death. See this very strikingly delineated in some subsequent
V. 360, &c. " Life's little stage," &c. A more pathetic ac-
count of the brevity and vanity of our existence in this world, was
never given in fewer lines by mortal pen. An inspired writer seems
to have been very tenderly impressed with the same sentiments,
when he was composing Psalm xxxix.
V. 432. " But such our gravitation to the wrong." Heathens
saw this ; and therefore they exclaimed,
" O curvae in terris animx, & coelestium inanes."
V. 458, &c. " Song, fashionably fruitless, &c." Nothing i
more universally to be lamented than this sad prostitution of poetical
genius. The more exquisite its charms, the more fatal its effects.
V. 560, c. " What if (sir.ce daring on so nice a theme)
I shew thee friendship," &c.
Where is the topic, that has ever been dwelt upon with so much
celebration and rapture, as that of friendship ? " How tiresome
indeed do all the pleasures of the world appear, when compared
with the happiness of a tender, faithful, and enlightened friendship !
that high and intimate connexion of the soul, where our inclina-
tions are free, our feelings genuine, our sentiments unbiassed ;
where a mutual confidence of thoughts and actions, of pleasures and
pains, uninterruptedly prevails ; where the heart is led with joy-
along the paths of piety and virtue, and the mind conducted by Hap-
piness into the bowers of Truth ; and where ad v ice, consolation, and
succour, are reciprocally given and received in all the accidents and
sorrows of life !" Our Author has painted the charm in the most
inviting colours ; but where, oh ! where, is the treasure to be
V. 597, &c. " Like birds,'' &c. In what consummate beauty
of imagery is that common remark, that, " We never learn the true
value of blessings, but by their loss," conveyed in these few verses !
V. 615, &c. " The death-bed of the just," &c. The reader,
who wishes to have his soul animated with the pious ambition, this
scene is calculated to inspire, must live, as it were, o'er each line, and
.X X 2
340 NOTES TO NIGHT THE THIRD.
critically observe how every circumstance of it is delineated, so as-
to affect, amend, and improve the human heart. The composition
is wonderful, but the moral is inestimable.
NIGHT THE THIRD.
A CORRECT taste, it has been said, is very much offended with
Dr. Young's Night Thoughts ; it observes, that the representation
there given of human life is false and gloomy ; that the poetry
Sometimes sinks into childish conceits or prosaic flatness, but oftener
rises into the turgid, or false sublime ; that it is perplexed and ob-
scure ; arid that the general plan of the work is ill laid, and is not
So much, for what is called correct taste. It is certain, how-
ever, that this work may be read, and is read, with very different
sentiments. It may be found, as a judicious writer has remarked,
to contain more touches of the most sublime poetry than any lan-
guage has produced, and to be full of those pathetic strokes of
nature and passion, which touch the heart in the most tender and af-
Besides, the mind is sometimes in a disposition to be pleased only
with dark views of human life. There are afflictions too deep, to
bear either reasoning or amusement. They may be soothed, but
cannot be diverted. The fine gloom of the Night Thoughts per-
fectly corresponds with this state of mind. It indulges and flatters
the present passion, and at the same time proposes those motives of
consolation, which alone can render certain griefs supportable. We
may here observe that secret and wonderful endearment, which the
divine Being has annexed to all our sympathetic feelings. We enter
into the deepest scenes of distress and sorrow with a melting soft-
ness of heart, far more delightful than all the joys which unthink-
ing and dissipated mirth can inspire.
After all, there is a sublime of tender melancholy, almost the
universal attendant of genius ; and there are many reasons to be
assigned, why, in the great scale of things, *' it is better to go to
the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting ; for that ia
HOTES TO NIGHT THE THIRD. 34.1
the end of all men, and the living will lay. it to heart." " The
heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of
fools in the house of mirth,"
" And reeling through this wilderness of joy,
Where Sense runs savage, broke from Reason's chain ;
And sings false peace, till smother'd by the pall.'*
Ver. 6, &c. " O lost to virtue,'' &c.
" For Wisdom's self
Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,
Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
That in the various bustle of resort
Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impaiVd.'' Milton.
V. 145, &c. " Lean not on earth,'' &c. There is no real
peace, but that which surpasseth all understanding ; nor any disap-
pointless hope, but that which is full of immortality.
" The soul, for perfect bliss design'd,
Strives in vain that bliss to find,
Till, wing'd by Hope, at length it flies
Beyond the narrow bounds of earth, and air, and skies.''
