Edward Young.

Night thoughts on life, death and immortality online

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Of lilies ! fairest lilies not so fair.

Queen lilies ! and ye painted populace !
Who dwell in fields, and lead ambrosial lives ; 125
In morn and ev'ning dew, your beauties bathe,
And drink the sun ; which gives your cheeks to glow,
And out-blush (mine excepted) ev'ry fair ;
You gladlier grew, ambitious of her hand,
Which often crop'd your odours, incense meet 130
To thought so pure. Ye lovely fugitives !
Coeval race with Man ! for Man you smile ;
Why not smile at him too ? You share indeed
His sudden pass ; but not his constant pain.

So Man is made, nought ministers delight, 135

But what his glowing passions can engage ;
And glowing passions, bent on aught below,
Must, soon or late, with anguish turn the scale ;
And anguish, after rapture, how severe !
Rapture ? Bold Man ! who tempts the wrath divine,
By plucking fruit deny'd to mortal taste, 141

Whilst here, presuming on the rights of Heav'n.


For transport dost thou call on ev'ry hour,

LORENZO ? At thy friend's expense be wise ;

Lean not on earth ; 't will pierce thee to the heart ; 145

A broken reed at best ; but oft a spear ;

On its sharp point peace bleeds, and hope expires.

Turn, hopeless thought ! turn from her : Thought


Resenting rallies, and wakes ev'ry woe.
Snatch'd ere thy prime ! and in thy bridal hour ! 1 50
And when kind fortune, with thy lover, smil'd !
And when high-flavour'd thy fresh opening joys !
And when blind Man pronounc'd thy bliss complete !
And on a foreign shore ; where strangers wept !
Strangers to thee ; and, more surprising still, 155
Strangers to kindness, wept : Their eyes let fall
Inhuman tears ; strange tears ; that trickled down
From marble hearts ! obdurate tenderness !
A tenderness that call'd them more severe ;
In spite of Nature's soft persuasion, steel'd j 160

While Nature melted, Superstition rav'd ;
That mourn'd the dead ; and this deny'd a grave.

Their sighs incenst ; sighs foreign to the will !
Their will the tyger suck'd, outrag'd the storm.
For oh ! the curst ungodliness of zeal ! 1 65

While sinful flesh relented, spirit nurst
In blind Infallibility's embrace,
The sainted spirit petrify'd the breast ;
Deny'd the charity of dust, to spread
O'er dust! a charity their dogs enjoy. 170

What could I do ? what succour ? what resource ?
With pious sacrilege a grave I stole ;
With impious piety that grave I wrong'd $

NA&crssA. 4$

Short in my duty ; coward in my grief !

More like her murderer, than friend, I crept, 175

"With soft-suspended step j and, muffled deep

In midnight darkness, whisper'd my last sigh*.

I whisper'd what should echo through their realms :

Nor writ her name, whose tomb should pierce the skies\

Presumptuous fear! how durst I dread her foes, 180

While Nature's loudest dictates I obey'd ?

Pardon necessity, blest shade ! Of grief

And indignation rival bursts I pour'd ;

Half-execration mingled with my pray'r $

Kindled at Man, while I his God ador'd $ 18$

Sore grudg'd the savage land her sacred dust ;

Stamp'd the curst soil ; and with humanity

(Deny'd NARCISSA) wish'd them all a grave.

Glows my resentment into guilt ? What guilt
Can equal violations of the dead? 196

The dead how sacred ! Sacred is the dust
Of this heav'n-labour'd form, erect, divine !
This heav'n-assum'd majestic robe of earthy
He deign'd to wear, who hung the vast expanse
With azure bright, and cloth'd the sun in gold. 195
When ev'ry passion sleeps that can offend ;
When strikes us ev'ry motive that can melt ;
When Man can wreak his rancour uncontroll'dj
That strongest curb on insult and ill-will j
Then, spleen to dust ! the dust of innocence! 200
An angel's dust ! This Lucifer transcends ;
When he contended for the patriarch's bones,
'Twas not the strife of malice, but of pride j
The strife of pontiff pride, not pontiff gall*

Far less than this is shocking in a race 205



Most wretched, but from streams of mutual love 5

And uncreated, but for love divine ;

And, but for love divine, this moment lost,

By fate resorb'd, and sunk in endless night.

