Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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This tumult universal, wing'd dispatch,
And ardent energy, supinely yawns ?
Man sleeps ; arid Man alone; and Man, whose fate,
Fate irreversible, intire, extreme,
Endless, hair-hung, breeze-shaken, o'er the gulph 300


A moment trembles ; drops ! and Man, for whom

All else is in alarm ! Man, the sole cause

Of this surrounding storm ! And yet he sleeps,

As the storm rock'd to rest. Throw years away?

Throw empires, and be blameless. Moments seize; 305

Heav'n's on their wing: A moment we may wish,

When worlds want wealth to buy. Bid Day stand still,

Bid him drive back his car, and reimport

The period past, regive the given hour.

LORENZO, more than miracles we want ; 310

LORENZO O for yesterdays to come !

Such is the language of the Man awake ;
His ardour such, for what oppresses thee.
And is his ardour vain, LORENZO ? No ;
That more than miracle the Gods indulge ; 315

To-day is yesterday return'd ; return'd
Full-power'd to cancel, expiate, raise, adorn,
And reinstate us on the rock of peace.
Ltt it not share its predecessor's fate ;
Nor, like its elder sisters, die a fool. 320

Shall it evaporate in fume ? fly off
Fuliginous, and stain us deeper still ?
Shall we be poorer for the plenty pour'd ?
More wretched for the clemencies of Heav'n ?

Where shall I find him? Angels! tell me where. 325
You know him : He is near you : Point him out :
Shall I see glories beaming from his brow ?
Or trace his footsteps by the rising flow'rs ?
Your golden wings, now hov'ring o'er him, shed
Protection; now, are waving in applause 330

To that blest son of foresight ! lord of Fate !
That awful indeoendent on to-morrow !


Whose work is done ; who triumphs in the past j

Whose yesterdays look backward with a smile ;

Nor, like the Parthian, wound him as they fly ; 335

That common, but opprobrious lot ! Past hours,

If not by guilt, yet wound us by their flight,

If Folly bounds our prospect by the grave,

All feeling of futurity benumb'd ;

All god-like passion for eternals quench'd ; 340

All relish of realities expir'd ;

Renounc'd all correspondence with the skies ;

Our freedom chain'd ; quite wingless our desire ;

In sense dark-prison* d all that ought to soar ;

Prone to the centre j crawling in the dust ; 345

Dismounted ev'ry great and glorious aim ;

Embruted ev'ry faculty divine ;

Heart-bury'd in the rubbish of the world

The world, that gulph of souls, immortal souls,

Souls elevate, angelic, wing'd with fire 350

To reach the distant skies, and triumph there

On thrones, which shall not mourn their masters

chang'd ;

Though we from earth ; ethereal, they that fell.
Such veneration due, O Man ! to Man.

Who venerate themselves, the world despise. 355
For what, gay friend ! is this escutcheon'd world,
Which hangs out Death in one eternal night ?
A night, that glooms us in the noon-tide ray,
And wraps our thought, at banquets, in the shroud.
Life's little stage is a small eminence, 360

Inch-high the grave above ; that home of Man,
Where dwells the multitude : We gaze around ;
We read their monuments ; we sigh ; and while


We sigh, we sink ; and are what we deplor'd j
Lamenting, or lamented, all our lot ! 365

Is Death at distance ? No : He has been on thee ;
And giv'n sure earnest of his final blow.
Those hours, which lately smil'd, where are they now?
Pallid to thought, and ghastly ! drown'd, all drown'd
In that great deep, which nothing disembogues ! 370
And, dying, they bequeath'd thee small renown.
The rest are on the wing : How fleet their flight !
Already has the fatal train took fire ;
A moment, and the world's blown up to theej
The sun is darkness, and the stars are dust. 375

'T is greatly wise to talk with our past hours ;
And ask them, what report they bore to Heav'n ;
And how they might have borne more welcome news.
Their answers form what Men experience call ;
If Wisdom's friend, her best ; if not, worst foe. 380
O reconcile them ! kind Experience cries,
" There's nothing here, but what as nothing weighs ;
The more our joy, the more we know it vain j
And by success are tutor'd to despair.'*
Nor is it only thus, but must be so. 385

Who knows not this, though grey, is still a child.
Loose then from earth the grasp of fond desire,
Weigh anchor, and some happier clime explore.