V- 165, &c. " For, oh! the curs'd ungodliness of zeal!"
From the madness of false zeal, and the ravings of fanaticism,
pure religion has received some of its most incurable wounds. Wit-
ness the inquisition and crusades of the Romish church, and the en-
thusiastic ranters of the last century. Ecclesiastical history will
furnish us with too many instances of this sort ; with examples ^suf-
ficient to make us tremble ; equally injurious to the cause of reli-
gion, and to the rights of society. For, what is genuine Christianity,
but a system of divine love ? of that love, which hospitably em-
braces the Turk and the Indian ; and which, becoming all things
to all men, desireth not the death, but the conversion, of a
V. 226, &c. " HeavVs Sov'reign saves all beings," &c.
The exceeding depravity of our common nature, is a subject of
deep humiliation, and cries aloud to every one of us, in the language
of the son of Sirach, " Pride was not made for man."
V. 357, &c. " To cling to this rude rock,
Barren, to them, of good," &c.
342 NOTES TO NIGHT THE THIRD.
Not to say any thing of the picturesque propriety of all this
scenery, see the affecting truth it contains, illustrated at large, in
the Author's True Estimate of Human Life, vol. 5th.
V. 366, &c. " Virtue she, wonder-working goddess ! charms
That rock to bloom," &c.
A bad man is wholly the creature of the world. He hangs upon
its favour, lives by its smiles, and is happy or miserable in pro-
portion to his success. It is the peculiar effect of virtue such as
Christian motives inspire to make a man's chief happiness independ-
ent on all this. To him, success in worldly undertakings is but a
secondary object. To discharge his own part in life with integrity and
honour, and to set his affections on things above, that are unseen and
eternal, is his supreme aim. To Providence he leaves the rest.
" His witness is in heaven, and his reward on high."
V. 416, &c. " The mighty basis of eternal bliss."
What an importance and grandeur does this fentiment reflect OB
human existence !
" Transient, indeed, as is the fleeting hour,
And yet, the seed of an immortal flow'r ;
Design'd in honour of almighty love,
To fill with fragrance his abode above :
Its value, what no thought can ascertain,
Nor all an angel's eloquence explain."
V. 526, &c. " Death is the crown of life ;
Were Death denied," &c.
How much ought that writer to be esteemed, who has grouped
together so many ideas to dissipate the horrors of the tomb, and to
reconcile the trembling mind to the inevitable approach of Death !
If any thing can be more supporting, than what is here advanced,
it is the sublime and rapturous strain of St. Paul, in the close of
the fifteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians. In thai
reviving view of things,
" Thrice welcome, Death !
That after many a painful, bleeding step,
Conducts us to our home, and lands us safe
On the long-wish'd-for shore. Prodigious change !
Our bane turn'd to a blessing! Death disarm'd
Loses his fellness quite. All thanks to HIM,
Who scourg'd the venom out."
NOTES TO NIGHT THE FOURTH. 343
NIGHT THE FOURTH.
a comparative view of the numerous beauties, in each of
the Night Thoughts of which there are nine whether in honour
of the tuneful nine, or of the graces equal in number, celebrated
by an inspired writer, we cannot say Taste, Criticism, and Piety,
will surely give the preference to this.
Notwithstanding the peculiarity of sentiment, by which a masterly
writer of the highest reputation has distinguished himself, we have
a proof, in this Night, with what advantage sacred poetry may be
devoted to the service of religion. We perfectly agree with this
great ornament of our nation, that, of sentiments purely religious,
it will be found that the most simple expression is the most sublime.
But it does not appear to us, that the ideas of Christian theology are
too simple for eloquence, or too majestic for ornament ; nor, that
verse can do no more than delight the ear, and assist the memory.
The mind, that is not affected with several passages in The Christian
Triumph, must be lost to the noblest sensibilities of the human
Sacred history will, no doubt, be read by the more reflective
and serious part of mankind alas ! how few ! with submissive re-
verence, and an imagination overawed and controlled. But there
are those, and they are the many, with whom amplification is
neither useless nor vain. Thousands will be charmed with divine
truth, recommended by the embellishments and harmony of verse,
who, it is to be feared, disregard it in its native simplicity.
Ver. 15, &c. " Man makes a death," &c.
" And yet, 'tis sure a serieus thing, to die !