Man hard of heart to Man ! of horrid things 210

Most horrid ! 'mid stupendous, highly strange !

Yet oft his courtesies are smoother wrongs j

Pride brandishes the favours he confers,

And contumelious his humanity :

What then his vengeance ? Hear it not, ye stars ! 215

And thou, pale moon ! turn paler at the sound ;

Man is to Man the sorest, surest ill.

A previous blast foretels the rising storm ;

Overwhelming turrets threaten ere they fall ;

Volcanos bellow ere they disembogue ; 220

Earth trembles ere her yawning jaws devour ;

And smoke betrays the wide-consuming fire :

Ruin from Man is most conceal'd when near,

And sends the dreadful tidings in the blow.

Is this the flight of fancy ? Would it were ! 225

Heav'n's Sov'reign saves all beings but himself,

That hideous sight, a naked human heart.

Fir'd is the muse ? And let the muse be fiVd :
Who not inflam'd, when what he speaks, he feels,
And in the nerve most tender, in his friends ? 230
Shame to Mankind! PHILANDER had his foes:
He felt the truths I sing, and I in him.
But he, nor I, feel more : Past ills, NARCISSA!
Are sunk in thee, thou recent wound of heart !
Which bleeds with other cares, with other pangs ; 235
Pangs numerous, as the numerous ills that swarm'd
O'er thy distinguished fate, and, clust'ring there


Thick as the locust on the land of Nile,

Made death more deadly, and more dark the grave.

Reflect (if not forgot my touching tale) 240

How was each circumstance with aspics arm'd !

An aspic, each ; and all, an Hydra woe.

What strong Herculean virtue could suffice ? -

Or is it virtue to be conquer'd here ?

This hoary cheek a train of tears bedews ; 245

And each tear mourns its own distinct distress ;

And each distress, distinctly mourn'd, demands

Of grief still more, as heightened by the whole.

A grief like this proprietors excludes :

Not friends alone such obsequies deplore j 250

They make mankind the mourner j carry sighs

Far as the fatal fame can wing her way ;

And turn the gayest thought of gayest age,

Down the right channel, through the vale of death.

The vale of death! that hush'd Cimmerian vale, 255
Where Darkness, brooding o'er unfinished fates,
With raven wing incumbent, waits the day
(Dread day \) that interdicts all future change !
That subterranean world, that land of ruin !
Fit walk, LORENZO, for proud human thought ! 260
There let my thought expatiate ; and explore
Balsamic truths, and healing sentiments,
Of all most wanted, and most welcome, here.
For gay LORENZO'S sake, and for thy own,
My soul! " The fruits of dying friends survey 5 265
Expose the vain of life ; weigh life and death :
Give Death his eulogy ; thy fear subdue ;
And labour that first palm of noble minds,
A manly scorn of terror from the tomb/'

H 2


This harvest reap from thy NARCISSA'S grave. 270
As poets feign'd, from Ajax' streaming blood
Arose, with grief inscrib'd, a mournful flow'r ;
Let wisdom blossom from my mortal wound.
And first, of dying friends ; what fruit from these ?
It brings us more than triple aid ; an aid 275

To chase our thoughtlessness, fear, pride, and guilt.