Art thou so moor'd thou canst not disengage,
Nor give thy thoughts a ply to future scenes ! 390

Since, by life's passing breath, blown up from earth,
Light, as the summer's dust, we take in air
A moment's giddy flight, and fall again ;
Join the dull mass, increase the trodden soil,
And sleep till Earth herself shall be no more ; 395


Since then (as emmets, their small world o'erthrown)

We, sore-amaz'd, from out Earth's ruins crawl,

And rise to fate extreme of foul or fair,

As Man's own choice, (controller of the skies !)

As Man's despotic will, perhaps one hour, 400

(O how omnipotent is Time !) decrees ;

Should not each warning give a strong alarm ?

Warning, far less than that of bosom torn

From bosom, bleeding o'er the sacred dead !

Should not each dial strike us as we pass, 405

Portentous, as the written wall, which struck,

O'er midnight bowls, the proud Assyrian pale,

Erewhile high-flush'd with insolence and wine ?

Like that, the dial speaks ; and points to thee,

LORENZO ! loth to break thy banquet up : 410

" O Man, thy kingdom is departing from thee ;

And, while it lasts, is emptier than my shade."

Its silent language such : Nor need'st thou call

Thy Magi, to decypher what it means.

Know, like the Medean, Fate is in thy walls : 415

Dost ask, How ? whence ? Belshazzar-like, amaz'd !

Man's make incloses the sure seeds of Death ;

Life feeds the murderer : Ingrate ! he thrives

On her own meal, and then his nurse devours.

But here, LORENZO, the delusion lies j 420

That solar shadow, as it measures life,
It life resembles too : Life speeds away
From point to point, though seeming to stand still.
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth :
Too subtle is the movement to be seen ; 425

Yet soon Man's hour is up, and we are gone.
Warnings point out our danger ; gnomons, time :


As these are useless when the sun is set ;

So those, but when more glorious Reason shines.

Reason should judge in all ; in Reason's eye, 430

That sedentary shadow travels hard.

But such our gravitation to the wrong,

So prone our hearts to whisper what we wim,

'Tis later with the wise, than he's aware ;

A Wilmington goes slower than the sun : 435

And all mankind mistake their time of day ;

Ev'n age itself. Fresh hopes are hourly sown

In furrow'd brows. So gentle life's descent,

We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain.

We take fair days in winter, for the spring ; 440

And turn our blessings into bane. Since oft

Man must compute that age he cannot feel,

He scarce believes he's older for his years.

Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store

One disappointment sure, to crown the restf 44$

The disappointment of a promis'd hour.

On this, or similar, PHILANDER ! thou,
Whose mind was moral, as the preacher's tongue ;
And strong, to wield all science, worth the name ;
How often we talk'd down the summer's sun, 450
And cool'd our passions by the breezy stream !
How often thaw'd and shorten'd winter's eve,
By conflict kind, that struck out latent truth,
Best found, so sought ; to the recluse more coy!
Thoughts disentangle, passing o'er the lip ; 455

Clean runs the thread ; if not, 't is thrown away,
Or kept to tie up nonsense for a song ;
Song, fashionably fruitless ; such as stains
-The fancy, and unhallow'd passion fires j


Chiming her saints to Cytherea's fane. 460

Know'st thou, LORENZO ! what a friend contains ?

As bees mix'd nectar draw from fragrant flow'rs,

So men from Friendship, Wisdom and Delight ;

Twins ty'd by Nature ; if they part, they die.

Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach ? 465

Good sense will stagnate. Thoughts shut up, want air,

And spoil, like bales unopen'd to the sun.

