Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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No; wretches, whom in secret we despise."
. V. 277. " Great ill, is an atchievement of great power."


Great men, in the wrong, are powerful engines of mischief; and,
like bursting bombs, destroy themselves, and all around them.

V. 393, &c. " When blind ambition," &c. It is difficult to
say, which is more to be admired, in these few lines the beauty
of the composition and imagery, or the utility of the sentiment :
Properly regarded, it would make the proudest son of vanity sicke
at the thought of his own egregious folly. .

V. 442, &c. " O Britain ! infamous for suicide !

An island,'' &c.

" Self-murder ! name it not our island's shame,
That makes her the reproach of neighb'ring states.
Shall Nature, swerving from her earliest dictate,
Self-preservation, fall by her own act ?
Forbid it, Heaven ! Dreadful attempt !
Just reeking from self-slaughter, in a rage
To rush into the presence of our Judge !
As if we challeng'd him to do his worst,
And matter'd not his wrath ! Unheard-of tortures
Must be reserv'd for such!"

What then ought we to think of a celebrated philosopher and
historian of our own times, who has consigned his memory to de-
served infamy, by a posthumous essay in defence of suicide ?
Horresco referent !

V, 468, &c. " Sink into slaves," &c. Does not the doctrine
of materialism give a kind of secondary sanction to this brutal de-
generacy ?

V. 49% &c. " When by the bed of languishment," &c.
" Ut piciura. poesis" If this is not painting to the life, what is ?
In descriptive poetry, not even Thomson himself has any thing
superior to say nothing of its moral uses.

V. 573, &c. " 'Tis immortality, 'tis that alone,

Amid life's pains," &c.

If such be the astonishing inspiration of a becoming sense of its
immortality upon the human soul, how very pitiable was the com-
parative ignorance of the unenlightened heathens, in this respect !
and, what infinite obligations are we under to Him, " who hath
abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the
Gospel J"



V. 6o3> &c. " Enthusiastic this? Then all are weak

But rank enthusiasts," &c.

I cannot forbear this opportunity to observe, that it is a great
abuse of language, to call none but religious persons enthusiasts.
" Enthusiasm is found in every form and opinion of life. The
orator and the poet, the hero and the politician, may all be
enthusiasts. Enthusiasm, in the very nature of things, must be of
as many kinds, as those objects are, which can kindle and inflame the
imaginations, desires, and wills of men : And to appropriate enthu-
siasm to religion, is the same ignorance, as to appropriate love to
religion : For enthusiasm, or, a kindled, enflamed spirit of life, ia
as common, as universal, as love is. The grammarian, the critic,
the connoisseur, the antiquary, the philosopher, and the virtuoso,
are all of them enthusiasts, though their heat is only a flame for a

V. 622, &c. " Are there, who wrap the world so close about them,

They see no farther," &c.

Mirth at a funeral is scarce more indecent, and unnatural, than a
perpetual flight of gaiety, and burst of exultation, in a world like
this : A world, which may seem a paradise to fools, but is an hospi-
tal with the wise : A world, in which bare escape is a prime feli-
city. Effugere, est tr'iumphus.

" Go then, forgetful of its toil and strife,
Pursue the joys of this fallacious life ;
Like some poor fly, who lives but for a day,
Sip the fresh dews, and in the sunshine play,
And into nothing then dissolve away.
Are these our great pursuits ? is this to live ?
These all the hopes this much-lov'd world can give ?"
V. 65o, &c. " Thou, whose all-providential eye surveys,

Whose hand directs," &c.

This is that genuine spirit of true devotion, which in all its effort*
for the good of mankind, and for personal excellence and felicity,
lifts the soul to heaven, for that supernatural assistance, of which
its own intellectual weakness, and its impotent exertions, always
stand in need.

V. 701, &c. " Shall Man alone," &c. See this idea most sub-
limely argued in another view ? by an inspired writer, in \ Cor. xv.


V. 734. " Analogy ! Man's surest guide below."

Consult the learned and pious Bishop Butler's admirable illustration
of this truth ; which, every man of science and inquiry should blush,
not to have read.

