiency of all earthly pursuits, possessions,
and enjoyments, to satisfy the vast desires of an immortal spirit ;
and, from the emptiness of all sublunary bliss, to lead the soul to
virtue, to religion, and to GOD. In the prosecution, of this mjSle
design, there is a force of reasoning, not to be equalled in any-
poetic composition in our language.

If a certain degree of obscurity, accompanied with an unusual
brevity, be acknowledged excellencies in a didactic poem, they arc
flistinguishing characteristics of this writer ; whose style and man-
fier are unusually sententious and pointed : In whom, however, there
Sre not wanting some very beautiful instances of the tender and pa-
thetic, the sublime and grand.

Let us be permitted to celebrate it, as a peculiar excellency of
this work, that it is impossible to read it without reflection. And
the habit of reflection is what forms the man of judgment the va-
luable member of society and the candidate for honours, which
will never fade.

In an age, like the present, when all orders of men are in some
degree attentive to letters, he certainly renders great service to reli-
gion, and consequently to society, who unites taste with theology ;
and much encouragement ought surely to be given to those, who
are exerting their utmost efforts, to promote the desirable coalition
Of piety and the arts.

It was saying but little, of this illustrious ornament of our coun-
try, in a comparative view, when it was remarked of him, that*
14 with all his defects, he was a.genius and a poet."



VERSE ift, &c. " Tir'd Nature's," &c. It is impossible to.
possess that happy sensibility, from whence arises every amiable
emotion of the heart, without being tenderly affected with the pathos
of this introduction. Nothing can more beautifully express the state
of mind it is intended to delineate. Who can read the lines*
and not be touched with the sentiment ? We have something very
similar in the introduction of Gray's Elegy, and Pope's Eloisa ;

" The curfew tolls the knell of parting day ;

The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea ;

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me."

" In these deep solitudes, and awful cells,
Where heavenly-pensive Contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing Melancholy reigns "

In each of them, the sound is a very natural and obvious echo t
the sense ; but, in that of our Author, there is something so con-
genial with universal experience, that you hear it for ever repeated.

V. 1 8th, &c. " Night, sable goddess,'* &c. How admirably
is all this scenery contrived, to fix the mind in a posture of the most
serene reflection ! Neither does the Poet transport us into the re-
gions of fancy ; every thing here, is truth and fact.
V. 36th, &c. " Thou, who didft put to flight

Primeval Silence," &c.

Is there not something uncommonly sublime and grand, in this
sudden and yet well-timed address to the Divine Being ? How mean
and insignificant does the usual mode of invocation to some inspiring
muse, appear before it ! What dignity does it reflect on the whole
subject ! and on Man, when it is the genuine breathing of his heart!
And how devoutly is it to be wished, that all the disappointments and
sorrows of this present scene may drive him, for repose and peace, into

" The bosom of his Father, Friend, and God !"
Though Milton's address to the Divine Spirit has its beauties, this
is a prayer that people of every rank and circumstance may record
in their memories, and make use of upon all occasions with great


V. 41, &c, " How poor, how rich," &c. St. Augustine very
justly observed, that Man, considered in his essence, and in all his
relations, is an aenigma of all others the most difficult to be solved.
No power, but the Deity, was capable of establishing so intimate an
union between an indivisible soul, and a substance composed of
parts ; between an immortal spirit, and a mass of flesh, destined to
be reduced to dust ; in a word, between thought and sensations,
ideas and forms, affections and nerves.

It is sufficient then to descend into ourselves, in order to con-
template a prodigy every moment renewed ; but we find there only an
horrible abyss, if the Deity does not occupy the first rank within us.
Each of us should have a throne erected for GOD in his heart ; other-
wise, it becomes a chaos without order or symmetry.

If we would have a just definition of ourfelves, conformable to
our excellencies and our imperfections, we must make our inquiries
of Religion, to gain an exact knowledge of our nature.

V. 99, &c. " Her ceaseless flight," &c. None but a spiritual
being can produce immaterial ideas. The most subtle particles of
air and fire might be collected, might be agitated in every direc-
tion, but can never be formed into a syllogism. Flame, radiant and
penetrating as it is, has never yet given birth to a single thought,
et a single argument. That thought, which in an instant makes
the circuit of the world ; which subjects the universe to its observa-
tions ; which, with the most rapid flight, rises even to the infinite
Being ; which has neither situation, figure, nor colour ; which im-
periously commands, and forces the body to obey its orders ; tell
me, how can it be a part of that same body ? If thought be thus
really spiritual, must not the soul, which engenders it, be spi-
ritual ?

V. 135, &c. " Yet Man, fool Man!" &c. Milton, in his
Comus, has expressed the same idea in the following strain :

" The smoke and stir of this dim spot,

Which men call earth, and with low-thoughted care

Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,

Unmindful of the crown which Virtue gives

After this mortal change to her true servants,

Around the throne of GOD on sainted seats."


V. 149, &c. " A soul immortal, &c." A finer stroke of satire
on the folly, not to say disarrangement, of those, who are spending
all their time and powers in terrestrial pursuits, or in every varied
scene of dissipation and levity, is scarcely to be met with in any

V. 158, &c. " How, like a worm," &c. The imagery, in
these lines, is exquisitely beautiful, and admirably descriptive of the
fascinating illusions, by which human beings suffer themselves to be
cheated out of their real happinefs.

V. 238, &c. " I mourn for millions ; 'tis the common lot ;

In this fhape," &c.

See this most pathetically elucidated in the Ecclesiastes of Solo-
mon. Who, indeed, has not felt the force of that weeping strain
in the history of Job, where it is said, " Man, that is born of a
woman, is of few days, and full of trouble : He cometh up and
is cut down like a flower : He fleeth also as a shadow, and con-
tinueth not."