Had thought been all, sweet speech had been deny'd ;

Speech, thought's canal! Speech, thought's criterion
too ! 470

Thought in the mine, may come forth gold or dross j

When coin'd in words, we know its real worth.

If sterling, store it for thy future use ;

'T will buy thee benefit j perhaps renown.

Thought too, deliver'd, is the more possest ;

Teaching, we learn ; and, giving, we retain 475

The births of intellect ; when dumb, forgot.

Speech ventilates our intellectual fire ;

Speech burnishes our mental magazine ;

Brightens, for ornament, and whets, for use.

What numbers, sheath'd in erudition, lie 480

Plung'd to the hilts in venerable tomes,

And rusted ; who might have borne an edge,

And play'd a sprightly beam, if born to speech !

If born blest heirs to half their mother's tongue !

J T is thought's exchange, which, like th' alternate push

Of waves conflicting, breaks the learned scum, 486

And defecates the student's standing pool.
In Contemplation is his proud resource ?

J T is poor, as proud, by converse unsustain'd.

Rude thought runs wild in Contemplation's field j 490


Converse, the menage, breaks it to the bit

Of due restraint ; and Emulation's spur

Gives graceful energy, by rivals aw'd.

'Tis converse qualifies for solitude j

As exercise for salutary rest. 495

By that untutor'd, Contemplation raves ;

And Nature's fool, by Wisdom's is outdone.

Wisdom, though richer than Peruvian mines,
And sweeter than the sweet ambrosial hive,
What is she, but the means of happiness ? 500

That unobtain'd, than folly more a fool j
A melancholy fool, without her bells.
Friendship, the means of wisdom, richly gives
The precious end, which makes our wisdom wise.
Nature, in zeal for human amity, 50$

Denies, or damps, an undivided joy.
Joy is an import ; joy is an exchange ;
Joy flies monopolists : It calls for two ;
Rich fruit ! Heav'n-planted ! never pluck* d by one.
Needful auxiliars are our friends, to give 510

To social Man true relish of himself.
Full on ourselves descending in a line,
Pleasure's bright beam is feeble in delight :
Delight intense, is taken by rebound j
Reverberated pleasures fire the breast. 515

Celestial Happiness, whene'er she stoops
To visit earth, one shrine the goddess finds,
And one alone, to make her sweet amends
For absent Heav'n the bosom of a friend ;
Where heart meets heart, reciprocally soft, 520

Each other's pillow to repose divine. v

Beware the counterfeit ; In Passion's flame

F 2


Hearts melt ; but melt like ice, soon harder froze.

True love strikes root in Reason j Passion's foe :

Virtue alone entenders us for life : 525

I wrong her much entenders us for ever :

Of Friendship's, fairest fruits, the fruit most fair

Is Virtue kindling at a rival fire,

And emulously rapid in her race.

O the soft enmity ! endearing strife ! 530

This carries Friendship to her noon-tide point,

And gives the rivet of eternity.

From Friendship, which outlives my former themes,
Glorious survivor of old Time, and Death !
From Friendship, thus, that flow'r of heav'nly seed,
The wise extract Earth's most Hyblean bliss, 536
Superior wisdom, crown'd with smiling joy.

But for whom blossoms this Elysian flow'r ?
Abroad they find, who cherish it at home.
LORENZO! pardon what my love extorts, 540

An honest love, and not afraid to frown.
Though choice of follies fasten on the great,
None clings more obstinate, than fancy fond,
That sacred friendship is their easy prey j
Caught by the w.afture of a golden lure, 545

Or fascination of a high-born smile.
Their smiles, the great, and the coquet, throw out
For other hearts, tenacious of their own ;
And we no less of ours, when such the bait.
Ye Fortune's cofferers ! Ye pow'rs of wealth ! 550
You do your rent-rolls most felonious wrong,
By taking our attachment to yourselves.
Can gold gain friendship ? Impudence of hope !
As well mere Man an angel might beget.


Love, and love only, is the loan for love. 555

LORENZO ! pride repress ; nor hope to find
A friend, but what has found a friend in thee.
All like the purchase ; few the price will pay ;
And this makes friends such miracles below.