Our dying friends come o'er us like a cloud,
To damp our brainless ardours ; and abate
That glare of life, which often blinds the wise.
Our dying friends are pioneers, to smooth 280

Our rugged pass to death ; to break those bars
Of terror, and abhorrence, Nature throws
Cross our obstructed way ; and thus to make
Welcome, as safe, our port from ev'ry storm.
Each friend by fate snatch'd from us, is a plume 285
Pluck' d from the wing of human vanity,
Which makes us stoop from our aerial heights,
And, damp'd with omen of our own decease,
On drooping pinions of ambition lower'd,
Just skim earth's surface, ere we break it up, 290
O'er putrid earth to scratch a little dust,
And save the world a nuisance. Smitten friends
Are angels sent on errands full of love :
For us they languish, and for us they die :
And shall they languish, shall they die, in vain? 295
Ungrateful, shall we grieve their hov'ring shades,
Which wait the revolution in our hearts ?
Shall we disdain their silent soft address ;
Their posthumous advice, and pious pray'r ?
Senseless, as herds that graze their hallow'd graves,
Tread under-foot their agonies and groans;


Frustrate their anguish, and destroy their deaths ?

LORENZO! no; the thought of death indulge;
Give it its wholesome empire ! let it reign,
That kind chastiser of thy soul in joy ! 305

Its reign will spread thy glorious conquests far,
And still the tumults of thy ruffled breast ;
Auspicious aera ! golden days, begin !
The thought of death shall, like a god, inspire.
And why not think on death ? Is life the theme 3 1 o
Of ev'ry thought ? and wish of ev'ry hour ?
And song of ev'ry joy ? Surprising truth !
The beaten spaniel's fondness not so strange.
To wave the num'rous ills that seize on life
As their own property, their lawful prey; 315

Ere Man has measured half his weary stage,
His luxuries have left him no reserve,
No maiden relishes, unbroach'd delights ;
On cold-serv'd repetitions he subsists,
And in the tasteless present, chews the past; 320
Disgusted chews, and scarce can swallow down.
Like lavish ancestors, his earlier years
Have disinherited his future hours,
Which starve on orts, and glean their former field.

Live ever here, LORENZO! Shocking thought!
So shocking, they who wish, disown it too; 326

Disown from shame, what they from folly crave.
Live ever in the womb, nor see the light !
For what live ever here ? With lab'ring step
To tread our former footsteps ? Pace the round 330
Eternal ? To climb life's worn, heavy wheel,
Which draws up nothing new ? To beat, and beat,
The beaten track ? To bid each wretched day


The former mock ? To surfeit on the same,

And yawn our joys ; or thank a misery 335

For change, though sad ? To see what we have seen ?

Hear, till unheard, the same old slabber'd tale ?

To taste the tasted, and at each return

Less tasteful ? O'er our palates to decant

Another vintage ? Strain a natter year, 340

Through loaded vessels, and a laxer tone ?

Crazy machines to grind earth's wasted fruits !

Ill-ground, and worse concocted ! load, not life !

The rational foul kennels of excess !

Still-streaming thoroughfares of dull debauch ! 345

Trembling each gulp, lest Death should snatch the bowl.

Such of our fine-ones is the wish refin'd !
So would they have it : Elegant desire !
Why not invite the bellowing stalls, and wilds ?
But such examples might their riot awe. 350

Through want of virtue, that is, want of thought
(Though on bright thought they father all their nights),
To what are they reduc'd ? To love, and hate,
The same vain world ; to censure, and espouse,
This painted shrew of life, who calls them fool 355
Each moment of each day ; to flatter bad
Through dread of worse ? To cling to this rude rock,
Barren, to them, of good, and sharp with ills,
And hourly blacken'd with impending storms,
And infamous for wrecks of human hope 360

Scar'd at the gloomy gulph, that yawns beneath.
Such are their triumphs ! such their pangs of joy !

'Tis time, high time, to shift this dismal scene.
This hugg'd, this hideous state, what art can cure ?
One only ; but that one, what all may reach j 365

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Virtue she, wonder-working goddess ! charms

That rock to bloom ; and tames the painted shrew ;

And what will more surprise, LORENZO ! gives

To life's sick, nauseous iteration, change ;

And straitens Nature's circle to a line. 370

Believ'st thou this, LORENZO ? Lend an ear,

A patient ear, thou'lt blush to disbelieve.