What a strange moment must it be, when near
Thy journey's end thou hast the gulph in view
That awful gulph, no mortal e'er repass'd,
To tell what's doing on the further side.
Nature starts back, and shudders at the sight."
V. 82, &c. " The world's a stately bark," &c. T^he in-
tercourse of the world is the education of vice. Men possess-
ed of the best inclinations are surrounded by so many snares and
NOTES TO NIGHT THE FOURTH.
" dangers, that they all commit some faults every day of their lives,
but as they fly from its enchantments to solitude and self-reflection.
V. ill, c. " Shall we, shall aged men," &c. When they,
who have most reason to be wise, are farthest from it, it sinks
the dignity of our common nature ; brings, beyond all other
enormities, a reproach upon mankind ; and gives each individual,
as a sufferer in the scandal, a just right to censure, if not to
V. 122, &c. " And soon as man," &c. He that has not
learned the world, must go out of it, or be made a jest and an un-
fortunate in it ; he that has learned it, has learned it by the difcipline
of bitter experience ; and, by the time he is well master of the
game, his candle is put out. It is hard to learn the world but
harder to unlearn it j and, not to unlearn it, will one day prove more
V. 138, &c. " O thou great Arbiter," &c. If there be a cha-
racter on earth, that deserves our ambition, or our envy, it is the
character of him,, whose heart can breathe out its secret desires in
pious effusions, like these. This is that perfection of human ex-
cellence, and that consummation of all sublunary felicity, most de-
voutly to be wished.
V. 144, &c. " What healing hand," &c. From hence, to the
end of this Night, let the reader prepare his mind for the richest
assemblage of every thing sublime, tender, interesting, and im-
portant, in language and sentiment, that the most refined ima-
gination can indulge, and the most religious taste can enjoy. There
is enough here, to exhaust all the powers of critical and pious admi-
ration. It is indeed impossible to believe, on this occaiion, without
feeling ; or, to feel without being fired with such a theme j the
grand theme, the very line of life, in all divine revelation.
V. 249. " A midnight awe ! a dread eclipse." Which a
learned man of Greece is said to have observed at that time, and to
have exclaimed, " That either the God of nature suffered violence,
or, that the frame of the world was about to dissolve."
V. 271, &.c. " And did he rise?
Hear, O ye nations," c.
Nothing can 'exceed the sublimity and grandeur, with which this
animating truth is celebrated, by the spirit of prophecy, in the
-KOTES TO NIGHT THE FOURT1T.
twenty-fourth Psalm. Who can read it, without being transported
with the glorious manner, in which the triumphant Conqueror is
introduced to the mansions of bliss, by the celestial convoy !
V. 318, &c. " Survey the wondrous cure ;
And, at each step, let higher wonder rise.'*
Sit down, for once, in more than usual meditation, at the foot
of the Redeemer's cross
" Oh, stop ! and from the humble base below
Cast up thy fearful eyes
To where thy Lord, and love, was crucified !
So shall the world, and all its vanities,
Appear like dross ambition, lust, and pride,
Shall far, far off, their baleful pow'rs remove,
And in the pure unspotted mind
Nothing remain behind,
But adoration, extacy, and praise.''
V. 334. " O what a scale of miracles is here!'' Such a judi-
cious selection of capital circumstances, in order to give them an
uniting force, is, by an eminent critic, styled, grandeur of manner.
And grandeur, being one of the strongest emotions of the human
mind, is not easily produced in perfection, but by reiterated impression.
The effect of a single impression can be but momentary, and very
inferior to that of a grand subject displayed in all its principal parts,
and brought together in one comprehensive point of light.
The use of repetition never perhaps was shewn to greater ad-
vantage than in this unrivalled passage, which may be said to bear
away the palm from every other in this whole work.
Neither ought it to be unobserved, that every successive circum-
stance, in this sublime gradation, revives and enlivens the mind
for, by an uninterrupted series of climax, it is raised to the very
summit of mental elevation. Every body must have observed the
delightful effect of a number of thoughts and sentiments, inge-
niously disposed in this ascending series, and making impressions
deeper and deeper.
The only possible inconvenience to be apprehended, in this case,
is, a depression, as sudden and unpleasing, as the elevation is gra-
dual and enchanting. That, however, is completely obviated here,
by the lines which immediately follow" Bound every heart," &c.
NOf ES TO NIGHT THE FOURTH.