What if (since daring on so nice a theme) 560

I shew thee friendship delicate, as dear,
Of tender violations apt to die ?
Reserve will wound it ; and Distrust, destroy.
Deliberate on all things with thy friend.
But since friends grow not thick on ev'ry bough, 565
Nor ev'ry friend unrotten at the core ;
First, on thy friend, delib'rate with thyself;
Pause, ponder, sift ; not eager in the choice,
Nor jealous of the chosen ; fixing, fix ;
Judge before friendship, then confide till death. 570
Well, for thy friend ; but nobler far, for thee ;
How gallant danger for Earth's highest prize !
A friend is worth all hazard we can run.
" Poor is the friendless master of a world :
A world in purchase for a friend is gain." 575

So sung he (angels hear that angel sing !
Angels from friendship gather half their joy),
So sung PHILANDER, as his friend went round
In the rich ichor, in the gen'rous blood
Of Bacchus, purple god of joyous wit, 580

A brow solute, and ever-laughing eye.
He drank long health, and virtue to his friend ;
His friend, who warm'd him more, who more inspired.
Friendship's the wine of life; but friendship new
(Not such was his) is neither strong, nor pure. 585
O ! for the bright complexion, cordial warmth,


And elevating spirit, of a friend,

For twenty summers rip'ning by my side ;

All feculence of falsehood long thrown down ;

All social virtues rifmg in his soul ; 590

As "crystal clear ; and smiling, as they rise !

Here nectar flows ; it sparkles in our sight ;

Rich to the taste, and genuine from the heart.

High-flavour'd bliss for gods ! on earth how rare !

On earth how lost ! PHILANDER is no more. 595

Think'st thou the theme intoxicates my song ?
And I too warm ? Too warm I cannot be.
I lov'd him much ; but now I love him more.
Like birds, whose beauties languish, half conceal'd,
Till, mounted on the wing, their glossy plumes 600
Expanded shine with azure, green, and gold ;
How blessings brighten as they take their flight !
His flight PHILANDER took; his upward flight,
If ever soul ascended. Had he dropt,
(That eagle genius !) O had he let fall 605

One feather as he flew ! I, then, had wrote,
What friends might flatter ; prudent foes forbear j
Rivals scarce damn ; and Zoilus reprieve.
Yet what I can, I must : It were profane
To quench a glory lighted at the skies, 610

And cast in shadows his illustrious close.
Strange ! the theme most affecting, most sublime,
Momentous most to Man, should sleep unsung !
And yet it sleeps, by genius unawak'd,
Painim or Christian; to the blush of wit. 615

Man's highest triumph ! Man's profoundest fall !
The death-bed of the just ! is yet undrawn
By mortal hand : It merits a divine :


Angels should paint it, angels ever there ;

There, on a post of honour, and of joy. 620

Dare I presume, then ? But PHILANDER bids ;
And glory tempts, and inclination calls
Yet am I struck ; as struck the soul, beneam
Aerial groves' impenetrable gloom ;
Or, in some mighty ruin's solemn shade ; 625

Or, gazing by pale lamps on high-born dust,
In vaults ; thin courts of poor unflatter'd kings !
Or, at the midnight altar's hallow'd flame.
It is religion to proceed : I pause
And enter, aw'd, the temple of my theme. 630

Is it his death-bed ? No : It is his shrine :
Behold him, there, just rising to a god.