V. 814, &c. " 'Tis moral grandeur makes the mighty man.
How little they," &c.

" No man is really great, till he sees that every thing in this world
is little. Great is he, and he alone, who makes the whole creation,
and its amazing Cause, the circumference ; and his own true interest,
the centre, of his thoughts : Who has strength and steadiness, to
weigh in perpetual and in equal balance, right and wrong, body and
soul, time and eternity, nature and God ; and so weighing, to disdain
any very anxious thought, for less than the greatest good his limited
nature admits, and his all-powerful God has promised to bestow."


Ver. 109. " Is scarce a milder tyrant than Despair."

" The ample proposition that Hope makes
In all designs begun on earth below,
Fails in the promis'd largeness : Checks and disasters
Grow in the veins of action, highest rear'd ;
As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infect the sound pine, and divert his grain
Tortive and errant from his course of growth." Shakefpear.
V. 121. " And makes his hope, his sublunary joy."
" The old story of Pandora's box [which many of the learned
believe was formed among the Heathens, upon the tradition of the
fall of man] shews us, how deplorable a state they thought this
present life, without tope. To set forth the utmost condition of
misery, they tell us, that our forefather, according to the Pagan
theology, had a great vessel presented him by Pandora. Upon his
lifting up the lid of it, says the fable, there flew out all the calamities
and distempers incident to men, from which, till then, they had been
exempt. Hope, who had been inclosed in the cup with so much
bad company, instead of flying off with the rest, stuck so close to
the lid of it, that it was shut down upon her."

z z


V. 131, &c. " Then

With more success the flight of hope survey,
Of restless hope, for ever on the wing."

" Rise, heavenly visions ! rise,
And every vain delusive hope control ;
Let real glory charm thine eyes,
And real happiness enchant thy soul !
Hail glorious dawn of everlasting day,

Though faintly seen !"

V. 205, &c. " When to the grave," &c. How admirably is
this appeal introduced ! and how much is it calculated to strike the
finest feelings of the human soul ! But infidels are as much hardened
to every amiable sensibility, as they are lost to the sublime of piety
and virtue.

V. 290, &c. " Or own the soul immortal," &c. Nothing to
be found in human composition, ever exceeded the spirit of these
lines, either for pointed energy, or for manly satire. If Infidelity
could be shamed out of its brutish affectation and vanity, this alone
were sufficient for that benevolent purpose.

V. 329. " Reason is guiltless ; Will alone rebels."
Or, as a poet of less gravity has differently expressed the same
thing, it will be found universally true, that,

" He, that's convinc'ci, against his <wlU t
Is of the same opinion still."
V. 430. " These delicate moralities of sense."
Is not this perfectly original, and exquisitely imagined ?
V. 464, &c. " Is faith a refuge,*' &c. If Faith be a refuge from
the labyrinths in which our reason is involved, and from the miseries
with which our existence is unavoidably embittered, can it be recom-
mended with too much zeal, and enforced with too much ardour ?
V. 993, &c. " Know'st thou th' importance of a soul immortal ?

Behold," &c.

" The devastations of one dreadful hour
Shall the Creator's six days work devour.
A mighty, mighty ruin ! yet one soul
Has more to boast, and far outweighs the whole j
Exalted in superior excellence,
Casts down to nothing such a vast expence.



" Think deeply then, O Man, how great thou art j
Pay thyself homage with a trembling heart ;
What angels guard, no longer dare neglect,
iSlighting thyself, affront not God's respect.
Enter the sacred temple of thy breast,
And gaze and wonder there a ravish 'd guest ;
Gaze on those hidden treasures thou shalt find,
Wander through all the glories of thy mind."
And if you wish for still more exalting views of the worth and
importance of the human soul, go, study it in the whole economy
of grace in the grand scheme of redemption in the sacrifice on
mount Calvary ; and then ask thyself, " What shall it profit a man,
though he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul :"

V. 1 195, &c. " Is it in words to paint you ?" &c. With such
a portrait of Infdtlity before his eyes and the features, so strictly-
just and true who does not start back with horror at the sight ?

V. 1223, &c. " This is free-thinking," &c. A more ennobling
idea of freedom of thought, was never yet conveyed through the me-
dium of language. It is nervous comprehensive grand.
V. 1269, &c. " Eternity's vast ocean lies before thee j

Give thy mind sea-room," &c.

Such is the advice all heaven would give, were they permitted to
address us on this most interesting of all subjects.