V. 550, &c. " Religion's all. Descending," &c. This is
what the wisest of the mere sons of men, after an accurate survey
of the world's inventory, has called, " The Whole of Man ;'' and,
what a greater than Solomon has pronounced to be, " The one thing
V. 563, &c. " As when a wretch," &c. It is this great
doctrine of regeneration, thus poetically illustrated, which the di-
vine prophet enforced with so much energy upon the surprised at-
tention of Nicodemus. See John, iii.
V 575- '* Religion ! thou the soul of happiness." The one
thing necessary for happiness, is common to both worlds ; this, and
the next. In vain we seek a different receipt for it, one in time,
another in eternity. Religion wanting, every thing else becomes ne_
cessary to happiness, and ineffectual. " A good man shall be sa-
tisfied from himself alone." A bad man shall be dissatisfied, with
all the world at his command.
V. 647, c. " Devotion, when lukewarm, is undevout ;
But when it glows," &c.
If there be a God, all our affections are too feeble, all the wings
of our soul are too few, to be put forth in pursuit of his favour ;
and being languid in devotion, is being solemnly undevout. If there
be a God, he gave us OVLY passions, as well as our reason ; they there-
fore, as well as reason, should assist in his service. Even angels have
their passions; nor are any beings on this side the throne of God
exempt from the need of them.
V. 731, &c. " All-sacred Reason!" &c. The Deity is all
Reason, in nature, conduct, revelation, and commands. The great,
invariable, everlasting alternative is, throughout his creation, or
reason, or ruin.
V. 738, &c. " Reason rebaptiz'd me, when adult ;
Weigh'd true, and false," &c.
For, when that is preserved, sense submits to reason ; and, when
sense submits to reason, reason submits to the revealed word of
God. And, I must observe, that reason, stooping to revelation, is
reason still only more reasonable j and, its great hazard of error, is
all that is lost.
V. 742. " On argument alone my faith is 'built." Let us not,
however, misunderstand our Author j for, in another place he has
NOTES TO NIGHT THE FIFTH. 347
xpresly affirmed, that, " Fallible ratiocination should not be made
the grounds of our faith, whose proper basis is, infallible testimony.
Nor is it longer faith, than while it rests on that.'' All, therefore,
he can mean to say here is, as he explains himself in the line imme-
diately subsequent, that, reason, properly pursued, will lead on
to faith ; which is no more than the unreserved submission of our
understandings, or the sacrifice of our idolized reason, to God.
V- 755, &c." Wrong not the Christian ; think not Reason your's j
'Tis Reason,'' Sec.
Volumes have been written upon the all-important subjects of rea-
son and faith, which have not contained one half the solid and va-
luable instruction, to be derived from these few lines.
V. 771, &c. " These pompous sons of Reason idoliz'd,
And vilify 'd at once,'' &c.
The intelligent reader will know, how to apply this inimitable
stroke of satire and of wit ; and, with what justice it falls on cha-
racters of such immortal infamy and shame, as Bolingbroke, Shafts-
bury, Chesterfield, and all the lo\ver tribe of infidelity and vice.
The sufficiency of human reason is the golden calf, which these
men set up to be worshipped ; and, in the frenzies of their extrava-
gant devotion to it, they strike at an oak with on osier the doc-
trine of God's own planting, and the growth of ages, with the
sudden and fortuitous shoots of vanity and imagination.
V. 788. " A Christian is the highest style of Man!" A
Christian should let every body see, what an animation there is in
Christianity, above all that the world nuy admire besides. Chrifti-
anity should be the boast, as well as the comfort, of our hearts.
NIGHT THE FIFTH.
SOME for pity's sake, we name them not have very ignorantly
objected to this inimitable writer, a want of order and method. To
which it might be replied, that, " irregularity and want of method
are supportable in men of great learning and genius; who are often
too full, to be critically exact ; and, therefore, chuse to throw down
their pearls in heaps before the reader, rather than be at the paiiu
of stringing them."
Y Y 2
NOTES TO NIGHT THE FIFTH.
Such an apology, however, is quite superfluous. For, as method is
of great advantage to a work, both in respect to the writer and
reader, it is with pleasure we can discover it, though very inge-
niously concealed, in this. If it be not perceived, it must be ascribed
to the carelessness of the observer, not to the confusion of the Author.
The various subjects here arranged, and discussed, are, " The im-
portance of contemplating the tomb ; suicide ; the different kinds
of grief; the faults of age ; and Death's dread character."