The chamber where the good man meets his fate,
Is privileg'd beyond the common walk
Of virtuous life, quite in the verge of Heav'n. 635
Fly, ye profane ! If not, draw near with awe.
Receive the blessing, and adore the chance,
That threw in this Bethesda your disease ;
If unrestor'd by this, despair your cure.
For, here, resistless demonstration dwells % 640

A death-bed 's a detector of the hearf.
Here tir'd Dissimulation drops her mask,
Through life's grimace, that mistress of the scene !
Here real, and apparent., are the same.
You see the Man ; you see his hold qn Heav'n j 64^
If sound his virtue ; as PHILANDER'S, sound.
Heav'n waits not the last moment ; owns her friends
On this side death ; and points them out to men ;
A lecture silent, but of sov'reign pow'r \
To vice, confusion j and to virtue, peace. 650


Whatever farce the boastful hero plays,
Virtue alone has majesty in death ;
And greater still, the more the tyrant frowns.
PHILANDER! he severely frown'd on thee.
" No warning giv'n ! Unceremonious fate ! 655

A sudden rush from life's meridian joys !
A wrench from all we love ! from all we are !
A restless bed of pain ! A plunge opaque
Beyond conjecture ! Feeble Nature's dread !
Strong Reason's shudder at the dark unknown ! 660
A sun extinguish'd ! a just op'ning grave !
And oh ! the last, last ; what ? (can words express ?
Thought reach ?) the last, last silence of a friend !'*
"Where are those horrors, that amazement where,
This hideous group of ills (which singly shock) 665
Demands from Man ? I thought him Man till now.

Through Nature's wreck, thro' vanquish'd agonies
(Like the stars struggling thro* this midnight gloom),
What gleams of joy ! what more than human peace !
Where, the frail mortal ? the poor abject worm ? 670
No, not in death, the mortal to be found.
His conduct is a legacy for all,
Richer than Mammon's for his single heir.
His comforters he comforts ; great in ruin,
With unreluctant grandeur, gives, not yields 675
His soul sublime ; and closes with his fate.
;. How our hearts burnt within us at the scene !
Whence, this brave bound o'er limits fix'd to Man ?
His God sustains him in his final hour !
His final hour brings glory to his God! 680

Man's glory Heav'n vouchsafes to call her own.
We gaze j we weep j mixt tears of grief and joy !


Amazement strikes ! Devotion bursts to flame !
Christians adore, and infidels believe.

As some tall tow'r, or lofty mountain's brow, 685
Detains the sun, illustrious from its height ;
While rising vapours and descending shades,
With damps, and darkness, drown the spacious vale ;
Undamp'd by doubt, undarken'd by despair,
PHILANDER thus augustly rears his head, 690

At that black hour, which gen'ral horror sheds
On the low level of th* inglorious throng :
Sweet Peace, and heav'nly Hope, and humble Joy,
Divinely beam on his exalted soul j
Destruction gild, and crown him for the skies, 695
With incommunicable lustre bright.


N A R C I S S A.

Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere manes. VIRG.

r ROM dreams, where thought in fancy's maze runs


To Reason, that heav'n-lighted lamp in Man,
Once more I wake ; and at the destin'd hour,
Punctual as lovers to the moment sworn,
I keep my assignation with my woe. 5

O ! lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
Lost to the noble sallies of the soul !
Who think it solitude, to be alone.
Communion sweet ! communion large, and high !
Our reason, guardian angel, and our god ! 10

Then nearest these, when others most remote ;
And all, ere long, shall be remote, but these.
How dreadful, then, to meet them all alone,
A stranger ! unacknowledg'd, unapprov'd !

o 2


Now woo them; wed them; bind them to thy breast;
To win thy wish, creation has no more. 16

Or, if we wish a fourth, it is a friend
But friends, how mortal ! dang'rous the desire.

Take Phoebus to yourselves, ye basking bards !
Inebriate at fair Fortune's fountain-head ; 20

And reeling through the wilderness of joy ;
Where Sense runs savage, broke from Reason's chain,
And sings false peace, till smother'd by the pall.
My fortune is unlike ; unlike my song ;
Unlike the deity my song invokes. 25

I to Day's soft-ey'd sister pay my court,
(Endymion's rival !) and her aid implore ;
Now first implor'd in succour to the Muse.

Thou, who didst lately borrow Cynthia's form,
And modestly forego thine own ! O thou 36

Who didst thyself, at midnight hours, inspire !
Say, why not Cynthia, patroness of song ?
As thou her crescent, she thy character
Assumes ; still more a goddess by the change.