V. 1349, &c, " An honest Deist," &c. It is impossible for
one, who is aiming at the favour of God above all things, to reject
an offered revelation, without inquiring into its title to the high cha-
acter it assumes ; and it is as impossible for a reasonable man to
reject the Christian revelation, if he he does inquire. He, there-
fore, who continues a Deist, in a land enlightened by the Gospel,
must be wanting, either in goodness, or in reason ; must either be
criminal, or dull. None, therefore, can be more mistaken than they,
who profess Deism for the credit of superior understanding, or for the
sake of exercising a more pure and perfect virtue. Yet these are the
only pretences, which they do, or dare, avow, for their fatal choice.
V. 1360, &c. " Read, and revere the sacred page," &c. Study
the sacred Scriptures, said a celebrated philosopher of our own
country : They have God for their Author ; salvation, for their end ;
and truth, without any mixture of error, for their matter.

ZZ 2


V. I 441. " Reason is upright stature in the soul."
A more elegant and judicious definition of Reason has never yet
been proposed to the human understanding. Were it universally-
admitted, till a better can be found, we should no more be disgusted
'and tortured with such monstrous enormities as are continually ob-
truded upon us, under the insinuating and prostituted sanction of
Reason falsely so called.

V. 1464, &c. " Hope, like a cordial, innocent," &c. No
kind of life is so happy, as that which is full of hope ; especially
when the hope is well-grounded, and when the object of it is of an
exalted kind, and in its nature proper to make the person happy,
who enjoys it: And a life of true religion is that, which most abounds
in a well-grounded hope, and such an one as is fixed on objects, that
-are capable of making us entirely happy.


WHEN the celebrated Author of this immortal work wrote his
True Estimate of Human Life, the professed design of which was, to
put this world in the balance, and to examine the value of things on
earth, he promised a second discourse ; to vindicate divine Provi-
dence from prevailing imputations, and teach us how to think and
judge of things above, and give them that preference they so justly

That promise, in its original idea, was never performed. The
omission, however, is abundantly supplied by the contents of the
Eighth Night : In which, the true and false, of every thing that
bears the name or semblance of ambition, pleasure, wisdom, and
riches, are most admirably discriminated, and compared, for the no-
blest purposes.

" To VIRTUE only, and her friends, a friend;
The world beside may censure, or commend."

Ver. 8, . &c. "Man of the world!" &c. Who will dare say,
that he who declines, or falls from the noble and elevating object
above mentioned, and the glorious hopes it inspires, into the bar-



ren field of amusement and trifle ; or into the bestial abyss of vo-
luptuous gratifications, for his portion ; who will dare affirm, that
such a character differs not as much from the right reason, the true
dignity, and real happiness of a man, as a quadruped differs from
him in form ? It is not the form, but the manners, which make huma-
nity. The mould, in which we are cast, only shews what we should
be ; nothing but our conduct can ascertain what we are.

V. 14. " The Castalian font." A fountain, sacred to the


V. 15, &c. If she,

My song invokes, Urania," &c.

Urania is the Muse, which extended her care to all divine or ce-
lestial subjects; such as, the hymns in praise of the Gods, the mo-
tions of the heavenly bodies, and whatever" regarded philosophy and

V. 97. " Where gay delusion darkens to despair."
Almost the whole book of Eccleslastes might be transcribed as a
scriptural support of what is here said; and its Author, it is well
known, received wisdom as an immediate gift from God, in supe-
riority to all mankind.

V. 1 1 8. " And fills his chronicle with human woes."
For what, in fact, is human happiness ? A word ! A notion ! A
day-dream ! A wish ! A sigh ! A theme to be talked of! A mark
to be shot at, but never hit ! A picture in the head, and a pang in
the heart, of Man ! Wisdom recommends it gravely ; learning talks
of it pompously ; our understanding listens to it eagerly ; our af
fections pursue it warmly ; and our experience despairs of it irre-

V. 420. " Prometheus !" Who- is fabulously reported to have
stolen fire from heaven ; for which he was chained on mount Cau-
casus, v.-here a vulture was commissioned to prey upon his liver ;
which, that his torment might be endless, was constantly renewed
at night, in proportion to its decrease by day. The application of
this allusion to the present subject has peculiar spirit and aptness.

.427, &c. " Dost grasp at greatness ?" &c. Nothing, says
JLonginiti, can be great, the contempt of which is great. The pos-
session of wealth and riches cannot give a man a title to greatness,
because it is looked upoa as greatness of mind to contemn these


V ^ ^^^

gifts of fortune, and to be above the desire of them. There are
far greater men, who lie concealed among the species, than those
who come out, and draw upon themselves the eyes and admiration
of mankind.