A languid, leaden iteration reigns,
And ever must, o'er those, whose joys are joys
Of sight, smell, taste: The cuckow-seasons sing 375
The same dull note to such as nothing prize,
. But what those seasons from the teeming earth,
To doating sense indulge. But nobler minds,
Which relish fruits unripen'd by the sun,
Make their days various ; various as the dyes 380
On the dove's neck, which wanton in his rays.
On minds of dove-like innocence possest,
On lighten'd minds, that bask in virtue's beams,
Nothing hangs tedious, nothing old revolves
In that, for which they long; for which they live. 385
Their glorious efforts, wing'd with heav'nly hope,
Each rising morning sees still higher rise ;
Each bounteous dawn its novelty presents
To worth maturing, new strength, lustre, fame ;
While Nature's circle, like a chariot- wheel 390

Rolling beneath their elevated aims,
Makes their fair prospect fairer ev'ry hour ;
Advancing virtue, in a line to bliss j
Virtue, which Christain motives best inspire !
And bliss, which Christian schemes alone ensure ! 395

And shall we then, for Virtue's sake, commence
Apostates ? and turn infidels for joy ?


A truth it is, few doubt, but fewer trust,

" He sins against this life, who slights the next."

What is this life ? How few their fav'rite know ! 400

Fond in the dark, and blind in our embrace,

By passionately loving life, we make

Lov'd life unlovely ; hugging her to death.

We give to time eternity's regard ;

And, dreaming, take our passage for our port. 405

Life has no value, as an end, but means;

An end deplorable ! a means divine !

When 'tis our all, J t is nothing : Worse than nought 5

A nest of pains : When held as nothing) much :

Like some fair hum'rists, life is most enjoy'd 410

When courted least ; most worth, when disesteem'd j

Then 'tis the seat of comfort, rich in peace j

In prospect richer far ; important ! awful !

Not to be mention'd, but with shouts of praise !

Not to be thought on., but with tides of joy ! 415

The mighty basis of eternal bliss !

Where now the barren rock ? the painted shrew ?
Where now, LORENZO! life's eternal round?
Have I not made my triple promise good ?
Vain is the world ; but only to the vain. 420

To what compare we then this varying sene,
Whose worth ambiguous rises, and declines ?
Waxes, and wanes ? (In all propitious, Night
Assists me here i) Compare it to the moon j
Bark in herself, and indigent ; but rich 425

In borrow' d lustre from a higher sphere*
When gross guilt interposes, lab'ring earth,
O'ershadow'd, mourns a deep eclipse of joy 5
Her joys, at brightest^ pallid, to that font


Of full effulgent glory, whence they flow. 430

Nor is that glory distant : Oh LORENZO !
A good man, and an angel ! these between
How thin the barrier ! What divides their fate ?
Perhaps a moment, or perhaps a year ;
Or, if an age, it is a moment still ; 435

A moment, or eternity's forgot.
Then be, what once they were, who now are gods ;
Be what PHILANDER was, and claim the skies.
Starts timid Nature at the gloomy pass?
The soft transition call it, and be cheer'd : 440

Such it is often, and why not to thee ?
To hope the best is pious, brave, and wise ;
And may itself procure what it presumes.
Life is much flatter'd, Death is much traduc'd :
Compare the rivals, and the kinder crown. 445

" Strange competition !" -True, LORENZO! Strange!
So little life can cast into the scale.

Life makes the soul dependent on the dust ;
Death gives her wings to mount above the spheres.
Through chinks, styFd organs, dim Life peeps at light ;
Death bursts th' involving cloud, and all is dayj 451
All eye, all ear, the disembody'd pow'r.
Death has feign'd evils, Nature shall not feel ;
Life, ills substantial, Wisdom cannot shun.
Is not the mighty Mind, that son of heav'n, 455
By tyrant Life dethron'd, imprison'd, pain'd?
By Death enlarg'd, ennobled, deify'd ?
JDeath but intombs the body ; life, the soul.