Are there demurring wits, who dare dispute 35
This revolution in the world inspir'd ?
Ye train Pierian ! to the lunar sphere,
In silent hour, address your ardent call
For aid immortal ; less her brother's right.
She, with the spheres harmonious, nightly leads 43
The mazy dance, and hears their matchless strain ;
A strain for gods, deny'd to mortal ear.
Transmit it heard, thou silver queen of heav'n !
What title, or what name, endears thee most ?
Cynthia ! Cyllene ! Phoebe !or dost hear 45

With higher gust, fair P D of the skies ?


Is that the soft enchantment calls thee down,

More pow'rful than of old Circean charm ?

Come ; but from heav'nly banquets with thee bring

The soul of song, and whisper in mine ear 5$

The theft divine ; or in propitious dreams

(For dreams are thine) transfuse it through the breast

Of thy first votary but not thy last ;

If, like thy namesake, thou art ever kind.

And kind thou wilt be ; kind on such a theme; 55
A theme so like thee, a quite lunar theme,
Soft, modest, melancholy, female, fair !
A theme that rose all pale, and told my soul,
*T was night ; on her fond hopes perpetual night ;
A night which struck a damp, a deadlier damp 60
Than that which smote me from PHILANDER'S tomb.
NARCISSA follows, ere his tomb is clos'd.
Woes cluster ; rare are solitary woes ;
They love a train, they tread each other's heel ;
Her death invades his mournful right, and claims 65
The grief that started from my lids for him :
Seizes the faithless, alienated tear,
Or shares it, ere it falls. So frequent death,
Sorrow he more than causes, he confounds ;
For human sighs his rival strokes contend, 70

And make distress, distraction. Oh PHILANDER !
What was thy fate ? A double fate to me ;
Portent, and pain ! a menace, and a blow !
Like the black raven hov'ring o'er my peace,
Not less a bird of omen, than of prey. 75

It call'd NARCISSA long before her hour;
It call'd her tender soul, by break of bliss,
From the first blossom, from the buds of joy;


Those few our noxious fate unblasted leaves

In this inclement clime of human life. 80

Sweet harmonist ! and beautiful as sweet !
And young as beautiful ! and soft as young !
And gay as soft ! and innocent as gay !
And happy (if aught happy here) as good !
For fortune fond had built her nest on high. 85

Like birds quite exquisite of note and plume,
Transfix'd by Fate (who loves a lofty mark),
How from the summit of the grove she fell,
And left it unharmonious ! all its charm
Extinguished in the wonders of her song ! 90

Her song still vibrates in my ravish'd ear,
Still melting there, and with voluptuous pain
(O to forget her !) thrilling through my heart !

Song, beauty, youth, love, virtue, joy ! this group
Of bright ideas, flow'rs of Paradise, 95

As yet unforfeit, in one blaze we bind,
Kneel, and present it to the skies ; as all
We guess of Heav'n : And these were all her own.
And she was mine ; and I was was most blest
Gay title of the deepest misery ! i oo

As bodies grow more pond'rous robb'd of life ;
Good lost weighs more in grief, than gain'd in joy.
Like blossom'd trees o'erturn'd by vernal storm,
Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay ;
And if in death still lovely, lovelier there ; 105

Far lovelier ! Pity swells the tide of love.
And will not the severe excuse a sigh ?
Scorn the proud man that is asham'd to weep :
Our tears indulged indeed deserve our shame.
Ye that e'er lost an angel ! pity me. no

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Soon as the lustre languish'd in her eye,
Dawning a dimmer day on human sight ;
And on her cheek, the residence of spring,
Pale Omen sat, and scatter'd fears around
On all that saw; (and who would cease to gaze, 115
That once had seen ?) with haste, parental haste,
I flew, I snatch'd her from the rigid north,
Her native bed, on which bleak Boreas blew,
And bore her nearer to the sun ; the sun
(As if the sun could envy) check* d his beam, 120
Deny'd his wonted succour, or with more
Regret beheld her drooping, than the bells

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 3 of 24)