V. 26.), c. " Give, and reduce

Surfeit's dominion o'er you."

" Take physic, Pomp ;

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou may'st shake the superflux to them,
And shew the heavens more just."

King Lear, Act iii. Scene 5.

See also Thomson's,

" Ah ! little think the gay licentious proud,
Whom pleasure, power,'' &c. Winter Season.

V. 289, &c. " Such is Earth's melancholy map,'' &c. This
account of earth's melancholy map, to those who skim lightly over
the surface of things, and whose wretched maxim is, " Let us eat
and drink, for to-morrow we die ;" may, perhaps, be pronounced
dark and gloomy. The design, however, is equally benevolent and
pious. It is evidently drawn in these deep shades, to wean us, if
possible, from all the airy dreams and siren songs of human feli-
city, by which so many thousands are deceived infatuated de-
stroyed. It is intended to provoke us to every amiable operation
of fympathetic virtue towards our fellow-travellers through this vale


of care ; and to lead our views to brighter scenes of never-endin^
peace and joy in future bliss. Notwithstanding the sad variety of
wretchedness with which the picture presents us, who can help
esteeming that philanthropy, which says,

" I would not damp, but to secure, thy joys."
V. 390, &c, " Be wise to-day," &c. This is a hint, which
no moralist, heathen or Christian, ever failed to press upon our
attention. You will meet with it, amidst all the gaiety of an
Horace, as well as in the more grave severity of a Persius. Carpe
diem : fugit hora ; fugit irrevocabile tempus. Ab hoc momento>
pendet eternitas.


ONE of the principal views of Poetry, was, to form the manners.
To be convinced of this, we have only to consider the particular
end of the several species of poetry, and to observe the general prac-
tice of the most illustrious poets of antiquity. If either the epic
pcem, the ode, tragedy, comedy, or the pastoral, have been em-
ployed to different purposes, it is certain that they are made to de-
viate from their natural institution ; and that, in the beginning, they
all tended to the same end, which was, to render men better.

For this beneficial purpose, the reader may expect to meet with a
variety of general reflections in this Second Night, on the nature,
importance, speed, and value of Time on Friendship and on

Ver. 3, &c. " This midnight centinel, with clarion shrill,
Emblem of that,'' &c.

" I have heard,

The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat,
Awake the god of day." Hamlet.

" Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes,
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrate,
Thi? bird pf dawning singeth all night long :



And then, they fay, no spirit walks abroad,
The nights are wholesome ; then no planet strikes,
No fairy takes, no witch hath power to charm ;
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.'' Hamlet.
V. 9, &c. ** Life is war,

Eternal war with woe."

And why ? For the origin of all human misery and woe, consult
the Mosaic account of the fall of man from a state of original

V. 48, &c. " Youth is not rich in time,'' &c. From the bills
of mortality, it appears, that one half of the human race die under
the age of thirty !

V. 59, &c. " Amufement reigns

Man's great demand ; to trifle, is to live."

The proper and rational idea of amusement, is, the occasional di-
version of the mind from the habit of thinking too intensely ; the
modern perversion of it, is, to prevent thinking at all.

V. 68, Sec. " When spirits ebb, when liie's enchanting scenes

Their lustre lose," &c.

What a striking example of this is transmitted to all ages in the
history of Cardinal Wolsey !

" This is the state of man : To-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick about him ;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost ;
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root ;
And then he falls."

V. 141, &c. " Time, in advance," &c. The artist has very
judiciously selected one of the most picturesque images in this whole
work, on which to employ his pencil. It is an awful considera-
tion, and highly calculated to arrest our attention to the amazing
difference we cannot but perceive between what is already past, and
time, that is yet to come.

V. 162, &.c. " Cares are employments,'' c. Our situation in
this world requires activity. Idleness is the worst of all diseases;
equally injurious to the mind, and to the body. We are placed
here by the divine Providence, so as to render industry essential to our



well-being ; for, without it, neither the necessaries nor the com-
forts of our existence can be obtained or enjoyed.

*' All is the gift of industry whate'er
Exalts, embellishes, and renders life

V. 1 68, &c. " We thwart the Deity," &c. To feek for hap-
piness upon any plan, but that of conformity to the revealed will of
Htaven, is of all labour the most in vain.

V. 1 88, &c. " He walks with Nature,'' &c. If we might be
permitted a correction here, we would rather read>

" He walks with Wisdom" &c.

The word, Nature, being vague and equivocal, in our opinion, in
this application.

V. 200, &c. " On the long-destin'd hour,

From everlasting ages growing ripe,
That memorable hour," &c.

The reader of taste and criticism, we presume, will mark thfs
whole passage, as a specimen of the sublime and grand, both in
fentiment and in expression. The thought is perfectly new and ori-
ginal ; and the close of it is in nothing inferior to, what has beea
so universally celebrated,

" The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve ;
And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Ltave not a trace behind."

V. 256, &c. " O treacherous conscience," &c. - Volumes could
scarcely say more to the purpose on this theme, than is to be found
in these few lines. The moral sense must be strangely benumbed
in those, who can read them without serious emotion. The mur-
derer's account of conscience is, indeed, very finely given by a
more ancient writer, when he introduces him saying,

" I'll not meddle with it ; it is a dangerous thing, it makes a
man a coward : A man cannot steal, but it accuseth him ; a man
cannot swear, but it checks him. It is a blushing, shame-faced
spirit, which mutinies in a man's bosom ; it fills one full of ob-
stacles, &c. &c." Sbakespear.

V. 298, &c. " Man sleeps," &c. It is this astonishing degree



of moral insensibility to concerns of everlasting import, which the
sacred oracles have represented metaphorically by the sleep, and
death, of the soul ; and which divines have therefore called spiritual

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 20 of 24)