V. 477, &c. " An humble heart, his refidence," &c. It is
absolutely impossible for imagination to conceive, or eloquence to
express, any thing more sublime than that passage in the prophetic
writings, referred to in this place. Is. Ivii.

.516, &c. " Unlike all other vice, it flies,

In fact, the point, in fancy most pursued/'

" The proud man," says a brilliant writer, " see ! he is sore all
over : Touch him, you put him to pain ; and though, of all others,
he acts as if every mortal were void of sense and feeling, yet is
possessed of so nice and exquisite a one himself, that the slights, the
little neglects and instances of disesteem, which would be scarce
felt by another man, are perpetually wounding him, and oft-times
piercing him to the very heart."

V. 655. " Glide then, for ever, Pleasure's sacred stream."

Only such pleasures, as have the Divine Being for their immediate
object, and eternity for their end, can always satisfy. Such plea-
sures are approved by reason, ripened by age, and are satisfactory
in every period of life.

V. 691, &c. " Is Virtue then, and Piety the same?

No; Piety is more; 'tis Virtue's souice."

See this very important idea pursued, with equal elegance of style,
and ability of argument, by Dr. Blair, in vol. i. serm. i.

V. 710, c. " A soul, in commerce with her God, is Heav'n ;
Feels not," &c.

" To thee, O Devotion ! we are indebted for the highest improve-
ment of our nature, and much of the enjoyment of our life. Thou
art the support of our virtue, and the rest of our souls, in this tur-
bulent world. Thou composest the thoughts. Thou calmest the
passions. Thou exaltest the heart. Thou art the balm of the
wounded mind. Thy sanctuary is ever open to the miserable. Thou
beginnest on earth the very temper of Heaven ; and in thee the
blessed inhabitants thereof eternally rejoice."

V. 768. " Too happy to be sportive, he's serene."

Where there is the least happiness, there is often the most laughter.


The former arises from thought, the latter from the want of it. 7 "in ml ', /
inane est, is true to a provei'b. Laughter is from the pulse ; serenity
from the heart. That may give a momentary flash of pleasure ;
this alone makes a happy man. And happy men there may be, who
scarce ever laugh : And in a situation, where reason calls for the
reverse, there is not in nature a more melancholy thing than mirth.
V. 812. ** A constant and a sound, but serious joy."
In the boundless field of licentiousness, some bartered joys may rise,
that look gay, more especially at a distance ; but they soon wither.
No joys are always sweet and flourish long, but those, which have
self-approbation for their root, and the divine favour for their shelter.
V. 1072. " Now see the man immortal," &c. Whatever may
be the beauties of sentiment, expression, or fancy, which the art of
criticism may be able to select from any admired author, whether
ancient or modern, nothing can be produced either equal or similar
to the portrait in this, and the following hundred and fifty lines.
Let the impartial reader study it accurately, and then see, whether
a Christian is not the highest style of Man ; him, I mean, who lives
as such.

V. 1235, &c. " Pernicious talent!" &c. Infidels, and free-
thinkers, as they have presumed to call themselves, have laboured
much to sanctify the use of wit, by laying it down as a maxim, that,
Ridicule is the test of truth. To determine this point, about which
so much has been said, we need ask only a single question : Which
is sooner laughed out of countenance, a man of integrity and virtue,
or a villain and a fool ? The fact is, " you may as well attempt to
silence an echo by strength of voice, as a wit by the force of reason.
They both are but the louder for it : They will both have the last
word. How often hear we men with great ingenuity supporting
folly ! that is, by wit destroying wisdom ; as the same sort of men,
by pleasure destroy happiness ; prone to draw evil out of good, and
set things at variance, which by nature are allies. Pleasure then
calls for our compassion, and wit for our contempt."
V. 1360, &c. " Eternity depending on an hour,

Makes serious thought," &c.

" Ah ! my friends ! while we laugh, all things are serious round
about us. God is serious, who exerciseth patience towards us;
Christ is serious, who shed his blood for us ; the Holy Ghost is


serious, who striveth against the obstinacy of our hearts ; the holy
Scriptures represent the most serious and awful matters ; the whole
creation is serious in serving God, and us ; all that are in heaven or
hell are serious ; how then, can we be gay ?" To give these excel-
cellent words their full force, it should be known, that they came
from a courtier, as eminent as England ever boasted.