" Is Death then guiltless ? How he marks his way
With dreadful waste of what deserves to shine ! 460
Art, genius, fortune, elevated pow'r !



With various lustres these light up the world,

Which Death puts out, and darkens human race."

I grant, LORENZO! this indictment just :

The sage, peer, potentate, king, conqueror, 465

Death humbles these ; more barbarous Life, the Man.

Life is the triumph of our mould'ring clay ;

Death, of the spirit infinite, divine !

Death has no dread, but what frail Life imparts j

Nor Life true joy, but what kind Death improves. 470

No bliss has Life to boast, till Death can give

Far greater ; Life's a debtor to the grave,

Dark lattice ! letting in eternal day.

LORENZO ! blush at fondness for a life,
Which sends celestial souls on errands vile, 475

To cater for the sense ; and serve at boards,.
Where ev'ry ranger of the wilds, perhaps
Each reptile, justly claims our upper hand.
Luxurious feast ! a soul, a soul immortal,
In all the dainties of a brute bemir'd ! 480

LORENZO ! blush at terror for a death,
Which gives thee to repose in festive bow'rs,
Where nectars sparkle, angels minister,
And more than angels share, and raise, and crown,
And eternize, the birth, bloom, bursts of bliss. 485
What need I more ? O Death, the palm is thine.

Then welcome, Death ! thy dreaded harbingers,
Age, and Disease ; Disease, though long my guest ;
That plucks my nerves, those tender strings of life;
Which, pluck* d a little more, will toll the bell, 490
That calls my few friends to my funeral ;
Where feeble Nature drops, perhaps, a tear,
While Reason and Religion, tetter taught,

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Congratulate the dead, and crown his tomb

With wreath triumphant. Death is victory j 495

It binds in chains the raging ills of life :

Lust and Ambition, Wrath and Avarice,

Dragg'd at his chariot-wheel, applaud his pow'r.

That ills corrosive, cares importunate,

Are not immortal too, O Death ! is thine* 500

Our day of dissolution ! Name it right ;

'T is our great pay-day ; 't is our harvest, rich

And ripe : What though the sickle, sometimes keen,

Just scars us as we reap the golden grain ;

More than thy bairn, O Gilead ! heals the wound. 505

Birth's feeble cry, and Death's deep dismal groan,

Are slender tributes low-taxt Nature pays

For mighty gain : The gain of each, a life !

But O ! the last, the former so transcends,

Life dies, compared! Life lives beyond the grave. 5 id

And feel I, Death ! no joy from thought of thee ?
Death, the great counsellor, who Man inspires
With nobler thought, and fairer deed !
Death, the deliverer, who rescues Man !
Death, the rewarder, who the rescu'd crowns! 51$
Death, that absolves my birth ; a curse without it !
Rich Death, that realizes all my cares,
Toils, virtues, hopes ; without it a chimera !
Death, of all pain the period, not of joy ;
Joy's source, and subject, still subsist unhurt ; 520
One, in my soul ; and one, in her great Sire ;
Though the four winds were warring for my dust.
Yes, and from winds, and waves, and central night,
Though prison'd there, my dust too I reclaim
-(To dust when drop proud Nature's proudest spheres),

1 2


And live entire. Death is the crown of life : 526
Were Death deny'd, poor Man would live in vain ;
Were Death deny'd, to live would not be life ;
Were Death deny'd, ev'n fools would wish to die.
Death wounds to cure: We fall; we rise; we reign!
Spring from our fetters ; fasten in the skies ; 531

Where blooming Eden withers in our sight.
Death gives us more than was in Eden lost ;
This king of terrors is the prince of peacer
When shall I die to vanity, pain, death ? 535

When shall I die ? When shall I live for ever ?







A MUCH-indebted muse, O YORKE ! intrudes.
Amid the smiles of Fortune, and of Youth,
Thine ear is patient of a serious song.
How deep implanted in the breast of Man
The dread of Death ! I sing its sov 'reign cure. 5

Why start at Death ? Where is he ? Death arriv'd,
Is past ; not come, or gone, he's never here.
Ere hope, sensation fails ; black-boding Man
Receives, not suffers, Death's tremendous blow.