Ver. 5, &c. - " I grant the Muse
Has often blush 'd at her degenerate sons."
Too many poets have exhausted all the wit, eloquence, and
graces, they were masters of, to gloss over such vices and crimes in
the most bewitching colours, as must have fallen into general con-
tempt, had they not been set off with the ornaments they supplied,
as a cover to their deformity and shame.
This is the foundation of the just reproaches, which the wise
men among -the heathen have thrown upon the poets. Tully him-
self complains of Homer in particular, that he has ascribed the
frailties of men to the gods, instead of giving the virtues of the
gods to men. And it was upon this motive, that Plato banished
the poets his republic.
V. 49> 50. " The flowers of eloquence, profusely pour'd
O'er spotted vice, fill half the letter'd world."
" What then are they, whose proud conceits
Superior wisdom boast ?
Wretches, who fight their own belief,
And labour to be lost !
Strict their devotion to the wrong,
Though tempted by no prize ;
Hard their commandments, and their cretd,
A magazine of lies,
From Fancy's forge : Gay Fancy smiles
At Reason plain and cool 5
Fancy, whose curious trade it is
To make the finest fool."
V. 79. " In melancholy dipp'd, embrowns the whole."
! Thus o'er the twilight groves, and dusky caves,
Long-sounding ailes, and intermingling graves,
NOTES TO NIGHT THE FIFTH. 349
Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws
A death-like silence, and a dread repose :
Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
Shades every flower, and darkens every green ;
Deepens the murmurs of the falling floods,
And breathes a browner horror on the woods." Pope.
V. 97, &c. " O thou, bless'd Spirit !'' &c. If any thing can
give real dignity to human nature, in its present low estate, it is
this pious elevation of the soul, from dust and earth, to God and
V. 164, 165. . " The world 's a school
Of wrong, and what proficients swarm around!"
" Have angels sinn'd ? and shall not man beware ?
How shall a son of earth decline the snare ?
Not folded arms, and slackness of the mind,
Can promise for the safety of mankind.
None are supinely good : Through care and pain,
And various arts, the steep ascent we gain.
This is the scene of combat, not of rest ;
Man's is laborious happiness at best.
On this side death, his dangers never cease,
His joys, are joys of conquest, not of peace.''
V. 223, &c. " Dearly pays the soul
For lodging ill," &c.
See this most piously and pathetically lamented, by one of the
most distinguished characters, celebrated in the history of the world,
in Rom. vii.
V. 253, &c. " Grief! more proficients in thy school are made
Than Genius, or proud Learning, e'er could boafl."
" Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.'' Shakespeare.
V. 264, &c. " And what says Genius ?" &c. There is no-
thing with which mankind are apt to be more fascinated than Genius .-
Forgetting, at the same time, that it is not genius, but the appli-
cation of it, that constitutes its intrinsic worth, or otherwise. For,
" with the talents of an angel, a man may be a fool. If he judges
NOTES TO NIGHT THE SIXTH.
amiss in the supreme point, judging right in all else, but aggra-
vates his folly; as it shews him wrong, though blessed with a capa-
city of being right."
NIGHT THE SIXTH.
Ver. 148, &c. " YE born of earth ! on what can you confer
With half the dignity," &c.
*' Is all this rapturous ? Yes, such a rapture, as nothing but
gross ignorance, or more fatal infidelity, can forbear. Is not rap-
ture due for felicities inexpressible ? And what felicity is so much
as second to this ? It is the close, frequent, and feeling inspection
of these interiora of man's sublime condition, as immortal, and re-
deemed^ which is the highest cordial of human joy, and the richest
mine of human thought. A mine deep-dug by few ! And yet,
without it, man is not more a stranger to the natives of Saturn,
than to himself. Without it, he must want the true, genuine, vital
pirit of a Christian."
V. 213, &c. " The momentary buz of vain renown !
A name !" &c.
' For what so foolish, as the chase of fame ?
How vain the prize ! how impotent our aim!
For what are men, who grasp at praise sublime,
But bubbles on the rapid stream of time
That rise, and fall, that swell, and are no more,
Born, and forgot, ten thousand in an hour ?"
, V. 262, &c. " Fame's flight is Glory's fall
Heart-merit wanting," &c.
" But own we must, in this perverted age,
Who most deserve, can't always most engage.
So far is worth from making Glory sure,
It often hinders what it should procure.
Whom praise we most f The virtuous, brave, and wise ?