" IT has been observed, that a good taste and a good heart
commonly go together. But that sort of taste, which is constantly
prying into blemishes and deformity, can have no good effect, either
on the temper, or the heart. The mind naturally takes a taint from
those objects and pursuits, in which it is constantly employed. Dis-
gust often recurring as it necessarily must, on the fastidious critic
Spoils the temper, and a habit of discriminating too nicely, con-
tracts the heart ; and by holding up to view the faults or weaknesses
of a character, not oiily checks all the benevolent and generous
affections, but stifles all the pleasing emotions of love and admira-

" What ought chiefly to be regarded in the culture of taste, is,
to discover the beauties in the works of nature and art, which might
otherwise escape our notice. This is the most pleasing and useful
effect of criticism ; to display new sources of pleasure and utility,
which may be unknown to the bulk of mankind : And, it is only so
far as it discovers these, that taste can with reason be accounted a

Ver. 8, &c. " Thus I, long travell'd," &c.

" And may at last my weary age
Find out the peaceful hermitage,
The hairy gown, the mossy cell,
Where I may sit, and rightly spell
Of ev'ry star that Heav'n doth shew,
And ev'ry herb that sips the dew ;


Till old experience do obtain
To something like prophetic strain.*' Milton.
V. 22. " Till, haply, wak'd by Raphael's golden lyre."
That Raphael, whom our unrivalled Milton has represented
holding parley with our first parent in paradise, before his fall
from a state of original innocence and bliss. Sec Par. Lost,
Book 7.

V* 39, &c. " When Nature's blush by custom is wip'd off,

And conscience,'* &c.

In this degeneracy of character, no object beneath the canopy of
heaven can be so pitiable, as a human being. Yet such there are !
And who can forbear exclaiming at the sight

'* Sin ! what a monster hast thou made
Of th* human form divine !"
V. 49, &c. *' No joy, no glory, glitters in thy sight,

But through the thin partition," &c.

What, but the richest imagination, could have grouped such an
assemblage of imagery, so expressive, in such perfect harmony, in
point of composition, and yet so admirably calculated to touch the
soul. Its analogy in nature, is something like that dark cloud,
tinged indeed with a golden border, but from whence are ready to
burst the forked lightning, the thunder's roar, and the rattling

V. 1 06, &c. " Nor Man alone ; his breathing bust expires;

His tomb is mortal : Empires die," &c.

" To die, is the great debt and tribute due to Nature : Tomb*
and monuments, which should perpetuate our memories, pay it
themselves ; and the proudest pyramid of them all, which wealt
and science have erected, has lost its apex, and stands obtruncated
in the traveller's horizon. Kingdoms and provinces, towns and
cities, have they not their periods ? And when those principles and
powers, which at first cemented and put them together, have per-
formed their several revolutions, they fall back, and come to an

V. 127, &c. < " Of one departed world

I see the mighty shadow," c.

This striking representation of the antediluvian world, in the atti-
tude of weeping at the approaching dissolution of another, is not

3 A


only an original beauty, but an admirable illustration of the descrip-
tive powers of language as far exceeding what can be expressed in
any other mode.

V. 133. " But, like Cassandra, prophesies in vain!"
Fabulous history records, that Apollo granted her the gift of
pi-ophecy : But, she was looked upon by the Trojans, as insane and
was even confined and her predictions totally disregarded.

V. 135, &c. " For, know'st thou not," &c. In these seven-
teen lines, the moral government of God, in his providential dis-
pensations, is illustrated and enforced, in a manner equally calculated
to instruct, and to alarm.

V. 157, &c. " At the destin'd hour,

By the loud trumpet summon'd," &c.

The astonishing beauties of sublimity, sentiment, and expression,
will rush upon us so fast, from this part, to the end, that it will be
impossible, upon our plan, to point them out with any minute par-
ticularity. They form together a constellation of the descriptive,
picturesque, and grand. The reader of taste and morals will survey
them accordingly.

V. 173, &c. " O how unlike

The Babe at Bethlehem," &c.
" Triumphant King of glory ! Soul of bliss !
What a stupendous turn of fate is this !
O whither art thou rais'd, above the scorn
And indigence of Him in Bethlehem born !

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Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 22 of 24)