The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave j
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm;
These are the bugbears of a winter's eve, 1 2

The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination's fool, and Error's wretch,
Man makes a death, which Nature never made; 15
Then on the point of his own fancy falls ;
And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one.

But were Death frightful, what has Age to fear ?
If prudent, Age should meet the friendly foe,
And shelter in his hospitable gloom. 20

I scarce can meet a monument, but holds
My younger ; ev'ry date cries " Come away."
And what recalls me ? Look the world around,
And tell me what : The wisest cannot tell.
Should any born of woman give his thought 25

Full range, on just dislike's unbounded field ;
Of things, the vanity; of men, the flaws;
Flaws in the best ; the many, flaw all o'er ;
As leopards, spotted, or as JEthiops, dark ;
Vivacious, ill ; good dying immature 30

(How immature, NARCISSA'S marble tells) ;
And at its death bequeathing endless pain ;
His heart, though bold, would sicken at the sight,
And spend itself in sighs for future scenes.

But grant to life (and just it is to grant 35

To lucky life) some perquisites of joy ;
A time there is, when, like a thrice-told tale,
Long-rifled life of sweet can yield no more,
But from our comment on the comedy,
Pleasing reflections on parts well-sust ain'd, 40

Or purpos'd emendations where we faii'd,


Or hopes of plaudits from our candid Judge,

When, on their exit, souls are bid unrobe,

Toss Fortune back her tinsel, and her plume,

And drop this mask of flesh behind the scene. 45

With me, that time is come ; my world is dead ;

A new world rises, and new manners reign :

Foreign comedians (a spruce band) arrive,

To push me from the scene, or hiss me there.

What a pert race starts up ! The strangers gaze, 50

And I at them ; my neighbour is unknown ;

Nor that the worst : Ah me ! the dire effect

Of loit'ring here, of Death defrauded long ;

Of old so gracious (and let that suffice),

My very master knows me not. 55

Shall I dare say, peculiar is the fate ?

I've been so long remember'd, I'm forgot.

An object ever pressing dims the sight,

And hides behind its ardour to be seen.

When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint, 60

They drink it as the nectar of the great ;

And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow ;

Refusal ! canst thou wear a smoother form ?
Indulge me, nor conceive I drop my theme :

Who cheapens life, abates the fear of death : 65

Twice-told the period spent on stubborn Troy,

Court-favour, yet untaken, I besiege ;

Ambition's ill-judg'd effort to be rich.

Alas ! ambition makes my little, less j

Embitt'ring the possess'd : Why wish for more ? 70

Wishing, of all employments, is the worst ;

Philosophy's reverse; and health's decay!

Were I as plump as stall'd Theology,


Wishing would waste me to this shade again.

Were I as wealthy as a South-Sea dream, 75

Wishing is an expedient to be poor.

Wishing, that constant hectic of a fool ;

Caught at a court ; purg'd off by purer air,

And simpler diet ; gifts of rural life !

Blest be that hand divine, which gently laid 80
My heart at rest, beneath this humble shed.
The world 's a stately bark, on dang'rous seas,
With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril :
Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore,
I hear the tumult of the distant throng, 85

As that of seas remote, or dying storms ;
And meditate on scenes, more silent still ;
Pursue my theme, and fight the Fear of Death.
Here, like a shepherd gazing from his hut,-
Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff, 90

Eager Ambition's fiery chase I see ;
I see the circling hunt of noisy men,
Burst law's inclosure, leap the mounds of right,
Pursuing, and pursu'd, each other's prey ;
As wolves, for rapine ; as the fox, for wiles ; 95

Till Death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.

Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour ?
What, though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame,
Earth's highest station ends in, " Here he lies :"
And " Dust to dust" concludes her noblest song. 100

Online LibraryEdward YoungNight thoughts on life, death and immortality → online text (page 4 of 24)